Friday, January 22, 2010

Living Well Is The Best

What's that expression? "Living well is the best revenge?" My spin on it is "living healthy is the best reward." I'll be honest, though, that it has taken a long time for us to reach the reward stage. Remember? I'm the unprofitable servant...I've only done what is required of me. I'll admit that most of this journey has been spent running from a stick of sufficient magnitude to make the effort worthwhile rather than the enticement of a theoretical carrot. I admire people who have the self-discipline to persevere and discipline themselves on that idea of a pay-off in the far-flung future. Shamefacedly, I admit that I'm not one of those. Stick, me. Big stick. Big, big stick.

Our journey was supposed to be only one of four to six months, but has extended to eight years now and still counting. We have a couple stubborn outlying foods that still evade our grasp, but we're getting there. These extended years, though, have afforded me the opportunity to begin to enjoy the carrot phase of the journey while still grappling with the stick aspects.

Tool Guy is the a shining example of what "clean living" will do. His weight was ballooning, as is typical with the men in his family, until he decided to low carb a dozen years ago. In was an inadvertent diagnosis because the carbs he found most dispensable was bread. After we stumbled into our familial gluten intolerance diagnosis, we were able to connect the dots and realize why he responded so well to a low carb diet. Since going gluten free, he has resumed carb consumption without any particular attention or regulation to his diet. And excepting when sugar allures, he is able to maintain a stable weight that isn't far from his low carb ideal. And those annoying eczematic rashes on his feet have mysteriously disappeared, never to return. Without any medical assistance. Ditto on those troublesome ear infections that responded only to aggressive irrigation with Betadyne solution. But those improvements took a long time to surface.

Some improvements don't take so long to manifest themselves. Tool Guy's dad, Pop, visited with us over the holidays. He arrived from sunny Florida, announcing that felt as if he'd aged ten years in the last few months and he moved as if, indeed, he had. The airlines, while very tardy in their scheduling, were at least very prompt in providing a much-needed wheelchair to portage him from terminal to terminal in a timely fashion. Bless his heart, his ditty bag bulged with thirteen different medications. No, not thirteen pills to take daily. Thirteen different medications that required multiple doses a day. Blerg.

During his visit, he reconciled himself to eating what we eat with a minimum of greasy-spoon diner runs. During one conversation, he asked me what was good for arthritis. As it happened, I had some black cherry concentrate in the pantry, since the Hobbits like it to flavor their smoothies, and it became part of his daily routine to have a tablespoon in a cup of water. Within only a few days, he demonstrated how he was able to flex his fingers, effortlessly and painlessly.

Consequently, I started poking around to find what other things might help reduce arthritic inflammation and make him more comfortable. There were a few truncated references to Chinese Star Anise seed pods and bells started going off.

Tool Guy had recently gifted me with a french press coffee maker that I haven't been using to make coffee. I've been using it to make herbal teas, since the press is equally lovely for straining out the herbals as it is for coffee grounds. And the Hobbit favorite is Chai Tea. They used to have to put up with the bagged chai from the grocery store until I was given a recipe for The Real Thing. Definitely met with cries of delight and the more I read on the constituent herbs, the more healthy it is appearing. In addition to reputed benefits for arthritis, Star Anise is the food source for Tamiflu. Cinnamon is in good reputation for diabetics and high blood pressure. Ginger, as I learned this past summer, has a wealth of goodies, just waiting to burst upon us. And the bonus? It tastes good. And isn't it great to be able to juggle things around so that they are safe for us, good for us, and dance on the tastebuds?

I pinched as many pennies as I could to get all of these ingredients in bulk and as fresh as possible. It was well worth the sacrifice. After tweaking the recipe to suit highly specific Hobbit tastes--Hey, I personally happen to like a heavy cinnamon overtone, but, whatever--they have been clamoring for it on a regular basis. I imagine that this will be just as popular during the summer season as it has been during the cold and flu season.

Chai Tea, adapted from a recipe by Aleese Cody, Help's On the Way

1 quart water
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried ginger root
1 star anise pod
10 whole peppercorns
1/4 tsp. decorticated cardamom
1/4 tsp. whole coriander
1/4 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 whole vanilla bean or 1 dropperful of vanilla extract
1 tea bag

Combine ingredients except for tea and bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Cover and allow to steep for another 20 minutes, dropping the tea bag in during the last 5 minutes of the steep. Strain out spices and serve. Flavoring options favored by Hobbits include stevia and coconut milk. A tsp. of cocoa powder was trialed, but didn't pass the taste test. Your mileage may vary.

When Pop left, he was able to bend completely down and pick up anything that he may drop on the floor. And put on his own socks without a struggle. Something that was extremely difficult for him when he first arrived. On the return flight home, after two weeks in the extreme colds that New England is so generous with, he spurned the use of the wheel-chair, striding to his terminals alongside Tool Guy, who accompanied him to see him off. He plans on scaring up some black cherry concentrate.

Eating everything free isn't just about avoiding allergens, it's about eating well, enjoying the food, enjoying life. Living well. Pop has discovered that living free has freed him up from the bondage of the pharmaceutical. He left, down to only two medications. His blood pressure, his doctor tells him, is the lowest it has been in many, many years. Without medication. How's that for everything free? Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food.

Living well is the best...revenge?...reward? Whatever. Living well is simply the best.


Anonymous said...

Great post! So true! And thanks for the Chai Recipe. I love the stuff.

Alyss said...

What a great story! I've been drinking chai tea very similar to yours. I don't have any star anise, and hadn't thought to include vanilla. I also haven't been using the black tea, but do stir in a little lemon juice or honey with it often. It's so nice to have something warm and warming on cold mornings.

RasJane said...

Thank you so much for this post. It is very timely for me. We have finally started a full GAPS diet and I am feeling a bit discouraged. As if I'll never be able to have a healthy family and we'll all just be cranky broth-drinkers.
You have reminded me that healing will occur on it own time as long as we stick with it.
*deep breathe*

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for commenting on old posts. It's just too funny to me, to see someone else say that. I did almost exactly the same thing with the low-carb diet. I found that when I went low-carb, my acne disappeared, along with some scaly patches that had been on my ankles for years. Poof! Like magic. Now, whenever I screw up and eat wheat, I get the acne back instantly. Vanity is a wonderful incentive for sticking to the diet. I'm also no longer low-carb. Only wheat-free. I've gained a couple of pounds back, but nowhere even close to the 35 I lost. If my clothes start getting tight, I can always cut out the starches again. I have to wonder how many people who reap huge benefits from a low-carb diet are actually just intolerant to wheat or fruits.

Loztnausten said...

Amazing the differences it makes, doesn't it? I've "met" so many people who diagnosed their gluten intolerance via the Atkins Diet. We used to joke that it was a default screening tool. If you lost weight on Atkins, you were GI...LOL!

Christy said...

I'm young 35 and have had rheumatoid since in my 20's. I see a homeopathic Dr. and she had me quit ALL dairy and wheat products. I have been medication free for almost a year. Life changing. I was well on my way to being in a wheel chair. Totally takes the swelling away. I didnt know about the cherry thing though and am going to look into it. I hope your dad is still feeling well.

Loztnausten said...

Glad to hear that changing your diet has so radically improved your health, too! My mother is finding it helpful for her, as well as a couple of my friends. Another "new favorite" thing! Some of my herbal reading has indicated that wild yam is another arthritis-friendly kind of herb.

Unknown said...