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Guts

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Let this be me! I don’t know whom to credit for the artwork but both the title and art come from Mary Medlicott’s story on storyworks.org.uk

It’s all about guts.  “Speaking up was such a gutsy thing to do, but it was a gut-wrenching experience to watch.”  “Geez I hate his guts.”  “Personally, my gut instinct was that it wouldn’t turn out well.” Seems like we’ve heard lots of gut-based expressions like that the past month or so.  But I’m not thinking about earthy sayings at the moment – such as I did in a recent blog.  I’m thinking about our guts’ health and foods that can contribute to it.  Andy, in Andy’s Corner, is focused on gutsy cowboys.

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Should you wish to order it, the American Museum of Natural History has a card game entitled “Gutsy: the Gut Microbiome Card Game.”

 

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And the Cleveland Clinic has a podcast,  “Butts & Guts.”  Like the title?

Since my knowledge of anything inside of me is minimal, to say the least, I turned to a Colorado College GPB Sister (see my earlier blog about these sisters) for help.  Here’s what Willow has to say about her background and her advice on gut health:

Owning a health food store for 33 years, I  certainly was in an environment conducive to learning about health and nutrition.  I did a lot of reading, went to seminars as often as possible, and I learned a great deal from my customers, things they read and their personal experiences.  I’ve always been skeptical  of food and health fads that are not supported by good evidence or studies.

The gut is so important, your second brain.  What goes on in the gut determines what goes one in the brain.  I’m including an article (editor’s note: we’ve put that article under Food for Thought) that pretty well summarizes what is so important in the gut and what can go wrong.  For a healthy gut, cultured foods provide food for the good bacteria.  That includes any fermented food (not sure about wine) (editor’s note: DAMN!), such as cultured yogurt unsweetened, sauerkraut, raw fermented drinks, tempeh, miso or any raw fermented foodThe key word is raw. If you heat the sauerkraut it kills the good bacteria.  The foods that disrupt the healthy bacteria are SUGAR, flour, artificial sweeteners, GMO foods (the glyphosphate is part of the plant that you eat) It and other pesticides work on bugs to disrupt their gut flora and kill them.  So guess what it does to the human that eats it. 

The secret is lots of organic vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit (which are basically sugar), pasture raised meats (not fed GMO corn and soy), (editor’s note: all the underlining is mine)

Nobody has a perfect diet, but if you eat the not so healthy foods, do so in great moderation.  

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Gut-healthy ingredients

After reading Willow’s suggestions and doing a little internet research, I put together a list of some additional gut-healthy foods to consider when you’re cooking;  foods with lots of fiber are especially important :

  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • navy beans
  • split peas
  • barley
  • oats (steel cut are best)
  • raw leafy greens – dandelion greens are especially good
  • fresh parsley and cilantro
  • raw garlic and onion
  • artichokes
  • sweet potatoes and squash
  • raw celery
  • leeks
  • raw jicama
  • asparagus
  • hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and flax seed
  • raspberries and blackberries
  • bananas (in moderation)
  • uncooked pears (in moderation)
  • unpeeled, uncooked apples (in moderation)
  • nuts (except peanuts and cashews)
  • pasture raised meats (not fed GMO corn and soy)
  • and the obvious: raw sauerkraut, unsweetened cultured yogurt, raw fermented drinks, tempeh, miso, kimchi

Another piece of advice that sounds reasonable from what I gleaned from the internet: antibiotics kill ‘good’ bacteria as well as ‘bad’. If you have to take antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your guts’ health afterwards.

I’m pleased that we’ve already blogged about a couple of salad recipes and our green drink recipe that all have lots going for the gut:

Plus, we’ve got two new ones to share: “Arugula, Squash, Chickpea, and Walnut Salad and Dandelion Greens, Sweet Potato, and Pumpkin Seed Salad with Miso Dressing (see photos and recipes below).  And I’ve created a printable list of these gut-healthy foods, so you can easily reference it when shopping.  If you want to do more reading on the subject of gut health, you can find a couple more very informative articles we posted under Food for Thought.

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Foods for the Gut

We blog about “Foods for the Gut” here.

Foods for the Gut

  • cultured yogurt
  • unsweetened sauerkraut, raw
  • fermented drinks
  • tempeh
  • miso
  • any raw fermented food
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • navy beans
  • split peas
  • barley
  • oats (steel cut are best)
  • raw leafy greens – dandelion greens are especially good
  • fresh parsley and cilantro
  • raw garlic and onion
  • artichokes
  • sweet potatoes and squash
  • raw celery
  • leeks
  • raw jicama
  • asparagus
  • hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and flax seed
  • raspberries and blackberries
  • bananas (in moderation)
  • uncooked pears (in moderation)
  • unpeeled, uncooked apples (in moderation)
  • nuts (except peanuts and cashews)
  • pasture raised meats (not fed GMO corn and soy)
  • and the obvious: raw sauerkraut, unsweetened cultured yogurt, raw fermented drinks, tempeh, miso, kimchi

Suggestions brought to you by Willow in Washington and BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Let’s Embrace – for a Long and Bright and Happy Life

My extroversion muscles have atrophied while my introversion muscles are bulging,” writes David Brooks in a recent NYTimes column. How true is that?!

My CC college friends (friends for almost 60 years) echoed that same feeling on a Zoom call the other day. But we labeled it “inertia,” and most felt it was a COVID-related issue. It seems that getting back into the post-vaccination socializing groove isn’t coming easily.

A BBC series on Worklife recently posted a helpful article “Why we may have to re-learn to socialise.” (which, oddly, enough is followed up by this article: “Can online sex fill the connection void.” I’ll save that topic for another blog…in hopes that you keep reading! 🙂

Yes, we may want to take it slowly, but we’d better get off our couch (or up from our computer chair) and get back out into the world. It doesn’t take much reading or research to figure out why.

Are dogs and cats enough? I don’t think so.

Hot off the press is a UC San Diego School of Medicine study which focuses on loneliness and gut health, as well as wisdom and gut health. I’ve been interested in gut health and food ever since my blog from a while back, so I know that richness and diversity in the gut microbiome is good. But I didn’t realize that gut health may possibly be improved if you’re socially engaged – and not lonely. To quote the researchers: “It is possible that loneliness may result in decreased stability of the gut microbiome and, consequently, reduced resistance and resilience to stress-related disruptions, leading to downstream physiological effects, such as systemic inflammation.”

The light?

In 2010 (notably pre-Pandemic) researchers from BYU published an article in PLOS Medicine which analyzes 148 studies (totaling over 308,000 participants of all ages, races, and genders). Their conclusion? Social relationships influence the health outcomes of adults – and lack of social interaction negatively impacts our longevity the same as does smoking, not exercising, drinking too much, and obesity (how many of us in this last year have had little social interaction – AND have been drinking a lot, eating more than we should, and not exercising? How much is that all going to impact our life span? Yikes.)

Maybe the most interesting research on this topic comes from a Harvard study. I’m sure it was the title that caught my attention – “Good genes are nice, but joy is better.” Beginning in 1938, Harvard tracked 268 of their students over an 80-year time period, observing their physical and mental health. The result?

Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.” 

That’s pretty up-beat, don’t you think? We may have little or no control over social class, IQ, or genes, but we sure can work at forming and maintaining close relationships.

The truth?

Now I tend to think that all Harvard studies must be perfect, but I believe there’s an important caveat here that maybe isn’t addressed adequately. The study followed men. Why? Because there were no women at Harvard when the study began. I discussed that concern about no women participants with my CC sorority-sister friends. And they all agreed – the way men react wouldn’t necessarily predict the way women may react. That said, I’m hoping the study’s findings apply to us women too.

Pre-vaccination social distancing in Sonoma…I’ll eat at the counter and you eat at the table! The question is: did that help our longevity because at least we were under one roof – or hurt our longevity because we weren’t exactly hugging?

We plan to meet and greet – and, yes, embrace…lots of friends this next year. Andy is hoping to laugh with lots of friends this year – see today’s Andy’s Corner – where Andy will also introduce “The Sunshine Lady.”

There are so many folks we’ve missed…including our Waco/Houston friends who didn’t come to SF this year because the American Sociological Association meeting there was cancelled due to COVID; Sonoma friends who moved to Toronto during the pandemic – and haven’t been able to get back for a visit nor has Canada welcomed visitors there; Boulder friends whom we normally would have seen when we take our biannual trip to visit Colorado and my Fort Collins brother.

In my effort to keep these special social connections active (and my brain brighter), I emailed each of these foodie/friends and asked them to send me a favorite recipe that they’ve been cooking this weird year, and explain why they chose it. The explanations are as special as the recipes: we appreciate the aroma of food; we crave something simple and quick and one that provides more than one meal; most-importantly, we need a dinner with good food and with that necessary social companionship that can help cheer up the gloomiest of days. I’ll embrace that!

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Yikes! My Little Brother is Turning 64

In honor of your birthday I am producing this special BigLittleMeals picture gallery (which is much cheaper than buying you an actual birthday present). It was fun to look through old photos and relive some of the brotherly times we’ve shared over the years. As little brothers go, I couldn’t have ended up with a better one.

Wow!! Who is that stud Cowboy? Sara was in awe of you.

Hope your day is full of good things. Happy Birthday cowboy!

Bedtime Stories: Mother Goose Meets Lassie

Go here if you need tips on how to tell good bedtime stories. Keep reading if you want tips on how not to tell good bedtime stories.

Ann’s scathing exposé of seemingly innocent Mother Goose tales has me thinking about the years that I served as the chief bedtime book reader and story teller for our kids and grandkids. Our nightly routine would begin with my reading something from one of the pile of children’s books next to the bed, often involving Mother Goose type tales.

In this old German illustration, Red Riding Hood has poured a glass of beer for her Grandmother after they were “liberated” from the wolf’s stomach.

At the time I didn’t really think about the gruesome narrative of many of the tales I read to them, even dutifully showing them the graphic illustrations. Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother gets eaten by a wolf (and so does Red Riding Hood in some versions). A “happy ending” for this story is when a passing woodsman uses his ax to gut the wolf and free grandma and Red Riding Hood from its belly. Yuck!

Or there is Jack who climbs a bean stalk to be subjected to a bloodthirsty giant’s wrath. I can still quote the following excerpt verbatim, which naturally I would read in a booming giant’s voice:

Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread

Sweet dreams kids!

From “The lively history of Jack & the beanstalk,” 1846. Artist: Harriet Hardy Taylor Mill.

After we had finished reading from a book I would turn off the lights and announce, “I’ll tell you a story if you promise to go right to sleep after I’m done.” It was my recurring bargaining chip to get them settled in for the night as well as an opportunity to shift gears and move from the macabre world of Mother Goose to a kinder world of my imagination.

The stories I told usually involved the adventures of a dog and his or her human companion – there were never any bones ground for bread or grandmas gobbled up by big bad wolves. This excerpt about Lassie from the NY Times could apply to any of the canine protagonists in my stories:

And they don’t come much better than Lassie, a dog who’ll take a bullet for you, save you from an avalanche or rescue you from a forest fire. No matter how many traumas Lassie suffers, no matter how bedraggled her demeanor and matted her coat, she always returns to those she loves, always comes home.

It should be no surprise that dogs were a central theme in my storytelling. I grew up in an era when dogs were serious movie stars and popular public figures. During my 4th Grade year I was obsessed with dog stories and even though I eventually “outgrew” this obsession these stories have remained a part of what I consider to be my childhood past.

These were just some of the books I would covertly read with a flashlight under the covers when I was supposed to be asleep (too bad Kindles weren’t around then!).

In the stories I spun for our kids and grandkids I can’t tell you how many times Lassie dashed home to get adult help after Timmy had fallen into a ravine, or recount the number of bad guys that Yukon King disarmed seconds before they could get the draw on Sgt. Preston, or how many wolves Buck (from Call of the Wild) fought off to protect his human companion, John Thornton.

However, now that I am no longer on call for bedtime story-telling duty, I’m having second thoughts about whether or not my emphasis on heroic dogs and consistently happy outcomes was the way to go. At least the violence and character flaws in the Mother Goose tales provided some sort of moral lesson or had historical relevance. Does hearing (over and over) about the valiant feats of dogs bailing out their human companions prepare youngsters for the rigors of the real, and often cruel, world they will be facing?

Maybe I should have incorporated some Mother Goose type cynicism and realism into my Polyannaish dog stories. When Sgt. Preston desperately needed help, Yukon King could have been awol down the road flirting with some hussy husky from another dog sled team. Or, Buck could have run off with the wolf pack after they had done in poor John Thornton.

I must admit that despite their exposure to my feel-good bedtime stories, it appears that our children (and grandchildren) have matured into well-adjusted and delightful human beings. I wonder if they will look back on my stories and worry about my inability to cope with our increasingly harsh world. Come to think of it, I worry about that myself.

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