Thursday, 17 July 2014

Natures Own Antidotes

Nature has always drawn my attention from a small child, how it hurts & heals.  Think of the stinging nettle & a nearby companion plant the dock leaf - well at least in England.  If you get stung there, there is always a dock leaf (Rumex) at hand to spit on & rub in to relieve the itching.  However when my kids get stung here, no such luck, I usually hope I have some pawpaw lotion in my bag.

Having just had a bout of something, viral or food reaction which ended up with my immune system compromised, I still want to heal naturally.  It could have been an accumulation of salicylates or just 'that time of year' that hit me, but I felt awful with a sore throat & chesty cough.  I went hard with chicken broths, raw garlic, colloidal silver & zinc supplement.  The raw garlic was I think the most effective in loosening the congestion.  I also gargled bicarb of soda & salt for the sore throat to reduce inflammation.  I used to always take honey & lemon, but since being sugar-free was never sure that Rice Malt Syrup has the same mucus thinning properties as honey, & I now clearly react to lemons.  In fact I'd had a herbal tea the day before the onset which I realised after had lemon in & my lips began to tingle & blister.

So what are the ones I want to have?  & Why?  Which can I use the plant as-is versus which would it be easier to have a ready-made tincture in store - or which better to just buy versus my gardening effort (or lack of green-finger in some instances).

  1. Garlic :  Infection fighter, immune booster , natural antibiotic, antifungal, antiparasitic - all round superherb!
  2. Lemons :  Cleansing, antibacterial, constipation relief
  3. Ginger :  Immune booster, anti-inflamatory & pain relief, loosens congestion, anti-nausea aid, prevent motion sickness, aids digestion
  4. Lavender :  Anti-inflamatory, calming - good for stress relief/insomnia/headaches, lice prevention, soothes inflammation, insect repellent
  5. Chamomile :  Relaxant / antispasmodic, cooling, Anti-histamine, promotes digestion
  6. Aloe Vera :  Digestive disorders, soothing - burns, cuts & abrasions, assists skin healing
  7. Echinacea :  Lymph mover, immune booster & wards off colds
  8. Peppermint :  Eases intestinal cramps, cools irritation & relieves itching
  9. Thyme :  Cough relief, insect repellent to cabbage
  10. Rosemary :  Lice prevention, circulation improver, ease muscle stiffness
  11. Sage :  Insect repellent, mild antiseptic, relieves inflammation

I already have lemons, aloe vera, peppermint, rosemary & thyme doing well in the garden, but now need more effort on the garlic - its yet to do anything.  We get through so much garlic, I wonder if I could grow enough however.  I will endeavour to get some lavender & sage in there.  Chamomile & echinacea will be best in tincture or tea form.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

How Time Flies!

Wow, where did the last 5 months go?  Life seems to have just taken over & I suddenly find myself looking back & wondering what actually happened.  Having got over Easter, it feels like it wasn't even that long since Christmas was upon us.  We have had a lot of house guests during this period, in which my son started school, & my daughter kindergarten, which have been the most time precious milestones but very trying forming routine amidst the excitement & interrupted norms.  Food-wise there have been challenges & changes, not to mention complete abandonment when the pressure tank hit to just keep family peace (though proved restricted diet still necessary when symptoms reoccurred).

Starting school was a major change in many ways, fear, an-trepidation (on my part), excitement & thirst for adventure (on Mr.5's) plus new meal times to accommodate, not to mention our own intolerances & avoidances to adhere to plus others allergies to consider.  The teacher has been very open-minded regards his intolerances & considerate to notify me of food events forthcoming, however the surprise birthdays haven't always been forewarned.  The latter however have been handled so maturely by him, accepting that a friend may be providing sugary or coloured food that might affect his behaviour or tummy & confidently says "No, thank-you".  I have then given him an alternative treat (home-baked) or small toy/stickers etc once home.  His teacher was quite accepting of me providing a magazine article which highlighted food intolerances & behavioural associations, which assisted with her understanding.

Kinder was also a change, although we had been there previously, however its a new teacher & new child this time around.  Plus with shortened hours & increased allergies at the centre, their food time has been cropped to just a shared fruit-platter ilo providing their own lunch box.  This makes for easier exit from home when time poor & all you have to provide is a singe piece of fruit once a week instead of making the whole pack-up each session.  The teacher has been totally onboard with intolerances having a child in her other group who is seriously anaphylactic & allergic to many foods.  Avoiding bananas & preservatives (for Miss.3) is quite tame in comparison.  She had also forewarned that birthday treats should be non-food if possible to consider others, then as a group we determined this would be the case & do simple gifts like a balloon, stickers, pencil etc.  As the terms have progressed though this seems to have been forgotten by some & I often turn up for pick-up with her holding out a serviette with some sweet treat in-hand & a quizzical "Am I allowed for this?" desire.   As we are usually heading home to lunch or dinner, I can avert her until after that, but she rarely forgets it & I find myself having to provide an alternate "treat", but she is not as satiated as Mr.5 with non-sugar replacements, especially if not pink & colourful!

We remained Failsafe for the the first couple of months of the year, but kept trying to re-introduce salicylates, & had started introducing supplements to improve mineral deficiencies - namely magnesium, iron, probiotics, & sun exposure for vitamin D.  We also approached Cranial Osteopathy as another path to ease any underlying issues for the tic & anxiety, whilst also being recommended a naturopath & bio-meridian testing route to soothe the gut, at the same time as increasing real foods to naturally increase minerals & vitamins.  Healing the gut & soothing the sympathetic nervous system have been our priority.  Both are improving gradually.  The tic has abated, even with increased salicylates, but anxiety has reoccurred on & off, some of that could be more circumstantial due to new experiences.

The naturopath has recommended some other dietary exclusions for 8 weeks, but also allowances to increase many fruits & vegetables, & healthy oils (olive & coconut) that were previously excluded.  Currently the restrictions are Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, all Sugars (except Stevia) & Moulds/Yeasts. Baked goods are hard to achieve meantime, but the newly allowed fruits do provide some enjoyable alternatives, especially as pears were the only choice a while back.  During the summer we had a glut of them as the tree in the garden really served us well.  The kids loved being able to pick one straight from the tree for a sweet snack.

The garden itself has been a wonderful learning experience for the kids (& myself).  In the raised beds we planted spuds, beans, carrots, leeks & choko, plus a handful of herbs.   In pots we had chilli's & a dwarf lemon tree.  In the beds I attempted to companion plant as best as possible to give them a good chance.  They all did fairly well considering I'm total novice. The leeks were pretty feeble from seed though & I had better results with those from shop bought ones I regrew from its base roots.  Next time I will leave a longer stem.  Both the lemon & choko were affected by the weather extremes - choko the heat & lemon the storms, both survived but neither fruited, am hopeful they may come to something this spring.  The only creepy crawlies that gave me any grief were caterpillars, I tried crushed eggshells as a natural deterrent but that didn't work for them.  I now have added garlic, potato onions & brussels sprouts (from seed) as a winter crop.

I have been reading voraciously again about foods, health & gardening alongside some lighter material like rockstar biographies.  The most insightful one though was Grain Brain, certainly food for thought & something I keep mindful of, given that some of my grandparents have suffered the ills that Dr.Perlmutter attributes wheat/grain to such as Alzheimers & Parkinsons.  Wheat Belly was also top of the book list.    Afterward I had a good try at baking sourdough bread with gluten-free grains, in an attempt to give us options... & save money, given some loafs are around $8.  I had so many failures - bricks that thudded straight to the base of the bin, I decided that hand & my knackered old food processor were not tools of choice for this task.  My culture survived well & was really good for buckwheat pizza dough which didn't seem to need as much effort in kneading.  I really do want to try making gluten-free breads again, but have convinced myself that a Thermomix is my only friend & now working out how I go about getting one! I finally went to a demo last week, although I have been lusting after one for about 6 months.  We still remain additive-free so with the lack of processed/convenience foods I'm spending more & more time in the kitchen that I truly believe I would gain some time savings, not to mention long-term financial as readily available alternative ingredients are not cheap.  Party season is also upon us & the speed at which it would allow me to come up with 'treats' would be beneficial along with reduced washing-up of multiple appliances, crockery & utensils.  So watch this space....

For todays party I made Zoo Poo, or as it was at a Farm, maybe I should call it Moo Poo, but essentially an alternative for chocolate rum-balls.  The centre ingredient is banana, avocado, carob & nut spread.  The outer - melted coconut oil, carob, stevia & desicated coconut.  I froze in two stages to set.

They substituted very well for the cake pops the others received - especially as mine got 3 each.  The other provision was Ant bread in lieu of Fairy bread.  I soaked some chia & poppy seeds in mashed banana & used as a spread on some soft spelt sourdough bread.  Had I known the host was using pink sprinkles only I would have added a berry or 2 to the mix to achieve a similar colour... & add more fruity flavour.

I plan to blog more frequently now we are over the most hectic part of the year & worst of the changes.  Kids are way more resilient to change than us mothers I believe! Glad to be back :)

Friday, 17 January 2014

New Year Changes One Little Step at a Time

New years resolutions are passe, goals for life are the future.  Since going sugar free over 18months ago I've not resolved to quit anything but change life choices for the better.  Each day I learn something new often that's from my children.  Having them has been the most significant change & growth in myself.  When I reflect upon the last year I see significant growth in myself in health & knowlege, thankfully not in girth (for the second year in many I did not gain any weight).

Change for the better.  Having worked in implementing change for most of my career, I believe the best way to manage it is baby steps.  Not necessarily for myself as I love change, but most are fearful & won't embrace unless spoonfed.  So for anyone thinking they can't cope with behavioural issues from self or kids or suffering ills then consider that food might have an impact - start with eliminating one thing at a time.  So start with just eliminating artificial numbers or sugar.

So for me I would like to try some new things this year; sourdough baking, healing to increase food tolerances, & test running a Thermomix would be good! (just to make life a little easier with cooking from scratch).  Along with my own experiences, the kids will be starting kinder & school respectively, so that will be more knowledge for me along the way aiding their journeys into the new.  I love seeing them grow & am always looking for them to get the best out of opportunities, hence wanting them to be free of the effects certain additives or foods can cause them to not enjoy life to the full.

Its increasingly hard for others to accept that there are effects from natural foods, even when living with it on a daily basis for a few weeks.  People expect reactions to be instantaneous like allergic reactions. With intolerances, they can take days (or weeks) to appear.  Its only after months of diarising I have been able to prove repeat symptoms or trigger.  I'm also mindful of every food that passes our lips or chemicals we encounter.

The holidays were a 'good' time to continue learning about effects of food, using it as an opportunity to further challenge certain food groups & foods.  When I say 'good' yes we had a good time, but tongue in cheek some effects were not good in company of guests or tired parents.  Salicylates are a no-no for myself & son, & amines in moderation for my daughter.  I seem to be able to tolerate some salicylate or symptoms are not so visible, but long-term this is such a hard group to avoid as it contains so many otherwise healthy vegetables, nuts & oils.  Hence wanting to see if there are ways to re-introduce certain foods with assistance.

Preservatives however are something I do not want to reintroduce & because of them I have not actually eaten bread now for 6 months as all packet gluten-free bread contains them & other unsavoury ingredients among the list of foods we are avoiding.  The kids are restricted with one bread from the bakery thats preservative free & so far seem to be ok on wheat, though long-term I would like them to eat less wheat.  I've tried gluten-free packet bread mixes before with varying success but never had the guts to try making a loaf from just basic ingredients.

Over the Christmas holidays I was shown how to make sourdough bread (with rye culture & wheat flour - both of which I'm intolerant to) & came home full of vigour to start my own culture with a gluten free alternative... which I did.  However my baking attempts since have been failures.  I'm on a learning curve though & todays loaf was finally edible (Quinoa & White Rice Flour).  I bought various gluten free flours today to further my experiments.

The culture was so easy to establish I don't know why I was hesitant to even try... I think fearing it would become mould or poison us could have done that.  But so far I've kept it healthy looking & smelling, feeding it regularly.  Todays loaf was the first I made using the full amount of culture (200g) without adding any regular yeast & the first loaf thats not been a complete un-risen brick.  I'm using the basic recipe & method from Toxic Oil which differs from what I was shown, but given I didn't take notes & had had a few drinks I can't recall the quantities.  I do recall it was pliable whereas the ones I've made are sloppier & it doesn't say to even knead.  I'm thinking I need to make the mix more drier & attempt folding so will research further & discuss with a friend who makes sour dough regularly (though not gluten free).  The fun & frustration always comes when using non-wheat flours.

Upon a a little research I did encounter this sourdough blog & a lovely little story about a young boy asking about allergy safe foods for himself.  It touched me as I now hear both my children turning & asking me if something is ok for them to eat, or telling other adults they need to check whether it has salicylates or additives in.  It amazes other adults they are so aware & that both my 3 & 5 year old can say salicylate let alone know approximately what they are.  My children don't have allergies per-say they are intolerances, as not immediate or life threatening, but same necessity I make sure they are aware of the effects & to eventually learn to know for themselves what they are putting into their bodies - which after a trip to emergency ward each for swallowing foreign objects you'd think they'd know all about the dangers of that!

Some people think that anything in a supermarket is food & can be readily consumed, however we are finding out that there is so much artificial chemical in "foods" purely to increase shelf life or be more appealing.  I'm glad my eyes have been opened & wish to impart that same inquisition to my kids to make their own discoveries & take charge of their health & well being.  I do fall into that parent-trap of treating them like little adults at times when it comes to their understanding, but also break-down answers into small simplicities when questions or the vague looks arise.  I baby them in many ways but also want to prepare them to fend for themselves in time & by having appropriate adult conversations with them empowers them ... plus it makes them enjoyable people to converse & be with all day long.  Never one to goo-goo ga-ga, we've had full on chats (even if one-sided early on) since they were born.

Whilst baking oat bars & anzacs today, my son asked why I hadn't put nuts in the oatbars as I had the last time & only in the anzacs we made afterwards.  I explained this was because my daughters daycare centre (like his kinder) had children that were allergic to nuts & could put them at risk of their throat swelling & inability to breath.  He took this in, giving me an example of a friend who is anaphylactic & asked if they would die, so that led to discussion of epi-pens & notifying an adult if a friend was in need of help.  He then asked about what would happen to him if he had penicillin (he's heard me tell the doctor that he is allergic), so I explained the difference of a rash appearing & how it would be itchy & we'd stop taking it, so no he wouldn't die from it.  Deep deep things on that boys mind, but he takes it all in his stride.  Last week the discussion was all about drowning after he overheard a little girl discuss it with her mummy next to us on a cafe.  A year ago we didn't talk about even animals dying, they were merely asleep... though he eloquently pointed out that the path or road was a silly place to sleep as they might get trod on or run over by a car.... hmmmm.

We went for blood tests last week to determine any mineral deficiencies which could be causing or adding to our intolerances.  En-route we discussed what would happen to the blood to test it & that he would grow more back, so it was ok to give some.  What I hadn't forewarned was that a needle would be used or not to look, thankfully he was busy chatting up to the entry point... when he decided to look & let out a yelp, thankfully the needle was then in & he admitted didn't hurt, so the tears subsided immediately.  I can never look, I felt sick when I saw it going into him.  He was so brave & clearly interested in the whole process.  When we got our results this week he was equally interested in what the doctor was explaining though am sure bamboozled by all the jargon... no doubt I will get those words quizzed upon me in weeks to come as he processes.  We are low in a couple of minerals/vitamins & I will use a magnesium supplement, nutritious foods & sun to assist increasing.  We have also started a daily probiotic which I add to yogurt or fruit & have noticed benefits already.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Wrap Up

So its Xmas eve & the turkey is getting fat... well actually thawing to be truthful.  Today is mostly a cooking day as all pressies are bought & wrapped, food shopping all done & drinks chilling.

I'll make a few sugar-free deserts for the kids & I, which I'm sure others will enjoy.  We have an abundance of bananas, so will make some ice-cream & some muffins for sure.

Having just returned from camping with friends & their children I'm so proud of my kids for sticking to  sugar-free & failsafe diet so well.  There were a handful of marshmallows toasted on the camp fire, but only white ones & just one shortbread each - so that was it for sugar.  I remained sugar-free & didn't cave to the group pressure or even chocolate left open on the bench.  I just don't feel tempted these days, I'm so happy to eat foods I know will be good for me.  Staying on a farm we got to eat farm bacon (without nitrates) & fresh picked veggies.  I was even shown how to make sourdough bread & have come home & started my own culture... so watch this space for further disastrous bread attempts!! Clearly not my forte but no one could call me a quitter.

We were on a subsequent Amines & new Nitrates challenge which from sons perspectives would be be a pass, but after getting home & reaching day 4 once again my daughter clearly failed - I would say Amines only at this stage.  Its the 3rd Amines challenge we have done & each time she has gotten defiant, stroppy & unable to control her bladder - wet bed & couple of accidents in day time.  I appear to be ok on Amines, as any symptoms I got were from the salicylates in wine or sulphates :( (I wasn't technically challenging myself this week)

... Well Xmas Day is over for another year & a lot of fun was had by all.  The kids were made up with all their gifts & my super happy little man was just amazed at the whole event & so grateful, not one tear or wrong doing all day.  Madam on the other hand was a tad testy but enjoyed things when they were going her way.  Before they went to bed Xmas eve they left food out for Santa & his reindeers & it was magical to see their faces in the morning when just crumbs & carrot tops were left.  Mr.5 did question why we were leaving sugar biscuits out & a mince pie - which I explained away with that you don't get a tummy like Santa's unless you eat sugar.  He said he didn't want to get a tummy like that (I hope Santa was listening).  But given Mrs.Claus actually did all the hard yakka this year it might have been fairer to leave some sugar-free treats instead!!

Sugar-free sweet treats that I made for the big day were some Banana-Choc Muffins, Cheesecake & a Christmas Fruit Cake/Loaf.  A tradition for my family has always been to have shortbread in the morning & as I'd gone for the convenience of shop bought sugar ones for camping the kids had 2 each of those & I sampled one. In the grand scheme of things I would say 1 commercial biscuit for the year was acceptable.  Had I bought enough butter I could have made some myself with dextrose.

The Christmas cake turned out pretty good flavour-wise & substituted pudding for the 3 of us. It didn't rise quite as well as I'd hoped but texture-wise was dense & pudding-like.  The others actually didn't even eat their commercial pudding that they were insistent on buying.  But I can imagine that will get devoured after the cricket & beers tonight.  We had ours with fresh cream & was tasty enough to go back for a second helping & will be polished off again today.  I will post the recipe on my facebook page later.  It was one I conjured up to be sugar-free & semi-failsafe by bastardising a Christmas cake recipe from Sweet Poison Cook Book & a banana loaf recipe of mine.  It omitted spices, so no salicylates, & alcohol, so the kids could eat it.  Most of the sweetness comes from the banana, pear & swede (YES swede) so just a little dextrose & RMS is required.  In hindsight I should have added baking powder to assist rise.

All in all I would say we have had success in remaining sugar-free & failsafe over the lead-up & festivities.  Had we not been dealing with challenges & strict failsafe during this time I would have been more stalwart on sugar too for the kids but somethings gotta give when time is precious.   Below I'll list a few things we have done to limit sugar & take focus away from food, to share & record for next year.
  1. Use an advent calendar in which you can put small novelties instead of chocolates.  I put in handmade hair ties, Trashies, erasers, costume jewellery & Christmas tree decorations.  Next year I might breakdown a Lego kit to be built each day for my son which I saw a friend had done & looked more exciting.
  2. Provide kinder teachers with a small bag of alternative treats (marshmallows & caramels for Failsafe) to swap for candy canes given with cards (that I wasn't able to get to myself first & remove!).  This was to limit additives (colours), but in future I would provide stickers, pencils, small toys in lieu of food to avoid sugar.  
  3. Provide/bake own Xmas party food.  This included Reindeer Gingerless Breads, Shortbread Stars/Trees & Carob cupcakes in green & red wrappers, with white dextrose icing. 
  4. Give craft activities to do at Xmas parties to limit eating time e.g. Making reindeer food (decorate boxes, fill with oats & glitter), decorate a card, wooden tree ornament or christmas hat
Mostly though I'm happy to say this Christmas I did not go with gluttony.  I tried to limit what we bought, however the other half insisted on some "normal" Christmas food for him & visitors, which meant there was more than we really needed.  I did not however go to bed with an aching belly & exercised restraint myself when it came to indulging.  I ate extra food a little later in the evening than a normal day as drinking but I would hope the scales don't show that when I do my next weigh in.  I had bought a new pair of summer shorts just last week to replace the ones I bought last year - they are fitting very comfortably - happy to say they are the exact same brand & style, but a size less!  I'm probably only a couple of kilos less, but there's definitely been no gain in weight over the year.  

Due to Failsafe & Amines in particular I was conscious I didn't want too much excess food to be left over & devoured in the week proceeding.  Even with the smallest Turkey there's loads left.  So I've frozen some of it to prevent build up & same with muffins I made a full batch of.  The excess bananas from a double-up purchase, I've sliced up & frozen for use as ice-cream/cooking.  I will however be limiting Miss.3's intake of all that given her reaction. 

Now as ever in the post-Christmas wind-up its how to get creative with turkey & ham!  This morning we had Egg & Ham pies for brekkie.  For lunch cold turkey, potato & ham salad (with homemade garlic mayo - yum!!)  Tonight we had Spring Rolls from the Friendly Food recipe, but with turkey instead of veal.  They were a big winner, will be making that recipe again, but try chicken or add other veggies. 

So wrapping up this post, I trust you have all had a happy christmas time & wish you all a very merry new year.  Meanwhile if you have any suggestions for creative turkey recipes please comment below to share.