April 14, 2014

Linkage: Mind Over Stomach (and Everything Else)

I heard a story this morning on NPR about how putting different labels on the same milkshake caused different physiological reactions in test subjects' stomach responses.  Fascinating stuff.  See below for the link.

How much of our body's response to food is in "our minds?"   And, if there is a placebo effect, is this a bad thing?  How can we leverage this unreality to our benefit?   I say if it's "just" the placebo effect, well, great!  Feeling better and improving your health without medication side effects -- absolutely!  

But -- as you know if you're suffering gut issues, the stomach IS a second brain -- will this make the expression, "it's all in your mind" even more frustrating when there is scientific evidence to back this up?


Mind over Milkshake: How Your Thoughts Fool Your Stomach (From NPR, 4/14/2014)

Placebo Effect in the Treatment of Duodenal Ulcer (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 12/1999)

Radiolab: Guts (Season 10, Episode 7)

Nortriptyline No Better Than Placebo for Gastroparesis Symptoms (American College of Surgeons News, 5/2013)

Homeopathy is Bunk, Study Says (The Guardian, 4/2014)

April 1, 2014

Recipe: Root and Tuber End-of-Winter Soup

Roots and tubers soup

Got roots?  Got tubers?  Make soup!

After weeks of snow, vortexes, and overcast skies, though, even I've had enough of the roots and tubers -- the only vegetables at my greenmarket, for the most part.  As much as I love a good sweet potato, I've had it!  Except, we were still having it.  As I've noted elsewhere on this blog, our household gets most of its produce from the farmer's markets.  It's a fun challenge to eat locally and seasonally (though I have in recent weeks dipped into the hothouse greens -- I just needed some fresh leafy stuff.)

Inspired by our winter produce bin, I created this root soup, which is also inspired by my effort to avoid getting sick.  Everyone I know has come down with a cold or "flu."  I've felt fine all winter, which I attribute to my "anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting" diet hacks like large amounts of garlic, onion, cinnamon and ginger.    This soup includes a shallot, garlic, and lots of nutrient-dense roots and tubers.  It's also well-cooked, an easy to eat soup for the sensitive stomach and esophagus.  I'm still doing well with foods that are somewhat softer, more gruel-like.



1 large shallot or a few small shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled, sliced and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled, sliced on the angle
2 white potatoes (Yukon are especially good here), unpeeled, sliced and diced
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 apple -- optional (I have not tried the apple addition yet, but initially thought it would work well)

Ingredients for the soup. 

  1. Add 1 tsp oil to a large pot.  Cook over low heat and add the garlic.  When fragrant, add the onion and cover, stirring occasionally.  Cook for a few minutes, or until softened.
  2. Add the sweet potato and parsnip.  Stir and cover, cook for a few minutes until fragrant.  Add a small amount of water if sticking to pot.
  3. Add potatoes and stir.
  4. Add water to cover pot contents by 1-2 inches.
  5. Bring to boil and lower heat, simmering until vegetables are softened and "come together." (There's a point when making soup when the contents of the pot go from being "ingredients in water" to "soup" -- you'll know it when you see it, and you'll probably smell the change, too.)
  6. If using the apple, chop into small pieces and add when you add the water.  (If you try this addition, let me know how it goes.)
  7. If needed:  When vegetables are softened, use a potato masher to mash a small section of the pot's contents.  This thickens the soup a bit and provides interesting texture.  You may find the soup is already "thick" enough, to your taste, in which case omit the masher step.
Serve warm with bread or crackers of your choice.


Mother Nature Network: Root Vegetables 101 Primer

Healthy Home Gardening's article on The difference between roots and tubers

Oh My Veggies A Guide to Root Vegetables

Visual Dictionary: Tubers 

The Good Root Guide (Daily Mail)

March 10, 2014

March Madness

Winter comfort -- wonton soup at Peacefood.

Winter is one of my favorite times of the year -- one can wear turtlenecks, walk briskly without sweating, and have an excuse to drink hot chocolate!    Still, this winter has become tiresome here in New York!   Is that why I've stopped blogging for several weeks?  Or is it the exhausting pace of life lately?  I recently read another blogger's post about letting her blog unexpectedly "languish" and how she begs readers to forgive her.   That's how I feel -- I'm thinking of you all, really!   Each week I resolve to write a new post but "life happens."  

Well,  onward!


My motility issues have worsened over the past weeks, along with my stress levels, daylight saving time, winter weather, and a hectic schedule.   Thankfully, I discovered respite with a few events and resources:

1)  The big bowl of vegan wonton soup from Peacefood -- pictured above.   If you are in NYC, go and order a bowl!  I tried this one evening and now it's a daily craving, salve for any colds, winter doldrums or nervous stomachs.  The broth is a miso base full of carrots and slivers of other sweet tasting vegetables, and the wontons are full of ginger, tofu, and more vegetables.

2)  MooShoes' Whalentine's Day bake sale benefiting the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (those amazing folks who take direct action to save whales and other sea creatures from death and injury).   Here is our cheerful take-home stash of vegan cookies and bread:

Part of my Whalentine's Day Bake Sale stash.

No visual for this one but the other day (after our Peacefoods wonton soup meal) J. and I wandered 14th Street and discovered Namaste, a bookshop owned by people formerly involved with the terrific East-West bookstore that closed a few years ago.  Near Union Square, Namaste is well stocked in goods and good energy -- shall I take a sound meditation class?  I think so!

More to come...