Thursday, June 11

Almost There

It has been a busy, trying time.  We are in the process of simultaneously selling our house and buying a house out in the country, and we've had several setbacks.  However, we continue to inch toward a closing date and, a few weeks after that, a possession date.  Excitement is creeping in...
A portion of our soon-to-be back yard.  This will eventually become gardens.  Look at all that sky!!

I am so excited to have wide open spaces!  To see the vast expanse of blue skies that stretch for miles!  To inhale the sweet smell of corn fields in the warm summer evenings!  To watch fireflies dance in the dusk!  To walk among the rows of garden plants and harvest an incredible bounty!  To hear my chickens cheer when they lay eggs!  To have two toilets!! 

(For the record, we've never had two toilets at any house we've lived in.  It'll be glorious.)


To finally see our dream realized!  To see a new chapter of our lives started!!

As our little farm grows, I'll post updates--and it will grow!  Over time, we plan to have gardens (vegetable, herb, and butterfly/bee/cut flower), a small fruit & nut orchard, maybe some grapevines, a pond, chickens, a dog, barn cats...and who knows what else!  All of it will keep us busy for sure.  I'll share victories and mistakes, and hope that others can learn from both.  This is entirely new for us, but we're both very excited about the possibilities that this home will open for us. 
Not my chickens.  I occasionally see these guys (ladies?) on the way to work in the mornings, so I took a picture one day.

Praise the Lord!  He continues to surprise us and bless us, even in times when it doesn't feel like a blessing.  And oh my gosh, what a learning experience this has been!

Sunday, May 17

Spring Busyness and Test Results

Lots going on right now!  We are in the process of selling our current home and have an offer on another home...it's out in the country with four acres!  It's all so exciting right now.  Everything is still pending inspections, but so far, we're moving forward.  I'll keep you updated as things progress.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I started seeing a chiropractor/wellness practitioner.  At our initial visit back in March, he recommended three tests, all of which I took and finally received results.  I went back to get the results at the beginning of the week, and learned some interesting things--things that make sense now.

1) I DO have leaky gut.  After seeing the results of the blood test, the practitioner knew what was going on:


Every food tested is rated from 0-4 on a sensitivity scale.  0s and 1s are still okay to eat (1s need to be eaten only occasionally), but I was advised to avoid 2s and 3s for the next month.  As you can see, there are some pretty healthy foods on the do-not-eat list, which was disappointing, because I was enjoying the healthier diet.  The results of this test actually confused me.  Notice how dairy and eggs show no reaction, even though I know they don't sit well with me?  I'm not sure why, but I'm still avoiding them.  And how is white sugar just fine, and soda is perfectly acceptable, but broccoli, carrots, green beans, lemons, garlic, tomatoes, etc. all bad for me??  Well...I don't know, but because of the fact that all of these items are present in the blood test, it means that particles from the foods are permeating the intestinal wall and entering the blood stream = not good = leaky gut and inflammation of the body.  This is a result of stress and medications that I have taken over the course of my life (antibiotics being the biggest contributor).  Going out to eat will be nearly impossible, but at least I have some direction now, and it explains why I was still having a lot of problems on GAPS.  Turns out, GAPS is not for everyone, and I guess I'm one of them.

2) My adrenal glands are functioning at VERY low levels as the day progresses, which explains my constant fatigue:
 
I can get through the morning fairly well, but by the afternoon, I get really tired and feel that way for the rest of the night.  The adrenal glands are responsible for a multitude of functions in the body, including blocking inflammatory responses by producing cortisol, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and dealing with stress levels in the body, among other things.  When you have adrenal glands that aren't working the way they're supposed to, the body really struggles to maintain status quo.  The inflammatory responses are a result of the permeable intestines (or vice versa).  I've always had blood sugar issues, as has my mother, and get really shaky when blood sugar levels plummet, which happened frequently before I changed my diet.  It's not as common now, but still does happen.  Stress...well, that's been a life-long issue for me.  People are probably my biggest source of stress, and a close second is my job and the jobs I've had in the past.  I've also struggled with handling stress well, and now it's all come to a head.  I'll be learning how to deal with stress in a more healthy manner in the coming weeks.  Want to know a little more about adrenals?  A simple explanation of the function of these little glands with a big job can be found here.


3) Thankfully, I don't appear to have a candida (yeast) overgrowth, nor do I have any evidence of parasites in my digestive system.  Yes, it was tested for, and yes, both of those issues can cause the same symptoms that I have been experiencing, so I was happy to take the test to rule those out.  It also means that there is no need for additional medical treatment before starting the healing protocol.  The test did reveal an imbalance in my good and bad digestive bacteria, though, and that will have to be remedied.  The cause of this would also go back to overused antibiotic prescriptions (I'll be a lot more cautious about prescription meds from now own). I'm not against prescription medications--there are some good, helpful medications available in this day.  However, I'll be more inclined to pursue natural remedies for what ails me before I try medication if it's something simple.

If you are experiencing the problems I've had, I urge you to seek out a doctor who has experience with these symptoms.  It's not always easy, and probably not cheap, but it was worth it to me to just get these test results back--tests that none of the traditional medicine docs felt were necessary to order.  Find someone who is familiar with your symptoms and has treated others with the same problems.  I know that not many people out there right now have experienced or are experiencing what I've been going through, but if my experience can help at least one other person find answers, then it's worth it.

*If you are interested in the tests I took, send me a message or leave a comment.  I'll be happy to share the names of the tests that were prescribed so that you can go to your doc and request them.

Monday, April 27

Exciting News!

I realize I've been quiet on here for a while now, over a month!  What gives, right?

Honestly, there just hasn't been a great deal of anything going on to discuss.  We've been working hard, cleaning up after another winter, and now, we have decided that it's time to finally start looking for our dream "forever" home out in the country.  Yes, it's time to put our little suburban house up for sale!

A while ago, I wrote a post about what was important in my life, and how those priorities have changed over the past several years.  Now is our chance to make some of those things happen!  Hard to believe, really.  We've been here for over seven years.  When we moved here, we thought it would only be for a few years, but the Lord works in ways that we can't understand and sometimes don't even realize.  We've had great neighbors (for a change) in this little neighborhood.  There have been some negatives, but overall it's been a good seven years.  But now, it's time to get out in the country, start our little hobby farm, and get away from the noise and concrete of the city.  Start another chapter of our lives, really.

I'm so very excited!! This is going to be an interesting adventure, for sure!

For the time being, though, posts will most likely be sporadic and short.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the Lord works all of this out for us, and hopefully soon, I'll be able to share the news of our new home.
An update on GAPS: I'm not really following it right now.  I got to the end of my rope with it last month and was finally able to find a wellness practitioner here in our city, and have started seeing him.  He is very familiar with my problems and knows about GAPS but is not a GAPS practitioner, so I'm not likely to go back on it.  I have lost 15-20 lbs. so far on GAPS and it has taught me how to eat better, which I'm happy with, but it was too stressful for me.  I am looking forward to seeing what this practitioner has to say once additional test results come in. 

Friday, February 27

The Shattering of the Ball Jars

Well, eight weeks into GAPS and I still don't have spare time to do anything else!  I should have known better.  I did, however, purchase a starter online to try making sour cream (creme fraiche) over the weekend.  I'm going to try introducing dairy.  I have been praying for enough healing to have taken place that I'll be able to tolerate it.  We'll see what happens.

I love collecting old jars.  I love the colors, I love the old style of writing, I love the history behind them, and it reminds me of just how much work women did to preserve food and provide for their families.  While these jars at one time functioned as a mundane, utilitarian vessel for food, now they are being used in all sorts of creative situations.  Personally, I usually use my antique canning jars to hold flowers, both fresh and dried.  A pretty ribbon around the top makes them look so cute!  I do, however, purchase new jars for kitchen and food storage, which leads me to the topic of this post.

A while back, I mentioned that I kept finding shattered Ball jars in my upright freezer when I was getting stock out.  I ended up with somewhere around a dozen shattered jars before I just gave up and ordered plastic deli containers specifically made for freezing.  I didn't want to use plastic, but I was left with no other option.  I was so confused about why my jars were breaking--I'd seen so many blogs from others who talked about freezing their broth in glass jars--that I took to scouring the internet for explanations and others who had experienced the same thing.  And that's exactly what I found.

Turns out, many others had made the same mistakes as me.  Someone, in one blog's comments, politely pointed out that the regular mouth jars seem to be most prone to breaking, but that NONE of the quart Ball jars are freezer safe.  Sure enough, I went into the pantry and pulled down an old Ball jar box that I had kept, and it did state that the quart jars (all types) are not freezer safe.

Hmm.

Why on earth not??  You mean in all of our technology, we cannot engineer a freezer-safe glass canning jar?  On GAPS, broths are too valuable to lose to broken jars, and I just can't chance drinking broth and finding a shard of glass when I try to swallow.  Glass canning jars can withstand extremely high temperatures when canning, but they apparently become too brittle when frozen.  Turns out, the shape of the jar might have everything to do with it.

Anyone who knows about jars (which is probably a group of about ten people on Earth and includes me) will understand that the shoulders of the jars are likely the culprit.  Shoulders of jars are the curved or sloped shape of the top of the jar, at the spot where the jar opening narrows to accommodate the size of the lid. 

Many folks are of the opinion that the liquid, which expands when it freezes, pushes against the curves of the top of the jar, creating too much pressure and not enough expansion room, thereby causing the liquid to push against the weakest part of the jars--the shoulders.  There might be less chance of that happening with wide-mouth jars due to a less-pronounced shoulder, but I can say from experience that both the regular-mouth and wide-mouth jars will shatter.  The only jars that are freezer-safe, according to the Ball jar box, are the jars with straight sides, like the jelly jars and half pint wide mouth jars.
No shoulders on this jar!
Don't they know how much room all of those wide-mouth half pint jars would take up in my freezer??
You guys.  I made this picture.  It took for-e-ver.  And it's not even good, because I'm novice at best with Photoshop and had to copy and paste every...single...little...jar into the rows.  And the rows are all crooked, because the program froze on me halfway through the first attempt and I lost the file, so I had to start alllll over again.  And then it was past my bedtime and I didn't care if the rows were straight.  But it's a great illustration of how many jars it would take to fill up my freezer shelf with half-pints of broth, if I actually knew how many jars it would really take. 
Lesson learned: always be sure to check the box of glass jars for confirmation of being freezer safe!  Oh well.  Hopefully this will help you to not make the same mistake I made.  Like I said, I finally settled on freezer-specific quart containers for my broth, and they are doing a great job so far.  The sad part is thinking about how many dozen Ball jars I purchased in anticipation of starting GAPS.  Frowny face.  On the upside, I love using Ball jars for all sorts of other storage, so I'm sure I'll find a use for at least some of them.  Plus, I guess I'm ready to try canning when I get a gas stove! 

Sunday, February 8

GAPS Stage 6 Summary, And GAPS Peanut Butter Cookies

Goodbye, Intro!!   I've been waiting a loooong time to say that. 

I've decided that it's time to move us to the full GAPS diet now.  I really haven't had problems with introducing anything in Stage 6, so I said to myself, 'Self, it's time to move on!'  I'm hoping that this diet becomes less labor-intensive now.  I simply can't keep up this pace of constant food prep, storing, and freezing.  We have had no life on the weekends, as I've been stuck in the kitchen making food and stocks to prepare for the upcoming workweek.  I have come to the conclusion that once my intolerances are gone, I will start adding foods in that aren't GAPS-legal, and move away from the diet somewhat.  However, I believe that the diet is healthy for us, so I don't want to completely abandon it--I just need a break, and I miss regular things like potatoes.  Hubby and I are happy with our results to this point, although my results are far less measurable than his.  We also decided that this is a great way to cleanse/purge the body of things that are bad for us, so we've decided to do this every January, to restore our bodies after the binges of the holiday season.

My summary of Stage 6, and the Intro Diet as a whole:

What I've Learned:
I've learned that willpower plays a huge role in this diet.  Having determination and a goal helps greatly with the willpower (my goal was to heal my food intolerances).  It's really hard to not go out to eat, and to know that I can't have things I like, but to me, the probable end result makes everything I've had to give up seem worth it.  I have realized just how much we socialize over food, and I've missed that, because it's just been easier to navigate this diet by staying home and not even being tempted.  My husband has gone out for lunch at work a few times, and just ate salad (which was ahead of where he was in the Intro, but necessary to do).  I continue to hope and wait for the day that I can eat an egg and cheese omelet or join others for an ice cream cone again.  I'll continue to give occasional updates on our progress, and will rejoice in the day when I can say that dairy and eggs are no longer my enemies!


Tips for the Intro Diet:
If you plan to start this diet, prep for it well ahead of time.  Give yourself a month to start stocking up the freezer with broth and soup veggies.  Mentally prepare yourself for a lot of work in the kitchen, and enlist help as needed from the family.  Build a support system, because it will be hard, and if you're a Christian, remember this: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)! Be very committed to sticking to a strict diet and not allowing cheating, especially with kids (get rid of tempting food if you think it'll be a problem).  Eating something that is GAPS-legal but only allowed on a stage ahead of where you currently are is one thing; eating something GAPS-illegal is very different, and could cause significant setbacks, depending on your situation.  Be sure to read through the GAPS diet book by Natasha Campbell-McBride, and consider signing up for the GAPS support group on Yahoo, as well as the group on Facebook.  A really good site for frequently asked questions and advice is badenlashkov.com.  You can look up so many topics on that site!  I also purchased an e-book that I had printed at Staples called What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days of recipes and tips for the GAPS™ Intro Diet, by Health, Home and Happiness.  Finally, look over the GAPS faq page located at GAPS.me.  

All that being said, it does get easier as you get farther into the Intro.  In fact, by Stage 6, you will begin to introduce more comforting foods, like increasing your honey amounts and sweet fruits.  By then, you'll be so glad to have this variety!  Every food introduced tastes really good.  You'll have developed a new-found respect for foods that you probably didn't give much thought to before the diet. :)  And with that, I give you a cookie recipe for you to enjoy!  I don't know why, but these cookies really lifted my spirits once I was able to figure out the recipe.  The ingredients aren't anything that we hadn't already been eating, but just knowing that these are cookies makes all of the difference!

GAPS-Legal Peanut Butter Cookies!! (DF, CF, GF, Egg-Free, Vegetarian, Tasty!) 
Ingredients:
1 C all-natural peanut butter (make your own, or buy from the store--nothing but peanuts and salt)
1/2 C raw honey
2 TBSP homemade vanilla
2 TBSP flax meal dissolved in 6 TBSP water, allowed to sit and gel for 10 minutes (or two eggs)

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.  Drop by rounded teaspoon onto a parchment-paper lined cookie pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning.  Allow to sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.  They will be slightly gooey in the middle.  Best eaten warm! Makes about 20 cookies.  GAPS Stage 6 legal.

Sunday, February 1

GAPS Stage 5 Summary

Ugh, I've struggled this week!  It seems that I have had little time or energy to try and get ahead during the weeknights.  I have been moderately successful with keeping up and getting ahead up to this point.  During Stage 5, we are expected to introduce applesauce, raw veggies, and some fruit juices.  I did get applesauce made, but didn't have time until the end of the week to make a salad and more juice.  I also need to make some more broth, because my Ball jars keep shattering in the freezer (a separate post to come on that topic). I introduced crispy bacon during this stage, and I made a BLT salad this weekend for dinner.  I still cannot tolerate eggs--when am I going to start seeing healing??  I've read other blogs by people who've said that their food intolerances were gone by the fourth or sixth week, and that's what I was hoping for!  I'll just keep going until I see those results in myself, but I'm growing impatient.

Stage 5 Summary:
One more stage to go before the full diet!  That will be nice.  It'll also be nice to maybe have time to write about things besides GAPS for a change.  This diet takes up all of my time, and I've missed being able to do other things.  I'm hoping that gets better after the intro.  I've had some annoying side effects so far, but nothing too bad.  I'm pretty sure that I've experienced bouts of ketosis (not eating enough carbohydrates) and have really struggled with fatigue.  I find that I'm not a big fan of plain squash, which has plenty of carbohydrates--I grew up eating it mashed with butter and brown sugar, and I find that it REALLY needs those components to make it tasty for me.  I've combated it by introducing apples and almonds early, and it seemed to work fairly well to bring me out of those tired spells.  I've also had some insomnia, headaches, and strong comfort food cravings.  But thankfully, those are the worst side effects that I've experienced, and I haven't had any more setbacks as far as reactions to food.

Note:  I really think I should get an award of some sort for going for an entire month (and counting) without chocolate of any sort.

We are enjoying still more variety in our meals.  In searching for recipes to add to our meal repertoire, I came across a recipe for a vegetarian tomato and basil casserole.  It sounded intriguing, so I tweaked it to our tastes, added some meat, and voila!  We really liked this!  This would be a good, healthy, and relatively low-cal meal for anyone, not just GAPS folks.  It satisfies a craving for pasta, and surprisingly, the spaghetti squash does not taste like squash--it tastes like slightly crunchy spaghetti!  Try it; I think you'll like it!

Recipe for GAPS-friendly Spaghetti Squash Casserole (GF, optional DF)


Ingredients:

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, grated
2-3 TBSP cold-pressed olive oil
2 TBSP butter or ghee (optional if dairy-free)
15-20 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 lb. hamburger, cooked
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional if dairy-free)

Directions:
Cook spaghetti squash by cutting it in half lengthwise and placing cut sides down in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Roast at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool (if possible, do this early in the day and let it rest until meal time).  It needs to be cool enough to hold.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pour olive oil into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking dish or 3-quart casserole dish.  Place tomatoes and garlic in the baking dish, toss to coat in oil and distribute garlic.  Roast for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to burst. 
Meanwhile, if your hamburger is not already cooked, brown it (but do not burn or create dark saute marks!) your hamburger in a skillet.  Chop your basil and scrape out the spaghetti by running a fork from side to side, not top to bottom, of the squash.  You’ll get longer strands doing it side to side. 
Take the tomatoes and garlic out of the oven, and carefully mash them with a fork.  Mix in the hamburger, basil, and spaghetti squash, and carefully toss all to combine.  Place back in the oven to warm through, 5-10 minutes.  Watch carefully to prevent the squash from burning. 
*Serves 4.  GAPS Stage 5/6 or full GAPS.

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