Archive for November, 2014

A little bit of Kefir goes a long way

o-KEFIR-facebook I bought some Kefir grains a week or two ago and I have to say it’s not as easy to make good tasting Kefir as I thought it would be. Not only do you need to pay close attention to the taste but it’s hard to get it from tasting too sour. I have made a few batches so far and I have yet to get a good tasting Kefir that is not too sour and isn’t like water.

I left it out far too long the first couple times, this time I left it out just 12 hours and put it in the fridge to ferment much slower. We will see how it tastes and if it’s creamier. I have a feeling I will have to adjust a few more times to get this right. In the meantime I have been buying a jar of Kefir from my local natural food store.

When I first tried Kefir I was leary, only because I’m aware I have a dairy and casein intolerance and if I drink milk in any way I am running to the bathroom within 6 hours. So the first time I bought Kefir, I bought it at the grocery store in the health food section. It was made with organic milk and it was just plain. I took it with digestive enzymes (Just in Case) and I had no problems. I ate a few containers of it and noticed an increase in energy. The real reason I bought it though was to see if it would help with my stomach pain. I have been getting stomach pain, usually by eating the supplements of probiotics you buy in the fridge section of the health food store. I have never had issues with them before but maybe I just bought a brand I can’t tolerate. So I bought a different brand and the pains came back, even more intense than before.

The pain was a sharp pain under my left ribs and I wasn’t really realizing it was the probiotics but I thought it could be something I was eating. So I stopped all supplements and cut back on sugar, the pain got better but didn’t go away. The 3rd or 4th time it happened I was starting to put the connection together but naturally I was worried, so I went to the ER. They tested my blood to make sure there’s nothing wacky going on with my spleen, since my spleen is in that area. I was prepared for bad news, so I was a little shocked when the doctor came back and said I was fine. The ER doctor new my GP well and said that I should go see her and she would make sure to help narrow things down for me. So I went to see her and she sent me to get an ultrasound to make sure it isn’t my spleen or pancreas. 3-4 weeks later, I called and they said it was fine. Relieved but still confused on what was causing it I did an experiment. I ate probiotics again, the pain though it never really went away, it was more of a dull ache came back immediately and it was painful. So it was probiotics!

Oh crap!

That’s what I said when I realized it was my probiotics. Honestly I have been on a mission for a long time to get my health back to normal and I know 100% with all certainty that eating probiotics and replenishing the good bacteria in my gut is part of the issue and part of the cure. How the heck can I do this without taking probiotic supplements?

Fermented foods?

Probiotics and I have had issues for a while now. I realized this when I bought a scoby to make Kombucha. In order to make Kombucha you need to add your scoby to sugar water made with tea. The bacteria eats the sugar while it ferments. I gave it a try and noticed it bothered me a bit, I had sore joints. This was before I found out I had a sugar and tea intolerance. Go figure it bothered me, ok so what else can I try? I tried the supplements again after that and they bothered me and while I have absolutely no clue why they did and even more so I moved on to my next experiment. Water Kefir but again water Kefir is made from sugar water and honestly I hated the taste. It again caused joint pain, even more so than the Kombucha. Maybe if I tried it with coconut water instead it would help but I gave up a little too quick because my grains just didn’t seem to get healthy at all even after numerous batches. I think they weren’t healthy because we have well water here and while it usually is good for Kefir grains we also put a bit of bleach in it and maybe some of that was left over and killed some of the grains. Either way I moved on to Kefir and this is when I tried the store bought stuff.

It didn’t bother me, surprisingly. I had been avoiding it because of my dairy intolerance and it is the one thing that doesn’t seem to bother me. Go figure! The longer I ate it, the better my stomach was feeling. I had more energy and I was a little suprised so I started to consider making my own to offset the cost of buying it. So far as you read earlier that hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped so I keep buying some so I can continue eating it while I experiment with the grains and getting it to taste good.

My stomach pain has disappeared almost entirely. I’m a little suprised and am hoping that I don’t start reacting to the casein or milk at all and have actually taken the Kefir without the digestive enzymes and it seems to be fine. I’ll continue and hope that things turn around and it helps out in other areas as well. But I also want to try and introduce other fermented foods into my diet so my next experiment will be fermented vegetables. Starting with cabbage.

My cabbage the first round I tried was WAY too salty. I put in too much salt so next batch I will see if I can find a better guide in terms of how much salt to use. Once I get a good cabbage juice I will use that to ferment other vegetables such as cucumbers, garlic and who knows what else! I’m hopeful that the addition of other fermented foods will help continue healing my stomach. Now if only I could get the rest of my diet figured out! I’ve decided that I don’t have enough time as I want to get cooking done on the weekends so I need a little help. I’m looking into getting a house keeper to come in and help with keeping the house in better shape so I can concentrate more on getting meals cooked and get the rest of my house organized. But that’s a whole other story right now.  In the meantime I’ll keep experimenting!

 

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Wow, it sure has been a while since I updated this site. I think that has partially something to do with the fact that I don’t seem to have all that much free time these days. My daughter will be three this winter and most of my time is spent with either her or in the kitchen cooking and then of course cleaning up my mess.

My daughter was having problems with foods and she was getting what looked like candida infections often, she also had a urinary tract infection that I felt horrible watching her be in so much pain, so she went on antibiotics to help. The infection cleared up quickly after taking the medication but this is the 2nd time she’s had a UTI(both during potty training time and likely is the cause of the UTI) and honestly I hate putting her on that medication as I know what it can do to her system. Since the first UTI and first round on antibiotics it seemed like her intolerances were a bit worse but after the 2nd round of antibiotics her candida infection just wouldn’t clear up. I was trying to make sure she wasn’t eating much sugar and I had her taking a probiotic and D-Mannose to make sure she didn’t get another UTI but the candida seemed to still be there and I can tell she was uncomfortable.

One of her favourite foods was yogurt and I knew she had dairy intolerance but she has always been able to eat the yogurt in the past with no issues but since that 2nd round of antibiotics, her daily inhalation of yogurt has turned into more of an intolerance than what I was expecting. One day I ran out of yogurt and instead of getting more I thought, she can wait a few days. Well in those few days, her candida symptoms vanished. Hmmm coincidence? Wasn’t sure but I bought more that week and within a few days the symptoms returned. I was confused, she’s been eating yogurt for over a year and all of a sudden she has problems with it? It can’t be, so I again stopped feeding her the yogurt, her symptoms again cleared up within a day.

Hard to explain to a 3-year-old that she can no longer eat her yogurt because it has caused her problems. I have given her one here and there and while it causes a bit of problem it’s not as bad as when I was giving it to her everyday.

I have always had a problem with Candida(sugar is always my problem) and I hate that she has to deal with it too but I have recently been giving probiotics a more serious thought. I use to take them every single day and had no issues with this but recently every time I take a probiotic, within 2 days my stomach is in pain (left side around my ribs have sharp pains). Actually to the point where I ended up in emergency thinking my spleen or pancreas was causing it. I wasn’t sure what was causing it (tests revealed those are both fine) I would stop taking everything(supplements) and the pain would get better. I’ve experienced this intense pain 3 times now and have come to the conclusion that the probiotic pills I was taking are the problem, I changed to different ones, still causing problems. The pills are expensive and I really don’t want to keep testing different brands till I find one I can tolerate.

After doing some reading I have realized that people who have SIBO have issues with probiotics. I’m not 100% sure I have SIBO but if I do, do I have to get my SIBO under control before I can start to tolerate probiotics again? Is there probiotics I can take that won’t bother me? I don’t want to not take probiotics, I really think that some are better for me than others but which ones?

I’m testing out fermented foods right now and while I thought that I would have issues with dairy KEFIR, it doesn’t seem to bother me so long as I take a digestive enzyme when I drink some KEFIR. Maybe the store bought isn’t as strong as making my own, maybe it is and there’s just no lactose in it because it’s being fermented. I know I have a lactose intolerance and possibly even CASEIN. The other day I had Kefir and didn’t take a digestive enzyme, it didn’t seem to bother me. Do you think that it’s possible that having KEFIR is helping cure my lactose/dairy intolerance? I have taken the KEFIR everyday for the past week and it seems to be tolerable to me, not like the probiotics I was taking.

I have also tried water kefir and it seems to cause quite a bit off issues with inflammation(sore joints all over my body), but I also have a sugar intolerance and you have to put a bit of sugar in it for it to ferment properly. Maybe I have to let it ferment longer on the 2nd ferment so there’s less sugar? Maybe I just don’t have enough grains yet to get it fermenting properly because the water still tastes sweet. I’ve never tried water Kefir before so I have no idea how sweet it’s suppose to taste. I’m experimenting with longer 2nd ferments and trying to get my grains healthier looking so they ferment better. I’m going to give it a few days for my symptoms to clear up and let new ferments brew and we’ll see how it goes. I might have to stop with the water kefir for now and stick to the dairy kefir, we’ll see. – Side note sugar usually caused my inflammation in the joints so I can tell I’m having too much sugar.

Another thing I am going to try is fermenting vegetables, this will introduce a whole new set of probiotics into my system and maybe it will help me enjoy vegetables a little more than I do now. I have always had a craving for tart foods, I love the taste of dairy kefir with a little ferment strawberry in it. I actually craved vinegar when I was a child, maybe this is because I needed more fermented foods, I always never understood that craving. I like sour tart foods so it stands to reason that fermented vegetables might please my palate more than the raw or cooked variation? I have no clue, but I’m going to give it a try.

Today I’m going to head out and buy an organic green cabbage. Apparently this is the best vegetable to start with when starting wild fermentations. It will be used to create a brine to start fermenting other vegetables, once it’s done fermenting I can store it in the fridge and use that with each new ferment. You can use whey or starter cultures from a kit but to me this seems unnatural. Rather than having the vegetables natural bacteria fermenting properly you’re fermenting whey bacteria which is completely different, I also heard that when you ferment vegetables with the whey cultures that the vegetables aren’t as crisp and get slimy.

Wild Fermentation is actually quite basic. I am going to ferment the cabbage by creating a sort of cabbage juice which is literally pureed cabbage, water and salt. That juice are used in future ferments to create fermented pickles, carrots, sauerkraut, kimchi etc. I’m not a huge fan of cabbage but I don’t mind sauerkraut that much, so I’ll give it a shot. I have no clue how fermented carrots or other fruits/vegetable would taste like but who knows, maybe I’ll like it. I just hope it doesn’t bother me like the probiotic pills do. I really think it’s important for me to get my gut healthy again and eating fermented foods is the best way to do this. I just need to be careful with how I go about it as my stomach is very touchy these days.

Another thing I really need to do is cut out sugar more. Very hard to do around Halloween let me tell you, those stupid candies are everywhere! I also came to the conclusion that I need to avoid gluten the best I can. It’s really not worth eating at all. I suspected that the gluten was causing my stomach pains because I was having a bit too much of it lately. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I talked to my doctor to see if I could get a biopsy done to rule out celiac. I did the blood test years ago but then I don’t think I was eating enough gluten to tell, there’s also 50 different (proteins?) that can be markers when tested for celiac but the blood test only tests for 2 of them so it’s possible I still have it. The biopsy was my next option, I really hated the idea and didn’t realize that I needed to still be eating gluten to take the test. The doctor told me I needed to be eating it everyday for the next few months before the test, I looked at her like she was crazy. Day 1 – I tried eating it and felt awful, I called the office the next day and told them to forget it, I don’t want to take the test. I’ll just avoid gluten. So I may never know if I have celiac.

Why would I want to know? When you have celiac you have to be careful, even the littlest bit of gluten will cause damage. This means keeping it away from your food, cross contamination from things like utensils, cooking pans or even toasting gluten-free toast in a toaster can cause a reaction. I rarely ever eat out in a restaurant so I take it as a treat and eat what I want. I don’t want to be taking the chance if I am celiac of causing damage but now I’m not as careful because as far as I know I don’t have it, I have gluten intolerance and it just isn’t the same. You don’t feel great when you eat it but you don’t get the damage like you would if you were celiac. Just something that would be good to know.

For people who don’t have gluten intolerances or Celiac it really truly is hard for them to understand just how difficult it is to stay away from the stuff, it literally is everywhere you look. It is incredibly hard to buy something because it is hidden in ingredients and because labelling doesn’t always say whether it’s gluten-free or not I’m basically confined to making my own foods. When all my foods are cooked by scratch I know what is in my food, I feel better, I digest foods better, I don’t get sick as often and honestly it tastes better. BUT it is sooooo incredibly time-consuming. I don’t get to relax on the weekends, I spend most of my time cooking and prepping foods for the week ahead. It’s not just myself that eats this way, so does my daughter. The food is so much healthier for her.

When she started daycare at a new school this summer, her old daycare the caregiver would prepare her foods for her and freeze them like I do. I would also bring foods sometimes that I had extra of and she would feed her those. It was great, Emilie was eating healthy and I didn’t always have to make her meals during the week for snacks and lunch. We switched her to a new school for a few reasons – first of all it’s a French school and I think it’s important that she learn the language. The class has more kids than the small daycare which only had 2 other children and it was a bit cheaper.

Now that she is at the new school, they have catered meals (lunch and snacks) and while they do their best to accommodate Emilie’s intolerances they don’t do much in terms of nutrition. I was finding that she wasn’t eating barely any vegetables and every meal they gave her gluten-free breads/snacks, none of it was without some sort of gluten free bread. What’s so hard in cooking vegetables, some meat and giving her a piece of fruit? Anyways within the first week at her new school I found that she was having temper tantrums more often, this is also when she was getting more candida infections and the UTI ,so I was trying to figure out what it was she was eating that could be causing it. Some nights she would complain of sore stomach and would be in lots of pain. I had no idea what the problem was because while they did sometimes give me a menu for the week, they couldn’t tell me what exactly the ingredients were with each meal. The meal plans were in French also which made it difficult to translate for me, I know some French but not enough to understand each meal. Her temper tantrums I assumed were because she was learning it from other kids, but they had increased to 2-3 tantrums per day. She’d have one in the morning, getting her ready for school, one on the way to school in the car and bringing her into the school, sometimes one when I picked her up and sometimes one again when I put her to bed. That turned into lots of sore arms, tired mommy and tons of bruises for me and her, she’d kick so much she’d hurt herself in the process.

I decided I was going to have to do something about the food – not because of the tantrums just because of the sore stomach and problems with going to the washroom, rashes on her bum, gosh poor kid. It was all signs to me that something she was eating was bothering her.

It’s been about a month or a bit longer since I have provided her meals and snacks to the school. Within a few days her tantrums went down to none, she would maybe have one a week but they weren’t nearly as bad as before. She rarely kicked and screamed and dropped to the floor, having to pick up a 35 lb kid like a sack of potatoes(kicking potatoes) and walk her into the school. Not anymore, she is back to her normal fun-loving self. She’s still defiant and loves to use the word no quite often but I have rarely had to put her in time out since. Her rashes are gone, her infection now that the dairy has been taken away and she’s eating less sugar/gluten free breads are gone.

Why didn’t I do this sooner? I had no clue the tantrums were related to the food, and I really didn’t have the time to commit to cooking even more food. I realized I had to shift my priorities a bit and commit that time to preparing her food and it is very worth it but to all my friends and family, I’m sorry I just don’t have time for much else these days. it’s exhausting and I don’t know how I’ll ever manage if I have another child but I’m sure I will. It’s her health and seeing her healthy and happy, it’s worth it. Plus I really just don’t like the kicking and bruises :)

To those who come and visit me, my house is a bit messier than before and my laundry and dishes aren’t always done and put away. While it annoys me that I can’t do everything I also realize, she has food in her tummy, she has clean clothes to wear and while I’d love to clean up the mess, it really is going to be messy again in 10 minutes so really does it matter all that much, the floors are swept less often, the bathroom isn’t cleaned as often but for now I’m ok with it. It won’t be forever and when Emilie gets older I will teach her to cook, I will teach her to do her own laundry and help clean the house, she will have her chores to do and this time in my life while it’s hectic, it’s not always going to be like this. I’m doing something that isn’t easy but it is also teaching my daughter just how important health is, it is something that you can’t take for granted.

When I was growing up I just assumed that it didn’t really matter what went in, I am paying for that now. I realize now how wrong I was. What good is it in learning hard lessons in life like that one, if you can’t share your mistakes with your children. The food that goes into your stomach, does matter, the quality matters. It’s important to know what you are eating, to know how to make your own meals, to eat real food. If anything in my life that I teach my daughter this is one of the incredibly important ones because to me, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.