Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just a Little Bit of Wheat

Wheat and Gluten allergies come – like all food intolerances – in many forms. Quickened pulse rate, light headedness, stomach cramps, vomiting and nausea, hives, rashes, difficulty breathing as well as anaphylactic shock. In Celiac disease instead of antibodies attacking food and causing allergy like symptoms, the antibodies attack the villi and micro villi that cover the small intestine. These villi are the mechanism by which nutrients from food are absorbed thought the wall of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. When gluten is consumed villi are destroyed and the host will become malnourished.

These reactions can be mostly attributed to the trilploid and hexiploid nature of agricultural wheats and grains. The most common grain used is appropriately named Common Wheat or Bread Wheat, a hexaploid species of wheat that has been cultivated and genetically engineered from several types wheats to be both hardy to weather conditions, pests and still yield high protein content. As a result of this breeding, the chromosomes of the wheat cells have more than the natural two chromosome pairs (diploid). A cell difference that antibodies and cell recognition sensors internally see as an abnormality and often a mutation that should be destroyed. Hence the adverse reactions in most people when consumed. Other common wheat types such as Durum and Emmer are only triploid and spelt is actually another hexaploid. Einkorn wheat however is a diploid species that is usually found wild (an ancient wheat that was used to help cultivate the unnatural wheats used worldwide today), but there are few and hard to find cultivated varieties of Einkorn. And these Einkorn varieties of wheat can be consumed and absorbed reaction free by nearly all wheat sufferers.

Due to the agricultural disadvantage of growing non genetically engineered wheat (more susceptible to damage and less protein yields) Einkorn farming is fairly limited. However, some Eastern Oregon Farmers are making an attempt to incorporate Einkorn varieties in with Durman and Spelt yields. And Hopworks Brewery is currently brewing  Einkorn into their 7 Grain Stout. Luckily for us Oregonians our state tends to be idea for grass growth I would imagine any advances in Einkorn cultivation would be heard first on home ground (most likely at Bob’s Red Mill).

Friday, November 19, 2010


The health message in today's post: doing things that make you happy can do wonders for your ability to process and endure life’s downs. This resilience to tougher times can help lower your stress levels, which in turn keeps your body functioning outside of crisis mode even though it seems life wants nothing more than to destroy you. We have all felt like that, and the most important thing to remember in getting through these tough times are the things that make you truly happy. Movies have always been one of my favorite pleasures, they are bright and shiny and beautiful, whether it be a musical, a comedy, a horror movie or cartoons, they always cheer me up. Today I got to thinking about cartoons in general and how the limitless possibilities of expression in this medium is truly astounding. You don’t need special effects or fancy contraptions to defy the laws of nature and gravity. Given the right tools you can reinvent the world. And while some of my favorite cartoons have always been on the light and fluffy side, there are some noteworthy films in the animation category that may change your life as much as they changed mind. Such movies as, “Waltz with Bashir”, “Grave of the Fire Flies”, “Persepolis” and “The Triplets of Bellville” run the gamete from unimaginably sad, to beautiful, to awe inspiring to hilarious, and have truly expanded my world view.  But if you are reading at work and do not have time go out and hunt for these movies,  watch these shorts and maybe find some inspiration to seek the limitless possibilities of animated films.

Between Bears by Ori Avni and Daniela Spector

Day and Night by Pixar

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eat Your Apples Not Your Pills

Have you ever been out to a restaurant and witnessed a person pulling a kayak sized pill box out and taking more vitamins than food is on the table, or is this you? While eating poorly and subsidizing your diet with vitamins may be an easy diet option, it is not a wise one. Throw the pills away and pick up an apple.

There are a lot of things wrong with vitamins. Aside from the obvious fact that you as a consumer have no way of knowing how long those pills have been on the shelf, or for that matter how long the ingredients in the pills sat before they got inserted into capsules and sent to the grocery. But also take into consideration how much trust you are putting into a label. There are a lot of big words on there, do you know what they are? Ninety percent of most dietary supplements are made of filler. And that filler can range to any number of mysterious albeit digestible materials. But just because the FDA and our friendly supplement manufactures say it’s okay to ingest it doesn’t mean that you should.

The ingredients that people flock towards supplements for, are found in food. Food that is found in your grocery store. In the produce section, the whole meats section (not chicken strips or nuggets, real honest to goodness chicken, beef, fish, pork etc), and the whole dairy section (milk, cream ,cheese), and the whole grains located in the bulk sections of most markets (oats, nuts and legumes). We as humans have evolved along with every other living organisms on this planet to suit our environment. We evolved with our food sources and unless you ate a radioactive Cheesy Poof, I don’t think the chip/cookie isle, the boxes and prepared food isle, or the frozen dinner isle is going to provide the substance your body need to carry out normal daily metabolic functions.  

These very real, very normal foods have all the vitamins and minerals a person needs. If you eat them, veggies first, then fruits, followed by legumes and meats, then dairy and breads. Daily at every meal you will be taking in Vitamin A, B, C, D, K as well as Chromium, Copper, Fluorine, Manganese, Selenium Zinc, and Iron. And not only will you be taking them in, but they come prepared by nature in packages that allow for optimum absorption and complimentary pairing, ie your body will know what to do with it.  

Vitamins and minerals are good, in fact your body needs them to function. So do yourself a favor and eat them in a way they can be used. Eating an apple a day really does keep the doctor away.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Favorite Things for a Friday

Number One: Pie
Brought to you by my favorite blog: http://www.smittenkitchen.com/

Single-Crust Plum and Apple Pie
Adapted from Nigel Slater
I was at a potluck last weekend where a friend gave me a (jokingly) hard time about the ridiculous number of changes I make to a recipe while still calling it “adapted from”, so this intro is just for her: First, I put all of the measurements in “American”, i.e. cups and spoons so if some of them seem like odd amounts, keep in mind that they were nice round weights to begin with. I made a few adjustments there, too; you can use regular or coarse (turbinado or golden caster sugar, the latter of which I can only say with a terrible faux-British accent) sugar. I added some flaky salt to the crust because it is delightful there, and also a few scrapings of orange zest, because I really like it with plums. I stick the dough in the freezer instead of the fridge because I didn’t want to wait any longer for my pie than I had to.
The filling calls for either prune plums or greengages (greenish-yellow sweet plums), but I could only find the prune plums but the thought all-prune pie made me nervous about its, you know, intensity. Ahem. So I swapped half the plums with apples but I forgot that apples take much longer to bake than plums and had I cut them smaller, this shouldn’t have been an issue. Or I could have stopped fussing and made an all-plum pie. I added a squeeze of orange juice to the filling, again because I like orange against plums, a little less sugar and I mixed the whole thing in the pie dish, because I am lazy. I bet you can hear my friend rolling her eyes all the way on the other side of the internet, huh?
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup plus 6 1/2 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt (or less of table salt)
Milk or cream, for brushing crust
Coarse or fine sugar, for sprinkling crust
Softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream, for serving
1 pound ripe prune plums or greengages, halved, pitted, and halved again (i.e. quartered)
1 pound apples, peeled, cored and cut into smaller chunks (than you see in my photos)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Squeeze or two of orange or lemon juice
Make the lid: In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy. Mix in the lightly beaten egg and scrape down sides. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined. Scrape dough into a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and stick in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until firmed up.
Assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C or gas mark 4) Butter a pie or baking dish. Add the fruit and spinkle it with the sugar, cinnamon and orange or lemon juice. Gently toss the ingredients together once or twice; don’t worry, they’ll “muddle” well once cooking in the oven.
Roll out the firmed-up lid dough on a very well floured counter and gently lift it onto the pie and trim the overhang. It will tear. This is fine, and all the better to let juice erupt through. If it flusters you, you can use some of the trimmings to patch it up but still, the pie will bubble through in other places. Brush the crust with milk or cream, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 40 minutes, until lightly golden on top. Scoop onto dishes and serve with whipped cream.

                                            Number Two: Vintage David Bowie

                                                 Number Three: Beautiful Dresses

Number Four and Five: Edward Steichen (photographer) and Men in Suits (Gary Cooper)

                                                                     Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

You Are What You Eat

You are what you eat, these are words of wisdom from my wonderful mother. Its true in the most literal sense it can be true, without a person becoming an actual walking hamburger, or salad depending eating habits.   I doubt this statement is revolutionary, in fact most of your parents probably also tried to hammer this phrase into your head as a child. But take into consideration how true this statement actually is. How much do we as people resemble the food that we chose and take in to fuel our bodies?

I am a people watcher. I am the person waiting in line behind you at the grocery store staring down you and your food choices. I am the person sitting in the park at lunch checking out what everyone else is eating. I am also the person carrying around too many books, a water bottle and a camera, and as a result of which I have forgotten my lunch.

As a watcher and part time judger of the check outline I have noticed the following: people who look happy and healthy have mostly whole meats, fruits and veggies in their baskets. Those people who have highly processed, boxed and sugary foods tend to be overweight and look cranky or unhappy. Granted this is a huge generalization based on years of observation, but I still find it to be true. Even while walking around the store I have noticed people who are in the produce or health foods sections are animated, friendly and smile more. People who are dwelling in the snack isle and the frozen foods sections are more off putting and  significantly less friendly.

Most naturopathic and nutrition studies are based on how our bodies react and function based on the fuel we give it. I am not going to spend a lot of time reiterating the findings in these studies. It doesn’t take a geniuses or large sweeping studies to understand why this would be true. Our bodies are made to break down foods, whole foods, real foods, not chemicals. And if you look at boxed food there is probably going to be at least five ingredients that you can’t pronounce. If you are over the age of 10 and cannot pronounce or recognize the ingredients in your food put the box down and locate the produce section.

When you eat food pay attention to how your body reacts. When I started doing this a few years ago I realized some really astonishing things about myself. When I eat processed white flours such as French breads and white pastas, I get really bloated. When I eat large amounts of sugar I react to irritants more quickly without thinking, ie crankier. When I eat highly processed foods I get tired as opposed to eating all whole foods where I feel energized and happy. Did I discover some things I wasn’t thrilled about? Yes, I shouldn’t eat cow dairy anymore. But I have also discovered some really great things, goat cheese is incredible. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta’s actually taste better, baking using whole flours and honey instead of sugar are AMAZING! I lost some things in my diet but I also discovered some really great foods that I never would have tried had I not been forced to.

I am and defiantly was before what I ate. But thanks to paying attention to what I chose to eat, my moods don’t swing based on the foods I eat. My moods swing for other, more reasonable reasons and they are more manageable. I still  watch people at the grocery store, I find it fascinating and I suggest you take up the habit. Maybe it will help you realize for yourself that you too are what you eat. And maybe its time for some changes.

Kaomai Lanna Resort: Beautiful and tasty food

For further information please see:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Franken Fish

Genetically engineered products seems to be all the rage these days. Lawmakers are making these decisions but do consumers really want non-natural foods. And are proper measure being taken by our lawmakers to ensure that these GE products are the best possible solutions to our needs?

 If you grew up in the same state as I did you are probably well aware of all things salmon. For those of you who did not. Salomon populations have been on the decline for years. Over fishing reduces the amount of fish allowed to return to riverbeds to spawn and thus reduces the number of salmon that return to the ocean. And while for the most part we as a consuming population realize that now, earlier generations tended to see natural resources as unlimited. Today Fish and Game regulations have some pretty hard and fast rules on the number of fish legally allowed to be caught for commercial and private use. And it doesn’t take an economist to see that a reduced number available will cause prices to rise. With prices soaring to twenty five dollars a pound for salmon in grocery stores, not everyone who wants salmon is necessarily eating salmon.

Salmon in its self is one of the best meats a person can eat. High in healthy fatty acids, low in harmful cholesterols. And if you are eating wild you are also eating one of the last remaining food sources on the planet reasonably free of chemicals fertilizers, growth hormones and antibiotics. Do we want to eat salmon, YES! Do we want to eat GE Salmon? According to Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch “seventy-eight percent of adults surveyed don’t want genetically engineered salmon.”  Sounds like most other people feel the same as I do. No, I don’t want GE salmon. I don’t even like farmed salmon.

Farmed salmon were the first national attempt to counter act depleted salmon populations. Eggs are manually fertilized, protected in “fish farms” and either raised to a certain age and released into the wild or kept on site to be harvested and sold later. Maybe I am just a snob, but I know when a fish has been farmed. Its tastes like sawdust. And to make matters worse, since the fish aren’t exposed to the same natural environment which causes the meat to color pink, the farmed salmon are given food with dies to force color into the tissues.

The only information I can find regarding the difference in these GE salmon are the rate of growth. They are designed to grow and mature faster than other salmon whose general life cycles ranges from 3-7 years depending on species. Also, I don’t know the long term affects tissue dies have on human biochemistry. I can’t imagine its harmless, but I doubt any of us are eating enough farmed salmon to actually be experiencing any negative effects.  I can only speculate but I imagine the FDA and other lawmakers involved in this decision are thinking the same thing. Who is actually eating enough salmon to be affected by GE tissue. Probably nobody. But my main concern isn’t necessarily with how it will change our bodies. My concern lies mainly with the bio-diversity these salmon are going to be affecting.

Eco systems are sensitive. Populations are dependent on  a very fragile balance of producers and consumers. I can only imagine what is going to happen with fish returning and clogging up spawning grounds quicker than the average salmon life cycle. And if the fish are in fact superior in every way will the ultimately wipe out the wild salmon we know today?  Not to mention the effects it will have both above and below the salmon food chain. Sunlight is used by algae to grow,  bugs eat algae, salmon eat bugs, predators eat salmon. Literally everything if my big back yard could be affected by this change.

As  a consumer  I hold a pretty high standard to the foods I eat. And as a person, I love the world I live in and thus have concern regarding willy-nilly decisions being made. I am not a scientists or a lawmaker, and don’t have all the recourses and answers to make a sound decision of the magnitude.   But it concerns me that the good people of the FDA and  lawmakers don’t more scientist in them. These are decisions that have far reaching consequences. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past, think before you act.

To read more go to, which are also my two main sources for this article.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just Say Maybe to Antibacterials

Google is both awesome and frightening. When I went a searching for a picture related to germaphobes I got not only the picture attached, but pictures of Megan Fox, Oprah, Toothbrushes, Drinking Fountains and National Monuments. Germaphobes are none of these things, although maybe Ms. Fox and Lady O are afraid of germs, I couldn’t honestly say, I have never met either. Germaphobe is however, the word my mother used to use for people who were overly worried about their exposure to germs.
Mom wasn’t far off, at a least according to Ubran Dictionary but a Germaphobe is actually not a real phobia. In fact if you have ever been called a germaphobe, chances are you are just any normal person who opens public bathroom doors with your elbow and gets grossed out when you touch chewed up gum under tables.   A true germ phobia is actually called Spermaphobia, funny in name but not funny in real life. If you have Spermaphobia the thought of touching second hand gum doesn’t make you gag, it gives you a panic attack. If this is you, I suggest seeking psychiatric care, there is nothing funny about feeling like you are having a heart attack. 
Panic attacks aside, germs aren’t all that scary. They are small microorganisms and we are host to them. White blood cells go to work, fight them off, new germs join in and the cycle continues.  The body stays healthy and you stay healthy. Sickness occurs when this system or cycle breaks down. Sometimes it is because the pathogen is so strong your white blood cells are killed off, like in the case of the AIDS virus. More, often life gets away from us, stress, lack of sleep and bad nutrition all become habitual. At some point the stressors will become too much. Your body energy is being used to keep normal up daily function and pathogens will start to thrive in their freedom.
The biggest threat to cellular crime fighters these days are antibacterials. Antibacterials are amazing; they kill up to 99% of germs. GREAT! Not so great for your white blood cells, they exist to fight germs, without germs they cease to exist.  The more a person kills small amounts of everyday pathogens, the more susceptible they are making themselves to more harmful diseases. 
This can be a confusing topic, so to simplify think vaccines. We all got them as a child. Vaccines are created from viruses themselves, smallpox, chickenpox, mumps, measles, labs take these and engineer them so when injected the white blood cells attack a small amount (often slightly different) of the virus. The body is now trained in smallpox combat so to speak. Same situation with everyday germs, the more types you are exposed to in small manageable amounts the more equipped your body is to naturally fight them.  Take that immunity away and your body will be overwhelmed by the large potentially harmful dose you may come across when you least expect it. 
The popularity of antiacterials is, like most things it seems, due to the media and fear based advertising. If you are in an area where raw sewage runs down the street, by all means bathe yourself in the stuff. But for the most part, and this is a complete assumption, you lovely readers live in a clean environment where soap and clean water are readily available. Soap and hot water are the cornerstones of good hygiene for a reason. It works.   
So, Germaphobes rest easy. The icky stuff on the street probably won’t kill you, and if you take good care of your body you probably won’t even notice when you are hosting a pathogen party. Should you stop using antibacterials? No, but maybe next time you grab a shopping cart let the gel rest,  save it for when you go to pick up your dog’s poo and you realize to late there is a hole in the bag.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Every Body is Unique

 I'm just a girl. Normal, probably not. Ordinary, most definitely not. I sing regardless of tone deafness, love the smell of books, fascinated by trees, art nuevo&deco architecture makes me weak in the knees, I am apprehensive about all things "popular", and living a weird juxtaposition of loving the city I live in but craving wide open space. Unique, just like everyone else.

A few years ago my ears pricked up when I heard the word Naturopathic Physician. Do tell I thought. Well, since I was ease dropping it was more me trying to use “the force” to turn up the conversation volume. It didn’t work. What I did get out of it was: there is such a thing as a Naturopathic Physician. I meant to go right home and research it. I honestly don’t recall what happened, but I am me, so I probably spilled coffee on myself, spent the next ten minutes in the bathroom trying to de-stain myself, got distracted by how late I was and forgot all about the conversation.

Fast forward a few years and I am now a regular Naturopathic Physician client. Has my doctor solved on my problems? No. But the journey has begun, every day I am learning new tools to help myself. I am learning ways to question the truths my Medical Doctors have told me. I am learning that every body is different just like everybody is unique.  

The point being, a motto I have always held as true has now become even more important in my life: nothing worth doing is ever easy.  So I carry on, knowing I don’t have all the answers, knowing it will be frustrating, but knowing somewhere along the way I may inspire others to take up the work of saving themselves, their health, their mental and emotional clarity, and like the end of any long voyage be happier for having done it.