Friday, December 4, 2009

Kicking and Screaming

Recipe: Morning Meat Soup

I find it much easier to get to the point of organizing around my children’s health than my own. The responsibility is so clear and direct, the intention and willingness rise of their own accord in mysterious ways. I’m not professing to be a perfect parent by any means, but once something is clear, I make effort in the direction of health, be that physical, mental or emotional.

For myself, the water is not so clear. It takes me a lot more convincing. And once convinced, I find often I either back in, or I actually have to be knocked to my knees to make the change.

I had a holistic health care professional get pretty fiercely in my face at one point and tell me “Type O blood types don’t like to be told what to do!” and I should really make the changes she was recommending.

She was right. I didn’t like being told what to do one little bit. In fact, I resented her attitude for weeks.

I did go off gluten, though. As she and her partner pointed out, I was already cooking that way for the kids, it wasn’t a big stretch to just start doing it for the whole family.

It was a small concession to the list of changes they were recommending I make. Eliminate grains entirely? She suggested I eat soup with meat in it for breakfast! What a crackpot.

Eliminating the gluten was a digestive revelation. Oh, wait, I’d had that before when I’d gone on the elimination diet when my youngest was breastfeeding. I’d quickly decided it was unimportant in the entire scheme of things. Some things. I’m not sure which things right now, but something convinced me it was okay to ignore my symptoms.

I coasted on the gluten free life for a while. I went to India for a two week visit and decided I wouldn’t burden the family I was staying with by telling them I couldn’t eat it. My ankles swelled painfully and didn’t recede until I arrived back in the US.

I got it, this was a serious health issue.

As was the constant fatigue I still experienced. I couldn’t blame it on being an old mom to young kids anymore - I’d stopped breastfeeding and they were mostly sleeping through the nights. Sure, adrenaline could get me through many of the major things I needed to do, but I dragged myself out of bed in the mornings and was grumpy with my kids and husband. A lot. More than I still like to admit to myself. My labido was practically non-existent. I wasn’t really much fun to be around. Especially for myself.

Dr Robbie, as we call him, was our D.O. Bless him, he took up the detective work. Blood panels, questionaires, supplements tried.... Thyroid, DHEA, adrenals - all insufficient. Short term memory and name recall practically non-existent, brain fog, floaters. A controversial Lyme test positive, ....

He wanted to build me up. If we decided to treat the Lyme, he wanted me in the best health possible, my immune system strong, anything out of order addressed. Whatever could not be addressed by the general and specific health improvements he asked me to work on would be how the Lyme was manifesting.

I could go with that. He wasn’t asking me to slam myself with antibiotics for six months to a year, he was asking me to get healthier, build up my immune system. I’d have time to think about whether I even believed in this Lyme thing.

The idea of feeling better was really attractive at that point. I can’t begin to describe how good feeling better was sounding.

Supplements, supplements, more sleep, off coffee and tea (for the fifth or sixth time in my life - when will I get the message?), more supplements, .... I was better, but still tired. Foggy. My kids still finished most of my sentences for me.

Six months into this treatment he asked my how my belly felt. I told him it was always a little tender. He palpated.

Asked me to go on a candida diet.

I was on my knees.

Not satisfied with the standard candida diet he suggested, I did research. If these little yeasties eat carbs, why did the standard diet have rice and other grains in it? Made no sense. If I was going to do something this radical, I was going to do it right, god damn it.

I went on an extremely low carb regimen. No grains. No potatoes. No fruit. No brewed, yeasted or mold foods. No sugars, even natural ones. Not even any starchy veggies, like carrots or beets. One website that seemed pretty on track for candida suggested high doses of coconut oil, garlic, onions, and Pau D’arco tea. I went for it.

I thought my older boy’s diet was restrictive! Sheesh.

And, after about a week of feeling like a truck had run over me (from die off, I was told), and learning that epsom salt baths are a new necessity in my life for detoxing the dying candida, I was suddenly able to get out of bed in the morning without thinking twice. Get through the afternoon steadily and happily. I didn’t have a ton of energy, but it was even and I felt awake.

Being the avid reader that I’ve become around health issues, I started to research low carb living. And the science I’m reading is pointing to grains being unnatural in the human diet. All grains. Period. Even‘properly prepared’, meaning soaked, sprouted or fermented. Humans didn’t evolve eating them. The agricultural revolution only hit 10 or 12 thousand years ago, and I’ve read that it takes anywhere from 40 to 100 thousand years for a real genetic adaptation to occur to a change in the environment, such as a radical change in diet. Grains have allowed us to increase our population, but at a cost.

I highly recommend Nora Gedgaudas’ book ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ for a fairly dense, but quite readable explanation of this topic. She’s even got a quirky sense of humor wound through it to keep it interesting for non-geeks. (I’m claiming geekhood here.)

When I’m sure the candida is under control, I may reintroduce some of the brewed foods and fruit, but I can’t say I have any interest in the grains.

I’m still teaching classes that include how to use grains and other carbs. When I disclose that I “don’t eat the stuff, personally”, and explain why, I’m sometimes asked why I don’t cook that way for my family.

It’s a really good question. The first time I was asked, I responded that it was just too far outside the culture to demand. Just going gluten free, and half of us dairy free was pushing that envelope enough, I thought.

The question hovers in my mind. And my response has deepened.

I feel comfortable with the expectation that my children comply with adjustments due to overt food sensitivities or allergies. My eldest was not functioning at school. My youngest had severe gastric reactions. It’s my responsibility to take care of their health to the best of my ability in ways that we can live with.

Abandoning grains and other carbs entirely for a general, somewhat philosophical reason, in my view, requires a choice. And I’m exquisitely aware that if children are controlled too tightly in an area such as this, when they reach a more independent age - may choose to act out with a vengeance.

I couldn’t even force myself to make these changes until I was literally brought to my knees! And I had ample and repeated evidence that my health required it.

A woman I spoke with recently told me a story - her naturopath had encouraged her to remove gluten from her diet. She had for a while, and then gradually began to eat it again. When she went to see her naturopath again, she was asked ‘why?’

She and I looked at each other and laughed. Because it’s really hard! There’s a powerful cultural current that includes gluten as it's entire basis. ‘The Cradle of Civilization’ infers the rise of agriculture, and that’s usually thought of as wheat and rye, grains that were made into breads - the ‘Staff of Life’.

It’s just a lot easier to float downstream.

We’re starting to give my older boy the choice to break his particular regimen occasionally if he’s willing to take responsibility for the outcome. Meaning, if he gets too wild for the rest of the family to handle he either goes outside to run it off, or he goes to his room where he can make faces in the mirror in peace. (Our peace.)

We’re finding he generally makes intelligent choices. Tries small amounts of things. Really checks in with himself to see how much he wants something. Usually forgets about ‘treats’ we have stashed for him from special occasions.

I’ve introduced many general health changes into our home diet, but generally we eat in a fairly recognisable, whole foods form. My husband no longer looks at me suspiciously every time I open a conversation with “you know what I was reading today?” I may still tweak food preparation techniques to enhance digestibility, and I’ll always add new foods out of sheer boredom, but I’ve reached the edge of the fundamental changes I’ll ask my family to make. The rest needs to be by example, and they’ll follow, or not.

And sometimes my youngest will have some of my meat soup. For breakfast.

It’s a spiritual experience, that morning meat soup. Blissful surrender. To my personal reality.

Morning Meat Soup (or afternoon, or evening...)

This is probably one of the simplest and least specific recipes I’ll post. And one of the tastiest!

2 - 3 oz ground or chopped pastured meat of choice - beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, ... fresh or leftovers
1 Tbsp grass fed ghee, butter or coconut oil
1 - 2 cloves minced garlic
handful of chopped organic veggies of choice - greens, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, ...
3 - 4 oz bone broth of choice - preferably matching the type of meat in the soup
a splash more water if needed to bring to soup consistency
Himalayan pink or Celtic sea salt to taste
1 tsp - 3 Tbsp virgin coconut oil depending on your tolerance
1 Tbsp herbed pesto or pinch of other herb or spice mix of choice

Saute the meat in ghee or butter until barely cooked. Add the onion if using and saute a minute more. Add the vegetable, bone broth and dry spices or herbs if using. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook 2 - 3 minutes.

Add the coconut oil, fresh garlic and pesto, if using, to your eating bowl. Pour the soup in when ready. Add salt to taste, and pepper if you like. Stir and enjoy.

A note about the coconut oil, it’s a powerful anti fungal, antibacterial, antiviral and a few other things I may be forgetting. And if you’re not used to eating it, you need to build up to larger amounts slowly or you’ll feel pretty funky. Start at 1 tsp a day for 5 days, increase by 1 tsp for another five days, and so on. And no, it won’t make you gain weight! I’ve lost 20 pounds eating 6 Tbsp a day for the last 8 months. I'll write another time about the wonders of coconut oil....


Unknown said...

I read this post last week and have spent some time "digesting" it. I completely agree the concept of going against our cultural grain (geez, I'm full of bad puns today) underlies our general resistance to shedding these foods from our diets. Have you read any of Daniel Quinn's works? He really explores the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago and its impact on our health as a human race.

Durga Fuller said...

I haven't run across that one - I'll seek it out.

The more I learn about the subtle and gross ways our food has degraded over time, the deeper I move into loving pure, real food.

Thanks for reading it all! I really went long this time.... Gotta work on that....

Sarah said...

Great post! I posted on the DNT, looking for drinkable soup ideas and just read yours, and saw the blog link. This looks great! I desperately want/need to get us consuming more broth. And I hope to even try a month grain-free, as the whole family could use it.

I hope your health continues to improve. I think I'll cut and paste some of your story to my hubby, in hopes to get him on-board with the low-carb, lots of broth thing.