Happy Earth Day – 50 years!

April 22nd 2020 was the 50th anniversary of Earth day. Unfortunately we were not able to gather and celebrate due to the current COVID-19 circumstances. 2 years ago, I celebrated by getting bees in my hive. Unfortunately, those bees didn’t make it through the winter. I then got some more bees last spring, but they were robbed and didn’t make it through the fall. This year I was planning on having a gap year, but some bees moved in all on their own a few weeks ago.

The flowers are in bloom and the clover is growing. Pollen is in the air and there’s lots of resources for bees in our yard and around as spring kicks into high gear. I hope you and your families stay healthy and can get outside (away from others) to enjoy the weather.

We have been planting our transplants and starting to enjoy some greens from the garden. The tomato plants are making their way outside and we are trimming our fruit trees. We currently only have 2 chickens at the moment, so egg production is way down. More of our food has been coming from local farmers though. With grocery shopping being limited, we’ve found other sources of fresh delicious food. You should search for your local online farmers markets.

Here are a few recent articles I found interesting, but first a thought on health. The most susceptible to this current round of pandemic virus, are the “immunocompromised.” These being people who have preexisting chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and others. Also those who are undergoing treatment for cancer or who have genetic or acquired immune impairment. That being said, the best “treatment” is to be as healthy as you can be. Eating healthfully and regular exercise along with stress reduction and good sleep will leave you in the best state of health to deal with any pandemic causing virus.

Articles: Foods to boost your mood – healthy foods that help fight some of the anxiety, stress and worry many of us are experiencing.

Variety helps fight dementia – a good variety of healthful foods may help reduce the risk of dementia.

I’ll leave you with some good recipes to help you keep eating healthy!

Salmon recipe

Simple beef liver pate recipe

And some pictures of our irises and bees!

Close up
Honey at the top right, and brood (baby bees) on the lower portion of this frame.

Laughter may be the best medicine

This article, published last month (Nov 5, 2019) indicates “laughter yoga” had better positive effects on people with IBS than anti-anxiety medication and a standard control group.

Laughter yoga is like regular yoga, but with “laughter breathing.” You laugh, intentionally, without anybody telling jokes or watching a funny skit. It might feel like fake laughing, but it really helps.

Most people know anxiety and GI symptoms can be correlated and even sometimes causative. This is why the anti-anxiety medication was the second arm of this study. But not all GI symptoms are anxiety related.

What I’d like to see as a follow up to this study is how laughter yoga compares with GI motility medications, like Imodium for those with IBS-D or Miralax or laxatives for IBS-C.

Another interesting article I recently saw was “Food we need to talk” on NPR. A bunch of different “nutrition experts” basically summed up the best 1 thing to do to be healthy. The summary was: Exercise- mostly strength training. Obviously there are other additional things to optimize your health (eat more vegetables, less sugar, etc.) but if you could only do 1 thing, that thing should be lift weights.

As the new year is upon us, what strength training are you going to do this year?

Hiatus

After a long hiatus- due to being too busy, and also getting hacked… the site is back. I read over my last couple posts and unfortunately, I didn’t meet my goals I had listed on my new year post. I was doing well for a little while on the meditation front, then it fell apart when we went on vacation in February. I’m lucky if I make time for 2 sessions a week now much less 4. I haven’t deadlifted in a couple weeks and the highest I had done up to that point was 250 lbs, so did eventually get to my March goal, but still slowly working on June goal, oops. And obviously, I have not been posting 2 times a month… man, I failed on all 3 goals.

Well, no one’s perfect. Hope you all did a little better with your goals than I did. I will try and get back on working towards those goals. Here’s my first post this month. I hope to have a guest poster soon too. I wonder if I should count that as my second post. ūüėõ

Super quick recap of the year. We went to Uruguay in Feb, got a bee hive in April, have been busy with both jobs, mountain biking when I get a chance and working in the garden. Tomatoes are coming in strong now, pole beans are finishing up, spinach, kale and collards are done. Melons, sweet potatoes and butternut square are growing quickly. Okra is starting to take off. Our chickens are putting out eggs most days and we have been fighting the Japanese beetle¬† swarms. That’s all for now. Thanks to a long time friend for helping me get unhacked and back up on the internet.

Probiotics

Do I ever get tired of the probiotic posts?

Nope.

I went to a conference hosted by INR Seminars¬†last week called “Probiotics, Food and the Immune system.” It was great! Lots of interesting examples and confirmations about how important and vital gut bacteria are to us.

A couple stand out. In the first, a woman received a fecal transplant from her daughter after a C. Diff infection. The recipient was normal weight prior to fecal transplant, but her daughter was obese. After the transplant, the recipient became obese. – So I know there are a lot of details missing like “did the recipient have any changes in diet/lifestyle that would explain the weight gain?” – there is plenty of research out there showing an imbalance of Fermicutes vs Bacteriodities,¬†(high Ferm/low bac) is common among obese individuals. This is still correlation, or association and the “chicken or the egg” analogy stands- did the bacteria cause a person to become obese, or did the bacteria ratio change once a person became obese (due to food choices or because of exercise habits)? There are more questions than answers at this time, but that’s why it’s so fascinating.

The other than stood out to me was another fecal transplant patient. She had a history of Ulcerative colitis. She then had a fecal transplant from her husband. She was “cured” of UC until years later she had an unrelated illness requiring a hefty dose of antibiotics. After the antibiotics, her UC returned.

These are small sample sizes, (n=1) but they demonstrate the changes that might happen if one has a change in gut bacteria.

Coincidently, I received an email from someone at “reviews.com” who asked if I could link them to their “Best Probiotics Supplement Review of 2018.” I did check it out and it could be a useful resource for people if they are curious which probiotics might be “best” since there are seemingly infinite choices out there now.

At the conference, the speaker talked about how buying the “best” probiotics may not do much for you if you don’t feed them. Taking the most potent, fancy, expensive and very reputable probiotic won’t help any issues if you just drink gatorade and eat Cheetos. A balanced healthy diet of meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, grains, and legumes will feed the probiotics and keep them happy and healthy. This may be as big of a reason why we encourage healthy eating. Feeding the “right” bacteria can have beneficial effects on healthy weight, a healthy gut, and a healthy brain.

More on that later.

 

Let me know if you do or do not take probiotics and if you feel better because of it or if you don’t.

 

Happy 2018

Another year is in full swing. We’ve had some blistering, record breaking cold weather here in Virginia over the past few weeks. Much colder than we’re used to and for a longer stretch of time than we’d like. We had a 3 day break where it swung all the way back up to 70 degrees, but now we’re back with the lows in the low teens and highs still below freezing.

Some small updates from SRTH. We still have three chickens who are braving the cold. They have a heated coop and a water heater to keep them hydrated. They are missing the grass since it’s been frozen and all eaten up with no regrowth yet. I’ve just started trying to sprout some extra chia seeds for them to see if they will go for that. I gave them a frozen/thawed soft pumpkin the other day. They seemed to enjoy the insides until it froze again and now it’s a solid mess of pumpkin mush and seeds.

As for me, if you read my GBS post from the summer, I’m happy to report I’m back to life as usual. Abilities are 100%. I’m still rebuilding strength to lift heavier and my feet/toes get a little tingly at the end of the day, but I’m not complaining. I’m running 3+ miles (when it’s not brutally cold out), lifting 3-5 days a week and riding my mountain bike when (again) the weather is respectable. I’m working part time as an outpatient dietitian at Specialty Nutrition and Health¬†a couple times a week after my full time job at the hospital.

The new year is a time a lot of people use to start new habits, stop bad habits, make other life changes and make goals. Here are my goals for the first half of the year:

  1. Post at least two times a month- articles, journal reviews or garden/farm updates.
  2. Deadlift 250 lbs by March 30th, and 300 lbs by June 30th.
  3. Make time to meditate 4 days per week.

It may seem a little odd that I haven’t posted any food goals. I will continue to research and learn what foods are best for me, but also try and focus more on lifestyle and environmental factors including stress, sleep and gut health. I’m reading¬†Brain Maker¬†by Dr. Perlmutter right now which is about how gut bacteria and the lack thereof may be a root cause for disease. So one of my food goals this year might be something like “make fermented vegetables.” We are still making kombucha, but will try and branch out and make more “healthy bacteria” foods.

Let me know if you’re making any food/diet/lifestyle changes, or have some questions about anything health and wellness related.

Here’s some articles to read about interesting wellness related stuff!

Type 1 Diabetes may be reversible?

Microbes are the cause of Alzheimer’s¬†

Saturated fat does not clog arteries

Enjoy!

SRTH

 

 

Bacteria making fats cause heart disease

I posted this on my facebook page a little while back but forgot to post it here on the site.

Fascinating new research in the search to find the cause of heart disease. Bacteria in your mouth secrete lipids that cause plaque build up. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why more research is showing how sugar is more detrimental to your health than fats. Bacteria (usually) love sugar so the more sugar you eat, the more ‚Äúbad‚ÄĚ bacteria in your mouth which may contribute to higher bacterial lipids floating around in your arteries-> causing heart disease.

 

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-11-bacterial-fats-dietary-blame-heart.html

 

Stool sample for banned substance?

Will athletic events need to check stool samples for a banned gut bacteria?  All joking aside, it is interesting to think that someone could take a certain probiotic and get better athletic performance from it.

It’d would also be interesting to know if these high level athletes (HLA) have this bacteria because they are HLA, or if they are HLA because they have the bacteria. The chicken or egg first conundrum. It’d also be interesting to know if they are more likely to eat anything that would promote this HLA bacteria.

Their study shows a spike in, what I’m calling HLA bacteria, post Boston marathon which helps break down lactic acid, possibly giving runners more endurance. A company is trying to make certain probiotics strains for particular types of athletes too, citing different bacteria in ultra marathoners vs elite rowers.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170820075017.htm

And in other gut bacteria news, extremely healthy elderly have similar microbiomes as healthy 30 yr olds, says this research article. Asking the question, “if you can stay active and eat well, will you age better, or is healthy aging predicated by the bacteria in your gut?” Great question! They can’t say if there is a cause and effect happening here, but I’m sure all the antibiotics we take as Americans isn’t helping matters.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171011123728.htm

 

Chickens

We love eggs, so it was only logical to get some chickens on our “farm.” We had been wanting to get chickens for a while and had planned to get them this spring, but a little set back called¬†GBS delayed our chicken endeavors.

Finally recovered enough, we decided to go ahead a get 5 chickens. We had a coop, a lot of grass, woods and bugs for them to eat. We got a feeder and a waterer and went and picked up 5 pullets (aka teenage chickens) from a reputable place in Ashland, VA. We were excited to have some truly free range, bug eating, happy chickens.

Getting them into the coop for the first time was a disaster. Long story short, we were bounding through the poison ivy infested woods, in the rain, chasing chickens for hours before we lost one completely. Thankfully she came back that evening looking for her friends. We tried to establish some perimeters the first couple days, but soon the chickens were wandering farther and farther while we were at work for the day.

A few days went by and then we got our first egg. That was very exciting! Soon we got 2 eggs a day. ¬†All was good, except that the chickens were wandering to the neighbors yard and we felt a little bad about that, even though they were very care-free about that whole situation. We inadvertently named one “Boldie” because she was bold. She was the first out of the coop, the first to come up to you and the easiest to pet and handle, and she was the leader of the flock. She was also the first to disappear. Two days later “the feisty one” went missing.

Our days of fun loving free ranging chickens seemed to be coming to an end. We had to do something. Since they were used to 2+ acres of wandering space, we thought we’d be nice and build them a large mobile chicken tractor. When drawing plans, 16ft long by 5ft wide seemed like a good compromise. Little did we know just how heavy something that big would be.

Plans evolved as we made it. I did decide to use 2×3 boards instead of 2×4’s for a lot of the pieces knowing I was saving weight, but I did use some 2×4’s because they were free from a friend, and it is a beast of a tractor. ¬†We put a corrugated steel roof on a quarter of the top to give them some shade and a couple nesting boxes. We decided against three solid walls just to save weight towards the end. We made a nice sliding door to allow us to butt the tractor up against the coop so the chickens can transfer easily in and out of the tractor, and so it was big enough for us to get inside.¬†

A co-worker of mine graciously agreed to chicken-sit while we were building the tractor. We were afraid they would continue to get picked off if we didn’t put them somewhere safe. This was a fun but time consuming project. It took all of 2 full days, plus driving and shopping for hardware. If I were to do it all again, I’d do the same thing but make it only 12 feet by 4 feet, and maybe get bigger wheels, which is something we can still switch out. Pulling it over a gravel driveway is nearly impossible and even pulling through long grass is tough. I wanted to get the wheels just big enough to work without leaving a big gap at the bottom so chickens wouldn’t try to escape while we moved the tractor around. I also need to put a long piece of wood between the current “handles” so that one person (maybe) can move it around.

It looks pretty good and should keep the chickens safe. Hopefully it’ll hold together at least for a while. We are happy to have the chickens back and happy to report 2 eggs today!

What are the odds?

Stress comes in many forms. We are all pretty familiar with at least some sort of stress. Bills, relationships, co-workers, deadlines, loss, fear, injury, worry. We live in a time where many of our stressors are mentally based. They aren’t usually starvation, exposure or mauling. Our bodies are designed for short intense bursts of stress like the later. We aren’t very good at handling the day-in/day-out constant stressors of the 1st world.

I came under an extreme stress starting in mid January which lasted the better part of two months. The circumstance of which I’m still having a hard time coping with, and which was vary rare. Then I got a random GI bug as a late April fools joke which caused me to be on the porcelain throne for 36 hrs. I recovered and went about life for the next two weeks.

The next three months up until now have changed my life. Two weeks after the GI bug, I developed tingling in my feet and legs, which proceeded to work it’s way up my legs and extended to my hands and arms causing weakness and lack of coordination for 3 days until I went to the emergency room. I thought I had pinched a nerve or something after a recent mountain bike fall, but the next day I was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome via lumbar puncture. This is a relatively rare condition affecting 1 or 2 in 100,000.

Gillian-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes the myelin sheath, a fatty layer which insulates your nerves, as an invader and destroys it. When the myelin sheath is gone, the signal from your brain cannot reach its destination, which prevents movement causing paralysis. Other sensations were drastically affected as well. Numbness and tingling is a major component, hypersensitivity and pain as well, which doesn’t seem to follow logically, but it’s real. A loss of proprioception was the most disturbing. Not knowing where your feet or hands are in space plays horrible tricks on your mind in the dark when you can’t sleep.

I continued to decline through the first week of an initial treatment called IVIG, and only after the 5th round of the second form of treatment, call plasmapheresis (a blood cleansing machine similar to dialysis), did my decline seem to stop. At that point I was just thankful I didn’t need to go on a ventilator. I was unable to move my legs at all but I could still control my hands a little bit and was able to talk and ask for whatever help I needed. My ability to swallow was mildly affected but I was still able to eat.

After 3 weeks in the acute care part of the hospital, I was moved to the inpatient rehab part of the hospital where I stayed for 4 weeks. I also got an unrelated bout of Bells Palsy while in rehab just for kicks. Thankfully that resolved relatively quickly. I was in the hospital for a total of 49 days, which feels like forever when you’re waiting to get out. I spent half of April and the entirety of May in the hospital. I lost ~20 lbs even though my appetite was ravenous, I ate 6 square meals a day, and I didn’t have much fat to lose. It’s amazing how quickly you lose muscle.

I was sent home in a wheelchair since I was still unable to walk without a lot of assistance and I was scheduled for outpatient therapy 3 times a week. On my first assessment with outpatient therapy, I was able to walk with a walker and leg braces for 36 feet in 6 minutes. After 4 weeks of physical therapy plus my own exercises at home, I was able to walk 596 feet in 6 minutes. After 8 weeks, even further and faster with better balance. Walking only with a hiking pole and no leg braces.

This is dramatic improvement, and I am thrilled. Although I still have difficulty standing with my eyes closed as the proprioception seems to be the slowest in recovering, I can finally tell where my hands and feet are without looking at them which is a big relief. My hands and feet are still weak, but are getting a little stronger every day.

I ask, and get asked, when will I be “back to normal” and still have no answers. “It just takes time” is the most common response. I’ve read that it can take anywhere from “a few weeks, to a few months, or a few years” but it seems like the majority of cases get better after 6 month to 2 years.

I last rode ~12 miles on my mountain bike Sunday, April 9th. I was able to lift a decent amount of weight, run 2-4 miles at a respectable pace and lived a pretty active life. I’ll consider myself “back to normal” when I can at least do 1/2 of what I was doing before, and I’ll call myself 100% when I’m off nerve pain meds and I can do all the activities I used to do. And I will do them again, it’s just a matter of time.

Growing!

Well, not quite growing yet. We’ve prepped tested our garden beds to get ready for this years growing season. We are now erecting a fence to keep the deer out. The last thing we want is to have a bunch of well fed deer after all our hard work.

We’ve tilled clay, added countless bags of clay breaker, soil conditioner, lime, our own food compost, cow manure, peat moss and outsourced organic compost. The beds are looking fluffy and healthy, and grew a nice cover crop over the winter. We’ve tilled again to get the cover crop mixed in, added in some biotone and other natural fertilizers after sending off soil samples a few weeks ago.

We are ready to roll once the weather allows. We’ll put in some greens and pole beans in next weekend and have the fence up are ready by the time the sprouts emerge. Here are a few pics of the progress.¬†

Once the veggies are growing and protected, we’ll work on getting some chickens to provide us with some fresh eggs!