Friday, December 30, 2011

Specific Carbohydrate Diet

After 2.5 years on a strict gluten-free diet and showing only marginal improvement to my skin condition of psoriasis, (although pain free from psoriatic arthritis), my naturopathic doctor has recommended the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).

I had grown frustrated with the worsening allergic reactions I was having to several new foods, and went in for a checkup about two months ago, seeing both my naturopath and a new acupuncturist.  For me this reaction is severe joint pain and swelling on my right side, and I am so sensitive to gluten that now anything made in a factory with gluten - as well as all "inflammatory" foods such as soy and the "nightshades" family now - gives me this reaction.

Both docs agreed I should go off the nightshades, refined sugars, and soy, and add some acupuncture, Chinese herbs and natural remedies (aloe juice, apple cider vinegar, and more) to my daily rituals to enduce some intestinal healing.  Since then I have seen a 50% reduction in the psoriasis and little-to-no pain, but not a complete disappearance as we'd hoped.

So now I begin the SC diet- which cuts out all processed foods and most specifically all carbohydrates.

Being gluten-free for 30 months, I have tried every other flour to replace the favorite foods I miss - bread, pizza, cake, muffins,etc. and this has perhaps hindered my progress of "healing the gut," in the words of my naturopath.  If we have "bad bugs" in our intestinal lining like I apparently do, our allergic reactions will never improve. We have to clean these out and start over, and when we do, we can actually go back to eating "whatever we want."  Now, I'm sure that I won't go back to eating "whatever."  Soda and store-bought pizza will probably never be on my shopping list again.  But those homemade herbed bread sticks from a local favorite restaurant, that smell heavenly as the basket approaches the table, just one of those would be nice in a few years -or sooner! 

For me the SCD makes sense, albeit a strict lifestyle, it's going back to the Paleolithic Diet, before we started processing everything.  I've always prided myself on eating natural and organic foods, but of course have some "cheats."  First and worst, I was a sugar-haulic. And as soon as I cut out refined and unnatural sugars I noticed an immediate difference.  I thought this would be the hardest step to take for me, and after the first week, it turned out to be the best one. I no longer crave anything sweet, and appreciate natural sugars much more. I can eat raw peanut butter without gagging, in fact, I now notice that it should taste like peanuts and not sugar. And getting through the holidays was much easier than I'd feared; Santa filled my stocking with treats from the healthfood store- like ginger chews and natural gummies- and I felt better for it!

That's not to say I won't miss my baking cabinet's array of flours for a year.  I will.  But I made my first batch of grain-free muffins this week and was extremely impressed.  I hope to buy a dehydrator and start making kale chips and fruit I can trust.

If you feel like being gluten-free is only kind-of working for you, start with Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall.  For me, this is a perfect time of year to be trying something new, and I will be welcoming in the new year with some of Elaine's and others' great recipes- trying homemade versions of the American staples like yogurt, ketchup, mayonnaise, and ice cream- and changing my line from "I'm gluten-free to I'm grain-free."  

For now here are some great blogs and links and recipe sites I've found, and I'll be sure to write some more when I know more...

Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet -
SCD Web Library -
Nourished and Nurtured: Easy Grain-free Breakfasts for Weekday Mornings -
The SCD girl -
Misty's SCD Blog -

All this goes without saying but I must, thanks to all those sweet ones that have and will support me through this, Michelle and Kate, the best doctors a girl with bad bugs could have, dear Mom, who always jumps on the bandwagon with me and sends things I can't find in Steamboat, my sweet husband who never acts like he is suffering through whatever is on our plates, and all those friends who send links, leads, and more (thanks Lisa for Nourished and Nurtured, what apt timing you have!).  I am blessed to have your help through this, because as everyone else with intestinal issues knows, sometimes it really isn't easy to be strict in a world of wheat and sugar.

Similar posts:
Healthy Living 4
Gluten Free for Psoriasis
Gluten Free Bread Mixes
Gluten Free Taste Test 2
Sore Throat Lozenges

Monday, October 31, 2011

Gluten Free Taste Test 2

Even though I'm a good baker and love to be in the kitchen, I still love the ease of a ready-made gluten free kit.  Many of my friends who want to go gluten-free complain about the high costs of buying several different types of flours, starches, along with xanthum gum, and they're right, it's a pain in the butt to keep up. Half the time I go into my cupboard, it seemed like I was missing one of the four key ingredients. 

So over the past year I've been taste-testing some goodies around the country and have some to share for those who have recently decided to go off wheat/gluten, or for those who, like me, get tired of making everything from scratch. When the temps drop, I love to start baking again, and these mixes have made it into my cabinet, and will surely repeat themselves soon!

Purely Elizabeth Apple Spice Muffin Mix
Whole Foods
I'm not vegan, so I went with the egg over the applesauce and went with the coconut oil over the veggie oil. Truly delicious alternative to wheat muffins, sure, but several other benefits: Vegan, flax seeds, real apples (you add), sea salt, organic and non-gmo. Hats off to Elizabeth Stein, Certified Holistic Nutrition Counselor, if I lived in NY I'd call you for a consult for sure. PE also gives 1% back to the planet, and if you've read any of my sustainability posts, this means a lot to me.

This one just came out of the oven, so if you're in the neighborhood, come on by before I eat them all. :)

King Arthur's Pizza Crust Mix vs. Udi's Pizza Crust
Depending on whether you want to roll out your own or just bake it, these two made the top of my list for pizza. Beau Jo's (a Colorado chain) was my first gluten free pizza so I thought it all had to taste like cardboard. Luckily that's not true.  In a hands down taste test, I think Udi's has the leg up, but both are good, and both, of course, are thin style. Both have a whole Gluten Free section on their sites and in stores that carry them, and both hold themselves to very high standards. Try King Arthur's chocolate cake if you've been missing out on that at weddings lately. Mmm. And Udi's bagels have topped Joan's just because they're easier and cheaper to get out here.

Betty Crocker??
Speaking of cake, because I LOVE it, Betty Crocker has stepped up. They've got a separate facility now and sponsor the Celiac Foundation. Way to go Betty.  Holding to her standards, this cake is light and fluffy and relatively easy to find now, most mainstream stores carry it, and it's price is comparable. But it's not just Betty Crocker, General Mills now boasts over 300 gluten free products in their line, so it's finally time we can say Gluten Free is Mainstream. Awesome.

I found one last gem in San Fran when I was there in September, and might have to order from their online store again soon.
Mariposa Almond Biscotti

Artisan-Crafted Gluten-Free
You can NOT tell the difference on these favorites. I thought I'd never find biscotti again. So when I saw these guys at the Fisherman's Wharf Market, I jumped out of my shoes.  They aren't suitable for people with nut allergies of course, but if you are just avoiding wheat, the ingredients are purely natural, unrefined, and organic!
Mariposa also made a doughnut we tried, but it was too dense to become a true favorite!

More of Andy's posts on Gluten Free

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Photography 201: What is HDR?

Recently I made the jump to HDR photography because a new real estate job required it.  For a few years now I've been impressed by the HDR results I've seen from my peers but haven't had the reason, other than hobby, to make the leap myself.  But once you do, it's hard to go back. Combining the light and dark exposures of a single image, HDR can capture both sunrise and sunset in the same image, that is if you have the patience for it.  Many pros think it's cheating, but as someone who grew up with the cumbersomeness (and failures) of shooting with film and the darkroom, I wouldn't label any new technology as cheating.

High dynamic range imaging (HDRI or HDR) is a technique that brings together the lightest and darkest exposures of an image into balance with computer processing through special programs.   If Ansel Adams were around, he'd be eating this system up, as it takes the time of burning and dodging images out of your "darkroom" schedule entirely. 

However to truly make use of an HDR program and the HDR technique, you must first understand the key of bracketing, (below) the gathering of many exposures for one image. Impossible without the stability of a tripod, this is the key tool to the HDR technique.  Set up your tripod, and take at least 3, preferably 6-9 exposures of the same image. Many SLR cameras can be set to take a bracket series with just one click of the shutter, but this isn't as vital as the tripod. I always set the 2-second timer however, so my finger on the shutter doesn't alter the camera's location by even a millimeter, as this will create "ghosts" in your final image.  Because the image needs to be stable, HDR is a technique usually reserved for still life only, although some pretty artistic, yet abstract, imagery can be created from any action within the image as well.

Additional software is also required for HDR, and the program of choice for beginners is Photomatix. While there are many programs to choose from, this one packs the most punch for the $100 price. Drag in 3-7 (or more) exposures of the same image, click through the easy processing to map the tones, and voila, a magestic combined image is formed. (below)

Depending on the time of day of shooting, HDR will create a glow around the areas of an image that are usually dark, while maintaining the brilliancy of the sky or other background.

When shooting interiors, it turns a relatively dark image of the home's rooms into a well balanced image where what's outside is in balance with what's inside. (below)

In addition to the tripod and Photomatix, the third key addition to your arsenal is a good wide angle lens.  Since I shoot on Canon, this is where my research always takes me, and their EF-S 10-22mm USM is one of the top ultra-wide-angle-lenses in its range for the price (around $800).  But my trick is to test a lens first for a project before I buy it, because doing so is extremely inexpensive through LensRentals.

And last, if your budget doesn't yet allow the gadgets and gizmos, HDR is now even available as a phone app for both Apple and Droid platforms.  After testing several versions, I stuck with ProHDR for my Droid because of it's high ratings and plethora of settings, and got some great images from the get-go. 

Now get shootin'!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Living and traveling "Zero Waste"

Upon taking position as Zero Waste Coordinator for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, as of today I have made a commitment to not only help Steamboat become the first Zero Waste resort town in Colorado, but to also begin tracking my own waste, my family's waste, and the waste, consumption, and impact of my fellow humans around me, wherever I may go, whenever possible.

I currently travel frequently for work because I am coordinating a huge training project for Amtrak trains, educating 8000 employees on better handling customers with disabilities. My work with this travel market over the last five years has led me into much research and study of travel and impact of and on travelers and our planet, great experience which I hope to bring into the world of sustainability and our impact on our precious planet.

Yesterday while traveling back from Miami to Steamboat, I thought to begin my mission of tracking in this new capacity.

To start, I always travel with my own drinking bottles/mugs. To me this is one of the easiest changes I committed to with the greatest obvious impact. Whether I purchase coffee, tea or chai, or just drink water or something else, I have vowed to use my own receptacle and never (or close) take a wax-lined paper cup or buy water in a plastic bottle. So yesterday I purchased chai at the Dallas airport: one cup, sleeve, and lid saved!  (I will also be making sure I notice what coffee companies use local beans and have a lower carbon footprint, since I have no idea where my chai at this coffee place came from.)

But then I realized, sometimes I get drinks on the plane, sometimes I don't. Yesterday I made the choice not to drink anything on the plane that required a plastic cup from the airline, and to never do so again unless I am certain they will recycle it. Many of them collect the soda cans in a bag like they are going to recycle it, but I don't know for sure where those go, and I don't know if they recycle cups.  So I turned down the plastic cup and had the flight attendant put water in my own water bottle. I usually fill my water bottle at the fountain in the terminal anyway (and the water on the plane does come in bottles, albeit bigger ones), but yesterday the fountain at the Miami terminal D was out of order, so I had no other choice. Just think, if everyone on the plane did this, that would be 150 cups saved times how many flights per day in the U.S. alone?? Ouch.

On my second flight I had the flight attendant put tea in the travel mug I had used that morning for chai, so I saved another cup, but thought about the tea bag and sugar packets being not quite as zero as possible, and made note to buy loose tea and travel with it so all I'm taking is the hot water. 

I then reflected on my entire week in Miami and realized I could make better choices based on company practices- remember your consumer dollar is your voting power!  Does the hotel use reusable glassware/plateware/silverware for their breakfast or complimentary happy hours?  Do they heat their pool unnecessarily? Do they have some kind of wasteful water features (mine had a huge waterfall and coy fish pond that looked awesome, but might have been wasting water, and made note to look into that)? Do they have low flush toilets and encourage reusing towels and linens during your stay? Some hotels have a great feature now with their electricity- the lights in the room are turned on and off with your key card in a slot by the door. You can't leave without that card, so you always turn the lights out. AWESOME!

Last, I reflected on my own practices while I'm away... What of these do you do?
  • Do you turn the lights off to save energy even if it's not your energy bill? 
  • Do you wait a flush or two between potty visits (#1 of course)?  
  • Do you turn the AC on low or off when you're not in the room?
  • Do you travel with your own snacks in reusable bags instead of buying small packets of items you snack on? (Think of all that aluminum waste for peanuts that the airlines are now phasing out!)  
  • Do you take a to-go container thinking you'll eat it tomorrow and then let it sit in your hotel refrigerator for the maid to throw away? 
  • Do you find restaurants that buy local, compost, or have other green practices? 
  • Do you reject taking styrofoam when it's offered? 
  • Do you rent a high MPG car, take public transit, or carpool in taxis? 
  • Do you offset your plane gas with offset dollars?
  • Do you use rechargeable batteries for your camera? 
  • Do you read the newspaper online or make sure the hotel recycles them?

These are just a few things to think about when you're on the road... stay tuned for more on my Zero Waste tracking!

Stay green, stay happy!