Food & Recipes

Immune & Energy Booster Turmeric Shots

Several years ago, I participated in a yoga intensive course which required attending classes at a local studio almost daily and first thing in the morning. This was before my diagnosis, but just after I experienced my first flare-up, so fatigue was an issue for me at the time.

I was complaining to another student while we were waiting to step into the studio about how tired I was and how I would love to have a cup of coffee (we were doing a strict detox diet as part of the course at the time). She pulled this small bottle* out of her bag and handed it to me.

Her: “It’s a turmeric shot. These things are great natural energy boosts.”
Me: “Turmeric? As in the spice?”
Her: “Yeah, have you heard about it? It’s got all these great ayurvedic properties, but it’s been found to naturally boost your energy. It’s more potent than caffeine.”
Me: “And it’s safe?”
Her: “Absolutely. It’s all natural. Just try half of it and let me know what you think after class.”

I tried it and she was correct. I felt extremely energized. I was almost shaking to get class started, that’s how powerful it was for me. I will add this note: it was the first of any sort of energy drink I had in weeks. We couldn’t even drink green tea, so the results might have been slightly skewed due to my body just going into overload.

I didn’t get a chance to follow up with the turmeric as an energy booster after that experience. But it stayed in the back of my mind and when I read about the natural benefits of turmeric in the diet for brain health and as an anti-inflammatory, I decided to look back into it as something to add into my daily diet to help manage my MS.

The Health Benefits of Turmeric

What makes Turmeric the wonder spice is the curcumin. Curcumin is believed to be a beneficial supplement to fight Alzheimer’s due to its anti-inflammatory and brain boosting properties. It also is found to have cognitive-boosting abilities, though this needs to be researched further. It can also help prevent certain forms of cancer.

These two things alone: inflammation and cognition are issues a person with MS deals with on a daily basis. I am not advocating forsaking all other forms of MS therapy, I am saying that by adding it to my daily diet will help supplement traditional forms of MS therapy. And as a runner, the anti-inflammatory benefits is extremely helpful to recovery.

But the energy/metabolism and the immune benefits? This becomes a universal appeal for a daily consumption of Turmeric. Even if you don’t have MS, having a natural way to get more energy and boost the immune system will be beneficial to your health. It may not cure a cold or completely prevent getting one, but it will give you that extra boost your body might need.

Making My Own Turmeric Drink

Before removing sugar from my diet, I found it harder to stomach turmeric even in a drink form. The taste was too weird and I needed something sweet to help cover it up because that’s how I handled flavors I didn’t care for in the past: add sugar to make it more palatable.

A few weeks after quitting sugar, I bought several shots of turmeric for an early morning road trip I was making to Tennessee. I took some sips and found that I actually enjoyed the flavor and felt quite the energy boost.

Sugar struck again as a ruiner of flavors. Now that it was out of my system, I was able to enjoy something I previously disliked.

But what took my breath away was the price per bottle. I could drink one bottle per day for the health benefits, but my wallet wasn’t going to be fond of the ~$6.00 per 3 fl oz. I knew I could make it even cheaper.

I found a couple of recipes online, but they didn’t adhere to the vegan diet (I wanted something I could drink once I switched over), or they didn’t have the flavors I was looking for, so I decided to create my own recipe. Below the break, you will find my recipe and some ideas for modifications.

Continue reading “Immune & Energy Booster Turmeric Shots”

Diet Shift

Week 6: Vegan at Last

I am finally dropping all other meats.

I am officially vegan.

I prefer calling it veganism not just because it’s more succinct, but also because there is a level of adopting a more non-harm based lifestyle as an additional approach to my diet shift. If I am more compassionate in my food decisions, I might be more compassionate to myself which will help me through my journey. It’s about making a mindset shift as much as it’s for my health.

The additional health goals is to my lower cholesterol and hopefully gain some more energy on a totally plant-based diet. Since I’ve already reviewed all this stuff before in my other posts, I won’t rehash old information.

The Plan for the Week

  • Really work on taking my multivitamins. I have a regimen to help supplement my diet in case I have an off day, but vitamins are always difficult for me to remember to take.
  • Make protein smoothies that I enjoy as a means to boost my daily protein intake. I have found that after longer runs I crave something high in protein. It will be a good means to replenish what my body needs.
  • Work on compiling snacks to keep in my purse or in Jai’s diaper bag for myself in case I get caught someplace where there are no food options. But also making sure I leave the house feeling full if I am not going someplace where I know they will have something I can eat.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating in a restaurant: Find vegan options and sticking with them. If there aren’t any, find a vegetarian that requires minimal adjustments.
  • No food options in a restaurant or at a friend’s house: Use snack packs I’ve already stashed in my purse or in Jai’s diaper bag as a means to tide me over.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am trying to remove inflammatory foods from my diet as a means to help make me feel better.

I have some exciting updates on Wednesday. I had my annual appointment with my neurologist and my half-marathon results.

The Check-In

Checking In: Dairy-Free

It was a relatively calm week. Missing out on dairy, in addition to the other things I’ve dropped, severely limits what I can eat while I am running around town with Jai. That said, I was able to make do with some alternatives and I am looking into the possibility of doing more smoothies as a meal replacement. I find that those tend to be more filling and can provide me with the opportunity to get my greens, protein, and calcium in easily.

With this in mind, I purchased a high-quality blender and some books to help inspire me with healthy smoothies in the morning. I am hoping for some success in enjoying the concoctions, especially since I have dropped sugar. I never really liked homemade smoothies that were healthy in nature and preferred using the blender to make milkshakes instead.

The issue was I never liked the taste of smoothies, either they were heavy on the healthy taste (greens) or not appealing enough. I like my smoothies to be sweet, like milkshakes. Since dropping sugar, I find that I don’t need things to taste as sweet as I once did. I even appreciate certain flavors I never used to because sugar no longer messes with my tastebuds. Smoothies will be good to increase my protein, greens, and other goodness to boost the immune system

Speaking of eating healthier for my immune system, it’s too little; too late for me by the end of the week. I caught a chest cold between Thursday and Friday and found that while trying to treat it, not being tempted by dairy helped a lot in minimizing some of my symptoms.

I have found that the more dairy I consume when I have a cold and especially a chest cold, the worse I feel. I didn’t feel really good by Saturday regardless, but I know that I wasn’t making it worse by consuming dairy. Instead, when I needed something cold to soothe my throat, I reached for some vegan ice cream I made.

It sucks being sick two weeks in a row. I don’t think it has anything to do with my diet, but because we just went through a seasonal temperature shift and I always get a cold when that happens. Hopefully by the end of this week everything will be back to normal.

Other Diet Shift Updates

Still struggling with not having fried-foods, especially after getting sick at the end of the week. I was hoping my cravings would be diminishing by now, but I still have some work to do to figure out what it is about deep-fried foods that I am so addicted to psychologically.

I had a spurt in weight loss earlier in the week. I was kind of surprised by it: 5 pounds over the course of 2 days considering I did minimal exercise in prep for my half-marathon on Sunday.

I don’t think it was dairy related, but perhaps a boost in my metabolism because of the sugar drop? It was a major confidence boost because it dropped me below an obese BMI. My L’Hermitte’s Sign is completely gone and before I got sick, I am finding that my mood is leveling out so I don’t feel as anxious. I was also noticing a drop in the mental fog, but with a chest/head cold now, it’s hard to notice. Hopefully it’s a trend towards having more mental clarity on a day-to-day basis when I am healthier.

So even if this is a placebo effect, I am finding that I am feeling better than I did when I first started and that is feeding into itself which is what I ultimately wanted.

 

Information Huddle

Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary

Dairy has its place in the Western diet. It is a valid way to consume calcium, get vitamin D, and other important vitamins and minerals. The issue is that it causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. Some people are aware that they have a sensitivity to dairy, and some are completely unaware that it might be the source of minor issues.

It may not affect everyone, but there are still some issues with consuming dairy in the recommended quantities.

The biggest problem is how addictive it is, especially in cultural consciousness. If you’ve ever gone dairy-free, considered going dairy-free, or know someone who did – the usual response is: “how will you live without ice cream/cheese/eggs?” and “I could never go without ice cream/cheese/eggs, I love them too much.”

It is possible to go dairy-free with all new options for alternatives out there, but it isn’t the same sometimes. That said, lessening one’s consumption of dairy does a body good.

Continue reading “Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary”

Diet Shift

Week 5: Dear Dairy…

Dairy and I have always had a love/hate relationship.

I had issues with it as a baby and have always had mild issues with it as an adult such as mucus, gas, and feeling bloated. Nothing that affected my quality of life, but just a mild annoyance every so often.

My reactions to dairy tells me that I am most likely sensitive to it, but like with sugar, when it’s in your system it’s hard to notice.

Dairy has always been that difficult mountain to cross whenever I went vegan. The thought of going without cheese never appealed to me and vegan alternatives never tasted as good as slightly burnt cheese on a grilled sandwich.

I knew that there was a chance Jai would have issues with dairy. When I was a baby, I had a hard time digesting breastmilk and at the time, mothers were told to consume a bunch of milk when breastfeeding for the baby’s health. It never crossed my pediatrician’s mind that perhaps my mom should drop dairy from her diet to help me feel better. She switched to formula and that was that.

But when more information came out over the last few decades that dairy causes issues, particularly through breast milk, we put two-and-two together. So when it came time to breastfeed Jai, I watched my dairy intake.

I did notice that when I had a dairy-heavy meal, Jai was more uncomfortable that evening. When we started putting him on solids, if he had something that had a lot of dairy, he wouldn’t stay asleep due to discomfort.

That informed me that while correlation does not mean causation, it was something to pay attention to when deciding what to feed him. It’s easier to supplement his calcium needs with fortified foods outside of breastmilk. I am not against him having dairy once in awhile, nor am I against him drinking milk. But with all possible sensitivities, we will be doing it with care because I don’t want him to have unnecessary discomfort.

Ash reminded me recently that he had stomach issues growing up, issues with really painful gas. He wasn’t able to point to anything in particular, but he suspected that it was food related. Because there’s a possible genetic factor at play for Jai, we’re going to keep a really close eye on his reactions to certain foods.

I am dropping dairy not just for personal comfort, but because this is the last of the foods I am dropping for my cholesterol. I think there were some secondary benefits for my MS when I dropped dairy because dairy is inflammatory. I will be doing more research regarding that this week.

The Plan for the Week

  • I tend to reach for snacks that have dairy when I want to mindlessly eat. Having some carrots and hummus will be a good alternative.
  • Ash bought me N’ice Cream as a means to treat myself after my half-marathon on Sunday. I bought myself a nicer blender with some smoothie books, so when I am craving something with dairy, I will grab some “ice cream” or make a smoothie as a means to help with that craving. I made a banana ice cream the other day and it’s creamy enough to satisfy that specific craving.
  • I have found that sprinkling nutritional yeast over snacks helps a lot with cheese flavor. It’s not perfect, but it reminds me of parmesan. I can air pop some popcorn and throw the nutritional yeast on top if I want to taste something dairy-like.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating in a restaurant: I am not going to stress over perfection, but opt for dishes that don’t have dairy or ask for the dairy removed. With salads, chose an oil and vinegar dressing. Still gotta avoid that fried stuff…
  • I am given something with dairy to eat/try: Defer if I can and if not, save it for later to give to Ash to try.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: Trying to see if I feel better by going without dairy for a period of time. I have also noticed Jai getting more gassy when I’ve had dairy and I want to see if this will alleviate that symptom.
  • “Won’t you miss ice cream/cheese/eggs?”: Yes. I definitely will miss all those things, but current alternatives are better than ever and after a while you forget the difference.

For Wednesday, I will be examining how dairy can affect the body and see if what I have is a sensitivity or an allergy. Obviously, getting tested is the best way to confirm this, but sometimes that’s just not feasible for insurance. I think it will be helpful to see what dairy does to the body and see if that affects my MS as well.

 

Information Huddle

Bad Fats and Good Health

National news programs, both morning and night, love to talk about obesity in America. Obesity affects us all in some way: either we will know someone who is obese or we will be/are obese. I will flat out admit this: according to my BMI, I am obese (30.6). It’s not something I am proud of and getting on the scale at the doctor’s office is a blow to my ego. But I’ve accepted that while I hate the numbers, there is some truth to the matter: I need to make some changes to my lifestyle to move that number between 18.5-24.9 and be considered medically healthy.

By shifting my BMI into the non-obese range means that I could be adding years to my life. While I can’t guarantee those additional years will be good years due to the MS, I can make sure the good ones are filled with quality due to good physical and mental health.

The main culprit in the obesity epidemic in America is high-fat foods, specifically deep fried foods. As mentioned in my last post, it’s very hard to walk into any restaurant and not find multiple fried foods on the menu. The Western Diet is large portions, high-calories, high-fat, and high-sugar. I am being reductive, but anecdotally it is easy to see how pervasive the high-fat diet culture is in media and day-to-day life.

Making the necessary changes in my diet tend to be rather hard for me. There are several things I’ve said to myself when I have chosen unhealthy options over the healthy ones:  it’s affordable, it’s fast and easy, it’s portable, and I deserve this. On the Internet I have read multiple times how much cheaper it is to eat fast and fried food versus the healthier options. Having gone through a starvation via poverty period myself in adulthood, I can agree: it is cheaper to eat higher calorie meals that helped sustain me for the entire day.

Let’s be honest, the healthier options do take more work: either to prepare or to mentally prepare yourself for being “good” and not indulging on the more sinful delectable.

Being healthy in America is doable, but it’s hard when there is so much temptation out there. And once you’ve had a taste of that golden goodness, it’s hard to not want to go back again and again.

I’ve previously blogged about how foods affect our microbiomes. Today’s post is going to expand upon that concept by focusing on one type of food that affects our gut bacteria: high-fat foods and how that might affect weight, emotional health, and physical health.

Continue reading “Bad Fats and Good Health”

Diet Shift

Week 4: All the Fried Things

I love french fries, fried mozzarella bites, deep-fried candy bars, potato chips, wings, etc. I particularly love these foods when my body is telling me to prepare for winter: fall fair season is my foodie season. I go into biological preservation mode when I am sick or not feeling well emotionally. Chicken soup? No thanks, pass me the deep-fried chicken wings with lemon-pepper coating.

Living in the Southeastern United States does not help matters. In New England, it was easy to find fried foods, but you had to know where to look and actively go to the location to consume golden, fried goodness. Down here, practically every restaurant offers some form of fried goodness on their menu. One favorite spot offers fried kale and it’s delicious.

Just like last week, this is less about the MS and more to do with my overall health. It isn’t a secret that fried foods are really bad for you. Because I have cholesterol issues, continually consuming fried foods is not in my best interest. I am also looking at it as a means to help moderate and boost my mental/emotional well-being. Eliminating foods fried in hydrogenated oils will hopefully help bolster my mood and work as a natural antidepressant. It won’t replace antidepressants, but help modify my mood slightly.

This food elimination will double as model of better eating habits for Jai. When eating out, Ash and I have a bad habit of ordering something with fries and offering Jai everything except the fries while we eat them in front of him. He’s at that stage where if food goes into Mommy’s mouth, then he needs to try/eat it too.

It’s not fair to be refusing to feed him something from my plate while I am munching happily away on those items. So eliminating the option altogether and showing him that a meal can be well-rounded while eating out is the plan. I am not going to deprive him of eating fries or fried items for his entire childhood, but I would rather it be for a special occasion and not the norm.

I realized that I am getting deeper and deeper into this diet shift and I think I need to add in “plan” and “prep” sections for how I plan to handle the week and certain scenarios that come up in my social life. These will be new additions of the rest of my Monday “Diet Shift” posts.

The Plan for the Week

  • I am eliminating deep-fried foods, not foods pan fried in olive oil. If I am going to make something pan-fried, it will be with an eye on the amount of oil used and the type of oil. Pan fried, while not massively healthier than deep-fried, has its place in cooking certain dishes that we love at home and is limited to once or twice a month in our household.
  • I have an emotional attachment to fried-foods. If something good or bad happens, my first instinct is to celebrate or drown myself with fried foods. As emotional wins and losses happen throughout the week, I am going to pay attention to the deeper need driving me towards eating fried foods and see what I need to do to make internal changes.
  • When a strong craving for fries (my main go-to for fried snacks) happens, I will look for an alternative. Baking some sweet potatoes, grabbing some pretzels, or carrot sticks while reflecting on the craving itself.
  • Spend some time researching how bad fried foods are for my overall health and the health benefits of lowering my fried-food intak . I think by doing both of these it will help strengthen my resolve to not give in to cravings and temptation. I will include some research on how fried foods affect the little one’s diet and how I can help him by not making it a staple.
  • Research alternatives to my favorite foods that I can also offer Jai, guilt-free.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating at a fast food location where most everything is fried: Side salads with grilled chicken. Fruit slices and bottles of water.
  • Eating out and people order a shared dish that has items I am not eating: Order an additional dish that I can also share with others. Ask for a side fruit salad, bread, and drink extra water.
  • Friend offers me to try their food: Politely decline, but offer to share some of mine in return.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am taking a slight break in some of my previous eating habits to help my body recover OR I am training for a half-marathon and I am trying to help my performance and recovery.

Wednesday will see a return of the “Information Huddle” and a deeper examination of the importance of eliminating or moderating fried-food intake. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I suspect I will see an overlap with my research regarding microbiomes.