Reading for Your Life

By Rachel Sircy

Well, this post will be interesting, I hope. It’s a combination of two posts: the first part touches on the physical ailments caused by chronic stress and the second part is a summer reading list. Sounds pretty far out, eh? The part about stress was my idea and my husband (who, as I’ve mentioned before, is an English teacher) recommended that I do a post offering a summer reading list. As it turns out, reading can alleviate the physical effects of stress according to a 2009 study done by the University of Sussex, so the two subjects would seem to fit together nicely.

Firstly, stress. According to the American Institute of Stress (yes, oddly enough there is such an institution) between 75 and 90% of all visits to American healthcare providers are the results of stress related disorders. Chronic stress (that is the persistent feeling that you cannot cope with all of the demands on your time and energy) can lead to increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections, ulcers, heart attacks, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders (remember if you have celiac disease, this is an autoimmune disorder!), ulcerative colitis, etc. And stress will worsen the symptoms and damage to your body from any other illness (whether acute, like a cold or chronic like diabetes). You can read more about the effects of stress at the American Institute of Stress’s website: https://www.stress.org/stress-effects/.

So, the major point here is that we want to avoid stress as much as possible. According to Dr. Mimi Guarneri of The Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, deep breathing is the best way to stop an acute stress response in its tracks. She recommends breathing in for a count of 5 seconds and out for a count of 5 seconds. These deep breaths will force your heartrate to slow and will cause many of the other automatic stress responses in the body to stop suddenly. Reading, too, can counteract the immediate physiological effects of stress according to that study I mentioned above conducted by the University of Sussex. According to their study, people who were exposed to rigorous physical activity to increase their muscle tension and heartrate experienced a 68% decrease in heartrate and muscle tension (these are two of the main physical effects that a person who is stressed will experience) after just 6 minutes of reading. Other relaxing activities such as taking a walk and listening to music did not produce the same kind of dramatic decrease in stress levels.

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See the article: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/4245076.Reading_can_help_reduce_stress__according_to_University_of_Sussex_research/

Dr. Guarneri believes that spiritual health is crucial to both physical and mental health, and I completely agree with her. I can’t think of a better way to cut back on our chronic stress levels than to connect ourselves with Truth and know that all of our efforts really do count for something. I have shared my Christianity in the past and written blog posts about how both our body and soul are connected in God’s eyes. God sees us as whole people who need to care for both our spiritual and physical selves. So, my summer reading list is going to be a very short list of 3 books that I have felt both entertaining and spiritually challenging and/or uplifting. Keep in mind that these books may not be lining the bookshelves of Lifeway, but they have managed to engage me and challenge me spiritually.

  1. The Lord of the Rings Series: I think we all know that these are great fantasy adventures and that they are also inspiring stories. Despite not having any direct religious references, Tolkein’s deep Christian faith shines through every part of these novels.
  2. The Screwtape Letters: This imaginative novel written in a series of letters from an older, wiser demon to a younger, inexperienced demon on how to tempt a human soul is a great read. It is also a challenge for any Christian as C.S. Lewis picks apart “acceptable” sins that Christians sometimes wink at such as gluttony and selfishness.
  3. Girl Meets God: This memoir by Duke Divinity professor and Episcopal priest, Lauren Winner, is one of the best spiritual memoirs on the market today, in my opinion. It’s the story of Winner’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity, told with a deep love for both faiths and with a great deal of personal honesty. If you prefer non-fiction to fiction, I would recommend this book.

There are, of course, plenty of good reads out there, just waiting for you to put your hands on them. Frankly, I was pretty self-conscious about putting together a reading list. I’m not as avid a reader as I should be, and I’m definitely no critic, so I kept my book reviews to a minimum. I hope that this little list will be helpful for anyone looking to lower their stress level by escaping into the world of a good book!

Happy Reading!

Acquired Tastes

By Rachel Sircy

Normally, I write blog posts that are meant to be instructive and helpful – hopefully someone has found them helpful. And for this post I was going to write about an article I’d read recently about things in your home that you should buy organic other than food – the list includes everything from cotton swabs to couch cushions. Apparently, we live in an incredibly toxic world. However, I decided against it, not only because that article seemed a bit far-fetched to me, but also because I’ve been thinking about something random and strange lately, and I just thought I’d share. Do you ever notice how people change over time? Like, when you go back to a high school reunion and they tell you that so-and-so just married what’s-his-face, and you stare for a second before you manage to ask, “Didn’t they hate each other in school?” People are full of surprises and the funny thing is that sometimes the people who surprise us the most by the way that they change are the ones that we know best.

Take my husband and me. Before we were married, my friends and I used to refer to my husband as the human garbage disposal. Not the nicest name, I know, but we were referring to the fact that he would eat anything that was put in front of him. My friend Shannon and I in particular loved this about him because when we were all in college together (before my husband and I were even dating), if Shannon or I ordered something at a restaurant that we didn’t like, we could always feed it to Elisha. (Elisha is my husband’s name. It’s pronounced sort of like Elijah. Don’t call him anything that sounds like Alicia. He hates that.) In those days, the only thing that Elisha positively would not eat was mayonnaise. This thing with mayonnaise began when he got a stomach bug as a child and the last thing he remembered before barfing his guts up was eating was a submarine sandwich with extra mayo on it. You know how those things go. The last thing that you eat before you get sick becomes the food you can’t stand to even talk about. Well, some people get over those aversions given time, but my husband has gone in the opposite direction. Not only will he still not eat mayonnaise, he now will not eat sour cream, ricotta cheese or pretty much any food that is both soft and white. He doesn’t even like white icing. In fact, he told me recently that his culinary tastes are narrowing. Things that he used to enjoy like curry, tea, etc., are now things that he just can’t stand to eat or drink. And he informed me just last weekend that he really isn’t up for trying anything new. I wonder if it’s my cooking…

Conversely, my culinary tastes are expanding. As a child I was an irritatingly picky eater. I remember time and time again my mother getting frustrated with my whining over having to eat this food or that. I remember my parents and grandparents bribing and begging me to eat things. I didn’t like ground beef. I didn’t like cheese. I didn’t like mushrooms. I didn’t like lima beans or Brussels sprouts After getting sick once, I wouldn’t eat cheesecake or cream cheese in any form except smeared on a plain, toasted bagel. I didn’t like any food that looked, smelled or tasted different than what I was used to eating every day. Once, my mother who was normally as honest as the day is long lied to me about the eggs I happened to be eating. We were staying at my great-grandmother’s house. Great Grandma Deaver raised ducks and chickens, but mainly got her eggs from her ducks. My mother put a plate of over-easy duck eggs and toast down in front of me. I was, of course, immediately suspicious and I began asking what was wrong with these huge eggs on my plate. My mother smiled sweetly (I’m sure she wanted to shake me) and said that Granny just happened to raise really, really big chickens. I ate the eggs and found that they tasted better than chicken eggs. But then my mother triumphantly revealed that they were actually duck eggs and I screamed and refused to ever eat eggs at Grandma Deaver’s house ever again.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love cheese, cheesecake, mushrooms, lima beans and Brussels sprouts. Of course, in the case of each food, I had to choose at a particular moment to force myself to eat them. Cheese was something I came to love somewhere between the ages of three and seven, I believe. Cheesecake, mushrooms, lima beans and Brussels sprouts were foods that I only decided to try after I had been married. brussels-sprouts-1856706_1920

Initially, I was inspired by my husband’s openness to food. I wanted to be as open minded to food as he was. Then, about 6 months into our marriage, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I found myself cut off from easy and familiar foods like take-out pizza and doughnuts. I was forced to try new, bizarre foods like quinoa (which I pronounced quin-Noah until some nice hippies at the health food store corrected me) and cakes made from rice flour and potato starch. This re-routing of my dietary habits was the final sealing of the deal. At first, I wanted to try new foods and then I had no choice about it.

Recently, I’ve surprised even myself by my willingness to try seafood. I HATE seafood. Nothing that I have tried so far in my life has made me change my tastes on this front. In fact, the only reason I’ve been willing to try fish lately is that my cholesterol has become a problem and fatty fish are touted as the culinary cure for cholesterol issues. I think that people who love seafood (and this is most people that I come across) don’t understand what I mean when I say that I don’t like seafood. I’m going to try to explain this here because I want it to be clear what a miracle it is that I’m even willing to put the stuff in my mouth. When I say that I can’t stand seafood, I do not merely mean that I baked salmon fillet on boardprefer chicken or beef. I mean that everything about seafood – the sight, the smell, the texture – is repulsive to me. I find the smell of the ocean itself to be slightly nauseating and that smell of fish, even the stuff that people swear is “not fishy”, is a concentrated dose of that oceanic scent. When I say that I don’t like fish, I mean that often times I have to hold my breath when I take a bite of salmon or tuna (two of the only fish I have managed to choke down) and that there have been times that I’ve had to hold on, white-knuckled, to the edge of the dinner table in order to force myself to swallow the bite I’ve taken. I gag and dry-heave the whole time that I eat fish, but the point of pride for me is that I DO eat it. I don’t enjoy one second of it, to be sure, but I force myself and (occasionally) win the war against my food aversion.

I guess the thing I’m wondering – and I would love some feedback – is, does it seem worth it to choke down food that I hate in the hopes that it will one day become an acquired taste? I’ve always heard that a varied plate is a healthy plate and frankly, that is why I try new foods. I once knew a nurse who could count on one hand the foods that she would eat. They were all white, starchy foods. She believed that it would be better to die young and happy, eating the foods that give you pleasure, rather than live a long time gagging on stuff that you find disgusting. So, what is the general consensus? To eat or not to eat stuff I don’t like, that is the question. You can comment with your thoughts below. I am excited to read them!

 

Curried Eggs and (No) Ham

By Rachel Sircy

I love eggs. I have them pretty much every morning for breakfast despite the fact that I have cholesterol problems. I really wouldn’t recommend this for anyone else who has cholesterol issues, but we all have to take baby steps toward better health, right? Well, that’s what I’m telling myself for now, anyway. I’m taking a few baby steps right now toward eating more whole and organic foods. I am trying little by little to purge my diet of chemicals and high glycemic index foods like white flour and sugar. It’s really slow going. But then, so was the change that I made when I switched to eating totally gluten free. Believe me, I would love to tell you that I was a gluten free crusader from the first minute I got that awful news from the doctor that I was a celiac, but that would be a lie. It took me almost a year just to decide to really eat gluten free all the time. I kept wondering whether the doctor might not be wrong. I actually went back to the gastroenterologist about 9 months or so after I was initially diagnosed just to have him check all the lab and endoscopy reports again and make 100% sure that what he was telling me was right.

So, my latest discovery of food that can be used as medicine is turmeric. Turmeric is a powder made from a dried and ground root that is vibrantly yellow and is related to ginger. I had always kind of heard from one person or another that turmeric is supposed to be good for you, but I never knew how or why. I had some sitting in my spice cabinet that had been there for quite a while just waiting to be used. I love to eat curried things: Singapore style rice noodles, chana masala, etc. Somehow, though, whenever I try to replicate these recipes at home, they never taste right. So, my poor container of spice just sat there, ignored for quite a while. It wasn’t until I was reading the transcript of a lecture series given by Dr. Mimi Guarneri, the founder of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, that I decided to get my little container of turmeric out and put it to good use.

As it turns out, all of those things that I had heard people mention now and again in passing about the health benefits of turmeric are true. There have been a number of scientific studies done on the compound, curcumin – the compound that gives turmeric it’s signature yellow color – has some significant health benefits. Curcumin has been used as an alternative treatment for cardiac patients, reducing the number of heart attacks patients have after a bypass surgery. It has also been used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for osteoarthritis patients and has been found to work as well as ibuprofen. It also has been shown to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. All of these health benefits were of interest to me. As a celiac, of course I deal with a lot of inflammation in my digestive tract. I also wake up with back pain every morning and, last but not least, I am at a higher risk for chronic cholesterol problems. So, each morning for about three weeks I’ve been sprinkling a little turmeric on my scrambled eggs. Of course, it would be best if I could get myself to just eat the scrambled egg whites. One day I’ll get to the place where just plain egg whites don’t seem so hopelessly tasteless, but I’m not there yet. I can’t really tell you if turmeric is healing some of the inflammation in my digestive tract or if it’s improving my cardiovascular health. What I can tell you is that it seems to be significantly decreasing the amount of pain that I have in my back. I’m actually kind of shocked at how much it seems to be helping.

Now, the caveat here is this: I put a LOT of turmeric on my eggs in the morning. I usually don’t cook it in the eggs, I sprinkle it on top. It’s definitely not the most delicious way to consume turmeric, but it seems to work a bit better for the stiffness and pain when I eat it that way. Also, in most of the scientific studies on turmeric, the patients involved were taking way more than your average culinary doses of turmeric. You can get turmeric supplements at health food stores or almost anywhere you can buy vitamins, but you need to talk to your doctor before you start taking any new supplement!

Right now, I’m focusing on just using more turmeric and curry powder as I cook and seeing how much better I feel after that. I really don’t like taking pills, even supplements. So, food first, capsules later (if the food doesn’t fix what ails me).

You can read the abstracts or even the whole articles on turmeric on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s website: nccih.nih.gov.  You can also checkout this article on Healthline.com, which breaks down some of those studies for you and also has links to the medical studies from which the information was taken: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric#section5. (Truth be told, I hate any article titled “Top 10” Anything. I always feel like they’re trying to fill space or sell me something, or both, but I appreciate the way the author on health line included references for everything he wrote. I’m married to a teacher, so bibliographies and reference numbers always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.)

Here is a picture of my Curried Eggs and (No) Ham. I put the turmeric in the eggs and then scrambled them and also added spinach to compensate for the fact that I actually did eat some bacon with these…

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The Dirty Dozen (and the Clean Fifteen)

By Rachel Sircy

So, in my attempts to eat healthier this year, I am buying a lot more vegetables and fruits. But, it turns out that not all fruits and vegetables are created equal. It matters (at least to me) that the fruits and vegetables that I eat and that I feed to my family are as chemical free as possible. Of course, the best place to find fresh fruits and vegetables that are chemical free (or close to it) is the farmer’s market. I’ve already written about how much I love the SC State Farmer’s Market. You really can do pretty much all your produce shopping there. And, even if the farmers can’t afford to purchase the “organic” label for their produce, it’s likely that since they’re not farming on a huge scale, like the corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest – they’re the farmers who supply the stuff used to make high fructose corn syrup, etc. – that they’re not spraying some of the crazy chemicals on their produce that a huge corporate farm would. Plus, local produce hasn’t had chemicals added or been processed in a weird way in order to keep it fresh during shipping, because it hasn’t had to travel far to get to you. And the prices of this fresh, local produce are not as high as you’d think.farmers-market-1329008_1280

However, most of us can’t make it to the farmer’s market for a leisurely shopping experience. If you’re like me, you go to the grocery store when you’ve run out of all of your kitchen staples and you’re desperate. And most of us probably try to squeeze our shopping in after work and in between running our kids to this sporting event or band concert or what have you. Unfortunately, the price of organic produce can be prohibitively expensive for some (including me) at the grocery store. Of course, places like Aldi and Lidl (which just opened in Lexington), carry a variety of organic products for fairly cheap. However, if you can’t get to an Aldi or to the new Lidl, or if the prices are still out of the range of your budget, you can choose which fruits and vegetables to buy organic by following the guidelines of the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen.

If you’re not already familiar with these lists – the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen are two lists of fruits and vegetables that are released every year by the Environmental Working Group. The Clean Fifteen is the list of the fifteen fruits and vegetables that are least likely to contain pesticides or which contain fewer pesticides than your average fruits and veggies. So, the produce listed on the Clean Fifteen list are probably pretty safe to eat even if they’re not organic. In other words, these are the things that you can get away with just buying the regular, cheaper version of. And yes, you guessed it, that means that the Dirty Dozen is a list of the produce that is MOST likely to have pesticides. So, if you can only afford to get a limited number of organic fruits or vegetables, choose the organic version of anything you want or need that is on the Dirty Dozen list. Sometimes I have just planned my shopping list around the items on the clean fifteen list, so that I didn’t have to worry about buying organic!

You can find the 2018 lists and a lot of other resources at www.ewg.org or you can just look below, since I’m going to write out the lists for you 😊

The CLEAN FIFTEEN:avocado-2644150_1920

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew Melons
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

 

The DIRTY DOZENstrawberry-2960533_1920

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers (they also list Hot Peppers as a 2018 Dirty Dozen member)

 

Happy Shopping!

Quick and Easy Pizza Night

By Rachel Sircy

Well, truthfully, I wasn’t planning to write about this, but after I tried Mama Mary’s gluten free pizza crust, I thought I had better share my experience. My husband had been asking about home-made pizza recently – I make a pretty mean chicken pizza – but the thing is, I really don’t like to make gluten free pizza crusts. Somehow, the mixes always give you something weird. I really dislike the Bob’s Redmill pizza crust mix. It’s like dry, crusty bread. My favorite, as far as pizza crust mixes go, has always been Namaste, but even that wasn’t ever a normal pizza crust. It was white with greenish flecks of Italian seasoning in it. It was also the consistency of cake batter with the weirdly elastic properties of marshmallow cream. It was weird, but at least it was a kind of weirdness I could handle. Actually, I haven’t even made the Namaste pizza crust in so long, that I don’t know if the formula is even the same anymore.

So, when my husband asked for pizza, I really just wanted to hand him $5 and point him in the direction of the nearest Little Cesar’s, but then I remembered something. Walking down one of the aisles of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Cayce, I remembered seeing little personal-sized pre-packaged pizza crusts that were labeled “gluten free”. I figured they couldn’t be as bad as Bob’s Redmill, and their small size also solved another one of gluten free pizza’s big problems: leftovers.

My husband loves cold pizza – I’m not such a huge fan, even in my gluten-eating days, I disliked the way that the refrigerator turned all of that luscious, gooey cheese into something like cold leather – but cold, leftover gluten free pizza is pretty nearly inedible. Not only does the cheese turn to leather, but the something that happens to most gluten free pizza crusts that causes them to become so hard that – should you be desperate enough to try to eat a piece – you have to gnaw on the slice like a wild animal trying to peel the last bit of meat off of a carcass. And, in my opinion, reheating a gluten free slice of pizza doesn’t make matters much better. The microwave may melt the cheese, but it doesn’t do much for that awful crust. I have always hated making an entire huge pizza and pretty much having to throw out the leftovers. Yes, some of you may be thinking that you have a perfect (albeit really time-consuming) recipe for gluten free pizza crust that tastes good the next day, but here’s the thing: I’m lazy. Especially when it comes to baking. I kind of hate it. I used to love to bake before I discovered that I have celiac disease, but that love died in the first few months of going gluten free and I’ve never been able to revive it. If you want to see me at my absolute worst, ask me to make a gluten free pizza crust. Or worse yet, a gluten free pie crust. In the case of the pie crust, you might have to pick me up off of the kitchen floor because I will have fallen over, weeping.

Long story short, I decided to give these little pizza crusts a try. And it turns out that they’re pretty good. I mean, they’re not the best pizza crusts I’ve ever had, but I personally think they beat Bob’s Redmill by a mile. (Sorry to beat up on you, Bob. You’ve given us a lot of great products, but your pizza is the pits.) So, I am making a recommendation: if you, like me, are lazy and want a quick and easy pizza without leftovers, try these Mama Mary’s pizza crusts. I didn’t take a picture of the crusts in the package, because I wasn’t planning to write about them, but I took a picture of the back of the package:

Pic 1

And here’s the finished product:

Again, I found these pizza crusts in the gluten free section of the Neighborhood Market in Cayce. They’re not refrigerated, they right there on the shelf next to the gluten free snack bars and whatnot. I feel fairly certain, however, that almost any Walmart would carry them. Walmart is pretty good at having the same products in every store. Happy Eating!

 

 

 

Two Favorite Healthy Recipes

By Rachel Sircy

So, in early 2017 I discovered, thanks to some lab tests, that I had high cholesterol. I resolved to start taking charge of my health. Well, the truth is that I did and I didn’t take charge of my health. I was pretty good, by which I mean that I was better than I had been in previous years and I started taking fish oil. I never did get a good exercise routine down, which I think is due in part to the fact that I absolutely hate the aerobics dvd that I have. That is no fault of the exercise program on this dvd, it’s just that I hate doing exercises that hurt and make me sweat in the first place and I really hate doing them if I’m stuck indoors watching a video of people who are way, WAY too excited about “sweatin’ the fat away.”

Long story short: I’m still overweight and my numbers, while much better than last year – they were only borderline high as opposed to high – are still not where I’d like them to be. As you know, I’ve been trying to focus on food as medication lately. And, according to what I’ve read about the latest research in lowering cholesterol is that you have to change your diet first and then begin to exercise, not the other way around. Anyway, I’m trying to avoid too much meat and when I do eat meat, I try to pair it with dark, leafy green vegetables. Here are two of the tastiest recipes where I’ve managed to do that. Hopefully they will be of use to someone out there who is trying to lower cholesterol (or blood pressure or whatever) without sacrificing flavor:

  1. Sausage and Kale Soup: This recipe is slightly adapted from the Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups book that my mom gave me some years ago. Basically, the adaptation is that I add twice as much broth as it originally calls for, but if you like less liquid, you can always add less. It is my family’s go-to soup for any time we don’t feel well. Somehow it always makes your recovery time shorter if you have a cold. It’s a great cold weather soup, but I like it the year round. And, given the weather we’ve been having lately, you might want a good cold weather option for the dinner table:

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed.
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 lb fresh kale trimmed and chopped (I always get the bags of pre-washed and chopped kale from the grocery store, it makes my life so much easier)
  • 1 15oz can Cannellini or Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ lb fully cooked Kielbasa (Polish Sausage)
  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add 4 cups of the broth and the potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. When potatoes are tender, slightly mash them with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
  2. Add the kale (don’t freak out if it seems to take up all the room in your pot, just mash it down), the beans, the sausage and the remaining 4 cups of chicken broth. Boil with the lid on until the kale is tender.

This soup is absolutely delicious. Below is a picture of it as I was finishing cooking some this afternoon. The picture is a bit hazy because of the steam coming off of the pot. It’s going to be so good later…

Pic 1

 

  1. Mediterranean Tuna Salad: This salad is one that I found on the internet years ago and it is really, really good. I think it’s from some Mediterranean Diet cookbook. I’m not a seafood lover, I’ll be honest, but this salad has made me able to eat tuna. You can also substitute canned salmon in place of the tuna – I sometimes do this because I find salmon a bit less fishy than tuna. If you use tuna, I would recommend the solid white albacore. Also, my husband can’t stand mayonnaise and so sometimes I just mix a can of tuna with the dressing for this salad (olive oil, lemon juice and grainy Dijon mustard) and he can use it to make a tuna sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 2 5oz. cans water packed tuna
  • 1 15oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1 ½ cup diced cucumber
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped (honestly, I don’t always chop it)
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBS grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coarse ground pepper to taste
  • 1 TBS capers (optional)
  • Avocado chunks to garnish (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir in the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Season with pepper and add capers and avocado if desired.

Seriously, how easy is that recipe? It’s just chop and mix. It’s also delicious and it’s good for you. Here’s a picture of the finished product…

Pic 2

Happy Eating!

Learning to Listen to Your Gut

By Rachel Sircy

This post is going to be short, since it’s basically a personal story without a whole bunch of evidence to back it up. I will start off by saying (as I’m sure I’ve said before), that I am a big believer in going to the doctor if you feel that something is wrong with you. I would strongly advise against anyone who thinks they have a gluten sensitivity beginning a gluten free diet without going through the proper tests first. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly the reason is that if you have celiac disease, you could also have a whole host of other problems that sometimes go along with it. If no doctor really diagnoses you, then no doctor will be looking out for your other symptoms either.

However, there are times when you need to listen to your gut. I am in the middle of learning this lesson myself. You see, some people with celiac disease can eat oats while others can’t. When I say “oats” I am talking only about the strictly certified gluten free oats. No one with a gluten sensitivity should eat just any old oats. Oats and wheat are often processed in the same factories, stored in the same silos and grown in adjacent fields. All this means that cross-contamination is inevitable in regular oats. Certified gluten free oats cost more than regular oats because they are grown in fields away from wheat and they are also stored and processed in gluten free facilities. So, when I talk about oats, I mean ONLY the oats with a label that claims that they are certified gluten free.

Okay, that being said, some people with celiac disease cannot digest even the cleanest, most certifiably gluten free oats. I am going to give you a basic run-down of why that is, though I may need some correction here. I really haven’t seen many articles on this that haven’t been really technical and scientific. There is a genetic component, I think, that is the cause of the additional sensitivity. There is a protein in the oats that is not related to gluten, but which some people are extremely sensitive to. I believe you can either be allergic to this protein in the oats or intolerant of it. (the same is true of gluten – some people are allergic, while celiacs like me are not allergic, but intolerant)

To be perfectly honest with everyone, I have thought for a number of years that I have an intolerance to oats, but I go back and forth on whether or not to eat them. There are two reasons that I have not made up my mind about whether or not to give oats up forever. Firstly, I LOVE oats. When I was a kid (many years before my celiac diagnosis), I would sneak into the pantry and grab handfuls of dry oats from the Quaker Oats box and eat them plain and uncooked, like a horse. I could eat oatmeal every day of my life and not grow tired of it. I could also probably give up desserts entirely if I just ate one of those dark chocolate chunk Kind granola bars instead. The second reason that I have hemmed and hawed about giving them up is that I figured that there was no test to prove that it was oats that I was allergic to. Plus, everything I read online about celiac disease and even about how to manage high cholesterol seems to indicate that we should eat oats. The arguments are that celiacs need more fiber in their diets and oats are the perfect way to get that fiber. The fiber that you get from oats is also really good for heart health and lowering cholesterol.

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However, for several years now, I have cut most oats and most oat containing products out of my diet – though I’ll admit I’m not a saint. I have relapses. Each time I relapse and eat my way through a box of gluten free granola bars, or eat oat-based cereals or crackers, etc. I get sick. I start having the same symptoms that I had before my celiac diagnosis: bloating, nausea, severe stomach cramps, fatigue – you name it. My most recent relapse ended last Wednesday when, after eating granola on my morning yogurt for about a month straight, I collapsed on the couch after work and just didn’t have the strength or energy to get up. My husband panicked, thinking I was either pregnant or sick with the flu. When I told him that I had been eating oats again, he just put his head in his hands and said “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” And I finally realized that it was time to stop. I started looking online for answers about oat intolerance and, as it turns out, there is a test for it. So, my next step is going to be to speak to my doctor and try to get tested. A printout of lab results always makes me feel better. Those pieces of paper confirm that I am not a hypochondriac and my symptoms are not just in my head.

As I get further into this life lesson, I will be writing updates. Meanwhile, if anyone out there is a celiac and you’ve been on a gluten free diet for a long time and aren’t feeling any better, try cutting oats out for a while and seeing how you feel. Oats are an excellent source of nutrition if your body can handle them, but if you don’t feel good, they may not be good for you. Just food for thought.