In the continuing series, Food=Medicine, Cooking with Love explores different interpretations of how love can be a vital element in the food we eat. Whether it’s part of the mission of a local organic farm, a vegetarian chef preparing pureed, nutrient-dense food for her father with progressive Parkinson’s disease, or another chef infusing fine dining, multi-coursed meals with cannabis — each guest offers a fresh perspective for mindful eating.

Lacey Sher, owner/Chef of the Encuentro pop-up restaurant in Oakland, CA shares two recipes for nutrient-dense smoothies. Aleta Pierce, farm manager for Alameda Point Collaborative’s farm2market program, welcomes farm volunteers and CSA subscribers. Michael Magallanes, San Francisco-based chef, prepares meals for private clients.

Sweet and Green Protein Smoothie

hemp milk, coconut water, or spring water

handful organic fresh or frozen blueberries

handful organic fresh or frozen raspberries

4-5 leaves of lacinato kale or romaine

handful of parsley

2 scoops hemp protein

3 pitted dates

1/2 avocado

– add ingredients into your Vitamix or blender
– blend together until super smooth
– pour into your favorite to go jar or mug
– sip slow and enjoy!

Berry Banana Antioxidant Booster   

This smoothie is full of colorful foods, such as berries and cacao, which are loaded with a wealth of vitamins and antioxidants to help the body stay strong and vital. Plus with B-vitamin dense maca, omega rich hemp seeds, and beauty boosting coconut oil, this smoothie is filling yet completely whole and natural, assuring optimal function of body and mind. Enjoy!

3 cups of water or herbal tea

1 cup frozen organic blueberries

1 cup frozen organic strawberries or raspberries

1 frozen or fresh organic banana

handful of cacao nibs

2 tablespoons raw coconut oil

1/3 cup hemp seeds

2 tablespoons maca

1/2 stick vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

optional: 2 tablespoons spirulina, your favorite green powder, or vanilla

Sweetener of choice: 3 tablespoons honey or agave, 2-3 pitted dates, or 3 drops stevia (Stevia is very sweet and strong. Use the least amount to taste.)
– add ingredients into your Vitamix or blender
– blend together until super smooth
– pour into your favorite to go jar or mug
– sip slow and enjoy!

These are simple and delicious and folks can use less fruit for less sweetness. I also like to add different ingredients such as chia, moringa powder, sometimes different vegetables like cooked or raw sweet potatoes, substitute spinach for kale if I have it. So many options. ~ Lacey Sher

Resources for Dysphagia (Swallowing difficulties)

If you truly want to understand the mechanics of dysphagia, check out this recorded webinar with the author of the textbook, Dysphagia: Clinical Management in Adults and Children, Michael E. Groher, Ph.D. It’s about an hour in duration but you’ll have a much better understanding of what this condition is.

Here is a community-generated recipe guide for people with swallowing difficulties. Recipes were submitted by caregiving family members.

Here is a recorded panel discussion about food preparation for people with dysphagia. Additional resources can be found here.

More Food=Medicine Podcast Episodes

The first Food=Medicine podcast episode included Retired Navy Lieutenant Laura Root and Edibell Stone, LPC & health coach talking about their respective diets. The second Food=Medicine podcast episode featured Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen, at the Farm to Fermentation Festival. Jill is a Registered Dietician and author of cookbooks and DVDs. If you want to go deeper into an understanding of fermented foods and their healing properties, check out this episode with fermentation guru, Sandor Katz. This episode explores the ancient tradition of Ayurveda through one woman’s health and diet journey.

Hot weather affects the health of humans and animals

Basset Hound with ears flapping in front of a fan

High temperatures can exacerbate symptoms for someone with a chronic health condition. The best way to cope may be to seek refuge in an air-conditioned environment. If that proves to be difficult, you may learn about a few tools and resources from patient advocates, You’ll meet Kate Mitchell, from Boston, who has Rheumatoid Arthritis and POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), Danny van Leeuwen, also in Boston, who has Multiple Sclerosis, and Brook McCall, in Portland, Oregon, who has a spinal cord injury. They share their experiences with weather — hot, cold, ice, snow, and pressure changes.

7 Hot Tips to Beat the Heat

1. Pre-cooling

Check out the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website for information about pre-cooling techniques.

2. Hydration

Water’s great but so are some other beverages. The Ayurvedic tradition focuses on herbs, spices, and other plant-based remedies to cool you down. Check this magazine article for a few recipes. If you’re intrigued by Ayurveda, have you listened to last year’s podcast episode?

3. Diet Modification

Consider eating smaller, lighter meals. Here’s a list of hydrating foods.

4. Clothing

Check out this issue of the UC-Berkeley Wellness Newsletter for tips on appropriate clothing for hot weather.

5. AC over Fans

This is discussed in the link above.

6. Yoga Poses

Curl your tongue and breathe. To learn more about this cooling yoga pranayama and other cooling asanas, visit this webpage.

7. Meditation

Listen to this guided meditation to help you cool down…once you’re safe inside or in a shaded area.

 

Last month I embarked on a Self-Care Challenge and invited you to join me. You can join at any time by reading the posts, contributing feedback in our Glass Half Full Facebook group, and using the Health Storylines online tool.

I’ve been practicing Self Care for years without even realizing it. Years ago, before I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease, I began to experiment with my diet. I didn’t necessarily have a bad diet but I often felt bloated, experienced abdominal cramps, and probably had what we now know to be irritable bowel syndrome.

I can’t recall what the impetus was but it happened over 30 years ago. I gave up eating beef. Within a year or two I was no longer eating any animal flesh and called myself a lacto-ovo vegetarian (plant-based diet with dairy/eggs). My bloating disappeared. My cramps were intermittent but I still had that occasional nervous stomach.

A diet is really a dynamic concept. It shouldn’t be fixed, i.e. eating the same foods every day. The seasons change and there are different foods to be consumed aligned with the season. Our bodies change. We continue to learn more about food, how food is prepared, nutrients and micronutrients. As I’ve learned more about food and nutrition over the years, I continue to tweak my diet.

Little changes can have a huge impact. When I started going for acupuncture treatments, 15 or so years ago, I was asked about my diet by the practitioner. No Western-trained physician had ever spent much time talking with me about my diet. Even when I complained of GI problems. I won’t even attempt to claim any real knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) but there is a long history of food = medicine. The first change I made during my course of TCM treatments was giving up that big glass of orange juice I started each day with. That cold sugar hit was not welcomed by my belly.

I’ve learned so much about food over the years and if I shared it, this would become the longest blog post in history. But, that’s not what I want to do. My diet & nutrition journey is likely different from yours. Becoming a vegetarian has helped me, yet it’s not the only way to eat a well-balanced diet. There are plenty of vegetarians that eat poorly and plenty of omnivores that eat well.

In the next month I will post in the Facebook group…mostly factoids from various nutrition newsletters I read. Here’s the Self-Care Challenge for YOU:

  • Become aware of what you’re eating, how much of it, and how often. The best way to do this is with a Food Diary. Using the online Health Storylines tool, you can keep track of your daily intake using the Food Diary feature.
  • Knowing what you already know about good foods and beverages & bad foods and beverages, each week select one bad food to omit for a week. And try to eat a new food — something plant-based. I’ll help you with suggestions.

Remember, small steps in making health behavior changes are the key. Good luck!

Sound Bath? Sound Meditation? Sound Symphony?

Melissa Felsenstein – sound practitioner – plays crystal bowls and gongs to usher in the summer solstice.

It’s become a wonderful therapeutic tool to access deep relaxation. For many, it is a gateway to meditation. Melissa Felsenstein of Inner Sounds Meditation shares her story of how playing crystal bowls and metal gongs helped her heal from symptoms of anxiety and depression. A self-proclaimed Nervous System Advocate, after several years of exploring these musical instruments, she now shares her process to help others.

Check out a video from this Summer Solstice Sound Bath.

What is Nature and how is it beneficial to our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being? Bonnie Lewkowicz (Program Manager, Access Northern California) and Lori Gray (Adventures & Outings Program Coordinator) both work for the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program (BORP) organization in Berkeley, California.

Bonnie, Lori, and Delroy share their love of nature in this podcast episode.

Both women use wheelchairs and have years of experience navigating hiking trails and organizing outdoor adventures for people with physical and/or developmental disabilities. Joining them is middle school teacher, Delroy Thompson, in South Florida. Together they share how important nature is for them.

Bonnie wrote A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide published by the Coastal Conservancy. Delroy, is a member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association National Community Advisory Committee, and wrote a children’s book, The Secret of the Elves in Helen, about an elf kingdom n the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to attend BORP events but you can search for similar organizations in your area at the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) website.

What exactly is Self-Care? Years ago I used the term, Self-Management Health Behaviors to identify everything I did to enhance my health given that I was diagnosed with a chronic, progressive neuromuscular disease. Some of the behaviors were already my routine like eating a vegetarian diet and practicing yoga. As I learned more about positive health behaviors from a Stanford University program I took at my local hospital, I became more intentional about how I led my life.

Health Storylines Tool Library

Somewhere along the way these behaviors became known as Self-Care. You can find Self-Care articles everywhere — in all types of popular magazines, TV commercials — it’s entered popular culture. “As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions,” according to the U.S. Government’s Center for Disease Control. That’s tremendous!

Even though there are so many different types of chronic health conditions, there is a lot of overlap with symptoms. I have a rare disease but when I look at my individual symptoms — muscle pain, dysphagia, fatigue, respiratory weakness — I can learn a lot from more common conditions. And many of these common conditions have known self-care practices that help mitigate the symptoms.

Based on the Stanford research I became familiar with and my own research, I’ll categorize the self-care practices into these:

  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Physical Activity and Exercise
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Social Support
  • Relaxation
  • Medication

Once we identify our symptoms, we start to look for ways to alleviate these symptoms. What helps my muscle pain may not help your muscle pain. But, perhaps you’re like me, and you are open to exploring. The key, of course, is to explore self-care practices that have minimal if any negative side-effects. During the experimentation phase you may notice some connections; maybe you have less muscle pain on days you’ve slept at least 8 hours the night before? Or, if you have gastrointestinal issues, maybe your gut feels better when you haven’t eaten spicy foods?

It’s a lot to manage but once you hit upon some solid patterns and adopt new self-care routines, it can make your life so much better. It sure has for me.

This trial-and-error process can now be easier with the assistance of a tool. I’m thrilled to introduce an online tool — Health Storylines — to help with your self-care routines. I’ve been chosen to join a team of Self Care Ambassadors who are helping others with chronic health conditions practice self-care. We’ll be doing this together and each month I’ll take a Self Care Challenge with you. Make sure you’re part of our Facebook group so we can track, monitor, and motivate each other.

Are you ready?

Here’s what I’d like you to do over the next month:

  1. Register for the Health Storylines Tool. If you have questions about the registration process, send me a message via the Facebook group. You can use the Tool on a desktop computer, smart phone, or tablet. The data you enter will synch on all devices.
  2. Use the Symptom Tracker feature to list all of the symptoms associated with your chronic health condition.
  3. Using the Self-Care Practices categories above, make a list of self-care practices you already have as part of your routine. Maybe you attend a weekly exercise class? How does exercise impact your symptoms?
  4. You’re encouraged to explore the other features of the Tool on your own. But for the next month I’ll focus on symptoms and different self care practices that can help them. The goal is to take small steps toward changing your routines so you’re not overwhelmed and it makes it easier to maintain a steady practice.

Good luck and see you in the Facebook group!

Nicole Cavales — yoga instructor — was diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutation making her a high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She chose to have surgery and reconstruction. Nicole’s plastic surgeon referred her to Hilary Nakao, D.PT, — physical therapist — to help with recovery. Both women are part of the latest podcast episode exploring how critical movement and exercise are to one’s daily life.

Nicole demonstrates range of motion exercises she learned from Hilary.

Nicole continues to teach restorative yoga classes in Northern California and also works for Hilary.

 

Is using Social Media important to you? Which platform do you use to find support from others with the same chronic health condition? If you’re a caregiver, do you access an online group to connect with other caregivers? Maybe you use social media to help educate or advocate for a particular health condition? This podcast episode explores how a variety of patients, and caregivers, use Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to do what they need to do.

You’ll hear from people with chronic health conditions: Toni Bernhard, best-selling author, and in 2001, initially diagnosed with an acute viral infection—but has yet to recover; Chris Schlecty, a Microsoft software engineer in Seattle, living with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and Dean Sage, an attorney in San Diego, diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy.

Also included are caregivers — Loraine Dressler, retired nurse and caregiver for family members and Marla Murasko, Down Syndrome Mom Advocate & Inclusion Influencer.

In a post on the WEGO Health website, these links provide instructions on how to protect your private information on Facebook:

Newsweek, Facebook Data: How to Protect Your Private Information

Trusted Reviews, Facebook Privacy Settings: 18 changes you should make right away

Mashable, How to See All the Weird Apps That Can See Your Data on Facebook

Prepared for Overnight Sleep Study

You know when you have a progressive disease sometimes it seems like the next step — the new normal — is dramatic? It seems to come out of nowhere…whether it’s your mobility, your energy, breathing capacity, or any of the myriad of bodily functions that can decline.

Well, I’m there with respiratory weakness. Yet it didn’t really happen overnight. I can recall 10 or so years ago going to my annual visit at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Care Clinic and, after taking a rather simplistic diagnostic test, being told by the nurse that my breathing capacity was at 70%. I don’t think I took it seriously because the diagnostic device was rudimentary and I felt healthy.

A year or so ago I was supplied with a ventilator for night time use. The whole experience freaked me out and I couldn’t handle the forced air. I would sit with it for ~ 15-minutes and then stop. After a month or so I tried to take a nap with it. I couldn’t handle it. Long story short, I ended up returning the device. I told myself the pulmonologist was moving too fast…like installing an outdoor ramp over stairs when you’re still ambulatory.

This past winter was a difficult one for me — one respiratory issue after another and I didn’t seem to have a full recovery. I’m with a different healthcare provider now and went to see a new pulmonologist who scheduled me for a sleep study. It took a couple of reschedules on my part because I was in denial of what I must have known was the inevitable.

The overnight study was conducted in a hotel-like environment though it was far from a luxurious experience. The sleep technician set me up with a Bi or C-Pap machine at the start and I just couldn’t handle it. It was too forceful and I panicked. She wasn’t able to adjust the settings and eventually got permission to let the sleep study be a baseline without the intervention. I slept for ~ 6 hours. Within a few days I heard from a physician who analyzed the study; I’d never met him. His phone etiquette was…despicable. He admonished me for not using the machine and said I needed it. He also offered that I “have few options — the machine or a trach.”

This brief phone conversation set off a period of depression. I was not operating with a glass half full perspective. Thankfully my pulmonologist led me to what I thought was another pulmonologist colleague of hers but he is actually a Critical Care doctor. After our first meeting my spirit lifted. He is listening to me and really understands that I need to gradually ramp up to the optimal settings. 

These adjustments to a progressive disease — a new normal — are difficult physically and emotionally. I’m grateful to be working with a physician that gets it. I’m also grateful for two Facebook groups — one specifically for adults with myotonic dystrophy and the other for breathing issues related to having a neuromuscular disease. I’ve learned valuable information and received support from these cohorts.

So far I’ve acclimated to one air pressure setting increase and using the humidifier. I also fell asleep twice with both on. Small steps. That’s what I can handle. I’m feeling hopeful.

Co-Founder of AXIS Dance Company

International Dance Day is April 29th. Here in Northern California we have Bay Area Dance Week with all types of free dance classes and performances. As Judith Smith, co-founder of the physically integrated dance company, AXIS, says, “Everybody who is in a body can dance and move — it’s a right we all have.” And that is the message of this podcast episode.

Years ago when I held my first dance marathon to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association a banner hung with the slogan, “Dance for those who can’t”

Fundraising event for MDA held in a mall in North Miami Beach, Florida ~ 1978

and that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. The AXIS Dance Company has included artists with physical disabilities, commissioned award-winning choreographers and composers, toured 100+ cities, and appeared on Fox TV’s So You Think You Can Dance. Opportunities for adaptive dance exist from here — BORP’s World Dance for All — to North Carolina where Mindy Kim teaches chair dancing.

Leia Cash, a lifelong dancer and educator, teaches adaptive dance classes at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, adults with Parkinson’s disease, and seniors at a residential facility.