Abundance & Thankfulness …

Sometimes, when you live with a Chronic illness, it’s easy to overlook the abundance in your life. A few may even tell you that they have nothing to be thankful for. Yet, their perception couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have all had the difficult years. Those that are riddled with flares and setbacks. We have all experienced bad news … followed by worse news. It’s hard to bear. It hurts, in numerous ways. Still, we know that we have been blessed with abundance. And, in our heart of hearts, we are (or should be) thankful … hopeful … even joyful.

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                    “Give and it will be given to you …”   — Luke 6:38

Scripture holds many verses on the subject. All are meant to teach and inspire. In Deuteronomy 24:19-21, we are instructed to remember and provide for, “… the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.” Our abundance exists, whether in our fields or on our tables. With that in mind, I want to expand upon the idea. There are countless ways that we all can share our abundance. And there is no better time than the present to do it.  This holds true for those who live with Chronic illness and those who don’t.

Nothing helps you to understand need better than to give of yourself, your time and your abundance. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or a food bank. Take a warm meal to a neighbor who is struggling with mobility issues. Give of your abilities to those who can use your help … rake leaves, clean gutters, have a chat, run an errand, invite the lonely, etc. It’s a small gesture, in the grand scheme of things. But to the person in need, what you do is priceless.

Personally, I have always found that giving of myself helps me to keep a better perspective of my own life. Living with multiple Chronic illnesses can be frustrating. I can’t deny that. But when I am helping others, I see beyond myself. Suddenly my flare doesn’t seem as bad, or as overwhelming as it once did. The additional tests and/or medication isn’t as much of an inconvenience. During these moments, I’ve realized that I’m doing pretty good — I’m managing my illnesses. It isn’t the other way around. I’m contributing to the world around me. I’m doing so many things that I enjoy doing. Other times, I have been inspired by people who are physically less fortunate than me.  And I have become even more tenacious … to try harder, eat healthier, etc. My father, a WWII veteran, used to say, “It can always be worse.” This is so true.

So as Thanksgiving approaches, look around you. Embrace your abundance. Be thankful for every good day — for all that you have. Be realistic in your own expectations. Be hopeful. And reach out to those in need. Together, we are in this journey called life. Dare to care!

 

 

Reference Links:

* Photo by Christopher Ryan on Unsplash

 

Holiday Eating & Celiac Disease

The holidays are quickly approaching and many of us are getting excited about those special foods that we associate with this time of year. We can’t wait to indulge ourselves. A nibble here … a plate there … and a lot of — OMG! I have to try some of that! But for those with Celiac Disease, the holidays pose an even greater challenge — celebrating without causing a flare (worsening) of their symptoms!

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But what exactly is Celiac Disease? Well, it is a Chronic illness — specifically Autoimmune. It occurs in genetically predisposed people. In other words, it is hereditary. And it’s estimated to effect 1 in 100 people, worldwide. Some patients are diagnosed as children. Others develop the disease in adulthood. And doctors are still unsure of why this happens. Yet, we do know that the cause is the same — gluten. This is a protein found in Wheat, Barley and Rye. When a Celiac patient ingests gluten, their body launches a massive immune response — attacking their small intestine. For this reason, dietary precautions must be taken to avoid painful and frustrating symptoms.

Many processed foods, unless labeled “Gluten-Free“, contain gluten:

  • Beer, Ale, Stout
  • Breads
  • Cakes & Pies
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Communion wafers
  • Cookies, Crackers & Croutons
  • French Fries
  • Gravies
  • Matzo
  • Pastas
  • Hot Dogs & Lunch-meats
  • Salad Dressings
  • Seasoned Snack-foods & Potato Chips
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups, Bouillon & Soup Mixes
  • Vegetables cooked in sauce 

Now, for a moment, imagine trying to navigate your way through a holiday dinner or party with Celiac Disease. Obviously, it isn’t easy. But it is possible.

If you are hosting a holiday dinner or party and you know that a guest (possibly more than one) has Celiac, consider incorporating a few gluten-free options into your menu-plans. There are many recipes available. You may even find that others like the idea of having a “healthier” choice available!

Fresh fruit is a great option. Grapefruit, oranges, pears, cranberries, etc., are just waiting to grace your table. Nuts like cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias and pecans offer a nice snack, but avoid salting and/or baking them in oil. Veggie trays are another. Think Bacon and Pimento-cheese dip — absolutely yummy! Wine is another gluten-free option. Shrimp also gets a thumbs-up. So do cuts of beef, lamb, rabbit and fish. It’s just not that difficult. More importantly, it gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy themselves! And your Celiac friend or loved-one will certainly thank you for it!

 

Reference Links: 

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/symptoms-of-celiac-disease/

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/related-conditions/dermatitis-herpetiformis/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530

https://celiac.org/eat-gluten-free/recipes/

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/eating-diet-nutrition

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/celiac-disease/dietary-changes-for-celiac-disease

*Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Pumpkin: It’s Not Just Seasonal, It’s Healthy!

Well, it’s that time of year again … colorful, frosty Fall. Or should I say pumpkin season? Nowadays, you can find the flavors of “Pumpkin” and “Pumpkin-Spice” everywhere. But did you know that pumpkin is more than a seasonal flavor on the menu? In fact, it’s literally a healthy culinary choice. Something that is both good to eat and good for you. Imagine that!

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Pumpkins are considered a “Superfood“. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “superfood” is a food that offers high levels of desirable nutrients, is linked to the prevention of a disease, or is believed to offer several simultaneous health benefits beyond its nutritional value.

Now, let’s focus on exactly what pumpkin can do for you:

  • Pumpkins are rich in fiber. This slows digestion and allows you to feel full for a longer length of time. A cup of pumpkin gives you more grams of fiber than 2 slices of whole-grain bread! And it is a low-calorie choice, with less than 50 calories per serving!
  • Pumpkins promote good eye health. That beautiful, deep-orange color means there is an abundance of beta-carotene inside. This converts to vitamin A in the body. A single cup of pumpkin contains over 200% of the recommended daily intake needed for most people. It also contains two antioxidants (lutein & zeaxanthin) that are believed to help prevent cataracts and even slow the development of macular degeneration!
  • Gives your immune system a boost. All that vitamin A helps your body to fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases. Pumpkin oil even helps to fight bacterial and fungal infections. And there’s also vitamin C inside. That may help you to recover from colds more quickly.
  • Younger, healthier skin awaits. Not only does the beta-carotene protect us from harmful UV rays that age our skin and cause wrinkles, but pumpkin pulp actually makes a great all-natural facial that exfoliates and soothes your skin.
  • Lower Your Cancer risk. As if pumpkins aren’t providing enough healthy benefits, research shows us that beta-carotene rich diets may lower the risks of some cancers, i.e. prostate, lung.
  • Helps Manage Diabetes. Pumpkin has been proven to lower blood glucose levels, in scientific tests. It can also improve your glucose tolerance and increase the amount of insulin that your body produces. More research is being done. But if you are diabetic, this is a smart choice.
  • Pumpkin seeds are the ideal snack. So, don’t toss them into the trash-can. Toast some and taste how delicious healthy eating can be. These seeds are packed with healthful oils, magnesium, potassium and calcium. They are also a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. All this goodness can help bones, muscles, heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, even aid insomnia. Wow!

 

So, don’t reserve pumpkin for the holidays. Reap its benefits, as often as you can. It is after all a “superfood”. There are also many easy recipes that will help you incorporate pumpkin into your meals and tempt your taste-buds. And while you’re enjoying them, you have that added satisfaction of knowing that pumpkin is more than delicious. It’s actually good for you. Any way you choose to carve it, cook it, or toast it … that’s a win-win!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/6-surprising-health-benefits-of-pumpkin#1

Superfoods or Superhype?

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303864.php#benefits

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/19315/ingredients/vegetables/pumpkin/

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

*Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

 

Halloween, Kids & Juvenile Diabetes

It’s October and the leaves are starting to fall from the trees. Cooler air (Thank you, Lord!) has finally arrived. Autumn decorations are everywhere you turn. And, yes, the kids are getting pretty excited about Halloween. But if your child has a health issue like Juvenile Diabetes (T1D), a holiday that’s focused on enormous hauls of candy can literally be dangerous. Still, there are ways to have loads of fun and stay safe. Let’s talk about it …

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Personally, I have struggled with my weight my entire life — up and down the scale. My cousin was diagnosed with T1D, before he even started to school. As adults we began looking for alternatives that might be a source of prevention, for our own children. To date, our efforts have worked!

First of all, don’t focus solely on food especially candy and sweets. This holds true for any holiday and any child. It’s a life-lesson. Yes, Halloween only comes once a year. But that can also be an excuse for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter, etc. So, avoid it. Those excuses add up and they can have negative consequences.

Second, but equally important, is your child’s feelings. Kids with any Chronic illness want to feel “included” — not excluded. They want to feel like everyone else. An easy way to make them feel included is to adopt traditions, even for something like Halloween. These traditions bond your family. They can even be shared with friends. 

So, before the big night, plan a fun-packed evening! You will need someone to watch your front-door, while you’re out. Ask a grandparent, or friend, if they can help for 2-3  hours.

Remember that trick-or-treating is just one part of Halloween. It isn’t the ONLY part. Think traditions, here. You can plan a family-dinner at home. You might even put up some decorations, i.e. balloons, Silly String, a Fog Machine, etc. If possible, get the kids involved. It adds to the excitement. And they’re more likely to eat something, if they have helped prepare it. Cucumber and Hummus sandwiches are a good start. Or maybe a Veggie Skeleton? How about Turkey Chili? Cheeseburger Pasta? Meat’n’Cheese Stromboli? Greek Pizza? These recipes and countless others are Diabetic, easy and kid-friendly. For dessert, add a little autumn fun … bob for apples! 

Now, you’re ready to go trick-or-treating. Remember those jackets, sweaters and Glow sticks. It’s important to limit your area of door-to-door action, i.e. your street, your apartment building, your neighborhood. This alone will reduce your child’s candy haul. You can include Grandma’s house, an Aunt’s house, etc. that are located elsewhere. But set limits from the start and stick to them. This will allow your diabetic child to make the rounds … showing-off his/her costume with their siblings and/or friends. And it will also give you more control over their sugar intake.

The last activity of the evening is the grand finale, i.e. a corn maze, a local haunted house, a hay ride, etc. Whatever you choose will be loads of fun for the entire gang. And it will provide plenty of laughter as well as great memories. The photos, selfies, even video will be worth sharing for days … weeks … even years to come. The bragging rights for you and your children will be equally enjoyable. Anybody and everybody can go door-to-door. Yawn. It equates to the same-old, same-old. You took Halloween to a new level and your family will love it!

Once you are back at home, turn your outdoor lights off and bring in your jack-o-lantern. This signals to all of your children that the evening is winding down for everyone — not just one. The candy eating will start and that’s okay. Allow them to eat a little and save the rest for later (a good practice for kids who aren’t diabetic, too). Get their baths out of the way … and put their pajamas on … then enjoy a DVD … unwind. They’ll be ready for it and you deserve it. Best of all, you’ve started a Halloween tradition that you’ll want to repeat year after year. One that is special, healthy, inclusive, fun and packed with surprises!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20011030/children-diabetes-eat-halloween-candy#1

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/259414/cucumber-hummus-sandwiches/

https://www.tasteofhome.com/healthy-eating/diabetic-recipes/

http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/awareness-programs/hhm/what_can_i_eat-fast_food_tips-American_Diabetes_Association.pdf

Easy Greek Pizza

https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-halloween-treats-for-kids.aspx

https://www.history.com/news/what-is-bobbing-for-apples

 

 

*Photo by Bekir Donmez on Unsplash

Make Mine Tea, Please

Most of us are familiar with the old cliche “You are what you eat”. Well, that also holds true for what you drink. And depending upon your choices, the effects can be good or bad. For centuries, tea has been recognized for its ability to soothe, refresh and heal. Have you tried it?

 

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Personally, I like to drink tea hot or cold. Nothing comforts a sore throat like a warm cup of tea that’s been sweetened with a little honey. Likewise, there are few things that can refresh you like a cold, glass of tea. But the benefits extend far beyond this. Many Chronic illnesses can be positively influenced by this age-old drink.

Studies have shown that specific teas may help with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s, etc. Tea, of any blend, has less caffeine than colas or coffee. Think of it this way: Tea IS a good choice! And brewed is better than bottled. If you want to focus on using a specific tea, the following will help to get you started:

  • Green tea has a high level of an antioxidant known as EGCG. This may hinder the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic and colon cancers. It can also reduce the clogging of arteries, burn fat, reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Stroke.
  • White tea has the most powerful anticancer properties of any processed tea.
  • Oolong tea has antioxidants that will lower bad cholesterol or LDL. It has also been marketed as a weight-loss supplement. However, scientific studies to support the latter are not available. 
  • Black tea, which includes Pu-erh tea, can help with weight loss, reduce cholesterol and lung health. Black tea also contains the highest amount of caffeine.
  • Herbal teas (Chamomile, Ginger, Ginseng, Jasmine, Rosehip, Mint, Hibiscus, Echinacea and Rooibos) have been shown to help a variety of illnesses, from sore throat to hypertension.

Instant teas, while convenient, contain more sugars and artificial sweeteners. So, please, read the label … buy a tea-kettle … and brew. You can brew iced tea by filling a pitcher half-full with hot water. Add your large tea-bag (family-size) and let it do its thing for about 22 minutes. Remove the bag and add your preferred sweetener. Then, add cold water until pitcher is full and refrigerate. No stove or tea-kettle required. This isn’t difficult. Nor does it take a lot of time. It’s also incredibly inexpensive compared to other beverage choices that are on the market.

It should be noted that the FDA has issued warnings about so-called “dieter’s teas”. These tea blends contain plant-derived laxatives. They are more of a marketing scam than a health benefit. The FDA has also issued warnings about taking many supplements, i.e. Comfrey, Willow bark, Germander, Lobelia and Chaparral. Tea, as with other things that we consume (from farm to table), can be tainted or misleading. The more that you know, the wiser you become as a consumer. 

Last, but not least, there are many brands of tea on the market today. For a cup of hot tea, I’m partial to Celestial Seasonings (the Mandarin Orange Spice is my absolute favorite). For iced tea, it’s hard to beat Lipton. If you are interested in trying tea but uncertain of what blend to drink … ask your doctor or a nutritionist. When we consume healthy, we are healthier. That’s just a no-brainer. So, enjoy some tea and reap the rewards!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/the-health-benefits-of-tea

https://www.medicinenet.com/sore_throat_home_remedies_and_treatment/article.htm

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/tea-types-and-their-health-benefits#2

https://specialtyteaalliance.org/world-of-tea/us-grown-tea/

https://www.aol.com/article/2016/03/24/why-weight-loss-tea-is-the-biggest-scam-on-instagram/21333062/

14 Best Green Tea Brands in 2019

*Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash

An Apple A Day …

Remember the old Welsh proverb that this title alludes to? Well, as it turns out, that saying is more fact than cliche. Apples are healthy for us. In fact, many research studies suggest that apples may be one of the healthiest foods you can eat! And they taste so incredibly good too!

 

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Apples come in over 2,000 varieties, ranging from sweet to sour in taste. So there is something for everyone, no matter your preference. A serving, or one medium-sized apple, contains about 95-100 calories. It also contains 0 gram fat, 1 gram protein, 25 grams carbohydrate, 19 grams sugar (naturally occurring), and 3 grams fiber. Apples are also low in sodium and cholesterol. And they provide a good source of vitamin C as well as fiber. If you are on the AIP diet, also known as the Autoimmune Protocol diet, for  Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Lupus, you’re probably already eating apples. But they can also help patients with other Chronic illnesses, i.e. Heart disease, specific Cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, Obesity, Diabetes, Stroke, etc. Imagine that!

You’ll also find an endless array of recipes (including low-carb) available online, in cooking magazines and cook-books, to help you incorporate apples into your weekly menu. Or you can enjoy one, right from the fruit-bowl. Maybe, a serving of apple juice with breakfast? My personal favorite is applesauce. Sometimes, simple is the best. So, by all means, indulge yourself. It’s September. The apples are fresh and bountiful. It’s time to enjoy them and reap the benefits of better health! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267290.php

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/benefits-apples#1

Apples

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-apples

https://healingautoimmune.com/aip-food-list

36 Easy AIP Recipes That Won’t Stress You Out

https://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/healthy-apple-recipes?

https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g4650/healthy-apple-recipes/

*Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

Heredity & Chronic Illness

Tracing one’s ancestry has become a very popular thing, these days. It’s fun. Surprising. Sometimes, even a tad mysterious. Folks can’t seem to get enough of their past. They want to know more. In doing so, we inevitably look at old photographs and compare our likeness to those of our ancestors. Mom’s auburn hair. Dad’s deep-blue eyes. We admire military service. We notice things like multiple births, activism, alma maters. And we smile at those reoccurring “family names”. Personally, I represent the sixth generation to utilize some variant of “Julia”, i.e. Julie, Juliette, Juliana, even a Julian. Obviously, the paternal side of my family likes the name.

We also marvel at other things that we share with the generations before us, i.e. personality traits, dimples, freckles, receding hairlines, etc. In some cases, even professions like medicine, teaching, or law enforcement transcend the generations. All connect us. But how many of us are paying attention to the illnesses that run through our family tree? Like hair color, height, etc., our health is genetically linked to our ancestors. Which is why many Chronic illnesses run in families. And also why millions of dollars have been devoted to genetic research, in the last two decades.

 

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Although 70% or more of our disease risk can be linked to our environment, genetic factors also play a role. We may not be born with a specific disease, but our genetic predisposition or susceptibility may place us at a greater risk of acquiring it in life. There are four types of genetic disorders:

  • Single gene inheritance
  • Multi-factorial inheritance
  • Chromosome abnormalities
  • Mitochondrial inheritance

The World Health Organization has done extensive work regarding noncommunicable diseases, i.e. Cancer, Diabetes, Heart disease, Mental illnesses, etc. This research and that of others (CDC) tells us that it isn’t just our shared genes. Many families share common environments and lifestyles, i.e. smoking, diet, drug or alcohol use. Gender, age, race or ethnicity can also effect our risk. For example, Diabetes is 60% more common in Blacks than in Whites. Blacks are also more likely to die from Asthma than Whites. Fighting this problem goes beyond genetics. It means we must change the system for testing new drugs. We must improve health education. And we must overcome disparities in healthcare.

If you haven’t taken the time to consider your family medical history, I encourage you to do so. Everyone should. Share this information with your doctor/s. It’s possible to work together and prevent some diseases. If you have been diagnosed with a Chronic illness, remember that early treatment can help you to better treat/manage your condition. That’s extremely important.

Our genes are comprised of DNA. It’s the molecule that is the hereditary material found in all living cells. And the genome is the sum total of any organism’s DNA. It’s complex, I know. So, just keep this in mind … the way our genes work can be positively influenced, i.e. good nutrition, exercise, avoiding substance abuse, etc. We don’t have to inherit everything, good and bad, from our ancestors. We have options. It’s time to utilize them. Choose to live well!

 

 

Reference Links:

Chronic disease: Genes matter, but so does environment

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4841510/

https://www.medicinenet.com/genetic_disease/article.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/famhist_chronic_disease.htm

https://www.webmd.com/cancer/features/precision-medicine-dna-lifestyle#2

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/family_history.htm

https://www.who.int/genomics/public/geneticdiseases/en/index3.html

Epigenetics – How the Environment Influences Our Genes

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/11/how-health-and-lifestyle-choices-can-change-your-genetic-make-up/247808/

https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/why-7-deadly-diseases-strike-blacks-most#1

*Photo by Tregg Mathis on Unsplash