Sunday, December 29, 2013

Homemade Kimchee

For those who don't know about kimchee (kimchi) and other fermented foods, now you can have a quick, easy at home how-to to bring kimchee into your everyday life.

This recipe is modified from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfillipo.

I use my Cuisinart food processor with the single, slicing blade and grating blade for making kimchee, all can be done by hand however (if you don't have a Cuisinart food processor, by all means tell someone close to you how much you NEED one pronto!).

Try as always to get organic whenever possible.

2 large carrots, shredded

Put in a bowl.

1 large head green cabbage, sliced thin (reserve a few clean, outside leaves)

I quarter my cabbage head and put it in the processor. Put 1/3 of the sliced cabbage in a bowl and add 1 T kosher salt. Squeeze the cabbage with your hands and work the salt into the sliced cabbage, continue to squeeze until the cabbage softens slightly and becomes watery.

Add another 1/3 of the sliced cabbage to the bowl. I normally slice in the food processor in stages, so slice another whole quarter of cabbage and add to massaged cabbage. Squeeze cabbage again waiting for the cabbage to release water. 

Add the last amount of cabbage and 1 T. more of kosher salt, massage cabbage. Set aside.

If you like heat, take 2 jalapenos and roast over an open flame. If you are avoiding the nightshade family, omit the jalapenos. If you have a gas burner stove, blacken the skin of both jalapenos until all sides are charred. When cool to the touch, run under cool water, using your fingers to gently pull the charred skin off the jalapenos. Try to remove as much skin as possible and rinse away any extra pieces of skin. Depending on how much heat you like, slice the jalapenos whole into julienne strips, or deseed prior to slicing.

In the massaged cabbage bowl add sliced jalapenos, 4 cloves minced garlic, the shredded carrots and a sprinkling of black pepper, toss with hands until well mixed.

Take 2 clean, dry 32 oz. mason jars and fill with kimchee mixture, pressing firmly down as you fill, packing the kimchee into the bottom. Fill to just the neck of the jar and push kimchee down making the liquid raise up and over the veggies. Take the reserved piece of cabbage leaf and push on top of the veggies, submerging all in the liquid. Fill both jars.

Set jars in a cool, dark place with a piece of wax paper draped over the top, do not put lids on the jars.

Let the kimchee sit out for 2 weeks, checking every few days to ensure the mixture is still submerged in the liquid. If it is not take your clean, dry hand and push down on the cabbage leaf.

If mold forms, don't be alarmed, this is normal, scrape it off.

After the two weeks, which will make your house smell funky (just a heads up), remove the top cabbage leaf, cover with a lid and refrigerate. The smell will be off putting at first, but the taste and the smell are nothing alike.

Kimchee will keep in the fridge for months.

I eat kimchee as a condiment. Add it to an Asian dish with veggies and rice. Or on a salad for an extra sour crunch. Or as a quick snack right out of the jar.

I will often times whip up a quick batch with leftover cabbage from a cole slaw or fish tacos, along with any other veggies I have laying around. Your gut will thank you.

Enjoy kimchee often.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Do I Really Need Meat Tonight?

I came across this article, well worth reading, Half Of Supermarket Chicken Harbors Superbugs, Consumer Reports about the chicken we consume, especially for those of us who eat limited meat, and turn to chicken as a less "offensive" (or so we thought) protein source. This article will definitely make you think.

The thing is if we think about it, while chicken might be easier to digest for us, say than red meat is, commercial chicken production is one of the worst livestock conditions for the animal, and ultimately the consumer. Commercial chicken is kept in very close quarters and in very tiny containers. I have heard that the inside of commercial chicken coops are so toxic that workers must wear respirators in order to work inside them, due to the horrendous fecal and urine fumes. Close conditions like these are rampant breeding grounds for bacteria and infection, hence the use of antibiotics being standard policy for commercial chicken production.

Because there is such a large demand, especially in the US, for meat products, commercial livestock plants are really the only "efficient" way to keep up with consumer demand, but the real question is why are we willing to sacrifice our health just to have meat on our plates each night? (And this isn't even addressing the issue of the animals' health)

The whole scenario is a double-edged sword, we consume a lot of meat products, so therefore the industries must keep up with demand, and in order to do that, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are major players in the decision process of how our food is handled. By default most commercially handled, processed and packaged meats are at some point given antibiotics, and lots of them. Antibiotics make sense, with the efficiency, ie cramped, spaces the animals can't afford to be sick, so antibiotics are often mixed into the feed to eliminate the frustrating, and expensive, hassle of sick animals. Antibiotics also ensure that if one animal gets sick the rest in the pen/crate won't get sick either.

While the article focuses primarily on the bacteria of the raw product, either in the package, during handling or not being cooked thoroughly; we all knew this though, chicken equals salmonella, we all should handle it with care and sanitize all surfaces that could potentially come into contact with any chicken goo. But the major question, I see, and is only briefly mentioned in the article, is what effect does all those antibiotics have on us, the people eating those raised from birth-antibiotic-laded animals that end up on our dinner plates night after night after night?

Ever eat commercial meat and feel aggravated after? Ever eat commercial meat and feel particularly emotional? Ever even noticed.... If you have I guarantee you, you are feeling the effects of a large dose of antibiotics. If you haven't, maybe now you might. We live in an antibiotic world. We are prescribed antibiotics at the slightest hint of an infection, we use antibacterial sanitizers on a daily basis to "clean" our hands, there is antibiotics in our food, we are basically consuming antibiotics all the time. And yet there are more bacteria and germs we learn about each day to be even more afraid of. "Pass the Purel please!" So this begs the question, what happens when you actually need antibiotics? Say you have a major infection and you are prescribed antibiotics, but they don't work? The dose is upped, the strain changed, ultimately if you are the average antibiotic consuming American, when you really need antibiotics, they won't work for you. "The more antibiotics that are doled out to people and animals, especially when given at low doses over a long period of time, the faster that microbes can evolve and outsmart those drugs, experts warn." With all the sanitizing products available in our everyday lives, we keep trying to wipe out the bacteria and germs, without thinking wait, maybe I can prevent them from effecting me in the first place, by thinking about what I eat and my lifestyle choices.

So what does this mean for you? Be aware. Know what you are eating! Be conscious of the meat you buy. And if you can't afford the antibiotic free, organic meat, maybe you don't need to eat meat that night. Americans eat on average 185 pounds of meat each year, when you figure the recommended portion size is 7 oz., you are looking at a minimum of 7 oz every day of the year, plus 57 extra meals of consuming meat! This means even further that we are eating antibiotics 423 times a year, and that is just from meat! This isn't taking into fact all the dairy products that come from the same commercial feed lots and the same animals that are injected with antibiotics from birth. And then we expect the antibiotics to work for us when we are sick!? How can they? We already have a steady dose of antibiotics coursing through our bodies at any given time.

What I walked away from this article thinking was, eat less meat, eat less dairy (of which I eat very little of as it is, but I need to almost remove them entirely) and if and when you do eat meat or dairy, buy antibiotic free, free range, organic and cook it completely, and if you can't do all those things, then say to yourself, do I really need meat tonight?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Is Healthcare Really About Health?

My Mom went in for a standard colonoscopy recently. Her first, as she is 50 and her father had colon cancer, so she is deemed a standard candidate for the recommended preventative procedure. And we agreed. Often approaching health from a preventative standpoint we felt that it would be a smart choice to rule out the "what if." According to medical professionals a colonoscopy is a standard non-invasive procedure, however the weekend that ensued, for us, after my Mom's colonoscopy was anything less than non-invasive.

Extremely nervous to even have to go to a hospital, my Mom even had me at home to avoid having to give birth in the "unnatural" hospital environment, just the concept of the colonoscopy was nerve-wracking for her. The whole procedure starts with a prep, which involves laxatives, fasting and a large amount of Gatorade. Most people we spoke to said the prep was the easy part. For my Mom the prep was horrendous. The forced flushing of your system is violent, sugar-overdosed and stomach-retching just to clean out your intestines and colon. It seems a more natural and soothing way to cleanse would have been a 3-5 day juice cleanse, but this was not a recommended prep option, or at least was not allowed by the facility performing the procedure. 

Which brings me to another point, alternative options were not even provided to my Mom. She was unaware that there are less invasive options such as a fecal immunochemical test, which we have only learned of, after doing research after this ordeal. You would think that medical professionals could provide patients with a list of alternative options? But sadly they don't, it is on you, the patient to do your research prior to scheduling a procedure.

After the retching clean out there is an inundation of medications from pain medication to full anesthetization just to stick a camera in your colon to see. They send you home with no medical recommendations other than don't drink alcohol or make any major decisions. Your entire intestinal and gut flora has been disrupted, but the subject of re-establishing a healthy gut flora is not even covered. What amazes me through the whole process is not once did the medical professionals ask about my Mom's lifestyle and eating habits. They didn't ask about her regular bowel movements. They just sugar-hopped her up for "the cleanse" (which was more sugar than she has ever consumed in one sitting, her bladder was hyper-active and her urethra extremely aggravated to the point of feeling like a yeast/bladder infection, which mind you she never gets). They didn't know that she has a bowel movement every morning, as soon as she wakes, no problems, no complications, clean and wipe once or twice, done. They didn't know she eats a mostly vegetarian, organic diet completely devoid of typical American foods, never processed, and certainly never artificially sugared and over caffeinated. They also failed to know that her "medications," which she so kindly wrote on a sheet of paper, "just in case," where not at all medications. On her list was iron, she is anemic, at times, especially after menstruation, acidophilus as a digestive aide and a daily multi-vitamin. It seems to me that many questions could have been answered, prior to "the cleanse" and subsequent camera insertion that would have potentially led to alternative methods of inspection.

In all her searching, mind you we are in Maine (i.e. resources are limited), there was no alternative to the colonoscopy. But I have to believe that a juice cleanse with organic, green, home-pressed juices for 3 days to a week, would have been less retching and uncomfortable for her. Furthermore, it seems to me that she could have had a colonic, far less invasive, with a small scope inserted during the process to see any potential polyps. Why does it need to be surgical? Why does there need to be medications involved? And why, after your entire colon has been stripped of all it's happy healthy flora, could they not replace it? Commonly with a colonic they take a version of "green juice" and make you hold it in your colon as long as you can, to reintroduce healthy flora back into your system. Couldn't a colonoscopy be treated in a more holistic way like a colonic?

To complicate her already stressful albeit "standard procedure" colonoscopy visit, she woke the next morning doubled over in excruciating pain. My Mom is not a pain medication person, she did her colonoscopy with only 75 mcg. fentanyl, standard doses are 100-500 mcg. and chose against the "twilight drug". As a whole she never takes even an aspirin for menstrual pain. She just deep yoga-breaths through it, and takes it easy. So when she said she was in pain, she was in real pain; which led us to the ER.

Once in the ER, the medical professionals wanted to give her pain medication, per usual, and she obliged against. I realized through this whole ordeal my Mom is an anomaly. People like their pain meds and willingly take them, rather than breathe through the pain. While I by no means imply we all just need to suck it up, myself included, there are times where pain meds are needed, it is unfortunate that alternatives are not offered for those patients, like my Mom, who choose to not be medicated. I think it it really interesting that a lot of the staff didn't understand other methods to make her more comfortable. The obvious ones to me were adjustable lighting. There is only the garish, harsh hospital lights. I understand they are necessary for examination, but there seems to be a need for calmer more soothing lights for the many hours spent sitting around waiting. It is known that lighting can greatly effect some one's mood and anxiety. Hospitals could be a lot more soothing if simply, alternative lights options we available.

After running a urine test and a abdomen exam, her blood was drawn. My Mom's white blood cell count was high, which led to a concern for the ER doctor that she had an infection. He requested a CT scan which required her to consume a liquid to get a proper read on the scan, as well as inject her with a similar liquid. Concerned again, with the inundation of sugar after the recent dreaded colonoscopy prep, Mom asked what would happen after the liquids passed through her system. We never really got a straight answer which led us to believe they didn't really know, which also made us realize that no one really ever asks. People just take what the doctors give us, no questions asked. That level of "trust" we put in our medical professional's hands is astounding.

The liquid she needed to drink for the scan was mixed with Crystal Light, again more sugar. She asked if the solution could just be mixed with water, which shocked the ER staff, but they provided her with a solution, which much to her surprise just tasted like sugar water. The solution is sweet already, but unknowingly (having never tried it before themselves, Mom was the guinea pig for the ER staff) they by default, mix the sugar solution with more sugar!

The CT scan showed acute appendicitis and in order to have immediate surgery we needed to take an ambulance to a larger hospital an hour away that was properly staffed on a Saturday evening at 10 PM. Exhausted, hungry, emotional and drained we got into the ambulance, me in the front seat with one of the EMTs, Mom in the back on a stretcher with the other. Out of all the medical professionals we spoke to, all said that the appendicitis just happened to be an odd coincidence right after having a colonoscopy, there is no medical research showing a connection. But we both found a few things interesting. Everyone we spoke to that had had an appendectomy, each had had a medical procedure prior to the emergency appendectomy, some within days, others, within weeks of the initial procedure: wisdom teeth extracted, ovarian cyst removed, etc. It seems even further unclear what the appendix exists for, yet we cut it out anyway. Medical professionals don't seem to know and Google provides two options: 1. That when humans ate a more vegetarian diet the appendix functioned as an additional digestive aid in breaking down the extra cellulose intake of the plant matter and 2. The appendix functions as additional immune booster, the appendix may be a dedicated environment for friendly bacteria which facilitate digestion and fight infection. The second explanation makes the most logical sense to us, especially after hearing other's tales about a surgical procedure "coincidentally" coinciding with an appendectomy. I know the medical world functions based on medical research, the coincidence seems more than just that, and intuitively it makes sense.

While in the hospital, as accommodating as they tried to be, it really is not an environment conducive to health. The lights are bright, noises loud, limited exposure to natural light and a nearly impossible environment for rest. While I appreciate the nurses and doctors try their best to be as accommodating as possible, it is seems to me, hospitals exist to support the magic of the surgeons, and the rest of the medical staff tries to provide a less hospitable version of hospitality service.

Between the hourly vital monitoring and constant noise, furthermore, not accommodating family members (everyone knows, even medical research shows, people heal quicker when they are surround by loved ones), the forceful inundation of medications and the sheer disconnect of health, wellness and good food is saddening, hospitals are a disjointed place where health by intuition's standard is not considered, only health by medical standards are addressed. 

Hospitals have dietitians on staff but I am not sure what the dietitian does. Being a gluten intolerant, extremely sugar sensitive, vegetarian they brought her coffee with sugar, ginger ale soda, apple juice and chicken bouillon broth! She was given caffeine, sugar, sugar, meat and gluten! Had she been any less conscious and had I not been there (which I would imagine happens for many people in the hospital, being alone, because hospitals are not conducive to family staying around) she would have gotten all the things her body can't handle, especially vulnerable right after getting out of surgery. Furthermore, she hadn't eaten a proper meal in over 3 days, between the colon prep and then the excruciating pain from the acute appendicitis, and surgery prep, the most she had had in days was water, saline IV fluid and sugar. The poor woman was hungry. When the doctor had given her the OK to eat, she ate what I had brought for her; organic, plain yogurt, fresh organic fruit and liquid acidophilus (with the hope of helping her gut flora re-establish balance). 

The older woman who shared the room with my Mom had had two heart attacks and had now had very painful-sounding pneumonia. She too was limited to the paltry liquid diet of soda, juice, coffee with sugar and beef bullion. She was frail and hungry and was angry that she was unable to eat. The next day her family came to visit and insisted that the hospital feed her "real food". What was brought to her, broke my heart, because while her comfort might have been considered, her health was not. She was brought more coffee with sugar and now cream, 7Up, ice cream and jello. When asked afterward by her family, she reported she felt better now that she had some "real" food. The thing is, she just was given more sugar, so if anything she was on a momentary sugar high, which of course feels great, until the glycemic index crashes. Furthermore, sugar is horrible for congestion and especially pneumonia. Intuitively this makes sense and it is often recommended to stay away from sugar when you have a common cold, let alone severe pneumonia. It shocks me that the hospital dietitian recommended that sugar, caffeine and dairy were the best foods to be putting in this poor woman's sick body?

The thing is there are no alternative options. Even the cafeteria available to the family visiting is sad. Everything is pre-made, pre-packaged, sugared, salted and fat laden. Hoping for something green and fresh, well there are salads of iceberg lettuce, topped with cheese, croutons and a creamy dressing and maybe a few pieces of sad, bruised fruit for those that think to reach for them.

This whole experience makes me wonder, how is there such a disconnect? How does our healthcare system not consider good, clean food a part of health? The health of the patients nor their family is considered and that is apparent by the measly food options available. If someone is sick or are in recovery, provide them with homemade clean chicken or vegetable broth. Dark leafy vegetables and clean juices, not just sugary fruit juice. There should be juicers constantly whirring, pumping out parsley, kale, ginger, celery juice, the nutrients and health benefits that come from consuming this when your well is astronomically healthful, imagine the benefits when you are in recovery! The fact that a measly iceberg lettuce salad topped with fat, dairy and gluten is the only "green" option available and that the simplicity of a fresh garden salad with a variety of spring greens and bright multicolored veggies and herbs would knowingly provide such a wonderful foundation for recovery.

Hospitals don't factor in the known amenities, aside from food, that aide in recovery and it is disheartening that these options aren't even available. The consideration of natural light, alternatives to medications, such as soothing lighting, warm compresses, calming massage and touch and accommodation for loved ones willing to be by the patients' side until better, would all help make the hospital experience more pleasant; and subsequently would send people home quicker, decreasing the cost of having patients in beds for days, weeks, or months on end. If each patient was provided with a complete service of healthcare, there would actually be less people requiring healthcare.

I understand that such a healthcare overhaul is a big undertaking. The staff and nurses try their best now with what is available to them, to be as accommodating as possible. It just seems on an administrative board level these accommodations should be considered more in the all inclusive realm of providing healthcare.

While both Mom and I are grateful to the surgeon to removing her appendix before it ruptured and the kindness of the many nurses and doctors we met between the colonoscopy procedure to the first ER and the second hospital, we both walked away with a pact to ourselves and each other. Live clean. Eat clean. Listen to your intuition. Take care of this one body and try your damnedest to not need "healthcare" in anyway. While at some point we will need to possibly rely on surgeons, we will both try our best to stay as far away, by taking proper care of ourselves so that we don't need to step foot in a hospital anytime soon. 

Also in the mean time, we have to hope, and would surely imagine we are not the only ones who have experienced such shocking disconnection between healthcare and health; that possibly facilities around the world do actually provide healthcare that is more in tune with our concept of health. We will continue to keep searching for such facilities. It is just a shame that the standard form of care pays little attention to the complete view of health.