Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Over the years, I have had a number of food allergies.  As a child  I always felt cheated. I was allergic to both strawberries, and (believe it or not) chocolate.  Both foods were problematic for me from a health standpoint, causing me uncomfortable hives, facial swelling, and an ever present itching in my throat. It also proved to be an inconvenience for me emotionally, in not being able to eat the same goodies as everyone else.  While my family enjoyed a huge serving of strawberry shortcake teeming with strawberries, I was relegated to eating the angel food cake with a dollop of whipped cream.  After Trick or Treating at Halloween, my parents took all of the chocolate bars and chocolate covered confections out of my bag, and gave them to my brothers and sister.  Of course, they were very happy to pawn off their jelly beans, apples, and stale popcorn balls on me, in exchange for my bounty. Picture a sad little boy with a popcorn ball watching longingly as his siblings enjoyed the creamy goodness of his favorite chocolate candies. 

To this day, I HATE popcorn balls!

Fortunately for me, I grew out of those allergies.  Of course as I got older, I developed sensitivities to other things.  In our day and age, food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies have become common with a number of people.  But what exactly is an allergy anyway?  

According to the National Library of Medicine, an allergy is an immune response or reaction to substances that are usually not harmful.  

The immune system normally protects the body against harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses. It also reacts to foreign substances called allergens, which are generally harmless and in most people do not cause a problem.  But in a person with allergies, the immune response is oversensitive. When it recognizes an allergen, the immune system launches a response. Chemicals such as histamines are released. These chemicals are what causes the adverse reactions in the body which are referred to as allergy symptoms.

Common allergens include:

Insect venom
Pet and other animal dander

Some people have allergy-like reactions to hot or cold temperatures, sunlight, or other environmental factors. Sometimes, even friction (rubbing or roughly stroking the skin) can cause these symptoms.

An allergy is not usually inherited per se, or passed down through the family line. However, both family genetics and environmental factors can play a role.  If either of your parents have allergies, the chance is likely you will have allergies. The chance is greater if your mother has allergies.

Allergies may make certain medical conditions, such as sinus problems, eczema, and asthma, worse.
Once allergies have developed, treating the allergies and carefully avoiding allergy triggers can prevent reactions in the future.

Food Intolerance vs. Food Allergies

Many people have what is called a food intolerance. This term refers to heartburn, cramps, belly pain, or diarrhea that can occur after they eat foods such as: Corn products, or milk and dairy products.  These people are the folks you hear saying, “I like____, but it doesn’t like me.”  While the symptoms of a food intolerance can be troublesome, these symptoms pale in comparison with those who suffer from the less common but more serious food allergies.

For example, some people suffer from what is called Celiac disease.  They are highly allergic to Wheat products because they contain gluten.  The consumption of a small amount would be enough to send them to the local hospital emergency room with breathing issues, and a host of other symptoms.  How small an amount?  About the size of ten mustard seeds, or about 30 times the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

If you develop symptoms shortly after eating a certain food, you may have a food allergy. Key symptoms of a food allergy include hives, a hoarse voice, and wheezing.

Other symptoms that may occur include:

Abdominal pain
Difficulty swallowing
Itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, or any other area
Light-headedness or fainting
Nasal congestion
Runny nose
Swelling (angioedema), especially of the eyelids, face, lips, and tongue
Shortness of breath
Stomach cramps

Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but a few foods are the main culprits. The most common food allergies are to:

Eggs (mostly in children)
Fish (older children and adults)
Milk (mostly in children)
Peanuts (people of all ages)
Shellfish such as shrimp, crab, and lobster (people of all ages)
Soy (mostly in children)
Tree nuts (people of all ages)
Wheat (mostly in children)
Food additives -- such as dyes, thickeners, and preservatives -- can cause either a food allergy or intolerance reaction.

While there are treatments available to combat other allergies, the only proven treatment for a food allergy is to avoid the food altogether. It is also very important to read the ingredient label on the package, or inquire about ingredients at a restaurant before making the choice to eat it.  

As I have become more attuned to my body over the years, I am finding myself to be more and more sensitive to foods that contain artificial ingredients and preservatives.  In fact, I had to stop eating a popular donut shaped breakfast cereal because it caused me to break out in hives.   In this age of the skyrocketing amount of convenience foods being produced that are loaded with chemicals and artificial ingredients, more and more people have reported similar symptoms.  

If you suspect that you might have a food allergy or intolerance, be smart, and consult a healthcare professional for advice.  Be even smarter by making informed decisions about the food choices you make for you and your family!

Friday, July 26, 2013

2Build4Ward organization making a difference in the world.

Over the past four years, Frank and I have learned the importance of thinking globally and acting locally.  I heard that expression some years ago and often wondered how I could do that.  In truth, I wasn't all that sure I even knew what that meant.

In time, it became very clear to me that it is possible to be effective in the world in small ways that are meaningful not only to myself, but to others that I may never meet in my lifetime.  Let me give you an example.

Many of the ingredients we use in the Winter Goddess Foods products are fair trade. In choosing to do so, we knew that while we may never meet the individuals who grow and harvest the chocolate we use, we still can contribute to their well-being.

We can all contribute globally by acting locally.  More specifically we can learn about non-profit organizations like 2Build 4Ward International. (2x4 Int'l)

2x4 Int'l is an organization which brings together a number of motivated and skilled people who believe strongly in helping where help is needed.  

The mission of  2x4 Int'l is:   To partner with donors, community-based projects and disadvantaged groups to support projects in education, health, housing and small business development. 

Children of Tuxpan, Mexico

Believing that we can all play a part in making the world a better place for all, is an important first step.  

Site for future orphanage in Tuxpan, Mexico

While  2x4 Int'l operates out of California, there is a satellite group of individuals in Minnesota that make it their mission to support the good works of this nonprofit.

I'm proud to be a member of the Minnesota contingency.  We are planning a variety of fundraising activities in the near future.  All donations (100%) will go directly to various projects that support communities that are disadvantaged.

If you are interested in knowing more about  2x4 Int', click here and take a look at what it is all aboutFind out about the various projects that need attention and support.  Find out how you can help.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Don't allow Pain to rule your life!

Over the last few weeks I have received a bit of a revelation about physical pain that I would like to share with you.  I have been dealing with chronic and acute pain issues since 2003.  One of the biggest things I have learned is that pain is insidious in its affects.  Pain, like fear, is sand in the machinery of life, in that it prevents you from doing the things that you want to do, in favor of dealing with its discomfort.  Pain is the great thief that steals the joy away from life with every throb, stab, jolt or burning sensation.  But it can be managed, or healed to the point where you can get back to enjoying life once again, or at least have a better quality of life.

Face it.  Living with physical pain sucks!  That is the reality of the situation.  It hurts!  It is a distraction!  It is the last place you want to be.  And if you are dealing with pain in your life, the last thing that you want to hear is some well meaning person, who is not going through what you are going through, telling you, “It’ll be alright.”  No, that doesn’t help at all.  Physical pain is not ethereal.  It is a real, quantifiable condition.  Pain not only affects your body, but it affects your mind, your will, your emotional well being, and your personal relationships and interactions with others.

The biggest problem with pain is that it can render you to the point where all you are IS your pain.  Pain becomes everything you talk about, everything you think about, and ultimately your whole life becomes nothing more that you being wrapped up in your pain.  That does not have to be the case!  No matter how badly you hurt, pain can be managed.  You do not deserve this!  You are NOT your pain! You can find a way to get through this.    (And for all you “tough guys” and “tough gals” out there, there is no reward for toughing out your pain. There is no benefit to be gained by denying the existence of your pain.  Pain must be dealt with.)

There are a number of modalities available for pain treatment.  There is conventional medicine (including specialists and sub specialties), herbal medicine, homeopathy, massage, acupuncture, Healing Touch, and a myriad of others.  However, NONE of them will help you unless you first get your mind right. (Or as I was once told, “Change your stinkin’ thinkin’!”)  You must recognize that you do not deserve to be in pain.  Your pain is not your fault, neither is it a punishment for something you did ten years ago. Your pain is not indicative of your character, nor is it a reflection of who you are as a person.  Your pain is just that…your Pain!

Since you are more than your pain, why talk about it all the time?  Believe it or not there is much more to your life than your pain.  Think about the wonderful things in your life; the things that you are thankful for.  Talk about these things instead.  The surest way to alienate your family and friends is to go on and on about how badly you hurt…all...the...time.  It’s not that they don’t care about you, it’s just that they've heard it so many times.  Talk about more hopeful things, or talk about their lives instead.  As you approach life more in this way, believe me, you’ll get all the support you could ever need. 
Another thing you must recognize is that you must allow yourself to have a positive outlook when approaching your healthcare.  It is a known medical fact that if you allow yourself to be hopeful toward a solution to your situation, your outcome will be much better, and you WILL feel better.  I can promise you, if you retain a negative mindset regarding your pain, you will without a doubt remain miserable, and more likely become worse.  Why not give yourself a chance to feel better?

 You must also decide to be an active participant in your health care.  That means having the determination to seek out other solutions when conventional medicine doesn't cut it for you.  While most of conventional medicine has grudgingly admitted to the benefits of “alternative medicine,” there are still some practitioners who still consider it to be “voodoo medicine.”  The expression, “You’re the Doctor” should not be used as a euphemism for, “I will relinquish my own free will and do what ever you suggest, even if it makes me feel worse.”  Sometimes a different approach can be exactly what you need to feel better.  Remember, the Doctor ultimately works for you.  You have the right to try something else if your current strategy isn’t working.

Case in point, for years I have been suffering from sciatica and low back pain which conventional medicine was mostly ineffective in treating.  Instead, I was able to treat them both using acupuncture, which eliminated my sciatic pain and diminished my back pain to almost nothing.  Conversely, while acupuncture worked well on these ailments, it does not regenerate tissue or bone.  In the case of my arthritic hip, conventional medicine (in the form of a hip replacement) was the appropriate choice.  In either case, I chose what I thought would be best for me. 

Remember to allow yourself a bit of enjoyment in your life.  Do not let your pain isolate you from your family and friends.  Go out.  Visit.  Do what you can do.  Enjoy as much fun as you can.  It will make you feel better, and it can also be a welcome distraction from your pain.

I have included this website which offers some great resources for dealing with pain, and with your doctor.  While it talks mainly about conventional therapies, I hope the information is helpful to you.

Finally, I offer you this little piece that I have written about my own pain.  I hope it can help you as well.

 Pain is a drama queen, always clamoring for your attention, always calling to you to listen to its voice. Pain is a liar that tries to convince you that there is something fundamentally wrong with you, and that you are to blame for your condition. Pain is the succubus that steals away your power, while at the same time seduces you into feeling sorry for yourself and causes you to utter the words of self doubt and despair, "Why me?"  Pain is the Devourer that seeks to consume and control you, until all you talk about is your condition, until the way you live revolves around it, until all that is left of you is your Pain. 

I see you for who you are now, and I will always be on guard when you announce your presence. I will do everything in my power to rob you of strength, to thwart your designs, to weaken you, until you are nothing but a tiny noxious mist; a mouse fart that blows past my body, and with a wave of my hand fades into nothingness. You no longer have power over me. You no longer have a place in my life. Begone!



Friday, July 19, 2013

Do I choose multigrains or whole grains, and what's the difference anyway??

all manner of grains
It isn't news to anyone that we should be consuming fiber in our diet.  There are many foods that contain fiber, such as fruit and vegetables.  Another source is through grains.  For those who are not gluten intolerant, adding grains to your daily intake can be very good. 

I, for one, have always been a bit confused when it comes to words like multigrain, whole grain, whole wheat, and bleached flour.  So I decided to do my homework and find out the LD (low down)on this food.  It turns out that there is much to know about the humble grain.

The first important fact is that whole grain and multigrain are not interchangeble terms.

grains of wheat
Composition of grain
To begin with, whole grain simply means that all the parts of the grain are kept intact and consumed. For example a whole grain of wheat, often called a wheat berry is composed of the bran, the germ and the endosperm.  If you are eating a truly whole grain, you will eat all of its parts, reaping the benefits of  all of its included vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Multigrain means simply that more than one grain is used, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the whole grain is used.  It is possible that the multigrain item you are considering is actually made using refined white flour that does not include the germ and the bran.  In that case there is little nutritional value. Coloring can also be added to the product to give the impression that the whole grain is used.  Please read the label and look for the word "whole" as in whole grain oats, wheat, rye, etc.

For those of you who like your white bread, be advised that the only part of the grain that is used in making it is the endosperm.  The endosperm is the largest part of the grain, and is comprised of mostly starch, with little to no nutritional value.  Bleached flour is the "cleanest" looking of all the flours.  Can you guess how it is made so white?  I'm sorry to say that when they say bleached, they mean bleached!  It is literally processed using chlorine bleach.   If you are making your favorite pie crust or homemade bread, consider using unbleached flour instead.  That way you aren't putting the added chemicals into your fine baking.

As with all foods bought in the store, the best way to know what you are getting is to read the labels.  For the longest time, I wasn't a label reader.  When I began my quest to be better informed about what I was putting in our company products and in my home cooked meals, I started  reading and, let me tell you, what I read opened my eyes.  

I sincerely encourage you to have your eyes wide open as well when you make your purchases.  Don't forget that it is market season, so buy local and buy fresh.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Natural protection from Mosquitoes Part 2

Last week I shared information about a natural homemade mosquito repellent that works well and is inexpensive to make.  Did you know that there are plants that you can actually grow in your back yard that repel mosquitoes naturally?  Some of them produce the essential oils that I spoke of in my last post, but there are others as well.  All of them are effective enough to chase the little buggers away.

Plants such as marigold, citronella or catnip can make great additions as landscaping borders and around water features. In addition to growing them around your property, another good way to use these plants is to grow some of them in pots.  That way you can move them around and place them strategically around your backyard or patio and create a mosquito "no fly zone."  Between this natural buffer zone and using the homemade bug spray I discussed in my last post, you should be mosquito free!  If they ever get really thick, and you've forgotten your spray, you can actually break off a piece of your plant and rub the juice on your wrists and behind the ears.



Mosquito Repelling Plants

Citronella Grass (Use the oil from Citronella. Also, ensure that the plant you’re buying is  not just a “Citronella Plant”  “CItronella Geranium,” or “Mosquito Plant” as these are different varieties and while they may smell similar to Citronella, they are far less effective.)
Catnip (reported to be up to 10 times more effective than DEET)
Neem Trees
Lemon balm (a good, cheaper alternative to Citronella)
Lemon Grass
Lemon Thyme (reported to be about 60 percent effective as DEET)
Tea tree 

While not every plant on this list will be able to grow in your area, I am fairly certain that at least a few can.  Check with your local plant nursery, flower store or bend the ear of that green thumbed neighbor of yours who is in the know.  

"No mosquitoes here!"
"None here either!"

Now, if you live in the Arctic Circle or the Gobi Desert, you probably won't be able to grow these plants.  Of course, it's a safe bet that you don't have to worry about mosquitoes either! 


Friday, July 12, 2013

How do you tell a Vegan from a Vegetarian? No, this is not a joke.

I thought I would take some time to better understand the culinary life-style of a Vegan and a Vegetarian.  It's a bit more complicated than it looks like on the surface.  At Winter Goddess Foods, we come across a wide variety of individuals with varying degrees of tolerance for some ingredients.  One of the reasons we developed a Vegan Chai was because we heard from enough people who are vegan or are lactose intollerant that they cannot drink our Tradistional Traquility Chai due to the organic non-fat dried milk it contains.  So we set out the make a chai for that community.  This got us to thinking.  Do we really understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian.  It turns out that we did not know the difference.  So we did some reseach and learned a thing or two.

See vegan link above
To be vegan means that one eliminates all animal products from her or his diet, including dairy.  Those who wholly embrace the vegan life style will likely not wear leather and avoid products made from animals, including wool, silk, down and some cosmetics where animal testing was conducted.  The philosophy here is that animals are not meant to be exploited by human for any purpose.

See vegetarian link above
To be a vegetarian means that one eliminates meat, fish and poultry from her or his diet, but might eat dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt, or eggs.  Being a vegetarian may or may not be less philisophical as with vegans.  Sometimes meat is taken from the diet for health reason.  Within the vegetarian community there are sub divisions.  For example, lacto-vegetarians will eat dairy but not eggs.  Ovo-vegetarians will eat eggs, but not dairy.  And lacto-ovo vegetarians will eat both eggs and dairy products.  The difference in the sub groups may be moral choices, or dietary needs, or personal preference.
There are many studies that draw different conclusions about humans having meat as a part of their diet.  Here at Winter Goddess Foods, we are not interested in talking anyone in or out of anything, but rather would like to have and to give a clear explanation of how individuals nourish themselves.  Everyone knows that eating a good amount of fresh vegetables and fruits daily is extremely important.  

So if you are having some chicken tonight with your meal you may want to consider pairing that with a lovely caprese salad and some juicy fresh strawberries.  

If you are a vegan, make sure you are getting the right amount of B12 in your diet.  Why?  Because without the inclusion of meats and dairy you are missing out on those essential vitamens.

If you are a vegetarian, make sure that you are getting enough protein through eggs and milk.  Why?  Because protein is essential to a healthy body.

Lets all remember that there are many ways to be healthy....seems to me that shopping locally and eating as much fresh food as possible is the best way to go.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Food Myths

Terry and I are taking a well deserved break for the Fourth of July.  We will be back to the blog next Wednesday.  For your enjoyment today, I am including an article from about commonly held myths regarding healthy eating, written by Jonathan Benson. It is a good read, and well worth your time.  Blessings to you all, and we'll see you  next week!

Frank and Terry


Don't be brainwashed into believing these common healthy eating myths...

Formulating a healthy eating plan that is both balanced and nutritious can be difficult in today's world, especially when the guidelines pertaining to what constitutes healthy food vary dramatically depending on who you ask. Consequently, there are several healthy eating myths of which you will want to be aware, particularly if you are in the process of trying to reformulate your dietary habits. These myths include:

1) 'Low-fat' is good for you. Modern society has largely been indoctrinated into the mindset that fat clogs your arteries and makes you fat, and should thus be avoided. But nothing could be further from the truth. Tropical oils like coconut and palm, as well as grass-fed butter and meat fat is actually quite healthy for you. These saturated fats help promote healthy brain function and regulate proper hormone production. Popular vegetable oils, on the other hand, which oftentimes are hydrogenated and morphed into trans fats, are a primary cause of heart disease and other illness, and should be avoided.

2) You need to eat less salt for better health. This claim assumes that most people are consuming high amounts of synthetic, refined table salt, which is highly toxic and responsible for causing widespread cellular inflammation, hence the many warnings about salt intake. But what most people do not know is that unrefined, all-natural sea and mineral salts are completely different, as they are packed with health-promoting minerals, electrolytes, and other important nutrients. Eating lots of sea and mineral salt, in other words, is actually good for your health.

3) Replacing refined sugar with agave, honey is better for you. In most cases, switching out that table sugar for honey or agave nectar in the name of improving health is a misnomer, as these popular sugar substitutes are sometimes just as refined and unhealthy as regular sugar. Agave, for instance, contains high levels of fructose, which is metabolized directly by the liver and turned into fat. And unless your honey is raw, unprocessed, and locally sourced, it is also a toxic offender when consumed liberally.

4) Eating eggs raises your cholesterol. The medical system has gone back and forth on this one, but the truth about eggs will always remain the same - pasture-raised eggs from healthy chickens are an excellent source of both protein and cholesterol, and are not in and of themselves a cause of heart disease. And removing egg yolks and eating only the whites, as many people now do, can actually be detrimental to your health, as eggs should be eaten in complete form for optimal nutrition.

5) Organic produce is no better than conventional produce. There are many who would have you believe that conventional produce grown on factory farms is no different than organic produce grown without synthetic interventions. But as evidenced by numerous studies over the years, including a 1993 study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition, organic foods are higher in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and are far less contaminated with toxic pesticide and herbicide residues compared to conventional produce.

6) All red meat is unhealthy. The mainstream media loves to target red meat these days, but the problem with telling people to limit their consumption of red meat in order to avoid heart disease is that not all red meat is the same. In fact, red meat from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle is actually just as healthy as, and potentially even healthier than, wild-caught salmon. This contrasts sharply with factory-farmed red meat which is high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. It is all about how the animals are raised and what they are eating that determines the nutritional profile of meat in general, which is why it is always best to choose meat from local, naturally-raised sources.

Sources for this article include: