why I’m choosing antibiotic-free meats

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Healthier Choices, Kick Pain in the Kitchen, Why Organic? | 0 comments

Antibiotic-Free Hormone-Free Grass-Fed CattleIn my quest for concrete, scientific answers regarding some ongoing symptoms, I recently embarked on a pretty intense food testing protocol.  There are many food testing options available, and this is what the functional medicine practice I’m working with recommended as “top-of-the-line.”

I won’t bore you with the complete test results, although don’t be surprised if I continue to share the things I’ve learned. However, I do think you’d be interested in one particular part of my results and what I’ve learned because of it.

Turns out my body is making a LOT of antibodies to an antibiotic called streptomycin. In simpler terms, I’m allergic to this drug. When I saw this on the list of severe reactions, I also realized that I’ve NEVER taken this antibiotic for medical treatment.

So how is it that I’d be making antibodies for something that’s never been prescribed for me? Thank goodness for Google and the documents available online! Here’s what I found:

Streptomycin is a commonly used antibiotic for large animals including cattle, sheep, and pigs. It’s used all the time in the process of producing the meat and dairy we buy at the grocery store.

Streptomycin is also used to control disease in vegetable and fruit crops, INCLUDING organic apples and pears.  On the upside, the exemption that allowed organic growers to use streptomycin expired in October of 2014. Just be aware that those chemically treated organic apples will probably still be on shelves for most of 2015 as well.

You probably realize by now that I’m not vegetarian, but we’ve been eating with mindfulness (within our budget) for decades. So this was a big blow to my sense of comfort with our choices! And let me tell you, our budget just shifted around so that I can get some relief from this allergic reaction.

I know the changes we’ve made are really the important part of this learning experience for us – and for you! So here’s what we decided to do.

First, I’m going to give organic apples a break. It’s been my go-to fruit for the last few years because it’s inexpensive, easy to find and travels well. I’ll just choose different organic options for the next several months or more.

We are completely switching our beef and poultry buying habits to only antibiotic-free, hormone-free producers. This is NOT easy on our budget, since the costs are about twice what we’ve paid in the past. It really comes down to the “pay me now or pay me later” philosophy. Since the antibiotics are likely playing a part in my health challenges, then continuing to eat food containing them will only make me sicker later. Investing in better quality products now will hopefully lead to better health in the long run for our whole family.

I’m grateful to live in a part of the U.S. (central Pennsylvania) where we can source these products direct from the farm. The web site Local Harvest has been a big help in identifying these folks. Plus, Cris already shops regularly at a local farmer’s market where he’s been able to find a few more sources.

A few Saturdays ago we decided to go straight to a farm store near us. I’m not sure if this would happen everywhere, but after a quick check in to see if we had questions, the family left us on the honor system. We literally picked out our foods, listed them on a steno pad, and left a check in the cash box. And there were two other families right behind us in line. You can’t get much closer to the producers than that!

Taste and texture of these meats is definitely different, especially their leaner and less fatty nature. But it’s not unpleasant at all. And once we decide on the meat we prefer, we’re expecting to buy in quantity to reduce our overall cost per pound.

It’s too soon to tell you whether these changes will make a difference in my health, but I believe they will be positive in the long term. I hope you’ll take the information I’ve shared and consider how it might relate to your own health. I’d love to hear what you find!

Amish Farm Store Sign


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the dark side of sugar and pain

Posted by on Jun 18, 2014 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Healthier Choices, Holistic Pain Relief | 2 comments

Sugar and PainHolistic pain relief and sugar are connected. Sugar is dessert and dessert is sugar, right? Most of us who love dessert, know that sugar is a big part of this desire.

When I was growing up, every meal had dessert after it. I was just telling a client yesterday that there were mornings we even had pumpkin pie for breakfast. Okay, it wasn’t often—but it did happen!

There’s a pretty significant dark side to sugar though, and if you’re going to have dessert you want to be aware of this information. It’s your call what to do with it—depending on where your pain levels are and what other changes you’re making. You definitely want to take this pain-relieving process step by step and not overcommit to changes you’ll find hard to maintain.

But know this—sugar can damage your body. If you’re starting to heal and relieve your pain by changing your gluten or food additive intake, you wouldn’t want to just re-damage it by having excess sugar.

Here are a couple of reasons why sugar connects to pain:

  • Sugar interferes with absorption of magnesium. Magnesium relaxes muscle, and can help relieve pain levels.
  • Sugar can cause arthritis, which is the cause of much pain for people.
  • Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis. Strong bones play a big part in holistic pain relief.
  • Sugar changes the structure of collagen, a significant component in connective tissue. Compromised connective tissue can increase muscle and other types of pain.
  • Sugar can increase the body’s fluid retention. Fluid is a function of inflammation, and connects to pain.

Maybe you’re thinking that switching artificial sweeteners for sugar is your solution. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it isn’t going to help your pain levels either.

Aspartame, a common artificial sweetener is strongly linked to migraines. But did you know that in 2010 Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology published findings that aspartame is linked to fibromyalgia pain and fatigue?

For me, the question of artificial sweeteners goes back to “great-grandmother” foods. How would I explain aspartame or sucralose to my great-grandmother? Would she just automatically know what it was, like we do?

Here’s another thing I think about with sugar. Sugar causes abnormal cell growth. Most people would rightly link this to concerns about cancer, but again that’s another topic. But many people with arthritis have a condition called nodules. Nodules are little lumps of tissue that grow near joints and can cause pain and discomfort.

If nodules are abnormal cell growth, is it possible that eliminating sugar would start to shrink them? Would it prevent the growth of more nodules? I’m not a scientist or a medical professional, but if I were a person living with nodules and the associated pain I would definitely try this.

As with everything here at Confident Wellness, this is your choice. If you’d like a medical professional’s perspective, get it. If you’re not ready yet, that’s okay. Our pain is individual to each of us, and so is the way we go about pain relief.


Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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the number one trap to going
gluten-free or fat-free or sugar-free!

Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Cooking at Home, Gluten Free, Healthier Choices, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

Have you decided to clean up your food choices hoping it will give you some pain relief in a more holistic way? If you have, you may fall into this typical, unhealthy trap!

First you decide to start eating gluten free. You think to yourself, “Well shoot, that’s easy—there are so many GF products on the grocery store shelves today.” Don’t you just have to switch bread for GF bread, pretzels for GF pretzels, pancakes for GF pancakes, cookies for GF cookies?

Won’t a few simple substitutions help your pain levels and improve your health? At the risk of disappointing you, the short answer is NO. The longer answer is not necessarily or it depends on your body.

All processed food products (whether GF or not) have many ingredients within them. You know I’m right if you’ve ever looked at an ingredient list, and realized that you can’t pronounce at least half of the ingredients. Why is that?

Gluten-Free Cereal

When one key ingredient (like wheat, saturated fat or refined sugar) is removed, the food’s manufacturer typically uses a variety of other ingredients to approximate taste, texture, or another characteristic. These ingredients can be harmless for many of us, but may also wreck just as much havoc in our body as the original offender.

Eliminating wheat and gluten from my diet gave me a HUGE boost in holistic pain relief of my inflammatory autoimmune arthritis. And about a month later, I had an amazing and disabling quantity of vertigo attacks. At the time, I attributed the vertigo to gluten withdrawal although I had experienced many vertigo attacks in years prior. About a year into my new gluten-free lifestyle, the vertigo started again and ramped up into some additional horrific symptoms. It turns out they were all connected to migraine activity.

It turns out that one of my main migraine triggers is MSG (monosodium glutamate), which hides in many ingredient lists with a lot of different names. On top of that, MSG is derived from “natural” ingredients so it’s even in the healthier  (but still processed) food choices.

But what does all this have to do with the many kinds of food additives? As a holistic health coach, it’s not easy for me to admit that I was regularly consuming some gluten-free foods with had a lot of additives. And I also was making assumptions that food I thought was “whole” wouldn’t have harmful ingredients—I had gotten lazy about checking ingredient lists!

Here’s an example: Head into the dairy section of your nearest supermarket and look at cottage cheese ingredient lists. Shouldn’t they have just a few ingredients – milk, cream, etc.? (Or as I like to joke—cottage and cheese, right?) The organic, hormone and antibiotic-free cottage cheese brands have just as many additives as the conventional brands. If you see eight brands on the shelf, you may find only one with the “old-fashioned” ingredient list. By that I mean less than seven ingredients that only include items your great-grandmother would recognize. Whether you eat dairy or not is a whole separate topic, but if you do then choose the type that has the “old-fashioned” ingredient list!

More importantly, look for ways to incorporate foods WITHOUT ingredient lists and labels. These are the truly whole foods in our lives—food that IS a plant (not food made in plants). These are things like vegetables and fruit, especially those currently in at the peak of their growing season. They are also minimally processed whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. Sustainably produced animal protein is a whole food—if you choose to eat meat.

Anything from a box, especially if it has health claims printed on the front, is suspect. Even though the label says natural and organic, you may find that food additives in that box are NOT helping you stay well.

Please be your own advocate and learn to read the labels. Choose whole foods if you’re going gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free—that’s the real secret to staying pain-free and healthy!


Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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autumn smoothie recipe

Posted by on Oct 17, 2013 in Cooking at Home, Gluten Free, Healthier Choices | 12 comments

Autumn Smoothie Ingredients

Fruit, Squash, and a few Extras!

If smoothies make you think of summer berries and fruits, here’s a seasonal option for your autumn breakfast or snacking pleasure. Do you like pumpkin pie? Or sweet potatoes? Does fall inspire you to fill up on squash? Then this is the smoothie for you — it’s one part dessert, one part healthy and three parts delicious!

Put the following ingredients in your blender.

1 ripe banana, sliced or in sections (use frozen banana slices for a thicker smoothie)

1 apple, cored and sliced

1/2–3/4 cup roasted squash or baked sweet potato (completely cooled & chilled)

2 tablespoons uncooked whole oats

2 tablespoons plain greek-style yogurt

2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts)

Ground cinnamon to taste (at least 1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 tablespoon salmon or flaxseed oil

8–12 ounces of almond milk (can substitute another type of milk or non-dairy beverage)

Blend thoroughly. (The best way to judge is when the apple pieces are completely incorporated.)

Autumn Smoothie

Can be kept in a glass jar for up to 12 hours

Let me know what you think and if you have ideas or suggestions for enhancing the recipe!

More smoothie tips


Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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gluten free sauces on the fly

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Ask the Coach, Cooking at Home, Gluten Free, Healthier Choices, Wellness | 2 comments

Well, today you’re in for a special treat. Yours truly and Confident Wellness’ COO wrote today’s blog!

As you may already know, I love all aspects of food—planning, shopping, cooking, and most of all eating the food that I cook. I’m the “chef” in our family and enjoy preparing meals not only for Barb and I, but also for friends and our VERY large family.

Family Dinner

One of our family dinners — as you can see, it’s a very informal affair served “family style.”

November will mark Barb’s one-year anniversary of being gluten free and, of course, my anniversary of cooking gluten free.

A couple of weeks ago, one of Barb’s clients who knows that I cook, asked her for easy sauce recipes as alternatives to purchasing jarred stir-fry and barbeque sauces that are typically loaded with gluten and unwanted ingredients. This created a unique challenge because (maybe like you?) I rarely use recipes when I whip up my culinary specialties. Hmm, what to do?

Being of Asian descent, I prepare many different stir-fries. However, I was now tasked with creating a recipe for one of my “mad-professor”-style cooking sauces. I went to the kitchen, pulled out a pot, measuring utensils, and ingredients that I thought would pull together as a simple, layered, and tasty stir-fry sauce. Here’s what I scribbled on a Post-It note as I made my 10-minute sauce:

Gluten Free Stir-Fry Sauce
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons (or to taste) gluten free soy sauce
½ teaspoon of garlic powder or a couple of cloves of fresh, finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
¼ teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne
Pinch of Chinese Five Spice (careful, it has a strong flavor)
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

Dry roast the sesame seeds by placing the sesame seeds in a hot, pre-heated fry pan until golden brown and set aside. This should take roughly two minutes.

Pour the chicken broth into a water-tight container and shake with the corn starch until dissolved.

Pour mixture into a small sauce-pan, heat on a medium flame until it thickens. You may need to add more cornstarch if you like a thicker sauce.

Add the soy sauce, garlic powder or chopped garlic, sesame seed oil, cayenne, and Chinese Five Spice.

Let the mixture simmer for five minutes.

Add the sauce to your favorite stir-fry combinations. One of my favorites is thinly sliced chicken breast added to a combination of diagonally sliced celery and carrots, bok choy cabbage, and bean sprouts. Be careful not to overcook any of the ingredients, particularly the cabbage and bean sprouts. Oh yes, and use fresh bean sprouts. The canned bean sprouts are downright nasty.

Sprinkle the roasted sesame seeds on top of the stir fry as a garnish.

Notes: My favorite soy sauce is made by Kikkoman, however, their gluten free soy sauce may be difficult to find. We got ours at Wegman’s, a great grocery chain headquartered in Rochester New York. On a recent trip to an Asian store, I found what was termed “vegetarian soya sauce”. Although I don’t like it as much, it can still be used since there are no gluten components.


I was also asked to write a recipe for a barbeque sauce. This is one of our favorites since neither Barb nor I enjoy “heavy”, ketchup-style sauces. We prefer something like this:

Gluten Free, Carolina-Style Barbeque Sauce
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon of your favorite pepper sauce. We use some of the hotter, habanero sauces (not for wimps).
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
4 tablespoons tomato paste

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a day or two before using.  If refrigerated, it will last for a fairly long time.

Notes: This is very similar to some of the Carolina barbeque sauces that can be found online. The sauce is great on top of shredded pork or grilled chicken. It can be used as a marinade for other barbequed meats.

I think you’ll enjoy both of these sauces as much as we do.


Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download our free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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