Welcome!

Welcome to my blog...I am happy you are here! I hope this site will grow in time, and will be beneficial to you as you follow your own path to better health. Please feel free to relax a while and spend a few minutes with me as I share my gluten-free adventures with you!



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Setbacks and Successes

The month of September has unfolded before me like a tapestry woven with all kinds of colors -- both muted and bright, most definitely variegated -- a month of challenges, setbacks and successes so far. I am still holding on to the notion that while the road may not always be smooth, my life is beautiful just the same...and the adventure continues!

After experiencing improvement in my overall condition, my health has taken somewhat of a downward turn which is a bit discouraging to say the least. A sudden recurrence and intensification of fatigue, pain, severe headaches, weakness, stiffness, and an overall sense of illness (all of which had improved markedly since my diagnosis) has plagued me for a few weeks now. My first thought was that I had somehow ingested something that was toxic to me. But what? And how long does it take to recover, anyway? I have been so careful!

So I went to my primary care physician,  and discovered that I am indeed experiencing a Lupus flare. So what brought it on? Was it the brisket that I didn't know was marinated in beer that I ate at a wedding? Or are there other stresses in my life that have pushed my immune/inflammatory responses over the edge? We aren't sure, but Lupus has definitely raised its ugly head and invoked an inflammatory response that has taken me two steps backward instead of one step forward. However, I am determined to follow all the advice that the doctors are giving me, starting with learning to handle the stress in my life and taking each day as it comes with a positive, optimistic outlook.


As many of you know, my house is on the market and we are hopeful that a buyer will come along that will love it as much as we have. Preparing for the sale has been stressful in itself, since as a perfectionist I feel I have to make beds, clean, mop, & dust on a daily basis. But I am learning (sometimes the hard way) that my body needs rest more than my house needs to be immaculate. There comes a time in every one's life when we need to recognize that taking care of ourselves must be priority...everything else in life will eventually fall into place. It is inevitable. Nothing is suspended forever! All the worrying in the world will not change a thing - it only brings physical weakness, especially in a body that is already compromised. So I am going to eat right, take my medications (yes, even the dreaded prednisone with which I have had a love/hate relationship for many years), get lots of rest, and de-stress my life as much as possible. I intend to be the victor in this battle for my health!


I mentioned that there have been successes, and that is indeed a true statement. Gary & I are avid ballroom and country/western dancers. We got together on the dance floor, and dancing is one of our favorite things to do. Besides...I promised myself long ago (after having to relearn how to walk) that I once I was on my feet again, I would take every opportunity I could to dance until I can't. So I had a slightly better day last Friday, and since it had been many, many months since we were able to attend a dance, we decided to make our way to the LMRA dance in Fort Worth to listen to Trey and the Tritones. What a delightful evening we had! We started out at Mimi's Cafe, one of the few restaurants that truly cares about their patrons with food allergies and Celiac Disease. Darby, our waitress, was a jewel, taking special care to ensure that I received a fabulous meal with nothing that would make me sick. Then we were off to hear Trey and his band. While it would have been enough to simply sit and listen (albeit with my toes tapping constantly to the music), I actually made it onto the wooden floor as a couple of my dance buddies and my loving husband "gently" danced with me. From dinner at a great restaurant to relaxing to music from the Big Band era...definitely an evening worth remembering!


Speaking of restaurants, we are always looking for recommendations for places to eat and my sister Andrea has definitely found such a place. Imagine having the best chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy (or yummy baked potato), veggies & dessert...all on a gluten-free diet! That is exactly what she received when her husband took her out for her birthday at the Ranchman Cafe (formerly Ponder Steakhouse) in Ponder, TX. All the owner of this establishment needs is some advance notice, and he will put together a gluten-free meal fit for a queen (or king). Check out their website for more details!

Since I spend a lot of time at home and am trying to expand my culinary horizons, I am proud to say that I have also had success in the kitchen, much to the delight of my taste buds. My daughter Aimee gave me a recipe  for Skillet Fudge that she found via a book called The Road to Health (to access the Road to Health website, click here) that is absolutely fabulous. If you have to watch your sugar intake (NO refined sugar in this recipe, no sir!) but love chocolate, you will LOVE this recipe! Another success in the kitchen came as a pleasant surprise when I tried the Gluten-Free Pineapple Upside Down Cake posted on the Living Without website. For an afternoon snack or quick anytime dessert, give this one a try...mmmm, mmmm good!

That's it for now...hope to see you again soon,
Kathie Lea

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August Heat

It's hot here in North Texas...really hot. In fact, we have succesfully reached 59 or 60 days of temperatures greater than 100 degrees since summer began, with a few of those days breaking long-held records. Oh...and no rain to speak of in weeks. We are definitely a parched, dry land. I am blessed in that I don't have to get out in the heat much, which is a good thing. But Gary works in the heat, and he has learned some tricks of the trade over the years to ensure that he doesn't suffer heat exhaustion (or worse). Though he comes home looking wilted each day, he has that ever-present smile on his face and never complains. Amazing.


I thought I'd take a moment to share some of the things he has told me about getting out in the heat and protecting yourself from injury. Whether or not these suggestions are supported scientifically, I really couldn't say. But I do know that he is healthy and strong, so he must be doing something right!
  1. Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15...better yet, try a sunblock, SPF 45 or 50. He is fair skinned and never burns so I can safely say that the stuff really works.
  2. Be sure to wear a hat. A cap is good, but a hat is better, especially if you are out in the sun for any length of time, because the brim covers a wider area and gives your face and neck much more shade.
  3. Drink lots of water
  4. Believe it or not, tomato juice or V-8 juice is GREAT for replacing potassium and other vitamins and minerals that you lose when you sweat. Gary starts each day out with a hearty glass before he ever faces the heat. Gatorade and other vitamin waters are also good.
  5.  Remember to take breaks and eat. Don't let your blood sugar drop too low...it is important to keep your sugar in balance
  6. Drink lots of water
  7. Oh yeah...drink lots of water! :-)

I recently entered a Pacific Natural Foods giveaway contest on a blog I follow, Glugle Gluten Free. Since I rarely, if ever, win anything, I was amazed when I actually won! Within days, I was delighted to find a large box of goodies on my front porch that included all kinds of organic, gluten- and dairy-free soups, almond milk, and flavored almond milk. All in all, it was quite a nice gift. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Tia with Glugle Gluten Free and to Pacific Natural Foods for making my adventurous summer even better!


One of my favorite blogs is Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom, and I find myself following it almost religiously. Heidi has a great way of capturing your attention and blending all sorts of fun stories, recipes, and research into one site that is truly helpful, especially to gluten-free newbies like me that are searching diligently for informative websites. Heidi visited HealthNOW Medical Center too, and has explained some of her personal test results beautifully. Rather than try to muddle through the explanations of my tests and their results, I have decided to repost her recent blog because it was so helpful to me and because she has taken hours (5 months to be exact) to research her posting and I know the information is accurate. I hope you enjoy!

Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom - Cyrex Labs Array 4: Gluten Associated Cross-reactive Foods


Until next time,

Kathie Lea

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fighting Fatigue - And WINNING!

For many years, I have struggled with overwhelming fatigue that I frequently described as being “melted and poured out”. I chalked up much of my exhaustion to the fact that I was sleeping poorly – waking many times in the night with agonizing, unrelenting pain in my joints and muscles and, more often than not, awaking in the middle of the night or early morning with severe headaches. In addition, since I also have Lupus, Hypothyroidism and Asthma, I figured that extreme fatigue was just something I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I visited HealthNOW Medical Center in June, however, and I have discovered that I am NOT destined to live with debilitating disease and fatigue forever…there is something that I CAN do about it.

Discovering the root cause of my conditions has been the first step to my recovery, and that has meant extensive state-of-the-art lab testing, with lifestyle changes and treatment based on the results. As I have mentioned before, my first labs indicated several problems, including gluten and other sensitivities, pancreatic insufficiency, and a genetic disorder that keeps me from absorbing and utilizing folate, iron, and the B-vitamins. I have begun to tackle these challenges by taking one day at a time, religiously following a gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free diet, and implementing a treatment plan that includes nutritional supplements - actions that appear to be somewhat successful so far, especially in regard to my digestive challenges.

However, fatigue, pain, and lack of body mass/inability to gain weight continue to be my ever-present companions, so there has seemed to be a missing piece of the puzzle, vital to my well-being, that I was looking for but hadn’t found yet. I anxiously waited for results to my adrenal function tests so that I could complete that part of the puzzle. Well, the results finally arrived, and revealed that my Cortisol levels are all over the board (from too high to too low), my DHEA levels are too low, the Cortisol/DHEA ratio is elevated, and the combination of those factors has resulted in a condition called adrenal fatigue (not to be confused with adrenal crisis or Addison’s disease, although the first can lead to the latter if ignored). I am currently taking Adrenal Support, DHEA, and Pregnenalone supplementation every day, and am working hard to adhere to the diet plan that my doctor has recommended.

I suspect that there are many others out there that are experiencing some of the same symptoms I have had, and while the mainstream medical field continues to debate the validity of this condition, you have been totally baffled as to what has been wrong.  Keeping that in mind, I purposely haven’t posted anything about it yet because it has taken me some time to research the subject so that I could a) understand my own condition and b) explain exactly what having adrenal fatigue means. In order to begin, we must first understand the purpose and function of the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are primarily known for the production of our stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), but they also produce other hormones that affect the function of every tissue, organ and gland in our bodies. They produce our anti-aging hormone DHEA, the reproductive hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone), and aldosterone, the hormone that controls the sodium and potassium levels (electrolytes) in the body. When the body is under extreme stress, the adrenal glands jump into action and produce hormones that cause the muscles to tense. The heart rate increases, while blood is diverted from the digestive tract and other organs. Optimally, once the emergency passes, the body and mind relax and balance is restored. The problem occurs when we are under sustained stress and the adrenals produce too much cortisol and adrenaline, causing the body’s reserves to become depleted. This results in a weakened immune system, interrupted sleep, lower blood sugar, hypothyroidism, and exhaustion.

Clinical Nutritionists, Drs. Rick and Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN (coauthors of The Gluten Effect and the founders of HealthNOW Medical Center), have done extensive research on this subject, and have written some interesting articles that suggest that adrenal exhaustion is one of the most overlooked causes of fatigue that can be helped with clinical nutrition. Click here  to read Dr. Rick's article. Dr. Vikki reports that "When an individual has a symptom they often feel better when others around them share the same symptom. Perhaps it’s where the: 'Misery loves company' expression came from. But a 'common' symptom is not a 'normal' symptom and it’s not normal to feel tired." To read Dr. Vikki's article, click here.


I have been working with Dr. Rick to correct my adrenal fatigue, and he told me that many things can put stress on the adrenal glands, eventually overwhelming a healthy body and causing organ or system malfunction. The most common stressors are allergies (food and airborne), lack of sleep, low blood sugar/poor diet, chronic pain, anxiety/emotional stress, and chronic infection.  Once the adrenal glands have been overwhelmed and systems begin to malfunction, the resulting symptoms can be devastating.

I have spent many hours looking for answers and researching via the web, and I ran across some great information on the Point of Return website. Because I recognized myself in their table of signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue, I thought I’d share it here:


Body Type

Mild: gains weight easily

Moderate: can’t lose weight

Severe: thin, can’t gain weight

Face
Eyes and cheeks sunken
Eyebrows
Tend to be full
Tissue surrounding eye

Sunken appearance, may have dark circles

Facial coloring

Tendency to pallor, particularly around mouth for fair skinned, darkens around mouth, forehead and sides of face for dark skinned

Hair

Thin, straw-like or straighter; dry; falls out easily; sparse on forearms and lower legs

Nails
Thin, brittle
Skin

Dry; thin; finger-prints often “smoothed out” or flat/shiny; may have longitudinal wrinkles over finger-pads, possibly from low collagen levels

Fluid/Secretions

Little secretions; can’t hold onto water

Ligaments, tendons

Lax ligaments, flat feet or double jointed; joint sprains/strains common

Pigment

White spots or patches; sometimes tan too easily; in dark skin – darker on forehead

Eyes

Light sensitivity

Pain

Headaches; migraines; muscle pain; carpal tunnel

Temperature Pattern

Hot when it’s warm and cold when it’s cool; poor thermo-regulation; tends to have low body temperature (around 97.8 or lower); fluctuation pattern

Temperature issues

Almost always cold intolerant

Extremities

Cold hands and feet

Sweating

May be excessive in early phase; poor in late phase
Immune Function

Tendency to over-react which results in allergies, sensitivities, autoimmune issues

Anxiety

Almost always present

Sleep Patterns

Insomnia or light sleeper common

Cognitive Function

Poor focus, concentration, brain fog

Energy

Fatigue/exhaustion; “wired and tired”; low motivation

Exercise

Often causes fatigue

Blood Pressure

Tends to run low (from 80/50 at low end to 110/70 at high end)
Dietary Habits

Often leans toward being vegetarian

Digestion

Often difficulty digesting meat or proteins; some foods troublesome

Bowel Function

Tendency to be irritable or hyperactive

Food cravings

Sweets, carbohydrates, soda, black licorice

Blood sugar

Tendency to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)



After reviewing the table above, you too may recognize yourself in some or most of the categories listed. So what should a person do once they suspect that they have adrenal fatigue? First, work with your physician to determine for sure by getting adrenal function lab testing done. Once you have the results, coordinate your treatment plan with your physician and focus on getting your health back.

In addition to a tailored treatment program, there are other things you can do to help:

DO

§    Eat organic, fresh foods, including lots of lightly steamed or raw vegetables
§    Eat regular meals, preferably small amounts, every 2 hours. It is VERY important that you do not allow your blood sugar to go too low and that your levels remain balanced throughout the day.
§    When consuming carbohydrates (whole foods), be sure to combine them with protein such as nuts and seeds, fiber, and oils such as olive, flax, and high quality omega-3 fish oil
§    Drink plenty of water (½ your body weight in ounces per day)
§    Work with your physician to add nutritional supplements such as magnesium, zinc, coQ10, etc.
§    Get plenty of sleep (at least 8 hours)
§    Reduce stress

AVOID

§    Skipping meals
§    Fasting
§    All refined sugar, chocolate, hydrogenated fats, refined carbohydrates and junk foods
§    Eating carbohydrates by themselves
§    Caffeine, alcohol, sodas, juice
§    Artificial sweeteners (Stevia is okay)
§    Foods that you react to or are allergic to (Keep a food log)
§    Stress

The human body is an intricate, creative masterpiece, beautifully designed to heal itself. It is up to us to take care of our bodies and nurture them; and I am very hopeful that you and I will continue getting better…one day at a time.

Well, I’ve spent some time this week searching for recipes and found a tasty meatless chili recipe on cooking.com, pictured here with my Savory Herb Crackers and modified to suit my tastes and dietary needs. Check it out on my Favorite Recipes tab…I hope you enjoy it!

See you soon!

Kathie Lea

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Life's Constant: Change

   
Life is full of change,
so let's sit back and enjoy the ride!

There is an old saying that keeps my feet on the ground and helps me adapt when the unexpected comes my way, and that is, “The only constant in life is change”.   Well, that has certainly been the case in the Bradfield household! Two precious babies…a great-granddaughter and a great-niece…have made their arrivals; our daughter has married the love of her life; a friend’s child has been laid to rest; and lessons have been learned through it all. The example of a 12 year old whose life was taken all too soon is well worth setting forth here: love with all your heart, then tell those you love that you love them; grab each moment of life & capture all you can from it; smile…a lot; run through the halls laughing; anticipate the needs of others and ACT on them; spread joy to all who know you.   


Tell those dear to you that you love them!
   Life as we know it has continued to evolve, and the adventure – though different – continues! As I have mentioned before, Gary has been self-employed for years, and we have relied on my employment for insurance coverage and other benefits. Since I am no longer working due to health concerns, we have been praying for provision, trusting God for all we need. Recently, someone who has been praying for my health and well-being asked me how they could pray specifically for Gary, and I replied that we are simply asking God for work.

Within hours, Gary received a call asking him to consider going to work full-time for a company as the Facilities and Maintenance Supervisor…a position that would utilize his remodeling skills and talents and provide the security, stability, and benefits package we need. Since this offer was totally unsolicited, we knew it to be an answer to prayer. Though it will take a move of faith on our part in that we will be relocating to a new community, Gary eagerly accepted the position, knowing that God will take care of all the details. Now all we are asking is for God to bring us a buyer for our home, and to direct us to just the right home in the community to which we will be relocating. It is wonderful to see how God continues to move in our lives. He has proven Himself faithful time after time, and we have no doubts He will do so again.

I am happy to say that am finally off my super-restricted diet and am now on a restricted diet (sans the “super” delineator), much to the complete delight of my culinary palate.  Who knew that so many delicious foods could be enjoyed on a restricted diet? I read a post on someone else’s blog site that said that it is bondage not to be able to eat whatever we want, and that making such a huge lifestyle change is not worth the trouble. I totally disagree! To live a full life of good health is so important to me that I read labels on everything before I buy, and even check and double-check the items I have in my pantry BEFORE I put a single morsel of any of it into my body. I am learning much about the importance of finding hidden gluten, dairy, and refined sugars, knowing that if I miss them and ingest any of it, I am going to be really sick. I’ve been there, done that, and I don’t want to do it again!


Getting the house ready to sell has taken up some of my time and energy, but I have managed to try out new recipes. The time spent in the kitchen has been a mixture of fun and frustration, but I must say that it has been more fun than frustrating.  I am pretty picky, so I have Gary taste everything for me; for him to give me thumbs down on something means it is really bad, and, I will admit, some have been awful disasters that ended up in the trash. BUT others have been a terrific success, and it is with delight that I share them here. So check out my “Favorite Recipes” page and try some of these out…you’ll be glad you did!

Until next time,

Kathie Lea







Saturday, July 9, 2011

Today's Tidbits

Well, I know it has been a few days and I didn’t exactly fulfill my promise to myself to write something every day, because life simply got in the way. But I did experience some things this week that I’d like to take time to share with you today. 

I was married to my first husband for 23 years, and that family made an indelible imprint on my heart and will always be family to me. So I attended the funeral of a “family” member, my ex-husband’s first cousin Tom, who passed away last week. I don’t particularly like going to funerals (does anyone?) so I was a little stressed by the time I got there. But when all was said and done, I was glad I was able to go and was so moved by the service! Tommy had taken care to plan his funeral himself so that the message of God’s love, mercy and grace would be ever clear. The message, the music (he even had one of his cousins sing “The Long Black Train”), everything was perfect and touched the hearts of each in attendance. Now, I have lost friends and family before, but it always hits hardest when death takes one so young. Tommy was only 52 years old, and his loss has reminded me of the tremendous importance of taking care of my health, and the responsibility I have to make sure that I tell those I care about that I love them. So remember today to treasure family ties, nurture friendships, say “I love you” (a lot!) and do what it takes to stay healthy.  It is never too late to start!

I took my mom to Sprout’s the other day so that both of us could restock our pantries with all things gluten-free. I have found that Sprout’s is the nearest and best store locally to find anything and everything I need from A-Z, including gluten-free shampoo and conditioner. I haven’t yet tried Whole Foods Market, because it is further away from me, but my sister loves that store. So…in the near future, I will be heading to Whole Foods to give them a try. Anyway, we took our time in the store and had a very pleasant shopping experience. While we were standing in line at the checkout counter, I noticed that the woman in front of me had a lot of the same items in her basket that I had in mine, so I figured that she has at least one of the same conditions I have and I struck up conversation with her. I saw a bag of “Vegan” shredded cheese among her purchases and since I have been looking for that product (but forgot to pick any up on this trip) I asked her if she minded if I read the label on her package. When I picked it up, I immediately noticed that it said “Lactose-Free” rather than “Dairy- Free”. Sure enough, when I looked through the ingredients, this particular shredded cheese had casein in it. I put it back and made the statement that I couldn’t have it because it wasn’t dairy-free, and the woman looked at me in a panic. She was purchasing the cheese for her daughter and thought because it claimed to be lactose-free that it was also dairy-free. She quickly made her way to the vegan section and picked up the correct shredded cheese, thanking me profusely for noticing the difference. But is there really a difference between being lactose intolerant and actually being allergic to the proteins in milk? The answer to that is a resounding YES! If you are allergic to dairy, you are allergic to anything that has that protein in it. So be sure to check your labels. Just because it says it is Vegan doesn’t mean it is dairy-free (though it should be, if I understand what Veganism is all about). If it is truly dairy-free, it must not contain whey, casein, butter, milk, or cheese. If it has anything to do with milk and you are allergic to the proteins in milk, be sure to avoid, avoid, avoid! According to LiveStrong.com, the ingredients I listed above are commonly found in many foods, including most margarine, some deli meats and even tuna (who knew that?). Another ingredient to be aware of is Lactic Acid Starter Culture. Although not definite, this ingredient could be derived from milk and is commonly found in processed and cured meats such as hot dogs, bacon and deli meats. If the package does not indicate that it is not milk derived, assume it is and avoid it. Even if you find that an item does not contain any milk ingredients, look on the front of the package for a kosher certification, which will be a "U" with a circle or various graphics with a "K." This symbol in combination with a “D” (Dairy) indicates that an item may have come in contact with some dairy product. If the item is kosher "Parve" or "Pareve," with no dairy symbol, this would help ensure that the item is not cross-contaminated with milk. So what’s the bottom line? READ, READ, and RE-READ your labels!

 

This is a picture of Gary and me,
Taken on our favorite cruiseline -
Royal Caribbean International
Gary and I love to travel and really enjoy going out to eat. When we were in California recently, though, we found that many restaurants didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked if they had a gluten-free menu. This made going out to eat frustrating and stressful because I never knew if I was eating food that was truly gluten and dairy free. Until there is more awareness about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, the burden of responsibility for ensuring that I eat foods that are not contaminated rests on my shoulders. So I wondered if there were any tools that I could invest in that would be helpful…especially in restaurants where English is not their first language. As soon as we got home, I began a search on the internet and was delighted to find all kinds of helpful information and free restaurant cards in 51 languages at www.celiactravel.com. The cards explain what Celiac disease is and the importance of insuring that the food you order is not cooked or contaminated with gluten. Of course, if you also have dairy allergies, the cards will not be as beneficial to you, but those of you that only have Celiac or are gluten intolerant will, hopefully, find them very useful!

If you are like us and love to cruise, be sure to check with the cruiseline on which you are booked about 45 days before your cruise to let them know of your dietary needs. When my mom sailed with us on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, the dining staff was wonderful about meeting her gluten-free needs and watching over her to ensure that she didn't inadvertently ingest something that was harmful to her. Talk about being treated like royalty!

Speaking of eating out, I had a great experience at Saltgrass Steakhouse last night. I asked for and received a gluten-free menu and ordered a steak, steamed green beans and a plain house salad. The salad was fresh and delicious, and the steak arrived just as I was finishing the salad, which I considered to be perfect timing. Much to my dismay, there were fried onion rings on my plate, so I very tactfully told the waiter that I had to return my plate to the kitchen. Since the onion rings had touched the other items on the plate, the food was contaminated and I would have to request an entirely new meal. Of course, the waiter expressed his regrets and quickly left to start all over again. But I was left wondering if he had placed my order correctly. Had he noted on the order that the meal was to be gluten-free? Within minutes the manager was at my table expressing his sincere apologies for the cook’s error. He said that the order was clearly noted as gluten-free, that they have all been trained on what to do for their gluten-free patrons and the importance of avoiding cross-contamination; and that they would be bringing me a fresh steak shortly. Before I knew it, my dinner arrived, and it was nothing short of perfect. Needless to say, I will be returning to Saltgrass and I have no doubt that my meal will be totally gluten free. If there is an error, I have every confidence that they will make it right.


I finally got up the nerve and tried my hand at making crackers, and on my first try…BINGO! I made some fabulous crackers that hit the spot when I get the munchies. Who knew that there were so many delicious foods available that are gluten and dairy free? Check out my recipe on my “Favorite Recipes” page.

Well, that’s it for now. Have a wonderful, gluten-free day!

See you soon,

Kathie Lea