Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter: the dark side of fibro; healing soup

 Illustration depicting a set of cut out printed letters arranged to form the words chronic pain. - stock photo

While others have been caught up in Star Wars mania, I have been caught up in the “fibro dark side” for the past two weeks. A fibro flare has eclipsed everything in my world. My brain has been off in some other galaxy while the rest of me has been functioning barely above the level of a speck of intergalactic dust.
It’s only been recently that I have labeled my relapses of health as “fibro flares.” It would seem more appropriate for them to be called “solar flares” because they may have something to do with the amount of sunlight our bodies receive during winter vs. summer. The change of season brings lessened light which may throw off our circadian rhythms or internal clocks, all of which may cause those of us with fibro to be more fatigued and achy. 

Okay, so my circadian rhythms are off. Is an intergalactic disaster causing my symptoms?  It might as well be. A fibro flare can be mind-numbing and overwhelming; you feel as if you’ve been hit by a truck in terms of muscle pain and stiffness. The fatigue and accompanying depression are so intense you cannot keep up with anything without an extreme act of will and determination (this, of course, doesn’t work well). Your interest in food wanes as your stomach bloats up like a giant beach ball. (Or is that an alien growing in there?)

Most fibro sufferers don’t know anything about circadian rhythms but they do know that once winter comes around and the weather changes, they feel much worse. Studies seem to back up that weather changes definitely influence fibro symptoms.

 A study in Norway found a relationship between fibromyalgia symptoms and the weather. Fibromyalgia symptoms appeared to get worse during the months of December and January, but began to improve during April and May. This suggests a direct relationship between colder temperatures and lower barometric pressures and a rise in fibromyalgia symptoms.

Another study done in Cordoba, Argentina, revealed similar results as the participants had greater pain as temperatures fell and atmospheric pressure increased.

Unfortunately, researchers do not yet know why weather appears to affect fibromyalgia symptoms so much. Besides changes in circadian rhythms, other possible influences may be changes in sleep patterns or increases in the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines which appear to be related to pain intensity.
pain relief text write on blackboard - stock photo
I have found a few things that help:

  • Get as much sunshine as possible. You may have to bring the sunshine into your house with a light box or special bulbs. Keep the blinds open when the sun is out.

  • Do lots of deep breathing during meditation or easy stretching to remove toxins.

  • Take soaking  baths in Epsom salts to help remove toxins and encourage healing.

  • Try to reset your circadian rhythms by going on a 3-4 day cleanse.

A cleanse resets your body by decreasing inflammation and detoxing your body. It gives your system a break from the difficult task of digesting harder to digest foods and works with your body’s desire to renew and repair.

Tummy tamer chicken soup (single serving)
I decided my body needed a little nudge to get back on track and start healing by following a digestive cleansing diet. I have been giving this idea a try the past week. My diet has consisted of my tummy tamer chicken soup.

I have been on cleanses before but apparently forgot all the symptoms you can experience. Actually, I was already experiencing these symptoms which simply increased in intensity.

Fatigue, weakness
Irritability, mild depression
Flu-like symptoms
Constipation, diarrhea, gas

I found taking a daily Epsom salt bath helped relieve these symptoms, and drinking lots of water and tea helped. The deep breathing with either meditation or easy stretching also was beneficial.

Tummy Tamer Soup for One

What you need:

1 cup homemade chicken broth (Make the broth following this recipe:
½ carrot cut in carrot curls or diced
½ small zucchini, diced or cut into noodles
1 handful spinach
1 stalk celery or bok choy, chopped
Pinch of salt and black pepper
Note: add other seasonings (tumeric, ginger) if desired

What you do:

Saute the vegetables in a little olive oil. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Surviving the holidays; plus pumpkin pie with pumpkin flour crust

Make a pumpkin pie with ingredients you can eat
I’ve always enjoyed the holidays but found them stressful as I tried to create the perfect, magical holiday. Now that I have fibromyalgia, I approach the holidays from a new perspective. I’ve let go of the “have-to’s” and kept only the traditions and activities I really love.

I can’t blame this new philosophy all on fibromyalgia as I already was headed in the direction of simplifying the holidays. I call it my “keep it simple” (KISS) rule for the holidays and for life, in general. I recommend that everyone give himself/herself a “KISS” and start really enjoying the holidays.

K—Kick away guilt and expectations for a perfect holiday.
No one can do it all and have anything left over for himself/herself. This is especially true if you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia. Individuals with fibro have so many additional things they have to do on a daily basis just to manage their symptoms. You want to stick with these things to prevent a flare-up which might occur with the stress of being a holiday overachiever.

Decide what things you really want to do and kick away the rest.

I---Invent or create new traditions.
Maybe it’s time to let go of the past and change your holiday traditions.  You don’t need to cook up a huge feast for Thanksgiving. Instead, keep your meal simple. Tell your guests you’ll prepare the turkey and they can bring the side dishes. Or instead, go on an outing on Thanksgiving and make that your holiday celebration.

Enjoy time with your furry friends
S—Spend time with family and friends.
Spend the holidays with people you truly enjoy. Family and friends who understand your situation will embrace this new way of celebrating with you. Leave the gripers behind.

S----Seize the moment.
Plan ahead so you can enjoy every moment and be more relaxed. Make a list of what’s important but give yourself permission to modify the list if you don’t feel well. Or better yet, enlist some help from other family or friends.

Remember if you stick to the “KISS” rule, you’ll be more likely to take care of you (which should be your first priority) and enjoy the holidays at a relaxed pace.

Pumpkin pie made with pumpkin flour from Anti-Grain

 I love baked goods as much as anyone but I must avoid grains for health reasons. I consider the new “flour” offerings from Anti-Grain to be a holiday gift to folks like me. Anti-Grain flours are made from apples, pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potatoes which are far from the “grains” most of us think of.

Anti-Grain pumpkin flour is my personal favorite. A one-pound package costs $16.99. The flour is made from more than 90 percent pumpkin flesh plus pumpkin seeds for added protein and fiber. A one-quarter cup serving contains 102 calories which includes 20 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams protein. You can purchase the pumpkin flour or other Anti-Grain flours at or

I cooked up a delicious pumpkin pie using the Anti-Grain pumpkin flour. I tweaked the pumpkin pie recipe I found on the Anti-Grain website. You can find lots of other recipes on the website to use your Anti-Grain flours.

Pumpkin Flour Crust Pumpkin Pie

For a pie crust:

¾ cup pumpkin flour
1 cup almond flour
stevia or sweetener of choice
1 T. coconut oil or olive oil
¼ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg

For the filling:

1 can pumpkin puree (15 ounces)
½ cup milk beverage of choice
optional: 1/4-1/2 cup sunbutter or nutbutter of choice
3 large eggs plus 1 yolk
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. cardamom
½ cup sugar

Crust preparation:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix crust ingredients in a food processor. Press “dough” in an 8-9-inch pie pan or you can use an 8-inch square pan as I did.  Bake crust 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cooling for 10 minutes. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Filling preparation:

While the crust is in the freezer, prepare the filling. Mix the filling in a large bowl. Pour filling into the pie pan once the crust is cooled. Bake the pie at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Turn off the oven, crack the oven door and allow the pie to cool.
Serve with your favorite pumpkin pie topping.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brain tune up with sleep; plus stuffed spaghetti squash

The sleep robbing trio

Fibromyalgia is sometimes described as a sleep disorder. Those of us with fibro often don’t get the sleep our bodies need which results in many of our symptoms. Lots of other people too are not getting adequate sleep and things get worse around the holidays. But why do we need sleep?

A rested body and mind probably helps keep you from forgetting something important like to take your thyroid medication first thing in the morning. Yes, that’s what I did the other morning. It was after a night of interrupted sleep from the three owls outside my bedroom having a conversation with each other and our malamute, Nika. It was cute for a few minutes but after awhile, I was beginning to wish I could muzzle them all.

I was so groggy when I finally got up that I couldn’t remember taking that all-important pill. I just stood there in the kitchen wondering what I was doing and hearing owl sounds reverberating in my brain.

I found out later in the day what fibro is like coupled with no thyroid medication being taken. I crashed. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I took my thyroid medication better late than not at all. Twenty-four hours later, I’m still having trouble feeling like myself again.

I guess that illustrates why we need sleep, especially the deepest sleep. During deepest sleep, which is non-REM sleep, hormones are released that stimulate repair and growth in your organs. Your brain also gets “flushed out” and repaired. Mine obviously wasn’t functioning after the owl episode.

Recent research has discovered that our brains flush out waste material during sleep. The study was done on mice that apparently have brains similar to ours. The study found that during sleep the spaces that allow fluid to pass between brain cells greatly increase in size.  These enlarged spaces allow cell waste material to be flushed out more efficiently. If we don’t get the right kind of sleep, this cell waste material builds up and doesn’t get flushed out.

My brain must be a toxic waste dump. I hope those owls decide to do their “hooting” someplace else for awhile so I can get some sleep. Actually, I think I’d better get some earplugs.
Scoop out seeds, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil

Despite my thyroid and brain drain, I cooked up a delicious stuffed spaghetti squash recipe. I am planning on serving it as a side dish for Thanksgiving.

Here’s what you need for 2-4 servings:

1 large spaghetti squash
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 cup fresh spinach
1 celery stalk
½ cup farmers’ cheese
2 organic eggs
Optional: sprinkle of grated Gruyere cheese

Voila stuffed spaghetti squash
Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare your spaghetti squash by splitting it lengthwise and scooping out the seeds. Sprinkle the squash halves with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place the halves face down on a deep baking sheet. Pour in 1 cup of water. Bake the squash for 40 minutes or until fork tender.

Place the squash face down in about 1 cup of water
In the meantime, chop the celery and spinach. Measure your other ingredients. When the squash is done, allow it to cool enough for you to scoop out the flesh. Place the flesh and other filling ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to mix.
Mix the squash flesh and other ingredients

Refill the squash halves with the filling. Return them to the oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. Just before removing them from the oven, sprinkle on a smidge of grated cheese. Now you have a delicious side dish for any occasion.

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Restuff the squash shells

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cleaning up mold may help fibro; plus easy mock cinnamon rolls

Every fall I face my toughest allergy adversary: mold. This almost indestructible foe may be the hidden link behind fibromyalgia (FMS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as some studies suggest.

For the past five years or so, I’ve had a formidable weapon to deal with indoor mold. The WhiteWing Steamer Vapor Steam Cleaner has served me well in battling mold which can leave me, a severe mold sufferer, as weak as Superman with kryptonite.

Mold allergy can be a problem year-round unlike other allergies which tend to be a nuisance during the growing seasons. However, mold allergy gets worse during the fall and winter because it seems like the majority of wetter weather happens in those seasons. Mold thrives in damp, cooler climates.

The WhiteWing Steamer was a perfect gift for a year-round allergy sufferer like me. According to WhiteWing materials, the steamer …
·  Destroys germs, viruses, dust mites, mold and bacteria
·  Removes grease and dirt better than chemical cleaners
·  Removes soap and mildew from bathrooms, tiles and grout
·  Removes grease from kitchen floors, counters and appliances
·  Sanitizes and disinfects nurseries and pet areas
·  Cleans upholstery, drapes and bedding
·  Deodorizes all cleaned surfaces
·  Cleans windows and glass
·  Quickly cleans sealed hardwood floors and other flat floor surfaces
·  Dissolves and emulsifies calcium, grease and more.

 If I am persistent about using it, I always having a healthier winter with less sinus problems, fibro pain and other symptoms. The WhiteWing is supposed to kill mold but apparently, there is always more waiting to be reactivated by the right conditions. 

Two hairy, but loveable, culprits who help bring mold inside
Mold spores are persistent, opportunistic little creatures. Active mold produces microscopic spores in enor­mous quantities which are spread by air currents—meaning they are almost always there waiting for the right conditions to reproduce. Extreme cold, freez­ing and heat can deactivate spores but it does not kill them. They are resistant to desiccation (drying out). If temperatures go up after a cold spell, spores can reactivate and continue to grow.

All of this means you have your work cut out for you to keep these demonic little creatures at a level that you can tolerate for your allergies and related symptoms.

Some of the symptoms of mold allergy include:
           Muscle cramps
           Unusual pain
           Ice pick pain
           Light sensitivity
           Blurred vision
           Sinus problems
           Digestive problems
           Joint pain
           Morning stiffness
           Memory problems
           Focus/concentration problems
           Mood swings
           Increased urination

The conditions that mold loves have already arrived in my area. You can probably guess I have been busy steaming up a storm with my trusty WhiteWing.

As usual, I start with the bathrooms. They can be a breeding ground for mold because let’s face it, showers and such leave behind plenty of moisture. I do try to reduce the amount of moisture by towel drying the shower after each use. This works pretty well during the warmer months but once fall arrives, the mold thrives despite my efforts.

I steam clean the tile, the shower doors, the bathtubs, the floors, the counters, and anything and everything where moisture lands and mold can grow. The bathrooms look hospital clean after I get done steaming and it’s all done without harsh cleaners.

Each steaming session lasts about two hours before the WhiteWing needs a refill of distilled water. My next stop is the kitchen, a breeding ground for mold, grit, grime, bacteria and germs. I’m really into my cleaning rhythm at this point but I still like to spread the kitchen job over several days because there are so many areas to clean including counters, cabinets, shelves, sink, stovetop hood, stove exterior, tile splashboard and floors.

The White Wing allows me to kill a lot of mold with just steam but occasionally, I pull out a bottle of Simple Green all-purpose cleaner and spray an area before steaming it. The two make a formidable cleaning pair.

During the next session, I focus on cleaning the refrigerator and dishwasher.  I am always surprised by the mold which hides in the refrigerator door gaskets. After a few days of cleaning, I have defeated a lot of mold, dust mites, germs and bacteria. And to think, I do it all with steam and no harsh cleaners.

Mock cinnamon rolls/crepes
All this steam cleaning has helped me with my mold allergies and to get ready for holiday company. I'm still waiting for the outside mold to get stunned by freezing temps and snow. 

I’ve also been experimenting with holiday treats that I can make without starches or sugars. You’re probably wondering how it can be a treat without starches or sugars. It’s not easy and you also have to retrain your palate but you do what you have to do to feel as well as possible.
Crepe-like dough with yogurt cream cheese

I was pretty happy with my mock cinnamon rolls. They are built around a crepe-like dough. They are grain and sugar free but use eggs and yogurt. You can use whatever yogurt works for you but I make lactose-free yogurt from organic cow’s milk.

Here’s what you need for the “dough” or crepe:

2 organic eggs
¼ cup farmer’s cheese or sub almond flour for dairy-free
1 T. water
Pinch of sea salt
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. grassfed gelatin
1 T. olive oil

Here’s what you need for filling:

1 cup yogurt cream cheese
see here for directions;
 must be prepared 12 hours or more ahead.
Stevia or other sweetener, to taste
Cinnamon for dusting
Crepe with "cream cheese" and dusting of cinnamon

Here’s what you do:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Mix the “dough/crepe” ingredients. Pour the dough on the baking sheet. Spread it out a bit although it will continue spreading during baking. Bake until firm and slightly crispy, about 10-12 minutes.

This how you roll it up
In the meantime, mix your filling. Once the crepe is slightly cooled, spread the filling all over one side. Dust with cinnamon. The amount depends on how much you love cinnamon.

Roll up the crepe lengthwise. Spread on top more yogurt cream cheese dusted with cinnamon. Cut into serving-size pieces and serve with additional "cream cheese" or yogurt or kefir.

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Rolled up and ready to eat

Friday, November 6, 2015

Mold allergy may be hidden cause of fibro and more; plus carrot cake cupcakes

Bailey, the cat, on the job in the shop

Allergies mean sneezing, sniffling, watery eyes, itchy ears, right? Most people think of those typical symptoms when you mention allergies. But sometimes allergies present themselves in a more clandestine manner. Sometimes allergic reactions are the cause of fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, depression, sinus infections and more. I call this “allergies gone extreme.” Not everyone agrees with this theory but there is a growing body of evidence to support the link.

The connection between allergies, especially mold allergy, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia (FMS) is one of the most interesting to me. I suffer from mold allergy and FMS.
There are many symptoms for mold allergy but interestingly, they correspond to those exhibited by individuals with CFS and FMS. They include:

·         Fatigue
·         Weakness
·         Aches
·         Muscle cramps
·         Unusual pain
·         Ice pick pain
·         Headache
·         Light sensitivity
·         Blurred vision
·         Sinus problems
·         Digestive problems
·         Joint pain
·         Morning stiffness
·         Memory problems
·         Focus/concentration problems
·         Mood swings
·         Increased urination
 (Get more info about mold allergy here:

Research suggests that being an allergic person may predispose you to CFS and FMS. Both disorders seem to be associated with over-reactivity of certain parts of the immune system, just like allergies. 

Researchers have found that more than half of CFS and FMS sufferers have allergies. And a significant proportion of people with CFS and FMS have mold sensitivity which is a big cause of fatigue and muscle aches.
 Treating allergies is an important part of treating these two disorders. Individuals usually see their fatigue and other symptoms improve when their allergies improve. I found this to be true. My flare-ups occur when my allergies are at their worst. 
How do you control mold allergies?

Allergy to molds is a year-round problem, unlike other allergies that may only be present during pollen season. Molds live everywhere and especially flourish in damp, cooler climates.

Mold allergies can get worse during the fall and winter, especially if you live in an area where the majority of the wetter weather happens during those seasons. Some areas, like Hawaii, will have high mold levels year-round.

Your best defense to lessening your exposure to mold is to be vigilant. However, it is not possible to completely avoid mold in most areas as it thrives indoors and outdoors.

Molds grow on fallen leaves, rotting logs, compost piles, grasses and grains. Indoors, fungi can be found in damp areas, such as basements, bathrooms and kitchens.

Here are some lessons I have learned about avoiding mold:

·         Avoid climates with increased humidity and rainfall.
·         Frequently clean kitchens and bathrooms to remove mold and mildew. Pay particular attention to showers and refrigerators. Don’t forget to clean the refrigerator door gaskets where molds hide.
·         Use central air conditioning with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters. It will help trap some of the mold spores.
·         Keep the humidity level in your home below 45 percent.
·         Be vigilant about cleaning up damp areas in your home.
·         Clean garbage pails often.
·         Use a cleaning solution made of one ounce laundry bleach per quart of water.
·         Consider purchasing a steam-cleaning device, which can kill mold and make cleaning faster and easier.

 Here is what I have been cooking this week: Mini-Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Yogurt Frosting (gluten-free with grain-free options)

 Ingredients: (makes 2-3 mini-cupcakes)

1/4 C flour (I use blend of almond flour and Anti-Grain pumpkin flour; or use your favorite gluten-free blend.)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1 egg 
stevia, to taste
1/3 cup cooked, pureed carrots
1 T. kefir or milk of choice
1 T. oil (olive oil or your choice)
1/4 tsp. vanilla


Set out 3 silicon cupcake liners or 2 ramekins. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in food processor or by hand. Pour into containers. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove to cool.

 For the frosting:
1/4 cup yogurt cream cheese or your substitute, such as plain Greek yogurt
Dash of salt, vanilla and stevia.

To make the yogurt cream cheese:
 Spoon four ounces of plain yogurt (preferably homemade and lactose free) into a fine-mesh strainer. Place over another container. Allow to set for 8-12 hours or more as the liquid whey separates and leaves a thick cream-cheese like yogurt behind.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Kefir: better than medicine; plus chocolate pumpkin candy bars

Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food. 
  Healing illness from the gut out has always been one of my beliefs. Seventy-five percent or more of our immunity resides in our digestive system. If we can heal our guts, we can absorb the nutrition our body needs to function properly. Seems simple, right? 
Unfortunately, it's not so simple for those of us with fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses who have majorly screwed up guts. Some things work and others don't. The only thing you can do is keep trying. But Hippocrates was right on with his famous quote: "Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food."
Homemade kefir culturing on counter

Recently, I started making homemade kefir. I had tried it once before but then I broke my wrist. I had to ditch the project. With both wrists intact now, I've rediscovered cultured kefir, one of the most probiotic-rich foods on earth. It may help you beat colds and flu, lessen allergies and asthma, and heal chronic illnesses, like fibromyalgia. In studies, kefir has either done as well as or outperformed antibiotics when treating illnesses. With its amazing medicinal properties, no surprise, its name comes from the Turkish word for “good feeling.”

What really impresses me is this fermented milk drink when homemade contains up to 35 strains of good bacteria and yeast compared to yogurt which has just a few and bottled kefir which has 10 strains plus some unwanted ingredients like sugar and thickeners. It’s a complete food which contains high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes and probiotics.

Some of its benefits can definitely help those of us with fibromyalgia. They include:
·         Boosts immunity
·         Fights allergies
·         Supports detoxification
·         Lessens asthma symptoms
·         Heals bowel disease such as  Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
·         Improves lactose digestion.

Wouldn’t it be great if eating a bacteria-rich food like kefir could help you beat illness, like fibro, and feel better overall? Our digestive systems play host to trillions of good bacteria. But we eat poor diets and take antibiotics which wrecks up our perfect balance of good and bad bacteria. All of this leads to digestive issues and immune system problems. 

We don’t want that if we want to be healthy. Kefir can be our medicine too. Studies have shown that kefir whey neutralizes most pathogenic bacteria within 24 hours. 

King Bailey on his favorite blanket
What kefir does the best job of keeping you well? Homemade works best as I have found out. I have been drinking plain bottled kefir for several years with some health benefits but nothing compared to what I experienced after making and drinking homemade kefir. 

My experience confirmed studies I read that showed homemade kefir has strong anti-inflammatory properties which can heal IBS, IBD and allergies. Those of us with fibro know all about those problems.

You can make homemade kefir from cow, goat or sheep milk. You need kefir grains which can be purchased from various websites such as Get a gallon of milk to start. Organic whole milk or raw milk, if available, will work. Follow the directions that come with the kefir grains to start fermenting your own supply of this super food.

One word of caution: you may need to build up your "tolerance" to kefir.  Some people thrive on kefir right from the start and others may need to proceed more slowly. Start with about four ounces or less and build up to eight ounces per day.

Chocolate Pumpkin Candy Bars 
 Here's what you need:
1 cup of coconut oil, melted
4 T. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
stevia, to taste
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine the above ingredients and pour into a 8 X 8-inch square pan, lined with parchment paper. Place in the fridge to firm up the mixture a bit.

You also will need for the pumpkin swirl:
2 T. pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter or alternative
pinch of salt
a little water to thin out the mixture, if needed
Mix the pumpkin swirl ingredients until smooth. Spoon the mixture onto the chocolate before it completely firm up. Return to the fridge until bars are firm and ready to cut.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Promote wellness with cultured foods; plus simple veggie slider sandwiches

Bailey, the cat, demonstrates relaxation techniques we all need.

Kombucha is one of the fermented foods that I have added to my diet because of its health benefits. A diet rich in fermented foods like kombucha helps strengthen the digestive system and bolsters the immune system, something those of us with fibromyalgia need to be concerned about all year round. Actually, everyone’s immune system could probably use a little tune-up, especially as we head into cold season.

What fermented foods can you add to your diet? Besides kombucha, I make sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and all kinds of fruit and vegetables. I’ve even made fermented dill pickles, cultured fruit leathers and salsa. Other fermentation projects I am planning include sourdough gluten-free, paleo bread and Greek-style yogurt.

What is fermentation?
People have long been fermenting foods like wine, yogurt and cheese. Fermentation is a process by which sugars are broken down by helpful bacteria allowing the foods to be stored longer, a practical reason before refrigeration was invented.  

Why eat fermented foods?
Fermented foods are easier to digest because the beneficial bacteria have helped break down the foods. This results in better absorption of nutrients. For instance, raw cabbage is difficult to digest and often causes gas. When cabbage is fermented into sauerkraut, you are better able to absorb its large amounts of vitamin K and C, as well as antioxidants and polyphenols.

I find it difficult to digest carbohydrates but fermentation allows me to enjoy a wider variety of foods. For instance, I usually avoid salsa but I can eat cultured salsa, a little at a time.

Nutritious yogurt and kefir are other foods I can consume because the bacteria break down the lactose during fermentation.

Other beneficial byproducts of fermentation include omega-3 fatty acids, B complex vitamins, digestive enzymes and immune system-enhancing beta glucans. Glutathione, a free radical scavenger in the brain, also is produced during fermentation.

Most of your immune system resides in your gut. These fermented foods give your gut a powerful boost and help strengthen your immune system. Are you convinced?
Three stages of kombucha (l-r): gallon brewing, starter culture tea, kombucha poured for drinking

Getting fermented foods into your diet You can purchase fermented foods in the market (sourdough bread, kefir, fermented pickles and kombucha) but make sure the foods you choose are naturally fermented with traditional lacto-fermentation methods.

I usually culture my own foods because I want to control the ingredients. Homemade cultured foods also are usually richer in bacteria. I always have a number of culturing projects going at the same time. Guests at my house often wonder about all the jars I have placed in warm locations throughout the house. I tell them, “These jars are my science projects.”

You may want to get started by trying kombucha. This fermented tea is made with a kombucha starter culture (scoby), tea prepared with sugar, and some vinegar and/or tea from a previous batch (starter tea). The fermented tea contains a number of vitamins, particularly B vitamins.

I get my supplies from When you purchase a kombucha starter culture (scoby), you will get step-by-step instructions for activating the culture and making kombucha. 
Starter culture tea, ready in 30 days

I was a little unsure about trying kombucha because you need sugar to make it. I found out the longer you ferment it, there is very little sugar remaining. In fact, a longer brew time (30 days) results in tea with a richer flavor; more bacteria; and little sugar.

Once you are hooked on kombucha tea, you will want to keep it brewing continuously. I want my kombucha to ferment for at least 21-30 days. That presents problems if you want some to drink every day. 

I started three batches of tea to try to solve the problem. One is ready to drink; another is brewing for 21-30 days; and another is activating the scoby. But if I want to drink some every day, I will need to make bigger batches in gallon-size containers. Another possibility is activating another scoby and getting another container of tea brewing.
Kombucha ready to be enjoyed

While all my culturing projects are going, I’m still harvesting veggies from my garden. Our extended summer weather has kept veggies growing and growing and growing.

I grew patty pan squash this year. It’s delicious and versatile. I made veggie slider “sandwiches” out of some. These little “sandwiches” made me feel like I was eating a real sandwich. Other veggies will work as well. I have tried eggplant, zucchini and winter squash.
Veggie slider sandwiches made from eggplant and patty pan squash

Simply, cut the vegetables into rings. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange your veggies in a single layer on a large baking sheet, covered with parchment paper. Season the veggies with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and roast until tender (about 20 minutes). Throw on other veggies from the garden to serve alongside your “sliders”

While the veggies are cooking, prepare your sandwich ingredients. Pretty simple!

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