Alternative to an Elimination Diet

If you are on the road to figuring out how to feel your healthiest, it is likely you’ll want to embark on an elimination diet to understand which foods make you feel less than your best. And no doubt about it, an elimination diet can help you figure out if dairy is what causes you to bloat, or if nuts are what give you that hollow feeling in your stomach, or if it’s wheat giving you chronic headaches. Sometimes the weeks put into eliminating one food group from your life after another gives you a better understanding than simple blood tests since those tests can give false results but you know exactly how you feel when you eat something. The problem is we don’t always have weeks to focus on eliminating food though, so luckily there is another way to help garner clues into your own personal body’s yays and nays, and it happens to be how I started to put together my own puzzle of food intolerances. The alternative I’m referring to can be summed up in one word…kitchari. Well, actually two words, kitchari cleanse.

Kitchari is an Ayurvedic dish that is made up of mung dahl and rice, mixed with certain spices prepared in ghee. It is my understanding that this is a common home meal in India and everyone has their own way of making it, similar to chili in America. There certainly are plenty of recipes on the internet but I like making it the way my master herbal teacher taught us in class, which is a very simple variation that I’ll post below. To understand how healing kitchari truly is, one must know a bit about Ayurveda, which is the ancient Indian healing system that is still in practice today. Ayurveda recognizes three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha, which are part of every single person in different proportions. To put it extremely simply, if we are made up of 10 parts, one person may be 1 part kapha, 2 parts vata, and 7 parts pitta, while someone else is 4 parts kapha, 4 parts pitta, and 2 parts vata and so on. Usually people do have one primary dosha which is the one that can most easily become aggravated, though any dosha could be out of balance in any body. Ayurveda seeks to keep all aspects balanced, so if a person is primarily vata and their vata is aggravated, causing problems such as anxiety or constipation, then Ayurvedic method would include balancing out vata in that person. The same is true for the other doshas. In other words, knowing your dosha make-up helps you understand how to counter the primary’s tendency to spin out of control. This is something that sometimes causes a bit of confusion as some people get the idea that if they are primarily pitta for example, then they should enhance their pitta qualities. The opposite is true. If one is primarily pitta, one should focus on countering those qualities, not fanning those flames. (And pittas can indeed be fiery!) One way to work on this is through eating foods that balance out the aggravated dosha. Kitchari is known as tri-doshic because it is actually balancing to all three doshas and that is what makes it so healing. It can be used as a cleanse by eating nothing but kitchari for 3 days or 6 days, or whatever amount of time you choose though my herbal teacher suggested 6 days as best. What that means exactly is eating three meals of kitchari per day for six days without restricting the amount of the meals but not stuffing oneself either. This allows the digestive system to heal because it is not taking in aggravating foods plus the food it is taking in is health enhancing to the digestive system. This is how I figured out my biggest barrier to feeling my best was gluten. After doing a kitchari cleanse which had me feeling fantastic~ no bloating, no headaches, less stress and anxiety, and I felt like I could even see better and definitely think better, then once I started eating wheat again, all those symptoms came right back. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, it was more than obvious what my biggest bugger was, and it only took six days of cleansing to figure it out. Well, seven I guess since I didn’t know until after the cleanse was over and started to eat my regular foods again. Still, that beats the weeks of eliminating one food at a time, but of course, it is indeed a matter of personal tastes. If nothing else, kitchari is a great dish to have in the fall~ warm and comforting and somehow peace-inducing. As I said earlier, there are plenty of recipes online, but the simplest one I’ve found is the one my herbal master gave out and it’s the one I still use today, albeit with one little spicy addition and a change in the rice used. But kitcharai is like that~ easy to modify to your own personal tastes. Here’s that recipe:

Kitchari:

1 C mung beans, soaked overnight in water

1 C brown basmati rice (My herbal teacher actually used white basmati rice so your choice really)

1 T ghee

1 t each turmeric, cumin, coriander, and ginger (ginger is the spice I added to my basic recipe because it suits my vata dosha. If you know your dosha tendencies, then use accordingly, but if you do not, then omit the ginger just to be on the safe side.)

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After soaking the mung beans overnight (or at least 6 hours), cook them in 4 C of water until they are thoroughly soft, about half an hour.

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Cook rice according to its instructions, depending on white or brown, then mix together with beans.

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Brown Basmati Rice

Warm the ghee in a sauce or saute pan and add the spices, cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes or so.

Mix the spices and ghee with the rice and beans and you are finished.

Eat often and be well. Good health to you and yours!

 

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Cultural Norms

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That two word phrase keeps popping up in my mind now that the first week of school is underway, because schools are such a great place to view a community’s cultural norms. The first thing that is blatantly apparent is the fact that walking or biking to school is not a norm in this community, or maybe this generation. I’m not sure how widespread it is but I do think this greater Seattle area in general has an overzealous relationship with cars. When I read Elizabeth Gilbert‘s book Eat, Pray, Love and she talked about how each city has one word that defines it, I thought that this area’s word would be ‘drive’. Not only for the literal drive a car meaning, although that is certainly part of it, but also the drive that means pushing people to work harder, longer hours than ever before, driving kids to start sports at an earlier age or else lose out on it as well as other extracurricular activities~ music, dance, chess, stem-activities, the list is endless. Not that being ‘driven’ as an innate trait is bad, of course it’s good to be focused and hardworking, and there’s plenty of that around here too, but mostly it seems like a rather overly driven culture here and the actual driving exemplifies the mental and emotional aspects. My older son is in middle school which does not have bus services for the kids that live within a mile or maybe a mile and a half, and they say it’s because those kids can easily walk or bike to school. OK, I absolutely agree that they can indeed walk or bike that far, my earlier posts attest to that here and here, but the thing is, no one actually lets their kid do that. Everyone drives their child to school and the traffic could rival a boy band concert at an all girls’ high school, and yet parents still prefer to put up with the frustration of sitting in traffic, and planning their mornings and afternoons around drop off and pick-up times that take a ridiculous amount of time rather than have their kid walk or bike. It just isn’t done. So, how do you turn around a cultural norm like that? Or should the school accept the fact that they could get a handle on their traffic mess, and it is a problem about which we get regular emails so it’s definitely an issue, by adding another bus or two and picking up most of the car riders? Or should they fight the cultural norm with setting up groups so kids can walk or bike together, perhaps get parent volunteers to escort the kids for the first week until they are used to it, somehow reward the students who show up on bike or by walking, or I don’t know….do something. Because the problem with just adding another bus or two is that we are branding that cultural norm into kids’ heads~ one does not walk or bike to a place that is less than a mile away. One takes a vehicle. Is that really what we want kids learning? Is that remotely healthy for any single person much less the earth as a whole? I don’t think so.

Another cultural norm on display at schools is the food. Oh dear. The cafeteria at my son’s middle school is packed with a dazzling array of junk food they can buy day in and day out~ donuts, chips as diverse as the languages spoken in the hallways, candy of all stripes, and sugar wrapped in a thousand disguises. The main offerings are mediocre at best (nutritionally, visually, taste-wise) and the salad bar offers unappetizing raw veggies which are probably as nutrient dense as the composition notebooks found in the kids’ backpacks. Again, is this how we want kids to learn to eat? What they expect from mealtimes is absolutely going to be influenced by the meals they have five days a week, even if the other mealtimes are different, they are still learning that the norm is to eat junk food. My friend from Israel was so surprised to find that here in the U.S. sandwiches routinely come with chips or fries. In her country sandwiches came with salad or a vegetable, or nothing. We don’t have to accept these norms just because they exist around us~ I often think of the Jane Austens and E.M.Forsters out there that have always written about the ridiculousness of their own cultural norms and eventually those norms did change. We can imprint our kids with healthy habits on a cultural level, or not. It just needs to be enough people’s priority I guess. It starts with recognizing the daily habits they we all partake in, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes joyfully, but all the time repetitively. oggl_00071

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Ginger Nanoparticles Show Promise for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

I very rarely reblog but this article is such a cool combination of high-tech and traditional herbal medicine that I couldn’t resist. Plus it could help a lot of people out there with digestive issues. Even if you don’t have access to nano-particles, including more ginger in our diets can’t hurt.

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Ginger is spicing up the search for a cure for inflammatory bowel disease, according to research published in Biomaterials. Delivered in the form of nanoparticles, researchers believe ginger could offer a targeted and effective remedy for this potentially debilitating condition.
[ginger root]Ginger is thought to offer wide-ranging health benefits.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed. The cause of IBD is unknown, but scientists believe it could be an autoimmune condition, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself. The two main forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

People with IBD often experience diarrhea and pain – which can be severe – and they may lose blood through the rectum. They are also more prone to complications such as anemia, as their intestines do not absorb nutrients effectively.

Scientists have been looking at nanotechnology as a way of…

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Aging Well Tips

This is a cute, concise infographic from Delicious Living about what things increase life expectancy and also what decreases life expectancy. You might recognize the style from a certain board game of your youth which is pretty darn clever. I think the most interesting part of this graphic is the part about most centenarians being mostly vegetarian with little meat included in their diets. I think the idea of aging well is often not included when people think about their diet and in particular ‘dieting’. Anyway~ can you guess the game?

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Election Year Fatigue

Normally I listen to NPR for the news at some point every day, but these last few months I’ve had no idea what’s going on in the world because I so loathe presidential election years I just can’t make myself turn on the radio. Why do politics always bring out the basest, vilest, most judgmental aspects of people? I get it that personal political beliefs are just that, deeply personal~ they are built on one’s value system and to have that value system on display on the big screen in a way and open to constant judgement makes people defensive and often offensive. It must be that the fight or flight mechanism is triggered and even the most rational people are reduced to their reptilian core and it’s a shame because no one learns anything. It’s such a divisive time and whenever I see well-communicated, complete thoughts on a political subject met with angry, incoherent, immature reactions it makes me so sad~ and that’s every single day of the election season. I suppose I’m in ‘flight’ mode which isn’t to say I’m not going to vote, because I always do, but I’m trying to stay focused on the beautiful things in life which are uplifting and make humanity more…human, instead of indulging in this display of schoolyard behavior. I get that some people like this stuff, that some actually get a kick out of the competition and one upping each other and debating values and feeling superior and that’s fine and dandy, but I feel like a lot of others get roped into this carnival show who really would be happier thinking about making dinner, or some mathematical problem, or their favorite quotes from their favorite books. The media is so ever-present, and social media is practically inescapable, that it’s easy to forget we each actually have choices about what we think about, how we treat others who disagree with us (whether we actually know them or just have thoughts about them), how we want our days filled and how we choose to conduct ourselves. I choose to focus on beauty and grace where I can find it. Whatever fills your life, I hope you are actively choosing it. InstagramCapture_a32f4c8d-464a-4fe0-b820-f78f67a20f73[1]

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Natural Salon/Spa

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This is what I dream about making~ an all-natural salon and spa which only uses chemical-free dyes with henna and herbs,all natural hair products, and spa services with all botanical ingredients, nothing artificial or questionable or unpronounceable. I don’t know why these don’t exist already actually but I’ve searched and can’t find any place that is completely chemical free. Henna dying takes longer, so there would have to be WiFi so people can work while their hair color settles, and an organic coffee and juice bar for sure, and also the ability to do mani/pedis or other services to use the time well. I’d have all natural products to browse too, and be a real stickler on only bringing in the cleanest of the clean beauty companies out there, and really there has never been a better time for this because so many people are concerned about what is in their products that they slather on their bodies each day or soaks into their hair on a regular basis. Aveda started out trying to be as all-natural as possible, but if you look at their products now they may have a botanical component but the larger part is factory made chemicals. The book No More Dirty Looks discusses Aveda founder (the late) Horst M. Rechelbacher’s disappointment in what Aveda became after selling it to Estée Lauder. He went on to create Intelligent Ingredients  which went back to his all natural philosophy. The website for No More Dirty Looks is a great place to get good information for health and beauty products but I highly recommend reading the book if you are concerned at all about what is lurking in your daily beauty routine. I think it’s time to take these cosmetic industry concerns beyond the bathroom and level up to the salons and spas we use. It’s the ‘natural’ next step.

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Dirt

 

This weekend I was kind of half-listening to NPR while I was prepping gluten-free bread for the week when what someone said about soil caught my attention. He brought up the fact that our ancestors actually ate a lot more soil than we do now, and that soil was also far more loaded with healthy microbes than it is now. That makes complete sense when you think about how much more people used to grow their own food (and therefore ate it right out of the ground) and how much healthier that dirt used to be before commercial fertilizers and pesticides became commonplace, and before the earth was as polluted as it is now. Our grandparents and our great-greats must have thought of dirt quite differently too, seeing it as a fundamental part of the food chain instead of something to be scrubbed off and sanitized away. I looked for the interview I heard this weekend so I could listen to it with my full attention, but unfortunately could not find it, though I did find this article on The Splendid Table about the importance of good soil and getting our bodies in it and it in our bodies. Of course, that is assuming the soil is healthy soil, not soil that has been polluted with “junk food” fertilizers as a Delicious Living article put it.

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To keep soil healthy for future use and to make the plants grown in it healthier and therefore those that eat those plants healthier, it’s important to use natural fertilizers that actually build up the soil and plants instead of conventional fertilizers that provide quick fixes. The slow food movement would certainly concur with that. Let’s build up the soil, the plants, and our bodies as nutritionally as possible with the understanding that it all starts with the dirt. InstagramCapture_a2653364-0100-4a28-badb-402a57f5c2d4[1]

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