Category Archives: What’s New

Chris Cornell Finds Peace

This article is true and profound and worth reading:  It’s not what you think

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Animoto

Wow, my son Ethan (11) just finished a school assignment using Animoto, a free online tool that allows you to create dynamic slide shows and videos.   The assignment was to create a slide show about one of your heros –  Ethan’s slide show is about Tobuscus, his favorite YouTuber.  He spent about an hour on it – writing the captions and selecting the images – and it’s the coolest thing ever!

It’s under a minute long, check it out here   (note, his captions are in chinese, but it’s the visual that’s really cool),

Learning To Draw

WP_20141009_004
Angela

I recently took up drawing…

Ethnic Girl
Ethnic Girl
i call this one "Sad Sack"
I call this one “Sad Sack”

When I was younger I always assumed you were either born with talent for drawing or you weren’t, and I wasn’t.  But it turns out this is not the case.   You don’t need gifted genes to draw realistically, there are a few basic concepts that anyone can learn and easily apply.

After just a couple lessons I’m now able to capture a face that looks like a face!   It’s so much fun to see someone emerge from the paper as I’m drawing, each one has it’s own personality.  Except for “Sad Sack”, I spent about about an hour on each of these drawings.   “Sad Sack” required some additional fine tuning to produce his tormented expression (heh heh heh).

If you want to explore your hidden drawing talent, I recommend the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards.

On to my next challenge:  a self portrait!

 

Sprouting DAO

I discovered earlier this year that I have histamine intolerance, called HIT.  I’m not allergic to histamine, but I suspect that I don’t have enough DAO (diamine oxidase), the enzyme needed to break it down.  If I’m not careful about what I eat it builds up to toxic levels and I get unpleasant symptoms (including rash, hives, itching, swelling, racing heart, headache etc).  Follow this link to learn more about my experience with HIT.

I started eating a Low Histamine diet in April which basically meant I had to eliminate a bunch of additional foods from my already restrictive safe-food list.  But this change has made a huge difference, allowing me to manage my symptoms by simply avoiding these foods.   I’m still experimenting with how much tomato or lemon I can have at a time, but the pattern is much more predictable now.  Oh happy day!

So I occasionally take a DAO enzyme supplement that is derived from pig kidney’s (DAOsin by Swanson).   This stuff definitely works, it allows me to ocassionally eat histamine-rich foods with little to no itching/hives.  But it’s really expensive, so I can’t be relying on it too often.

But now there might be another alternative.  Dr. Janice Joneja, author of a great book called Dealing with Food Allergies, has found that sprouted legumes, especially pea sprouts, can be used as an alternative source for DAO.  She has instigated an informal study of HIT sufferers through the Low Histamine Chef website.    And I’m participating!

WP_20141017_006I’m currently waiting for my first batch of sprouts to be ready, I used lentils since that’s what I had on hand.

So the process is:

  • soak peas or other legumes for 12 hours
  • put soaked legumes in sprouter and cover with a towel or put in a dark cupboard (darkness results in a significantly higher DAO content)
  • rinse twice a day for 7- 10 days (enzyme is at peak after 10 days, and then it depletes)
  • Sprouted legumes should be eaten just before a meal, and should either be processed in a blender or juiced to detach the DAO from the cell walls of the sprout.

I’m going to be trying 1/2 cup serving at a time to start, and will adjust the amount up or down depending on results.  I’m very excited to get started and will update this post once I have something to report.

Initial Experiment UPDATE 10-24-2014

I ate about a cup of lentil sprouts daily for 5 days over the past week, and here are my results and observations:

  • I ate the sprouts just once a day via juice or a smoothie, and not always right before histamine-rich meals.  I think ideally you’re supposed to eat them right before your meals, but this wasn’t workable for me.
  • Juicing the sprouts worked better for me than blending – I can handle small amounts in my smoothie, but it definitely imparts a foreign flavor.  The first day I put nearly a full cup in my smoothie and it was really awful (although I forced it down anyway).  The juice, on the other hand, is watery and mild tasting, not even detectable in my kale juice.  I even juiced the sprouts on their own – about a cup of them filled about 2/3 of a small juice glass and I downed it in 3 quick gulps.
  • RESULTS:  There was a definite improvement in my tolerance for histamine-rich foods after several days of taking the sprouts.   I noticed this improvement even when I hadn’t taken the sprouts just before the meal.   Is it possible the enzymes could be acting more generally to reduce my overall histamine level as opposed to just helping with the food currently being digested?  Either way, by the end fifth day I was able to eat items in amounts that normally would cause me major symptoms.  But today I’m out of sprouts and noticed a reaction after eating a couple items that often cause me trouble.

My Learnings For Next Time:

  • Sprout in stages –  I have a four-tray sprouter, and for my initial experiment I began all four trays at the same time.  But this time I’m staging the trays so each time I use up a tray I’m starting a new one.  That way every couple of days a new tray reaches maturity (which is 7-10 days).  One tray produces more than a cup of sprouts.
  • Make sure sprouts stay dark –  I left my sprouter on my counter and covered it with a dish towel which may not have been dense enough to block all light.  Next time I’ll try a heavier towel.
  • Move sprouts to fridge if not eaten by day 10 – The sprouts on my counter started getting a bit funky on day 10, although I ate them anyway.   I started eating the sprouts on day 7, and then refrigerated at day 10.  I’ll experiment more with this, it might be different for peas or other legumes.

All of this is a bit of work, but overall my results are promising.  In addition to more lentils, I’ve also started a tray of chick peas, and I’ve ordered some green peas too.   Can’t wait to do some more testing!

Histamine Intolerance

Recently I’ve been investigating whether I might have what’s called Histamine Intolerance, or HIT.  I have a long list of foods that I know I’m either allergic or sensitive to.  But there’s an even longer list of foods that I suspect I might be sensitive to.  The problem is that the pattern isn’t consistent at all.  One day I will have no problem eating a tomato, but the following week a tomato might produce  hives.  It’s very mysterious.

HIT is a condition where your body is unable to properly metabolize histamines, so histamine levels rise and can cause a wide array of symptoms, including skin rash and hives, headaches, respiratory issues like asthma,  and more.   The inability to break down histamines can result from an enzyme deficiency.   One of these enzymes, diamine oxidase, or DAO, is thought to be the primary enzyme for metabolizing ingested histamines.  Many of the foods we eat either contain histamines or cause a release of histamines from our tissues.  If your body isn’t producing enough DAO, then as you eat these foods the histamine levels in your body rise to toxic levelsm leading to symptoms associated with HIT.

Because histamine build-up is cumulative, diet and environmental exposures in any number of combinations can “fill up” your histamine level to the threshold.  Once full, the next food you eat crosses the line to produce symptoms, especially if that food is histamine-rich.   So in my case, this could explain why I can eat lemon one day without a problem but develop a rash when I eat it again the next day.   It also could explain why I can’t I see a consistent pattern for foods that seem to produce symptoms.  The common thread is connected to my overall histamine level more than the specific food itself.

There’s a great book by Dr. Janice Joneja called Dealing With Food Allergies.  The book gives a science based explanation of the condition and provides a low histamine diet plan along with a systematic method for testing allergic response to foods.   It’s the best source of reliable info I’ve found (there’s a LOT of misinformation around the web)!

What Causes HIT

HIT is not well understood.  However, it is believed that low DAO can be caused by a number of things including intestinal damage and the use of DAO-suppressing drugs such as ibuprofin, and possibly others.   Staying away from these drugs and taking measures to begin healing the gut are good first steps.  I’ve found the book CLEAN GUT to be a good reference for improving gut health.

tomatoWhat foods should be avoided?  There are two primary groups of foods to stay away from:  histamine-rich foods and histamine releasing foods.  I’ve found lots of conflicting info when it comes to what foods to avoid.  The lists below come from a source with some science supporting it so it seems like a good starting point:

  • Histamine rich foods include fish, fermented foods such as cheese, salami, wine and beer, and certain vegetables such as spinach and eggplant.  Follow this link to see a full list of histamine-rich foods.
  • Histamine releasing foods include citrus fruit, strawberries, pineapple, nuts, tomato, spinach, chocolate, fish, pork, egg white, certain additives and spices.  Follow this link to view a full list of histamine-releasing foods.

How to know if you have HIT — there are a couple ways to test for it

  • The best way to test for it is to stay away from histamine containing or releasing foods for a week or two and see if your symptoms improve (see food lists above)
  • Your doctor may suggest a test for high blood histamine levels, or low DAO.  But according to Dr. Joneja  there aren’t standards for what these levels should be so this sort of testing is not very reliable.

If you have HIT or suspect that you have it, there are some supplements you can take in addition to eating a low histamine diet to help manage the condition:

  • supplemental DAO  (I’m currently using DAOsin by Swanson)
  • a good quality broad spectrum digestive enzyme supplement
  • quercetin, an antioxidant and natural anti-histamine thought to help increase DAO production
  • vitamin B6, copper, vitamin C and bromelain, an enzyme found in fresh pineapple that can greatly improve the absorption and effectiveness of quercetin
  • molybdenum, which is a trace mineral, may also help.  My doctor suggested this based on some success she’s seen in other patients.

Taking antihistamines can also help manage symptoms since they block certain histamine receptors throughout your body.  But be careful, some of these have been sited as also suppressing your body’s ability to produce DAO, and long term use can actually cause your body to produce higher levels of histamine.  I use these only sparingly when my symptoms really flare.

I’m still learning about HIT and experimenting to see how this fits into my allergy puzzle.   Here are some additional links if you want to learn more:

  • Case study from Dr. Janice Joneja:  http://www.foodsmatter.com/allergy_intolerance/histamine/articles/histamine_joneja.html
  • Histamine and Tyradine Restricted Diet:  http://www.mastocytosis.ca/MSC%20HT%20Restricted%20Diet%20Nov2012.pdf
  • Dr Janega’s Website:  http://www.allergynutrition.com/
  • Part 2 Dr. Janeja interview:  http://thelowhistaminechef.com/dr-janice-joneja-histamine-intolerance-interview-transcript/
  • And this is a good scientific summary of HIT:  http://m.ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/5/1185.long
  • And here is an article about probiotics are good (and bad) for HIT:  http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/faq/which-probiotic-for-histamine-intolerance
  • I have an android phone and use an app called My Symptoms to track my food intake and symptoms.  It provides some basic statistics to help you identify patterns in your symptoms and which foods cause you the most trouble.

UPDATE 2015

After extensive experimentation and genetic testing last year I have concluded that I have histamine intolerance.  Turns out I have several genetic mutations that increase susceptibility to HIT and various other conditions related to methylation. I’m still in the process of researching this and all the implications of it.  Here’s an excellent scientific summary of histamine and histamine intolerance, and another article discussing HIT and the related genetic fingerprint.  I’m still experimenting with foods to figure out what works for me, and with knowledge of the genetic component I’m now also exploring what supplements I might be able to take to provide the key components that my body is having trouble producing.  The journey continues…

Remembering Goose

DaiseyBaby10001Goose is what I called my dog Daisy, it was short for Silly Goose, which I began calling her on account of her clumsy antics as a puppy.  Daisey was born on this date in 1998 and this post is in memory of Daisey, our first “child”.

DaiseyBaby00050001My husband Steve and I first met Daisey at the breeder’s home in April of 1998 when she was just two weeks old.   She was the only puppy in the litter and so tiny she fit in the palm of my hand;  I remember wondering how could she possibly be real.   DaiseyBaby10003When we took her home a few weeks later, the car ride made her sick and she puked all over Steve.   We had to pull over more than once to let her poor little stomach settle.

Daisey0002She was so playful when she was a puppy, she’d pretend to be ferocious and nip and bat at our hands when she wanted to play.   We had a big leather sectional couch and she’d often sit on high alert growling at the “hole” where the cushions meet, defending us from whatever she thought was “down there”.  That was her instinct.

Daisey0004Daisey was a Yorkshire Terrier and weighed just 5.5 pounds as an adult.  And she was our only “child” for five years until our son Ethan came along.  That was a big adjustment for Daisey, 100_2309she seemed depressed for months when our attention was refocused in a new direction.  She came around though, and developed a motherly relationship with Ethan as he grew.

Daisey was litter box trained so rarely went outside during the long cold Minnesota winters.  Daisey0001But in the summertime she loved frolicking in the grass and going for walks around the neighborhood.  She would explore the far corners of our yard while we were busy tending to the garden or other chores.  Sometimes she’d wander off beyond the yard, and we’d all scatter across the neighborhood frantically calling her name.

Daisey0005We celebrated Daisey’s birthday every year, I used to put a party hat on her head and sing happy birthday, she hated that.  Daisey ElfIn fact, she had an extensive wardrobe of designer doggy fashions that she generally refused to wear.  Which is funny because she had a very submissive personality otherwise.

Daisey0007I always looked forward to returning home after travelling or running errands — Daisey would be watching for us in the window and then waiting there at the door to welcome us in, her tail frantically wagging.   Daisey0003She was my constant companion while watching TV, reading a book, or any other activity that involved a chair.   She stayed by my bedside to nurse me back to health on more than one occasion.  And in her later years when I worked mostly from home she would sit on my lap all day keeping me company while I worked.

Daisey0006Daisey brought joy into our life in so many ways for 14 years.   I think about her frequently as I’m doing everyday tasks, and miss her.   Happy Birthday Goose, we’re thinking of you on this special day!