The Peaceful Feast

Feel the ‘Booch — Keep Kombucha Wild
January 12, 2010, 10:51 am
Filed under: food sensitivities, IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Yesterday, I participated in a kombucha taste test panel. Kombucha (or ‘booch as I call it), is fermented tea. Uh … yum? Not. It actually tastes like carbonated vinegar. So why drink it? There’s only one reason that I can see, and that’s for the digestive benefits. Kombucha is teeming with prebiotics, probiotics, active enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. It’s a superfood.

I got hooked on the ‘booch last summer when I was undergoing a course of some gnarly antibiotics to get rid of the h. pylori bacteria that was found in my small intestine during an endoscopy. The gastro said this was causing inflammation of my stomach lining that could lead to stomach cancer down the road. The course included high dosages of two antibiotics and prevacid for acid reflux — the condition which had led me to the gastro in the first place. The antibiotics were hardcore, much stronger than any antibiotic regimen I had ever tried — even for pneumonia. The first few days on it, I couldn’t eat at all, even after adding some megadosages of probiotics to my diet.

One day about a month after finishing the course of antibiotics for h. pylori, I was at my sister’s place and plopping down on her couch announced that I was feeling “dyspeptic”. She had just finished handcrafting kombucha and offered me some. My initial response was fermented tea? No way, ick. She urged me to give it a try and so I had a couple tentative sips of the tea, making sucking-on-a-lemon faces all the while. A few minutes later my dyspepsia was gone and I felt okay again. I went out and bought a bottle of kombucha that day and ever since then I’ve kept it on hand to help me out of gastrointenstinal distress. I drink a swig or two a day, mainly before bedtime, and find that it gets rid of upset stomach and bloating better than most anything. It even helps a little with the IBS, although not so much with symptoms of the colon.

My reliance on kombucha for stomach health is how I ended up taste testing a local beverage company’s upcoming kombucha line. The company making the kombucha is very respected in middle America and if anybody can make Kombucha popular nationwide it is this company. There were about a dozen of us in a little classroom tasting the products. Based on looks alone, I’d say we represented a wide cross-section of Boulder — students, Latinos, working professionals, hippies. The woman sitting next to me was dressed in casually expensive clothing. Very Boulder chic. As I said, the beverage company is very respected across the nation. But how do you make kombucha palatable to Middle America without losing it’s boochiness? Is kombucha still boochy once you get rid of it’s wild culture?

With us were two harried beverage company employees running back and forth providing 2 oz samples of each of the five kombucha flavors in development. Without giving too much away, let me just say some flavors were better than others but that there were some good products in that mix. And the stuff that was not so great tasting the company can easily tweak for better flavor. What I found particularly interesting is the company’s addition of a particular set of vitamin/pre or pro biotic/anti-oxidant supplements to each kombucha flavor without a corresponding increase in price. The company is clearly trying to differentiate its product from those currently on the shelves while opening the market up to those who would never consider drinking kombucha.

The company wanted to know what were the top 3 priorities I need for a good kombucha experience, and I listed digestive health, organic, and natural ingredients. The casually-expensive looking woman sitting next to me asked me during a brief break in between sampling why I drink kombucha and I told her for my stomach. She nodded and said that is why she drinks it, too. I like kombucha because I need it. But would I drink it if I didn’t need it? No.

The question I was left with after the taste test is this: Would adding a lot of flavorings and supplements to this new line of kombucha be enough to appeal to those who would not normally drink it? I’m not sure. In fact, I was a little suspicious of whether, after all of its tweaking and tinkering, this company had left enough of the beneficial stuff in the tea to make it worthwhile to drink for digestive health.

For instance, I noticed that each sample was fizzy but not too fizzy the way kombucha usually is. Oxygen from the live bacteria give kombucha its crazy over carbonation. The live bacteria is what makes kombucha good for the stomach. You take away that, you take away the digestive benefits of kombucha, benefits that supplements don’t provide, no matter how much you add back in. I’m very interested in how this will pan out for the beverage company. But I wonder if the finished product will appeal to anyone. Can kombucha be made palatable enough for the non belly-achers, while keep the medicinal benefits that we need? I doubt it.

As for me, I love my ‘booch as is and the thought of some big beverage corp. smoothing out its rough edges makes me cranky. In fact, I am toying with making my own kombucha. You’ve seen the bumper stickers that say “Keep Boulder weird?” Well, my bumper sticker slogan would be “Keep Kombucha wild.”


Product Review: Outside the Breadbox’s Jalapeno-Cheddar Crackers
December 27, 2009, 1:50 pm
Filed under: gluten-free, Uncategorized, wheat-free | Tags:

I had heard of a gluten-free bakery called Outside The Breadbox but didn’t get a chance to try any of their products until last week, when I found the Jalapeno-Cheddar Crackers at Vitamin Cottage.

Oh! Was I ever surprised at how delicious they are! Each cracker so fresh and crunchy. The first thing you taste is cheddary goodness, and then the jalapenos which tingled in my mouth so delightfully afterward. These little babies not only hold their own against the typical supermarket gluteny fare, they far exceed any snack cracker I have ever tried.

Gluten-free crackers from southern Colorado

Peaceful Body
December 1, 2009, 10:24 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

After 5 years of constant pain, itching, bleeding and soreness in my nether regions, I was — as usual — feeling pretty desperate when I reached for the 1 oz. tube of Peaceful Mountain’s Eczederm Rescue last night.

I had tried every lotion, ointment, salve, and herb known to civilization to treat this mysterious rash which a doctor had assured me was the source of my symptoms. You have a form of eczema which is very hard to treat, he said, suggesting that I was allergic to my own fluids.

I used over-the-counter corticosteroids which made the problem worse over time, so I tried herbal versions, and they didn’t work either. I used aloe vera gel and tea tree which helped but didn’t make the vulvar dermatitis (also known as vaginal eczema) go away. Anybody who has had this condition knows the incredible mental and physical suffering that accompanies it. Prayer helped me get through these past several years, that along with the hope that I would be healed eventually.

So, this is where I was when I reached for the Eczederm Rescue last night — at the point where I would consent to pay 12 bucks for 1 oz worth of herbs combined with oil. Yep, this product is completely natural — one could probably make it in the kitchen with the herbs growing on the windowsill (a worthy summer project, perhaps).

Can I get a refund on this if it doesn’t work? I asked the manager of my neighborhood market. She said yes, provided I kept my receipt and so I forked over the cash and walked home and tried it.

At first there was stinging but within seconds every skin cell on my nether regions gave thanks! The inflammation began to cool immediately. I used almost half an ounce last night applying and reapplying, and with every application felt my symptoms diminish bit by bit.

This morning when I awoke, there was much less pain than the day before. I applied some more ointment, and noticed that there was much less reaction to it than the first time. It’s been about 3 hours since my initial application today and the pain has dulled, with no itching.

My apologies if this is TMI, but this symptom relief is nothing short of miraculous. So, I had to share. I get no kickbacks or Peaceful Mountain products for this testimonial — in fact, Peaceful Mountain (located in my hometown of Boulder, CO) has no idea that I am writing this blog post, though I will probably give them a heads up soon. Who wouldn’t want to know that their little company has helped ease such immense suffering?

Is Paleo gluten-free?
November 24, 2009, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

I sure hope it is! The food pictured here makes paleo look really

Healing Materialism
November 21, 2009, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yesterday, I strolled the aisles of Vitamin Cottage, blissfully tossing “gluten-free this” and “allergen-free that” into my cart, full of glee bordering on euphoria over my “clean” and “good” and “healthy” purchases.

My goodness, I thought, is it possible that I can be any more materialistic?
My ego retorted: “What’s so materialistic about wanting to be healthy?”

But It’s not necessary to spend more to be healthy; it’s just that I’ve bought into this notion that being healthy means buying extra things. I am a healing materialist.

Speaking in Boulder, Colo., about 40 years ago, Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa warned his students against what he called “spiritual materialism”:

Walking the spiritual path properly is a very subtle process; it is not something to jump into naively. There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism.

There are several ways this spiritual materialism may manifest: capitalistically, through new age stores selling enlightenment through expensive gee-gaws and doohickeys, for example. But also, we may manifest our materialism through our humanity by seeking to reward our egos by buying expertly packaged things, becoming experts ourselves, or by … ahem … publishing a blog. 🙂

All this is a long way of getting to the question I’ve been pondering about whether one can take too materialistic an approach toward healing. I think it is possible, but I haven’t quite figured out how this works, or how to avoid healing materialism. I’ll be returning to this topic from time to time and welcome any ideas.

To Eat In Peace
November 18, 2009, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

What to eat when food hurts? I mean achey joints, gassy, runny, bowel movements,  weight that won’t come on or off,  the collateral damage in the war being waged against your body.

I’m talking food allergies.  These are what sends you off into the bathroom for a little alone time with the toilet after eating bread, or tomatoes, or ice cream, or other allergens.

Your doctor may have told you that you have celiac, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, or an allergy to some common, or not so common, foods.

The most common food allergens are: wheat, soy, fish, corn, eggs, yeast, nightshades, dairy, and tree nuts. Chances are, if you are allergic, you are sensitive to one or more of these foods.

I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity through blood tests about a month ago, and adopted a wheat and gluten-free diet immediately. I quickly learned that gluten and dairy sensitivity goes hand in hand.  I am about 90 percent dairy free and find that my stomach and bowels are much calmer without it. Same with tomatoes, which belong to the nightshade family. I eliminated that and find that there is less drama in the bathroom these days.

Oh yeah: I have painful bladder syndrome, too, which means both #1 and #2 elimination routes are under seige.  PBS means chocolate, coffee, citrus, tomatoes, and alcohol are all no nos. Not saying that I adhere strictly to this — just that these are not allowed.

So, you may be asking after all this information (almost too much), why blog? Well, why not? I need to learn how to join the clean plate club without killing myself.  I can read other allergy blogs and food sites,  but without a place to put everything I find, all that helpful information goes out the old memory hole. Besides, my family, friends and co-workers get bored real fast with my sharing news of gluten-free this and dairy-free that. Never mind my bladder and my bowels, all this food talk leads them to think I got some kind of  problem, which I do, but they don’t, and frankly, they can do without hearing about it.

So, all who have stumbled upon this blog, if you’re still reading … welcome.  Please be at home here. Drop me a line about what brought you to my blog. Pull up a chair. Consider this a neutral zone in the food wars — I don’t advocate a vegetarian diet, or a low-carb diet, or this diet or that.  I’m not a nutrition counselor or a medical doctor. I’m just trying to find food that doesn’t hurt. If that’s what you want, cool, let us then help each other feast in peace! 🙂