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Blogging for Endometriosis 2013

I am a wife, dog mommy, fitness lover, health and wellness enthusiast, and I also suffer from the chronic illness endometriosis!

With a whole world of socially conscious and vibrantly vigilant endo sisters out there spreading the word through their posts, tweets, and blogs I’ve learned that March is Endometriosis Awareness month. I’ll be participating here with bloggers like A New Kind of Normal to share my endo story and will include fitness, diet, and wellness solutions that have worked for me. In the past year I’ve learned SO much about this illness and just experienced my first cycle almost pain-free! I can’t wait to share with you how I did it. I’ll be doing so on my author site. Read more here.

If you too want to participate, here’s an idea for topics by week:

Week of March 5th: Physical impact that endometriosis has had on your life

Week of March 12th: Mental impact that endo has had on your life.

Week of March 19th: Fertility issues (if any) related to endo

Week of March 26th: Things that you have found helpful with endo or that have allow you to cope in spite of illness

Cheers to a productive, powerful, and prolific Endo Awareness Month!

 

 

Farm Fresh to You: The coolest thing EVER!

Organic, Local, FARM FRESH produce delivered to your doorstep!

Organic, Local, FARM FRESH produce delivered to your doorstep!

I knew it was time to do something when I opened my fridge today in search of a snack. My veggie drawer stared up at me empty and alone, no fruits and veggies to keep it company. Unfortunately, my closest farmer’s market isn’t until Saturday and our weekend schedule is already packed full with yoga, acupuncture and dog grooming (just your average American couple!).

Enter Farm Fresh To You, a service that makes getting your fruits and veggies easy! You select what you want, when you want it and a box of organic and local produce shows up on your doorstep. Exciting, right?!

My friend the Skin Owl has been raving about how easy juicing is because of her weekly produce deliveries. I’ll be cooking up some of her famous Glow Juice in no time now that I’ve jumped on the CSA box bandwagon (Community Supported Agriculture). According to the Skin Owl, I also can expect a wild variety of veggies to arrive forcing me out of my butter lettuce salad, spinach omelet routine. Cheers to a colorful plate bursting with nutrient dense, LOCAL, ORGANIC, and FARM FRESH fabulousness!

How do you make sure your fridge and fruit bowl are stocked full of healthy snacks all week-long?

So called “Healthy” snacks, bad for you?

A bite sized clementine: My favorite snack!

A bite sized clementine: My favorite snack!

I arrived at Yahoo this morning to check an often forgotten email account and saw this headline:

 

 Are Those “Healthy” Snacks Actually Bad for You?

 

Sounds scary, right? Like all this time you’ve been haphazardly snacking on poison! Oh the horror.

Here’s a list of the snack foods Yahoo’s experts said to avoid, plus my commentary:

#1 Rice cakes. Their take, the rice cake “has a mere 35 calories, but consists of high-glycemic, puffed-up white rice with a low nutritional profile.”

My plan: Rice cakes aren’t on it. If my blood sugar’s gonna sky rocket, I want to actually enjoy it while it happens. Enter a piece of dark chocolate. Or better yet, grab an apple or handful of berries for fiber and antioxidants.

#2 Kale chips. I’m new to Kale so I’ve never actually had these, but without a lot of oil and salt, they sound gross! Yahoo claims that “some veggie chips contain more additives than you’d think” and goes on to explain that many bags contain mostly dehydrated potatoes.  If only potatoes were as good for us as Kale!

My Plan: Here I’ll take Yahoo’s advice to make my own (someday when I’m feeling brave). Or I’ll do the next best thing and actually read labels. If the chips I’m buying have more than a few ingredients and contain chemicals I can’t pronounce and understand, I’ll play it safe and reach for a handful of raw nuts or a piece of fruit.

#3 Sweet potato chips. They’re so darn good, aren’t they? Almost as good as sweet potato fries (just because they’re “bad” for you doesn’t mean they’re not disgustingly delicious!). Yahoo’s expert explains that “sweet potatoes contain more fiber and vitamins A and C” than their white counterparts.

My Plan: These crunchy little suckers pack a nutrient dense punch. As long as the ingredient list contains only sweet potatoes, veggie oil, and salt, I’m in! Still, these babies are higher on the carb side so if you’re watching your glycemic load have just a few.

#4 Protein bars. Or should we say glorified candy bars? Just read the ingredients. Low sugar alternatives, like ThinkThin bars may be an option if you’re seeking sweet satiety, but they’re still loaded with wacky chemicals like malititolan ingredient that can cause gastrointestinal upset . I think the air I breathe in Los Angeles is toxic enough, don’t you?

My Plan: I’ll take a protein smoothy with almond milk and berries over a protein bar any day!

#5 Baked chips and crackers. The term “baked” is mostly a marketing ploy and only saves you a few grams of fat, but not the high fructose corn syrup, high-glycemic inflammatory wheat flour, and other mile long, hard to pronounce ingredients.

My Plan: No backed chips and crackers for this body. Unless they’re Flackers, my newest gluten-free, flax seed cracker obsession, I’m not interested.

Other items on Yahoo’s list include Popchips and Rice Crackers, two other starchy, processed foods. And that’s the thing that every item listed has in common: it was born on a conveyor belt. I will always prefer a handful of nuts, a few mandarin oranges, or even a bag of pumpkin seeds (dried seeds + salt = Yum)! Real food is always a part of this girl’s plan.

 

 

My favorite gluten-free cracker: Flackers!

Low carb + high fiber + minimally processed = Delicious!

Low carb + high fiber + minimally processed = Healthy & Delicious!

My Week Without Wheat has now lasted over a month and I’ve never felt better! Throughout the process of purging my cabinets of bread, pasta, and crackers I discovered Flackers. This flax seed cracker contains only organic flax seeds, organic apple cider vinegar, bragg liquid aminos, organic rosemary, and organic sage. AND we’re talking 7 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per serving!

I’ve discovered all sorts of amazing ways to eat these crunchy little flax crackers. For example, I’ve paired them with hummus, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes for the ultimate snack. This low carb, high fiber, and absolutely delectable gluten-free option has a place in my grocery cart every trip. But note, I’ve only been able to find them at WholeFoods. If you’ve seen them at other stores do let me know in the comments!

Flackers Snack_2

Attack of the H.U.M.A.N. vending machine!

Healthy Vending Does Exist!

It’s 3 PM and you’re hungry. Sequestered to your desk like a convict on house arrest, you’ve spent the hours between lunch and now tickling your PC’s ten key, while politely disagreeing with your co-worker’s choice of power point theme via email. You haven’t left your station once, so why are you SO  hungry? Your brain has been gobbling up glucose like a vacuum cleaner after dog hair. The most important organ in your body needs fuel. Now.

Walking briskly to the company lunch room, you have hope. Maybe this time the woman who stocks the vending machine will have deviated from potato chips and preservative plumped pastries. Maybe this time you’ll walk away from that lunch room and that vending machine, having sacrificed the change from your desk drawer willingly. Maybe this time you’ll actually get some FOOD, instead of a hunk of sugar with an ingredient list so foreign it might as well have been written in Alien…

But just like yesterday and all the days before that, nothing has changed. The case of high fructose corn syrup candy and oil fried corn chips taunt you from their coil posts. You have that same feeling you get when you hopefully unwrap a birthday gift from Grandma, disappointed to discover a glass cat figurine (you are NOT a cat person). If only there was a another way. If only there was a vending machine that swapped out Alien snacks for something REAL.

That’s the way H.U.M.A.N founder Sean Kelly felt after a grueling workout in NYC several years ago. Hungry as hell after kicking his own a$$ at New York Sports Club, he discovered he was surrounded by bleached flower bagel shops and empty calorie soda machines.  A light went on. Necessity is the mother of invention and Sean was about to be the answer to his body’s, AND society’s, greatest need.

As he explains in H.U.M.A.N.’s handbook, “The fact was that there was a serious void in the market and it was having a disastrous effect on peoples’ lives. Thoughts of obesity, diabetes, and malnutrition filled my head.”

From there the first H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending Machine was born. But it wasn’t without its highs and lows. Sean explains that in 2003 the operation wasn’t “all smiles.” He’s smiling now, however, because without these mistakes H.U.M.A.N. would not be what it is today, Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Top 100 Brilliant Companies of 2011”, Forbes Magazine’s “America’s Most Promising Companies,” and  CNN Money’s “10 Generation Next Entrepreneurs to Watch.”

For more about bringing healthy vending, through nutritious drinks and foods, into your workplace (goodbye Vending Machine Lady!), gym, or school, visit the H.U.M.A.N website. I certainly plan to spend some time there and might see if I can get a H.U.M.A.N. in my living room.

Goodbye Cheese, Goodbye Wheeze!

For the last two years, my breathing and lung capacity have made going for a jog painful. I’d attempt a run, then a few minutes later I’d be wheezing like the old Buick Regal I drove in college as it huffed and puffed over Oahu’s Pali Highway. Subconsciously I began adapting my workouts to those of the less aerobic variety: yoga and Pilates. For a cardio queen like me, I should’ve paid more mind to my slow shift from 40 minute runs to 55 minute Pilates classes. I should’ve listened to my body sooner. Strength training and core conditioning are wonderful, but there’s no substitute for revving the human engine like a 6-mile run.

My lungs were trying to communicate. My hubby and I began to wonder if I had adult-onset asthma, or worse, lung cancer. My coughing fits would wake me (and him) in the middle of the night. I always felt like I was fighting a cold.

Slowly suspecting that there was a causal connection between my food intake and my breathing difficulties, I began to notice that whenever I’d eat cheese or other dairy products that my nose would start to run, my throat would feel constricted and my chest would tighten. But, as a semi-vegetarian who subsisted almost entirely on grains, dairy products, some fruits and veggies, and fish, in that order,  I couldn’t picture cutting out ALL dairy products. Besides, maybe it was the smog clogged Los Angeles air or my two dogs or a lingering infection… ANYTHING but CHEESE!

I just couldn’t picture an afternoon without my daily Greek yogurt. I couldn’t picture my favorite – the wet, cheese topped burrito-without that which gave it so much zing, mouth-watering Mexican jack cheese. I couldn’t picture a life without 3-cheese pizza and cream cheese smothered bagels. And Parmesan! What was vegetarian spaghetti without its crowning glory, 1/2 a cup of Parmesan cheese?

But, I also couldn’t picture feeling that way much longer. I’d even had to lay down on the mat in my last yoga class to catch my breath. I just did not feel good, most of the time. There had to be something I could DO.

So, armed with my new PPO health plan (I switched to my husband’s plan after we married), I scanned my provider’s website for an allergy and asthma doctor in West Los Angeles. By name alone I arrived at the doctors of SneezeWheeze.Com. I am a sucker for clever branding, even if it’s cheesy (hehe). The reception staff was friendly and upbeat and when I asked for their “best doctor” they booked me with Dr. Raffi Tachdjian.

Dr. Raffi was incredible. He spent hours with me – discussing my hunches (milk and dog allergies), my history (some childhood bronchial infections), and my desires (to run wheeze free). We scheduled the allergy scratch test for a few weeks later and Dr. Raffi sent me off with samples of nasal sprays and an inhaler.

I first learned about the skin test for allergies, from my co-worker. She’s had allergies her entire life and came to work one day after an allergy doctor appointment where she had just been re-tested. She took off her sweatshirt to show me a line of red blotches dotting her upper arm. “This,” she explained, “Is how they tell if I’m still allergic to carrots and soy.” I was intrigued. Even then I suspected that I too suffered from food allergies.

Three weeks later, as I lay down face first on Dr. Raffi’s examination table, I was excited and not because Dr. Raffi is almost as good looking as my hubby. The lovely nurse accompanying him informed me that I’d feel a series of pricks on my back. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it didn’t feel good either. But soon I’d know what to avoid in my environment and what to exclude from my plate. Hopefully in doing so I’d finally feel better. The nasal sprays had done wonders, while the inhaler had simply loosened my chest. I was still wheezing as of that visit.

“Don’t scratch it,” she instructed, “I’ll be back in 15 minutes to check on you.”

The truth was hard to hear. I am allergic to cow’s milk. Though I had had a hunch, it hadn’t prevented me from gorging on cheddar cubes at holiday parties. The hunch hadn’t prevented me from adding extra cheese to my medium Domino’s pizza, either.

Dr. Raffi advised that I cut dairy out cold turkey. “The body can change and get over certain allergies,” he explained. He said we’d re-test in 3 months, but in the meantime I’d have to eliminate cow’s milk products all together.

I left thinking this wouldn’t be too hard. I’d just lay off the cheese and cut out yogurt. I didn’t drink cow’s milk, so eliminating that would be a breeze. But like I do with the vigor and zest of a seasoned sleuth, I took my confirmed allergy to google and began my hunt for more knowledge.

The site I’ve listed below was one of my favorites. Unfortunately though they delivered a crushing blow, cow’s milk is in everything!

Foodallergy.org recommended that I avoid the following, very extensive list, of cow’s milk derived products.

Avoid foods that contain milk or any of these ingredients:
butter, butter fat, butter oil, butter
acid, butter ester(s)
buttermilk
casein
casein hydrolysate
caseinates (in all forms)
cheese
cottage cheese
cream
curds
custard
diacetyl
ghee
half-and-half
lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate
lactoferrin
lactose
lactulose
milk (in all forms, including condensed, derivative, dry, evaporated, goat’s milk and milk from other animals, low fat, malted, milkfat, nonfat, powder, protein, skimmed, solids, whole)
milk protein hydrolysate
pudding
Recaldent®
rennet casein
sour cream, sour cream solids
sour milk solids
tagatose
whey (in all forms)
whey protein hydrolysate
yogurt

Yikes!!!! No butter on my toast? Really!?

Check out a few interesting milk allergy blogs I discovered in my search. http://milkallergymom.blogspot.com/, http://www.godairyfree.org/

It’s been over a month since I began the process of eliminating dairy from my diet. I’ve slipped up many times. I ate croissants over Christmas and gobbled down a piece of pie, both of which include butter as a main ingredient. While my reaction wasn’t as severe as the one I experience with yogurt or cheese, I still didn’t feel good after indulging in those buttery treats (not to mention their empty calorie-ness and high sugar content which may have contributed to the resulting malaise).

My friends were so inspired by my story that one of them, the Skin Owl herself, also decided to get tested for allergies. She discovered that she is allergic to an ingredient in one of her face creams, a non-Skin Owl product that she employed to prevent inflammation was doing just that – irritating her skin because to her, it was an allergen! Incredibly indispensible knowledge was gleaned from just one trip to Dr. Raffi and his team.

It’s been getting easier and easier, as I incorporate more fruits and veggies and fish into my diet. I’m eating less pasta, a typically fiber free food unless you go with whole wheat pasta (bleh), which I once smothered with parmesan and mozzarella. And I’m truly feeling like a new person. Fitness has always been my medicine – the recipe for a happy me – but now, in finally listening to my body and doing something about it, I’ve finding that my food choices can be medicine too!

If you are a Southern California resident experiencing breathing problems or mysterious rashes or just want to know for sure how you might be reacting to your environment, I recommend you call my buddies at SneezeWheeze.com today or another health care provider that can administer the allergy scratch test.