Sushi, Eggs and Oatmeal: Critical Thinking, Common Sense, and Nutrition

I’ve been around the block a few times, nutritionally speaking. I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease (wrong) and Crohn’s disease (right, we think), I’ve spent countless hours at the allergist’s office, I’ve been told to follow diet after diet. Yet through all of that, none of my HMOs have ever allowed me to visit a nutritionist*– until now. My HMO is offering six free visits as a promotion, so I made an appointment.

I selected a nutritionist who works from the same office as my (totally fabulous and lifesaving!) gastroenterologist. I was so excited– finally, answers! Marion Nestle’s advice on what to eat is great, but with a Crohn’s diagnosis, I really felt like I needed more targeted advice. Not only that, but I’ve had some issues lately with my eating patterns. I’ll starve all day and then stuff myself at night, or eat a healthy lunch only to binge on junk food in the evening. I’ll cast around for something healthy to eat that won’t worsen a flare-up, only to come up empty-handed and drink an Ensure instead. I gain weight when I think I should be losing, and lose when I think I should be gaining.

In other words, I’ve got a weird, complex and emotionally fraught relationship with food, just like a whole lot of other people in this sexist, diet-obsessed society, and I thought maybe seeing a nutritionist would help.

The verdict? Helpful, but not in the ways I expected. Read the rest of this entry »

If You Teach Someone to Fish: Creative Solutions to the Food Crisis

The health crisis here in the US is reaching a critical point. There are drugs in our drinking water, sick cows in our meat supply, and additives in pretty much everything. We’re seeing huge increases in diabetes rates and bowel disease. We are not a healthy country.

The food industry isn’t entirely to blame: pollution, occupational exposure to chemicals, and lack of time/money to exercise are part of it too. You can’t simply blame one industry, but the overall effect of all of these factors is that we are exposed to a brew of chemicals unprecedented in human history, and we don’t know exactly how it is affecting us. You can study, say, the effects of dioxin exposure through tampon use; but what happens to someone who’s exposed to a multitude of chemical products through tampon use and food additives and pesticides and polluted water and industrial chemicals released into the air? How do you control for all that? You don’t, you can’t, so we’re reduced to guesswork. And a lack of proof means that the government can’t or won’t curb the corporations that pollute. (See Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream for more on this.)

So what do we do? (Solutions after the jump.) Read the rest of this entry »

Simple Dal for Winter Nights

It’s February, and you just spent an hour driving home from work in a treacherous ice storm. You’re cold and tired, and there’s not much food in the house. What do you do?

Here’s what we did: ad libbed from an already-easy dal recipe. This requires a bit of time but very little effort, and the results are warming, comforting and satisfying (not to mention gluten-free and vegetarian). This is our version, but you can throw in some vegetables or whatever you’ve got around the house. This serves 2, with some leftovers.

Simple Dal

Throw into a pot:

1/2 lb lentils (use your favorite kind)

1 1/4 pint water

1 bay leaf

3 cloves garlic, broken up a bit but not chopped

about 1 tbsp chopped ginger

1 cinnamon stick

large pinch of turmeric

Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 35 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Then add:

Juice of 1 lemon

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

pinch of cayenne

Simmer for 5 more minutes.

In a small pan, heat about 3 tbsp of ghee or vegetable oil. Add:

pinch of black cumin

pinch of regular cumin seeds

pinch of asafetida

Let it sizzle for a few seconds, then stir into the dal.

Serve with rice. That’s all there is to it. By the way, this process will leave your dal studded with tender, sweet pieces of garlic.

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Mad as Hell, and Sick of Being Poisoned

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria

From the “I Could Have Told You That” file, by way of the Associated Press:

Food Poisoning Can Be Long-Term Problem

By LAURAN NEERGAARD

WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s a dirty little secret of food poisoning: E. coli and certain other foodborne illnesses can sometimes trigger serious health problems months or years after patients survived that initial bout.

Scientists only now are unraveling a legacy that has largely gone unnoticed.

What they’ve spotted so far is troubling. In interviews with The Associated Press, they described high blood pressure, kidney damage, even full kidney failure striking 10 to 20 years later in people who survived severe E. coli infection as children, arthritis after a bout of salmonella or shigella, and a mysterious paralysis that can attack people who just had mild symptoms of campylobacter.

“Folks often assume once you’re over the acute illness, that’s it, you’re back to normal and that’s the end of it,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The long-term consequences are “an important but relatively poorly documented, poorly studied area of foodborne illness.”

Read the full story

I’m glad to see research being done on this topic. My own bout with salmonella (thanks, Chicago airport hotel food) happened in 2004, and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve since been made aware of evidence that suggests that food poisoning and other intestinal trauma can trigger the onset of Crohn’s disease. It took years of pain and illness to find out what was wrong with me. I was told I needed to learn to handle stress better; that I was crazy; that nothing was wrong with me; that I was a malingering employee; and that I was too fat. I was diagnosed and mis-diagnosed with celiac disease, food allergies, and finally Crohn’s. I’m finally getting treatment and learning how to eat in ways that won’t make me ill, and how to handle the pain and disruption that happens when I do have a flare-up. The fact is that the necessary research simply isn’t being done, and people are suffering and dying as a result. Read the rest of this entry »

The Restroom Access Act

Hey all!  I’ve just learned about a bill pending in several states that directly affects my quality of life, as well as that of other people with Crohn’s, celiac disease and other inflammatory bowel disorders.  It allows people with these disorders legal access to the employee toilets in retail establishments– without having to buy something first, search endlessly (New Yorkers, you know what I mean?) or be denied access because of ‘store policy’.

The text below explaining the bill is from the Advocacy Center at Crohn’s And Me:

The bill has passed in Illinois, Minnesota and Texas and is pending in Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Please go here to send a letter to your local representative in just a few clicks:

Ally’s Law:

Ally Bain, a Crohn’s patient and teenager, experienced something that changed her life. While at a national retail clothing chain store with her mother, she suddenly had to use the restroom. They quickly ran to a manager to ask to use the employees-only restroom. But Ally was denied access and had an accident in the store. As she and her mother drove away, they vowed to never let that happen to anyone again.

With her family, friends, and State Rep. Kathleen Ryg, Ally worked to get a new law passed in Illinois. The law requires businesses to make employee-only restrooms available to people with inflammatory bowel disease and other medical conditions such as pregnancy and incontinence. The law states:

A retail establishment that has a toilet facility for its employees shall allow a customer to use that facility during normal business hours if the toilet facility is reasonably safe and all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The customer requesting the use of the employee toilet facility suffers from an eligible medical condition or utilizes an ostomy device.
  2. Three or more employees of the retail establishment are working at the time the customer requests use of the employee toilet facility.
  3. The retail establishment does not normally make a restroom available to the public.
  4. The employee toilet facility is not located in an area where providing access would create an obvious health or safety risk to the customer or an obvious security risk to the retail establishment.

Thanks!

I’m on my way out of town for a couple of days.  When I return: a post on meeting Anthony Bourdain, and crazy old-school French food at Chez Napoleon in NYC!

Cappellini and Chicken in Fresh Pesto

Sarah was feeling a bit Crohn’s-y last night so I put together this light dish. It is a very simple preparation. Fresh ingredients are key here, however.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound cappellini

4 quarts of water

Two chicken breasts (in this case, organic from Trader Joe’s)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the Pesto:

1/4 cup of pine nuts

1 clove of garlic

1 bunch of basil

Extra virgin olive oil

salt

First, prepare the pesto. In a food processor (or a mortar and pestle if you feel like a workout and getting all artisanal) process the pine nuts until they are a fine grain. Add the basil, garlic, some olive oil and some salt. Process until all the basil is very fine and pasty. At this point you can add more olive oil to get it to the consistency that you desire. I like it to be kind of thick but it is personal preference.

Bring four quarts of water to a boil. Using a lot of water is important for thin pasta like capellini, which has a tendency to stick together and gum up.

While the water is coming to a boil, heat olive oil on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the chicken breasts. You want a nice brown crust while not drying out the chicken. Doing it on medium heat helps achieve this. Remove from the heat and let rest.

Right before the chicken is done add the cappellini to the water. Keep a close eye on the pasta. It can go from al dente to mushy very quickly. After 3-4 minutes taste the pasta and cook until the desired texture. Drain. Add back to pot with heat off and throw in 3/4 of the pesto that you made. Toss and put desired amount of pasta in bowls or plates.

Cut the chicken breasts on the bias into two inch strips. Toss in the remaining pesto until the strips are well coated. Lay 3-4 strips across the pasta. I garnished this with some amazing fresh tomatoes from Weaver’s Way and a basil leaf.  This is a dairy-free dish, and you can make it gluten-free simply by using GF pasta.

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Cashew Banana Muffins

This is a wonderful, quick and simple recipe that was sent to me a few years ago by a very nice woman from the message boards at Celiac.com (I’ve made a few small alterations).  These are gluten-free and dairy-free, delicious, and an easy, nutritious breakfast.  They’re a great way for Crohn’s patients to get low-impact protein.  If you’re not into cashews, by the way, you can use peanut butter, almond butter or any other nut butter.

Gluten-Free Cashew Banana Muffins

8 oz cashew butter

2 bananas

4 eggs

1 teas. baking soda

pinch salt

1 teas. vanilla

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp flaxseeds (optional)

1-2 Tbs softened butter or oil (so the muffins will come out of the
paper cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend all ingredients in a food processor until they make a smooth batter.  Pour into a muffin pan (either lined with muffin cups or well greased).  Bake at 350 degrees for *about* 15 minutes or until top is slightly firm.  (To test whether they are done, insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin.   If it comes out clean, they’re done.)  These freeze really well and you can take a couple out in the morning for lunch or the previous night for breakfast the next day.  They’re particularly good toasted and buttered, or with yogurt. Makes about 12 muffins.

By the way… technically, these aren’t muffins at all, but soufflés.  I won’t tell if you won’t.

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