Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Health: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

For a long time I have been interested in gut health and the human microbiome. It started with reading that more than 2000 years ago, Hippocrates, one of the famous old greek healers, said that all disease starts in the gut. When I read that the first time it resonated with me. Ever since I have been reading more and more about it and it all started to make more and more sense.
I have also been struggling with tiredness for a long time and found over the last few years that the more fermented foods I eat, the better I feel and the less chance of crashing. So I have made an effort to use as many foods as possible in a fermented state and eat, or drink them as frequently as possible. Of course for me this was just anecdotal, so I have not really spread my experience to many people, unless they were very interested and struggling themselves. Anyway, today I read an article in science daily, which gave me the information that I needed to confirm my thoughts and experiences.

Here it is:


Physicians have been mystified by chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition where normal exertion leads to debilitating fatigue that isn't alleviated by rest. There are no known triggers, and diagnosis requires lengthy tests administered by an expert.

Now, for the first time, Cornell University researchers report they have identified biological markers of the disease in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood.

In a study published June 23 in the journal Microbiome, the team describes how they correctly diagnosed myalgic encephalomyeletis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in 83 percent of patients through stool samples and blood work, offering a noninvasive diagnosis and a step toward understanding the cause of the disease.

"Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn't normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease," said Maureen Hanson, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell and the paper's senior author. "Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin."

"In the future, we could see this technique as a complement to other noninvasive diagnoses, but if we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets, using prebiotics such as dietary fibers or probiotics to help treat the disease," said Ludovic Giloteaux, a postdoctoral researcher and first author of the study.

In the study, Ithaca campus researchers collaborated with Dr. Susan Levine, an ME/CFS specialist in New York City, who recruited 48 people diagnosed with ME/CFS and 39 healthy controls to provide stool and blood samples.

The researchers sequenced regions of microbial DNA from the stool samples to identify different types of bacteria. Overall, the diversity of types of bacteria was greatly reduced and there were fewer bacterial species known to be anti-inflammatory in ME/CFS patients compared with healthy people, an observation also seen in people with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

At the same time, the researchers discovered specific markers of inflammation in the blood, likely due to a leaky gut from intestinal problems that allow bacteria to enter the blood, Giloteaux said.

Bacteria in the blood will trigger an immune response, which could worsen symptoms.

The researchers have no evidence to distinguish whether the altered gut microbiome is a cause or a whether it is a consequence of disease, Giloteaux added.

In the future, the research team will look for evidence of viruses and fungi in the gut, to see whether one of these or an association of these along with bacteria may be causing or contributing to the illness.


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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Recipes: sourdough pancakes, American style

Here I will share with you a recipe that I have been using for quite a long time in the meantime. I found this recipe in "Alaska Sourdough", by Ruth Allman. Since I have seen it posted in many places. To the right you see a picture of my book. The pancakes are called "hotcakes" in the book. On page 59 the recipes from which I derived mine is described. Unfortunately the ingredients used in this book are of lower quality, such as white flour and white sugar, so I ended up adapting it.                                                                                                                                                                        I make this about once a week for breakfast for my family. The pancakes are very nice, the kids love them. They are light and fluffy. There are several ways to make these. I use my crumpet rings, so I can make small american pancakes as my kids prefer that. It does mean that by the end of the frying the batter is not as fluffy as at the beginning, but nobody is bothered by that. You can also just pour half of the batter into a large frying pan and bake 2 that way. You'd probably end up cutting them into wedges. Either way, they taste great.
For this recipe you just need a sourdough starter, it doesn't need to be in it's active doomed state. It can be older than that. I usually feed my starter in the morning, so the next morning it certainly isn't doomed anymore, but that really doesn't matter, this recipe works. You do want to make sure that you didn't just feed it, otherwise the flour hasn't fermented yet and will have the downsides of unfermented grain products, which we are trying to avoid with the use of sourdough grain dishes.

I usually use butter for the fat component in this recipe as we love the flavour, but coconut oil is very tasty. We've used lard and bacon fat at times, which gives a very lovely delicate flavour, especially combined with maple syrup. 

For the sweetner I usually use sucanat and we top with maple syrup. Last time I forgot the sweetner, no problem, it it still tasty. You can really use which ever sweetner you prefer, all work. 

Here we go!

Origin: Europe, ended up in the new world with the pioneers
Difficulty: easy
Time: when you have enough starter it's about half and hour
Serves: 4 to 6 people
Yield: about 10 pieces 
Traditional, Vegetarian

  • frying pan
  • crumpet or egg rings if you have them
  • hob
  • bowl
  • whisk

  • 500 ml or 2 cups sourdough starter
  • 2 tablespoons sucanat, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey or so.
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil, unsalted butter, lard or so
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in a bit of filtered water.

Things to do ahead:
1 day ahead - try to make sure that you will have enough sourdough starter
  • Heat your pan, to make sure it is ready to go the moment your batter is ready.
  • Put the sourdough starter in a bowl, add egg, fat, sweetner and salt. Mix well. 
  • Mix the baking soda with the water, making sure the baking soda is well mixed in.
  • Add the water/baking soda mixture to the batter, mix in well, do not beat too hard else you will kill the bubbles. Your batter should double in size and have lots of bubbles.
  • Put your rings in your pan, add butter and batter.
  • Fry on low temperature until the top of your pancakes is dry, flip over and take out of the rings.
  • Clean your rings while the other side fries.
  • When browned, take out of the pan.
  • Serve with fruit, whipped cream, clotted cream and jam or whatever takes your fancy. Savoury is also an option.
  • Enjoy!

Possible substitutions:
butter - coconut, palm fat, ghee, lard, tallow, etc.
sugar - honey, coconut sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings. Feel free to comment or ask a question. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Our milk farm

So these days you frequently read all these horror stories about how farmers treat the calves and the cows and how they are never together and all that type of stuff. I know that for quite some farms this is fully true. But not for all. 

I want to show you how things work at the farm where we buy our milk. How they treat the cows and their calves. And this is quite different than what the horror stories are all about.

The calves at the farm where we go spend their time in the stables. We always have a look at them when we get milk. They love being stroked and love the attention. They are lovely and very social. The calves are always with others in one of the stables, as they really do love the company. It is fascinating to see how curious they are. They are also careful, but really do come to us, be it is slowly and carefully. They are so friendly!

Several times a day the mothers come to the calves. They then feed the babies. From what I have seen happening it means that the calves drink directly from the udder. Once the calves have had their fill the mothers go on to the milking area if that is still necessary. 

From what I have understood from the farmer is that not all cows want to feed calves. So when it happens that a mother cow doesn't want to feed a calf, they find another cow who is the type that will feed two calves.

The farmers also explained to us that they find that calves are much healthier when they are udder-fed. They have found that calves that are bottle fed are much more frequently ill. Even if it is the milk from their own mother. Sometimes they have had to do this when there was no mother cow available to feed two calves. So they do know what they are talking about.

This post will have so many more photos than text I'm afraid, simply as the photos really do speak for themselves. It is always really interesting to be there and watch was is all happening on the farm.
 Above, to the right and below you see a series of photos that I made from a calf feeding from the mother cow. It shows very clearly what the calf is doing, so you can really see that this is actually really happening at the farm where we get our milk.

I really enjoy watching the cows and the calves together. When feeding time is eminent both cows and calves are making noises, plus the cows want to go to the calves and the make an effort to get there. The farmer doesn't have to do much about it, other than open the doors of the stables in which the calves are. Once they are bigger they go to the field as well, but in the time they are young they keep them warm in the stables. The calves are very calm in the stables, they just lay and sleep until the cows arrive, unless we are there to get their attention, then they get up and come to us for a cuddle.

I remember learning in school that most herbivores, such as deer, always had their young laying in safe places, away from the world, while their mothers were eating in other areas. I expect this to be similar with the cows and calves as it looks very similar. The calves being so calm and nicely tucked way in the straw while the cows are out on the pasture and coming to the calves to feed them. 

See these lovely pictures on the left and right. There are 2 calves with this cow.

One of these calves has a mum who doesn't want to feed a calf, so the farmer got this cow to adopt the calf to substitute for its mum. It has worked out very well as you can see in the pictures. 

To the left you see a series of picture of the path the cows are taking to get back to the stables and go in for milking.

The pasture you see in the back, they have a lot of pasture room, as it is also behind the trees. The cows change pasture regularly so they get fresh grass very frequently. The stables that you saw earlier in the pictures with the calves are to the left of my pictures of the path the cows take. So the pastures are right next to the stables. These cows are very often outside. Unless the weather is really really bad they go outside, also in winter, simply as the cows need it. It keeps them healthier.

At the bottom picture you see the big chickens that are always walking around on the farm. You can find them everywhere.

This farm is actually Meadow Cottage Farm (Blackburn & Hayes) in Headly, Bordon (GU35 8SS) in Hampshire, UK. They are easy to reach. If you would like to order milk from this farm, you'll have to order by phone on 01428-712 155

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings. Feel free to comment or ask a question. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a great day!

Friday, 17 June 2016

Parenting: Motherhood and career?

When you can make it work well for you and your family, then by all means go for it! I know it can work out really well for some people. Some women have very supportive husbands or other family members and it just works very well.

This post is not for you. This post is for those women who feel pressured to go back into the work force for a variety of reasons. Some because of pressure of society. Some because of pressure of family.

The last few months I have heard quite a few women being quite upset because of the pressure put on them to go, as soon as possible, back to work and some get the pressure to go back to work full-time. Those who talked about it couldn't handle it. The pressure was too high. The stress was too high. The total workload was too high.

Taking care of a baby or young child isn't peanuts. It's time consuming and it requires a major adjustment, as life before and after kids is very, very different. This adjustment is huge with every new baby.  I think maternity leave is way too short. It's not just the physical recovery. It's also the adjustment to the new role, the nighttime care for the child and such. It's a major change.

What worries me is the disrespect towards women who do not feel up to being super woman. The way they are frowned upon and disrespected. It's quite a chance from when my mother got married in the 1963. She got laid off, because that is what happened. A woman who got married had a husband, and soon family, to take care of so she got fired. I certainly don't want to go back to that as it should be a choice and not forced down someone's throat whether or not to keep working. But back then taking care of house and family was valued. These days it's frowned upon and that really bothers me.

I recently spoke to a friend. Her baby is 4 months old. Her maternity leave is 6 months. She feels judged for taking the 6 months. It used to be 3 months and if she would want to go back earlier she could. She's been feeling a lot of pressure to go back after the 3 months were over, just like all her colleagues previously did. She was called a leach of society. Luckily her husband is supporting her in her choice and if it's not going to work out at her work she has the possibility to leave her current job and go look for another, more suitable one, or stay home for a while longer, whatever works.

Then recently a friend ended up being pressured by her husband to get a different job, as the one she currently has she is overqualified for and is only part time. She is the one taking care of their child, doing the household, the shopping and the cooking. He was terribly disrespectful to her. But the fact that she has a masters degree doesn't necessarily make her a career woman who is in dire need to go back into the rat race. This friend actually enjoys her work, which is 5 days a week, 7 hours a day. So it's not like she's not doing anything. She just doesn't want her child at a child minders for very long days and loves being with him. Her husband was raised in a family where both parents always worked full-time, so that's all he knows. And that's what he expects. But his wife was taken care of by her mum as her mum didn't work full-time and remembers it fondly and wants that for her child. Her husband is of the opinion it's a waste of her education. He seems to forget that a child is not forever. It's such a short time that they are small and it's crucial to not mess up that time as you'll never get it back, besides that it can cause lasting problem if they don't get a good trusting attachment to their main caregivers. This is actually what I think might be the issue for her husband. Mind you, I don't know him, so this is speculation, but I've seen it frequently. Chances are that he doesn't have a safe attachment to his parents due to having been taken care of by ever changing strangers in child care, while his parents were working. My friend ended up with another job and ended up working full-time soon after she told me about it. The pressure was too high. She was crying as she was telling me how she had no choice as he husband put an awful amount of pressure on her. Their child will be in a day care centre. I feel for her. After a while she was trying to convince herself that this was better. But I wonder how this will go in the long run. She was pretty clear about not having another child when it has to go this way as this is not what she has imagined it to be.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Knitting: Alyce Tee by Joan McGowan-Michael

On 21 May 2016 I cast on the stitches to knit my Alyce Tee. I had been looking at the pattern designed by Joan McGowan-Michael for a while already. I had also decided which yarn I was going to use for it. But then the task arose to find the yarn. I had bought it a couple of years ago with the intention to make some summer tops with it but due to moving internationally and such had not gotten round to doing that yet. I had an idea of where it could be, but that meant digging a bit into my storage area, which I am not a big fan of. So I postponed a little.

To the right you see the design of Joan McGowan-Michael. Here is a link to the page on her website Alyce - White Lies Designs
And here is a link to the ravelry page of the same design: Alyce - Ravelry

I totally fell in love with the design once I had run into it. But then, as most of the design of Joan, this Tee is just gorgeous. I have knit quite a few of the designs of Joan in the meantime and she does write out the patterns really well and they are very easy to follow. Joan is one of my favourite designers. Actually one of her designs was the reason I picked up knitting again 12 years ago after having had a break of about 18 years.

The yarn that I decided to use for this project is from Schachenmayr Nomotta. It is a yarn that is in the meantime unfortunately discontinued. It is Cotton Linen Stripes and it knits up so nicely. I just love it. I only have it stashed 2 times. Once in violet - which I am using for this project - and once in blue. The blue will be for another summer project which is also a design by Joan. You can see a picture of the yarn on the left.

On the right you see the beginning of my knitting, which is after 1 full round of the pattern repeat. It is very easy to knit this leaf pattern.

When I started knitting the pattern I simply followed the pattern without too much thought as I wanted this top finished really fast. But while knitting certain parts, I realised too late how they would have been better knit up differently. The lace ladder pattern is knit separately from a certain point, but I would have preferred it if it had been knit with short rows continuously together with the shaping of the front armholes. The way it is now makes it really hard to sew the pieces together from the front arm hole shaping and the lace and ladder pattern together as the lace and ladder pattern contains many more stitches than the armhole shaping. It would require quite a bit of calculating and such, but it certainly can be done and would make it look nicer and be easier to connect the 2 parts. Now it starts to pull a bit and leave a hole where the two parts are separated.

After sewing it together it doesn't look too bad, but I still do not like the way it crumbles together more than I prefer. Especially on my right side. I certainly do like the top and am quite happy with having made it. The yarn feels very comfortable, so I'm sure this wil lend up being one of my favourite tops. The lace knitting makes it very suitable for summer.

Here you see the finished garment front and back. I expect it to look even better after blocking, but I really wanted to show the pictures of my top.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings. Feel free to comment or ask a question. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Health: You don't have bad genes, Epigenetics

Yesterday I read a very interesting post. It was very informative and I would like to share it with you and give you the link to it, so you can read it as well.

You don’t have bad genes

ep-a-je-ne-tiks: heritable changes that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Also known as the “bad genes” responsible for the epigenetic epidemic.

[fat family picture]

Have you ever heard that someone has bad genes to blame for the obesity, autism, or cancer that runs in their family?  Don’t buy it– it’s a load of crap.  There’s no such thing as a genetic epidemic. It takes a million years to effect evolutionary change in the genes of our DNA– if you even believe in evolution.  I don’t want to piss off my Weston A. Price readers and DMT psychonauts.

Imagine a young adult today.  They’ve been bombarded by all of the usual environmental toxins in our food, water, air, and medicine for their first 20 years of life. The impact that toxic load has is to switch on the “bad genes” that were already present in their genetic makeup, and cause those genes to start expressing themselves.  This person’s DNA itself is not changed, only whether or not the bad genes for cancer, autoimmune disease, or obesity are expressed. 

The damaged adult, who isn’t feeling damaged just yet, later makes a child.  That child doesn’t get to start with a healthy clean slate because their bodies were told to express a little bit of their parents’ bad genes.  Add to that all of the toxins the child is later exposed to, and more damage is done; more bad genes are expressed. The next thing you know, you’re hearing about cancer, mental illness, diabetes, or autism “running in families.”  Most bad genes don’t run in families– we all have bad genes.  Some of them are just shouting louder than others.

What am I talking about?  How do you make a bad gene pipe down?  It all starts with food. Food should contain the nutrients that nourish life, right?  Not just any food– real food. Traditional food.  The nutrients in real food contain methyl groups that are extracted by our bodies and attached to our bad genes.

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