Whole grain bowls are healthy and creative!

A local food trailer that serves wonderfully healthy vegan food has inspired me. The food trailer is called ATX Food, and it’s parked just outside Bicycle Sports Shop on South Lamar, just south of the McDonald’s on Barton Springs and Lamar (which appears to be closed).

ATX Food makes fabulous quinoa bowls! There are several varieties. Each bowl on their menu includes toasted quinoa, half a perfectly ripe avocado, pickled red cabbage, and a generous dusting of sesame seeds. These bowls are colorful as well as healthy!

The photo below is their Chickpea Power Bowl. Other ingredients include wild mushrooms and fresh field greens (hiding under everything else). A green goddess dressing tops it off.

You can get bowls with squash, tomatoes, kale…and there’s even version with barbecued tempeh.

One of these bowls is more than enough food for me. And they are $12. I thought I would try my hand making them at home.

I like to improvise, and I went to town on my homemade grain bowls! Every day I concoct something different. like a variety of colors and textures and tastes. I like my bowls to serve my health as well as my eyes and tastebuds and mouth-feel.

So far I’ve used quinoa and wild rice, both hearty grain-like seeds. In the future I may use brown rice, black rice, buckwheat.

I could also replace the grains/seeds with legumes, and if I want more protein, I can add baked tofu, nuts, seeds, a jammy egg, feta, a sardine. (I’m not vegan, but I am making my diet more plant-based.)

I typically add spring mix but I could use any other kind of lettuce. Other raw veggies: those colorful mini-bell peppers, mixed colors of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, snap peas, green onions, chopped cauliflower, broccoli, or kale will all make a more salad-like bowl.

Possibilities for cooked veggies include asparagus, carrots, celery, green beans, mushrooms, spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, kale, chard, collards, beets. It’s good to research which veggies have more nutrients cooked, versus raw. (Not everyone agrees.) It’s a good way to use leftovers, too.

I enjoy the taste of pickled veggies, and I’ve pickled red cabbage at home…it’s easy, adds a pop of color and taste, and is a lot faster than making kraut. Pickled beets, okra, or ginger add nice pops of flavor, too.

Fermenting food is one of my favorite ways to prepare food. How much should you eat in a day? Short answer: as many types as you can, to strengthen your immune system and improve digestion.

Right now I have kombucha in my cupboard, going through a second fermentation with pomegranate juice. A two-quart jar of beet kvass sits on my counter. My refrigerator holds two jars of homemade kim chi.

I’ll soon be making kraut from a big beautiful red cabbage and salt. Kombucha, kvass, kim chi, and kraut are the big 4 Ks in my kitchen.

I also fermented soy beans, inoculating them with store-bought frozen natto. I now have lots of sticky, stringy natto that is so good with kim chi, and so good for getting calcium into your bones.

Wow, where am I? I really went off on a tangent there! I add kim chi or kraut to my bowls.

There are lots of ways to garnish a bowl: fresh sprouts, microgreens, pepitas, pistachios, chopped walnuts or almonds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pomegranate seeds, blueberries!

I like Bragg’s dressings made with olive oil. I love a good sesame-ginger dressing too. There’s a delicious miso dressing sold at H-E-B (Oka’s) that I want to replicate with healthy oil. Salsa, tahini, and yogurt are other possibilities.

The opportunities to create beautiful food that tastes great are many. These bowls are balanced, colorful, textured, and nutrient-dense. I like to eat one for my main meal of the day. If I’m hungry in the evening, I eat lightly.

The three ignitions, plus some great questions

It’s been a good long while since I’ve posted anything here, and I have a free Monday morning, so here goes!

I just got back last night from a 3-day retreat on Biodynamics and Spiritual Embodiment taught by my colleague Christian Current. (If you don’t know already, I practice craniosacral biodynamics in Austin and Taos. Professional website: maryannreynolds.com.)

The setting was a private rural acreage 25 miles away from my home — with only the sounds of birds, wind, wind chimes, and running water from bubbling pools and fountains. No noise from traffic, sirens, planes — lovely. There were cabins, an Airstream, and a Winnebago for sleeping, and a talented young cook provided fresh healthful tasty food for the 12 of us. A pool and hot tub and gardens rounded out the amenities.

The retreat centered around the three energetic ignitions that occur in every living human before and right after birth: the conception ignition, the heart ignition, and the birth ignition.

Please note that the locations of these ignitions correspond to the upper, middle, and lower dantiens in Taoist energy physiology, to the three bony compartments of our bodies, the cranium, rib cage, and pelvis, and to three major energies we experience as humans, the energies of being, of relating, and of autonomy.

I learned a lot! Did you know that there’s a flash of light at conception, and that after the invited sperm embeds in the ovum, the sperm head dissolves and 20 minutes of complete stillness follow?

Maybe that’s why so many meditation guidelines recommend 20 minutes once or twice a day.

Did you know that the place where the sperm enters the egg becomes the third eye/ajna chakra/third ventricle of brain?

Did you know that blood is the first organ (it’s connective tissue) and it forms the heart? Not, as one might think, the container forms first and then fills.

Did you know that when the umbilical cord stops pulsing (on its own — it’s frequently severed too soon) and the first breath is taken, an ignition occurs that where the baby separates as an entity from its mother?

There was so much more. Some of it I’ve learned in previous trainings, but not in this much depth.

Oh, and it was full of great questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want? What makes me happy?
  • What power(s) do I wield? What effects do I see I make in the world or myself?

I wanted to find the clearest truth possible in each of my answers:

  • I am loving awareness, which is always present as a baseline.
  • What I want and what makes me happy are the same: fulfillment.
  • My greatest power is choice.

How would you answer these questions?

Swishing with salt water reduces gum disease

I have a new dental hygienist, Melissa, and one of the things I love about my dentist is that she hires people who are really experienced and good at what they do. Turnover is really low in her office.

The excellent hygienist she replaced went on to a job teaching dental hygiene. Her students are lucky to have her.

I’ve written about my dental issues before: the one back molar that had a pocket that kept getting deeper…4, 5, 7, 8…

Short version of how it happened: When I had my wisdom teeth extracted ages ago, the dentist did not remove the extra gum tissue. Years after, I got a piece of popcorn kernel stuck between the now-back molar (tooth #2) and that extra gum tissue. I could not get it out, went to sleep, and the next day I couldn’t feel it any more. It softened from saliva.

I forgot about it, but that gum tissue slowly became infected from bacteria drawn to the stuck food, and it eventually affected the bone.

I finally had the tooth extracted and bone treated a couple of years ago. Problem solved. Whew.

The thing is, having one deep pocket affects the entire microbiome of the mouth. Those inflammatory bacteria spread and deepen other pockets.

I still had some recovery to do.

My new hygienist gave me a very valuable tip. She said that if I swished salt water in my mouth for one minute after brushing and flossing, and did that every night for six months, my pockets would go down two points (millimeters).

She says a pocket 4 mm deep is consider borderline. Better to get 1, 2, or 3. A depth of 5mm or greater is serious, requiring more frequent cleanings and treatments.

I starting doing the saltwater swish, using about 1/8 teaspoon of Real salt (my favorite for cooking as well) and a tablespoon or two of warm water.

My setup for salt water swishing

Although I was not as consistent as she prescribed, I did it frequently enough that my pockets did indeed go down. Last week, a year after I started salt water swishing, Melissa took a look in my mouth and didn’t even bother to measure the pockets…they were all 1s and 2s.

My mouth feels deeply clean after the salt water swish. The reduction in bacteria helps your breath stay fresh longer, too.

Another bonus: the dental office is now scheduling my cleanings every 6 months instead of every 4 months.

Swishing with salt water after brushing and flossing is simple, inexpensive, and easily obtainable.

How does it work?

Salt pulls fluids out of tissues, reducing inflammation and swelling.

Salt alkalizes the pH of the mouth, reducing harmful bacteria that prefer an acidic environment to thrive. Thus, it is anti-bacterial, killing bacteria causing gingivitis and bad breath and reducing plaque on teeth. You can skip the mouthwash.

The swishing action also loosens any food particles not removed by brushing and flossing (and if you don’t have time to floss, swishing will at least keep your mouth cleaner).

It reportedly helps with canker sores and soothes toothaches.

Salt water swishing also promotes healing after dental procedures, preventing painful “dry socket” after an extraction.

If you gargle the salt water before spitting it out, it soothes sore throats and prevents colds, upper respiratory infections, and virus transmission.

Precautions? Don’t swallow it, spit it out! Don’t overdo it, either. Once or twice a day is enough. Overuse could irritate inflamed gums. Also, use warm water if your teeth are sensitive to cold.

I used a CGM to monitor my blood sugar

I’ve been wearing a continuous glucose monitor for a few months. It’s a sensor on the back of my upper arm that I scan with my phone using an app that analyzes data.

I enter what I eat and when.

I was curious about how glucose affected me. Apparently people can’t tell when their glucose is too high, unlike when it’s too low. And with so many people being prediabetic or diabetic, I wanted personal information.

Things I’ve learned:

It’s all about carbs/sugars/starches — whatever you call it, it’s converted to glucose.

Warm roasted potatoes make my glucose spike high. Cold potatoes not so much, and I presume that other starchy foods like cold rice or pasta salads would be the same. Better cold than hot.

(Another benefit: I understand many grains and starchy veggies, when served cold, create resistant starch, which feeds gut bacteria.)

Half a serving of warm potatoes doesn’t spike it nearly as much. Same with a banana. Half is better — you still get some carbs but keep glucose levels down.

I’ve read that not everyone responds the same. Some people may be able to eat warm potatoes and not have their glucose spike as high as mine did.

I haven’t tested popcorn yet and am curious.

You want your glucose to come back to baseline within 2-3 hours after eating.

One staple of my diet, at least in summer, is a large salad of greens, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, green onions, black olives, capers, walnuts, and sprouts, with half a filet of wild salmon or some chicken sprinkled across the top, drenched in a balsamic vinaigrette I make with olive oil.

It does not budge my blood sugar.

My reading on a really good day

Walking or otherwise exercising after eating lowers glucose because you’re burning it as energy, especially if you eat carbs.

You want to keep glucose levels between 70 and 140, with your daily average below 105.

Fasting glucose is measured two hours after waking up and not eating anything. Eating dinner and/or drinking alcohol closer to bedtime raises it. Try to eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime.

That’s a key indicator of future health. Here’s more info on levels, from Levels, another CGM company (that has a wait list).

Also, you may understand from this why intermittent fasting (eating within a 4-8 hour window) makes such a difference in health.

If you don’t want to use a CGM device, you can use the finger prick method of obtaining your fasting glucose level two hours after waking. Research shows that a fasting glucose reading of 86 is ideal for health and longevity purposes.

That, and keeping it steady from day to day, are the best and easiest ways to optimize healthy blood sugar levels.

NutriSense is the company I used. I had access to a dietitian for free the first month.

If you want to try it with $25 off your first month, use this: https://nutrisense.io?code=MARYANNR

New pillow recommendation

This may be a new concept for some of you, but we have posture 24/7, including when we sleep. Our bodies shape themselves to how we use them. Spending 1/3 of your life with a bad pillow is an invitation for neck pain, possibly headaches, and exacerbated jaw pain.

My profession is bodywork, and I specialize in craniosacral therapy and TMJ Relief. I’m interested in the quality of life of my clients and my readers, and that includes quality of sleep, posture, range of motion, habit change, breathing, awareness, deep relaxation…and so much more.

In the past I’ve recommended the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow often. Nearly every person with jaw issues also has neck issues, so inquiring about sleep posture and pillows is part of my evaluation, and treating the neck is part of nearly every TMJ Relief session.

The Therapeutica pillow is what I’ve used myself for years, and I never have neck pain. It comes in 5 sizes — you measure the width of your shoulder to get the right height for side sleeping. It also supports the curve in the neck for back sleeping.

I’m still recommending it, and there’s another option now as well. Yes, it is more expensive than the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow, but it has some qualities you may appreciate.

A client recently shared with me that she’s discovered a pillow that she just loves. She has neck, head, and jaw issues. I looked it up, and it has much going for it. It’s the Turiya Organic Latex Pillow.

It’s made of natural latex and is mold and mildew resistant. The cover is made of organic cotton. The pillow is described as “medium firm”.

The top is for side sleeping, and the bottom is for back sleeping. The ear indentations are great for side sleepers with lots of ear piercings.

The average review is 4.2 stars. I haven’t tried it myself, but my client just loves it, and she’s a savvy woman…with neck, head, and jaw issues.

It’s $118, and you can buy it in 4 interest-free installments. If you buy one, you get 15% off a second one. You can try it for 30 days (which they recommend because it may take some getting used to). It comes with a 365 day guarantee, and returns are free.

It is 5 inches high, so if your shoulders are wider than that, you can put a folded towel under it for added height.

If your shoulders are narrower than that, please don’t get this pillow! Try the Therapeutica instead.

The Therapeutica pillow comes in 5 sizes, doesn’t have ear indentations, uses one side for both side and back sleeping, costs about $80 for the average size, is firm, and comes with a 5-year guarantee that it will hold its shape. It does not have ear indentations, but it does have “valleys” to minimize pressure on the jaw for side-sleepers.

It is non-allergenic and has a 90-day return policy.

If you have a favorite pillow or have tried either of these, I’m interested in your experience.

New Self-Care for Jaw Pain course starts in February

I am a bodyworker, and one of my specialties is TMJ Relief. I help relieve jaw pain due to muscle tension. I’ve been doing this since 2013.

It has not been safe to work in people’s open mouths since March. I’m a one-woman practice without the resources of a dental office to acquire state-of-the-art air cleaners and make a large investment in PPE.

Meanwhile, the need for relief is even greater due to the stresses of COVID and the economy, working unergonomically from home, and poor sleep. People are clenching and grinding and damaging their teeth more than they did before COVID.

So…not wanting my skills to go to waste, knowing I could relieve some of the suffering, I spent the summer developing a Zoom course for people who would like to learn how to relieve their own jaw pain, offering it for the first time in the fall.

I’m offering it again in February 2020. There are 4 classes a week apart in the course. You will learn to replace the clenching habit with Relaxed Resting Mouth Position — you can accomplish this during the 4 weeks of the course with some helpful hints and daily mindfulness.

You will learn the quickest stress reduction technique available, documented by a neurobiology lab.

You will get helpful information and direction about stopping a night-time grinding habit. It’s more involved than daytime clenching and usually takes longer to eliminate, yet people have done it so we’ll model them.

You’ll learn how to work on yourself, releasing tension in both your external and internal jaw muscles.

You can learn more and sign up on my website. You can also join my email list for future announcements, join my Facebook group Word of Mouth for people seeking solutions for jaw issues, take a jaw pain quiz, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation or a 30-minute Zoom consultation.

The class starts February 4, and the size is limited, so if this interests you, please sign up early to ensure you get in.

Not everyone has jaw pain, but nearly everyone knows someone who does suffer from it. I would be much obliged if you would share this post if you know someone who’s suffering who would at least want to know about this offering.

Antioxidants may lessen severity of COVID in older people

My email this morning contained news from Science Daily that researchers have discovered the mechanics of why COVID tends to be more severe in the elderly and people with underlying conditions.

I’m no scientist, but this was something I wondered about. I’m 67 and although I don’t consider myself elderly, I am an elder. (Humor me.)

I wondered what exactly is it about being older that makes one more vulnerable. I know lots of people my age and older who are healthy and living active lives. They don’t have underlying conditions, and apart from wrinklier skin, graying hair, and joints that are a little bit stiffer, are pretty healthy and fit.

According to this research as I understand it, it’s cellular oxidation that gives the COVID virus something to latch onto.

“Our analysis suggests that greater cellular oxidation in the elderly or those with underlying health conditions could predispose them to more vigorous infection, replication and disease,” says co-author Rajinder Dhindsa, an emeritus professor of biology at McGill University.

…According to the researchers, preventing the anchor from forming could be the key to unlocking new treatments for COVID-19. One strategy, they suggest, could be to disrupt the oxidizing environment that keeps the disulfide bonds intact. “Antioxidants could decrease the severity of COVID-19 by interfering with entry of the virus into host cells and its survival afterwards in establishing further infection,” says Professor Singh.

Source: Science Daily article

Cells produce free radicals as the body processes food and reacts to the environment. If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can result. Antioxidants can help prevent this.

It appears that over time, an excess of free radicals can do the kind of cellular damage that results in not only more severe cases of COVID, but also heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, Parkinson’s, respiratory illness, and more.

How do you prevent oxidative stress? Avoiding inflammation, pollution, smoking, and too much UV exposure help.

You can also consume antioxidants from food. They are free-radical scavengers.

Antioxidant is a broad label for hundreds of substances that do the same thing: prevent or slow oxidative stress.

You’ve probably heard of some of them, like beta-carotene and lycopene. Each one does a specific thing, but all of them are plant-based, so it’s important to eat lots of fruits and veggies, especially the most colorful ones like berries, citrus, greens, beets, tomatoes, mangoes, etc.

Without knowing this, I learned that I was already doing a lot of things right.

  • I drink matcha every morning (green tea is a major antioxidant).
  • I eat lots of leafy greens.
  • I eat a small apple for a snack nearly every day.
  • I keep frozen berries on hand for smoothies.
  • I make and drink beet kvass (a fermented drink).
  • I cook with a lot of herbs and spices. I grow herbs and pick them right before cooking.

With supplements, more is not necessarily better, and some can interact with meds. You probably want to talk to a nutritionist first.

I hope that this is helpful. I hope you stay well, and if you get sick, that you recover well. If you want to know more, I found this article credible and helpful.

Take the jaw pain quiz

I created a 3-minute quiz that you can take to get a quick sort on how serious your jaw pain is, along with some possible next steps.

Click here to take the quiz.

It’s not a full-length evaluation like you would get if you came to see me in my office. But it seems that a lot of people with jaw pain don’t know how common it is — and how much jaw symptoms can vary from person to person.

Understanding the factors that contribute to jaw pain is not well-researched, but stress, posture, and habits are commonly involved.

We address these factors in my Self-Help for Jaw Pain online course, which is one option after taking the quiz.

Self-Help for Jaw Pain class on Zoom

Dentists are seeing more people coming in with cracked teeth during this pandemic. People are clenching and grinding because of stress.

Doing manual therapy in people’s mouths is risky at this time.

Here’s an alternative.

I’m offering an online course on Zoom, teaching people what it takes to create lasting relief from jaw pain. (Sadly, it’s rarely a quick fix — it’s more like changing habits and tension patterns.)

Anyway, if you have jaw pain and would rather not, check it out here: maryannreynolds.com.

You have better things to do than suffer.

Half a shade safer

Anxiety. It’s more contagious than the coronavirus. Are you feeling it? I am.

I came up with a strategy to relieve it.

And it’s working.

Because anxiety, which I think of as prolonged, low-level fear, isn’t healthy for human beings like you and me.

There’s a sort of warp in our evolution as human beings.

Once upon a time, our autonomic nervous systems sent us into fight-or-flight mode when we perceived danger — often before our conscious minds were even aware of a predator. Because there’s part of our brain that’s always scanning for danger. It’s there to help us survive. It’s instinctive.

On perceiving a threat, our bodies would tense up. Our vision would narrow. Our hearts would pound. Our blood would flow to our limbs. We would fight or we would flee.

And when we weren’t in danger, we felt safe. We relaxed. Our hearts slowed down. Our breathing slowed. We could see widely again. Our blood flowed to our organs. We rejoined the tribe.

Our bodies then had the resources to recover, repair damage, restore our metabolisms to healing mode.

I don’t recall the source, but I read somewhere that the early members of our species spent about 4 hours a day hunting and gathering. The rest of the time, they were hanging out in groups or tribes, playing, talking, taming wolves, preparing food, making clothing, making weapons, watching the clouds and the stars, praying, doing rituals, bonding with their community on whom they all depended.

Yet their lifespans were shorter. Many more infants and children died than now. They faced floods and famines, as well as predators and warring tribes.

Their lives were filled with more uncertainties and threats to survival than ours.

I have a hunch that people who were that close to survival felt gratitude for each new day. Gratitude for having food and fire and a good hunt and each other. Gratitude for the times when they were safe, for peace.

Fast forward to today’s times. We’re not out in the sunshine all day, walking around and soaking up Vitamin D. We’re breathing conditioned air inside buildings, looking out windows. We work twice as many hours as our early ancestors. We have a money economy, modern medicine, cars, Social Security.

The threats to our survival are not hungry predators any more. (Well, except when they are angry or terrified or numb human predators, especially those with guns.)

Our nervous systems weren’t built for prolonged fear, a constant sense of not being at ease, anxiety. This leads to adrenal exhaustion, which saps our energy and is exhausting without any truly restorative rest.

Maybe what we teach ourselves now about managing our own anxiety will help our species as a whole evolve past fear-based reactivity and toward a caring kind of responsibility, for our own well-being and that of others.

What makes you feel anxious? The virus? The economy? The wildfires? The election? Conspiracy theories? Race-based violence? Armed white supremacists? Antifa? The news? Karens and Chads? Maskless people? People whose anxieties have gotten the better of them? People who don’t see we’re all part of one tribe, humanity? People so anxious they can’t listen or reason?

There’s a lot OUT THERE to feel anxious about. And anxiety means we experience it IN HERE.

Take a moment to check in. Where are you? What are your surroundings at this very moment?

Are you actually SAFE in this moment?

If you have the leisure to read this, I’m guessing you are.

How does being SAFE feel in your body?

Here’s what I notice in my body.

I feel my body weight sinking into the mattress. I feel my back and legs pressing the mattress, and the top part of my body feeling cooler air. Also, that one foot that’s outside the sheets feels cooler.

I notice my chest and abdomen rising and falling as I breathe.

I hear my fingers on the keyboard.

I see my hands, the iPad keyboard and screen, the pillow they are sitting on, the tangled sheets and foot beyond that.

I see windows on either side of me, a mirror and shelf across the room, and an open closet door, and my tea on the nightstand.

I hear cicadas droning, cardinals chirping, keyboard sounds, and distant traffic.

I feel safe.

~~

The other night, I woke multiple times. My mind was thinking anxious thoughts. It was hard to get back to sleep.

Some nights are like that. Maybe it was the caffeinated tea I drank in the afternoon.

It’s not like I live in a bubble. I take precautions to prevent getting and spreading the virus. One of my family members had it — thankfully, it turned out to be a very mild case. I’m on social media. I check the news. I abhor the violence and hatred I learn about. I worry about the presidential campaign, the election, the aftermath, climate change, the possibility of a really bad economic crash.

These times are filled with uncertainty.

And a good night’s sleep means so very much in terms of having the ability to manage well.

So I tried something different. When an anxious thought arose, I said to myself, “This is just an anxious thought.”

I’d feel how it felt in my body. The tension, the unpleasantness.

Then I’d take a deep breath and let my THINKING mind take a little break by turning my attention to SENSING.

I’d feel my bodyweight pressing into the mattress and pillow. I’d feel the rhythm of breathing. I’d recognize that I was in my home, in my bed, and that there were no immanent threats to my safety. (Except those anxious thoughts.)

And I’d tell myself, “I AM SAFE.”

A few rounds of this every time an anxious thought arose, and I finally went back to sleep.

Since that experience, I’ve really been honing in on what it’s like to feel safe.

It feels good.

I am grateful.

(Apologies to David Whyte for a play on the title of his latest series, Half a Shade Braver.)