I’m Craving Chili

The weather is turning cool and I’m craving chili and pasta with red sauce. In fact, if any food includes tomato sauce, I can’t get enough of it right now.

Most of us experience cravings at some time or other. Sometimes they come in the mild form of a food preference like me wanting chili for dinner. At other times, they feel like a compulsion to eat a particular thing.

How cravings affect us may be related to their origin. Cravings are influenced by the parts of the brain that process memory, pleasure, and reward. They can result from a hormone or nutritional imbalance as well as dehydration. A physiological connection may mean a stronger compulsion.

Beyond craving, some people will develop an eating disorder known as Pica. Unlike a general craving for food that some experts believe lasts from 3-5 minutes on average, patients with Pica have a persistent compulsion to eat substances like dirt or paint with no nutritional value.

Ingesting nonfood substances can lead to heavy metal poisoning, parasitic or bacterial infections, and intestinal blockages. If you should experience the symptoms of Pica, it is important to seek medical care.

Regular cravings are not dangerous but can make it difficult to achieve or maintain ideal weight. Many diet programs address this by substituting salty, crunchy items like popcorn for potato chips or adding portions of crunchy vegetables like celery and carrots. Sweet cravings may be dissuaded by eating fruit especially dried fruit like dates, raisins, or mango (no sugar added).

Sometimes you may just want to chew something. According to one study, chewing gum suppressed hunger, appetite and cravings.

If you feel like cravings are throwing you off track, it can be helpful to drink plenty of water and make sure you’re eating a balanced diet. Beyond that, reducing stress and increasing physical activity can help.

On the other hand, a bowl of chili may be all you need!


Increase Your Chances of a Good Recovery

Increase your chances of a good recovery. Hospital discharge is a vulnerable time for a patient and one that’s rife with miscommunication. How can you increase your chances of a good recovery?

Different frames of reference coupled with broad, ambiguous recommendations mean that health messages are often misunderstood or interpreted in ways that surprise those making the recommendation. Last month, I weighed in on a discussion regarding hospital discharge instructions. Communicating discharge instructions effectively can have a significant impact on a patient’s recovery.

Discharge is known to be a vulnerable point in making a successful transition to a different location and level of care. With limited visitors currently allowed in hospitals due to Covid-19, patients are often alone when receiving oral discharge instructions. The absence of another set of ears leaves patients even more vulnerable to one of the unplanned re-hospitalizations that cost Medicare over $17 billion annually. While cost to the system is a factor, as patients we just want the best chance to recover as quickly and fully as possible.

The goals of patients, physicians, and hospitals often align at the time of discharge and yet according to one study, those goals are not met almost 20% of the time. There are many factors we as patients cannot control, but that does not mean we are helpless.

Here are 10 things you can do to increase your chances of a good recovery:

1)Have an advocate present when receiving discharge instructions. If visitation rules don’t allow you to bring someone with you in person, a video phone call can be a good option.  A voice call will also work and is best done in real time while the instructions are being delivered to the patient.

If you do not have family or a close friend available, request a patient advocate. Your hospital will most likely have at least one on staff.

2)Ask questions. Do not worry about wasting someone’s time or sounding silly and do not assume your question is stupid. We all sometimes misspeak or mishear things. And, many smart, competent, well-intentioned professionals are not skilled communicators. Clarification is good. Repetition may be necessary. Knowing the why may make the what easier to follow.

3)Request resources. If you need help navigating financial options and insurance coverage, ask that resources to assist with those be included in written doctor’s orders.

4)Get wellness support. A change in health conditions may mean a need for additional time for physical activity, mindfulness activities, support groups, or counseling. Other support services like housecleaning, babysitting, school pick-ups, or food preparation may be needed to free up time for wellness support.

5)Get another opinion. If you want to get another opinion about long-term or follow-up treatment, make a temporary plan with your doctor that will be reflected in any written discharge orders.

6)Request time to research. If there is no emergency and you are not sure which treatment option to pursue, ask for a temporary plan then schedule a time for a follow-up visit. Allow yourself time to read about up on all of the options available.

Make sure to use reputable sources like the National Institutes of Health, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for your research. Social media sites are not reliable sources of information.

7)Ask for a referral. If your research leads you to a physician/facility that specializes in treatment of your diagnosis that is not offered by your current doctor or hospital, request a referral to a new doctor and/or facility and sign a form allowing the release of your records to the new facility.

8)Make sure treatment plans match your values and goals. If you and your doctor are not on the same page regarding desired outcome and the best way to achieve it, you will not be successful. Insist that you play a part in developing a plan.

9)Follow the plan. Once you and your doctor agree on a treatment plan, follow it. Period. No plan will be successful if you don’t follow it. (If you develop reservations about the plan, continue treatment until your follow-up visit or call your doctor and work out a revised plan.)

10)Give feedback. When you receive a survey about your experience, provide specific answers. This may not speed your current recovery, but it will help you and other patients in the long run. Your experience is valuable.

Sometimes getting sick is unavoidable, but a few simple steps is all it takes to increase your chances of a good recovery.  

The Best Food is Everywhere

Forget fancy bags, boxes, cans, and cartons, the best food is everywhere! I can take a quick walk through my neighborhood and see clover, dandelions, sunflowers, begonias, garlic, and marigolds. All are edible. Even the tiny blooms appearing on the arugula in my garden can add a unique zing to a fall salad.

Because I live in a small southern city, I don’t forage for food. Too many lawns are maintained with chemicals and I don’t want to inadvertently find out how many neighbors are armed. But I grew up in a different environment. We ate wild strawberries from the yard, honey from bees that lived under our front porch, poke that appeared by the fence, persimmons from a tree by the red barn, wild blackberries on the Whitaker Forty, and huckleberries from Gaither Mountain.

Every blueberry I eat reminds me that I prefer smaller, darker huckleberries. We picked buckets full and ate them by the handful or in cobbler, jelly, and jam. Okay, now I want a biscuit. Yet, I digress.

There are also gems on my back porch I can safely consume. After I harvest the last of the season’s basil for pesto, the flowers will make a great garnish for pasta! Mint flowers make will make the iced tea and mojitos I serve alongside feel festive.

Speaking of pesto, garlic stems can serve as the base for pesto or be sautéed in butter as a side dish that enhances everything on the plate. If you let your garlic fully flower, the flowers have a mild garlic flavor perfect for salads.

Rosemary flowers can be mixed right in to a dish along with rosemary leaves. They don’t have as much oil in them, so you’ll need a greater ratio to get the equivalent level of flavor.

I would probably use cilantro flowers. I can’t say for sure because I seem to kill the plants every year before they get to that point. Every. Single. Year. But if you are a more skilled cilantro cultivator, you don’t have to let the blossoms go to waste.

My back yard holds other culinary treasures. If you can beat the bees to it, there is clover with its mild licorice-flavored heads and edible tender greens. Some days there are day lilies with their bright melony petals. And, of course, there are dandelions.

As summer wanes, I’ll enhance the back yard options by planting a fall garden. Swiss chard, mâché, spinach, and sugar snap pea seeds have already arrived, but I still need to harvest some carrots and green beans before I’m ready to make the switch.

Several years ago, I had a neighbor who taught at a neighborhood elementary school. He used to marvel that many of his students had never taken a walk through the woods or grown a plant. Many of them walked to school oblivious to the food growing all around them.

Of course, they aren’t the only ones. It’s easy to grab a bag of chips or cookies and forget there’s better food out there. In fact, the best food is everywhere!


Memory Monday

It’s time for a throwback but it isn’t Thursday so welcome to Memory Monday. There’s been a lot of talk this year about 1918 and the subsequent roaring 20s. Many have drawn parallels between what happened then and what’s happening now. Today’s throwback shows that even diet advice in the 1920s had elements that sound familiar in 2020. Why? Because science.

One jewel of 1920s diet advice was authored by Professor Arnold Ehret and entitled, Mucusless Diet Healing System. The tag line tells us this volume contains: “A Scientific Method of Eating Your Way to Health.” Scientific sounds promising and I agree with something Fred S. Hirsch, D.N.S. said in the introduction, “Bias, prejudice, and erratic conclusions have always stood in the way of progress….”

He also said, “The main trouble with the average individuals of present-day civilization is that they refuse to think. They prefer ‘mob thinking.’ Because everybody else does it, it must be right.” I’m pretty sure I’ve read similar statements recently on Twitter.

Arnold Ehret suffered from several ailments that left him feeling chronically ill. Bright’s disease which would now be described as chronic nephritis characterized by swelling and the presence of albumin in the urine, bronchial catarrh or a buildup of mucus, and consumptive tendencies that may have been caused by tuberculosis all plagued him. After many trips to sanitariums to recover, he was pronounced incurable. The grandson of a doctor and son of a veterinarian, he set out to find a way to heal himself.

Through trial and error, he discovered that he felt best when he alternated fasting and a diet based on grape sugar or dextrose. Monosaccharides like dextrose are single sugar molecules which require no further digestion in order to be transported across the intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream. I’m sensing a similarity between Ehret’s diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet devised by Elaine Gottschall.

The theory at play in both is that monosaccharides or “predigested” carbohydrates found in ripe fruit, honey, some vegetables, nuts, and tiny amounts of meat can reduce inflammation. While Ehret’s work is primarily based on observation, Gottschall’s is based on sound science of the 1950s backed by degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry, and cellular biology.

We now know that inflammation is involved in the process of many diseases and we are learning the role of the microbiome in health. There is also a move away from meat toward plant based diets. While Ehret may not have had a complete understanding of the science behind any of these, he was not totally off track.

In Lesson XXV (p191), he even mentions decayed and fermented mass of matter in the colon. That sounds like a mention of the microbiome to me. This early insight still holds enough relevance that Prof. Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System is available for purchase.

It’s funny. We usually think we’ve advanced so far in the past century that nothing from the past can possibly be useful. Then along comes a pandemic and photos of 1918 outdoor barbershops take on a whole new meaning.

That’s the thing we always seem to forget – science is not an absolute, it is a living body of knowledge. It is always rooted in what was known before, proven, built on, revised, and relearned in an expanded understanding that is greater than before. One of its basic principles is that any law, theory, or otherwise can be disproven if new facts or evidence are presented.

There is much in Ehret’s diet system that can be questioned, but he asks a pertinent question: “What shall man eat to be healthy or heal his disease?”(p86)

Asking the right questions can advance science and those questions can come from anyone, any time, anywhere. Translational research recognizes this. Professor Ehret lived it. Jill Viles does too.

Science is always looking back and moving forward at the same time. That makes every day in the scientific community a Memory Monday.