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Gerry, a character in the movie Remember the Titans said, “When something unexpected comes, you gotta pick up and run with it.” I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in January 2010 and Gastritis in November 2009, all in the midst of a very important year in school. I continued to finish that year of school, and succeeded without many people knowing the poor state of my health. In 2010-2011, took a medical leave from school to plan my lifestyle for the rest of my life. My roommate suggested I start a blog to share my story. It didn’t take much thought to decide to make this blog a reality. I want this blog to be a written record of what I’ve been through – the pain, suffering, healing – everything that has happened to me over the years in my life. People daily share stories with me of how their stomachs are making them suffer. I want my story to inspire you and your loved ones to believe that healing is possible, and you can recover and find wellness in your life just like I have. I want to know your story – please post comments or email me and I will respond to you. Please join me in my journey towards a healthy, Crohn’s free, “wellness for life” Jen.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shifting gears: A Change in my Wellness For Life Lifestyle

            I thrived for close to three years following my new lifestyle/diet change.  For three years I had been healing myself, and I felt emotionally and physically better than I had before I got sick.  I had a bountiful amount of energy every day and never felt tired.  All of that changed when two and a half months ago I noticed something was off.  I wasn’t the happy-go-lucky positive girl I had been for so long.  I wasn’t feeling great and I started to feel very depressed again (the same depression I had felt in my second year of university).  To top it off, I still had my fair share of problems: psoriasis that was spreading, unbalanced hormones, a constant feeling of dehydration, inflamed and sore eyes, painful bloating, and my very first cavity... 

            I couldn’t pinpoint my depression and general feelings of being unwell to anything in particular.  In the past, whenever I felt sick, I usually had a clear idea of the reason why I felt the way I did.  It was easy for me to get back on track and feel good again.  In January I felt stuck - I had no idea why I felt the way I did and what to do to feel better.  I had been to a nutritionist and hormone doctor in the past year, but neither of them truly helped me.  The nutritionist couldn’t explain why I was feeling dehydrated all of the time, and the hormone doctor’s prescription of progesterone cream was doing nothing but adding to my unbalanced hormones as the months of using the cream went by.  I tried to tackle my feelings of dehydration by drinking salt water and eating more kelp, but neither of those changes really did anything for me.  I also thought about making my own energy drinks, but decided against that idea as many homemade recipes used ingredients that I didn’t want to consume.  It was clear to me that my days of eating yogurt, fruit, and grains for breakfast, legumes, salad, and grains for lunch, and meat, vegetables, and grains for dinner were no longer sustainable. 

            My good friend introduced me to a woman named Pam Killeen.  Pam is a nutritional consultant, and twice a year she runs a series of nutrition seminars called “What’s Wrong with ‘Politically Correct’ Nutrition?”.  I went to the first seminar at the beginning of February and was mesmerized by everything that Pam said - her beliefs about food and its healing benefits for the mind and body closely matched with my beliefs.  Pam talked about and compared the food our ancestors ate and the food we eat today, and gave us many take home messages.  One message that resonated with me was to eat the way our happy and healthy ancestors ate: three square meals a day based around animal fat and protein (for details about why we should eat more animal fat and protein, visit www.pamkilleen.com).  So I decided to do just that.

            For two weeks I’ve started my days with warm water and fresh lemon juice.  Then I eat eggs, butter, yogurt, cod liver oil, and coconut oil for breakfast, and meat/fish, kefir, and cooked vegetables for lunch and dinner.  I’m also eating homemade chicken broth as often as I can, and sauerkraut at each meal.  I’ve pretty much cut out grains.  It’s incredible - I get to eat all of the foods that are so absolutely delicious that many people are avoiding.  For example, I get to eat lots of animal fat, including as much butter as I want, and lots of high-fat dairy (like 10% yogurt).  Pam said that it takes our body time to be able to properly digest these meals, so it makes sense that I’ve had short-lasting stomach aches every day; however, for the past week and a half, I’ve been happy, social, and able to effectively study!

            I am officially a client of Pam’s, and am participating in her nutritional balancing program.  My hair will be tested to see my body’s nutrient levels, I will rest and relax every day, soak up infra-red sauna rays, do daily coffee enemas, and eat three square meals a day.  I will be ridding my body of the toxins that have embedded themselves into my cells, and also balancing my body's biochemistry.

            Today I did my first coffee enema.  I never thought I’d write those words, but they’re true.  And it really wasn’t a big deal.  It was easy to do.  There are many benefits of coffee enemas.  They do things like detoxify the liver and stimulate bile production, reduce pain, and increase energy levels.

            I’ll be updating this blog every few weeks with updates as to my progress on the program.  I’ve been told that I’ll feel worse before I feel better, but once I feel better, that good feeling will last a lifetime.

            I’ll keep you posted.  Peace and love.  Jen.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gluten Free Coconut Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Broccoli

Before I tell you about this caramelized onion, broccoli, Canadian white cheddar, smoked paprika, and coconut pizza, I’d like to apologize to you.  My last post was over a year ago, and I stopped writing without so much as a goodbye. This blog began as a therapeutic outlet for me. When I was sick, my emotions were all over the place. I was angry, sad, and confused and I so badly needed to write about my feelings and document what I was going through. Each post brought me relief, along with your support, which was more than I could have ever dreamed of. Thank you for showing me that I was not alone in my journey to becoming a healthy, Crohn’s free person.

After my last post in April 2011, I realized that I had never felt better - both mentally and physically. I no longer needed the blog for its therapeutic purpose, so I put it in the back of my mind.

I recently looked over my posts, and am sad to see that I promised to write about specific things I did to improve my health, but didn’t. Over the next few months, I will do my best to write in detail about these specific things because I would not be in such good health today without having done those things.  

Now to the mouth-watering pizza you’ve been waiting for…

This recipe is an original one, and was five months in the making. My first attempt at the dough was a crumbly mess, but don’t worry! This recipe’s dough sticks together like a normal pizza. And best of all, it’s knead-free!

Pizza Crust
1 2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1 tsp nonalum baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup plain yogurt
3 eggs
1/3 cup water
Optional: 1 tsp dried herbs (i.e. basil, oregano)

Coconut oil
2 Vidalia onions, sliced into rings
Broccoli florets
Tomato sauce
White cheddar cheese
Goat’s mozzarella cheese
Pinch of smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 425F.
Butter a pizza pan and cover pan in parchment paper.
Heat coconut oil and slowly caramelize onions at a low temperature for 20 minutes.
For the pizza crust, combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Combine all wet ingredients in a medium bowl.
Mix together wet and dry ingredients until a ball of dough is formed (the dough will be quite sticky - the coconut flour will absorb a lot of liquid).
With wet hands, spread dough onto parchment paper in pizza pan, making sure to evenly cover all areas of the pan.
Bake in oven for approx. 9 minutes until edges of crust are golden brown.
When onions are golden and caramelized, add the broccoli florets to the pan and cook for a few minutes.
Spread the tomato sauce on the crust.
Top with a mixture of the two cheeses.
Top with the onions and broccoli.
Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beans, Beans Are Good For the Heart, the More You Eat the LESS you Fart?

Every time I go home I discover something new in my parents’ fridge that looks amazing, but contains a forbidden ingredient, implying that I cannot eat the food. This weekend, I found a spicy eggplant hummus. I thought to myself, I make a mean hummus. I can easily re-create this store-bought hummus. And that’s just what I did!

Jen’s Roasted Eggplant, Roasted Red Pepper Spicy Hummus

2 cups chickpeas
3 tbsp tahini
¼ cup liquid (you choose - water, olive oil, liquid from cooking chickpeas if you soaked the chickpeas overnight and then cooked them)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 red pepper
1 small eggplant
1 jalapeno pepper

1.     Preheat oven to 350°F. Poke holes in eggplant. Cut red pepper in half. Place both eggplant and red pepper on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until roasted. Red peppers should have skin side up.
2.     Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Add more liquid until desired consistency is reached.

I like to use beans that I soak overnight and then cook. A large bag of beans is around $2, and supplies enough beans for many, many meals (or in this case many, many batches of hummus)! People seem hesitant to eat a lot of beans because beans are known to produce gas. This will not happen if you cook them properly!

To prepare dried beans into gas-free, easily digestible, edible beans, follow these instructions*:

1.     Measure the amount of beans (peas/legumes) required and sort through them and remove any misshapen, discoloured or damaged beans. Also remove any dirt balls, gravel, or other foreign objects and discard them.
2.     Soak 1 cup of dry beans in 3 to 4 cups of cool or room temperature water and let the beans soak 8 hours or more uncovered. (12 hours for chickpeas (garbanzos) and 24 hours for soybeans). Avoid using soybeans as they usually require a pressure cooker.
3.     Throw away the water the beans soaked in (very important!).
4.     Rinse the beans several times with fresh water.
5.     Put the beans in a large pot so that beans fill only ¼ of the pot and add fresh water until the beans are covered by 1 inch, or so of water.
6.     Bring the beans and water, uncovered, to a boil on high heat.
7.     When the beans are boiling, a white foam or froth will generally form on top. Scoop this off and discard it. This is part of what contributes to gas.
8.     Add extra water if needed so the beans are still at least 1 inch under water and turn the heat down to very low. Just low enough so the beans are barely bubbling. They cook best at this temperature.
9.     Add 1 tsp. ground fennel or preferably 1 tsp. savory to the beans. This also improves their digestibility. (Optional)
10. Cook for 1 ¼ hours or more until the beans are very tender and a bean can easily be mashed with the tongue on the roof of the mouth.
11. Always chew beans slowly, never eat them fast or when under excessive stress or tiredness.
12. Have some raw foods first in a meal before eating the beans to aid in their digestion.

Yes, this method of cooking beans takes time, but in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the costs. You can also cook more beans than you need and freeze the leftover beans. Then you can use them for a last-minute meal!

*Instructions are taken directly from the book Eating Alive by Dr. Jonn Matsen N.D., published in 1987

Friday, April 1, 2011

Swim For Your Life

I need inspiration to keep me going when I find myself struggling and losing my willpower. Along with being inspired from the fact that I need to stay on track in order to avoid medication, I find inspiration through the courage of others. Memoirs and documentaries are what keep me inspired, written by people suffering, people experiencing extreme hardships, people who find their inner strength and share their stories with others. People who write with such passion and emotion that I am drawn into their personal lives.

Dear Jack is a documentary that tugged a deep sense of pain and emotion within me during the movie. I am not normally an emotional person. I never cry during movies, and I never get emotionally tied into films that I watch. Andrew McMahon, the singer of bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin (my favourite bands who I still listen to on a regular basis), was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005. While undergoing treatment, Andrew filmed his journey and shared his thoughts and emotions throughout the process – his raw truth. He held nothing back. I look up to him as having an abundance of courage – I understand how it feels to share with the world very personal details about one’s health and feelings. I understand how it feels to be so vulnerable to the world. I watch his documentary Dear Jack, and feel his pain. I am completely inspired by him to continue sharing my stories with you. He is a fighter, and so am I. As he sings in his song Swim, “I’m not giving in,” I feel a deep connection with him and his song lyrics, and am thankful that he shared his story with the world in hopes that he could bring hope to people undergoing troublesome times.

I am constantly told that I am an inspiration by writing this blog. I am honoured to be told such things, but want you to know that I do not conjure my inspiration from thin air. I am inspired by memoirs, by people even stronger than me, who have suffered greatly and share their stories. Thank you, Andrew McMahon, for inspiring me tonight.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Body Only Needs a Millisecond to Betray Me

Sometimes I forget what it feels like to feel the way I did last year. How quickly I am reminded when it hits me like a car smashing into a cement wall. It starts with the way I think. One minute I’m on the ball and my head is clear. The next, I can’t think at all. It’s like a thief comes into my brain and robs me of my thoughts, knowledge, words, everything. I don’t comprehend anything and when I look at a paragraph of words, I don’t understand what I’m reading – nothing registers in my mind. Even as I write this, I continuously forget what I want to write about. My head is spinning and I am experiencing a full body shake. I sit outside in below freezing temperatures and don’t feel a thing. I am frustrated. I grow stronger everyday, and then this happens. I just don’t understand!

What I described above happened to me last night during my shift at work. All I ate yesterday were “safe” foods. What happened? Was my food starting to go bad after being out of the refrigerator for many hours before I ate it? That’s a strong possibility.

Because of unexpected setbacks like this, I cannot trust myself to work full time this summer. I never know when my body will betray me like this.

How do I deal with the way I feel? I go home, and go to bed. I wake up the next day feeling weak, but my thinking is clear again. Then I eat foods that I know work with my body, and feel much better!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blood Type, Blood Shmyte… I Don’t Care Anymore!

I have made a decision and I am happy with my decision. The dilemma that had taken over my everyday thoughts has finally come to an end. What am I talking about, you ask? Do you remember the little fiasco that happened when I went to a walk in clinic to ask for a blood requisition form to find out my blood type? If not, please refresh your memory by clicking here and reading all about it. I still haven’t found out my blood type. And I’ve decided that I’m not going to.

I did end up getting a blood requisition form from my family doctor, but never went to a blood lab to have the test. I’ve spent countless hours thinking, pondering, what should I do? One day I think, YES! I am DEFINITELY going to go through with this blood type diet, then the next day I think, no, I’m definitely NOT going to try the diet. These decisions change depending on how I’m feeling. Last week I ate homemade red lentil soup and instantly felt light headed, dizzy, and awful. I couldn’t keep my head up. In times like these I am desperate to find a solution to my problems. In times like these I decide that it’s in my best interest to find out my blood type, read the diet book, and start eliminating foods right away.

After the red lentil soup experience, I spent the next few days researching the Internet and reading other people’s opinions on this diet. I found many opinions criticizing the diet, and only one pro-diet opinion. The majority of opinions stated that it’s not healthy to eliminate an obscene amount of variety of foods from our diet. I’m talking about eliminating entire groups of food. For example, seafood. I wouldn’t be allowed to eat any more shrimp, scallops, lobster, clams, mussels… you get the point. And that’s just one fragment of the diet! Certain fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, virtually everything that you and I love to eat would be eliminated. I wouldn’t consume all of the nutrients that my body needs to be healthy and thrive. Reading these opinions was a stepping-stone in making my final decision.

I went to a workshop on Saturday called Characteristics of a Healthy Diet. In the middle of the workshop my thought process “clicked” and everything became clear. I thought to myself, “There is NO WAY I’m going through with the diet”. I learned that there are certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for our bodies to function properly (physically and emotionally) that are only found in one or two types of foods. These foods happened to be ones that I would ultimately have to eliminate if on the blood type diet. We need to eat a variety of foods to be able to balance our vitamin and mineral intake. An elimination diet is unsustainable in the long run. It worked wonders for me when I was very sick, but as I heal and add new foods into my diet I feel more energetic and less tired.

This leads me to today, writing this post to share with you. I say to you, with 100% certainty, that I cannot see myself going through with the diet. I am leaving this idea of the blood type diet and never looking back.

What is your opinion? Do you think I made the right choice?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Veggies, Meat, and a Wok - Is There a Stir-Fry Cooking?

I'd like to share with you a very flavourful, but simple, stir-fry recipe. Not only is it delicious, it is made using Swiss chard. This was my first time cooking with Swiss chard, and it is available at any grocery store. I've adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart's website. Martha's recipe calls for hot chili sauce, and I used wheat-free tamari. I also used toasted sesame oil instead of vegetable oil.

Swiss Chard, Snap Peas, and Beef Stir-Fry

(serves 6)

Toasted sesame oil (for wok)
6 ounces sirloin steak, thinly sliced
Kosher salt (or sea salt)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 scallion (or any onion), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari
6 ounces sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 lime

1.     Heat a wok (or frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add some toasted sesame oil and swirl to coat. Season steak with salt and add to wok. Cook, stirring, until beef is golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

2.     Add some more toasted sesame oil to the wok (frying pan) and swirl to coat. Add garlic, ginger, onions, wheat-free tamari, sugar snap peas, and 1 pound thinly sliced Swiss chard stems (remove and tear leaves into 2-inch pieces and reserve). Cook, stirring constantly, until snap peas are bright green and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl with beef.

3.     Add more oil to wok and swirl to coat. Add half of the Swiss chard leaves and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with beef and snap peas. Repeat with more oil and chard.

4.     Return everything to wok (frying pan), heat briefly, and season with salt. Squeeze with lime juice, toss to coat, and serve immediately.

I hope you like it! Feel free to share your favourite stir fry recipes/ingredients in the comments section of the blog.