man-made food…and i don’t mean home cooking

Corn

Wonder why sweet corn no longer tastes…sweet, or for that matter…like corn? I could say the same thing about…farmed shrimp. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish…farmed vs. wild.

Only recently have my taste buds been questioning the corn I’ve been buying, specifically canned and frozen. Fresh ears of corn have not yet given me pause to wonder. Emphasis on…YET. 

There’s a Washington State vote on the horizon, I-522, to do with genetically engineered foods. I’ve read enough to know that messing with food made by Mother Nature is not good for my health. In fact, eating stuff created in corporate laboratories probably contributed to my digestive system being out of whack for some time. Thankfully I’m back on track with the help of a naturopath, and literature I’ve read on the subject.

According to local nutrition educator Nick Rose, genetically engineered foods are not more nutritious as is being touted. Instead they’re ” ‘stacked with foreign DNA so they will either produce pesticides or withstand herbicides or both, such as Monsanto’s new ‘double-stacked’ sweet corn.”

Rose goes on to speak of his concern about salmon…”the very first GE animal for human consumption, genetic engineering has produced a food offering less nutrition than the original food it is replacing.”

Salmon intended for consumption as food

Salmon, easily the most iconic food celebrated here in the Northwest, will very likely soon become the first ever GE animal food for human consumption. And the company that produced it admits their GE salmon is less nutritious.

What’s the unique nutritional benefit from salmon? Omega-3 fatty acids that supports brain health, helps manage inflammation, and is found in very few foods.

So, why would anyone want to put eel-like genes into salmon, knowing the end result would be a less nutritious food? To make the fish grow faster. GE salmon reach their market weight in about half the amount of time it takes today’s salmon to be ready for market. As a result of this super-growth, the GE salmon contain higher levels of the growth hormone IGF-1, a known carcinogen.

To summarize, the biotech industry has created a new “food” to replace one of the healthiest foods on the planet, except that the new and “enhanced” GE salmon will offer fewer heart-healthy omega 3s, and more cancer-promoting IGF-1 growth hormones. Oh, and did I mention that consumers won’t be able to tell whether the salmon they are buying at the store is genetically engineered? That is, unless…

This November, Washington voters have a chance to tell the food industry that they would like to know whether or not their foods are genetically engineered. Voting “YES” on intiative 522 will require foods produced with genetic engineering to be labeled in Washington state, making it much easier for everyone to make an informed choice when shopping at the grocery store.

GMO labeling is important to eaters around the planet for a wide variety of reasons, and 64 countries around the world already label foods produced with genetic engineering.  Do you want to avoid GMOs in your breakfast cereal, lunch box and salmon dinner? Then vote YES on 522!

Needless to say I intend to vote YES to labeling genetically engineered foods.

I understand that the practice of speeding up nature’s growth cycle may have been in response to feeding the planet’s hungry. Unfortunately success seems to have caused the industry to run amok. It’s as though a new magic trick has been discovered and all manner of magicians want in on the act. The fact that there are health risks seems of no consequence. After all, we never think preventative until we’re in the iron grip of some dastardly disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s or diabetes

Having Diabetes

Having Diabetes (Photo credit: MsH_ISB)

Why is it that mankind is always “behind the eight ball?” Is it because we think we can always dig ourselves out of the hole we dive into? Or is it because we’re just…plain stupid???

I don’t know if you live where foods have to be identified as having been genetically engineered. If you do, count yourself lucky; if you don’t…start reading labels…and everything else you can lay your hands on to do with genetically engineered foods. After all it’s your life…and those of your loved ones…that’s at stake! Even a capitalist society should allow for…freedom of choice. 

Yes, we all need to eat. But need it be at the expense of…

…our health?…

………hugmamma.

ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love (...

ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love (g1a2d0035c1) (Photo credit: watchingfrogsboil)

 

round and round we go…

Linguine dish

Linguine dish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever since my physician diagnosed me as being pre-diabetic, hubby and I have been exorcising “white” carbs from our diet…pastas, rice, breads. For the most part, that is. We did have linguine when we dined out the other night. I had asked if the restaurant served whole grain. As expected, the answer was a resounding…no. Well, I tried.

We are making progress at home, however. Neither white rice nor white bread passes our lips.

Tonight begins the third week we’ve been walking laps at the local community center. Within 30-40 minutes we’ve been able to walk 2 miles. Although I attend morning exercise class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I still accompany my husband in the evenings so that he gets a workout as well.

If we maintain our diet and exercise regimen for a month, according to experts, we’ll be on our way to changing our lifestyle permanently. I guess that’s the minimum amount of time needed to rewire our brains.

We’re determined to stick with the program in order to combat genetics and aging. It’s now or never…sooner rather than later…and doing nothing is not an option. 

Tonight there was a sweet moment in our sugar-free, kick-butt program…

…we held hands…as we walked 23 laps around the track…

………hugmamma.   😉

wake up!…the clock’s ticking…

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus (Photo credit: anaxolotl)

That’s the news I received from my family doctor. I’m pre-diabetic.

According to the news, I’ve something in common with millions of Americans. Small comfort since statistics don’t help in battling the disease. We’ve each got to help ourselves regain and maintain good health. It’s not impossible…just lots of hard work. And the older I get, I’ve less energy and will power for using more elbow grease. Especially when my elbow’s arthritic.

Learning that I’m pre-diabetic wasn’t a surprise. My mom had it, a brother has it, and I’m sure most of my other siblings do as well. It’s in our genes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. We have a say in the path our health takes. And it always comes back to…exercise and diet.

Rather than assign me to some implausible regimen, my doctor agrees that my best resolve is to ramp up my exercise and stay clear of anything white…foods, that is. No white breads. No white rice.

I’ve done it before; I can do it again. The difference being…time’s running out on my ability to hit the reset button. Older age has a way of dealing with procrastination…it doesn’t. At a certain point the door closes on our options.

Only one option remains for me now…a lifestyle change with no going back. I’ve gotta do…what I’ve gotta do…

Ulcus bei Diabetes mellitus

Ulcus bei Diabetes mellitus (Photo credit: rosmary)

…the alternative…is not an option…

………hugmamma.     😦

adoption, our responsibility

I know not everyone can commiserate with how worrisome a pet’s health can be to an owner. While I consider our cats and dog family, I don’t think of them as human beings. However I do relish their place in our home as silent nurturers of our spirits. They give unconditionally, expecting little in return, a dish of food, a bowl of water, a pat now and then, and playtime when it can be worked into our schedules. But pets are living creatures, whose lives are as precious to them as ours are to us. I’m sure like us they assume they’ll  wake up alive and well at the beginning of each new day. In some ways, that assumption is dependent upon the society in which they find themselves.

Caring for a pet is comparable to caring for a human being. Once that creature is on my radar, I can’t escape the niggling feeling that I am responsible for its well-being, whether in part or in full. Perhaps it’s my Catholic school education. I am “my brother’s keeper.” So the fact that Juneau is grossly overweight makes me feel guilty that it occurred on my watch. But as I explained to the vet, Dr. Hill, that’s “water under the bridge.” My concern now is to get Juneau on track to being healthier, so that he can realize his full life expectancy which is probably another 8 years or so. I’d like them to be great years! I’m sure he would as well.

In order to kick-start his weight loss, my husband and I decided to spend the money up front and board Juneau at the vet’s for the week. There he will be weaned from his current food to the weight-reducing one. Once that’s done a schedule and a new eating pattern can be established. Since Juneau is extremely shy and skittish, we’re enlisting professional help in making the necessary changes. Being novices, my husband and I were proceeding in a “hit or miss” fashion. At 16 pounds, I didn’t think Juneau had a lot of time for trial and error. As Dr. Hill said, our cat might have gotten diabetes tomorrow, next week or in 3 years. And as I said in my previous post, I don’t want Juneau to suffer needlessly, nor do I welcome the stress of dealing with the disease and its corresponding treatment, or the exorbitant cost that is part of the package.

Just as I’ve been trying to keep my husband and I free from diabetes, so too I think it only fair to keep Juneau free from it as well. We adopted him, and when we did we made a promise to take care of him to the best of our ability.

we plan to honor that promise…hugmamma.   

four-legged diabetes…yikes!!!

Bad news from the vet yesterday. Juneau, one of our maine-coone-mixed breeds is overweight. At 15 pounds, he’s ripe for developing diabetes it seems. Not that I was surprised since it’s obvious he’s bigger and bulkier than our other cats, Sitka, his litter-mate, and Sunkist. Gosh, even our dog Mocha’s slimmer. So as they say, “today’s a new day.”

Growing up in a home where my mom struggled to feed our family, pets were obviously “low man on the totem pole.” They got leftovers, and probably not a whole lot of them either. And while they had a roof over their heads like we did, they were free to roam the neighborhood, except for the dogs. They were tethered to the outdoor stair railing.

We usually kept only one cat and/or one dog at a time. They were usually strays, or rescues from the animal shelter. When one cat we’d had the longest gave birth to a litter, we kept two of her kittens, especially after their mom, Toby, died. My friend and I found her one day lying in a neighbor’s backyard. She looked malnourished. Of course I felt badly, but my mom couldn’t concern herself with making sure the pets had enough to eat. She could barely keep food on the table for us the entire month. We knew her paycheck had run its course when there were only a few cans of tuna and sardines in the cupboard, along with what remained of the 25-pound bag of rice.

Trey food

Image via Wikipedia

When I married and began adopting cats, I made certain they had lots to eat. I think I fed them a reasonable amount. I didn’t just let them have a go at the cupboards. But until now I’d never heard of anyone feeding each cat separately, in different rooms. That boggles my mind! Not that it doesn’t make sense, considering I now have to do that for Juneau. I only wish I’d have known earlier.

When the vet had done their physicals before, he would ask about the cats eating and potty habits. I couldn’t give him definitive answers, because they ate and went about their “business” without my overseeing them. He never insisted I change this routine, so I didn’t. I think he felt it would be overwhelming with 3 cats. In fact at one time there were 4 cats. One died of cancer a few years ago.

In speaking of my dilemma with the receptionist yesterday, Sandy informed me that she feeds her 3 cats in separate rooms. That way she can keep an eye on one in particular who is a slower eater. She knows the cat’s had enough when it curls up for a nap in the closet. At that point her food bowl is put away until the next feeding. The door to that room is kept closed until meal-time is over. The rooms in which the other cats are fed are not closed because they eat their food in one sitting.

Sandy proceeded to describe her feeding ritual in great detail, down to how many pieces of a certain kibble are given at what meal, and for what snack. As she spoke, waves of fear and nausea overwhelmed me. I felt Juneau was doomed to dying of diabetes if I didn’t get this feeding thing down pat. But after speaking with my husband, we are taking steps toward managing our pets’ weights.

Sitka, who needs to gain weight, and Sunkist who is elderly and needs to maintain her current weight are being fed together as usual. We’re bringing Juneau upstairs in the morning and apportioning him his own special weight loss food, gradually so as not to upset his digestive system. We’re still mixing it in with the “old” food to wean him from it. Juneau will need a little time getting comfortable with the new arrangement. I’m not sure what the final routine will encompass, but we’re taking it one day at a time, now that we know what needs to be done.

The inconvenience is much more attractive than the alternative. Just as I don’t want to encounter the devastating effects of diabetes in my human loved ones, I don’t want our pets succumbing to the disease as well. It would be physically painful for Juneau, emotionally draining for me, not to mention the expense of insulin shots, medication, and constant trips to the vet.

Pets, like children, don’t choose their lot in life. They have no say in when and where they’re born, nor the names they’re given, nor the manner in which their lives unfold. They’re pretty malleable in the beginning. Given a home, nourishment and lots of love and affection, pets and children will flourish. So Juneau is in good hands.

especially now that we’re more attuned to his specific needs…hugmamma.

mothers, compassion for

Cast of Family Ties from a later season. (From...

Image via Wikipedia

Through the first three-quarters of Meredith Baxter‘s autobiography, Untied, I found myself extremely frustrated. Here was an actress whom I thought had everything going for her. She was best known as Elyse Keaton, Michael J. Fox’s TV mom on “Family Ties, an 80s sitcom. But sometime before that she had been one-half of the handsome couple in Bridget Loves Bernie.” David Birney played her spouse, and became the real thing after the show ended.

What was disappointing about Baxter’s real life story is that through 3 failed marriages, she was always the victim of her husbands’ verbal, emotional, mental and in Birney’s case, physical abuse. Where she might have projected a woman-in-control on the small screen, she was anything but, in her personal life. Yet in one important area she was in charge. Able to get regular acting gigs, Baxter became the “bread-winner,” and wound up paying alimony to her ex-husbands.

The source of Baxter’s inability to be an equal partner in heterosexual relationships, for she did recently out herself as a lesbian, was because her mother had opted out of that role when Baxter was very young. 

 

Craftsman-style bungalow in North Park, San Di...

Image via Wikipedia

I can remember coming home from first grade, walking through the front door of our little white Craftsman-style house on Indiana Avenue in South Pasadena, and calling out, “Mommy, I”m home!” 

No answer. I was confused; her car was out front. I stood very still.

“Mommy, I’m home!”

Still nothing. Then I remembered.

“Whitney?”

“Yes, dear?” her musical voice rang out from the middle bedroom, where she kept a vanity table at which she’d do her makeup.

Although I believe she had no idea about the psychological impact this might have on her children, now that I’m older I realize that Whitney was probably just giving us what she got. Whitney’s mother was born Martha Mae Wilkerson–my brothers and I called her Memaw. She was a scrappy, tough, smart, and wily survivor. She wasn’t the soft, fuzzy type; she didn’t coddle Whitney and she didn’t coddle me. …married five times…Memaw would leave her kids behind, once with a couple of former missionaries and another time with her elementary school teacher. …It wasn’t until the fifth grade that Whitney discovered drama class…From that day forward, Whitney realized that no matter what school she was in, the drama department would become home…(and) that the nearest thing she had to a real family when she was growing up were the casts of the plays that she appeared in.

AA meeting sign

Image via Wikipedia

It took Meredith Baxter the better part of her life to sort through the mess it had become. Having drifted into alcoholism, she eventually sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous upon the urging of the producers of a particular TV show she’d been working on. But even after attending the group’s meetings for 10 years, Baxter hadn’t engaged in the self-examination process recommended by the program, until a good friend intervened.

Carla noted that…I’d not laid to rest many of the issues that brought me into the program in the first place ten years before, the primary issue being my mother! Drinking had been but a symptom of my alcoholism; I used drinking to solve my problems, but my problems were caused by my thinking, my selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, self-pitying thinking, and the destructive feelings and resentments that resulted. This way, I developed and preserved a belief system that filtered all information through a warped prism of being unwanted, unloved and unlovable.

Baxter set about replacing her old belief system with a new one. She found clarity in acknowledging that she deeply resented having to call her mother by her stage name instead of mom or mommy, and that she didn’t acknowledge her children as hers for a long time, and that she left them in the care of their stepfather while she pursued her acting career.

In order to help herself heal, Baxter decided that she needed to understand her mother.

…figure out who she was, learn what kind of mothering/role modeling she received, what did she want that she didn’t get, what were her disappointmens in life and how did she deal with them? And why did she make the choices with her children that she made? 

After answering all of these questions for herself, Baxter found great relevance in the words of someone speaking at an AA meeting.

A woman was talking about our parents as wells and that we were wired to go to our parent-wells for nurturing and sustenance. Many of us found our parent-wells were empty, but they weren’t empty at us. They were just empty.

Meredith decided that while she felt she was the target of her mother’s empty well, there was no basis in fact to support it. Instead, the supposition was based upon personal feelings.

As a followup to her discovery, Baxter needed “to learn to have compassion for (her) mother’s empty well, to accept (her) mother’s limitations and forgive her.”

Well, as soon as I started thinking of ways I had disappointed my own children, I quickly had a much better perspective. I thought about being too fearful to protect them from David, times when I traveled and worked when they probably needed me, times I left them with nannies, times I, like Whitney, had chosen work over my kids, times when I’d had too much to drink to be useful to them in any way–the list is endless. I could honestly say, however, that I did the best I could given the tools and information I had at the time, and therefore I had to allow the same for Whitney.

What I came away with was a sense of understanding Whitney and appreciating her in ways I wouldn’t allow myself to before. In truth, she gave me the very best she had. What I thought of it at the time is not important because I wasn’t in a position to know.

Finally, Meredith Baxter enumerates the ways in which she has been a better parent as a result of her own mother’s failures. “Many of what I think are my best traits as a mother were developed as a protest to what I had experienced with her.” Where Whitney never spent time with her children, Meredith was sure to be with her own youngsters when she wasn’t working, “making breakfasts, packing lunches, doing carpool, play dates, homework, projects, school breakfasts, soccer games and practice, gymnastics, baseball games and practice, swim meets, piano, violin, track meets, open houses, teacher meetings, performances.” And she was thankful that she loved being a mother, who loved doing it all. For that Baxter credited her mother for leaving a legacy, of which she had no knowledge. 

I found this portion of the book the most befitting my own experience. Like Baxter I had to let go of painful occurrences with my mom as I was growing up. What I didn’t understand as a youngster, I understood only too well when I became a wife and mother. Furthermore I’ve had the love and support of my husband for 40 years, and counting. While my mom never remarried after becoming a widow at age 30, pretty much shouldering her burdens alone. I had only one child for whom to care, my mom had nine. She had serious health issues all of her life, like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis. And they only worsened as she got older, added to which she also developed Alzheimer’s. I’m able to see to my health on a regular basis, because I have a spouse who provides a comfortable life.

Parents do the best they can with what tools they’ve been given. Rather than find fault, we can try to do better with what we’ve been given. But if at times we fail, and we will, we should be prepared to forgive, ourselves and others, and show compassion, knowing that we can always try again.

for moms…huge hugs…hugmamma.

fiber…diabetes, the connection

February is “heart healthy” month. So I thought I’d share information that I myself must heed, as we make our way through the remaining 25 days. Whether directly, or indirectly, these tips involve heart health.

The following is from Reader’s Digest soft cover book “Reverse Diabetes.” It’s something to which I try to faithfully adhere. Every now and then I’ll digress, opting for yolkless eggs scrambled with sauteed veggies, Canadian bacon, and a slice of high-fiber bread, lightly spread with peanut butter and jelly. But more often than not, a bowl of oat bran mixed with a cup of blueberries, 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed meal, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a cup of vanilla almond milk is my breakfast of choice. I down that with a cup of green tea.

What happens when…I eat a bowl of high-fiber cereal for breakfast?

The inside story: First, consider what happens when you eat sugary, low-fiber breakfast cereal. The carbohydrates in those crunchy treats make a rapid trip through your digestive system and are just as speedily converted to glucose. You know what that means. Your blood sugar spikes then plummets, and you’re hungry soon after. Choosing breakfast cereal or other foods high in fiber minimizes that problem for a simple reason: You can’t digest fiber. Instead, this rough stuff gets in the way as your body tries to absorb carbs and convert them into glucose. That makes for a slower, gentler rise in blood sugar after a meal. Keep eating high-fiber foods and your blood sugar will stay low, which will make cells throughout your body start processing this key energy source more efficiently. That means your pancreas won’t have to work so hard to churn out insulin, which can help keep diabetes at bay and make you less likely to need medications if you have the condition.

Eating fiber-rich whole-grain cereal has other benefits for blood sugar. For instance, whole grains are high in the mineral magnesium, which helps insulin to perform its handiwork. Eating high-fiber foods also lowers cholesterol and fills your stomach, which means you feel satisfied on fewer calories. That makes fiber a dieter’s friend.

BOTTOM LINE: In one huge study of more than 21,000 men, those who ate a daily bowl of cereal–especially high-fiber whole-grain varieties–cut their risk for type 2 diabetes by 37 percent.

The article proceeds to offer advice on choosing “a great breakfast cereal.”

Read ingredient lists and buy brands that include oat bran, barley, or psyllium seed husks as one of the first few ingredients. Avoid varieties that list corn, rice, or sugar among the first few ingredients.

I rarely breakfast on boxed cereals because of their high sugar, low fiber content. One-third cup of dry oat bran serves up 80 calories, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, 5 grams of fiber, no sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Add to that the flaxseed, which, at 60 calories in 2 tablespoons, has 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 2400 milligrams of omega-3, no cholesterol, no sodium, no sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. A cup of blueberries tops off the cereal with another 3 grams of fiber. This bowl of breakfast cereal starts my day off with 12 grams of fiber, half of the recommended daily amount! During the rest of the day I continue ramping up my fiber count with veggies, fruits and high-fiber breads, pastas, or brown rice.

keeping diabetes at a giant arm’s length…hugmamma.

2011, “the year of the vegetable”

Hate to admit it, but I can hear my vegetarian friends saying “We told you so!” And they did. Kudos to them for pioneering the way to a healthier lifestyle. I only wish their voices had rung louder, at least in my ears. Of course die-hard meat-eaters will probably stop reading, but I encourage you to keep an open mind, not for my sake, but for your own. I’ve learned my lesson, the hard way. You may have to, as well. It’s up to you. I’d just like to add my voice to those trying to encourage others to stop gorging on toxic food. In the end, it’ll turn around to bite you in the butt, and everywherelse. I’m a long, long way from being a vegetarian, but I’m striving to inch closer and closer to a lifestyle resembling that of my healthy friends. I’ll settle for almost, if not full-blown, vegetarian.

The following editorial article in the Wall Street Journal’s January 3rd edition makes a good case for eating more veggies. Its author, George Ball, is chairman of the W. Atlee Burpee Co. and past president of the American Horticultural Society. Yes, he has a vested interest in that Burpee seeds is a proponent of growing our own produce, but we have a vested interest in prolonging the quality of our lives by eating more fresh produce, homegrown or not.

2011: The Year of the Vegetable

Childhood obesity is now the nation’s disease–an ailment crippling the body politic. The long-term health effects are well-established and include early onset diabetes and premature hip and joint problems. American children are prematurely aging, suffering from sicknesses that were once the provenance of older adults. Old has become the new young.

The lineup of culprits includes school vending machines, the endangered home-cooked meal, vanishing physical-education classes, fried everything, super-sized portions, sedentary hours spent zoned out in front of the computer screen, nutritional ignorance, misleading labeling and more. But whatever and whoever is to blame, it is surely not kids. We cannot expect children to make the right food choices when healthy foods are out of reach and nutrition-smart role models are not in evidence.

The saddest thing about childhood obesity is that it’s unnecessary. It’s inexcusable that in the breadbasket of the world American children ar eating so much lousy food. First lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity initiative, “Let’s Move,” represents a welcome beginning to what will have to become a nutritional revolution.

As an agriculturist and horticulturist, I believe that the answer is simple. As parents, educators, nutritionists and marketers, we have to imbue our children with the love of–and consumption of–the most beneficial food for growing bodies. This means fresh vegetables and fruits, whether store-bought or home-grown.

As kids, we imitate our elders, who teach most effectively by example. Right now, adults aren’t doing a good job of modeling good behavior. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 26% of adults have three or more servings of vegetables a day, a number that includes those who deem a tomato slice or lettuce on a burger as a “vegetable serving.” In other words, roughly 80% of U.S. adults scarcely eat any vegetables at all.

Liking vegetables is not a given:  Every food other than breast milk is an acquired taste. But children can easily learn to enjoy eating their greens. It’s simply a matter of education and familiarity–as in “family.” Children will happily eat squash, artichoke or broccoli, to the delight of the parents who taught them to do so. As for fruits, children can gobble them up, but like vegetables, they must be at the ready, at least as available as all the junky alternatives.

In our research at Atlee Burpee, we have found that kids who grow vegetables alongside their parents eat them regularly and with gusto. Peas, green beans and raw carrots–the very vegetables that kids are told to eat, their parents’ admonishing fingers wagging–are particular favorites.

While not all American families have the benefit of a sun-filled backyard for a vegetable garden, companies like Burpee offer many vegetable seeds and plants that you can grow easily in containers. You can grow beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, which can be plucked from the stalk well into winter.

Eighteen years ago, as president of the American Horticultural Society, I initiated a children’s gardening program. Our annual symposium drew thousands of educators and community gardeners with the goal of educating and inspiring children to grow gardens in their school and neighborhoods. The results were heartening:  Thousands of churches, schools and community centers sprouted new gardens.

Yet no single institution is sufficient; fighting a problem of this sort requires a multifaceted effort. Churches could do much more to inspire families to grow vegetables. Public and private botanical and community gardening groups should augment efforts to lure neighbors into their educational demonstration gardens. Most families, whether in the city or suburbs, can plant at least a “starter garden”–involving pre-teen children in the planting, tending and harvesting.

While the first lady deserves the credit for focusing the nation on childhood obesity, it is an issue that both political parties can endorse. Vegetables are deliciously nonpartisan.

Let’s make 2011 the Year of the Vegetable. We have nothing to lose but our waistlines.

In conclusion, two things come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the oft told tale of children feeding their veggies to the family dog, or veggies disappearing into napkins with one swipe of the mouth. My in-laws actually have an even better anecdote that is often recounted for the benefit of the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. When my husband or any of his siblings lingered too long over their veggies, they were made to sit in the garage until they had devoured every last morsel. As they tell it, the cockroaches that skulked around hiding in corners, or that brazenly crossed the concrete floor, got their fair share of the nasty food. I think they were actually the objects of target practice. Whatever their purpose, the roaches were partners-in-crime with my husband and his siblings.

My second thought on this subject is that 2011 as the “Year of the Vegetable” has a nice ring to it. Although half- Chinese, I’m neither first-generation, nor am I schooled in their ways since my Chinese father died when I was one. As a result, I really don’t identify with that culture’s astrological calendar.  I’m not sure if I was born in the “Year of the Rat,” or the “Year of the Tiger.” Even if I could remember which it is, I’m sure it makes no real difference in my life. But being raised an American, and having bought into our western society’s feeding frenzy for far too long, making this year, and every year hereafter, the “Year of the Vegetable,” makes fundamental sense to my own well-being, and that of all generations, present and future.

reborn in the “year of the vegetable”…hugmamma.  

“change your brain, change your life”

I have to credit Dr. Daniel Amen’s book Change Your Brain Change Your Life with my “detour” towards a more positive attitude. It’s the path I’ll continue to travel, as I journey “home.” With the information gleaned from the book, I’m pretty certain I’ve suffered a form of depression all of my life, and I’m sure my mom did as well. We battled our “demons”, mustering up all the courage we could gather from deep within, and relying upon the  support  of loved ones. At best, our attempts to help ourselves was haphazard. Sometimes our efforts succeeded, other times we probably “blew it.” We muddled through, with growing negativity as a constant companion. To survive, we felt compelled to sever relationships along the way, that might destroy our fragile psyches. Looking back, we were just trying to live our best lives, given the hand life had dealt us. Without a doubt, there must be many who have led similar lives.

All kinds of help is available these days, from psychiatrists to clinics to alternative health practices. There’s no quick fix for depression, nor one right way. However I am a proponent of Dr. Amen’s philosophy, for it has helped me understand the workings of my brain. And just as I take care of my body with the help of exercise, diet, chiropractic manipulation and massage therapy, I am learning to look after my mental health, thanks to Dr. Amen’s message.

Your brain is the hardware of your soul. It is the hardware of your very essence as a human being. You cannot be who you really want to be unless your brain works right. How your brain works determines how happy you are, how effective you feel, and how well you interact with others. Your brain patterns help you (or hurt you) with your marriage, parenting skills, work, and religious beliefs, along with your experience of pleasure and pain.

If you are anxious, depressed, obsessive-compulsive, prone to anger, or easily distracted, you probably believe these problems are “all in your head.” In other words, you believe your problem is purely psychological. However, research that I and others have done shows that the problems are related to the physiology of the brain–and the good news is that we have proof that you can change that physiology. You can fix what’s wrong for many problems.

Depression is a physiological illness, just like diabetes or arthritis. Living in our high-tech, fractured society, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us suffer some form of depression, ranging from moderate to bipolar.

According to Dr. Amen’s book, my difficulty may lie within my brain’s Cingulate System. Glancing through the following checklist, I  have probably exhibited several of the symptoms, especially during the early years of my marriage. Maturity and motherhood helped me overcome some, but more recently, suggestions from Change Your Brain Change Your Life helped me to combat other symptoms, namely “excessive or senseless worrying,” “tendency to have repetitive negative thoughts,” and “tendency to predict negative outcomes.” But just as there’s no cure for arthritis, there is none for depression. Both have to be managed, which is fine with me. It’s a fact I’ve come to accept. Exercise and a reduction in sugar intake has helped lessen the arthritic pain in my lower back. And practicing Dr. Amen’s recommendations, has greatly minimized my depression.

CINGULAR SYSTEM CHECKLIST

Please read this list of behaviors and rate yourself (or the person you are evaluating) on each behavior listed. Use the following scale and place the appropriate number next to the item. Five or more symptoms marked 3 or 4 indicate a high likelihood of cingulate problems. 0=never/1=rarely/2=occasionally/3=frequently/4=very frequently

  1. Excessive or senseless worrying
  2. Being upset when things are out-of-place
  3. Tendency to be oppositional or argumentative
  4. Tendency to have repetitive negative thoughts
  5. Tendency toward compulsive behaviors
  6. Intense dislike of change
  7. Tendency to hold grudges
  8. Trouble shifting attention from subject to subject
  9. Trouble shifting behavior from task to task
  10. Difficulties seeing options in situations
  11. Tendency to hold on to own opinion and not listen to others
  12. Tendency to get locked into a course of action, whether or not it is good
  13. Being very upset unless things are done a certain way
  14. Perception by others that you worry too much
  15. Tendency to say no without first thinking about question
  16. Tendency to predict negative outcomes

GETTING UNSTUCK

The cingulate system of the brain allows us to shift our attention from thing to thing, idea to idea, issue to issue. When it is dysfunctional, we have a tendency to get locked into negative thoughts or behaviors; we have trouble seeing the options in situations. Healing this part of the mind involves training the mind to see options and new ideas. …Whenever you find your thoughts cycling (going over and over), distract yourself from them. …Sing a favorite song…Listen to music that makes you feel positive…Take a walk…Do a chore…Play with a pet…Do structured meditation…Focus on a word and do not allow any other thoughts to enter your mind (imagine a broom that sweeps out all other thoughts).

(Keeping busy has been my “default” response to low spirits. Ironing clothes is a “favorite”, a chore my mom taught me with pride, since that’s what she did at the orphanage where she worked. When I’m outdoors walking Mocha, nature’s beauty intoxicates my senses, forcing me to disengage from life’s frenzy. Indoors I get the same “high” watching a favorite Michael Jackson DVD, which gets my body pulsating to the beat. Sitting for a few minutes with one of my cat’s purring in my lap, makes me pause, enjoying the moment. And when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I thank God for all our blessings, and pray that all may live their best lives. This prayer alone has helped me fall asleep, because it stops the “ants”- automatic negative thoughts, dead in their tracks.)

Many people with cingulate problems have an automatic tendency to say no. Fight the tendency. Before answering questions or responding to requests in a negative way, take a breath and think first whether or not it is best to say no. Often it is helpful to take a deep breath, hold it for three seconds, and then take five seconds to exhale, just to get extra time before responding.

When you are stuck on a thought, it is often helpful to write it down. Writing it down helps to get it out of your head. Seeing a thought on paper makes it easier to deal with in a rational way. When repetitive thoughts cause sleeping problems, keep a pen and paper near your bed to write them down. After you write out a thought that has “gotten stuck,” generate a list of things you can do about it and things you can’t do about it. Use this simple exercise to unlock the thoughts that keep you up nights feeling tense.

(Blogging has been a God-send. It’s been cathartic in that I’ve been able to exorcise “demons” that have probably been roiling around inside my gut for too long, not only personal ones, but thoughts about the world in which I live.)  

When all of your efforts to get rid of repetitive thoughts are unsuccessful, it is often helpful to seek the counsel of others. Finding someone to discuss your worries, fears, or repetitive behaviors which can be very helpful. Often just talking about feeling stuck will open new options.

(Coffee with friends has always been a great way to share problems and gain new insights, and perhaps discover helpful suggestions, and sometimes, even answers.)

Exercise can also be very helpful in calming worries and increasing cognitive flexibility. Exercise works by increasing brain levels of l-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is a relatively small amino acid and has trouble competing against the larger amino acids to enter the brain. During exercise, more of the large amino acids are utilized to replenish muscle strength, which causes a decrease in the availability of these larger amino acids in the bloodstream. When this happens, l-tryptophan can compete more effectively to enter the brain and raise brain serotonin levels. In addition, exercise increases your energy levels and may distract you from the bad thoughts that tend to loop. I often recommend exercise for oppositional children as a way to improve their l-tryptophan levels and increase cooperation.

(Kristina’s exercise class has been a life-saver. During these last 5 or 6 years, it has been a healthy addition to my routine, not only for my physical well-being, but for my mental and emotional well-being as well. I can feel the difference in my mood and my energy level, when I’ve been remiss in my exercise routine. The same can be said for my visits to the chiropractor and massage therapist. They’re not luxuries; they’re necessities.) 

Low serotonin levels and increased cingulate activity are often associated with worrying, moodiness, emotional rigidity, and irritability. There are two ways that food can increase serotonin levels.

Foods high in carbohydrates, such as pastas, potatoes, bread, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn, increase l-tryptophan levels (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) in the blood, resulting in more l-tryptophan being available to enter the brain, where it is converted to serotonin. The calming effect of serotonin can often be felt in thirty minutes or less by eating these foods. Cerebral serotonin levels can also be raised by eating foods rich in tryptophan, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, peanut butter, eggs, green peas, potatoes, and milk. Many people unknowingly trigger cognitive inflexibility or mood problems by eating diets that are low in l-tryptophan.

For example, the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets that I recommend for low-dopamine states (related to prefrontal cortex underactivity) often make cingular problems worse. L-tryptophan is a relatively small amino acid. When you eat a high-protein diet, the larger amino acids compete more successfully to get into the brain, causing lower levels of brain serotonin and more negative emotional reactiveness.

(Diet remains an ongoing challenge, but at least I’ve eliminated as much sugar as possible, and replaced simple carbs with complex ones, and continue to ramp up my intake of fruits and veggies. But I’m no angel; every now and then I “sin.”)

Dr. Amen also prescribes reciting the Serenity Prayer, as a way to combat repetitive negative thoughts. “The Serenity Prayer is repeated by millions of people around the world, especially those in twelve-step programs. It is a beautiful reminder that there are limits to what we can do in life and we need to respect that. Many people find it helpful to repeat this prayer every time they are bothered by repetitive negative thoughts. I recommend that you memorize at least the first (three) lines of the prayer (change it as needed to fit your own beliefs).”

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you in the next.

-Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr

 As we age physically and mentally, our quality of life can suffer. Money certainly helps sustain a certain lifestyle, but is it substantive if we’re unable to reap the spiritual rewards as well? I’m trying to remain as agile as possible, mentally, physically and emotionally so that I can continue to write, and enjoy life’s small pleasantries, until I no longer can. Changing my brain, has helped change my life, for the better.

our best lives, hugs for…hugmamma.

   

hawaiian goodies

I share this with you because I can no longer partake of these scrumptious delicacies as I would like to do. Doctors orders. Having high cholesterol, and a genetic disposition for diabetes and arthritis (both aggravated by too much sugar intake), I haven’t enjoyed these baked goodies in quite some time. While I would love to have them on hand just for a nibble every so often, one bite into this sumptuous, buttery snack and I’m hooked until every wrapped piece is “pau.” That’s Hawaiian for “gone, kaput, finished.”

So, you dear reader, are in luck, or bad luck, depending upon your perspective. If you decide to open this “Pandora’s Box” don’t fault me for the consequences. I pass this along because I can’t keep it to myself. That’s how great I think these yummy delights are, and you know how fussy I am about details by now. By the way, don’t succumb to “knock-offs.” Someone generously gave us look-a-likes once, and I could tell they weren’t the real thing. So buyer, beware! Remember my mantra “If you don’t enjoy eating something, don’t waste the calories!” I guess I should add that if you do enjoy something, beware the calories! I leave it to you to decide which applies, when you sample these delicious Hawaiian goodies. Good luck in deciding…

Big Island Candies, established in 1977, boasts “Hawaii’s Finest Handmade Cookies & Chocolates.” And I’m here to tell you, they’re not lying. Their macadamia nut shortbread cookies are “to die for.” I live to tell the story. “The famous award-winning diagonally dipped shortbreads” are coated with milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel chocolate. Or there’s the chocolate shortbread dipped in mint, the coffee shortbread dipped in dark chocolate, or the coconut shortbread, or the chocolate chip shortbread, or the lemon shortbread.

Your choice selection comes in a variety of boxed packages: the chocolate dipped original shortbread, the dark chocolate dipped original  shortbread, the coconut shortbread, the mint dipped chocolate shortbread, the dipped chocolate shortbread assortment, 2 types of the caramel chocolate dipped shortbread, the lemon shortbread assortment, the dark chocolate dipped coffee shortbread, the dipped original assortment, the lemon shortbread combo, the dipped shortbread assortment, the shortbread assortment, the original shortbread, and the chocolate chip shortbread. All of these are offered in a variety of sizes, i.e. Gold Box, Small Gold Box, Small Gift Box.

Besides their cookies Big Island Candies bakes and sells other items like their Kohala brownies, golden macadamia nut, chocolate covered macadamia nut and dark chocolate covered coconut. They’re very rich and dense, so they’re to be savored, not gulped in bunches like the cookies. Then there are items which might appeal to gourmet palates, green tea macadamia nut shortbread cookies, ultimate chocolate chip cookie, and the chocolate drink mix. For those liking a little “snap, crackle, pop” Big Island Candies offers the almond wafer crunch bar, the corn chip crunch bar and the peanut butter bar. (My mouth is watering.) Truly different are the Mika mints described as “A smooth and lightly whipped blend of dark and milk chocolate, cream and butter with the cooling touch of mint coated in dark chocolate for a truly decadent treat.” Just as delicious it seems is the Macnut toffee and the Hawaiian macadamia nut biscotti. Beyond my comprehension, but maybe not yours, is the Hawaiian red chili toffee where BIC claims “We carefully cook our Hawaiian red chili butter toffee in small batches to bring out its rich butter taste and crunchy bite. It is studded with roasted almonds with a touch of hickory smoke salt and the subtle heat of the small fiery Hawaiian chili pepper. We coat it with rich dark chocolate for a tantalizing treat.” Sounds like a smokin’ hot, eye-popping snack!

And finally, the list wouldn’t be complete without Hawaiian macadamia nut chocolates in a variety of box sizes. If this old standby doesn’t excite your taste buds how about Hawaiian crunchies, containing crisp potato chips, macadamia nuts, and creamy milk chocolate, or Hawaiian macadamia nut rocky road, or Hawaiian macadamia nut crunch, or Hawaiian macadamia nut caramel cluster, or truffles?

For several years my husband has given a number of these mouth-watering snacks to staff, as Christmas gifts. Needless to say, we’ve not heard any complaints, only sighs of “ono-licious,” Hawaiian for “yummy in my tummy!” BIC can send out pre-packaged, wrapped gifts like Ha’Aheo Basket (large, medium,small), Kona Basket, Chocolate Mailer, Cocoa Box, Orange Mini Pillow, Salmon Colored Sheer Bag With Beans, Brown Oval Box, Fall Butterfly Keepsake, Sable Box, Purple Metallic Sheer Bag, Fall Amazonia Glitz, Purple Ballotin, Signature Tin, Mauna Kea Basket (large,small), Fall Lovely Glitz, Lei’Ahinahina (Hawaiian for “silversword”),Copper Ballotin, Fall Flutter Tin and Cherry Blossom Mini Takeout.

I know I’ve left nothing to your imagination, except perhaps, the price. The goodies, which taste like homemade, are priced well for what they are, “boutique” delights. The shipping might be the deal breaker. But as a special treat for yourself, your “significant other,” someone’s birthday, or holidays, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

If you think this has been a “paid commercial,” you’re wrong. I’m handing off something I’ve held near and dear to my stomach for years. You do with it what you will. But if you do make a purchase, maybe you can mention my blog and this post. Maybe as a “thank you” they’ll send me the Petite Box of Hawaiian Crunchies #1201, or the small gift box of Chocolate Dipped Original Shortbread #3450, or the Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Clusters #1206.

Big Island Candies toll-free #1-800-935-5510 or online @www.bigislandcandies.com.

eating my heart out, while you fill your “opu” (Hawaiian for “belly”)…hugmamma.

“good for you” foods

Ever wonder why doctors, nutritionists, exercise gurus, and others, tell us to eat certain foods, that they’re good for us? Well someone who works with my husband passed along the following list, which takes the mystery out of their recommendation. And so I post it here for you to incorporate into your life, and share it with those you care about, just as… I care about you…hugmamma.

  • Apples – protects your heart, prevents constipation, blocks diarrhea, improves lung capacity, cushions joints
  • Apricots – combats cancer, controls blood pressure, saves your eyesight, shields against Alzheimer’s, slows aging process
  • Artichokes – aids digestion, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, guards against liver disease
  • Avocados – battles diabetes, lowers cholesterol, helps stops strokes, controls blood pressure, smooths skin
  • Bananas – protects your heart, quiets a cough, strengthens bones, controls blood pressure, blocks diarrhea
  • Beans – prevents constipation, helps hemorrhoids, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, stabilizes blood sugar
  • Beets – controls blood pressure, combats cancer, strengthens bones, protects your heart
  • Blueberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, boosts memory, prevents constipation
  • Broccoli – strengthens bones, saves eyesight, combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure
  •  Cabbage – combats cancer, prevents constipation, promotes weight loss, protects your heart, helps hemorrhoids
  • Cantaloupe – saves eyesight, controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Carrots – saves eyesight, protects your heart, prevents constipation, combats cancer, promotes weight loss
  • Cauliflower – protects against prostate cancer, combats breast cancer, strengthens bones, banishes bruises, guards against heart disease
  • Cherries – protects your heart, combats cancer, ends insomnia, slows aging process, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Chestnuts – promotes weight loss, protects your heart, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Chili Peppers – aids digestion, soothes sore throat, clears sinuses, combats cancer, boosts immune system
  • Figs – promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Fish – protects your heart, boosts memory, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Flax – aids digestion, battles diabetes, protects your heart, improves mental health, boosts immune system
  • Garlic – lowers cholesterol, controls blood pressure, combats cancer, kills bacteria, fights fungus
  • Grapefruit – protects against heart attacks, promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol
  • Grapes – saves eyesight, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, enhances blood flow, protects your heart
  • Green tea – combats cancer, protects your heart, helps stop strokes, promotes weight loss, kills bacteria
  • Honey – heals wounds, aids digestion, guards against ulcers, increases energy, fights allergies
  • Lemons – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Limes – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Mangoes – combats cancer, boosts memory, regulates thyroid, aids digestion, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Mushrooms – controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, kills bacteria, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Oats – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, battles diabetes, prevents constipation, smooths skin
  • Olive Oil – protects your heart, promotes weight loss, combats cancer, battles diabetes, smooths skin
  • Onions – reduce risk of heart attack, combats cancer, kills bacteria, lowers cholesterol, fights fungus
  • Oranges – supports immune systems, combats cancer, protects your heart
  • Peaches – prevents constipation, combats cancer, helps stop strokes,aids digestion, helps hemorrhoids
  • Peanuts – protects against heart disease, promotes weight loss, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol, aggravates diverticulitis
  • Pineapple – strengthens bones, relieves colds, aids digestion, dissolves warts, blocks diarrhea
  • Prunes – slows aging process, prevents constipation, boosts memory, lowers cholesterol, protects against heart disease
  • Rice – protects your heart, battles diabetes, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, helps stops strokes
  • Strawberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, boosts memory, calms stress
  • Sweet Potatoes – saves your eyesight, lifts mood, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Tomatoes – protects prostrate, combats cancer, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart
  • Walnuts – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, boosts memory, lifts mood, protects against heart disease
  • Water – promotes weight loss, combats cancer, conquers kidney stones, smooths skin
  • Watermelon – protects prostate, promotes weight loss, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, controls blood pressure
  • Wheat germ – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Wheat Bran – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Yogurt – guards against ulcers, strengthens bones, lowers cholesterol, supports immune system, aids digestion (Lemon yogurt is the only one that is a natural anti-biotic with NO side effects.)

As with anything, proceed with caution. The information provided appears to be valid, but we must each consider our own diets, allergies, restrictions. One size does not necessarily fit all. I think I’ve heard that grapefruits should not be consumed by someone on Lipitor, a statin to lower cholesterol. Honey increases energy because it contains sugar. Tomatoes belong to the “night family” of veggies, along with green peppers and its relatives. Some people are allergic to them. And not all fish are created equal. The best options seem to be salmon, tuna, sardine, and halibut. Peanuts consumed in great quantities can be fattening because of its calories. (Something I must be particularly wary about.) A friend feasted on seedless grapes and aggravated her diverticulitis. Evidently the seed piths were still present, so they lodged in the lining of her intestines causing excruciating pain. So beware!

I’ve concocted my own diet of sorts based, in part, upon information gleaned from “The Perricone Prescription” by New York dermatologist, Dr. Nicholas Perricone. I read the book cover to cover on a flight home from spending 3 weeks with my daughter at a dance program in Martha’s Vineyard. By the time my plane landed, I was a believer in Dr. Perricone’s theory that “Inflammation is a probable culprit, a contributor to most major diseases and degenerative conditions, from cancer to Alzheimer’s, arthritis to stroke. Proinflammatory diets, exposure to sunlight, environmental pollutants, and a host of other agents assault our cells and cause them to generate inflammatory chemicals. This subclinical inflammation goes on day after day, year in and year out, leading to numerous disease states as well as the disease of aging. Yes, aging is a disease–a chronic, uniformly progressive, inflammatory disease that is always fatal. …I explain how inflammation occurs on a cellular level and detail my search for powerful anti-inflammatories–antioxidants that stop inflammation and repair the damage. If you can prevent and stop inflammation, you can prevent and stop the signs of aging.” Dr. Perricone goes on to say that “Sugar causes inflammation…”

I tried Perricone’s diet for 3 weeks, but couldn’t remain on it because it was so restrictive for me. Nonetheless the information he imparted made a lot of sense, and so I’m still a believer. Sugar causes inflammation; extra-virgin olive oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory food; trans fats are dangerous to my health; the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers can be lowered by eating fish, and their omega-3 fatty acids reduces the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. And green tea does ramp up my metabolism, as does alpha-lipoic acid supplements.

Along with Perricone’s book, I’ve adapted much of what is contained in “The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet” by California neuroscientist, Dr. Vincent Fortanasce. Because of him, I eat blueberries most days, fresh or frozen. “If free radical damage causes aging, then ingesting antioxidants in high enough quantities should be able to slow aging. Ironically, you don’t have to eat tons of foods high in antioxidants to slow down brain aging! For instance, studies have shown that eating just 3/4 cup blueberries per day can turn back the clock dramatically.” Fortanasce adds “Berries, including blueberries…are filled with anthocyanins,…that…sweep out, harmful free-radical molecules that trigger inflammation…studies show that antioxidant filled berries help fight against aging problems, such as short-term memory loss. Dark blue and purple berries also are linked to a significant reversal in motor dysfunction that correlates with aging and dopamine deficiency.”

hoping this may help…hugmamma.

medical mystery

Preparing  to head to my exercise class, I felt my throat start to constrict. Standing still, I focused upon what was happening inside my mouth. My tongue felt “thick” and slightly swollen. My throat was beginning to exhibit similar symptoms. “Don’t panick. Don’t panick.” I thought. “Calm down. Calm down. Think. Think.”

Feeling like my tongue is “thick” is not new. I’ve felt it for several days, chucking it up to my voracious downing of shelled peanuts for more than a week. Having a few handfuls a day didn’t seem like a crime, although I’m very aware that nuts are high in calories, extremely high. There, you’ve discovered my Achille’s heel.

While I thought the salt intake might be the culprit, a niggling thought sat menacingly at the back of my brain. Because I was drinking water to salve my swollen tongue, was I actually on the brink of moving from pre-diabetes to full-blown diabetes? My common sense said “no,” but the self-diagnostician in me said “might be… could be…you think?”

So I whipped out one of my many self-help books, “The Doctors Book of Home Remedies-Thousands of Tips and Techniques Anyone Can use to Heal Everyday Health Problems” by the editors of PREVENTION Magazine Health Books. It wasn’t a visit to my doctor, but hey, it’d do in a pinch. And I felt my throat starting to “pinch.”

Scrolling down the list of headings under “Asthma,” my eyes fixed upon “Watch what you eat.” Among other things it stated “…foods that trigger asthma are…nuts…” This didn’t register as too worrisome since I’ve never had a problem with them before. Yes, I know, there’s always the possibility my sensitivities can change. As age has crept up on me, so have the countless things I can’t eat or do anymore. But another section did catch my eye.

“Be Salt Sensible.” It maintained that “In a study conducted at the Department of Community Medicine of St. Thomas Hospital in London, researchers discovered that table salt could have a life-threatening effect on your asthma.” They found a strong link between salt purchases and asthma mortality for men and children. “Buying the salt wasn’t killing people; eating it was.” You think my gender might save me? Something to think about. Further down the page, another section peaked my interest.

Use nonaspirin pain relievers.” Allergist Richard Lockey, M.D., director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine said ” ‘If you have sinusitis and nasal polyps and asthma, I wouldn’t recommend any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen because it could make your asthma worse or even kill you.’ ” Allergist Sidney Friedlander, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at the same college adds “This aspirin sensitivity could just suddenly develop, so it’s best to stay clear of aspirin products altogether,…’ The problem doesn’t happen when you use acetaminophen,…’ ” I don’t know if I have nasal polyps, but I have had chronic sinusitis in the past, and I have mild asthma, so I’m 2 for 3.  Something else to consider.

And finally, the last paragraph “Listen to your lungs.” offered the wisest advice yet. “Of course, the best way to fight an asthma attack is not have one in the first place.” So while  willing myself not to have an asthma attack, I got a second opinion from the best source of all. I phoned my husband, at work, of course. He’s always “on call” for me there.  Himself an asthmatic for many years, I reviewed the mechanics of using my inhalant. Rarely needing it, I had to refresh my memory as to how I should administer the puffs, and how often I could use the inhalant during my episode.

During my “attack,” I had calmly gotten my purse and removed my inhalant, put it to my open mouth, and sucked in my breath while inhaling a quick “puff.” I repeated this a second time. Consulting with others was to confirm what I already knew, including no peanuts (for a while anyway) and cutting back on my salt intake. (Did it contribute to my “thick” tongue?) I’ll have to ponder the aspirin piece. My physician prescribed it as a daily regimen for staving off strokes. Difficult to choose between having an asthma attack or a stroke? Maybe I should ask my doctor?

hmmm, something else to consider…hugmamma