Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Dose of Love and Support...Just What the Doctor Ordered

     I forgot. No, that's not right. I was way past forgetting. I didn't know. I didn't know that I could ever smile a genuine smile again. I didn't know the joy I could feel from busting a move to my favorite song. I didn't know what it meant to complete a coherent thought and have a conversation. I didn't know there was life outside of my own home. My heart was beating, my lungs were taking in oxygen, but my mind was dead to the world. By the time I made it to the emergency room for the umpteenth time, my poor body was so dehydrated and malnourished I could barely drag myself inside. It blows my mind that if it hadn't been for my amazing family and doctor stepping up and saying that I needed more than anti-nausea medications and fluids that I might have been sent home, again, to continue suffering. I'm so grateful for the people in my life who were willing to take over my care when I didn't have the strength to do it because they helped saved me.
     My first night in the hospital was so scary because I finally realized how far gone my body was. I weighed 76 pounds and couldn't maintain safe vitals without medical intervention. My blood pressure stayed so low that I required bolus (or large amounts) of saline fluids just to keep it at acceptable levels. There were nurses coming in and out of my room all night but with my sister sleeping by my side and my mom sleeping in the chair next to me, I was able to make it through. The next challenge tackled was my blood sugar. Since I was unable to take in much food by mouth I was always dizzy and weak so spent a lot of time on "fall watch". I felt like the most annoying patient having to page the nurse to walk with me the ten steps to the restroom every time I needed to go, which is about every 45-60 minutes when you're on a bolus I.V. drip!
     Early one morning after a relaxing hot shower, fresh jammies, and a comfy new I.V site I was ready to settle in to a good movie when the nurse came in to check my blood sugar and it was in the 50's. For those who don't know, that's not so great. The normal range is about 80-120, so they gave me four glucose tablets (which are delicious by the way) and took it again. My blood sugar had dipped even lower to 44. At the time I didn't realize this was such a big deal since managing blood sugars was new to me, but the number was blinking in red and that was the first thing that alerted me. When my nurse walked in with other nurses for help and guidance, I was a bit freaked. They said they were just going to give me a bolus dose of Dextrose fluid (really concentrated sugar water) in my IV. Initially I was happy that they could solve the problem without involving my stomach since too much sugar at once is no bueno for my tummy, but because the Dextrose is super thick like honey it just blew my vein open which was extremely painful. The IV technician blew three more veins before getting another access site and we tried the Dextrose again. Thankfully it went a lot smoother and my blood sugar was stabilized for the moment.
     My biggest challenge of this hospital stay was my feeding tube. This was a decision that was hard to make, but truly necessary to save my life. About five days into my stay I had a nasojejunal feeding tube placed which is a thin flexible tube that travels through my nose, down my throat, past my stomach and ends in my jejunum (a portion of the small intestines). This type of tube bypasses my stomach to give my body the nutrients that it needs without causing all of the symptoms I get from eating food. My hope is to gain some weight and get my body healthy while I work closely with my team of doctors to find a plan of treatment that will get my stomach functioning to a degree where I can maintain my health and weight by eating orally.
    It's taken some time to begin noticing the effects of having a nourished body, but I've slowly been feeling myself return. Although I still struggle with my Gastroparesis symptoms daily, I smile. I sing. I dance. I crave life! I look forward to the day I can have the energy to hang out again and even...I can't believe I'm saying this...get a job. I've learned so many lessons along this journey and felt my faith grow exponentially.  I want to send out a huge thanks to everyone who visited, called, sent cards and gifts, supported and cared for my family, shared scriptures and encouraging words, and just sat with me when that was all I could give back. I loved when the nurses would walk into my room and comment on how cheery my room was with all of the cards on the wall, balloons with their get well messages, and my bed full of stuffed animals keeping me company. Having so much love and support truly kept me going, and I know it will continue to help me move forward one day at a time to reach my goals.

Post NJ placement

Feeling much better after a few weeks of NJ feedings!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Choosing Life

     Your body needs energy to survive and food provides your body with energy, so logically everyone needs to eat food to survive. Enter the eating disordered mind: FOOD IS THE ENEMY AND I DON'T NEED OR WANT IT! Let me try to explain.

     Growing up I've always had a fear of vomit. I can remember one specific episode when I was around eight that I was vomiting and just thought I was going to die. Obviously I didn't, but that didn't stop the fear from forming. Any time I was around someone who even mentioned feeling nauseated I'd start hyperventilating and shaking all over, it was a physical reaction I had no control over because the fear was that strong. So I'm sure you can imagine that being diagnosed with an illness that among many things can cause chronic nausea and vomiting was my worse nightmare come true. The day my GI doctor very bluntly told me I had Gastroparesis I cried and cried while he sat there rambling on and finally stopped to ask "Does this news upset you?" Yeah, I didn't continue seeing him for very long.

     He sent me home with a crushed spirit and a sample meal plan that didn't work at all. Before I was officially diagnosed, I dealt with the symptoms as best I could when my GP would flare really bad and tried my hardest to eat through the "normal" level of daily nausea and bloating. I lost a decent amount of weight but nothing to be overly concerned about. Once I learned about the GP friendly diet though (low fat and fiber, avoid indigestible foods like popcorn), it was like a switch was flipped in my head. Instead of viewing the diet as a way to manage my symptoms, I was looking for it to RESOLVE my symptoms and when it didn't I moved on to NO fat and fiber. I cut out one food after another until I was down to a couple "safe foods." That may be ok during a flare, but to stick to that long term is not healthy. When even those foods caused symptoms I cut my portions down to just a few bites every few hours, just enough food to stop my hunger pains or prevent myself from passing out. I wanted so desperately to feel better that I was willing to completely cut out what in my eyes caused all my suffering, food.

     At the time, I thought this was just the normal route of any person with GP because of all the horror stories I had read online. In my search for relief I had read story after story of people with GP who couldn't eat or work or function and I assumed that was what would become of me as well. It's true that for many people with GP it truly can be disabling, but doctor after doctor told me my case was mild and could be managed if I tried x, y, and z. I'd try their suggestions and still experience flares so assumed they must be wrong since I was still suffering because I wanted to be cured not managed. Instead of enjoying the good days and learning to manage the bad, I let the bad overshadow the good and they slowly began to take over. All I could do was sit at home and despise food because of how it made me feel. I would literally put food in my mouth and couldn't swallow it because I could only think of how it would make me feel in the short term rather than working to find ways to MINIMIZE my symptoms while still nourishing my body.

     It took a long time for me to be able to step back and see that although I had a legitimate health problem, it had somehow spiraled into something that I had no control over and needed help to recover from. It seems pretty common for people with GP to develop problems and fears toward food and I remember reading early in my diagnoses about seeking treatment EARLY for such problems and wish I had really taken that to heart and done so. I know many people may look at me and wonder how I can be afraid of food, but it's just like any other type of negative reinforcement I guess. Take those invisible fences for example. You put the zapper on a dogs collar and place those orange flags where his border is. Over time, he'll realize "Hey, I get to close to the flying thing and get a zap. I should probably avoid it." Well, I eat food and very often get negative symptoms. The only difference is that as much as I would love to never have to eat again, food is something I just can't avoid. I remember my therapist telling me "Even if you do throw up once every twenty five times that you eat, so what." In my mind it had never been that simple, but I was willing to try and make it that simple.

     My journey has been long and the end is still far off, but I'm ready to get off the side line and back into the race. Some days I look back and wonder whether my GP got worse or if my lack of nutrition and eating caused an increase in my symptoms, but I've been told that for some people, especially those like myself with Idiopathic Gastroparesis (the cause is unknown), over time the body can heal and GP will resolve on it's own so I'm hopeful that by giving my body the love and nourishment that it needs there is a chance I will one day be rid of this trial. Even if that is not the case, I hope to over come my fear of food and learn to manage my GP and get back to living. Just because life may be hard doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. I have confidence that through my faith and the support of my family and friends I can succeed and look forward to sharing my journey with you.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Easy Twist on a Classic French Manicure

     I love polishing my nails. I truly enjoy that nice "put together" effect it gives and although I'm partial to dark colors, sometimes a classic French tip is just what the doctor ordered. Now, when it comes to time consuming looks this one is defiantly towards the top of the list, but it doesn't have to be! I ran across a cool tip on Pinterest (of course) using hole reinforcement rings that creates the perfect border for a crisp clean line that will have your French manicure looking professionally done. Just head to your local Wal-mart or Target and pick up a good base coat, a high quality white nail polish (the cheaper ones can be to thin needing multiple coats), and a pack of hole reinforcement rings from the office supply section.


File nails so that they are all even and apply base coat.


The reinforcement rings are not expensive, but I like to cut mine in half with scissors or nail clippers because they will go further and are easier for me to place when they're smaller. Apply one to each nail. I like to line mine up with the natural line where the nail and nail bed end.


Working with one hand at a time, apply one coat of white polish (and a second coat only if needed) and promptly remove ring. If you allow it to dry to long the polish will start to dry and become gummy causing it to stick to the ring and come off of your nail.


For the other hand, either wait until the first hand is dry and repeat step three or recruit some help and have someone repeat step three for you.


Finish off both hands with a good top coat and enjoy!

Ginger Galore and So Much More

     Nausea and I don't really get along. Kind of like a tenant who won't pay rent on time, or a dog who always chews your favorite shoes, or maybe rain at an outdoor wedding. Yeah, it's on that level. I wish there was one thing that always worked for me when that dreaded feeling creeps in, but so far it's pretty hit or miss. I do take Zofran (the dissolvable kind) on a daily basis although sometimes the nausea still sweeps in and ruins the day. Sometimes adding one of my many "remedies" can at least take the edge off, so I figured I'd share a few. These are all tips I've picked up over the last couple years from various websites and people, so I can't take credit but just hope to share and help my fellow GPer's or anyone else dealing with nausea.

1) Ginger. I'm sure this is common knowledge to most people, but starting out on this journey I had no idea how many forms of ginger are available so here are a few of my favorites.

-Ginger People: This is a company that makes a large variety of ginger items such as Ginger Chews and GinGins which are ginger CANDIES (so don't go over board!) that are easy to toss in your bag and always have a few on hand since they come individually wrapped. I prefer the Original Ginger Chews but you can buy many different flavors and quantities in bulk here. They also make ginger syrups and minced ginger that can be used to easily add the power of ginger to any of your daily meals.

-Candied Ginger/ Ginger Syrup: This is ginger that has been cooked and comes crystallized (coated in sugar, just really messy in my opinion) or uncrystallized. I usually buy mine from Trader Joe's because they have really great prices. I've also made my own candied ginger before that was really tasty and cooked the remaining liquid down into a syrup. You just cut up your ginger (thin slices or diced) and cook in a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, I used one cup of each) until tender. Remove the ginger and lay it out in a single layer to air dry and continue to cook remaining liquid until it's a syrup consistency. I stored mine in the refrigerator and it should be good for a few days at least.

- Ginger Mints: These are like Altoids mints, but ginger flavored and so tasty! I've only tried the Trader Joe's brand and love them. They're pretty strong so I only need a few at a time since too much ginger at once can give me heart burn.

-Ginger Tea: My favorite is Ginger Aid by Traditional Medicinals. I usually add a fennel tea bag also because it helps with bloating and I like the flavors together. Add a little honey and it's perfect!

2) Sea Bands: These are little bands that go on your wrist and have a plastic ball which presses on a pressure point known to help settle nausea. It's great for motion sickness and can help take the edge off during mild nausea flares.

3) Quease Ease: Some smells can help alleviate nausea and the Quease Ease is an aromatherapy inhaler that really does help take the edge off. You just remove the cap and take nice slow breaths in through your nose until the feeling passes. I especially love to use this in cars, but it's useful whenever. It also helps my sister with her migraines and the nausea she gets as a side effect.

4) Ricola Original Cough Drops: Not sure what exactly in these helps me, but sometimes it really helps settle my tummy.

5) Deep Breathing/ Visualization: When I can feel the nausea coming on and I start to panic, it makes it so much worse. Taking the time to close my eyes, breathe deep, and visualize something that makes me happy and calm can really help me get through the worst of it and helps it to pass faster.

That's all for now but if you have any additional suggestions please feel free to share them below. =)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Rocky Days

     Lately GP has been giving me a hard time with my latest flare landed me in the Emergency Room. I can usually push through my daily symptoms to get in enough nutrition to function, but after a few days of not tolerating food or liquids I was so dehydrated I had no choice but to head to the E.R. for fluids and a little Dextrose (a.k.a. sugar water) which had me feeling ten times better. That little sugar rush had me bouncing off the walls! While I was in the hospital I had to make a big decision about my medication, a decision I have been putting off for as long as possible. I had to decide whether I was ready to give Reglan a try.
     Many GP patients have been in the same position and understand what a big decision this can be. There is no cure and very few treatment options for Gastroparesis (many of which are ineffective), so it's easy to go through the safest options fast with little relief. Reglan is not a very favorable treatment option because although it can be effective, it can cause some pretty serious and in some cases permanent side effects. I've read horror stories of people whose lives have been completely changed because of the effects of Reglan. Yet, I've had doctor after doctor suggesting I give it a try. After a little research, I found that yes it can cause some pretty nasty side effects, but short term they are not as likely to occur.
     This still puts me in a difficult position because if the medication does work I could be feeling good for a couple weeks, then feel terrible for the next few weeks while I give my body a break from the Reglan. I guess any break from my symptoms is better that no relief though. Until this last flare I had decided that Reglan was not for me, but when you weigh not being able to eat to using Reglan for just a week to hopefully give my stomach a little jump start, the pros definitely outweigh the cons so I decided to give it a try. A little fluids, I.V. Zofran, Pepcid, and a dose of Reglan later, I was able to drink and eat enough to be discharged. Did I leave at one hundred percent? No. More like fifty percent but it was a huge improvement from the way I (barely) walked in.
     I'm so grateful to have the support of my family and doctors that have done all they can to help me. I'm ready to also acknowledge that to some degree my health is in my own hands. By slowly adding exercise, healthy and nutritious foods, and removing as much stress from my life as I can, I hope to get my health as stable as possible. I saw a quote on Instagram (I can't remember where) that said "The road may be long, but I'll enjoy the walk" that I loved. Whether I like it or not, this is my life at the moment so I'm going to make the best of it=)

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's All In Your Perspective


      Almost everyone who looks at this picture will see it for what it is on the outside, baby food. It's understandable considering it's marketed for babies and is sold in the baby aisle. The old saying goes "If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck." Buuuut, if you pop this bad boy in the freezer for 30-60 minutes you know what I see? A quick, delicious, and GP friendly snack or dessert! Having Gastroparesis makes it very difficult for the body to digest fruits and vegetables in their natural state so it's often suggested to try certain fruits and vegetables (low-fat and low-fiber varieties) very well cooked, canned, or pureed (aka baby food). When this was first suggested to me, I was pretty turned off because honestly who want's to go from eating normal food and a mainly paleo diet to baby food? Not this girl, but as much as I love the idea of mind over matter I had to admit that my tummy is in control of my food choices for the time being. That doesn't mean what I eat can't be enjoyable though, so I went on the hunt for things that I could eat.

     On Pinterest there are a lot of boards for GP friendly meal ideas that are very helpful and that is where I ran across the idea for the frozen baby foods. The original website actually suggested this as a low calorie alternative to ice cream and considering they are gluten free, dairy free, low-fat, and free of added sugars, they're a pretty good option (GPer do need to be aware of fiber content though as some can have as much as 3 grams!). Plus, they're usually packaged in 4-6 oz containers so they have built in portion control and the glass containers can be washed and reused for storing homemade purees, I'd definantly call that a win. It's probably best to stick with fruit mixes that use banana as a base as it creates a great creamy consistency that is a lot like regular ice cream or sorbet, but if you have success with over flavors feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below. If you happen to leave it in the freezer to long (or do like I do and always have a couple in there for to cut out the wait time) and it's more icy than creamy, just let it sit on the counter for five to ten minutes and it should be perfect. I can only imagine that if this little tip is so enjoyable to me, that babies would love it too as a refreshing surprise on a nice hot day, so show your little ones some love and treat them also to this yummy way to add fruits and nutrients to any diet.=)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hi, My Name's Simon'e and I'm A Spoonie.

     Having Gastroparesis is...interesting. It's considered an invisible illness because the symptoms can't be seen just looking at me and this fact has it's pros and cons. For example, on a good day I can pretend I'm normal. I can go out with my friends and not have people staring or judging me. People who don't know me or my story don't treat me weird or ask a bajillion questions. Sometimes it's nice to forget about my pain and daily struggles even if it's just for a little while. On a bad day though, my main symptoms may be invisible to most, but the trickle down effects every aspect of my life. There are times that I'm hardly able to eat for days causing my body to be weak and my mind to move slow. It's like trying to swim in a pool full of peanut butter and absolutely exhausting.

     So I'm sure you can imagine that on my good days I used to try to take full advantage and do all that I could, but that's where this Spoonie thing comes into play. As much as I want to do all of the things that I used to be able to do, my "spoons" are limited. The Spoon Theory was accidentally created by a woman who was chronically ill and asked by a close friend "what's it like?" She grabbed a bunch of spoons and handed them to her friend. She went on to explain that most people start the day with an unlimited amount of spoons while people who are chronically ill start their days with a limited amount, and it varies from day to day. EVERYTHING that we do in a day must be carefully thought out in advance because even the simplest task can use a spoon or two and when you're starting the day with only ten for example, they can go pretty fast.

     Before I read about The Spoon Theory, I had trouble accepting this as my new reality. I'd work myself until I was exhausted trying to live my life like I used to and then spend the next two to three days worn out. When my family would tell me to take it slow and offer assistance, I'd proudly refuse. I'd never needed the help before and in my mind I was the same person I had always been, why did they think I suddenly needed help all the time? After learning about it though, I was finally able to take a step back and realize that accepting my new Spoonie status didn't have to me that I liked it, and I may do less but I'm not useless. I've learned to do the best that I can at a slower pace than I used to and that my family is more than happy and willing to help me when I need it. On the way home from my last vacation, my family and I where stuck in an airport for three days and they pushed me around that airport on wheel chairs and luggage carts the whole time and as tired as they were, they never complained or made me feel bad about it. If you ask me that's some real love right there=)

     Trying to live at my new "normal" is still a daily struggle that some days I win and some days I lose, but each day I learn. I'm learning to be patient with myself and others, to speak up, and to appreciate the small accomplishments in each day. Sometimes it's the little things, like checking off a box on your to-do list or a small act of kindness, that can really keep you going through the tough times.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Time Without the Shine

     Anyone who knows me knows that I am always cold. ALWAYS. So this summer has been absolutely wonderful to me. The heat has been a nice change from the long winter that we had, and I'm soaking up every moment of it while I can. That being said, my skin doesn't exactly feel the same. I've always struggled with combination skin that is overly dry in the winter and extremely oily in the summer. While I'm still figuring out what works best for my winter dry skin, I ran across a tip online about a year ago that has been my secret weapon in the summer ever since.
     Now, I know that this is going to seem like a very odd suggestion and probably not something you'd normally want on your face, but I promise it's worth a try! Ok so here's my secret, Monistat Chafing Gel. I know, I know, seems kind of icky BUT when you think about it, it makes sense that it would work. It's meant to absorb moisture and create a satiny smooth finish to prevent skin from rubbing together. When applied to the face it does the exact same thing, absorbs oil and moisture and creates a smooth matte finish.
     I generally use it as a primer or just apply it in my T-zone and checks and like to take the extra step of applying a light dusting of finishing powder to give it some extra staying power. This one little tip has made a world of difference and I'm able to keep a tube handy in my make-up bag because far as make-up primers go it is very inexpensive at only about six dollars a tube from your local Wal-Mart, Meijers, Target, etc. which is one extra reason to run out and try it ASAP. What are some of your favorite make-up tips?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Get In My Belly!!!: Bob's Red Mill Potato Flakes

     Eating while on the go has been a recent struggle of mine. My diet is still very limited and some days I don't have time in the morning to fix a full days worth of meals to carry around with me. So one day as I was walking around Plum Market, I ended up in the boxed potato section. I had tried this route before while looking for a quick fix food, but it just never seemed to settle very well, I'm guessing because of all the chemicals and fillers that most brands have. I happened to notice that Bob's Red Mill had a line of potatoes flakes, and knowing that Bob's Red Mill products have a really good reputation, I decided to check out the ingredients for their potatoes and was completely shocked that there was only one ingredient. Yup, you guessed it, 100% dehydrated potatoes. The best part, it was only four dollars for a pretty big bag.

     The fact that these potato flakes are instant is what really drew me in. When I have some spare time, I portion off individual portions into snack size Ziplock bags or small Tupper wear containers to keep with me, and anywhere that I can get hot water I've got something hot, filling, and most importantly, GP friendly that I can eat. I use to just count of ordering a baked potato, but not every restaurant carries them (although Wendy's just about always has delicious tender baked potatoes when I'm really in a crunch), and some days the fiber in a regular baked potato is just to harsh on my tummy. If I feel like I can tolerate it, I add grilled or baked chicken or scallops for some protein to balance out all those carbs. Also egg whites are a protein that I generally tolerate pretty well. On days that none of those seem like a good idea, I settle for some nutritional yeast mixed in for a little protein and a big vitamin B boost. When it comes to the GP diet on-the-go, I have found the saying "Failure to prepare, is preparation to fail" to be all to true, so never leave the house without a few GP friendly snacks=)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Give In, But Never Give Up

     Some days I give in. I give into the fear, I give into the exhaustion, I give into the anger, and for the longest I saw this as a failure on my part. I believed that I should be strong enough to rise above negative feelings and felt that I just needed to toughen up. I rationalized that there are so many people who have a life worse than mine and still manage to function and be productive. I envied those that could put a smile on even when everything that could possibly go wrong had.

     I worked so hard to force my feelings into a place where I wouldn't have to deal with them, but that didn't make them disappear. Allowing my past bad experiences and feelings to build up was like running a marathon with one hundred pound weights on my ankles and expecting to win. Once I finally decided to deal with my emotions rather than ignore them, I was so much happier! True, dealing with emotions are not always pleasant or easy, but it's worth the effort in the long run. Everyone faces trials in their life, but the way you deal with it makes a world of difference in the effect that it will make in your life.

     A few weeks ago, I was sitting in one of my school's counselor offices filling out the paper work for my Associates Degree, and looked up to see a sign on the shelf that said "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." I sat there reflecting on all that I had been through in the past year to be sitting where I was in the moment, happy and feeling the best health wise that I'd felt in quiet some time.

     At the age of twenty, I had to quit working. I no longer had the energy to continue at my fast paced waitressing job, and although there had been plenty of times in the past that I'd wished I didn't have to work, I never thought it'd be because I couldn't. I had to drop multiple classes when I was sick so often that I missed more classes than I attended. Thankfully, some of my teachers were very understanding and worked with me so that I didn't have to drop all of them and was able to graduate on schedule. At one point, I was mostly house bound because I barely had the energy to walk from the den to the kitchen, not to mention just the idea of riding in a car sent my stomach spinning. After months of medical testing locally, I faced a trip to the Mayo Clinic for a very rough week of testing that not only tested my physical body, but my mental strength as well.

     Yet here I am, fighting. Every day with GP is a battle, and yes some days I give in, but I never give up. I am beyond grateful to have so many people in my life who love and support me through the good days and the bad. On those days when I do give in and feel that I just can't fight, I know they've got my back and will fight for me until I'm strong enough to get back up. They help me "dance in the rain" when I'm feeling terrible by doing everything they can to make me comfortable and bring a smile to my face. They help me "dance in the rain" by sitting and watching movies with me when I have the energy to do nothing else. Most of all, they help me "dance in the rain" by loving me unconditionally and letting me know that even when the best that I can give is 20%, it will always be enough for them. So for all you GP fighters and people facing the various trials of life, find those people, or reasons, to help you "dance in the rain" and never give up.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

     Having GP makes it very important to get as much nutrition into each bite as possible. Now with that being said, some days a girl just needs her chocolate fix! Being on a gluten and dairy free diet makes that pretty tough though, so I went on a hunt for a chocolate recipe and after a couple recipe trial and errors, found one that was just what I was looking for. The first recipe that I tried claimed the chocolate would be a nice sauce at room temperature and a spreadable consistency once refrigerated. No matter how long I refrigerated that chocolate it never thickened, very disappointing. It was also very bitter, and I am not a dark chocolate kind of person so that didn't sit very well for me.

     The idea of a chocolate sauce that could also be used as an icing was very appealing to me though, so I kept looking and ran across this recipe for a Allergen Free Chocolate Syrup from a website called Allergy Free Cooking Baby. Since the recipe was for a syrup, I decided to cut the liquid back by half hoping it'd thicken up in the refrigerator and it did not disappoint. Even my grandma, who is not a sweets person, loved it! So without further au due, I present all of you chocolate lovers with...

Allergen Free Chocolate Syrup

 From: Allergen Free Cooking Baby!

  • • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • • 1 cup Cacao powder or Cocoa powder
  • • 1 cup water ( I used only a 1/2 cup of water to achieve a thicker consistency)
  • • ¼ tsp salt
  • • 2 tsp vanilla
  1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugars, cacao powder, & salt, just until mixed.
  2. Add in water and vanilla and stir over medium heat.
  3. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer.
  4. The mixture will start to stick to the spoon.
  5. Mixture will thicken a little more in the refrigerator.
  6. Use for chocolate dairy free milk, or as a topping on your favorite dairy free ice cream.
*As a caution, be careful to mix everything well before heating as any dry ingredients stuck to the bottom will burn very easily!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Iberogast to the Rescue

     When it comes to treatment options for GP, there aren't many. It's pretty frustrating but led me to search for alternatives, such as Iberogast. It's a simple blend of natural herbs (in liquid form taken three times per day so it's easily absorbed and digested) that helps with symptoms such as nausea, bloating, and heartburn, and also helps move food through the stomach which is exactly what I need. I had heard about Iberogast quite a few times before I decided to give it a try and am kicking myself that I waited so long to try it, but figured if nothing the doctors tried could help me, then why should something this simple.
     It's not a cure all, but has helped so much with my symptoms and reduce my number of flare ups. Before the Iberogast, I could hardly consume eight hundred calories per day and was at a dangerously low weight and now I can generally eat twelve to fifteen hundred calories per day and have gained six pounds! My eating is still far from normal and generally with some discomfort, but this simple and natural remedy has allowed me to eat more thus gaining weight and having more energy to get back to living the life I want and will continue to be big part in my fight against GP.
     Iberogast has a very safe tract record and has been used in other countries for quite awhile, but as with any medication changes you wish to make you should speak with your doctor before doing so. If you would like to give Iberogast a try, you can by it here on Amazon and also read all of the positive reviews of other people (including those without GP!) who have benefited. If you or someone else you know decides to try it, please let me know what you think=)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Get In My Belly!!!: Barney Smooth Almond Butter

     Wow. That's literally all I have to say about this almond butter. In the past, I was a lover of all things made with peanut butter, but lately it just doesn't settle well for me *tear*. So I decided to give other nut butters a try and had heard good things about almond butter, so that is where I started. I tried a few different brands and they were all pretty good, or so I thought. Most almond butters are made from almonds with the skin on and just don't get as smooth of a texture as I was use to from peanut butter.
     Then I tried Barney Almond Butter. They use blanched almonds (meaning that the skins are removed) so the texture is much smoother than many other brands. Finally something that could satisfy my craving! Now the taste isn't the same since it is a different nut, but if you enjoy the taste of almonds it's definitely a nice change. It's not nearly as sweet as most commercial peanut butters, but that's because it's not full of nasty chemicals and high fructose corn syrups so you won't hear me complaining. Also, I love the fact that they sell individual serving packets that are perfect for on the go and traveling. The only two stores that I have seen this brand of almond butter are Whole Foods (although they don't serve the individual packets here) and Plum Market. If neither of these stores are near you, you can buy them online straight from the Barney Website (you can also type in your zip code to find stores that do sell them nearby) or on Amazon.
     In small quantities (about 1 Tb at a serving, up to 2 Tb a day) nut butters are considered GP friendly, but they are generally high in fat so depending on your tolerance of fats it's best to build up to a full Tb to see how you personally tolerate it.  To satisfy my almond butter cravings, I start every day off with a nice hot bowl of grits ( 1/2 cup eatten very slowly is GP friendly for me) with 1 Tb of Barney Almond Butter and 1 Tb of light brown sugar. You'd think it'd get old fast, but nope I still love it! Hot cereals are very comforting to me and easily digested. Adding nut butter is a great way to add some protein and extra calories without adding too much volume, which is a big consideration for me since I can't eat too much food at one sitting.
     "Get In My Belly!!!" is going to be a permanent segment on my blog highlighting GP friendly foods that I have found since I know just how difficult it can be to come up with food ideas. True, every GP patient and their tummy is different and what works for me may not work for you, but hopefully it can be a good place to start your own experimentation, and if you have any suggestions for me please feel free to leave them in the comment section below=)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Make-Up Review: Velvet Eyeliner

     For awhile make-up was sooo not on my radar. I barely had the energy to walk up a flight of stairs let alone consider getting all cute and dolled up, but since I've been able to get my health on a more stable level I'm finding that I have more time and energy for the things I use to enjoy. Which leads me to my very first make-up review for an eyeliner that is pretty amazing!

     It's called Velvet Eyeliner and it's a liquid with a brush tip that can be used to apply thin or thick lines and works great to get that perfect cat eye. Now I know you're thinking there's nothing to extraordinary about that but here's the kicker, I got my first Velvet Eyeliner over a year ago and it still works! I've never had a liquid eyeliner last this long and it is so simple to use. Plus it's very study and compact so works great for girls that are always on the go as it is super simple to just toss in your bag and go. Also because of the way that it is designed, if you accidently forget to put the cap on it, no worries because it can not dry out! Simply put the cap back on and store it tip side down overnight and it should be good as new in the morning.
     This eyeliner has great staying power and the black (the only color that I have tried personally) is pretty intense which I love. It's water based so can be removed at the end of the night with simple soap and water rather than having to scrub your poor eyes to death, although I use my make-up remover anyway just out of habit. Overall I would give this eyeliner a 9 out of 10 stars and suggest every girl who uses eyeliner on a daily bases get one, you won't regret it!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A "Pinteresting" Idea

     Lately I've been busy using an app on my phone to keep track of everything that I put into my mouth so I can be sure I'm getting the right amount of calories and have come to realize that besides my colorful fruit snacks and jello, my diet is pretty "white." Grits, quinoa flakes, mashed potatoes, almond milk, white bread, crackers, just blah blah bland! All the foods I've listed I really do love and generally tolerate pretty well, but eating the same thing day in and day out gets boring really fast. Not to mention having little variety in the diet can easily lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, although I've been suggested an awesome liquid vitamin to take so that's not a huge concern for me.

     To combat this boring spell, I know I'm going to have to work at expanding my diet through quite a bit of trial and error, which can seem a bit scary and overwhelming so I decided to try and make it a little fun with a "Pinteresting" idea. I've found that when I just snack all day, I'm less likely to make good food choices and tend to be way under my calorie goal so having set times to eat and healthy mini meals preplanned is my new goal. True, some days it will be tough to stick to my planned meals or I may even have to make substitutions based off of how my tummy is feeling, but having a plan of action will help keep me moving towards my main goal of getting out of my food rut and increasing my calorie intake.
     Now, back to this "Pinteresting" idea. I love Pinterest because it is full of great ideas, and when my sister and I ran across this one I knew that it would be perfect. I'm a real arts and crafts kinda girl and decided why should I make my meal plans on a boring piece of paper when I could make my own interactive DIY Meal Planning Board! So off we went to our local Michael's Arts and Craft store, and I'm not going to lie, this was not the cheapest project we've ever done but was totally worth it and turned out great (not sure why the picture is so squashed, it's actually a pretty decent sized board). As I add more foods to my diet, I can make a meal card for it and add it into my food rotation. I know that watching the pile of cards grow is going to be a huge source of motivation for me.


     You can find the basic directions here, but I love how customizable this can be. You can pick any size board and the color and decoration options are endless. Also, it can be set up as a daily meal planner with six pegs for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a few snacks or with seven pegs as a dinner planner for the week. The best part? It so easy to put together! A good pair of scissors, a large picture frame or cork board, some glue, a ruler, and some decorative paper and you're basically good to go.

     Although I plan on using this meal planning board to help me through my GP, meal planning is really a great idea for anyone wanting to be more adventurous with their meals (write meals you want to try on a meal card and have each family member draw one card until your dinners are all planned for the week) or wanting to eat healthier and save some money (with a little careful planning you can have all your meals packed and with you rather than eating fast food on the go). Hopefully this meal planning board can be as useful for you and your family as it will be for me, and if anyone has suggestions for more meal planning ideas feel free to share in the comment section below!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cooking My Fears Away

     Having a condition that severely limits the amount and types of food that I can eat left me with a real love hate relationship. On the one hand I love to eat! The fact that I was always sick after eventually lead to my fear of food. Surprisingly, cooking became like a form of therapy. I missed having food in my life, but didn't want to deal with the way it made me feel so I started cooking all the things that I missed for my family. I was able to take in the process, the smells, the colors, the textures, and mostly I loved the looks on their faces when the food would come out a success. By cooking for someone else, I was able to focus on the food in a more relaxing environment rather than the stress and anxiety that I normally felt.
     Between the cooking and finding the right medication and therapist, I'm finally getting to the place where food is not the enemy and lately I've been using my new found cooking skills on myself. I'm definitely starting slow with foods like toast with almond butter, creamy grits, egg white muffin cups, and homemade smoothies to build up the foods that my stomach is able to tolerate and also to get into a good routine of eatting healthy foods rather than relying on empty calories like juice, fruit snacks, and Jello which have become my staples over the past months.
    Now for all you Android lovers out there who also enjoy cooking, I have a great app suggestion for you! To keep all the new recipes that I want to try for me and my family organized I have been using a free app called ChefTap which takes just about any recipe online and puts it into an offline cookbook on your phone that is easily accessible. I love that it allows you to tag all your recipes so that they are easy to find. I use tags such as GP friendly (for all of my recipes that are easier to digest for my GP tummy), dairy free, gluten free, single serving, and quick fix but because you can make your own tags the options are endless. The app allows you to take your own pictures for the recipes or to import pictures from the original website. You can also add your own recipes so it's a great place to store all of those old family recipes that never want to be found when you actually need them. The designers of ChefTap do have plans of converting the app to be iPhone friendly at some point in the future, so all you Apple people will have to be a little patient but I promise you it will be worth the wait!
     As I try different recipes, I will be sure to post them because I know how easy it is to get stuck in a rut with having a few "safe foods." With careful planning and a little bravery, trying new foods can be very enjoyable and I've found that every successful food gives me the courage to keep moving forward on my path back to normalcy=)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Back to Normalcy!

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option." -Unknown.

     Now, I know most people who come across this blog are asking themselves gastroWHAT?? You read right, GASTROPARESIS. Simply put, Gastroparesis is a paralysis of the muscles of the stomach. It can cause some pretty frustrating and debilitating symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, weight loss, and even malnutrition. It's mostly compared to having a stomach virus 24/7, and I would definitely second that description.
     Because there is no cure and the few treatment options that are available are generally ineffective, my initial reaction to this diagnosis was to sit around the house, nauseas and depressed. I eventually decided the best way to deal with the nausea was to stop eating and began losing weight rapidly. My health spiraled downward for quite some time, and I kept waiting for any doctor to find a way to fix me and give me my life back. I finally realized that although having Gastroparesis sucks, there was so many worse things that could have happened!
     Yes, I have Gastroparesis, but it's not nearly as bad as it could be. My stomach is slow, but it still works. Sure eating makes me nauseas, but so does not eating. If I'm going to be sick anyway, might as well enjoy some food! Although my diet is still very limited, it is definitely a work in progress and I'm confident that with trial and error I will find a balance that works for me. I've decided that not only do I need to focus on my eating and nutrition, I need to focus on my whole self and that is where this blog comes in.
     Me and My GP is like a life raft that serves two purposes. One, to help me document my journey back to normalcy. Although I have Gastroparesis, I'm still the same person that I was before and REFUSE to let this condition dictate what I will do with my life. So to get back to enjoying all the hobbies that I use to love, I will be writing lots of post about things such as arts and crafts projects, natural/DIY beauty remedies, drawing, cooking, and something new that I plan to try this spring and summer, gardening. Basically whatever I can do to stay occupied and keep my mind off of my physical symptoms will pop up here.
     My second reason for this blog is to hopefully help others who are struggling with GP and the effects that it can have in daily living. Eventually I'll get around to posting my whole story, but for now I want to focus on the present and how I'm learning to conquer this condition and be happy. (Now, I'm not a doctor so any advice that I give is based solely off of my own experiences and anyone wanting to try them should definitely check with their doctor first.) My goal is to show people that not only can you live with a chronic illness, you can actually have a life!