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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Entries in Life (32)

Thursday
Nov052009

"Under Our Skin", Under My Skin: A Lyme Disease Documentary and My Test Results.

 


Under Our Skin is a documentary about Lyme Disease, and has received large amounts of critical acclaim from critics and at independent film festivals across the country.  The Minnesota premiere of the film is happening November 8,9, and 10 here in Minneapolis, at the Oak Street Cinema, and this is my shameless plug.

Here's a synopsis of the film:

"A gripping tale of microbes, medicine & money, UNDER OUR SKIN exposes the hidden story of Lyme disease, one of the most controversial and fastest growing epidemics of our time. Each year, thousands go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, often told that their symptoms are "all in their head." Following the stories of patients and physicians fighting for their lives and livelihoods, the film brings into focus a haunting picture of the health care system and a medical establishment all too willing to put profits ahead of patients."

 

Why am I so interested in this Lyme movie? 

Lyme hits home.  Since learning of my cousin's diagnosis of late-stage Lyme Disease earlier this year, my family and I have delved into researching and learning what we can about the disease in order to better understand what she is going through.  My aunt obtained a copy of the film on DVD, and she lent it to me a few months ago.  I was totally engrossed in it, and watched it a few times.  After watching the film, it struck me more deeply that I should listen to the concerns my aunt, uncle, and cousin had about my symptoms echoing those of Lyme.  I didn't want to be tested - fear! denial!  But after reading more about the disease, talking more with my cousin, and seeing the stories of the individuals in the documentary, I fully accepted that Lyme was a distinct possibility.    Contemplating a future with untreated Lyme Disease became much scarier than just getting the test done and learning the results.  My naturopath and I talked about my concerns, and she thought testing was a good idea.  So, I got a Western Blot test done through IGeneX, Inc. , a state-of-the-art laboratory that specializes in Tick-borne illnesses.

Results?  Positive marks for IgG and IgM, those darn "+" signs on multiple bands, with a few indeterminate marks on others.  I keep hoping that the more I look at those results something will change.   I need to say it out loud to believe it.  I have Lyme Disease.

Do I really have Lyme Disease?  Yes, I do.

According to CDC/NYS, my test results are borderline; the two indeterminate bands in my test result add an interesting twist.  But combined with the bands the are undoubtedly positive, and my health history and symptoms, my naturopath says it is Lyme, and worth treating.  I've heard of false positives, and this is certainly a concern - especially with my borderline results.  But, according to my new Lyme-specialist ND that I'll be seeing for the first time next week, Lyme it hides in the tissues, and easily evades testing.  Once treatment is started, and it starts to emerge from the tissues, and shows up more clearly with testing.  So, people with cases that look borderline at initial testing (showing weaker bands) have test results that go crazy once treatment has started, with more bands of more intense strength. She believes this may be the case with me.  The combination of test results and symptoms seems undoubtable.

The reality of this is setting in.  It seems that I am now one of many. I have something with a name.   I have a ribbon (it's green).  I have a support network.   This diagnosis doesn't change who I am, nor does it suddenly make me feel worse.  Instead, it sheds much needed light on all the junk I still deal with.  As I write this I have shooting pains down my arms and into my fingers, my knees are achy, my eyes are itchy, and I've got a headache.  Why?!  Well, finally, the "why" I ask myself all the time - the "why" of the fatigue, excessive joint pain, occasional brain fog, random heart palpitations, the hormone imbalances, digestive issues, the list goes on - seems to have an answer.  The more I read about Lyme, the more I read about other people's experiences, the more I see myself, and the more this makes sense.

I've picked lots of ticks off my body over my lifetime.  I grew up in a family that ran around Northern Wisconsin, went camping and hiking, and I loved going to summer rustic camps.   My love of nature is steadfast; the woods are my sanctuary. I lay in the grass, I climb trees, I walk through brush, and I have no intention of stopping.   Nature is our blessed friend and is deserving of the utmost respect and love; it is not something to be feared or avoided!  But the danger of ticks was also something we were cautious of, with tickchecks closing out each day.  Did the fateful tick bite me when I was young, and that's why I've had such weird digestive problems, back and knee pain, and issues with depression since I was a teenager?  Maybe it happened in college, when I started developing all those food allergies?  On the other hand, a few years ago I had a weird red bullseye rash (but no tick) that puzzled doctors, and after that more stuff started going weird with my health.  Could that have been the telltale bite?  Yikes, I could drive myself insane remembering all the ticks, bites,  and rashes I've had.  And really, what good would it do?  Trying to pinpoint the exact time I got it doesn't change anything about the present.  All that matters is that I do what I need to do today to deal with it.

In time, I think I will learn to be more comfortable with this diagnosis than with the grey-colored land of uncertainty in which I had formerly been living.  Uncertainty can drive you mad and exhaust your body, mind, and spirit.  Nothing is more exhausting than working and working and working and not knowing what you're working for.  But knowledge?  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge is a tool.  Knowledge can bring resolve to the whole physiological and psychological self.  This diagnosis may be the center of the enormous f****** onion I've been peeling away at for years.  And that is exciting.

I keep telling myself that all these experiences will make a REALLY good healthcare provider someday; there is nothing quite as valuable as first-hand education, right?  I'm not taking any classes right now, but I think I should just start telling people that I'm a student; a student of life, in all its unexpected and complex glory.  I'll be seeing my new Naturopathic Doctor next week; she specializes in Lyme and works with a Lyme-literate MD in New York.  I'm interested to have her look at my test results and get her point of view.  Even though she has already been in contact with current ND and knows about my symptoms and results, I keep hoping that she'll look at them and be like, "Oh wait no!  You and your naturopath were reading this all wrong!  This isn't Lyme...."

I have no idea what to expect.  I'm feeling so conflicted, a very weird mixture of determination, fear, confusion, relief, and denial.  Fine readers, do you have suggestions?  Advice?  Reassurance?  I'm open, please send it my way.  I think that meditation practice my acupuncturist suggested I start is an absolute must.  Thankfully, I'm armed with a good support network of friends, family, and healthcare providers, and I'm as committed as ever to that good old sense of self-preservation, no matter how this all pans out.   As my dad said, it is time to "Win! Conquer! Destroy!"  Next week, I guess I'll find out more about how I'm going to do that...  At least the dietary restrictions I've become so comfortable with translate to a Lyme diet protocol perfectly; that's probably why I felt so much better once I started to eat this way.

In the meantime, I'll be attending the screening of this film, and rubbing elbows with my fellow, uh, Lymies.

That's what Lyme Disease sufferers are called, did you know that?  I heard that label being thrown around a few months ago by some Lyme folks I Twitter with.  I chuckled at the name at the time; I didn't think I'd ever need to use it for myself.

Anyway, if you live in the Twin Cities area, please come to the film, perhaps our paths will cross!  Seriously, if you live around here and plan on coming, leave a comment with when you think you might attend, I'd love to know!  How timely that this film is showing this weekend - now I can wrangle all my friends to come, and have them all learn about Lyme Disease at once.  How convenient.  [insert a pinch of sarcasm here]  For those of you who don't live around here, check out www.underourskin.com for a listing of other screenings - it is showing all over the country, and you really ought to check it out if you can.

 

UNDER OUR SKIN
Minnesota premiere of the award winning documentary

Oak Street Cinema
309 Oak Street SE, Minneapolis, MN
Show Times:
November 8, 2009: 2 PM & 5 PM
November 9 & 10, 2009: 7:30 pm

General admission $8, Seniors $6
Admission $5 with MFA membership or valid student ID

For more information on the documentary and additional screenings, check out: www.underourskin.com
For more information on the screening at the Oak Street, check out:


May you have passion to seek the truth, courage to accept what you find, the strength to change what you can, and an unfaltering commitment to the beauty that is YOU.

 

Hope to see you at the movies.

xoxo, Kim

 

Sunday
Mar012009

BYOCJ: Let's Make Sauerkraut Party

BYOCJ = Bring Your Own Cabbage and Jar

I decided to host a Let's Make Sauerkraut Party on Saturday night.  I made an Evite for it and everything.  I have been totally fascinated with the idea of making my own raw sauerkraut and cultured vegetables lately, and wanted to make a party out of it.  Why not?  Everyone likes to eat good food, people like to hang out, and this is a pretty cheap way to have a night of fun.  Anyway, this is the kind of party to expect from a hippie foodie German girl.  Eight of my more food nerdy friends were able to make it; six made sauerkraut with me, and two observed the whole thing.  It was a hit!  I invited a ton of friends, but to be honest, I'm glad only eight came - we had so much cabbage flying around as it was, I don't know what I would have done with more guests!
I instructed everyone to bring at least one 1 qt jar, at least 1 head of cabbage, and any other stuff they wanted to add. I also told everyone to bring their own cutting board, a big bowl, and a knife.  I provided salt, filtered water, and extra add ins and some backup heads of cabbage.   It was a wild mess of a party.  I think that cabbage has now been ground into my carpet, somehow cabbage ended up in my bathroom sink, and I got covered in cabbage juice after an unfortunate incident involving a bowl of salty cabbage water and a very slippery, heavy jar of newly packed kraut....
Lacto-fermented vegetables are really good for you. I've discovered that I tolerate them well,  and while I do love the convenience of purchasing all those tasty, high quality prepared krauts, I don't want to pay $6 or $7 for a mere 16 oz of fermented vegetables any longer.  Time to cut the cord and do this myself, the way that my German farm wife great grandma probably did back in the day, long before anyone in their right mind would pay $6 for a 16 oz jar of humble cabbage.  According to the inflation calculator I found online, a $6 jar of cabbage in 1920 would be the equivalent of $65.62 jar of cabbage today.  That really puts all of this in perspective.  Cabbage is cheap.  Chopping vegetables is easy. And fermenting stuff is totally effortless  - nature does all the work for you.  So let's get it on.  Let's make some sauerkraut.

To prepare for this whole thing, I bought all sorts of extra veggies for my guests to add in: green onions, a big bag of carrots, onions, jalepenos, garlic, red peppers, ginger, beets, lemon, and turnips.  I also had all the basics from my pantry: chili flakes, some different vinegars (rice, apple cider, ume), soy sauce, honey, different seaweeds, and a pantry full of herbs and spices.  I also had an extra head or two of cabbage, just in case - which was good, because we NEEDED it. I was hoping my guests would want to use some of those vinegars and soy sauce packets and other pantry items that I can't use anymore.  : )  For reference, I had out a few books so we could get proportions of salt to water right, and have some recipe suggestions: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, and Vibrant Living by James Levin, M.D. and Natalie Cederquist.
Everyone got really creative with their krauts, and it was fun to have so many ingredients to choose from. Here's the kraut round-up, left to right:
  • Becky and Dylan made a kim chee-type kraut, with a mix of green and purple cabbage, carrot, jalepeno, ginger, green onion, and garlic.  It was a beautiful rainbow in a jar!  
  • Scott and Tracy went classic with green cabbage, garlic, and dill. Beautiful in its simplicity.
  • I made a dilly kim chee thing, with napa cabbage, green onion, grated carrot, slivered red pepper, garlic, and dill weed and dill seed, it was very pretty and very juicy. That napa cabbage really crushed down - I ended up needing about 2 1/2 cabbages!
  • Dana and Ben, a.k.a. Team Cilantro, made two Thai inspired krauts:  one with bok choy, tons of cilantro, green onion, yellow onion, jalepeno, and ginger, and another batch that used that mix as a base with added napa and green cabbage, red pepper, and red curry paste.  The first batch was a beautiful dark emerald color, and second batch was kind of an everything-but-the kitchen-sink thing that smelled awesome. 
After everyone left, and I cleaned up the crazy mess that was my kitchen and dining/art/craft room, I also made a batch of pickled turnips and beets, because I positively adore turnips and beets, I had the ingredients ready to go, and I was on a roll, baby.  
This party was really fun.  My friends were totally surprised at how much fun they had cutting up cabbages and pounding the cabbage and getting all covered in cabbage juice, and are really stoked to see how their kraut turns out!  In the end, it was a total blast! Plus, it gave me a great excuse to make some tasty food for my guests: Squash, Parsnip, and Carrot Soup, raw and steamed vegetables with Red Pepper Goat Cheese Dip and Beet Bean Dip, pear and blueberry salad, and some tasty Asian rice crackers, just to name a few things. And from a monetary perspective, as suspected, making kraut ended up being way cheaper than buying it pre-made. For example, I ended up with a 1 qt (32 oz) jar of lovely kraut for about $4. My batch of pickled turnips and beets were also a pretty good deal; I ended up with 1 1-qt (32 oz) jar and 1 1-pint (16 oz) jar for probably about $6 total. Great grandma would be proud. 

You know, I think more people should have sauerkraut parties.  Just try googling "sauerkraut party".  Not a lot of results.  The most prominent match documents a sauerkraut-making birthday party for an 80-year-old guy named Al in Michigan.  It looks like a lot of fun, and they are making their kraut in big buckets!  I've always connected well with old men due to my interest in history, the ways of old, and other such things; apparently, the similarities continue.  Anyway, not a lot of mention of sauerkraut-making festivities online; this needs to change.

So, in sauerkraut making solidarity, I will be offering up recipes for the two batches of lacto-fermented goodness I made at my sauerkraut soirée: the newly named Kim's Dilly Chee (my own spontaneous creation) and the recipe for Pickled Turnips and Beets from Nourishing Traditions.  Right now these are both fermenting in my kitchen. In a few short days, I'll open them up and try them. Then I'll post the recipes and let you know how they turn out!

 

Yours, in cabbage loving solidarity,
Kim

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