Monthly Archives: June, 2012

Vegetarian Side Dish – Tasty Carrot & Snap Pea Medley

Photo courtesy of Food.com

I made a light, refreshing side dish for lunch yesterday that was quick and easy. The recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, by Murdoch – Bay Books. I stumbled upon the book at a small eclectic bookstore in my town and so glad I found it.

4 oz carrots

4 oz sugar snap peas

2 oz butter (vegan substitute: veggie spread or vegetable oil)

2 cloves garlic, crushed (or a tsp. or crushed from jar)

1 tablespoon lime juice (and rind from one lime to make zest for garnish)

1/2 teaspoon soft brown sugar

1. Peel the carrots and slice into thin diagonal slices. Wash and string the sugar snap peas. Heat the butter in a large frying pan. Add the garlic, cook over low heat for 1 minute. Add the lime juice and sugar. Cook, stirring over low heat, until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Add the carrots and peas and cook over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes or until just cooked. Serve hot. Garnish with lime zest.

3. To make the lime zest, peel lime rind into long strips using a vegetable peeler. Remove all white pith. Cut into long strips with a sharp knife.

NOTE: Snow peas or green beans are a great substitute for snap peas. Baby carrots also make an attractive addition to this recipe. Leave a portion of the green tops on if limes are unavailable. This dish can be adapted to make a light salad – replace butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cook according to recipe. Cool to room temperature and sprinkle with finely chopped cashews or toasted pine nuts.

NEXT UP: POTATO CURRY WITH SESAME SEEDS

STAY TUNED!

Gabapentin Update

Image

FUNNY STUFF THERE ^^^.

Now on to the Gabapentin.

This update only applies to my own personal experience.

Gabapentin does stop muscle spasms in my legs.

It does cause insomnia for me.

It does not eliminate my muscle pain.

It does not stop my muscle fatigue.

My muscles are weaker now than ever before.

It does make me fat. I have gained 7 pounds in 12 days.

It has helped with my sensory feelings such as skin sensation. My skin is much less sensitive and feels less pain.

This is not the right medication for me at this time.

Moving Your Body

Image

Having Multiple Sclerosis and/or Syringomyelia, I have found for myself, it is important to keep my body moving so my muscles stay strong. Hiking is one activity I have always enjoyed and still do. These days I don’t do very strenuous hikes due to the Syringomyelia, but certainly still enjoy longer trails with a low incline. My suggestion for a fantastic day trip for a nice hike for those in Southern California is to take a  boat ride out to the Channel Islands National Park to Santa Cruz Island.The morning ride out is usually foggy, but burns off quickly.

Image

There are many trails to explore for the day and two of them are low-impact with a very low to moderate incline. Very manageable for MS or Syringomyelia peeps. When you get to the top of most any exterior hike on Santa Cruz Island, you will be happy you made the trek.

Image

Breakfast Recipe – Vegetarian Oatmeal

I love to eat breakfast to give me energy for the morning hours. Even if I think I am not hungry, I still eat a little bit of oatmeal. Within the first couple bites, my body indeed recognizes that it needs the nourishment to begin the day and even out my blood-sugar and protein levels in my body. For a quick, easy breakfast I recommend the following oatmeal dish.

From the Engine 2 Diet, by Rip Esselstyn (the Texas Firefighter who rocked his firehouse with a healthy eating make-over!)

E2 Hot Lap Bowl

1 cup of uncooked hot cereal (steel-cut oats, oatmeal, something delicious)

1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal

2 tablespoons of raisins or dried cranberries (I have found dried currants in the raisin section – delicious!)

1 banana, sliced

1/2 cup of fresh fruit (frozen if necessary)

1/2 cup of soy milk (I prefer almond milk myself)

1/2 handful of walnuts (or whatever you prefer – slivered almonds or pecans are tasty)

Cook the cereal (oats) according to the directions with flaxseed meal, raisins, banana, and fruit. Drizzle with the soy/almond milk and nuts. Enjoy!

Image    Image

Gabapentin (Neurontin) Side Effects

I have only been on Gabapentin for three weeks and I have gained weight. Not sure how much weight, but a lot. A little, a lot. A dress I had worn three weeks ago wouldn’t even go past my shoulders yesterday. It must be water weight because it is all in my torso.

The Gabapentin stops spastic movements in the legs and stabbing, burning spinal cord pain caused by lesions. It is also used for people with Epilepsy so it is a multi-use pharmaceutical. Like every drug in America. HA!

The side effects I have felt since taking the Gabapentin are: fuzzy brain/thinking, not feeling very alert when driving, unfocused vision, (not blurry or doubled, but more just unable to focus on the person or thing I’m supposed to look at) lack of concentration, weight gain, and exhaustion.

NOTE: I have only been on 900 mg for 3 weeks and most of those side effects have subsided, except the weight gain. Hopefully that will level out. I sleep like a log at night and it is fantastic. I will not increase my dosage even if the doctor asks me to. At least not yet. I have noticed improvement in my spastic leg and pain quite a bit and about 50% in my spinal column. Due to the long Syrinx in my cord, I really do not want to increase the Gabapentin because who knows if it is helping anything other than the spastic leg. Why take the “normal” 1900 – 2100 mg per day. Who even says that is normal?? 

Good luck with your medication options.

Image

 

Vegetarian Pasta Sauce – Fight Spinal Inflammation!

 

I made a very delicious ** mostly ** homemade pasta sauce tonight. Eating a vegetarian, mainly vegan, diet has really helped me feel less pain and fatigue with my Multiple Sclerosis and Syringomyelia. I like to believe it helps cut down the inflammation that I feel in my spine, neck, and body. The pasta sauce I made this evening is hearty and could actually be a meal on its own, but I like to make veggie pasta noodles to go with it.

To make the sauce:

One jar of sweet red pepper & basil marinara

One bag of Morning Star Meal Starter Crumbles

Two sweet, red bell peppers

One (or two, if you like) Maui sweet onion

1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes

3 on-the-vine-ripened tomatoes (or two cans of petite-cut or diced tomatoes)

1 clove of fresh garlic, minced or very finely chopped

Basil & Oregano to taste – approximately 1 tablespoon of each

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and garlic. Mix all ingredients together and simmer for about one hour. IF you are in a hurry, simmer until hot or pasta noodles are done. Since it’s meatless, it doesn’t really matter. The longer the simmer, the better the flavor though.

I use the jar of store-bought sauce and Morning Star Meal Starter to get me going. I love the flavor of the sweet red bell pepper sauce – yummmmm. So really, you could say that I’m just enhancing store bought sauce and it’s not really homemade. But what the hay! It’s so good with the sun-dried tomatoes and the other goodies. The Meal Starter really makes the sauce hearty and filling.

Hint, Target sells a mini, electric Proctor-Silex food chopper that holds just about 12 oz. I use it to chop the sun-driend tomatoes, peppers and onions for the sauce. Makes them juicy and blend in a little better. (Also a great little mixer for homemade guacamole.)

Enjoy your sauce. Enjoy your life, with Multiple Sclerosis or Syringomyelia, with less inflammation.

 

 

Syringomyelia

Also known as Hydromyelia. Which ever you prefer… it’s no good. Sometimes it is a speckle in your spine. Sometimes the size of an eraser. Maybe larger. Mine is is a long sausage running from the T1 (top of the thoracic spin) down to my lumbar spine.

Below are two links and a little information about Syringomyelia (sear-IN-go-my-lee-ya)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002373/

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/syringomyelia/detail_syringomyelia.htm

The fluid buildup seen in syringomyelia may be a result of spinal cord trauma, tumors of the spinal cord, or birth defects (specifically, “chiari malformation,” in which part of the brain pushes down onto the spinal cord at the base of the skull).

The fluid-filled cavity usually begins in the neck area. It expands slowly, putting pressure on the spinal cord and slowly causing damage.

Symptoms

There may be no symptoms, or symptoms may include:

  • Gradual loss of muscle mass (wasting, atrophy)
  • Headache
  • Muscle function loss, loss of ability to use arms or legs
  • Numbnessor decreased sensation
    • Decreased sense of pain or temperature
    • Lessened ability to sense that the skin is being touched
    • Neck, shoulders, upper arms, trunk — in a cape-like pattern
    • Slowly, but progressively, gets worse
  • Pain down the arms, neck, or into the upper back
  • Weakness (decreased muscle strength, independent of exercise) in the arms or legs

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

Signs and tests

A neurological examination may show loss of sensation or movement caused by compression of the spinal cord.

An MRI of the spine confirms syringomyelia and determines the exact location and extent. Often, an MRI of the head will be done to look for associated conditions including hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

Rarely, an spinal CT with myelogram may be done.

Treatment

The goals of treatment are to stop the spinal cord damage from getting worse and to maximize functioning. Surgery to relieve pressure in the spinal cord may be appropriate. Physical therapy may be needed to maximize muscular function.

It may be necessary to drain the fluid build up. See: Ventriculoperitoneal shunting

Image

When Did Things Get So Crazy, Baby?

Remember when things were that simple? You could hop on the trike and hit the open road? The breeze blowing through your short, not-yet-grown-in-hair? Yea… neither do I, but it feels good to look at the photos and pretend to remember when that may have been. It couldn’t have been too long ago because at some point the hair grows in and we’re able to dress up that gorgeous wind-blown hair.

And then something goes awry and we need to call in our friends to back us up and open that can of Whoop-ass we’ve had tucked away for years. We never knew we had that can of Whoop-ass. We maybe thought it was a can of left-over PlayDoh or the Hanging Monkeys game. But evidently we all have Whoop-ass in some form or another. Mine comes in the form of strength. Health and fitness. People who workout. Keep their bodies strong.

Now, wait a minute. I said bodies. Not mind. And I realize he wears his name of his shirt. That’s for his benefit. Not yours or mine.

So I called in a few reinforcements when the going got tough recently. For the first time in my life I realized that in this world of crazy, I, the sane one may very well be one the edge of insanity. BUT luckily, I was pulled back from the edge of crazy and found out it was just Multiple Sclerosis. Whew. What a relief. My mind is not nuts. My world is nuts on occasion. My mind is fine. It is simply the added bonus of mind-meld from Multiple Sclerosis that is making it seem like the crazy is encroaching upon me when in fact is is not at all.

Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis. Let me say it a few times. I have Multiple Sclerosis. There. It’s out of my system. Well, not out of my system, but out of my system if you will. I’m not a sickie. Not a complainer. Not lazy. Not a bummer. So this diagnosis explains a lot for me and my close family.

Working in the health & fitness quasi-entertainment industry has helped me manage the Multiple Sclerosis symptoms over the last decade which is why I only recently received the diagnosis. People like ^^^^^^^ Mikey are the ones who inspire people like me to exercise everyday. Okay, four, maybe five days a week. The point is, working with the people I work with have made it very easy to keep Multiple Sclerosis manageable. I admit that I have been in a drunken stupor four the last month since I received the diagnosis and have let some things slide on the responsibility scale. However, it is the people like ^^^^^^ Mikey in my life who said, “Get up, girl. Move that body. Vegetarian – not good enough. Time to be a vegan. Move that body. Move. That. Body. or Lose. That. Body.”

So here I am one month later and six doctor visits in, more testing to go due to an unexpected spinal cord issue that was found as well, but the MS symptoms are going to be manageable, I believe wholeheartedly, due to a healthy diet, consistent exercise, and the strength of the people in my life who make me strong.

My baby, who happens to be taller than I, is the first one to say get that Yoga mat out and let’s stretch it out while we watch Pretty Little Liars and the Mentalist. She rocks, people. She will rock MS right out of you too if you let her. My tall baby is the first person to help me out of a chair on the days my body can’t do it alone. She is the first person to grab swimsuits for the gym swim. She is a-w-e-s-o-m-e. And sane.

My lovey, who happens to have more longevity on this planet that I, is the first one to say let’s eat it raw, vegan! He is the best vegan cook on the planet. He is a shopper, chopper, chef, experimenter, supporter of anything new, he is truly amazing. He is so supportive. He is always looking for new ways to cook food, find new things to reduce inflammation in the body, try new recipes, and he eats whatever I try to prepare. That in and of itself is a sacrifice. He always says it was delicious. He is wonderful. And borderline sane, but not, but maybe he is.

So I’m opening a can of Whoop-ass on the Multiple Sclerosis.

Eat This Salsa

Eat This Salsa

Ingest This

ImageI had a lumbar puncture yesterday. Prior to the procedure the doctor requested a blood test: Total Serum Protein test. Mine was very low. I don’t know what the actual Albumin or Globulin numbers were, simply that the overall number came back significantly low. I’m a vegan, but my B12 is normal (900 pg/mL) and a normal B12 is 200-900 so I am totally good there. Usually a vegan will have low B12. So I’m a slight concerned with the protein being low. That could signal a sign of liver or blood issues. And with sudden (sudden being last many months) onset of muscle weakness, I have no idea what to think.

Diet-wise, I have been eating complex carbs to sustain fullness such as oatmeal with currants for breakfast, sweet potatoes and veggies for lunch, and a mix of BBQ grilled veggie kabobs for dinner with about two or three side dishes. I try to make a summer-squash risotto or something of the like as a side dish to keep my palate from DYING.

A delightful green bean medley to try: freshly boiled green beans, sauteed in a drip of olive oil, with slivered almonds, a dozen small, sweet pearl onions, chopped sweet red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, and a dash of seasoning peppers and garlic salt. Saute for about five or six minutes and oh my gosh, you will have a nice spruced up side of greens!

How about a side of salsa to go with your Ak-Mak crackers? Fresh corn is better, but if you don’t have any cobs, go with: One can of sweet corn, two delicious ripe avocados diced into tiny pieces, one sweet on-the-vine tomato (or a can of petite diced tomatoes), one lime, two long green onions, one freshly minced clove of garlic, one fresh diced mango, a sprig of cilantro diced, and seasoning salt/pepper to taste. Chop everything up, except the lime. Mix it all together and then squeeze the lime juice over the top. Mix again, taste for lime flavoring. Add more if needed. So refreshing. I eat it with Ak-Mak crackers or sometimes with just a spoon.