December 30, 2011

Report from My Gut: Post-Holiday GERD Summary

Apples from the greenmarket.  For me, apples are a "secret weapon" to good gut health!


Like most people, my holiday (in my case, Christmas) festivities were full of round-the-clock activity and food.   Anyone on a "special diet" -- vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, diabetic, anyone going "without" or avoiding categories of foods for whatever reason -- needs to be especially mindful, proactive, and in good humor to make it through the barrage of pot-lucks, dinners, gift chocolates, and other holiday food frenzies with one's health intact.

Now, a few days before the New Year, I am feeling the effects of a week of delicious food but over-indulgence.    Disclaimer:  I also got a cold last week, so my stomach and body overall is feeling overworked.   For the past week, I am now experiencing these off and on gut symptoms:
  • heartburn (TUMS are helping)
  • morning reflux (again, after being awake for 15 minutes or so -- it does not wake me up)
  • irregular intestines
  • stomach pain (near the belly button)
  • "tired" stomach feeling
  • sleep apnea (I had two cases of this in the past week)
  • food in throat feeling
I took measures to prevent or minimize GERD symptoms during my holiday gatherings, including:
  • Reducing and/or avoiding caffeinated tea/beverage intake
  • Having my usual breakfast each day (whole-wheat cereal such as Wheetabix, 1/4 C. nuts, raisins, almond milk) 
  • Increased consumption of apples/applesauce (secret weapon!)
  • Choosing to skip a chocolate dessert one evening when I thought my system felt "overloaded" already
  • Maintaining an exercise routine while traveling, though much curtailed
  • Getting a full night of sleep most nights
Still, I abandoned my effort to eat "mostly plant-based" whole foods, eating a cheese omelet at a diner, a slab of buttercream vanilla cake at a tea house, cheese-based casseroles, and non-vegan cookies and doughnuts.   Why did I eat these things?   The "ambience" of the holidays, peer pressure, my own desire to just "eat like a normal person," the fact I like the taste of all of these foods.   Still, why suffer at all?  A week later, I am still "de-toxing" and taking 1-3 TUMS daily.  Next year, should I stick to whatever works to keep my gut in check? (I know my family and friends would understand.)

I should add that even if I avoided any of my triggers while traveling, there is still the "return to New York City" syndrome.  This city escalates stress, and that stress does translate to GI issues.


This week, to counteract the holiday diet, my meals and beverages were modest:  lentil soup, hot water with Meyer lemon, herbal teas, and a few potato and bean based meals.

A big hit was this combination of Cayuga Organics pinto beans, brown rice (Lundberg Farms brand), and turnips.   This was a simple, albeit monochromatic meal that tasted superb and was easy on the digestive tract!

Method: I pre-cook the pintos and freeze them into batches; to re-heat, either thaw in the refrigerator all day and then reheat in a pot with a small amount of water. Or, I've thawed/heated in one step in the oven.   The turnips are peeled, cubed, and boiled until their pungent qualities are reduced.)

Pinto beans, turnips and brown rice -- never mind the plain palette, this is wonderful!

The next night, I roasted a pan of carrots and turnips, and these fingerling potatoes and shallots, all courtesy of the greenmarket.

Method:  Mix with a few spoons of olive oil (use enough to coat; I "massage" the oil in with my fingers) and roast for 35-40 minutes in 400 degree oven.   Shake the pan a few times during the cooking to loosen vegetables; I also take them out near the end and turn with a spatula and cook a bit longer to evenly caramelize.  (This is not a perfect science; if I don't get all of them turned I don't worry about it -- I just make a small effort, and it gives me a chance to taste a few pieces, too!)    

I served this with leftover nut loaf and corn casserole.  

Roasted fingerling potatoes with shallots

I also made a batch of homemade applesauce.  I left the skins on, but my next batch will have to be peeled -- the skins provided an unpleasant mouthfeel in an otherwise lovely result.   This batch is made from four apples (one Fuji I had laying around, plus three heirlooms).  I also realized I need to add more water at the start.  

Method:  Take apples, peel and chop into small pieces.  Add to pot with water (amount varies; add modestly and see what is needed to keep the fruit from drying out).  Simmer until apples get mushy.  Mash with potato masher in pot.  Add cinnamon if desired.  (Don't add sugar!)  I've seen recipes online using apple cider (or Cognac!) as additions.  

Applesauce underway.

I am looking forward to Saturday's greenmarket trip and firing up my kitchen this weekend!  Happy and delicious (and reflux-managed) 2012!

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