|blackberry banana basil raw milk kefir smoothie|
So this is the real “return from hiatus” post. If you missed the fake-out version from Saturday, here it is.
Spoiler Alert: This post talks about the importance of cultured foods including kefir to vibrant health. If you are new to cultured foods or skeptical of their benefits, don’t take my word for it. Do some research. It could be the very best thing you do for the health of you and your family. Here is a good intro piece on the health benefits of kefir.
I have about 543 things I want to blog about, which I guess means I’m done with that whole I-could-care-less-about-my-blog-right-now business. Yay! A friend recently asked my why I thought I was feeling better. I wasn’t sure exactly how to answer, figuring it was just time, the great healer. But I put the question in the back of my mind and went about my business. In the midst of trying to find a kefir product dairy-free little boo would tolerate I stumbled on the answer. Kefir. The health giving beverage I used to drink and had reintroduced recently.
my blogging hiatus
A year ago I set out to save my sons from a lifetime of chronic auto-immune illness. For me, I wanted a cure to the migraines I’d suffered with since early childhood. Hubby went along for the ride (he is awesome y’all). I was nuts to think food and a summer would save my sons. I blame the love of a parent. It really can posses you.
When it wasn’t clear (yet) they’d been saved (gotten better), I cratered. I so longed for them to be free of inhalers and wheezing and migraines. I wanted to send them into the world as healthy young adults so they could enjoy a vibrant life. Witnessing declining health starting at age 3 is parenting hell. My hell wasn’t that bad compared to what some parents have to face with sick kids. But it was my hell, and it was horrendous.
As you know, I took a long unannounced, unscheduled hiatus from blogging. It started back last June when I was just too dang busy cooking all the grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, starch-free, processed-food free edibles I fed to four humans for four months to even have time to blog. I was on my feet in the kitchen for 12 hours some days. (It takes a very long time to feed each member of your family of four, thirty-two ounces of home made chicken stock complete with bone marrow every day for four months.) When I wasn’t cooking I was culturing vegetables, drawing detox baths, taking detox baths, researching detox reactions, fretting about whether or not we were healed enough to include new foods after the strictest part of the elimination diet. And doing things like harvesting coconut water from a case of young coconuts.
In the beginning I had crazy amazing energy. I worked hard, all day and into the evening. On my feet. I would get to the end of a 15 hour shift and think, how in the heck did I just do all that? In one day? Who am I? SuperHealingBoneBrothMaven?
coming off the healing elimination diet
Fast forward to September 2011. The boys were back in school and it was increasingly hard to stay in our food bubble. We were all weary of the isolation that comes with eating completely differently that the rest of our community. I was weary of all the food preparation. Our diet wasn’t sustainable unless I was to give up my business and my income. We’d seen enough improvement in big boo that we were able to wean him off of all his daily asthma and allergy medications. Little boo was more symptomatic than his big brother, but he too saw healing and was able to come off one daily medication while staying on the other. Since we weren’t dealing with the neurological side of gut dysfunction we decided we’d spent enough time healing in this intense way.
We added things back into our diet like starches, then later grains like rice and eventually certain forms of wheat and dairy. We also reduced the amount of homemade chicken stock we drank. These changes made it possible to juggle the food preparation with work and parenting.
But rigors of the diet drained me, all this cooking and detoxing and healing. It was too soon to see all the healing benefits the boys got and I had no visibility into how they would tolerate another round of fall and spring allergy seasons. I was still terrified of asthma attacks that might require emergency room visits and drugs with scary side effects.
my health tanked
Meanwhile I started having insomnia every single night, losing my hair and gradually after months of being completely migraine and headache free, my headaches were returning. I figured it was the stress, but when it wasn’t temporary, I knew something else was up. They boys were fine, better even, but I was feeling worse. Not knowing what was around the bend for them, and predicting their health to start deteriorating again like mine was, I sank into one of the darkest depressions I’ve ever experienced. I had gained back time to blog, but I didn’t care about anything, much less writing about it.
After the summer cook fest, I spent my non-work, non-kid moments in the fall and spring recovering. Mostly napping. And watching endless episodes of Law and Order on Netflix (it’s very recuperative you know). And hating any and all kitchen work. I needed hours of recuperation every evening after making dinner.
That pretty much sucked a lot. Cooking has always energized me. Cooking was my hobby. Dinner was a peaceful, grounding part of my day where my knife and my cutting board and I would connect to produce nourishing yumminess for my family. Writing made me happy. I wanted nothing to do with kitchen work. Or blogging. Yet I was still the dinner fairy, and the breakfast fairy and half the lunchbox fairy and the grocery shopping fairy. It all crippled me. I had lost all confidence that I could make good decisions on what to eat and what to avoid. The responsibility of how those choices would impact our healing or cause the return of poor health paralyzed me. All the magic of the the kitchen, the grocery store, the farmer’s market, the smell of fresh basil, the taste of minty water, the way red cabbage looks all sliced up and beautiful on the cutting board had gone. Poof.
saying good-bye to a home
Then we moved. I’m terrible at saying good-bye to things. Especially to things I drive. Or sleep in. Great time to pick out your new house eh? When you care about nothing.
We left the first home I’d known as an adult. It’s the home I came back to after my honeymoon. It was that huge four bedroom, far-too-big for two newly-weds with tons of empty closets and empty rooms that haunted me for years until we filled them up with sons and later, outgrown stuff, and broken toddlerized christmas decorations. (Clarification: we put the broken todderlized christmas decorations in the closets. We did not put the sons in the closets. Although, the sons liked to put themselves in the closets to play hide and seek, but that made me mad because they might break the broken toddlerized christmas decorations. I plan on fixing those one day.)
The living room where hubby and I sat when we took my second born baby son out of his infant carrier for the very first time and showed him to his big brother was no longer ours. The floor my second born fell onto 3 nights a week from his lowered-to-the-bottom, open-sided crib for 2 years, was gone (He did eventually learn how not to fall out of his bed. Mostly.) The bedroom with the hiding woozle witch who scared my firstborn now belonged to someone else. (I never could find that woozle witch, she wasn’t behind the chair, or the curtains or under the covers as my toddler asserted. I guess we left her there too. The new owners can enjoy her.)
I could still find projectile vomit spattered on the chair rail in the kitchenette left by big boo from his early infancy days, years later. The ceiling had salsa on it from when hubby shook a jar when the lid wasn’t screwed on. (Don’t judge, self employed working parents of toddlers don’t have time to clean the ceiling. We are too busy feeding humans and making estimated tax payments. Never mind that my kids weren’t toddlers when we left that kitchen, you weren’t supposed to do the math. Really, I’m just not a very good housekeeper, and apparently neither is my housekeeper. Maybe she’s just too short to see red spots on the ceiling, like me.)
The townhouse kept all those triggers for my memories, the ones I never got to write down, the ones you can’t take pictures of. I think I would have experienced a depression during the move even if I wasn’t already in one. It was a double whammy depression.
Christmas in the new house came. We hosted, proud new homeowners. I can’t even remember what we served to eat. The townhouse didn’t sell for six months. It was torture driving back there, walking around in my house, empty, without our life in it.
Spring came. I tried to talk myself into loving my new ginormous kitchen with a courtyard view. I’ve been down the Road of Melancholy a dozen times. There were many many many days where I told myself “you won’t hate cooking and feel like a mamafailure forever. this is temporary.” Those words would float around my brain like a big fat lie and then I’d go lay down and take a nap. Preparing food for people took that much out of me.
be patient, i’m getting to the kefir part!
Stay with me, we’re getting to the kefir part. We had gone dairy free, so I gave up my milk kefir habit in June 2011. Before I tucked my kefir grains into the freezer for long term storage, I gave some excess grains to a friend. I tried kefiring coconut water during the months we were dairy free, but with all the other maintenance foods like home made bone broth and cultured vegetables the coconut water kefir required troubleshooting and very time consuming coconut water harvesting. I killed multiple sets of water kefir grains. We might have had a kefired beverage for 2-3 weeks in a nine-month period. I never mastered non-dairy milk kefiring (although I’m still trying.)
kefir restores health
I hadn’t attributed my much improved health of 2009-2010 to kefir. I thought it was the cleaner food we ate at home as we moved to 100% pastured animal products and organic/locally grown produce made up a larger percentage of our daily fare. Kefired raw milk was a daily staple for me back then. Apparently my body needed the beneficial bacteria and yeasts in kefir to balance out my digestion, nutrition uptake and mental health. This was a valuable lesson for me. I know now to be extra vigilant about kefir consumption during times of greater stress to keep my body and mind fit to overcome life’s challenges. I’ve learned that if I need to take a break from dairy again, I must not also take a break from kefir. I must figure out a way to kefir other beverages to keep the beneficial microflora coming in.
In the spring I decided to start-up our raw milk delivery again and I defrosted my kefir grains. I tried for three weeks to revive them. They were dead. More grieving. Luckily I’d shared with a friend, so even though my grains were dead, the sister grains I’d gifted were still alive. At the time, I had no idea how much of a hallelujah moment that was. I re-started my milk kefir smoothie habit.
Day by day in the late Spring I started feeling more and more like myself. The kitchen was a brighter place. Dinner wasn’t such a chore. I enjoyed the boys. I started noticing the wildlife at our new retention pond. Grocery store shopping stopped being perilous. I wanted to talk to my husband and friends. At. Long. Last. Finally, relief from the darkness and apathy. I wouldn’t realize for a couple more months how central to my return of health the kefir was.
I’d certainly paid my dues. Struggling through breakfast, work, carpool, homework and dinner was all I could do. Hosting family gatherings was just right out. I’d done my best to hide until the storm passed. I basically took a personal “year” from all discretionary time. I am thankful for a supportive husband who picked up the food prep slack when I just couldn’t pull it together one. more. time. And for my sons who took care of each other and me while I was recovering.
my pet kefir
I forced myself to take the sunshine in slowly, being careful not to burn it out too quickly. Thankfully, kefir is like a pet. You must keep it alive. In my state, I needed that accountability.
Kefir needs to eat. Every day or two. And so does it’s owner. Every day or two I ate the kefired milk and I got better. I wasn’t sure whether something I was eating was triggering the migraines, or lack of detoxing had brought them back. Kefir gave me enough energy to resume detox baths and to care about my health. After two months, between the kefir and the detoxing, my insomnia is all but gone. No migraine in the past 45 days. My hair is no longer falling out. This suggests my hormones are rebalancing. I don’t quite understand what all is going on physiologically. I don’t know if my problems are thyroid, adrenal or something else. I’m beginning to think it doesn’t matter. I feel like I can just keep up the detox and cultured food habit then eventually most of my working parts will, well, work. As intended.
I might be wrong. But that doesn’t matter because I’m fit enough to redirect course if I need to.
better health for the boys
It’s been a year now since we started our healing diet. The shoe never did drop with the feared allergy season.
I now know that gluten and possibly dairy aren’t tolerated by little boo. Yet. Little boo has already shaken one daily med, but still uses his daily inhaler. (We are presently trying to wean him off it). He had zero major allergy induced asthma attacks versus 5 the prior year. Allergy attacks of Spring 2012 = sneezing, manageable congestion and minor coughing. This year there were no scary ER visits with alarming gurgle breathing, unstoppable coughing and dangerously low blood oxygen levels. He missed 3 days versus 10+ days of school due to illness. When he is dairy and gluten free he is far less congested. (If I forget, remind me to tell you the story of his winter hearing failure and how we resolved that without Rx drugs). He’s had one vs. a dozen migraines. He played soccer in the fall without ever complaining about being too hot or too tired.
Big boo is completely off all daily asthma/allergy meds. He did not have a single viral induced asthma attack all year. He is rarely congested or snotty. He still has some healing to do as when allergy season and physical exertion collide, he needs his rescue inhaler on occasion. He complains much less frequently of headaches. He sleeps past 6a more often than he used to. He has gotten far fewer viruses and those he gets he shakes within 24 hours.
was doing the GAPS diet worth it?
Depression and all, it was worth it. Their improved health is priceless. My faith in healing foods to repair broken bodies has been restored. I was hit hard with the humility stick. The healing did not happen on a schedule that suits this instant gratification girl. I am recovered now, wiser with the wisdom that experience brings.
I’ve heard farmers say that it takes three years for destroyed soil to return to the proper balance of soil bacteria and minerals. So too do our bodies take years to return to the proper balance of good versus bad microflora.
healing cultured food
Every day we drink our kefir smoothies and eat our cultured veggies. We enjoy drinking our fizzy kombucha. We swallow our therapeutic strength probiotic supplements. We plug holes in our stomach lining with collagen rich broth and glutathione rich egg yolks. We eat and drink our tummy healers. We eat our detoxing fermented vegetables and soak in detox baths to get rid of all the toxins created by our environment and the dying bad microflora that are eliminated with the cultured foods. Day by day, week by week and year by year, we will grow out of these chronic health issues by growing into larger and larger colonies of beneficial bacteria that orchestrate all the inner workings of our amazing fine-tuned bodies.
We’ve managed to fit those cultured detoxing foods into our full happy life and in two more years, we’ll be much healthier. With our daily practice our migraines, upset tummies, snotty noses, dry coughs and wheezing will be a thing of the past.
Then we’ll celebrate with sourdough pizza topped with cheese made from pastured cows.
Thanks for being patient with me while we were healing and rehealing. I’ve missed writing, I’m glad to be back.
Please click through to the blog to comment and say hi, I’ve missed you all. Got a healing kefir/cultured food story? Share it in the comments. Curious about our journey? Ask a question in the comments.
Blackberry Banana Basil Kefir Smoothie Recipe
1/2-1 cup kefir (milk, coconut, water or other nut milk)
1/4 cup frozen blackberries
1-3 sprigs of fresh basil, washed, destemmed
1tsp-2 TBSP coconut oil (optional)
Put all ingredients in the blender and combine. If you are new to cultured foods, start with 1/2 cup kefir (or less if your symptoms are bad and you’ve suffered with them for years and years). It kills nasties in your stomach. Kill them off too quickly and you can detox too quickly and experience headache or stomach ache. There is no reason to suffer from over-detox on the way to health. If you’re using coconut oil blend longer to incorporate all the oil so it’s not in big hard chunks. That can be unpleasant… If you’re not used to eating raw coconut oil, start slow. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties so it can kill nasties in your tummy, sometimes leading to nausea. Work up to 2 TBSP one tsp (or less) at a time.