Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Accidentally Healthy: Bumping into Magic Potions in the Kitchen


Would you like to hear about some kitchen staples that may work to combat medical issues? I’m not Dr. Oz or some charlatan who’s willing to exploit frightened people to sell a book. I don’t guarantee anything, because different bodies react differently. But just in case you’re looking for something cheap and relatively safe to try, here are some resources that have surprised me, my husband, and perhaps, my doctor. No prescription required.

Long ago when we lived near two airports and a freeway I developed allergies to dust, pollen, and life in general, I guess, that have never left me. Over the years, doctors prescribed every antihistamine known to modern Americans for my condition. I tried them all. I popped pills and squirted salt water and medications. A few remedies worked temporarily–for weeks or sometimes months. The “cures” came at the cost of headaches and dizziness and difficulty concentrating–not to mention the financial costs. I don’t like inessential drugs and they don’t like me. At last, one doctor sighed and told me nothing stronger existed and I had better just get used to both my perpetual discomfort and seasonal dismay.

To be honest, I don’t know why I tried turmeric. It’s that yellow stuff that’s created from ground-up roots that look like ginger roots. It’s used routinely in East Indian food and often in egg dishes. I read it was anti-inflammatory and that sounded logical. I started dumping teaspoonfuls into my smoothies. At first, nothing happened except that I stopped relishing the taste of my morning smoothies. Bleah! I don’t know why I continued except that I’m stubborn and I was desperate. I was trying to teach classes with bits of tissue stuffed up my nostrils. Eventually, however, the symptoms of my allergies seemed to grow milder and mostly disappear. I was dumbfounded. I have bad symptoms fewer than four days per year now–even in fall and spring.

My horse needed an anti-inflammatory she could take over time. The prescribed drug she was using was hurting her stomach. Turmeric worked for her, too. My husband says turmeric helps lessen or even eliminate his joint pain.

You can find an impressive list of benefits people claim for turmeric online. All I know for certain is that if I don’t take it, I’m sorry. I generally use organic powdered turmeric I buy online, but when I’m traveling, I use turmeric tablets from the natural foods store. I’ve heard you can get the same benefits from ginger, another anti-inflammatory substance, but ginger is a strong flavor. I drink ginger tea when my stomach is unhappy with something I’ve eaten and I like it for that purpose. I trust it more than antacids.

If you try either ginger or turmeric or another herb, remember we aren’t dealing with narcotics designed to work within hours. They don’t. They need to build up in your system if you’re using them for a long-term problem. And, they may not work for you at all.

Another odd solution that has surprised me with its efficiency is flax seed. One doctor who worked with me long ago told me high triglycerides were genetic and I could work to lower my super-sized cholesterol, but my triglycerides were a reminder of my genetic death sentence of familial heart disease. When my body started exhibiting signs of heart disease I got serious about addressing my issues. At my doctor’s suggestion, I started dumping two tablespoonfuls of organic ground flax seed in my morning smoothies. I added another couple of teaspoonfuls to my lunch Greek yogurt. Flax seed provides huge doses of fiber that sweep excess whatever out of your system. I was more regular than I had ever been before. It felt great. My doctor told me I might gain the same effects from hemp seed–which is legal and sold in natural foods stores and most grocery chains. (Dr. Oz promotes beans, nuts, seeds, and other high-fiber foods for weight control.)

Meanwhile, I also did my best to cut my consumption of dairy to nearly nothing. It was a difficult decision for someone who was once known for the quantity of ice cream she could consume in just a few minutes. I was the fastest ice cream cone eater in the West! I read somewhere that any food you desperately crave may be one to which you have a sensitive reaction–not an allergy, per se, but one your body has stopped processing well. It wants more and more! Once I had abandoned ice cream for a few months, it lost its grip on me. I gave up drinking milk to settle my stomach. I substituted the creaminess of Greek yogurt into my lunches and drank a concoction of coconut water and almond milk each evening. I don’t crave or even like ice cream much any longer. (I just read about cow’s milk not being the crusader for calcium we once cherished. Investigate it for yourself.)

I also minimized processed white flour and sugar in my diet. I didn’t eliminate them entirely; I’m not that disciplined. I noticed that my body didn’t feel as “racy” without them–you know, that little temporary rushing sensation. We started eating more fish and vegetables. Suddenly, with the flax seed, turmeric, and omissions I had made, my triglycerides were lower than they had ever been since I began measuring them. My cholesterol and my weight dropped–20 pounds. My blood pressure was consistently within proper limits for the first time in years. My doctor applauded. I don’t think she anticipated that such a change was possible without drugs.

Modern medicine assumes we, as patients, do our due diligence–investigating the diagnoses and prescriptions we’re given and making informed decisions about our own care. We have to give up our fantasies of easy fixes though. We may have to give up or adjust foods our families once served with pride. We may have to behave like grown-ups responsible for our own conditions. Trust me, I don’t like it, either: “Say it isn’t so, Joe!” But, I feel empowered.

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