Redistribution of energy

states_of_matter

This has been sitting in my drafts list for over a year and I am stoked to finally be putting words to it.

The basic concept I want to discuss is the wording and general approach to a chronic disease “cure.” Many words surround this. We often will hear that we are trying to beat a disease or battle through or fix it or solve or cure. While much of this can be applied to acute illness, I am not sold on the fact that those words apply to, or are useful in, describing chronic illness. What if, instead of a cure, we were in search of a redistribution of energy? Instead of focusing on “fixing” on our body, we simply rearranged the way our bodies use our cells, proteins, hormones, etc?

Basically, I’m thinking…it’s all the same molecules. We’ve had the same water here since the dinosaurs. And yet, that water takes a million different forms across a million different applications. Why can’t it be the same with chronic disease in our physical (or mental or emotional or spiritual or physiological) body?

The three more well known states of matter are pictured above. Let’s apply H2O to the example: two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. By applying different levels of energy (heat, pressure, cold, time, space) to these atoms, we get water, ice and steam. Pretty damn cool when you think about it. It inspires me because I know that although we are creating new cells all the time, my body is obviously stuck in some sort of rut. However, by changing how I apply different energies, perhaps I could rearrange those cells a bit and have a balance within my body that doesn’t include colitis.

This intention of finding balance through redistribution of energy instead of trying to fix myself all the time has been transformational and immensely helpful recently. I spent/wasted a lot of time over the past 11 years trying to fix myself with results that have been good, not great, and nothing permanent yet. I still have flareups; the disease is still with me. By reframing my “problem” into simply a confused arrangement of molecules, it seems more more doable to become healthy. Perhaps this is all semantics, and that is itself a “cure” by certain definitions, but for some reason in my head, this concept makes balanced health seem less impossible. Which is nice.

PS-I am not a scientist by trade, so it’s entirely possible I messed up a bit of the science here. I will count on Kevin to correct any egregious errors. Mostly I’m just using this all as a metaphor, so work with me here! :)

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

I spent this whole blog post listening to Adele’s recent TV special from Radio City Music Hall. Suffice to say, it’s fairly epic. She seems like a relatively normal human for being a ludicrously popular music star. Kind of cool. I think I speak for the rest of the world when I say that “Hello” (although it does make me laugh when I sing Lionel Richie on top of it) is one of the most fun songs to belt out of all time. Feels so good to let your voice soar sometimes! Even if you sound nothing like Adele.

I was trying to link directly to “Hello” but that is not happening in a short google search. So here’s a link to the entire show. Luckily it’s the first song!

 

 

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Categories: Balance, Colitis, Healing, Self-love | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Nana 101

Yesterday, my grandmother, Michaela Marina Durán (née Moreno), would have turned 101 years old. She passed away in 1985, when I was three years old. Consequently, I don’t know her too well, but one of my earliest memories of love is from Nana. I have a strong image of her in the doorway at 558 Ramona, holding a baby (although I can’t think of who that would be…maybe a toddler version of Monica or Justine :)). I don’t have any words associated with the memory, just a clear image. And a powerful, visceral feeling of love coming from her.

It’s difficult for me to conceptualize the time period she must have lived in or her life in general. 1914 was such a different time for women, especially women of color. She was the mother of eight children, and I’m told she also miscarried three times. 11 pregnancies…I cannot even imagine. Having only one baby makes me question her overall sanity for going forward with the process seven more times. ;) There have been multiple times already over my one year of motherhood and 9-10 months of pregnancy that I have asked Nana for strength and felt her love in return. When I was going through my insane labor process, I felt her very brightly and I know she helped me stay alive and healthy to push out my baby boy.

Why talk about this now, after a full year of silence on this blog? Why visit these memories? I don’t know, really. I was in yoga last night and during savasana, it dawned on me that I’ve been receiving a lot of messages lately. These messages are becoming more loud and urgent in my brain, and are even showing up in my dreams. I have a calling to serve others. I know that, and I’ve known that for awhile. I do help people in my job/career now, however there is a larger audience for me to speak to and I have to start taking those next steps. I want to support others with IBD to find balance. I think it’s the only way I will “cure” myself of my chronic disease. I will come up with a series of postures and call them “Yoga for IBD.” It’s a concept my friend Joel cae up with and tried to get me to help with many years ago, but I pushed him away. I will also go back to school and learn more about mind-body medicine model with the intention of helping other UC’ers with their pain, balance and journey. The question is when? I don’t know, but the messaging is becoming louder that I need to start something quickly. My first step is returning to my writing. And today I wanted to write about Nana’s love.

I don’t have many pictures of my grandmother here at the house. Just three really. Although they are prized possessions to me. Two of them have love notes on the back from Pop, my grandfather. They were married on April 12, 1941 and stayed together until she passed in 1985. These love notes were from 1938, when he was still in treatment for his tuberculosis and she was there for a visit. It is moving to read his words of love to her, penned so beautifully, so long ago. I now see why my dad is such a romantic.

Anyway, this post is a ramble, but I needed to get it done. I will be taking the next steps toward my recovery and eventual balance with my colitis, and that all starts here for me. Thank you for your patience as I moved through my silence in writing and I hope to see you all here soon again.

My music corner tonight will be courtesy of Ben Harper. I pieced together a video with the pictures I do have of Nana and Pop, along with the other family photos I have here at my house. I don’t have many, still they all show the love and happiness through the foundation that Nana and Pop laid out many years ago. I love you Nana, and Happy Birthday.

Categories: Balance, Healing, Love, Self-care, Self-love | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

2 years (ish) later

LoveOkay, I’m a few weeks late with this post.  Okay, almost a month.  :)  But I did celebrate two years (!!!) of being medication free on August 13, despite my lack of pomp, circumstance or blog post about it. It’s a little surreal to think that it has been two years. And simultaneously, it seems like much longer. Especially if I think if it in terms of alcohol! It helps that I’ve been pregnant for all of 2014, granted…still, I don’t remember the last time I was even buzzed, let alone drunk! Strange. I guess my 30s will be defined by different types of headlines than my 20s. I am okay with that.

It has been interesting comparing Year 2 of living drug-free versus Year 1. The first part of any new adventure is filled with hope and motivation and dreams and pie-in-the-sky expectations. After that wore off, in Year 2, I had to M A I N T A I N. Long-term maintenance can be much more challenging than the initial cold turkey decision. It has been for me in a few ways. First and foremost, I started feeling better! This was a blessing and a curse. And as my dad would say, my lifestyle changes were working so well that I stopped doing them. I started putting different things into my diet, in the spirit of “seeing what works for my body”. In reality, it just tastes good to eat a bagel with cream cheese occasionally. I am human after all. As I was feeling better, I lost that direct feedback loop of “eat crap or get stressed out –> have blood in poop”. I didn’t have the blood anymore and consequently, I had to find new ways to remind myself that it’s not a good idea to freak out at small things out of my control or eat random processed sugar at all hours of the day. Of course, after a few days/weeks of poor decision making, the blood would make a comeback anyway, so, good job colon? At least it’s consistent and I know what I’m dealing with. Having strategies to combat the colitis has been hugely helpful during this second year.

Socially, the long-term maintenance has been way easier than the first year. People adapted so easily to my strict eating habits that when I began deviating from them after awhile, they were kind of confused. Especially after I got pregnant and my colitis was SUPER AMAZING. Gotta love the upside of hormones. I was eating whatever I wanted with no repercussions at all. Now that the pregnancy is almost at an end (is it Sept 19 yet??), I am noticing the return of traces of blood, small changes in my acne, slight shifts in my hair, etc. I love observing it and figuring out how to return my body back to balance. It’s like a crazy Jenga game.

I think the hardest part of long-term maintenance is the most obvious: staying committed. It’s like being an addict. You have to take it one decision, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. You have to be okay with yourself when you deviate from the plan. Be nice to yourself and try not to develop an eating disorder.  :)  It’s all a little overwhelming sometimes, which means sometimes you take a break. Relax and eat a cookie and don’t judge it. But don’t eat the whole box either. Work in a little spinach and kale more often. Such a dance.

Speaking of being an addict, I was cleaning a few months ago, and it was stunning how I had hidden the drugs that were maintaining my colitis in various rooms of our house. I didn’t even realize it. I felt like an alcoholic discovering bottles they hid for themselves. I found a bottle of Asacol in the back of the third drawer of my bathroom. I found another half bottle faaaaaaar in the back underneath the sink. I still had three weeks worth of medicated enemas in my closet, just in case. Even though I had long since given up the habit of mesalamine, there it was, lurking everywhere. I knew I had the enemas as insurance in case things got really bad, really quickly and I needed it. However, I had been holding on for such a long time that they expired! The pills were all still good, but why did I have them? I hadn’t taken them in years. As I threw out the final bottle and box of enemas, I started crying. It was much harder than I thought it would be. At the same time, it was incredibly liberating. I knew I was doing right by my body, nevertheless, the finality set in during that moment. Saying I was done taking the drugs was one thing. Stopping the 9 pills a day regimen was another thing. Physically eliminating the option was apparently a whole new thing. Luckily, my incomparable supportive husband was there to give me hugs and tell me I was doing the right thing. He’s incredible. Not sure what I would do without him, but I’m pretty sure it would involve me shooting drugs in my butt through enemas. HAHA! That’s ridiculously gross! But true. Weird.

At any rate, the house is now officially 100% mesalamine free! It only took almost 10 years to get there! It is an interesting, frustrating, exhilarating, educational path, and I’m grateful everyday I’m on it. Plus, since it is a chronic disease, I may as well embrace the journey because it’s not going anywhere! As the name of the blog implies, I feel that I’ve been given UC as a life assignment and the only way I know how to deal with that assignment is through love. Love of self, love of patience, love of mistakes, love of others, love of balance within my body and life, love of food, love of yoga! It’s all very exciting. Thanks to all for the support and hopefully Year 3 will be even better than the last! I’ll have at least one more family member to share it with soon.  :)  LOVE!

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

In the spirit of love, here’s one of my favorite love songs ever. It captures the emotion of love in such a heartbreaking and accurate way. Makes me cry most of the time when I hear it. I like the studio version best:

Categories: Colitis, Healing, Love, Patient History, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s in a diagnosis?

hello-my-name-is-001

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Someone smart said that once.

I have been struggling with this concept for a few years now, however in the past few weeks it has come up repeatedly for me.  A diagnosis is the first thing we ask about and want to know things are going wrong.  I did this the other night with a situation that a friend is going through with their sister.  Before I could help it, I found myself asking, “Does anyone know the diagnosis?”  In essence I’m saying, what’s wrong with her and what’s it called?  As if having a name is going to solve all the problems of the world.  That’s obviously not how it is, although it sounds very appealing.  Fortunately or unfortunately, even with a specific diagnosis, we must reexamine our entire life when something is that pervasive and life-changing (like ulcerative colitis or bipolar or diabetes or whatever) to dive beyond the symptoms and figure out what is really going on.

This blog post has been extremely difficult for me to write.  I think it’s because I see both sides of the argument very clearly, and I haven’t decided which side I want to take.  Accordingly, I’m going to break it down as if I’m writing both sides of an opinion piece.  We’ll see if I come to any conclusions….

PRO-DIAGNOSIS

Naming the Game: it’s the way to go!

When I was first struggling with my ulcerative colitis, it was a scary and tenuous time in my life.  I mean, I was 22 years old, no real history of illness, and now there was blood in the toilet at the wrong time of the month.  It was weird.  Especially considering my entrenchment in western medicine at the time, I was desperate for a diagnosis.  Just tell me what’s wrong with me so I can take a pill or have surgery and be done with it.  I heard about a case study once of a woman who was going to the doctor’s office every year afraid of cancer, despite being very healthy.  When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42, she reported feeling relieved.  She had spent such a long time agonizing over the possibility of cancer that once she had a category to put herself in, she felt as if she had a place to belong.  And I think that is the most powerful part of someone slapping a label on you.  Humans are categorizing creatures and it makes us feel good to have a spot to neatly classify things.  “Oh, you have XYZ disease.  Don’t worry.  We have XYZ intervention/medication and that will be fine.  Here’s a group of people to talk to with the same problem.”  By having a doctor tell me I have UC, I was given a starting point.  I could join the IBD support groups and google relevant interventions and feel good that I was part of a select cohort who could understand my pain.

In spite of a common diagnosis though, my UC looks incredibly different from all of the other UC patients that I’ve met over the years.  In fact, from the anecdotal perspective that I’ve experienced thus far, no two patients seem to express UC the same way.  Some have to go to the bathroom 20 times a day.  Some go 2-3 days without pooping.  Some eat meat and bread like it’s going out of style.  Others can only find relief in vegetables and fruits.  Some have tons of blood in their stool, some have none at all.  Some have crazy gas pains and acid reflux, others have never experienced such symptoms.

Which leads me to…..

CON-DIAGNOSIS

Name, schname: what’s the flipping point??!

The importance given to a diagnosis is downright dangerous at times, whether it be for a physical or mental illness. Many people find themselves over-identifying with their disease.  Extremists may even use it as an excuse to do or not do things.  At this point of my life/illness/balance though, I don’t think there is a single diagnosis that I could personally receive that would make me change how I treat it.  Now, this may be a bit unfair given all the work I’ve done over the last 9+ years wrestling with a diagnosis.  If I were going through this process without an initial diagnosis, would I be able to attack it in the same way from the beginning?  It’s cute for me to sit here with 20/20 hindsight and say, “Well going forward, I know this is what I would do” because I’ve already been through it.  And maybe we all have to go through it to figure out what works best for our body.  However I am hopeful that even if I had an undiagnosable disease at this point of my life, I would have solid steps and interventions to make my body the best version it could be.

I prefer to think of a diagnosis as a conversation starter.  “Hey you have schizophrenia?  Great, here’s an area to begin, only know that this isn’t the end all/be all for the rest of your life.”  Even something simple like a common cold is extremely vague and unique to the person.  There are medical and homeopathic remedies that work for one person that will never work for another.  Basically the diagnosis is nice and all, but doesn’t answer the true questions or do the real work of finding a cause and treating that.

A few years ago, The Soloist, with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. was released in theatres and it wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it deeply moved me.  In 2009 when it came out, I was in a bad place with my colitis and was extremely unclear about what I was going to do next.  None of the medication was working anymore and I was feeling stuck.  The main character (Jamie Foxx) has fairly severe mental illness and it was very hard on his family and those around him who wanted to help him.  In one scene, there is a group counseling session and a character remarks:

I mean, it’s tired. It’s like they can’t find the medication that’s right for me, you know?”

Whew.  I started crying just by her saying that!  haha.  I’m emotional.  Still, it is SO FRUSTRATING despite having a “diagnosis” that doctors can’t seem to help you.  They have a honest motive, yet medicating a chronic illness is so…..ineffective.  It’s hard on the patient and the doctor.

The best scene though was when Robert Downey, Jr. was talking to the man running the support group.  He still was learning about Jamie Foxx’s condition and desperately wanting to help the only way he knew how.  Here is their exchange (I can’t find it on youtube.  It is about 47 minutes in to the movie if you own it or rent it.)

Robert Downey, Jr, talking about Jamie Foxx: What does he have, schizophrenia?

Group Leader: I don’t know.

Well, we should hook him up with psychiatric services and find out, right?

Yeah…I don’t get too hung up on diagnosis.

What do you mean?

What do I mean?

But how do you help someone if you don’t know what they have?

Look at these people. Every one of them’s been diagnosed more than you can imagine. And as far as I can tell, it hasn’t done them any good.

But he needs medication, right?

I’ll tell you one thing he doesn’t need: one more person telling him he needs medication.

This scene made a lot of sense to me on many levels. To be fair, it comes out of an exasperated situation where people are at the end of their rope.  Would the group leader have the same opinion if all them had never been given a diagnosis or talked to a professional at some point?  Probably not.  I guess at the end of the day, the diagnosis is important only as much as it can help you.  As long as you (or your practitioners and healing helpers) aren’t falling on your disease like a crutch, then it can be productive.  Writing things off simply because of a disease title…well I can’t seem to wrap my head around that one.

I’d love to hear your opinion!  Either here in the comments or in an email or in person next time I see you!  I am fascinated by this right now and want more input as my opinion forms….and then of course I’ll change my opinion 50 times after that.  :)

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

The Beatles!  Maybe you’ve heard of them?  I’ve been listening to them a lot this week.  They have so many ridiculously amazing songs; it’s hard to pick one to talk about.  I’ll pick a cover actually.  The best cover of Let It Be (in my opinionated opinion, of course) was from the movie Across The Universe.  In the movie, they took Beatles songs and made a musical with only a small amount of dialog which was interesting.  The intention and creativity behind the song choices was very well done despite the movie itself being kind of slow.

On the DVD extras, they show behind-the-scenes footage of the supremely talented woman chosen to sing Let It Be.  This is not on the youtube clip, but the director had asked the woman to simply think about the 1967 riots in Detroit and the meaning of the lyrics as she was singing.  Those riots raged for 5 days and included the National Guard, army, tanks and machine guns.  The riots left behind 43 dead, 1,189 injured, 7,200 arrests and over 2,000 buildings destroyed.  It is devastating to think about.

Wow, I must be my father’s daughter, bringing it to war culture out of nowhere!  Nevertheless it gives you a little context for this clip.  Those darn Beatles sure know how to write a moving song.

 

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Diagnosis, Healing, Patient History | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

I was never happy with the way I looked

A few months ago, I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion which is a public radio program most widely known for their Lake Wobegon bit where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”  I catch this show occasionally on NPR when I am driving on the weekends, but I never got around to finding out specifically when it aired.  I enjoy the happenstance of it because I love the show and I am always entertained, so it’s like a fun surprise when I find it.  My favorite bit is when they tell a story and pair it with sound effects that are incredible to listen to.  Really makes the story unfold before your very….ears.  One of the funniest I’ve heard is titled “Rhubarb” which ruthlessly makes fun of Californians, our bizarre eating habits and food allergies.  I know my mother-in-law will enjoy that one a little too much.  ;)  You definitely have to listen to it rather than read it.

One prose poem series struck a deep chord with me though and I haven’t been able to shake it since I heard it in November.  It was a four poem series read aloud by the author, Louis Jenkins, and they were each incredible.  The final poem resonated with me so much that I have since found myself approaching my self-image in a completely different way.

If you would indulge me and watch the video….rather, if you would click on the video, then close your eyes or turn the image off somehow and just listen to the poems, it will be much more powerful.  The video is distracting of where your mind can take it.  All of them are great, but I am going to reference the last one.  So if you can’t spare 5 minutes to hear the whole thing, then you can start at 4:10…..I would suggest you do yourself a favor and listen to them all.  :) Here are the poems:

I love these.  Each of them is funny and thought provoking.  However, while I was listening to these real time in my car and heard the line “I was never happy with the way I looked” I was immediately overcome with tears and sadness.  How many people go through life this way?  And for what?  I think it’s not exclusively women, either.  I think for most of us, self-image is intricately tied to our self-worth.  And the negative crap we pour on ourselves day in and day out is exhausting.  I don’t like my thighs or my hair is too oily or my face is so covered in acne that no one will want to look at it.  I’ve recently watched videos of myself when I was 10 years old and while watching, I started having negative self-talk about how I looked in the video!  At age 10!  What kind of sickness is that??

I don’t know where this overly critical negative self-talk started or how I got so sucked into it, but ever since I heard that line from Louis Jenkins, I have been seriously reconsidering how I consider myself.  I cannot think of anything more sad than never liking how I looked, ever.  To have that as a final reflection on my life…..I don’t know, the thought kills me.

It is a practice to look in the mirror with clothes on, clothes off, whatever and directly say “I like how I look today”.  It’s a strange feeling being okay with yourself.  I’ve felt it emotionally before, and even felt it physically (on the inside) by being “okay” with my colitis.  Trying it on with external physical beauty was a whole new and awesome feeling.

Okay, of course, you also don’t want to go around like “Gosh, I’m the prettiest thing ever and I am so much better than everyone since I’m SO gorgeous.”  Obviously there’s a balance.  It’s like yoga: a non-judgmental look at yourself with zero expectations.  You don’t have to hate yourself or how you look; that’s not a pre-requisite for being a good person.  Here’s a kooky idea: try on being happy with how you look, even for five minutes.  Just as an experiment.  Then maybe you’re happy with it for an hour.  Then for a few hours.  Then maybe, one whole day goes by where you are happy with how you look!  Now that’s crazy talk.

At any rate, I still struggle with this concept but whenever I am feeling particularly scathing toward myself, I think if this poem and it puts me back in a better frame of mind.  Now if I could only remember what it is I came down to the basement for….

ALISA’S RECIPE CORNER

Instead of music, I’ll mix it up today with a recipe for plant-based lasagna.  Plus Vegetable Lasagna always makes me think of Seinfeld and laugh.  I made this the other day for a potluck and it was actually good!  Took a lot of time; this is not a “quick and easy” recipe because you have to create the noodles by hand from the squash.  But it was delicious.  FYI, the “cheese” recipe makes way too much for this lasagna.  Do not pour all the extra cheese on the dish…I did that and it overwhelmed everything.  Use the directed amount and I’m sure you’ll be fine.  There’s a lot of other fun, less time-consuming recipes on the YumUniverse website you can check out too.  :)

Vegetable Lasagna recipe

Categories: Self-care, Self-love | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Too Much of a Good Thing: whole grains vs refined vs flour

2014

Happy New Year!  2014?!  I can now say “that was 20 years ago” or at least “that was 15 years ago” very easily….it’s strange but fun at the same time.

Quick updates before we get to the topic at hand.  First, I had wonderful holidays; I love my family/friends and it was really nice to get spend time with most of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Some are just too darn far away but still felt the love from far away.  We also hosted and attended a lot of super fun parties.  December is one of my favorite months.

In terms of a health update, I am doing pretty well overall.  Emotionally I am getting better about my body image, about how I perceive the food I am eating, why I’m eating it, etc. which is a huge part.  But I do still have the physical damage of UC that I’m trying to heal through food, yoga and love, and not through medication.  It becomes challenging because what I eat often affects those around me…..you know, since they are around me while I’m eating.  I still struggle with keeping the majority of my diet whole, plant-based foods throughout the day, and throughout the entire preparation (i.e. no added sugars, butter, excessive oil, etc).  If I am preparing it, it is obviously much easier to control, but time management issues take us to restaurants more frequently than I’d like to admit.  Plus with the holidays there is a TON of eating out and eating at other people’s houses.  Which is fun, just not as fun for my bloody poop and burny butthole feeling.  :)  This all resulted in a mild but consistent flare during pretty much the whole November/December season.  I had a few blood-free movements but most of them had a least a little bit of blood, some a lot.  It is what it is and as I keep telling myself, it is still WAY better than when I was on medication.  I had a GI appt yesterday morning and he doesn’t see a need to have a colonoscopy this year after all.  He said if I wanted to, he could do a flexible sigmoidoscopy (much more mild procedure) but I think I’m good right now.  I can feel where my body is at and overall I’m happy.  I know what I need to do to stay healthy, it’s about sticking with it!

Onto the topic at hand.  Too much of a good thing.  I was/am very confused about “processed foods.”  Everyone in the current research says they are bad.  I know first hand that if I eat mostly processed foods, then I feel like crap.  Processed foods are hard to process!  Or is it that they are too easy?  There seems to me, two different kinds of processed.  Commercially processed and at-home processed.  Granted, I don’t have time to take whole wheat berries and pound them into flour, but if I did, would it still be “bad” for me?  If I get a smoothie at Jamba Juice, it’s going to be orange juice from concentrate and fruits picked out of season, frozen and shipped across the world, blended with yogurt.  But if I make a smoothie at home, then it’s organic fruit, small amount of fresh fruit juice and vegetables.  Inherently, blending isn’t “bad”, in fact most would agree that blended food is much easier to digest than whole foods (see: baby food vs adult food).  If you follow that logic even more, why would it be bad to take every food, mash it up into tiny little pieces and then eat it?  You are saving your body hours of time!  Some people actually do that, and with fruits and vegetables, maybe it’s not a bad plan.  It also leads to one of the arguments for juicing: your digestive system doesn’t have to work hardly at all, and it is a BOOM! effect of vitamins and minerals.  Ahhh, but then you are taking out the fiber.  Which is where we get into commercially processed foods.

wheatI’m going to be focusing on grains here, because it’s what confuses me the most and is my Achilles’ heel.  I love anything baked in an oven.  Especially sweet things out of an oven.  Bread, muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, even pretzels (although I tend to crave sweet over salty), oh and did I mention bread?  When I do any cleanses or strict food diets for a long period of time, bread is always the #1 thing that I crave.  Why is that?  The answer is probably an entire blog post on its own, and it probably involves emotional eating, but all of the things I mentioned are flour based products.  How is it we make flour?  We pound down whole grains into powder.  But much more than just pounding is going on here (that’s what she said)….

facts_seed

In whole grains, there are three main parts of the seed that we harvest and eat (these seeds are also known as kernels, groats or berries): bran, germ and endosperm.  By buying whole wheat berries and then grabbing a meat tenderizer and smashing the hell out of them in your kitchen, you are doing more than simply getting a little aggression out (although that could be a good mental health exercise to focus your anger).  You are breaking down the outer layer or bran of the grain.  The fiber is all spread out and pre-broken down on your kitchen counter.  All of the sudden, that grain is magically now digested faster.  The body doesn’t have to worry about breaking down the hard exterior that held the grain together.  It will be processed much faster and more efficiently.  A good thing?  Maybe?  Question mark?

So you continue your demonic demonstration of power and continue to beat those poor wheat berries until there is nothing left but a fine powder or flour.  It’s not that different, right?  The nutrients are still there.  And yet if you were to eat a spoonful of that flour, it would have a radically different digestive journey than a spoonful of the original material.  Although eating a raw spoonful of either substance would be questionable behavior.

Whatever you do with it, if you leave that flour out too long, it will start to decompose, much like any food that is even halfway decent for you.  The oils and fats in the germ oxidize and become rancid.  In the 1800s, humans figured out they could merely take out the parts that would go bad!  Industrial milling started to filter out the germ and bran, leaving the endosperm by itself, sad and lonely.  The endosperm can last on a shelf (or in your freezer) for a loooong time.  Viola!  Crisis averted.

Unfortunately, there are a ton of awesome nutrients in the bran and germ that you lose in the endosperm-only flour.  They try to mechanically add a few of the vitamins back in (hello enriched and fortified products), but I think common sense would tell you that an isolated chemical nutrient isn’t going to be as welcome in the body as the real thing.  Perhaps even more relevant, the ratios are all off and they don’t even bother putting back in most of the vitamins.  It’s like anything (a beautiful piece of music, a great football team, really delicious pesto): the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

And finally, back to fiber.  Fiber makes things metabolize slower, makes you fuller longer and protects against insulin resistance.  Buuuuut, most of the fiber is in the germ and the bran which was just milled out!  Oops.  Without it, metabolism becomes lightning quick, triggers an insulin response and a dramatic drop in glucose…followed of course by a surge of hunger.  Hunger surges crave quick fixes.  Your body is craving the nutrients, not the donuts.  But unfortunately, what’s a quick fix to trick the body into thinking it’s happy?  More refined carbs, more sugar, more distilled and concentrated foods that would be more appropriate for an astronaut.  But we’re not astronauts.  Well most of us anyway.  It becomes too much of a good thing.  We process the flour like juice, it’s instant.  Except with vegetable juice it’s a boost of vitamins and nutrients.  With flour, it’s a boost of starch and basically acts as sugar.  Even the whole-grain flours that purport to have all the germ and bran in there still have the fiber all spread out, just like your now ruined kitchen counter.

At this point, for me, it comes down to preparation.  How do we humans typically prepare whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa)?  Boil it in water for awhile, maybe throw some spices or vegetables or even meat in there.  Then we eat it!  How do we humans typically prepare flour?  You’re not going to take flour and sprinkle it over your broccoli.  Flour is gross on its own.  It must be cooked, baked, fried, something.  And usually that “something” is going to be an even harder food to digest.  We combine it with sugar and dairy, oil and eggs.

What’s my bottom line here?  Like seemingly everything else, if you are going to eat flour-based foods, eat them in moderation.  Make those foods the minority on your plate and pair them with a bunch of veggies!  For example, we made pasta last night.  Pasta is obviously, flour based.  But we made it with 6 cups of spinach, a bunch of artichoke hearts and a pistachio-lemon “pesto” (pistachios, lemon juice, olive oil and shallots).  I felt great afterward, no bloating or hunger spikes or weird cravings.  Important to note that I made the meal with my wonderful husband, we played games and took our time through the whole thing.  I have to always keep in mind, to digest peacefully, the ritual of the meal may be just as significant as the meal itself.

Continued happy and peaceful eating to you!

Editor’s Note: I am not an expert on this stuff, but I did learn a ton by writing this post.  Hope you got something out of it too.  I encourage you to do your own research and see what resonates with you!  Please correct me if I said anything wrong on here, I want to be as accurate as possible, as I am still learning myself!  I heavily leaned on the work of the interwebs (yes, even wikipedia), this great write-up, and my awesome new book I got from Deb for Christmas: Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health.  That recipe from last night was our first try from the book and it was amazing!

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

I haven’t been into too much new music lately.  JJ Grey & Mofro have fun background funky music that I’ve been throwing on Spotify.  Or for yoga, I’ve been listening to playing a lot of Bonobo in my classes.   Other than that, oldies but goodies!  I am looking forward to the Bruno Mars halftime show at the Super Bowl.  Oh, and we went to a Reel Big Fish show last weekend.  Despite having only one original member left, they brought the house down with their still true-to-roots ska energy.  The number of teenagers there was unbelievable too!  I was a teenager when that stuff was popular.  I think the sole radio hit they had was Sell Out, but we listen to Beer after every softball victory.  Here’s both, dance your heart out!

Categories: Colitis, Food and Diet | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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