May 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
So I’ve stewed over this post for awhile now. Waiting for that missing piece of inspiration that would glue together the bits of thoughts & hastily tapped iNotes that when I’m lucky, congeal into commentary.
The missing piece came in the form of an Alan Watt’s podcast from 1960 called ‘The Sense of Nonsense’. Where in his own witty, eloquent, Alan Watts-way he discusses his thoughts on the human desire for meaningfulness and its relation to the satisfaction of our biological urges. When it comes to food he asks, “Does One Live to Eat, or Eat to Live?”
He asks because he’s unsure. And at first, so was I.
The original concept for this blog began with the idea that I was going to document a week-long visual diet diary. Meaning that I would keep track of everything I ate in one week by taking a picture of it (vs. the traditional handwritten-style log that ends up looking more like a used kleenex by the end of 7 days), and hopefully shed some light on the process.
Diet diaries come up a lot in Naturopathic medicine & other nutrition related sciences. If you’ve never seen or done one before, behold!
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the diet diary.
In my teenage years there was a period when my interest in the food that went in my mouth bordered on obsession. And not in a good way. The late 90′s seemed a hot-spot for calorie counting & calculating each gram of carb or fat…Fad dieting was in full effect, and margarine was winning.
A little older, and marginally (ha!) wiser, I now generally recommend that everybody should try out the process at least once. The idea being that in the end, you have a nifty little list of your gastronomical history that you can judge, judge, judge the bejesus out of!
If you’re being honest and kind to yourself throughout the process, a diet diary can help put you in touch with your fare in a very real way. Giving both a broad & bare faced perspective on the likes of our food choices. Not to mention how those foods affect our mood & metabolism. Especially when it comes to digestion.
I’m not sure why the idea of a visual diary hadn’t dawned on me sooner, as I have a sad, guilty pleasure for #foodgram’ing some of proudest meals. However this undertaking was not to be about pride. There’d be no fancy filters or fading. This was not #foodporn. There’d be bad lighting and unflattering angles, and yes, maybe even some unflattering foods.
Because of the deep love and respect I have for my PWH readers, I’ve included 1 day of that experiment below (and will graciously accept email money transfers if you’d like to see more).
Early on in Naturopathic school I remember one of my instructors drawing a picture of a long tube on the chalkboard and explaining that for all the minute miraculous physiology of our digestive tracts essentially, it’s just a big ol’ tube. Stuff goes in one end and come out the other.
Viewed this way, you can imagine that over years of living, drinking & eating patterns would emerge in the process. We’d see certain kinds of things stuffed down the hatch more than others. And can imagine that these choices may add up to be pretty important.
What kinds of things do we put in repeatedly? Do they move through our tubes fast or slow? What do we know about their nutritional content? Their ability to be absorbed and metabolized? Their tendency to harm or to heal the gentle mucous membranes of our tubing?
Our guts are robust. Heck, we make Hydrochloric acid. But the surfaces of our tubing are gentle. Needy for nutrients. Sensitive to insults and to injury.
Morphologically we’ve named this lining epithelial tissue. Derived from the Latin word meaning to weave.
These are cells meticulously woven together with various connective tissue fibers, lining our every abdominal organ and cavity. They’re densely packed together and joined with little space between them. They protect us from microorganisms, absorb the nutrients we need to live, and dispose of all that which needs disposing.
Think about everything that touched your epithelium today.
Think about it gliding along this mucous membrane tubing whose sole purpose is to protect and to nourish each one of your cells and bodily tissues. Did you solely choose those foods to keep on living? Or did your aliveness depend in some way on the consumption of those foods?
As a ND, a (honest) patient’s diet diary can sometimes be a great tool to work with. It helps identify where there might be some excesses or deficiencies, and can connect the dots between your food-choosings and your symptoms. It’s not perfect. But it’s a good start.
I eat to live, yes. But I most definitely live to eat also. It’s the yin and the yang of these choices where our health finds balance. We can’t solely look upon food for what it will do for us, nor can we neglect the pure pleasure we take from eating it.
Food is energy and information and amazingness, and eating is something we are SO lucky to get to do over and over again each and every day of our lives.
If facing food decisions seems a struggle, remember that often the best choices are they ones made when all things have been considered. The trick is to pick foods that are nutritionally valuable and gratifying to your palate.
Foods nourishing both for life, and for living.
March 5, 2013 § 4 Comments
Note to self: it might be unwise to start your blog by bringing attention to the date.
Though I am tempted to ask, “how goes your March friends?!”, this of course implies that once again it’s been well over a month since I’ve last blogged.
More than once I’ve been told that around the 1 year mark into Naturopathic Doctor-dom the pace starts to shift a bit. You start to find your stride. Your business and your confidence and your practice start to bloom, and I have definitely been indulging this delightful groove. I’ve found however that this shift hasn’t made life breezier as expected, but much busier. Don’t get me wrong, 2013 has been chock-full with the most wondrous of stuff, but chock-full, nevertheless.
And I have to say I was surprised when this scale tipped for me at pretty much one year precisely. My first day journeying on the job was January 1st, 2012; one of my most exciting life days thus far. Not because I was immersed up to my eyeballs in fascinating cases and healing patient after patient like a champ. But because I had little else to do besides sit alone in my beautiful office, basking in the fact that I had been given the opportunity to deliver to the world my dream job. I was then and remain now, wildly aware of how lucky I am for this.
Ever since, I’ve been slowly and steadily building my new life around this new profession. Living a life that essentially is my profession. Failing some days and nailing others. And it’s still everything I could have hoped it to be.
I get to teach others learn to heal. And to boot, I get to teach others, to teach others learn to heal. I’ve been dividing my time between seeing patients at Flow, giving lectures at BINM & IHN, grading papers, and attempting to limit my red wine consumption (apologies for any spills on those midterms folks).
And while it’s all been grand, it has left little time for me to write, which was decidedly “in my story” for 2013. So here we go. Some thoughts on health n’ life n’ stuff…
There have been two major things I’ve realized over my past year in practice, and they are these:
The first is that no matter what it is I might be doing, whether drinking red wine or a ginger beet smoothie, giving lectures or a B12 injection, my most fundamental role is to help others attune themselves to their unique & unlimited healing capabilities.
The second is it that you don’t need a medical degree to do this (though having one is awfully nice and full of value and keeps you safer from lawsuits). You don’t need to own a stethoscope, or get prescription rights, or perform a full physical exam in under 30 minutes in order to help someone to heal. You mostly need to be a human being. Or a sweet kitty curled up on a warm lap. Or a cloudless 8 degree March day in Vancouver.
The healing relationship is a special form of communication that restores our faith in the miraculous, and within it lies the potential for reacquainting ourselves with our own innate self-healing abilities.
This relationship exists whenever one person comes to another for healing. Whether it’s a broken ulna, or a broken heart, there is no official license for healers. Healers act through their caring for another. They communicate the ineffable and the irrational with quiet & truthful guidance.
Your greater omentum is a healer.
Gil Hedley’s dissection of the abdominal organs depicts the omentum like nothing you’ve ever seen before (If you’re feeling bold you can watch it here around the 17 minute mark). Before ever having actually performed a cadaver dissection myself, I had never even known the thing existed. And yet there it was, purposefully present in each abdomen we opened.
The omentum consists of four layers of peritoneum that descend like a folding veil over top of your stomach & intestines. It’s often considered in anatomy circles as an indicator that the patient was in poor health. That this fatty intelligent snuggle blanket spells disease for a person. Too many big macs, too much toxicity, etc. etc.
As Dr. Oz says, it’s ”an organ inside all of us that plays a key role in making us fat… and it holds the secrets to losing weight.” (doesn’t everything Dr. Oz? Doesn’t everything?)
Instead, Gil posits that the omentum acts as an internal poultice, with absorptive properties that can draw off toxins, and reduce inflammation in the tissues it contacts. It actually migrates around the abdomen like a mobile lymphoid organ, moving and supporting the areas that require it’s loving touch the most. He also notes that many of the cadavers he’s seen (and he’s seen a lot) with larger fattier omentums actually survived well into their 90′s, living very actives lives.
Personally I prefer to think of my omentum as friend instead of foe. My own internal abdominal healer. A DJ Roomba built by, and made just for me. Sensing whether it’s my stomach or my small intestine that’s most in need of some connection, and reaching forth a fatty immunological caress.
Healers do little else than call forth our own innate wisdom to heal. With a loving touch, comforting counsel, a positive expectancy, a sense of self-worth, our wounds can heal. Hold close the people, places, and things that offer you glimpses of this often forgotten understanding.
I hope this blog finds you well readers. Thanks for sticking with me Will be shaping more of this story again real soon!
And big BIG thanks to Gil Hedley’s gracious posting of all 4 volumes of his Integral Anatomy video series available for free on YouTube. If you’re still feeling bold (and have already eaten dinner) you can watch them in their entirety here.
January 29, 2013 § 1 Comment
How goes your January friends?
Full of Magnesium I hope?
So I’m in the midst of writing a final nutrition exam for the fabulous 1st year naturopathic students at Boucher and thought I’d take a quick break to give a shout out to the mineral with the most-est.
Okay so “the most-est” might be unfair, but maybe the most-est underrated?
Because while Zinc and Iron and Sulphur are all appealing options too, I am bored to tears of hearing about Calcium, and don’t get me started on Sodium either. It’s like it’s 1992 and these guys are the Michael Jordan & Charles Barkley of the Minerals’ Olympic Dream Team, and John Stockton is Magnesium.
Much like a point guard who goes largely unrecognized for his multitude of impressive and crucially important roles, magnesium has specialized skills that help create scoring opportunities for his team (aka. your body). Handling the ball around the court, setting up plays, controlling the tempo of the game, and even busting out with the occasional jump shot.
This guy is involved in over 300 different enzymatic processes throughout every cell of our body, and when considering what our bodies like (and need) to use him for I like to remember it by the “3 M’s”:
Matrix refers to the bone matrix (sorry Keanu) as our bones & teeth contain more than half of our total body magnesium. Teaming up with Vitamin B6, D & K, he’ll help regulate how much Calcium we actually slam dunk into our bones, meaning that bone health is more complicated than a glass of milk “doing your body good”. In fact studies done in areas where the diet has a disproportionately high ratio of Calcium: Magnesium also show some of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.
…was anyone else as freaked out by this commercial as a kid as I was?
Muscle, means that Magnesium likes to hang in both smooth & skeletal muscle tissue, and I think it’s worth mentioning the difference: Smooth muscle is what’s found within the walls of our blood vessels, lymphatic system, and the reproductive, gastrointestinal, urinary and respiratory tracts. Basically anywhere we need muscles to contract without having to consciously think about it first.
Skeletal muscle is the stuff you pump at the gym.
Magnesium is both a skeletal and smooth muscle relaxant, which means it will help chill out tense body tissues and especially those in the uterus (later, period cramps) and cardiovascular system (later, angina).
It’s also worth noting that magnesium is 20x more concentrated in the heart muscle than it is in the bloodstream, meaning that he really likes to help the heart pump more effectively, regulating heart rate & blood pressure and the emotional manifestations that can arise from the elevations of each (eg. nervousness & anxiety).
Lastly, mitochondria are those amazing little organelles in each of our cells that are responsible for the production of ATP and/or our cellular energy. If you think back on high school chemistry, you might remember ATP as that long-suffering solution to an endless number of exciting chemical calculations such as Kreb’s (!) and The Electron Transport Chain (!). What’s often overlooked however is that ATP is almost always found bound to a magnesium ion, which means that keeping magnesium on the court also helps keep our energetic currency up.
Both boring and mind blowing
Please note that Magnesium does a lot more than what I am able to include in this post.
Please also note that our bodies use relatively large amounts of it, and often, and that based on what we know about how soil nutrient depletion is affecting our food supply, well, we probably need more than what we’re getting.
In 2004, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition released a study that compared the nutrient content of crops at that time with levels in the year 1950. Total declines were found to be as high as 40%, with other studies showing declines in magnesium as being especially significant. To bemoan conventional (read: unsustainable) farming practices even further, I took the following excerpt from a 1995 Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada Publication:
“Recent publications using data from food composition tables indicate a downward trend in the mineral content of foods and it has been suggested that intensive farming practices may result in soil depletion of minerals. Soil health will continue to decline in areas of intensive cropping and marginal land where conservation farming methods are not used…Declines in soil health occur rapidly, often most dramatically in the first 10 years following conversion of virgin land to agriculture.”
Yes, it’s true that some of our foods come fortified (eg. soy milk, breakfast cereals & cereal bars) because we prefer to strip the nutrients out of our grains during processing before adding them back in (big BIG eye roll), however I must advise that instead of consuming a bowl of cereal to meet your magnesium needs, considering choosing instead from a few of the following:
Sometimes I’ll prescribe a high quality magnesium supplement (I like ones chelated to the amino acid glycine) if I don’t think we’ll be able to reach adequate levels through the diet, and especially when there are some suspect signs of deficiency like constipation, muscle cramping, restless legs, migraines, anxiety and/or insomnia.
If this sounds like you, say yes to dark green leafies and no to any processed foods for the next few weeks, and see if you notice any change in how you feel. If you’re wanting to know more, Dr. Michael Long has a fantastic summary on Magnesium on his blog here.
Alright, back to test writing…can you guess what there might be a question on?
January 11, 2013 § 2 Comments
Happy New Year readers! It’s time for a fresh start! New beginnings! Etc. etc.
It’s pretty intimidating to write another New-Years-esque blog when so many great ones have so been-there-done-that already. And it’s especially intimidating to write about resolutions. As if I, or anyone one could possibly create a cogent list of betterment ‘to-dos’ that holds up against 365 days of destiny. But hey, ’tis the season of self-help, and top of my resolution list this year is to do more things that scare me. To push back against those things that can tend to push me around.
With each passing NYE my resolution list (ie. things I should probably be doing less/more of) gets slightly more aggressive, and much more focused on issues pertaining to health. Each item having a more palpable tone of urgency.
2011 was quick. 2012 a blur. 2013 is here. 2014, could’ya just give me a minute?? Before barely removing the cap from my pen to cross off a betterment we’re yelling HAPPY NEW YEAR once again, and I rise on the 1st reminded that time does speed up as you age, and that my liver is less keen on alcohol and my brain on staying up much after midnight.
This year I was lucky enough be in Ontario with my family for holidays, and being back home is always (and this year especially) an interesting combination of returning to the past, contemplating the future, and doing everything I can to fully enjoy the present.
Thankfully Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now was required reading in my first year of Naturopathic school, and if you’re familiar with this book you’ll know that when the idea that the past and the present don’t really exist hits you, it’s sorta life changing. An ancient idea made modern by Eckhart, and hilarious by Dana Carvey.
I really like living in the present, but am admittedly a hoarder of shoeboxes full of letters, diaries, keepsakes, and photos so that on occasion I can indulge in a good rake through the past. I also take guilty pleasure in dealing tarot, skimming horoscopes, and uncovering any cosmological occurrence that might offer up a glimpse of my future.
Without a doubt there are times when “living fully in the now” is hugely important…lying in shavasana, counselling a patient, or mincing garlic with my largest kitchen knife. But I feel like something is missed by asserting that always being present is best. Through the process of reflecting & prospecting each of us reads & writes our stories. Whether one large arc or many small ones, we are forever creating our beginnings, middles, and ends.
I love stories, and my favourites are those that can keep my curiosity engaged (and have happy endings). It’s the up & downs & the details that arrive while reading a book after watching the movie that make the meaning behind the words of each moment all the more richer. Sure you may know what happens next, but suddenly the motives make more sense, the characters have more depth, you see the story unfolding like a time lapsed flower to the sun. Each petal with providential purpose.
Story arcs take a variety of forms, but typically they wind up looking like the plot graph below. You pick a goal (slash NY resolution) and it goes okay for a while, then you have a crisis or challenge of some kind which in someway gets resolved. Depending on our hopes, dreams & destines we consider it either success or a failure, and “off-scale happiness” is usually the goal. The video below it is a fav of mine, showing master of fiction Kurt Vonnegut’s quick analysis of some other ways the the story can go…
Another story line is described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, where Joseph Campbell uses ancient anthropology & world mythology to describe the archetypal journey of the human hero. His theory is of course based on myths, and is widely reflected in fiction by modern writers and artists. Nonetheless, myths are not necessarily make believe, and fiction is not just frivolity. These arcs describe how humans can (and have) historically become the hero. Reach their goals. Follow their bliss. It’s the play book for turning resolutions into revelations. And it’s not just a line. It’s a circle.
“The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which [our] radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulﬁllment or the ﬁasco. There’s always the possibility of a ﬁasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss.” – J. Campbell
So, do you dare?
What myths do you want to live by? What shape will your arc take this year? Are there characters that need introducing? Plots lines that need changing? Denouements that need developing?
Don’t be afraid to take on the challenge of your resolutions. There will always be moments that set into place a series of events that we could never have planned or ever would have chosen. But for those things that are very much inside our locus control, here are some of my favourites for 2013:
- Put yourself in situations that evoke your higher self.
- Foster your creative self.
- Make your mental & physical health a priority.
- Learn to be present (sometimes).
- Walk whenever you can.
- Listen to more music. Dance to it too.
- Turn off the news (sometimes).
- Sit down when you eat.
- Drink more water.
- Use more candlelight.
- Answer the call the adventure.
Thank you so much all for being with me this past year. My story for 2013 is going to include doing more of what inspires me the most, and writing for PWH is a huge part of that. Also, Big Love to the beautiful Lauren Burkitt for keeping me on task and ensuring that this post made it out quick enough to till be considered New Year’s-esque
December 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
Some of you might already know that my birthday falls on Christmas Eve. Which means that every year of my life I’ve had to split the spotlight (and the presents) with the Saviour of all Mankind’s special day, and would you believe it, he’s always got all the attention.
Each year I react a bit differently, though I’ve always been a wee bit in awe of those who get to take their birthday off work or plan an epic party to celebrate. As a child I’d get angry, in my teens I’d get sad, and in my adulthood I’ve become sort of (*cough*) indifferent. The stress of the holiday season (finding flights home, gift shopping etc.) has overshadowed it’s importance for me. Now I usually just feel fortunate enough to be able to blow out some candles and eat cake.
Don’t cry for me, PWH readers. I love cake.
But Stress is still Stress, no matter what emotion it wears for a hat. And lately I’ve been interested in the specific effects these feelings, or emotions, have on our health story. I say specific because I believe there’s way more to be extracted than the simple & common assertion that “too much stress = disease”. A-Duh.
What’s trickier to comprehend is why even when we don’t necessarily feel stressed, well, that’s no good either. So I’ve been reading Dr. Gabor Mate’s, “When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress”, where he explores this conundrum in detail. Note that the title of the book emphasizes the cost of hidden stress. Stress that our bigger brain centers (or egos) have attempted or learned how to conceal. Stress that we’ve become so accustomed to suppressing that we adapt to the notion that it doesn’t really actually exist.
At first this notion gets my guards up. In the divine words of Liz Lemon, “my body is not the boss of me, my BRAIN is”…Stress I don’t feel but that exists? No thanks. I’m a feeler, and this feels a bit like I’m being sold something which is not only the worst but is also hazardous to my health.
It’s no novel idea however. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) (the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous & immune systems) has been around since the 1800’s, and the research currently being done shows that regardless of what “I” think I feel (or don’t), my body is going to tell it’s own side of the story.
Thanks to technology n’ civilization n’ stuff, nowadays most human stress is emotional, and emotional stress provokes the same set course of physiological responses in the body as physical stress does (eg. strenuous exercise or injury), yet will be perceived and experienced differently by everyone. For example…
Losing your job after taking a holiday = bad.
Losing your job after winning the lottery = awesome!
Both “bad” & “awesome” are starting points for all sorts of emotional responses. Either experience could cause anger, worry, or joy, depending on how much the person likes their job, hates their boss, values money, or is generally inclined to expressing, or repressing, their feelings.
In Chinese Medical Theory, the understanding that our major organ systems are “paired” with our emotions has been around for about 5000 years longer than PNI. These relationships are based upon centuries of observation re: the quality & quantity of our emotional experiences and their outcome on our physical bodies. Of our most basic human emotions, the pairings are these:
- Joy or an emotion of deep contentment that is connected to the heart.
- Anger an emotion associated with the liver and feelings of resentment, frustration, irritability and rage.
- Sadness or Grief an emotion that can cause a person to cry, creating disharmony in the lungs and blocking energy from circulating throughout the body.
- Worry (or Anxiety) an emotion that can affect the digestive organs (eg. stomach/intestines).
- Fear/Fright an emotion that can cause disharmony in the kidneys (slash adrenal glands) and a reaction of shock or panic due to something sudden & unexpected, whether real or imagined.
An excess (stuck in an extreme) or deficiency (total repression) of any of these emotions can generate illness in the body for the simple reason that they create an imbalance, magnifying our exposure to the physiological effects of stress. In Mate’s opinion, when we continue to say no (to expression or transformation), the body winds up saying it for us.
In both my practice and personal experience, these connections have begun to make perfect sense. Of those emotions that affect biological processes, the most common I’ve seen have been anxiety = IBS/Digestive disorders, grief = recurrent upper respiratory tract infections, fear (of failure/the future) = bladder problems & adrenal fatigue. There is a physiological explanation behind each of these, which I hope to explore and write more on soon.
In the meantime though I’d like to suggest that emotional responsiveness, or a harmonious reactivity to our world is critical in order to live a healthy human life. Self reflect. Then get scared, but resolve fear by learning how to trust both yourself and others. Get angry, then use forgiveness to turn it into kindness. And if this all sounds a little too profound for today, acupuncture can help things along too. I think this holiday season I’m going to try on Joy…then kick over a Christmas tree!
November 7, 2012 § 5 Comments
It’s been an introspective couple of weeks. What with the rain, and the rain, and the rain n’ all. I’ve been making good use of my bookshelf, which I’ve come to realize is about a 1/3 fiction, a 1/3 medical references, and 1/3 spiritual teachings & self help. (Warning: A combination of the weather and the latter may or may not have reflected the reflections of this post.)
In my life and in my practice I try to focus on the potential for and promotion of health vs. disease. But inevitably there are times when illness, like a dark cloud, surrounds us. And no matter how many vitamins you take or affirmations you make there is little, or perhaps nothing we can do to stop it.
For those with a belief in the Divine, it’s these times that prayer becomes commonplace, which according to the NIH is the most commonly used form of complementary & alternative medicine (step aside snake oil). Which has got me thinking about the role one’s “spirituality” plays in health care. I mean, more common than snake oil??
Of course the history of human-being-ness is ripe with examples of cultures and healers who saw themselves as spiritual beings made and sustained by a harmonious relationship with “God/The Universe”, and their health was profoundly dependent upon establishing kinship with the cosmos and uncovering the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything.
When science stepped in to fill the gaps re: the unknowable, fantastically some questions became semi-knowable. But upon further dissection of the human form and finding no material evidence for “the spirit”, it was tossed out with our other anatomical annoyances like tonsils, the uterus, the gallbladder, and that pesky prefrontal cortex.
To have faith or believe in the power of prayer is to believe in the unbelievable, and if it can’t be measured objectively, science can’t allow it to be recognized as a legitimate determiner of health outcomes. And though I love science’s “pep” for discerning the orders & laws of the universe, there are undeniably huge gaps of wholly unpredictable chaos where uncertainty reigns, both in our lives and in our bodies.
So besides our vestigial organs, what else have we tossed out alongside spirituality?
What I like about prayer (or insert meditation) is that when in sickness (or in health), or whether we get any answers or not, it helps to raise questions in our consciousness that challenge us to uncover deeper and more meaningful insights into our everyday (eat, work, poop, sleep) lives. Questions like:
“Why is this happening to me?”
How did I get here?”
“Why aren’t things working out the way I want?”
“Where am I going?
and a personal favourite, “Who is to blame!?”
Illness may be a spiritual test inherent in our lives to challenge our beliefs and discover what motivates us to make the choices that we do. Physical pain or mental & emotional suffering will draw our immediate attention as almost nothing else can, and when forced to confront our ailments we’re snapped into paying heed to that ultimate & unknowable dimension of our lives, even if we believe to believe in nothing.
I know this may sound fluffy, (I warned you) but following “a spiritual path” is in many ways just surrendering the need to have the answers for everything. Releasing fear and trusting that there is a greater plan at hand, of which you have only illusionary control. Think about it…looking back on your life, how much authority did you actually have over some of the best & worst things that have happened to you? Could you have prevented each tragedy? Predetermined each friendship? Devised true love?
In health, the best we can do is aim to organize & optimize our physical lives to maintain the most basic of our corporeal survival. We give the best of our energy to every situation with the understanding that we influence, but never control, what we might experience tomorrow. It may in fact be our fate to learn by suffering, and how we respond to this key reality can determine who we are and what we will become.
If prayer isn’t for you, maybe try out meditation? Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day meditation challenge just started up, or else develop a practice of introspection all your own.
The health of our physical lives and our spiritual path are more closely connected than we think. Both contain beliefs that are the consequence of following either divine or medical guidance, trusting in our irrational healing potential alongside our well-reasoned medical mechanics, then trying to understand that everything has it’s plan…either way.
October 5, 2012 § 10 Comments
Fall just screams orange. Leaves & sweaters, bubbling bonfires, pumpkin flavoured everything, decorative gourds, and heck even graffiti. As a colour it stimulates, energizes, and warms us, which is exactly what one needs to cope with the chilly & chillier weather outside.
So in the spirit of thanksgiving this weekend I thought a recipe that celebrates fall colour, food, and family seemed like a perfect fit for a post.
Plus this recipe is really a gem. It’s easy to make, tasty warm or cold and keeps great in the fridge. It’s also vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free, and can be adapted to taste in bajillions of ways.
Though it calls itself a “salad”, I like to think of it more as a warm marriage of smashed vegetable goodness smothered with lemony garlic love. Momma’s mashed-potato comfort food meets new-age naturopathic nutritional pairing.
What sets it apart from the standard starch & butter filled dish is the addition of a creamy tahini ‘dressing’ tossed alongside some protein packed legumes and enough garlic to (s)quash (ha!) any inklings of a cold.
What I love so much about this recipe is that it substitutes all the classic ‘side-of-mash’ ingredients for nutritionally superior ones, without losing an ounce of flavour or feel-good-foodiness.
First off it calls for butternut squash instead of plain ol’ white potatoes, which means more antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamin C. Squash also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the body, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that exists primarily in our brains & guts. And even though they’re high in starch (which breaks down readily into glucose), the majority are pectinswhich won’t spike our blood sugar (or insulin) levels quite so quick, and in fact have actually been found helpful in treating blood sugar dysregulation in diabetics.
So a bit about your blood sugar…
To our cells, a butternut squash and a loaf of wonder bread aren’t all that molecularly unlike, and eventually both are broken down into their smallest units (glucose) to be used for energy.
The important difference is the time it takes for that to happen between different foods, referred to as their glycemic load. The fiber, protein, and even trace omega 3 fatty acids inherent in squash delay the speed at which we metabolize our glucose, sustaining our blood sugar, and thus our energy over a longer period of time.
A “sugar high” is often followed by a weighty “low”, with feelings of fatigue, brain fog, irritability and awfulness, and chronic sugar highs = diabetes and heart disease.
A Nutritional Science phd student (and bestie of mine) once explained it to me like this: “Just imagine that you had so much sugar in your blood, that it started to turn into maple syrup”. Thick, slow, sugary blood unable to circulate and oxygenate our cells. The sugar concentration can eventually get high enough that it starts sticking to other ‘stuff’ in the blood, like platelets and hemoglobin, increasing the risk of developing heart disease and/or experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
So a recurring recommendation I give to patients is to try and make a point of having a little bit of protein with every meal. This helps our bodies avoid an insulin & blood sugar roller coaster after eating, keeping energy levels up, and the desire to grab quick empty calories down.
The tahini dressing in this recipe replaces the need for butter in a way I thought no thing could replace the need for butter for. Basically ‘peanut butter’ made from sesame seeds, it’s also the key ingredient for making hummus. It’s nutty flavour is cut with lots of fresh garlic and lemon juice, and with about 20g of protein per cup tahini makes a perfect mate alongside potatoes.
This recipe is also FULL of fresh garlic (at least mine is), and one simply cannot eat enough garlic this time of year.
Garlic is the quintessential immune food, and I am quite certain the reason I’ve yet to catch cold this year (commence the knocking of wood). It’s one of the most potent antimicrobials Mother Nature’s got. At every step of this recipe add as much as you can stand and/or up to the point at which other people start to notice your ‘fragrancy’. Then reduce. But just a bit.
Though the squash is deliciously rich and nutritious, I’ll also whip this up with whatever starchy veg I happen to have around. I especially like throwing in some colours. Purple potatoes, yellow yams, and even a couple yukon golds work great.
I’ve adapted this recipe from smitten kitchen, who adapted it from orangette, who adapted it from casa moro, and I encourage you to adapt your own. Switch up the chickpeas for black beans, lentils or kidney beans. Throw in some dried cranberries, green onion or spiced nuts. Have I hyped this one up enough already? Yeesh…
Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
1 medium butternut squash (or any starchy veg you like) cut into 1 inch pieces
Garlic (as much you can stand) minced or pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & Pepper
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
For tahini dressing:
Garlic (as much you can stand) minced or pressed
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- In a big bowl combine the squash, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss together with your hands until each piece is evenly coated.
- Spread out on baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes, or until soft.
- While they’re roasting, make the dressing in a small bowl (or magic bullet). Combine the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, water & olive oil, salt and whisk/blend.
- Give it a tasty taste. This sauce should be filled with nutty tahini flavour but also have a kick of lemon. Add a bit more water if it needs to be thinned out.
- While the squash is still warm, combine with chickpeas, red onion and parsley/cilantro.
- Throw the tahini dressing on top and give it a loving mash. Not too harsh, but not too tender. You want all the ingredients to combine for a smooth salad with a few crispy tender bites throughout.
Serve warm and experience the flavour explosion.
Happy Thanksgiving PWH Readers! And thank YOU for reading along and letting me continue to share my naturopathic noggin with you!