Saturday, September 20, 2014

Text Tale

When you find yourself stuck with a dog-reactive dog, you cheer a text message exchange like the one we had this morning. John took Reno to the dog park, where we're working on his encounters with other dogs, which includes random use of the trusty ol' citronella collar.

John: He ran up to a dog bigger than him and sniffed its butt!!!

Me: YAY!!! That's amazing!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quip o' the Week

Back story: I drink a swig of apple cider vinegar five to ten minutes before each meal, as a digestive aid (part of the ongoing SIBO journey). I drank it diluted for a while, but I like the taste of vinegar in general, and I got used to ACV pretty quickly, so now I just drink it straight out of the Bragg's bottle.

Last week, I grabbed the bottle, took a big swig, and put it back in the cabinet above the stove, while I was cooking dinner for John and his sister.

My sister-in-law goes, "Whoa, did you just drink that straight?"

I say, "Yeah," and start to explain.

She cuts me off with an admiring and disbelieving head shake. "It's good to be a gansta."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

High / Low

High / Low is a game that John and I play at dinner sometimes, and we were sure to play it each night while his (our) niece was staying with us for two weeks, as part of our Christmas gift - which was sending her to her first summer camp.

The day she arrived, August 1st, I had the highest high and the lowest low that occurred on the same day, in the same incident, that I had had in a long time.

That morning, despite having read a story precisely about this happening, I walked Reno with the retractable leash. I know it's not a good idea, but he likes it a lot since it gives him a little more range than the normal 6' leash, and it gives me a welcome break on the occasional walk - I don't have to pay as much attention wary of tangling since the leash takes care of it for me.

But you see where this is going. In quick succession, on a route we never walk, I walked into a spider web. I gave a little "eep!" and tried to wave the threads from off my face. While doing this, I loosened my grip on the leash, so it was lightly secured in my hand.

However, the "eep" and scuffle of my foot scared Reno. And he darted away (as he does to every crushed leaf, cracked branch, scuffed foot, garbage truck, siren, car door, shouting kid, bouncing basketball… and so on…). Usually, no big deal. But you, of course, recall the loosened grip.

Yup. Down went the leash handle, BANG, on the sidewalk. And then it zipped up toward Reno, retracting as retractable leashes are wont to do.

And off he went.

Like a freaking shot. I've never seen him run so fast. If he even could hear me over the clatter clatter clatter of the leash bouncing behind him, he was out of ear shot in under eight seconds. This was a moment that it would have been really nice to be a runner. But as it was, I reached VO2 max in about sixteen seconds, long after I'd seen the last corner Reno rounded and had no idea where he was headed next. I stopped shouting and started texting John in desperation.

He asked if he should come home, and I said no. He said I should go home, get the car, and drive slowly around the area I last saw him, and call his name.

Low point.

So I walked, jogged, ran, walked again, huffed and puffed my way home. As I walked, I sent a crazy email to my boss that read, "Not sure when I will be in today; dog ran off and I have to look for him."

I started to sniffle and cry. How could I have done that? How could I have dropped the leash? I kept seeing him, flattened out and running full tilt, tail between his legs, glancing back in terror at the horrible clattering monster that wouldn't stop chasing him. Was that the last time I'd see him? Oh god. I remembered that he had on his citronella collar but not his real collar with his tag. Not that he would let anyone get near him, and sure, he is microchipped, but it feels like a long shot.

With a stitch in my side and a hitch in my step, I rounded the corner onto our lawn and for less than a split second - for less than even a full thought - I couldn't believe the insult of a god damn cat on the front porch.

But no!

Not a cat!

A little red dog! A panting, ears folded back, nails-scraped, tail wagging, waiting patiently, leaning against the front door little red dog!

I couldn't believe it. I kissed him on the face, let him inside, and took off one beat-to-hell retractable leash.

High point.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I'm a massage (groupon) whore.

(Using the word whore in a blog title might be inviting weird Google searches, but there's just no good substitute for it!)

I admit it. I am a massage whore. I scour Groupon, Yipit, Amazon Local Deals and LivingSocial for massages. I'll drive to Tigard on a Saturday morning. I'll figure out how to sneak out of work early on a weeknight. I'll go to a basement studio, a studio connected to your house, I've been to two studios in little converted sheds that felt like kids' playhouses with a massage table, hippie music, and a waterfall machine in the corner. For when I win the lottery, like my friend Bill, I've started keeping a list of who I'm going to share it with (because you don't want to make that decision in the heat of the moment of winning; you want a list that you've thought about in calm, considerate moments to refer to). And along with the folks who I'm going to buy a car, or give a down payment for a house to, or just write a nice check, I have a list of the things I will begin to do.

And getting 2 to 3 massages a week is very high on that list. It is an item on that list that could start immediately. Others will require some weeks or months of planning. And sure, I'd like one everyday, but my newfound lotto-winning life isn't going to be longer than 24 hours in a day, so capping it at 1 to 3 per week seems logical.

In the meantime, until this lottery-winning happens, I content myself with online massage deals and enjoy the experience of new masseuses, new styles, new studios, new music, new fragrances. Oddly, the weirdest massage I've had this year was in Honduras… where I had three… because apparently it is common there to slather on baby oil, to assist the masseuse. And I mean slather. For each massage, during the whole hour, I experienced seemingly endless drizzling. It took more than one shower and one dip in the ocean to feel like it was really gone. (I'm sure this killed coral and I will do karmic penance for it.)

But recently, I had my first myofascial release massage. If you haven't had one, try it! It was not exactly enjoyable during the massage, I won't lie - it is intense - but afterward, for a couple days, my back felt more neutral than it has in months. Perfectly relaxed with no areas of tension, and a true difference in my posture and muscles. What's the lesson? I guess that it pays to be a whore sometimes, when you try something new.

Monday, July 7, 2014

13 Weeks.

I keep saying that if I don't write it down, I'll forget, or be unable, to see if Reno is making any progress. So I'm writing it down.

We took him hiking three weeks ago. He has his own backpack because anybody, no matter their species, has their own backpack when they head out with John:

He loved hiking. He did not love the other dogs, whether they were off leash or on.

We brought him home 13 weeks ago yesterday. And so 13 weeks in, I am documenting that he has gotten more comfortable in our house. He can go up and down the stairs confidently, which was not the case originally. He still cannot go in the kitchen. He loves his kennel (aka his house) and sleeps easily in it every night for 8 to 10 hours.

He stays to his blanketed-spot on the couch nearly always, and has not jumped on the coffee table since that first day. He started wagging his tail, which when it began, was when we noticed that he had NOT been for a month! He now wags us a welcome in the morning, at night after work, and when we cross the room or have been gone for 3 minutes or more.

He jumps at fewer noises in the house, but still jumps at some.

And most importantly, let's chat about the reactivity. I'm not sure if he's less reactive - though I can say we are better at managing it. I can duck a dog heading our way before he even sees the thing. I can position us behind a parked car or in a stranger's driveway so that we can practice watching the dog walk by without his going over threshold. With me, he can currently handle a distance of across the street. Any closer, such as an unexpectedly chained or fenced dog, and he is over threshold in three seconds flat. It seems he can handle a closer dog with John.

One thing that has improved, without a doubt, is his recovery time. If he does go over threshold and starts lunging, growling, snapping and acting like he wants to devour the other dog, he can recover within one city block now.

Another improvement is that he has learned not only his name, but he's learned Sit and Shake! He is working on Down, Sit Pretty, and Come. I include Come in the 'working on' category because he's at about 80%. And 80% is really good but that other 20% is the time you really want him to obey. I don't know if any dog is 100% on the Come command. At the dog park, and on his long line, he has 90%+ recall of Come. We have not ever used it a true off-leash situation (because he's never been in one). So I call it 80%, to be safe.

But this past weekend was a slight digression from his improvement in anxiety reduction, thanks to the fireworks. Friday night the last ones that woke me up were at 2:05 AM. That erases any excuse that it's for the kids. I hate neighborhood fireworks. For Reno, the vet prescribed Xanax:

It worked for a while, and then it stopped. Next year, Xanax for me and a sedative for him. He is just today coming down fully off the heightened cortisol of the 3rd, 4th and 5th's all-day explosions. This dog has PTSD and I'm not even trying to be funny. 

Of course what I'd like to see is for him to be able to pass an oncoming dog (first on the other side of the street, and eventually on the same side) without having a reaction. I'm not sure this will ever be possible; everything I read is not encouraging. But, at the 13-week mark, I can say he definitely is less anxious on walks - he does not cower at EVERY bicycle, loud car, shuffling foot, crunchy leaf. He only cowers at some of them. He used to pass all people with rolled-back ears and a low posture. He now is more perked up, almost looking like he could go over threshold, but he never does. He is less interested in people who are not me, John, and Auntie Beth (John's sister, and his bi-weekly dog walker). 

He does not bark in the backyard ever anymore (thanks, we think, to the two weeks of the citronella collar), and now likes it out there - he goes out willingly and stays out there without us even, from time to time.

He is rarely interested in birds now; he saves that energy for squirrels - and cats, and dogs, of course.

He still sheds a ton; I think we're screwed on this one. When he's anxious, it seems to increase from the normal rate of Daily Shit Ton to a momentary Are You Dying? level. 

In three more months, I'll remember to update on his reactivity, his leash-pulling tendencies (which are still fairly high, depending on the time of day) and his anxiety. Hopefully by documenting, there will be continued improvements seen, and thus we'll move away from feeling so on-the-fence about adding the little red leaner* to our house. 

*Little Red Leaner is one of his nicknames; when he greets us in the morning, he likes to lean into us, or put the top of his head on your shin, or even on the floor, curling over and leaning in for maximum back scratchin. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Oh, yeah, and we went to Honduras in May.

I have always been weirded out by pictures of birds and monkeys on peoples' shoulders in foreign countries. But at this nature preserve, the monkeys were free to come and go - no cages, no nets, no barriers. Zoo animals in the US have names; so did these guys. If they wanted to come when called, and wanted to sit in your shoulder for a sunflower seed, they did. If not, tough luck. And if they wanted to relocate on Roatan from this location, they were free to do so. So I decided it wasn't so bad, and let this dude rest his gentle little feet on me.

Example number one of the off season. Sunset. 100% empty chaise lounge chairs, 5:50 PM on a Friday.

Hammocks on the deck of each hotel room. It's also 89 and full of humidity, but I regret not buying one of these lovely rope hammocks at a roadside market.

Example number two of the offseason. Black Rock snorkel site, a six minute walk from our resort/hotel and amazing underwater sites. 11 AM on a weekday.

Hammocks at the ice cream parlor in West End. The way to enjoy ice cream.

Dinner on swings! 

It was fun, even if our server thought it was weird we ate a whole meal in the swings, and not just cocktails (as most folks do).

Scarlet macaw I did not want on my shoulder.

John, suspicious of the capuchin. 

John, friends now with the capuchin.

Example number three of the offseason. 25 seat dive boat - 1 diver, 1 instructor, 1 captain, 3 snorkelers. $15 for a 2-site morning trip, and room to stretch out! 

Example number four of the offseason. Late afternoon swim, 4 PM on a weekday, and very few people disturbing my lazy salt-suspeneded back floats. 

Sun kissed. It was eight days without makeup, and without a bra. That's how I define vacation.

Above and below: 5 year anniversary night (the night we arrived). Silly, blurred photos, but a happy wood anniversary! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Comin' up on the Jesus Year...

I've generally been the youngest in the group, whatever the group may have been… playground, locker room, homeroom class, new job or office, new tribe of friends. And as many of near-peers turn 33 in the year before I do, I get to look ahead this summer to my coming Jesus Year.

You're familiar, right? Even Urban Dictionary has an entry. And it's perfectly succinct: it's the year to get things done.

Over the last couple weeks, between a relaxing vacation, the new dog's ongoing antics, increasing work responsibilities, SIBO diet living, and the wonder of these long pre-summer days and evenings, my personal philosophy has (suddenly) expanded.

Please allow me one bit of back story first. Every family has it's lore and legends; in my family, there's a piece of lore that places me at about age 8 or 9, when my mother was having some normal-for-her, low-level, anxiety-filled, long verbal run-on about life, and challenges, and what does it all mean. When she turned the question to me, I said, "Don't ask me, Mom. I'm just a kid." Everyone laughed. And in a similar episode a few months later (as noted, this sort of out-loud rumination was the usual at home), I quipped back, "God, Mom. The point of life is that you make mistakes, and then you learn." (I do not remember the former exchange; I do remember the latter. We were at Murphy Lake and I wanted to touch the antlers of the stuffed elk in velvet on the wall but knew I was not allowed to.)

So this may have been my own self-stated guiding philosophy about life - from age 9, until very recently.

And suddenly… it feels sudden, having bubbled up in the past few weeks… I've decided that life is now about two other things entirely. It's about losing judgement, and it's about not being first.

I am a very judgmental person; I know how you should live your life, AND why. And I will happily tell you. Or if I don't know you, or you won't listen, I'll happily tell one of my friends. And now that I'm walking a little red dog around the block in a damn raincoat, a sweet little red dog that goes ballistic at the sight of another dog, I'm thinking, "Well, fuck." I didn't teach the dog to bark like that; he's not reactive because of me. But it sure as shit looks that way. And I don't love putting a raincoat on a dog, but he reacts to it a lot like he reacts to the Thundershirt and any way to take the edge off his anxiety is a good way to go. So I mosey along with our raincoats, and realize that I would normally look at me and judge the hell out of me. Uh-oh. Jesus Year. That means I have to start understanding people better. Give them more slack. Really, deeply believe they're doing the best they can with the tools they have - and not just say it.

And secondly (ha ha!), it's time to no longer be first. Who is not first in their own lives? Well - parents, for one. And spiritual leaders. And people dedicated to their jobs as deep vocations and true callings. In other words: the good eggs. The good eggs don't think about being first, and don't think about putting their own desires, satisfactions, whims, needs, moods, recognition and preferences first. The good eggs do make certain their own needs are met - sure, of course they do. But they do so mostly because it makes them better people who can turn around and better be able to serve and love the world. And you know what? For the first time in my selfish little life, that sounds really delightful. I get it. I paid lip service to not being first, but all along, I knew this was my movie, my soundtrack, and you were all supporting players. But this new philosophy - boy, does it take a huge load off. I don't have to be the center of my own universe. I can cook, read, play, love, work and write - like I do, and enjoy, of course - but it all doesn't have to be So God Damn Important. What a relief. To loosen my grip.

I mean - a bit. I'm not letting go, just letting up. I still think you're a huge fucking asshole if you take the outside seat on a bus. Just move goddamn over, dude.

Monday, June 2, 2014


The list of products purchased for one little shelter dog, who no one would have missed from the world had we not gotten him (I refuse to say adopted; he is not a child):

  • Walking harness
  • Leash
  • Front-clip walking harness
  • Kong toy
  • Second Kong toy
  • Head halter
  • Dog bed
  • Kennel
  • Doghouse
  • Special couch blanket
  • Interactive chewy ball
  • Container to hold both kongs and chewy ball
  • Two toys and one nylabone he will not use
  • Citronella spray collar
  • A series of 7 disgustingly ugly Ikea rugs for the main level of our home so that he can stop skittering across the hardwoods in terror
  • Clicker
  • a LOT of treats
  • Thundershirt (monogrammed - thanks to John, not me; he loves personalization!)

Saturday, May 17, 2014


SIBO test results: Negative!


My methane was zero; my hydrogen was low enough to be normal, or at least non-SIBO. I feel like a Beagle Freedom Project dog - hesitant, tentative, eating things I want, but still sticking to what I know best most meals.

It's been a crazy almost-two-weeks since the news. Not so much because of the food, although that's interesting to explore, albeit obsessive in terms of tracking every bite at every time and connecting that to bowel movements to see what things agree, and which don't. But more than that, it's Life with Reno that's kept things a challenge.

My house is dirtier. My clothes sometimes have hair on them. My mornings start earlier and involve a walk. I check the clock at work and think about what he might be doing. His anxiety and leash aggression are not especially better, though I think we're more used to it. He's an inside dude - he is the gentlest, sweetest, most timid dog inside a house. Outside, we've discovered, his threshold for nervousness is literally a blowing leaf. One leaf? He's at a one. A blowing leaf and bicyclist? He's at a two. Add another dog? He's off the charts. So we've started having walks where we aim to keep things at no more than a one or two. This involves standing still on the sidewalk a lot, as he sniffs and stares, keeps his ears tippy-top tipped up, until he calms down a little and we can move on. It's very Zen.

When we get back, all that sniffing, stopping, seeing, staring, sighing, startling, skittishness and sensing… it results in a bunch of this:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Teeter Totter

I have been so sure the SIBO is going to be gone. And then I get struck with fear, and am so sure it is not gone. I can't do this diet for much longer; well, in fact, I'm not doing it now. I have been sneaking little cheats more days than not. So my punishment will surely be SIBO forever, right? So it goes - back and forth, back and forth - or as my brother said when he was a toddler, "Back and thorf, back and thorf."

The results are not in yet, and today is a day where I am certain it is gone. I have noticed that I "recover" digestively from the cheat foods faster and faster; it must be gone, then, right? But I still need a little time to recover, so it must not be gone then, right? Gah!

And in the middle of it all, we're getting used to Reno. And he's getting used to us. He looms large in my daily existence; I think about him (ahem, I worry about him) when I'm away from the house. Is he bored? Is he getting into trouble? Is he eating the rawhide bone and not just chewing it properly? If he's in the house, does he have to pee or poop? If he's outside, is he scratching at the fence or digging? All the anxiety, at this point, is outweighing the fun parts. Yes, he's cute. And yes, it's lovely to sit right now with him curled up on his blanket at the end of the couch (we're doing pretty well with keeping him to his 'place' there). He is funny when he's in sniff-mode on our morning walks. But he also could give two shits about loose-leash walking most of the time, and pulls all of his 19 pounds against the leash, and then barely acknowledges my existence when John is around, he is mostly too timid to go up the stairs, and he sheds like a bastard. Life was a lot easier before he was around. I can't remember why I wanted to get him so bad in the first place.

He also hates the rain, which is really funny. He stops every third of a block to shake - which makes walking a long process - and sometimes will not come out from under a tree when it's raining hard. He stood under my legs the other day and looked me so plaintively; what the heck is this wet crap?! So the natural next step is... to buy him a raincoat! Tah dah:

But even I question - does a doggie raincoat really need a hoodie on it? 

And no - we have not used it yet. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Third Time's a Charm?

Coming up this Tuesday, I take my third SIBO test. Drumroll please. It hardly seems fair to be eager to take it, and it seems foolhardy and pride-goeth-ing-before-a-fall to say I think the bugs will be gone… but eager I am, and gone I think they shall be.

It seems unfair and foolhardy because the little bit out there on this issue online shows that many people require a year, or two or three, to get rid of their SIBO. Who am I to think it is going to be gone 3.5 months after starting treatment?

But the proof is in the pudding. Or in the toilet bowl, my friends. My world there is a very different one than it was for the last year or longer, and I just feel like the bacteria is gone. Come Tuesday, I'll take the test, and in another week or so after that, I'll get the results - and if it's there, or if it's gone, I have no idea what comes next.

This sort of intense dietary restriction can't be done if you're looking ahead. It can only be done one day at a time. So I don't know what I'll "get" to do and eat and experiment with come May; I just gotta get through Tuesday first, and then waiting on the results.

But in the meantime, nothing like a true distraction… how about… a new dog!

Meet Reno.

He likes to sleep, and bark at other dogs when he's on the leash. (We're taking a class for this soon. We're registered.) He's about 4 years old, they think, and was a stray from Los Angeles who must have had a family at some point, since he's housebroken. He's also terrified of anything in your hands, and was clearly hit with things, but he's coming around to us. We're getting to know each other. He does not like the rain. He does like the fireplace:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two weeks after the two weeks.

Oh, the two weeks were glorious. The things I dined upon! Pizza, breadsticks, ice cream, frozen yogurt, a bagel, a biscuit, a slice of sour cherry pie a la mode. Potatoes - french fried, mashed, and fingerlings a-roasted. The kati roll from Bollywood Theater, a polenta soufflé, a chocolate brioche and lemon tart from Maurice. (Bill, if you're reading, the polenta soufflé was worth writing home about.) Bread, bread and more bread. With butter, and jam. A slice of so-chocolatey-it-was-almost-black cake.

And then there were the things I forgot to eat. Pasta. I didn't think of it, not once! And no Frank's noodles, and no sweet potatoes. No oatmeal!? Indeed, no oatmeal. I didn't bake because I didn't want to restock any flour, sugar, or chocolate for just one recipe.

And then there were the things I ate that were not good. No surprises here: a Chips Ahoy cookie, a granola bar, a Fig Newton (that was ok, but not great). Anything processed tasted like nothing; like cardboard and sugar. If my eyes were closed, I'd never have known it was a Chips Ahoy. It could have been shortbread.

But alas, even two glorious weeks come to an end. There were exactly three things I think about still. One, the biscuit and two, the cherry pie from Lauretta Jean's. I mean, if this Captain of Team Cake is thinking about a slice of pie, you know it's out of this world. And the biscuits. Oh, the biscuits. They are worth every calorie of butter, worth every bit of gluten. And Three, ice cream.

Look, there's nothing like ice cream when you've not had sugar in 9 weeks, and neither dairy beyond hard cheese, butter or kefir. Ice cream is amazing. Ice cream is everything Anne of Green Gables thought it would be at her first picnic, it's everything you waited for at the beach as a kid. Ice cream is the miracle at your grandmother's World's Fair and I take back any time I didn't appreciate ice cream for the glory that it is. I work with a group of folks who have ice cream every day at 3 PM - it's one of the engineering groups' rituals - and I'm not precisely accusing them of not appreciating ice cream, but I am saying that generic Safeway brand creamsicles can't, just can't, hold a candle to real Rocky Road. Or a premium vanilla-bean-flecked vanilla. Or Salt and Straw honey strawberry balsamic with cracked black pepper. Or a Ruby Jewel sammie.

But I digress. I had a bit of ice cream, it's true.

Then the two weeks ended. And I had to strictly go back on the SIBO-approved diet. Which I've been on for two more weeks. And in about two MORE weeks, I'll get to take the bacteria test again.

Much like last time, where I thought it would show I made progress but was not healed, this time, I feel it's going to show that I beat it. The bacteria will be gone. And what comes after that? I haven't asked yet. This whole process only works if you stay in the day you're in, and not think too far ahead - I mean, I never could have said I'd eat meat, eggs, fat, veggies and some fruit for months. So I can't say what will happen and how I'll do, but I'll tough it out another couple weeks and then test, and then tough it out a week while the results get analyzed, and in the meantime, I'll share some of my infinite variations on meat-and-sauerkraut with you!

(I actually won't because that would be terrifically boring. But I will post some regular updates on life and health, and to the four people who still read along - thanks for sticking with me and my microbiome!)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude.

If you know me, we've probably had at least one conversation about the science behind happiness and gratitude. In case we have not: in a nutshell, science has proved that feeling gratitude lights up the same part of the brain as feeling happy; the two are biologically indistinguishable. So if you can't get happy, you can try thinking of something you're grateful for - and tah-dah! You'll be happy.

The trouble is, all the feel-good articles about this phenomenon, found in my hippie magazines, websites and Wholesome Living blogs, focus on feeling grateful for the usual suspects - your health, your family, your job, your sense of humor, your intelligence, the sun, the stars, the beauty of springtime, the ocean, the nourishing rain.

And I don't mean that it is trouble to be grateful for those things. They're wonderful! They do fill me with gratitude. They are beautiful moments in daily life that can indeed inspire an attitude of gratitude.

But sometimes, the trouble is, we never talk about how it's also OK to be grateful for things much less epic, and much more worldly.

Like the Veronica Mars movie that came out this weekend.

And you can call me superficial, you can call me a pathetic fan girl, you can roll your eyes that I'm going to claim this is a worthy example of an attitude of gratitude. But I'm doing all three anyway.

The movie made me so happy. They did a great job delivering a story for the fans that was still smart, funny, true to the characters, and a great mystery. So here I am - grateful to love things in the world - movies, songs, books, slices of tart cherry pie from Lauretta Jean's. By being in the world, in both the sacred and profane, I get my regular doses of gratitude - and they light up that happy part of my brain that otherwise doesn't get too much attention.

Bring it on, bring it on, yeah.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The results are in.

The time has come - my SIBO test results are in!

I picked up the phone with great nervousness, and heard, "Hi Emily! It's Dr. M!" She was excited and smiling, I could hear it.

"Hi! How are you?" I said in a big rush, as I locked myself into a conference room at work.

"I'm great, I have your test results and it is so exciting!"


So my bacteria indicators are down 80% or more. I still have it - and I knew I did - but it's going away, and it's going away fast. I'm not at all disappointed. I knew it would still be there, and my only fear was that it would be, like, 10% gone or something. But 80% gone! Miracle of miracles! Every single bite of food I passed up was worth it!


It gets weirder.

The latest drug regimen, which Dr. M. wants to see me undergo, would be a choice of either herbal or pharmaceutical antibiotics. Herbals are $200 out of pocket and take 40 days. Pharmaceuticals are $850 out of pocket and take 14 days. She wasn't strongly advocating either way, but the pharmaceutical route - as evidenced by the cost - is a pretty incredible drug. It does not build up a resistance, so it should be as effective this time as it was last time. And it's non-systemic, so it does not cross into the blood and body; it stays right there in the digestive tract. If it does as well as it did in January, and I do as well with the diet as I did the last 8.5 weeks, I could be free of bacterial overgrowth and back on a path of healthy well-rounded eating. And so, yes, I'm a Western science girl at heart - I'm gulping on paying the bill and going for it. Round two shall be more pharmaceuticals.

But this is where it gets weird.

The second drug regimen comes with a new instruction. If choosing the pharmaceuticals over the herbals, one should, for 14 days - and not sooner, nor later - be eating, at one or two meals a day, something(s) from the list of "NO" foods. 


The highly fermentable foods list, aka everything delicious, will become my friend for 14 glorious days - and on day 15, it is cold turkey back to the SIBO diet. The theory here is that you want to feed the bugs while killing them… draw them out and knock 'em down; don't let them hide in dormancy while you take the pills.

As the calendar would have it, I am headed to Florida to see my mom and aunt next week, and frankly, this couldn't be better timing. I have not started the regimen yet, for two reasons. One, I am afraid I will get sick, like I did last time. It was the flu; I know it was. But what if - what if - what if it was a die-off reaction from slaying bacteria? And secondly, because I am making a list of Portland things I want to fit into my 14 day schedule. Any other suggestions? So far I have what is below, and it may well be two more months before I can have anything this tasty again.
  • a slice of berry pie from Lauretta Jean's
  • a kati roll from Bollywood Theater
  • something from Maurice (brand new sweet shop near my office)
  • half a pizza from Firehouse
  • ice cream with hot fudge from Salt and Straw
  • chocolate blackout cake from Sugar Cube (I've never had it!) 
  • Frank's noodles 
  • bread from Fleur de Lys 
  • a bagel from Tastebud, now at food carts near my office

Thursday, March 6, 2014


So today, I cheated.

Tomorrow marks eight weeks - two fucking months - of living grain- and refined-sugar- free.

And I have not cheated, not once. And if you don't know, I work in a literal candy store. Yes, it's a software firm, but it's all the tales you've heard about these insane, hedonistic, childlike Googlesque workplaces? They're true.

Snack plates are put out once or twice a day in the three most high-trafficked areas. Perhaps brie and summer sausage, perhaps guacamole and chips, perhaps almond mini croissants and a bowl of coconut whipped cream, perhaps peanut butter-filled celery sticks. And that's just those three areas. Then each kitchen (there are also three) is stocked: a cereal cabinet with 15+ kinds. A candy cabinet, a cracker drawer, all the bagels, bread, and muffins you could want (cinnamon raisin, plain, vegan, wheat, etc.). There is a sweets cabinet - Oreos, Petit Ecoliers, Nutter Butters. There are at least ten kinds of granola bars: Kind, Kashi, Nature Valley, PowerBar, Clif. There is, ok, a nod to health, with a fruit bowl. But there is a soda cooler, there is beer and wine, there is endless tea and coffee with your choice of soy, coconut, almond, regular, skim, whole and lactose free milk - half and half. (One guy eats two bowls of cereal a day, with half and half as the backdrop.)

This is meant for us to enjoy, every day, all day, for free, day in and day out. Since the second I have worked there. There is also at least one company lunch each week from the nearby food carts (variety makes it impossible to prepare your defenses against the deliciousness), and I've yet to work a week there when there is not also another pile of leftovers for lunch or at about 3 PM, everyone's best time to avoid high-cal snacks - it is often Voodoo Doughnuts, or Elephants Deli sandwiches, or Pizzicato pizza of six or seven varieties.

Oh, and we have a monthly food holiday - National Milkshake Day was one. Just come order up! The soda jerk is ready to help you out.

And so it is that in the face of this, I have not cheated once. Not one time. I have not eaten half a broken Chips Ahoy as I filled the cookie jar. I have not licked the spoon after slicing up chicken enchiladas. I have not had a Twizzler. Not a Dove chocolate square. Not the edge of a pizza slice. Not a quarter of a doughnut. And yet it's all staring me in the face, for the eight to ten hours a day, sometimes more, that I spend in the office.

But today, friends, I broke.

I came to work to help set up a breakfast buffet for visiting colleagues from the remote offices. French Toast. And pancakes. And look; I love pancakes like Phillip Seymour Hoffman loved speed balls. One is never, ever, ever enough. There were mountains of butter pats and maple syrup. But no, I set it up - and I walked away.

Then I attended a lunch event on behalf of the company. We were served a chicken sandwich on fluffy ciabatta. And if I can't get heroin but I can get oxycontin, to continue the inappropriate and gross metaphor, then bread is the very best next thing after a pancake.

But I didn't eat it. I ate the chicken out of the sandwich. I declined the basket of rolls (yes, rolls, with a sandwich, good sweet Jesus) and I declined the cookie assortment after that. It's true that I love cake more than cookies, but don't get me wrong - I love a cookie, even a bad one, too.

I made it back the office, still slightly hungry. I decided to heat up my almost-cooked-into-baby-food-texture carrots and a little beef short rib. And what is waiting in the kitchen?

A Thai buffet. With a giant hotel pan of fluffy, steamed white rice.

My doctor told me that if I'm melting down, and freaking out, the very best cheat on this diet is white rice. It has no nutrition - it has no fiber to feed the SIBO bacteria - and it goes right through you.

And willpower, as scientists are learning, is a muscle. Like any muscle, it can get fatigued. It needs rest to get strong again. I think - side note - this is why I am averaging 8.5 hours a night of sleep right now. I need to replenish the willpower reserves! And by the way, people with kids, plug your ears: that is 8.5 hours of sleep. I measure it with my UP band. I'm actually IN bed a good 9 hours or more. That's the pure, sweet sleep of someone not actively consuming peanut butter by the gallon, hoping to stop thinking about bread and pancakes.

So the willpower muscle was tapped out, and I added about a third of a cup of fluffy white rice to my dish. And Oh. My. Lordy. It tasted like sugar. No. It tasted like nectar. It was like some kind of divine manna. And I am talking white rice, I know. But it was almost funny, I almost laughed - how good it tasted.

And then, about twenty minutes later, I felt like I was on speed myself. I was hyper alert. Vigilantly awake. I was giddy, smiling. I had more energy than I have had in weeks. I was giggly, bright, amazed. What a world! What a day! What a gorgeous life! I'm going to the gym, to my crazy-tough fusion workout class!

Which I promptly did. And I set a new (self) pushup record, which my teacher noticed and was impressed by.

Powered by the blandest thing in the world. I may be a cheater, but I'm definitely a rice rocket today.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Whole Lotta Nothin' Goin' On

I'm stuck in neutral over here - in the next couple days, I'll get the SIBO Test #2 results. As I've said, I'm certain it's not gone - but I'm dying to know what the reduction is. In half? Less? More? How much bacteria do we think is still in there, wreaking havoc?

But in the meantime, there's a whole lotta nothing going in, dietarily. I've admitted that almond flour and me don't get along. Things seem to be better with coconut flour, but I have more experimenting to do this week. It really is like the universe is trying to take away ALL my food joys. At least I still have peanut butter, and I'll be giving that up with cold, dead fingers, trust me.

I haven't added in many new foods; I'm still figuring out what amounts of the existing list of 25 or so are good, and which cause belly aches or bad poops. And it's getting depressing. I don't get to participate. At work, I ordered ice cream sandwiches - even gluten free ones, and vegan ones. But no makes a grain free, refined sugar free ice cream sandwich. I order lunch for the whole company every Friday, but I never get to eat it. I put out the snack jars a couple times a week, but there are no snacks for me. It's boring. It's isolating. It's frustrating and at some point, if I don't start getting healthier, the depression is going to outweigh the striving for health, and I'll go back to the SAD. (Standard American Diet.)

But know this, friends. Maranatha nut butters? They all contain cane sugar of some sort! Those little liars. Give me Justin's every day of the week.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Almost Done Right: Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free Carrot Cake (SIBO Diet Friendly)

The world appears to have a ton of GAPS, SCD, paleo and grain-free baking websites, books, recipes and Pinterest pins that go on for days.

But if you read the comments on these recipes, this is what you hear, over and over.

"Looks great! Can't wait to try it!"

BOO. You suck. Looks great? I can frost a pile of cat shit and it looks great. Those who comment before trying to bake it should be banned.

But then, it gets worse. I cannot find a recipe measured in weights. And as any person who bakes even once in a while knows, you need weights rather than measurements. Save yourself the dishes, and get it perfectly right. 5 grams of salt, thank you very much - not 1 teaspoon.

So I've been a mad baker the last month, and failing miserably. It's taking something I love and turning into something I hate. It's taking something I was very good at and suddenly teaching it in Cyrillic.

But I've made something good today, and the reason it's "almost done right" is that I didn't weigh my ingredients either! I measured, carefully, and with a bit of my mad baker estimation to round up or down on certain things - but tah-dah! A carrot cake of decent quality! It is, to be sure, VERY carrot-ey. It's not a sugary sweet cake, but it feels pretty close to a cake - a texture missing from my life the last six weeks - and has a nice honey-carrot flavor with the crunch of slivered almonds. Here is the original recipe, followed my version. I'm not crediting the recipe because I think if I made it as-is, it would have tasted like a carrot soufflé and been undercooked. My previous experience with these ingredients has me extremely confident of this pre-judgement.

Someone Else's Coconut Flour Carrot Muffins

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 2 TB vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 c coconut flour 
  • 2 c carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 c raisins or dried cranberries, optional
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line 12 muffin cups with liners, or grease with coconut oil.
  • Combine the eggs, coconut oil, honey and vanilla in a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  • Add in the salt, baking soda and cinnamon.
  • Sprinkle the coconut flour over the mixture and then whisk into the batter.
  • Mix well so that there aren’t any clumps. Fold in the shredded carrots and raisins or cranberries.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. YUM!

Emily's Coconut Flour Carrot Muffins

  • 5 eggs (room temp!!)
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1.5 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda (leave this out for GAPS, and hope for the best)
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend 
  • 1/2 c coconut flour plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 and 1/8 c shredded carrots (measure after shredding, not before)
  • 1/2 c slivered raw almonds
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease a 10 x 6 pan with coconut oil.
  • Whip butter with electric hand mixer on high for 3 full minutes, until white and fluffy.
  • Whip in slightly-warmed honey for 1 minute on high.
  • Add the eggs one a time, mix on medium speed, for 30 seconds each. 
  • Mix in vanilla extract on high, for 30 seconds.
  • Sprinkle in the salt, baking soda and spice mix; stir in well by hand.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the coconut flour over the mixture and then whisk into the batter with mixer on low-medium for 30 seconds. Let batter rest a 3 full minutes. Then whisk again with mixer for 30 seconds on low-medium and if you feel like it needs the extra tablespoon of flour, whisk it in now. 
  • Fold in carrot and almonds gently. Pour into prepared pan. 
  • Bake 40 minutes or until firm to the touch in the center, and evenly brown underneath (use a glass pan). YUM!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hit It Hard

Well, the plan at the outset was to be on this diet for 3 months, and then re-test for SIBO.

But upon a detailed report of my poops - and oh, how I can talk about poop! I could write a cover story for Poop Magazine at this point. I could ID a healthy poop a mile away. The greatest part of my day is checkin' out my poop and seeing how what I'm eating is affecting me, and being able to pinpoint foods and quantities and their effects.

But I digress. Ahem.

Upon this detailed report, and when taking into consideration my extremely high levels of SIBO indicators (hydrogen, especially), my doctor has me taking the test again now! Tomorrow! She thinks I probably still have it… and so do I. I can't imagine, in fact, that I don't.

But seeing where the levels are will be really helpful, and if they are indeed positive, then we can discuss a second round of pharmaceutical antibiotics, or a round of herbal antibiotics. I'm not sure which route I'd choose actually; there is little study on the herbals but the study that is out there says they're equally effective. But my little scientific heart belongs to Western medicine, and so I lean toward the pharmaceutical.

So stay tuned! In the meantime, I get to repeat the prep diet today. It is:

  • any meat or seafood
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • eggs
  • weak tea
  • salt
  • pepper
Yup, that's what I am eating all day today, then fasting for 12 hours overnight, and then taking the crazy-ass breath test on Saturday morning. Wish me luck! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sexist and Classist

If you don't ride public transit - and preferably the bus - there are parts of yourself that remain hidden. Parts of yourself you might not even know exist. But start riding it, on the regular, and you'll discover those parts. Oh, they will come out, like it or not.

So I may have already know that I am a bit sexist and a bit classist, but this week on the bus, I realized both anew in two moments where my thoughts bubbled over before I could control them, subvert them into something kinder, spin them into something reasonable. I saw my own truth and there's nothing to do with it but share.

The first was a packed bus; not quite standing room only but almost. All seats taken and some folks standing. Standing on the MAX light rail train is one thing; standing on a bus is another. It is significantly more uncomfortable. The first 7 seats on the bus, 4 on one side and 3 on the other, are reserved for Honored Citizens - seniors and those with disabilities. The seats flip up for wheelchairs, or are intended for those with limitations.

As we get fuller, at a stop, the bus driver says, "I have an Honored Citizen here, if you are not an Honored Citizen, please give up your seat." And what happens?

The three seats on the left: a dude, healthy, fit, age 32 or 33, and his girlfriend, similarly healthy. Next to them, an older man with a cane.

The four seats on the right: a very heavyset older man with probably developmental delays and three women, between 30 and 40, healthy and fit.

What happens?

Two women on the right start to stand up; one is clearly a fake-out stand up - she is waiting to see if anyone else will go for it. The other woman really was going for it, and she stands, takes hold of a strap, and the Honored Citizen has a seat. And my mind EXPLODES.

The youngish guy? Didn't even flinch. Didn't even think to get up. Chivalry, I've decided, is dead. I glared at his girlfriend with a mix of pity and rage as I left the bus a few stops later and I think my message was received.

The second was a very young mother, she couldn't be a day over 20, climbing onto the bus in the pouring rain with a whining toddler. They got the last two seats, near me, and upon settling it, she pulled out a soda bottle and opened it, then opened his baby bottle, filled it, gave it to him, and his quieted right now. I was horrified. I don't even let myself drink soda, diet or regular anymore; I know it's a chemical and sugar poison for the delicate human body - much less a toddler's! I was also most horrified that it was a Mountain Dew. What trashy parenting, I thought. Mountain Dew! Might as well be cocaine.

Then I saw that it was a Sprite, and I immediately on the heels of my Mountain Dew judgement was the thought, "Oh, well, maybe the little guy is sick. You have to have Sprite when you're sick."

As if my experiences are universal, as if my having Sprite as a kid on the couch with a cold means anything, and as if I know a damn thing about being a mother at that young age, riding the bus in the rain.

Try it: ride the bus for a month. It's a forced mile in both someone else's shoes, and in your most ill-fitting ones. Not bad to see, once in a while.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Grapes of Goodness

Well if raw grapes didn't go well, you probably think I am crazy for giving red wine a spin - but I'm not crazy, you are, because wine went just fine! Two nights in a row!

Hallelujah for adult pleasures of the alcoholic kind. With no sugar in your diet, you need a little something indulgent. I just keep marveling at it - no sugar. No item made in a store, or by a restaurant, or in a package, because that's going to have sugar. And I'm now three days into month two! It's been very good to my wallet - and very tough on my social life. But exploring menus of some of my favorite places means that Podnah's Pit BBQ (no sauce) and Ox are on the list for this month.

In other exciting news, raw veggies went well this past week too - and after a month of cooked baby food veggies, THAT was a joy indeed. Raw grated beets, raw romaine lettuce, some tahini and olive oil - the only thing that made it better was that it was made by a friend. Having something cooked for me, and not something I cooked for me, may have been the true pleasure.

And the final week's note… I am a creature of habit, undeniably. And so, how soon I have come to a (near) nightly dessert of banana, peanut butter and honey… far from the days of cake. Do I long for the days of cake? Yes and no. I do, for I am a Captain on Team Cake (this is a lifetime appointment; my friend Bill is a Captain as well).

But at the same time, I'm feeling so remarkable off sugar and grains that I don't have the uncontrollable cravings I thought I'd have (and that I've had when restricting foods for all the other than totally gut-health reasons). And no chocolate for over a month? I swore that would not be possible. But when you take away sugar, and grains, what good is chocolate? Who craves a plain chocolate bar? Chocolate covered almonds, chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, cookies, frostings - sure. But since the overarching mental motivation and deep, almost spiritual feeling I carry, is one of rejecting sugar and grain for right now, the chocolate love takes a serious (and seriously unexpected) back burner.

And I tried making coconut flour waffles. They looked like waffles, they felt like waffles, I got to drench them in butter, and so life's been pretty dang good this week.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grapes of Wrath

So after rolling back in health, I spent two solid days eating nothing but broth, fatty meat, olive oil, and various kim chis and sauerkrauts. It was amazing how fast it put me back on track - a nice silent belly, consistently feeling sated but not bloated.

And then I ate some grapes.

I had tried them previously, and they seemed to go fine. But this time it was either the amount of grapes or a still-slightly-al-dente portion of bok choy. But I was up three times in the night, wakened only by stomach pain, with nothing to do but wait out the waves of pain.

I figured I better see what it was, so I repeated all the things I had for dinner throughout the next day, and the timing of the grapes to another stomachache led me to point my finger at that vined culprit.

Grapes! I mean - grapes! C'mon. They'd been in the fridge for a week or so, and were starting to shrivel the tiniest bit - maybe it was this concentration of the sugars that did me in.

But if these grapes are anything like what will happen when I try to drink some wine (yes, I am eventually allowed dry wine, vodka, and gin), I will be one unhappy camper. I haven't had anything alcoholic in well over a month, but I like knowing I CAN and WILL soon. Maybe it's better to keep waiting on it, rather than finding out bad news.

In the meantime, I probably say this at least once a day: thank god I like sauerkraut and always have! I'd be one sad puppy without it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Two steps forward...

It was, it turns out, too many foods introduced too closely together. And though if I see you in person I will happily share TMI about my digestive tales, should you be interested, I think sharing in writing with the wider internet world is not a wise thing for my future run at the U.S. Senate. Suffice to say I did not feel 100% this week. I took quite a few steps back. 

I'm back on a diet of mostly meat stews, with carrots and celery in them, and a little bit of pureed fruit. There is one problem: I had started grain-free baking. And I probably need to dial that to Zero for a week or two. But among the four or five failure recipes - like the almond flour 'bread' - I've hit on two good ones so far! A banana bread that tasted like banana bread - and not like 'pretty good for almond flour banana bread' and then… ahh, for the Super Bowl party today… peanut butter cookies!

Grain free, refined sugar free. Just peanut butter, butter, almond flour, salt, honey and a pinch of baking soda. I don't know if I am allowed baking soda; I am not asking about it. Head in the sand on that one, I fully admit. But I've baked up a storm for the Super Bowl party and like any good plan it is starts tomorrow. I am going to take all the baked goods out next week to see if I can't start more steps forward again. 

And in related taking-steps-back news, I have never been a hot bath person. This is because I am a clean freak. And almost everywhere I've lived since the age of 21 has been a rental, and no matter how much I clean that tub, it still (emotionally) feels dirty and used to me. (I know. I know. Psychological field day.) 

And so it just became a habit to always shower. Even after a long day or when enduring a sickness, I'll take a nice long hot shower - not bath.

Well, this week broke me. I've taken a bath every night. I just needed to be surrounded, immersed; held.  And you know what? Baths are really nurturing! (Yes, you did know that.) This year's word of the year for me, if you recall, is Nourish. These baths have been quite nourishing to this slowly repairing body and fragile spirit. So that's something. 

Go Sports Team! Happy Super Bowl! An American holiday especially treasured by this fantasy football league winner right here.

(Photos of all the baked goods to come.)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Facebook Highlights of the week

The person who is 37 years old, and took the "What's your Mental Age?" quiz, and proudly - happily - happily posted that she is mentally 25.

The person who bitched about the travel delays he endured, that he has repeatedly had (and oh, we've heard about) on his last three vacations. His last three vacations have been in the last five months.

The person who posted the fifteenth post in a week about sheeple - and how they hate corporations, hate the high fructose corn syrup in Mother's Brand Sandwich Bread, hate NSA surveillance, and hate people who spend too much time on Facebook, and are probably ignoring their children. This person has children.

And my personal favorite, the person who posted all week long about what a demanding office-job work week it was, and then posted at 5:33 from their favorite bar, on Friday, that they were glad to see the week finally be over! Honey, if you're posting at 5:33 PM from a bar, your week in a M-F office is just not that hellish.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Oh, the places you will go!

Or rather: oh, the foods you will eat!

In the last week, I've introduced strawberries, pineapple, lentils, red leaf and butter lettuce, full butter instead of just ghee, coconut meat, hazelnuts, raw whole almonds, a banana, fresh crab meat, Brussels sprouts, HONEY and aged white cheddar cheese. HONEY deserves all caps. It's a glory. And so outrageously sweet! It never tasted this sweet before.

One of these things did not go well - but all the others did, for the most part! I bet you can guess which one. Yup; it was the cheese. Within an hour to 90 minutes of eating it, I had terrible stomach pains that first felt like a side ache, and then a dull ache, and then everything passed uncomfortably. It is sensational to be both this aware of one's digestion, and able to pinpoint exactly what is causing what.

And there I was in last Monday's entry, waxing poetic about venturing out into the world… which I did, but only a little. I met some friends at a bar for one drink (which typically means 2 or 3 drinks). I successfully sipped chamomile tea the whole time and no one really cared at all; we still gossiped and caught up and laughed and debated. I also went out to lunch for a work event, and managed to eat a restaurant meal, only slightly modified (leave off the cheese, please add a poached egg). I suspect that the vinaigrette had some sugar in it, but if it did, how much - really? A pinch or two? Everything else in the meal was menu-approved. I also made it back to working out, just today; a huge challenge, but the first day back is always the worst.

And so yes, this process - it's tearing down my identity still, the same way I felt last week, though I AM feeling a little more like myself. Being back to 99% health (a slight sniffle remains) certainly helps. The mental clarity helps. I'm off caffeine now too, and I'm sleeping well, rising well, and have no energy crashes during the days - at all. That's actually a little disquieting when I think of it!

But there's one other little piece, that I first thought was due to deprivation. Then I thought it was due to illness. But now I think there's no explanation for it other than living my life without sugar, and the sugar highs and lows that occur from using food to fill time, to create breaks, to reward and to self-comfort. And that is that I'm way more emotional. If something makes me want to cry or tear up, I used to be able to choke that back damn well. And now, these last few weeks, I can't. I have to let the tears come, and let them flow. They may not last long, but it's like I have no choice - and it's pretty damn scary. For a control(led) freak like me, knowing the world is coming in, ready or not, is both terrifying and marvelous. Meaning: I marvel at it. This partnership between body and mind is indeed a marvel, isn't it? How about yours?

Monday, January 20, 2014


The illness is 90% kicked. I feel almost normal. A little lingering cough, still having no problem sleeping 9+ hours a night, but overall: I'm back.

And so, the big report: new foods today. Oh, my sweet lord in heaven above - it was the day for applesauce. No sugar, no additives, just pureed apples. But it feels like I'm cheating on the diet, it was so damn sweet; even though this is not a cheat - this is a step I'm supposed to take. (Soon, a peeled ripe apple. Then a full raw apple! I'm already dreaming of pineapple.)

And I made the GAPS Diet "bread". Drumroll… puh-leese. This is not bread. It is eggs, butter (or coconut oil) and almond flour baked into a dry teething biscuit.

That said - don't get me wrong - I'll take it. It feels akin to a carb. Like I'm biting into something filling. And I made them very lazily; I can do better. A good friend, by way of giving great support to me, said, "Just think - at least you know how to cook!" I keep hearing her say that in my head, and she is right. If I have to eat simmered  meat, at least I know how to make the best simmered meat possible. If I have to eat vegetables cooked to mush, at least I can make a killer silky butternut squash puree and sweet, soft, salty carrots in coconut oil.

So if I put some of my baking smarts to work, I can make this "bread" taste better and have a decent texture; I started browsing some GAPS Diet sites, and holy cow! There are some real dessert recipes on there! I may get through this three, five, ten, twelve months yet. (But dear universe, please don't let it be twelve months. I have weddings to attend and vacations to go on; I need to have a little fun.)

But all this here is the frosting. This is all the show. The details, the food. The three cheers for being done with antibiotics (today!) and on to straight dietary treatment.

Because beyond all that, the truth is, I'm stripping away how I identify my Self. Food, cooking, baking - for myself, for others, for little daily rituals I partake of and invite others to partake of with me - if you take that away, as it seems I have, what's left? Who am I? And how do I interact, out there in the world? It can't be chamomile tea dates forever, and I can't keep hiding at home for much longer. Now that I'm feeling well, I have to venture out there and so far, the Me without refined sugar, without grains, is a tender little Me. I cry at the drop of a hat. I feel prickly-alive. I feel so aware of the Right Now.

So I'm poking my sensitive little foot outside this week; stay tuned.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Who doesn't love a chart!?

Aaaand, what about a stool chart!? Right? Am I right? Yeah, it's a wild Saturday night over here!

However, I sort of love the Bristol Stool Chart… especially because I've been in an unhealthy stage of the chart for months and months and months - and now - in the last few days - I am not.

I'll leave that at that.

Today I added olive oil, to no negative effect thus far, and to the great joy of my palate. Over Christmas, John and I hosted a tasting party - we tasted between 3 and 5 versions of the following:

  • butter
  • olive oil
  • smoked salmon
  • dark chocolate
  • milk chocolate
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • sparkling wine (France, Germany, Italy, USA)
It was a wonderful theme for a party - engaging but not too focused on An Event - and I highly recommend it. You can pick almost anything, and tasting them side by side helps everyone know what the really do like, We have leftover samples of all these fragrant, strong olive oils, and today I rejoiced at the new flavor.

I also added about 3 sips of carrot juice, and man, I used to hate carrot juice. And after a week of fairly bland food, turns out? I still hate carrot juice. But no ill effects on the belly and I'll have a little more in the coming days because it is supposed to gear me up for much better tasting juices in the days to come after that. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Climbing uphill

Health-wise, I'm walking uphill, getting better, back to normal, my usual peak - but I'm walking extremely slowly. I have a three-day weekend and my biggest ambition for it is to catch up on laundry, and try to see Philomena. I'm not pretending I'll feel 100% come Tuesday; I'm being realistic. Maybe this is what happens when you've been eating mostly simmered meat for seven days.

But today! No more simmered meat! I sautéed it in ghee! And finished it in a hot oven. With some spaghetti squash mixed with sauerkraut, and half an avocado, it was the greatest meal of my life. Well, not quite. That was probably here. But it looked like a real meal - colors! textures! And it tasted like a real meal - flavors! Different from each other!

I forgot that yesterday I ate two boiled shrimp with my bone broth and simmered meat. Today, I ate three. Sweet as sugar.

Tomorrow, I will add a little bit of carrot juice! And cold olive oil, and by late in the day or Sunday, I'll try baking almond meal bread.

It's hard to describe both why I'm committed to this, and how I'm actually able to stick with it. It's very unlike me. That I've completed seven days, and am planning to keep going, is about as unlike me as a weeklong backpacking trip, or a weeklong vacation without any email.

But somehow - I'm doing it. Maybe it is taking the antibiotics each day, five times a day, that make me think that a Chips Ahoy, a tortilla chip in bean dip, a Twizzler, or any other of the million snacks that sit out at work, in beautiful glass jars, aren't worth it. Maybe it's my theory that sleep begets more sleep; discipline begets more discipline, on and on. So in this case, each day that passes successfully in turn strengthens my resolve to stick to the diet's rules, with even more commitment. Maybe it's that despite physical exhaustion, I feel an incredible mental clarity without sugar or grains or, sigh, chocolate. Maybe it's that somewhere in the soft, quiet, deep self, I know that this will heal my gut and I'll be able to enjoy a renewed healthy relationship with all kinds of food.

As I embark on a weekend of sweet, sweet rest - here's to hoping!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Like a three day weekend… except nothing like it.

But, a three day review instead!

Tuesday: no new foods added. I made it through work only because of forward momentum. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and it was a 'hafta' be there day so once I got up, I was going. I fevered, sweated, panted and phlegm-couughed through the day.

Wednesday: I could only recognize what feeling like 50% was like today, in comparison to realizing yesterday was a 25% day. And best of all: avocado! And real sauerkraut! Both went great during the day, so I took the big leap and make pancakes.

These are not pancakes.

They are a puree of eggs, raw zucchini, and nut butter of your choice. (Respond to the next thing you're asked with, "Nut butter of my choice," and you will get a laugh.)

They LOOKED a lot like pancakes. They did not taste like pancakes. But they tasted a little like nut butter, and between that and avocado, my palate is doing cartwheels of joy at all these exciting flavors. I bet you never thought that avocado was sweet - but it is to me!

Thursday: Only new food added was a different type of nut butter. Cashew. What?! Have you had this? It tasted so sweet I couldn't finish the tablespoon. I know that sounds crazy. But it truly happened. And as I write this, I wouldn't quite call my health 75% - that would be a leap too optimistic for this couch-happy West-Wing watcher, but 55% - I'm solidly confident about that.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Death on a Triscuit

That's a West Wing line and a good description of how I woke up this morning. And so despite being absolutely vital to the work day - I could not get up. A 102 degree fever, exhaustion, coughing, congestion, weakness - I have been laying around all day. It is harder for me to NOT go to work, than to go, when I am sick. There were a lot of tears this morning.

I added ghee and eggs to the menu today - not just the egg yolks as prescribed. I really felt I needed the whole thing. I increased my tablespoons of fermented juice (aka sauerkraut juice). I tried raw ginger tea. I still can't taste a thing! And I still can't decide if I have the flu or if these are so-called die-off symptoms. Which apparently can look exactly like flu, complete with mucous buildup.

Because let's get real here, people. If you're reading this blog, you know me. And so yes - for sure - a good 47% of me thinks this whole thing is total junk science and absolute bunk. It's like fluoride being a brain poison. It's like a cayenne-lemon detox diet that shockingly helps you lose weight by not eating for 7 to 10 days (duh)!

But then, I have long followed the emerging science on gut bacteria. And I read articles like this one, from no-bullshit Michael Pollan (who also published a pate de choux recipe of ease this week, that torturer!). That is a long article but if you want to come up to speed on the gut biome, it is worth your time. It includes the sentence, and evidence to support:

  • Medical science may be on the trail of a Grand Unified Theory of Chronic Disease, at the very heart of which we will find the gut microbiome.

Crazy! So I guess 53% of me, albeit skeptically, is willing to keep pushing through this, and see what can happen. Can one do a hard reset on their gut biome? Can I?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cold, flu, or SIBO?

Yesterday I woke up with a weird hacking cough. I've been off-and-on sick since the 12th of December with the cold that won't die, so I just thought this new cough was a slooooowly-fading-away form of the old cough, in a new form. And I was determined to start this SIBO Journey. So I did.

Today I have a fever and chills, the cough is definitely established in this new intense iteration, and I'm blowing my nose like crazy.

Is this an antibiotic side effect? Is this my body rebelling against the removal of anything resembling a traditional 'carb'? Is this just another cold? Is it the flu? (And I got a flu shot, dammit!) All I know is, I am basically miserable. (And I have a hellish week of work ahead where physical presence is required. Of course.)

But once you start an antibiotic, you have to stay the course. And if I'm taking these big-guns-drugs, I might as well keep on with the intense food restriction. And neither of those things are going to make me break this fever any faster. So that's where we are today - if yesterday was Tender, then today is Broken. And yet oddly committed to riding this out.

The menu is not an exciting one… more of all the same foods, plus a chicken stew with zucchini coins (cooked to mush). John told me it "smelled like death" but luckily I am so congested I couldn't even taste it! Small blessings?

Tomorrow and the next day I am due to add raw egg yolks and ghee to the menu. In the final piece of honesty, I learned this weekend that I can't give up coffee. I drink one or two cups every single morning, and apparently, have an addiction to it. I went without it twice in the last ten days (including yesterday) and by 3 PM, had a brutal headache that lasted until I had coffee the following morning. The lesson here is that from the get-go I'm not perfect on this process (though I am drinking it watered down, as suggested).

I excitedly found a couple SIBO Journey blogs… only to discover most of them were one or two intro posts, and then they stopped writing. So I hope to keep this SIBO one up, and begin adding more of my usual writing once again - it can't be all poop talk, all the time.

Can it?

(I'm kidding. It won't be.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014


My word of the year is Nourish. (What's your word of the year? Any time you're faced with a decision, you just plug it in. What could do I right now that would be the most nourishing choice?)

But the word of today was Tender. Feeling tender hearted, tender spirited. I've been making big batches of beef broth - which is fatty, messy, and smells gross for a while and then turns into smelling amazing. So today I had beef broth and the soft meat and gelatinous parts off the soup bones for breakfast. I had a beef broth, broccoli and onion pureed soup for lunch. And I'm going to have a simmered pork soup for dinner, with bits of mushy butternut squash. I'm not certain the squash is allowed, but I'm dying for it.

My snacks were: one cup of plain, lactose-free, organic yogurt. Three big sips of the juice that my live sauerkraut is sitting in. And three small sips of lactose-free kefir.

And a lot of chamomile tea.

Tomorrow will be identical, in terms of what I am directed to eat. I'm making chicken broth, too, to have something a bit lighter in which to stew my butternut squash, onions and carrots down into mush. Oh, and I can add garlic to all this too! Excuse me one minute.

I keep thinking how this will be in five, fifteen, fifty more days - and I keep trying to stop myself. One day at a time, and who knows how quickly healing will happen? And who knows how I will feel off of sugar for that long? That's the intriguing motivation of this lone day. I'm intrigued to know what it will be like to have no sugar, no fake sugar, no maple syrup, nadda, for a few weeks. I can't imagine I've gone more than two or three days without sugar in my entire life, after the age of about 11 (when I could get my own hands on cookies). What will it feel like? And is that enough to keep me toeing the line for as long as it's going to take?

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Next Journey

This blog started five years ago with a long (three month) work trip to Central America.

Most recently, it documented every thought (that I wrote down) while on a short (three week) volunteer trip and spiritual journey to Africa.

And now, dear reader (I think there are about three of you left)… you may want to go on your merry way. For this blog is about to turn inside. Way inside. Like inside my digestive tract. Inside the very walls of my small intestine.

This fall, my health insurance began accepting Naturopathic Doctors as Primary Care Physicians. And my sneaking interest in alternative care then combined with the fact that I have not had a regular doctor since I had a pediatrician, and the end of the equation was = I have a new ND! (There was a false start here worth noting; the first ND I met with made me feel unhealthy and skeptical and mean. The second one was - and is - amazing.)

So as me and my ND made our way through everything about my health, everything I'm concerned about or interested by, everything I've been through and want to achieve, we kept coming back to my digestive health. Which is … not great.

Don't say I didn't warn you; this is the journey, like it or not. Feel free to look away.

And my digestion (which, yeah, ok, is a nice word for bowel movements) has been worse and worse over the last 18 months or so, and been pretty atrocious in the last six. Just never regular. Just never satisfying. Just daily meh. So I took this totally crazy breath test (that turns out not to be crazy at all), and have the classic result of SIBO: small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

At first, I thought SIBO was crazy. I thought it was in the league of non-medically-accepted diagnoses, like adrenal fatigue or vertebral subluxation. This could not be a thing. Could it? Well, it is.

I went to a shiny, high end, solidly Western medicine, practically concierge-care type gastroenterologist - and he not only assured me the test for SIBO is very real, but that my results were indeed classic SIBO. His treatment plan, as a second opinion, was extraordinarily similar to my ND's plan.

And that plan starts tomorrow.

It is no easy plan. It is 10 days of very intense antibiotics, while starting a diet that should last from 3 to 12 (or more) MONTHS.

If you know the GAPS Diet - that's what it is. If you don't know it, all you need to know is what I won't be having, for 3 to 12 (or more) months:

  • Flour, wheat, barley, rice, corn, oats, cous cous, quinoa, rye, parsnips, white, red and sweet potatoes and everything made of them: tortillas, pasta, bread, cake, cookies, chips, crackers, chips, risotto, pizza.
  • Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, fava beans, black eyed peas, butter beans, cannellini beans. 
  • Ham, hot dogs, smoked or preserved or processed meat.
  • Ketchup! Chocolate! Cocoa! 
  • Maple syrup, molasses, sugar.
  • Chèvre, gruyere, feta, cottage cheese, mozzarella. 
  • Beer (but I don't care about that).
So when I come to your house, or we go out, what can I eat?
  • Beef. Lamb. Chicken. Wild Game.
  • Eggs.
  • Nuts (raw only).
  • Ghee, butter, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil.
  • Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, fermented sour cream and yogurt.
And ok, to be fair, I will be able to eat lots of vegetables and some fruits, too, eventually - and hard cheeses. Eggplant, squashes, onions, garlic, lettuces, carrots, cauliflower, capers, beets, asparagus, pineapple, pears, cherries, and more. But when you look at a list of things you can eat, and things you can't eat - it's hard to stop your imagination. 

So filled with anxiety, and total dread, I've been eating like a madwoman for the last month, since the diagnosis. I've put on another ten pounds. I've been thinking, if I just eat everything I want NOW, I'll be OK on this restrictive diet - which starts out literally with fat, meat and eggs for days before letting other things trickle in (first avocados, then nut butters, then soft lettuces, cucumber, etc, over the weeks that follow).

But I know that's not true. And so tomorrow it all starts. And I ate five pieces of sourdough toast for dinner, and then made a cherry-chocolate cake at 9 PM and ate three big squares. I'm gonna give that bacteria a big ol' feeding frenzy before I boot them out.