Out of Character

Where I'm at in my life

My recent stint in the corporate world undoubtedly inhibited my literary imagination, causing my book projects to slow down. Now that I'm a free agent again, my first goal is to complete my creative writing guide, though I'm more excited about returning to my work-in-progress novel. I've missed blogging and hanging out with my social media friends. On top of that, when I migrated my website and Wordpress blog to Squarespace, I lost the links to all my loyal followers and my posts were stripped of their wonderful comments—all those lively interactions gone for good, despite my efforts at following guidelines for the safe migration of content. [To those of you rejoining My Rite of Passage, please feel free to reactivate your blog posts and check that the links between our platforms are still in good order.]

Of all people, I should've known better than believing any kind of 'safe migration' is possible. Being in the midst of our fifth major relocation in fifteen years—this time from Columbus, OH to Boston, MA—brings to mind the motto: personal transformation can be inspiring, unless the forces of change set you adrift and you lose sight of yourself. It was this sentiment that inspired me to write my memoir (Out of Sync), and it now prompts me to shake off the culture shock, manage freelance demands, and get back to matters of the heart: coaching and creative writing.

You may find the health-related nature of this post slightly out of character since I usually share creative writing tips, review books or host other authors. Then again, change and its consequent opportunities and setbacks are significant themes in my life [hence, the past blog series about CHANGE] so I'm preoccupied with the effects of long-term stress. Also, my intention is not to pose as some kind of nutrition expert but to show off my new website and share the recipe of my ‘magic cube’—the main ingredient of my healing smoothies.

Good health requires discipline and faith

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of a connection between body, mind and spirit. The notion appeared to me as a child and lingered throughout my life—I studied matters of the mind, explored new-age ideas about the soul and worked as a life coach to help clients achieve their goals. But my faith has waxed and waned over the years, including my discipline to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and meditate with conviction. So, now I find myself at the midlife mark feeling the onset of gloom and inflammation—my immune system saying, “You screwed up!”

Different principles, diverse beliefs

The social media is not shy about the growing list of modern diseases and dire state of healthcare. As a result, wellness food bloggers are more vocal than ever on the individual’s responsibility to eat and live healthily. The merits of organic fruits and vegetables, free-range chickens, hormone-free meat, whole grains, nut milks, green smoothies and kombucha seem to constitute some latter day Holy Book of Nutrition.

But as fast as new food beliefs are sprouted, they’re spurned by skeptics, only to be replaced by another novel diet. For instance: Wellness Mama cites a long list of risks should you dare to consume grains, of any kind. While a gluten-free diet is essential for those with celiac disease, avoiding gluten altogether is known to cause a lack of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The number of Paleo fans seems to be growing by the day, but it’s no longer the most popular way of eating. The two links below will give you the rankings of top diets in 2015:

Do the research

Speculation about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is rife, so I believe the first step is to do your own research. I’m experimenting with foods, eating plans, recipes and fermentation techniques to find what works for me and what doesn’t, what I value and what goes against my grain, as well as what fits well into my budget, lifestyle and busy schedule.

It’s not what you eat, but what you absorb

My quest to improve my wellbeing started with an understanding that disease originates in the digestive tract—the highway that facilitates the journey of food through the body. Dr. Gerard Mullin and Kathie Swift (gastroenterologist and nutritionist) provide a simple explanation of this principle in their book: The Inside Tract:Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health. Dr. Mullin says our penchant for fast and processed foods means we're not getting proper nutrients from whole foods. The digestive system becomes toxic and causes leaky gut syndrome, which compromises the immune system. The result is chronic inflammation—the precursor to some disease, usually a type to which we have some inherited predisposition.

It may seem like a far-out notion, but autism is considered a radically toxic system. Currently, research is being done worldwide on the link between autism and the environment. I’m interested on account of my daughter’s profession as an occupational therapist; I’m also a grandmother, and if you’re a parent, I highly recommend you read this article:Today’s Dietician.

Fermentation is an art

Sandor Katz is probably the world's leading expert on fermentation. Calling himself a fermentation revivalist is no understatement. He has produced an invaluable reference book titled The Art of Fermentation. He says, “I am part of a vibrant extended community of queer folks (and many other friends and allies). I have AIDS and consider fermented foods to be an important part of my healing.” The main principle behind fermentation is to create a healthy digestive system free of Candida and populated by more good gut bacteria.

Candida is the culprit

One consequence (and cause—yes, it seems to be a vicious cycle) of a compromised digestive track and immune system is Candida. Please read this article about dysbiosis.

My non-achievements

  • I’ve never been good at following any kind of prescriptive diet plan; I'm a Capricorn, after all, and we're known to be impatient about rules and regulations.
  • Through trial and error, and my husband’s aversion to ‘alternative’ flours, I've discovered that I suck at gluten-free baking; we’re thankful  that we're not celiac sufferers.
  • As for dairy products, we limit our intake of those even though neither of us has a sense of being seriously lactose-intolerant; my husband prefers rice milk as a substitute and I lean toward almond milk.
  • I swear by the health benefits of quinoa, and my husband swears it gives him a headache—yes, eating and living healthily is like marriage; it sometimes works in your favor and other times against you, but it’s also a fun process and the challenges are worth the effort.

My achievements

I’ve had great fun trying my hand at the fermentation process. My first attempt at brewing was with water kefir, though I recently started brewing kombucha instead. Both are non-diary drinks containing a variety of ‘good’ bacteria and yeasts. Whereas water kefir is more of a general probiotic, kombucha contains certain acids and enzymes that aid digestion. Next, I’d like to brew coconut milk kefir. If you’re interested in obtaining started cultures, I highly recommend Cultures for Health.

My smoothies

After much research and experimenting with healing ingredients, here’s my take on therapeutic smoothies (make sure to tailor ingredients and quantities to your personal needs and tolerances): Think of a smoothie as an elixir consisting of building blocks that are exchangeable depending on the benefit you’re after—for instance, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal or general detox. Whatever your goal, condition or need, you can always Google the term: Smoothies for hangover, for instance (my husband’s favorite). Honestly, there’s so much good information on the Web, and I’m delighted to see how many of those are young mothers taking responsibility for their family’s health because they believe in the need to counteract all the processed food out there in the big, bad world of school cafeterias, grocery stores, fast food joints and restaurants.

Important: Invest in a top quality blender, like Vitamix. Always clean your fruits and vegetables in vinegar water, unless you peel them (often, though, the best nutrients are in the skin); never use any with bad spots and definitely avoid mold.

See the information below as guidelines, not a recipe:

Liquid: I use 50% unflavored Kefir (110 calories) and 50% of either Almond Milk or Coconut Water or any other natural juice that’s low in calories (approx. 40 calories); or, you could use 100% Kefir. These days, I mix 50% Kefir and 50% home-brewed Kombucha, but that’s because our systems have adapted to heavy doses of probiotics.

Take care to make any dietary changes gradually to avoid drastic detox symptoms as they’re unpleasant and can make you feel unwell. On that note, you want to be familiar with the symptoms and treatment of Herxheimer Reaction.

Fruit/vegetable ratio: I lean toward 20% fruit and 80% vegetables (banana gives it a velvety texture). Please read this article: Healing with Fruit and Vegetable Smoothies.

Oil: either olive, flaxseed, avocado, hemp or coconut oil for good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Seeds/nuts: flax or chia seeds (chia seeds are my favorite).

Superfood: I alternate between hemp powder, spirulina, and gelatin. And there are others that I haven’t even tried yet.

Herbs and spices: Please don’t underestimate the potency of herbs/spices, so only experiment with one or two types at a time and start with low doses; some of my favorites are ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, cumin, mint, cilantro and basil.

Essential oils: Let your body's needs guide you, and make sure to familiarize yourself with the do's and don'ts of these powerful oils—doTERRA is by far my favorite brand.

Sweetners: You can try honey, maple syrup, molasses, Stevia or fruit; my favorite: dates.

My ‘magic’ cube recipe:

  • 2 oranges, 1 lemon, 1 lime
  • Wash oranges and lemon thoroughly (soak in warm vinegar water, scrub and rinse with clean water)
  • Peel lime, but only cut the ends off the other fruit and remove all the pips
  • Cut fruit in small chunks, skin and all, except for the peeled lime
  • Put in blender with ½ glass of water
  • Blend well and pour pulp into ice cube tray
  • Freeze; and when they’re ready, pop the frozen cubes into a plastic bag or airtight container
  • Keep in the deep freeze for everyday use in your smoothies

In conclusion

Apropos the mind-body-spirit connection, while my body has been alerting me to some alarming changes—mostly due to unwise decisions, bad habits, negative thoughts, the stress of living in a tumultuous world, and aging—I've definitely experienced improved symptoms and higher levels of energy by approaching the principle of nurturing my body differently. Remember, when you feel healthy, you're more likely to entertain positive thoughts, and those always translate to more compassion, which refreshes the soul. I invite you to experiment with the notion of honoring your body: start by bringing awareness to the risks of 'bad' eating and benefits of 'good' foods. Having said that, there's no need to obsess; enjoy the ride, and see where it gets you.

I’ve shared a fair number of links to health-related blogs here, but don’t hesitate to google for more information of any of the topics. Remember, a good rule is to always strive for a balanced life in terms of nutrition, sleep, exercise, yoga, meditation, work and fun. I wish you good health; I hope you visit me here at My Rite of Passage often.