Rainstorm in your Sinuses

We have to admit that mother nature has been upping her game recently; hurricanes, tropical storms, fires and earthquakes… even without these natural disasters, every season of the earth’s rotation brings new weather patterns.

Have you ever stopped to think about how the weather may be affecting your health?

Clamming 2014

“You better check yo self before you wreck yo self. Cos I’m bad for your health, I come real stealth…” –Ice Cube

Ice Cube has got it right. When it comes to our health we must stay aware of all aspects of our environment, internal and external, and this includes what the sky looks like out your window every morning.

Not that we as individuals have much control what nature will bring us, but the more in-tune we are to our own bodies as they fit into the world around us, the better clarity we will have as to our well being. Knowledge equals power to make the best informed choices for us.

Here are a few awareness tid-bits on how changes in our surrounding climate may stealthily sneak up on us:


Sudden temperature changes, humidity changes, smog and smoke in the air:

  1. Can cause allergy-like symptoms= sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, nosebleeds, ear infections, fatigue; also associated with asthma and sinusitis (inflamed sinuses).
  2. How to prevent, help, or not make these unwanted affects worse during these times= avoid alcohol, spicy foods, polluted air, cleaning chemicals, and scented products; rinse sinuses with saline solution as desired.
  3. NOTE: there weather-related symptoms have nothing to do with the immune system, however they mimic actual allergy or cold symptoms so be mindful of which you may be experiencing!

Cold weather or sudden drops in temperature:

  1. Can be hard on the heart, as the body works to regulate your body temperature.
    • Avoid vigorous activity in the cold, especially if you have heart disease.
    • Keep indoor temperatures at 64-75 degrees Fahrenheit (World Health Organization).
  2. Can cause joint stiffness and pain.
    • Avoid weight –bearing activities during these times, or seek a warmer environment if pain persists.

Sudden weather changes; thunderstorms, rain storms, windstorms and the like:

  1. Can cause headaches and migraines due to barometric pressure changes.
  2. If you make the connection between the weather and your headaches, do your best to avoid up and down swings in weather by finding a consistent climate to live, work or play.

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There is also a condition called Seasonal Effective Disorder that is worth noting. This condition includes experiencing poor mood or negativity, irritability, extreme fatigue, change in appetite, or just pure sadness, when the seasons change. There is controversy over why this occurs; some studies show drops in the production of hormone serotonin when days get shorter and darkness comes sooner, however it can also occur throughout the summer months as well. The best remedy is to spend time outside each day in the daylight, no matter the season, as the light and fresh air has been shown to boost serotonin levels, energy and happiness. It may also be worth having your vitamin D level checked, as it may drop off in the winter months and deficiency has been linked to some symptoms of seasonal effective disorder.

There may be other effects of the natural environment on your individual wellbeing, no matter if they have been scientifically researched or not. Pay attention to how YOUR health responds to climate patterns and do what you feel is best to ensure the consequences are for the better, no weather… I mean worse.

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Sources:

WebMD, “The Weather: Wreaking Havoc on Health”, by Elizabeth Heubeck; online at http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/the-weather-wreaking-havoc-on-health#1

National Institute of Mental health, Seasonal Affective Disorder; online at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D; online at http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-d/evidence/HRB-20060400

 

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Fig Rich

I will be honest, I did not know much about figs until this blog.

I knew they were delicious! I knew they had decent fiber and fairly high natural sugars… but that’s about it. So when I was given the opportunity to explore with fresh figs, I happily took advantage.

In short, a family gathering of which a family member has a fig trees means I was sent home with almost 20 fresh, very ripe, green and purple figs. Like many of my food adventures, the best way I have found to learn a new food is to dive in! Making lemonade from lemons as the saying goes… (although figs are much sweeter to start).


IMG_5105Searching for information on fresh figs led me to many new discoveries. Coulis, for example, is not a culinary term I was previously familiar with. Now I know, by definition courtesy of Wikipedia, a coulis is a form of thick sauce made from puréed and strained vegetables or fruits. A vegetable coulis is commonly used on meat and vegetable dishes, and it can also be used as a base for soups or other sauces.” See below for my fig coulis recipe!


Also, I now have the pleasure to share with you these fun facts on figs:

  • Figs are OLD, originating back to 5,000 BC, in Asia.
  • There are at least 18 different varieties of figs.
  • Over the many years of their existence figs have been used for a variety of purposes including: fertility, an aid in digestion, to quit smoking, as a humectant for freshness, to treat diseases of skin pigmentation, and I believe fig leaves where the first clothing used by mankind, according to the bible.
  • Figs grown on a tree. These trees flourish in sunny, dry regions and can be anywhere from 10 to 50 feet tall when planted in the ground (smaller if kept in a pot).
  • Anyone can keep a fig tree if tended to with adequate sun, warmth and nitrogen rich soil; large indoor/outdoor pots will suffice. Often when fig trees are contained they will appear more like a bush than a tree, with wide, outward growing branches.
  • As mentioned above, as a fruit, figs have a high fiber and natural sugar content, but they also have decent levels of minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Per the nature of most fruits, figs have no fat or cholesterol.
If you decide you would like to grow figs, I suggest consulting more in-depth information than my brief sinopsis here, such as found at the California Rare Fruit Growers website, link below.

The recipes I modified after some “research” online, and of which are outlined below, include: fig coulis (as mentioned above), fig coulis bruschetta, fig jam, and fig and cherry cake. For aesthetic pleasure a fresh garden salad with figs, grilled figs and yogurt with figs.

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Fig Coulis

  • 6 ripe, fresh figs, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I used aged spicy mango balsamic)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used lemon olive oil)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Store in airtight jars; keeps in the refrigerator for a few months, or freeze for longer storage. Use as a sauce on meats, poultry or fish, or as a dip or spread with cheese, crackers, or veggies.

I have used mine as a salad dressing, to bake with, as well as to make bruschetta with fresh cherry tomatoes, watermelon and parsley, pictured below.

Fig Jam

  • 3 ripe, fresh figs, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract (or 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice)
  • ⅛ cup water

Put first three ingredients into small saucepan on medium heat and bring to a low boil, turn down heat, add water, stir and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes before pouring into airtight jars. Jam will store in the refrigerator for several months, or freeze for longer storage.

Fig and Cherry Cake

  • 4 ripe, fresh figs; 3 cut into chunks for the fillings, 1 sliced for the top
  • 1 cup cherries, fresh and pitied, sliced in half; ⅔ for the filling, ⅓ for the top.
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅔ cup honey
  • ¾ stick butter, melted
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached flour (whole or white pastry)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of salt

Cream the honey and butter with mixer in medium bowl. Add the eggs and blend again. Add remaining ingredients except the sliced fig and cherries reserved for the top, blend until smooth. Greece the bottom of a springform pan and dust with flour. Pour batter into pan and spread evening. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining figs and cherries, pressing them lightly into the batter. Turn oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, place pan on the bottom rack of oven and let cook for 35 minutes. Move pan to top rack of oven and cook another 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and a knife comes out clean when inserted towards the edge of the cake. Let cool for 20 minutes before removing springform and enjoying!

We ate ours with lemon gelato and it was AMAZING!

 

After trying all of these recipes, slicing and dicing many plump, juicy figs, I have to say that my favorite way to eat them is straight up- raw and sweet!

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Resources:

US Davis Fruit & Nut Research & Information, onine at http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/dsadditions/Fig_Fact_Sheet/

California Rare Fruit Growers, online at https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/fig.html

Valley Fig Growers, Fresno, California, online at http://www.valleyfig.com/about-us

California Figs, online at https://www.californiafigs.com/index.php?pageid=11

Will Hike for Food

So you have some outdoor adventures coming up this summer?! …

Have you thought about what you will do for food??

Too often this question is left unanswered, until you’re packing to leave. The default is a drop in at the grocery store on your way out of town for a handful of protein bars, trail mix, Gatorade and maybe a bag of chips for the ride. Sub-par nutrition for the activity you about to embark on.

With this food approach, at the minimum you are gone half a day hiking moderate terrain in moderate conditions and it’s no big deal; other times you are gone for one or more days of high exertion in variable weather and find yourself dehydrated, fatigued, and in the long run malnourished or sick in the days to follow.


My advice is to BE PREPARED for all outdoor adventure occasions with nourishing food to maximize your experience and come back home refreshed from the experience.

camp food

Here are some tips on where to start. Also check out my past article Camping Fare for more ideas.

Day adventures


Outdoor activity is best fueled with low fiber, high nutrient and energy dense food with adequate water content. Preparing your own food is the best way to accomplish this.

Example meals/snacks

  • boiled eggs
  • ants on a log (celery and peanut butter with raisins)
  • nut butter and banana sandwich, maybe with some honey?!
  • cheese sandwich
  • smoked salmon wrap
  • homemade energy bites or granola bars
  • dried fruit
  • nut mix

Camping adventures


Camping for multiple days of daily activity, with a cold food storage available to you.

Prep ahead

  • Cut veggies and fruit
  • Cut cheese or meats into slices
  • Put bulk items into smaller containers: nuts/seeds, crackers, granola, jerky, cheese, hummus, condiments, etc.

Make ahead, with option to freeze in advance (and double as ice packs in the cooler!) These heat up great as one pot meals on stove top or over fire.

  • Examples:
    • Chili, stews, soups
    • Pasta and sauce
    • Pancakes/waffles
    • Burritos
    • Rice and beans
    • Sausage and potatoes (add veggies for stir-fry in camp)
    • Tuna/salmon/egg salad or dip
    • Lasagna
    • Enchiladas
    • Casseroles

 

Fluids!


Bring plenty; carry more than you think you will need when you are out and about, or know there is an alternative source available to you.

Know before you go:

  1. Is there somewhere to fill up drinkable water? At your camp? On the trail?
  2. Should you carry a water filter or iodine tablets when away from camp?
  3. How will you carry water during activity?

Best rule is to drink water every 20 minutes, with food every hour

Fluid sources besides water:

  • Cooked meals
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Coffee or tea
  • (dry bars and trim mixes will require more fluid intake)

Get out there and enjoy the outdoors!

Learn the Language of Labels

This article is brought to you by the High Desert Food and Farm Directory 2017 Check out the full directory here! 

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On average, supermarkets are filled with 42,000 different products – and what can feel like almost that many labels.  Each of us has our own priorities for what we feel is important.  It can be confusing to figure out what’s true and verified, or what’s unregulated or a gimmick. Understanding the basics of  labels can help you decide what works best for you and fits your values.

While some labels are legally defined, others are not. To help you navigate, the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance put together tips and information about some of the more common labels so you know what you’re buying.

First Tip: Differentiating between the label and the actual farming practice or animal’s welfare is important. For example, chicken that is labeled “organic” does not necessarily mean that the hens were raised in a humane manner.

  • A label is a claim – or a value statement – made on a product which may or may not be certified or verified by the government or another agency
  • A regulation is a rule or definition that is maintained by an authority
  • Certification means the product is verified to meet regulations set by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), or go beyond government standards

More tips to help you shop smart:

  1. Look for a recognized symbol
  2. Look for a definition of the word
  3. Ask your farmer

Labels


Local

HDFFA defines local as the tri-county region of Central Oregon.  Ask around and you’ll probably find that everyone has a different definition.

Free Roaming/Pasture Fed/Meadow Raised

These labels refer to the environments in which animals are raised and must either be connected to a certified symbol or have a definition on the product to verify the claim.

Grass-Fed/Grain-Finished/Vegetarian Fed

Labels referring to an animal’s diet clarifies what they  have been fed throughout their lives, and requires that they have only eaten the diet claimed on the label.

Natural

This term has USDA guidelines, but no regulation, and suggests that a product does not contain artificial ingredients or colors and is only minimally processed.  Individual companies can, and do, make up their own definitions for their products.

Cage-Free Chicken

This is not a regulated label since conventionally grown meat birds are typically not grown in cages, but rather large open structures.

USDA-Regulated Labels


Cage-Free Eggs

Hens must be housed in a way gives them unlimited access to food and water, and freedom to roam during the laying cycle.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t in cages at some point during their lives, or that they have access to the outdoors. Look for egg cartons with the US Grademark seal to verify USDA certification.

Shell Egg Grade ATriShield

Free-Range Poultry

This label is for poultry only and means that the birds must have access the outdoors.  However, this may only be a “pop-hole” with no full-body access.  There is no definition for non-poultry animals.

Raised without Hormones

Hormones are only approved for use in beef-cattle and sheep – they are not allowed with hogs or poultry (including laying hens).  If you see the claim on beef, it is valid if sufficient documentation shows no hormones have been used to raise the animal.  Look for the USDA Process Verified Seal.

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Raised without Antibiotics

Producers must provide sufficient documentation showing that no antibiotics were used in the feed, water or injections when raising the animal.  Look for the USDA Process Verified Seal.

USDA Organic

Farms must meet approved methods to protect natural resources and conserve biodiversity, and are only allowed to use approved substances.

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Certifications


GMO-Free. This label is verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit, and is not government regulated. This label verifies that a product does not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

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If you see these logos on your products, you know that your food has been certified and meets or exceeds USDA standards: the Oregon Tilth® logo tells you the product is organic, and the American Humane® or Processed and Certified Humane® logos ensure that animals are treated humanely in the way they are raised, fed and processed.

Animal Welfare Approved is based in Terrebonne and is a HDFFA Sponsor.  They certify that animals are raised following the highest standards. Only family farms are approved. Standards are unique to each type of animal and are very comprehensive.

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Sources: Consumer Reports, Greener Choices, USDA Labeling Guideline and USDA FSIS Compliance Guidance for Label Approval

What is the Meaning of Life?

Has this question ever be asked to you? Do you have an answer?

During the troublesome times of my youth— you know, tragic things like when homework got in the way of a friend’s party invite or I missed the winning point at a sport tournament— I would express my upset in spins of emotion from rage to depression. Instead of getting angry back at the insensible reactions to my teenage turmoil, in the mist of my verbal objections my father would ask:

“Is this the meaning of life?”

It would stop me in my tracks every time. Never once did I find that whatever ailed me was worth my whole life.

As I grew older (dare I say wiser) I once asked my father what should have been the obvious question: “If this (insert singular petty event) isn’t the meaning of life, what is?”. His response was even more insightful than his original statement: “I don’t know, but when you find out I would like to know as well!”

 


I recently attended a conference, the Art & Science of Health Promotions, in which I was asked to articulate my purpose in life. The question brought tears to my eyes as I recalled the above childhood memories of my father. The context of this discussion at the conference was to explain, articulate and theorize on spiritual wellbeing and how this broader picture of how we each fit into the world triggers our thoughts, emotions, actions and overall health.

Spiritual wellbeing, the untouchable and often unthinkable pillar to holistic wellness! Defined by Brian Luke Seaward as the accumulation of our relationships, values and a meaningful purpose in life. The piece of the wellness puzzle that is easy to loose. Without it, can we truly be whole?

A few days later in this same conference one of our keynote speakers, Victor Strecher, spoke on his extensive research around what having a purpose in life does for our physical, mental and emotional health, and how you can not weed out one from the other. In a nutshell, having a purpose in life IS the meaning of life and the key to health and happiness. Plus, he had studies to prove it.

If you are interested in learning more on this topic and the evidence, I encourage you to read Victor’s book, “Life On Purpose”; I admittedly have not yet read it, as I have just returned from the above mentioned conference, however I have no doubt I, or you, will not be disappointed.

 


Our ability to dream and rationalize, to create and control, to stay our course when the outside world wants to tempt us into regret, stems not from pure willpower, but from purpose.

As intuitive as it sounds, articulating your purpose is not always easy. What is important to you? What are your morals and values? These are big questions. But as you think about them, discuss them with friends and family, and apply skills and knowledge as necessary to enhance them, your path in life will form in front of you. I have no guarantees it will be a straight path, but it will not be a wall of resistance.

As Victor states, it is important to distinguish a purpose in every aspect of your life, and keep a balance in each; too much focus in any one direction can lead to burnout or regression. For instance, what is your purpose in living a meaningful life for you as an individual? For you as a friend and family member? For you as a co-worker? For you in your community at large?

I encourage you to think on this question— what is your meaning(s) of life; keep them near, refer back to them often and live your life by them to your best ability. It is important to note that this is not a box to put yourself in or a label to stamp on your forehead, but a fluid exercise that should not restrain but expand.

Grandma Flower Love


In this stage of my life I have the courage to state my meaning of life, and it goes something like this:

Be a loving daughter, cousin, niece, aunt and wife. Do onto thy neighbor as you would do unto those you love. Take time for adventure and enjoy the outdoors. Support wellbeing in all those I meet. 

I have yet to ask my father what his meaning of life is, but I look forward to the conversation, as he continues to be a huge inspiration and drive for my purpose on this earth.

 

What Does it Mean to be at Your Ideal Body Weight?

How much should you weigh? Who decides? How do you know? Why does it matter? …

Siltez Bay 2014
Here is a little secret about your body weight:

No one can predict what weight your body is healthiest at. You are unique in your physical make-up.

Here is another secret about your body weight:

If you physically, mentally and emotionally feel and act as healthy as you can be then your weight does not matter. When you are at this point, you ARE at your ideal weight at that stage in your life.

Let’s say that again… at THAT stage in your life. Any other time in your life may result in a different weight to best support the healthiest you then.

So what does it feel like to be the healthiest you?
What qualifies as the healthiest you?

Only YOU can answer these questions.

Does volunteering in your community bring you satisfaction; does walking to work bring you clarity; does your bed time routine bring you peaceful sleep; does cooking for your family bring you happiness?

No one can put a weight to these health markers.

I encourage you to spend some time determining what your personal health markers are. Think quality over quantity; subjective over objective.

What are the next best steps for you now?

Keep track of your progress in terms of these intangible markers, not the number on a scale. FEEL the positive impact and KNOW you are succeeding in your ideal body, whatever the weight may be.

 

The pictures included in this post are a random assortment of what makes ME the healthiest and happiest me. Thank you for letting me share the joys in my life 🙂

 

All the Love in Your Heart

“Alas! There is no instinct like the heart” –Lord Byron

The heart, as in the organ in our body that controls our circulatory system, distributes oxygen and nutrients to other tissues to keep us alive. Outside of this crucial mechanical role of the heart there is much more to be desired…

Like love, and happiness.

You know, as in the simplistic drawing of two humps with a pointed tail mimicking the heart as a symbol of affection. But how, you might ask, does a group of tissues become a nationally recognized, commercially exploited, pictogram of emotion?

Within our personal relationships we talk about broken hearts, giving our heart away and being cold-hearted… this poetic language stems from the biological truth that the heart, beating inside our chest day in and day out, has much control over our emotional experiences.

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Twenty-first century science has shown the connection between our physical body, our mind and our emotions. These are not separate systems but work together so that our physical bodies are at their peak shape when our mind and emotions are aligned.

The most influential physical organ on our emotions is the heart. The heart beat is the most responsive body system to how we feel. Research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that simply listening to a heartbeat triggers centers of the brain responsible for emotional outputs (Yuri).

The heart has its own set of neurons that send more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Rhythms of the heart are recognized by the brain and influence our feelings. Irregular heartbeats resonate with negative emotions while consistent heartbeats resonate with positive emotions.

Interoception is the perception of what is happening in your own body. Being physically aware of our body can lead to better control of our emotional state. In kind, being aware of how are feeling can help us have better control of our physical health.

 

Does your heart lead you to love? Does it help form your experiences? Your behaviors? Your health?

The heart is wise and has a lot to tell us if we listen.

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Resources/References:

Jamil Zaki et al. 2012. “Overlapping Activity in Anterior Insula During Interoception and Emotional Experience”. NeuroImage 62(1); 493-499.

Yuri T. et al. 2011. “How does Interoceptive Awareness Interact with the Subjective Experience of Emotions? An fMRI study”. Human Brain Mapping 34(3); 598-612.

Deborah Razman, “Connecting with the Intuitive Guidance of the Heart”. Online at: https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/connecting-with-the-intuitive-guidance-of-the-heart-deborah-rozman/

Heartmath.org, 2015. “The Making of Emotions”. Online at: https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/science-of-the-heart/making-emotions/

Heartmath.org, 2015. “Article Explains Importance of Heart Rate Variability for your Health”. Online at: https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/science-of-the-heart/article-explains-importance-of-heart-rate-variability-for-your-health/

David Malone, “Of Heart and Mind” documentary. View online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwx5fbElMfk

Dr. Mercola, 2016. “Modern Research Reveals Your Heart Does have a Mind of its Own”. Online at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/05/brain-heart-emotion.aspx