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A subsitute for fake maple syrup

August 26th, 2009 No comments

I love pancakes and waffles. In the past I've drenched them in "Maple Syrup", meaning the fake maple syrup like "Log Cabin" or "Aunt Jemima", not real pure maple syrup.

Since I've been trying to eat healthier I don't eat the fake syrups anymore, they are nothing more than high fructose corn syrup, which it is becoming more evident that it plays a large part in the U.S. obesity crisis.

I've used real maple syrup and enjoy it's flavor, but I recently found another substitute that I like better: Agave Nectar. You can find it at Wal-Mart in the foreign foods area.

It's very sweet and a little goes a long way. I find myself using less of it than I would real maple syrup and I really like the flavor. It's fairly thin and absorbs easily into the waffles or pancakes.

Agave Nectar also has a low glycemic index, meaning that the sugar is not absorbed as quickly into your bloodstream. That in turn means it's less likely to cause an insulin spike.

Let me know if you enjoy this healthy alternative!

How to make a creamy smooth smoothie

August 8th, 2009 4 comments

I love smoothies. I first fell in love with the Smoothie King and Jamba Juice smoothies, but I couldn't justify paying $4 for a smoothie that had way too many empty calories, so I decided to start making my own healthier and cheaper smoothies.

My first smoothie recipe

The first smoothie recipes I tried all used ice as the thickening agent, but I felt that this created a watered down smoothie. I began using frozen fruit instead of fresh and that would thicken up the smoothie. That was a good first step.

To enhance the flavor of my smoothies I started adding a little bit of pineapple or orange juice. The acidity of the juice helped to bring out the flavors in whatever fruit I was using. So I stuck with the following recipe for awhile:

1 cup milk
1 cup frozen fruit
1/4 cup orange or pineapple juice

Depending on the fruit and type of milk you use, this smoothie is anywhere from 200-300 calories, much better than many of the store bought smoothies!

The discovery of silky and creamy smoothies

I ran out of orange juice one day and was searching for a substitute. I ran across the orange flavored Metamucil in the pantry and thought "Why not?". I don't know why Metamucil has such a negative reputation, it actually tastes pretty good and soluble fiber is really good for you.

Now anyone that has drank Metamucil knows that it will thicken quickly in water, so you need to drink it fast. I wasn't even thinking about that when I put a tablespoon in my smoothie, but what it did for the smoothie was amazing.

It not only provided the citrus I wanted in the smoothie, it also acted as a thickening agent and gave the smoothie a silky, creamy texture that was awesome! Some of you may think I'm crazy, but adding Metamucil (or offbrand, it's just Psyllium Husk) is the best thing you can do for your smoothie.

So now I simply replace the orange juice in my original recipe with a tablespoon of Metamucil and voila, a perfectly creamy smoothie!

Also, don't forget to get a good blender. I bought the Oster Professional Series Blender and it works great.

If you enjoy this recipe or have suggestions, please let me know!

Categories: Natural Health Tags: , ,

How to get rid of acid reflux without medications

August 5th, 2009 2 comments

I've had acid reflux (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, GERD) since my college days.  I can only assume that 3 years of weekend alcohol binges helped to create the issue, but I'm genetically predisposed to having stomach issues because my father has battled reflux and ulcers throughout his life.

In this post I will outline the few strategies I've used to become almost completely free of acid reflux:

  1. Quit taking medications for acid reflux
  2. Use chewing gum for temporary relief
  3. Eat smaller meals
  4. Eat more fiber

Low Acid

As I've gotten older (I'm 32 right now) I've tried to take less medicine and be more cognizant of how I treat my body.  After several years of chewing through Pepcid Complete's, I decided to find a better way.  I talked to a friend of mine and he suggested that I could have "Low Acid" and that Pepcid and other medication would simply exacerbate the issue.

I did some research and found that about a third of people who get reflux have "Low Acid".  What this means is that there is not enough acid in the stomach to digest the food and the food begins to putrify and cause reflux.  Too be honest, I'm not sure if I had "Low Acid" or not, but the revelation that such a thing existed pushed me to try and kick my Pepcid habit.

(UPDATE: I don't believe I had low acid. My family has a history of hyper-acidity and I believe that is the problem.)

Kick the antacid habit!

I went cold turkey and the first few days were rough.  I would try to eat small meals and if I started getting reflux I would drink a little water or eat a light snack.  I needed a better solution and that's when I had a revelation, chewing gum!  I don't chew a lot of gum, or at least I did not at that time, but I did recall that when I did chew gum it seemed to alleviate the acid reflux.

I did some research and actually found a research paper that studied the effects of chewing gum on acid reflux.  The findings were that chewing gum does reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.  Apparently your saliva has bicarbonate in it which neutralizes the acid in your esophagus.  This is your body's natural way of protecting your esophagus.  By chewing gum we greatly increase the amount of saliva going into the esophagus, which gives temporary relief from the reflux.

Smaller meals equals less reflux

I already knew that a sensible diet would help stop acid reflux, so I began eating smaller meals. Even though I was still eating out quite a bit, I simply did not eat as much, and this was a big help in limiting reflux.

Fiber in your diet

The change in my diet that really got rid of reflux for good was adding fiber. I was simply trying to eat better and began noticing that on days when I ate fruits and veggies (apples, pears, salads), my acid reflux did not appear at all. In fact, eating an apple will give you almost immediate relief from reflux and give you prolonged relief.

What are you waiting for?

I hate reflux. It dogged me for years and I feel so much better now that it is a thing of the past. Don't get me wrong, if I go out on a two day bender and eat terribly, I'm going to get reflux. But in my day to day life it is mostly gone and I can still enjoy eating out and a couple of beers and not worry about it.

As always, if you have thoughts or comments, I'd love to hear them.

Categories: Natural Health Tags: ,

P90X Portion Tracking Worksheet

August 2nd, 2009 No comments

After about a week of trying the P90X Meal Plan approach, Kim and I decided that the portion approach would definitely be better.  The meals laid out in the meal plan are often too elaborate and use some ingredients that we didn't really care for.  On top of that we found ourselves cooking more than exercising, which is definitely not the point of the program.

We switched over to the portion plan and everything is running much smoother.  One thing we did do is create a worksheet that allows us to track portions for each day.  We also made it so you can track calories as well.  The one for download below is based on phase 1, Level 2.  You can easily modify for your phase and level.

Download Portion Tracking Worksheet (Phase 1, Level 2)

Categories: Natural Health Tags:

Get Rid of Sinus Pain and Headaches

April 12th, 2009 5 comments

Over the last 3 years I have endured sinus headaches that can at times be debilitating. At first I thought they were normal headaches, but as they persisted I suspected they were something more. I began to pay attention to the symptoms and I identified them as sinus headaches.

Once I diagnosed the problem I began self-medicating with Sudafed and ibuprofen, but they simply treated the symptoms and I found myself taking them almost daily during my worst bouts. Not wanting to be dependent on drugs, I began searching for a permanent solution to my sinus headaches. In the rest of this post I will discuss my personal experience and the three tools I've found for naturally controlling sinus headaches:

  • Eliminating allergens
  • Sinus lavage (aka nasal lavage, nasal irrigation)
  • Exercise

How can you tell a sinus headache from other headaches?

Most people associate sinus headaches with colds because they typically occur when you are congested from a cold. However, sinus headaches can be caused by any number of allergens and can occur without displaying any other symptoms except for the pain.

The pain I experience, as most people with sinus headaches, is directly behind the eyes. There is a feeling of pressure and if you put the palms of your hands on your closed eyes and push slightly it will not be comfortable. Conversely, if you take your thumbs and press up on the top of your eye socket, you will feel relief. Sometimes my sinus headaches are accompanied by stuffy ears due to the Eustachian tubes not draining properly, but typically I have no other noticeable symptoms.

What causes sinus headaches and sinus pain?

As I noted before, you can get sinus headaches and pain from having a cold or flu, but the purpose of this article is to address chronic sinus headaches and pain. Chronic sinus headaches usually are typically caused by allergies. Common allergens are mold, dust, pollen, and food.

The direct reason for sinus headaches and pain is the actual inflammation and swelling of the tissue in your sinus cavities which can be caused by allergic reactions. This inflammation and swelling does not allow your sinus to function and drain properly, thus leading to congestion and pain.

In my particular case, the source of the allergies was two-fold, pollen and mold. Now the kicker here is that the mold allergy was not airbone, it was food ingested, which took me quite a while to figure out.

Food allergies cause sinus headaches?!

By mid 2008 my headaches got so bad that I decided I had to take action and figure out what was going on. I called a friend of mine who is a chiropractor and practices natural medicine. As an aside, he's not a quack :), but actually a very analytical (previously an electrical engineer) and competent individual. He suggested that the headaches could be caused by a food allergy because it was common for sinus headaches to manifest by themselves with no other symptoms when caused by a food allergy.

I did some research on the web on my own and found other sources stating that food allergies alone could cause sinus headaches, often without other symptoms. My friend ordered my a blood test to test for food allergies.

In the weeks that I waited for the results I determined the culprit. I had racked my brain for what I had changed in my diet over the previous couple of years. There was really only one item I could think of: Kashi products. I quit eating Kashi products and almost immediately the majority of the headaches went away, it was pretty amazing. I still suffered from the occasional headache and I'll discuss how I overcame those in a moment.

When the test results came back, I only had one severe food allergy, aspergillus. Asper-what? That's what I said. Aspergillus is a common mold that is found in the air and is responsible for many airborne mold allergies, however it is also commonly found on grains and thus ingested by you and me. Kashi touts there 7-grain blend and it is in everything they make, so I could only infer that Kashi products must have a high amount of Aspergillus in them. I thought this might be psycho-somatic, but I have since ingested two Kashi products without thinking (a bar and waffles) and both times I got sinus headaches. It was only in retrospect that I realized the products were Kashi brand.

Sinus lavage and how it can prevent sinus headaches

I still struggled with regular sinus headaches caused by airborne allergens such as pollen. Since my only symptoms are headaches and stuffy ears, I choose not to use any allergy medicine such as Zyrtec, although I have in the past and it does work. The reason I choose not to is because antihistamines dry you out and and only treat the symptoms. I also hate the idea of taking medicine for the rest of my life if I don't have to.

It was at this point I discovered sinus lavage, which is fancy talk for squirting water up your nose. I was talking to my sister about the headaches and she told me that her ear-nose-throat doctor had told her to do sinus lavage. Sinus lavage is the act of taking a big plastic syringe and squirting saline solution up your nose so that it runs through your sinus cavities. Sound fun? It's really not that bad. I used to fantasize about drilling holes in my sinuses when my headaches were at their worst, so squirting salt water up my nose seems reasonable!

I began researching and found that sinus lavage can help prevent sinus headaches, but you have to make sure you use it when you are first exposed to the allergens. The problem is you don't necessarily know when you are exposed (unless it's really obvious, such as mowing the lawn). However, in my experience I've found that doing it anytime you begin to suspect that a headache is on the way is enough to stave off the headaches. Even if you have a headache, sinus lavage definitely helps speed recovery time to just 3-4 hours (as good as Sudafed).

I researched nasal irrigation kits and found Nasaline to be the most recommended. I found it on Amazon (Nasaline Nasal Irrigator) and it has excellent reviews. I've been very happy it and it has almost eradicated the last of my sinus pain.

A few tips on using the nasal irrigator:

  • Use distilled water. You really don't want any impurities in your sinus cavity
  • Warm the water a bit above room temperature (not too much, just so it's comfy)
  • Get the air out of the syringe! (not fun if it's there)

Exercise helps too

When my headaches were at their worst aerobic exercise would definitely help limit the length and severity of my sinus headaches. Doing 20-30 minutes of exercise a day should help and also has a ton of other beneficial effects as well.

I'm happy to be sinus headache free. For awhile it was starting to impact my work and taking Sudafed all the time was making me jittery and wired, which I didn't care for at all. I hope this post can help someone else overcome their sinus pain!