Friday, August 24, 2012

My Remarkable Lack of Pain

Falling off a bike, falling on your face, fracturing and spraining an arm, breaking a tooth and knocking two others loose sounds terribly painful. I certainly looked bad afterward: a lot of strangers in stores, on the bus and even on the street saw my black and blue face and arm in a sling and asked me what happened. At the urgent care center; I rated my pain a 4 out of 10 as long as I held my arm still. But 4 out of 10 isn't horrible pain. The bottle of Vicodin I got that day is still in the bag, unopened.

My arm wasn't that badly injured--not as bad as my cousin's when she tripped over her dachshund and broke both of her wrists. And my jaw, despite landing on it and still having a bump on my chin, wasn't fractured or broken.

Could be I'm a tough old bird--I'm descended from bull riders, homesteaders and blacksmiths. But I think diet has helped. I know that changing my diet to low-carb, taking vitamin D and later adopting the cavity healing diet made my teeth look and feel better. I used to suffer from TMJ and my teeth weren't exactly movie-star white, despite frequent brushing and flossing.

Rinsing with coconut oil as an anti-bacterial made my gums feel better when they were cut and bruised. This study(1) showed coconut oil made poor little rats inflamed with our old friend carrageenan feel better. It's unclear whether the rats ate the coconut oil or had it applied to their affected areas. I've also eaten at least half a can of coconut milk a day since my accident. Lots of red meat, liver and eggs, too--enough to give a typical dietician a coronary. Not many vegetables though. V-8 is delicious but carby, and I can't chew leafy greens. A few weeks ago I was eating almost twice what I normally do and ended up down to my junior high school weight, which shouldn't surprise experienced low carbers and calories-in-calories-out rejectors. I'm up to my normal weight again, and my appetite has gone down to normal.

My braces are straightening out my teeth, but they're keeping them a little loose and tender. In a stroke of luck last night, I got out the cinnamon oil I bought while I was at Aveda getting my hair washed, and saw it contained clove oil. It really does work for gum pain. (The Aveda oil is for external use only, so use your own judgment.)

The coconut oil and clove oil are mild pain relievers, and I have nothing against taking something stronger if you need it. (I needed ibuprofin for days after the tetanus shot, the most painful part of all of this.) 


1. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharmaceutical Biology, February 2010, Vol. 48, No. 2 , Pages 151-157 S. Intahphuak, P. Khonsung, A. Panthong 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How I'm Doing: Good News

Tuesday I was back at the orthopedic doctor's office looking at x-rays of my arm. You know how a typical bone is slender in the middle, then comes up to a head? The head on my radius (lower arm bone) looks like a mushroom. It got smooshed in the accident--yes, the doctor agreed it was smooshed. "If you're going to have a fracture," he said, "that's the kind to have." It's better than the bone being cracked through its head, which sometimes happens.

Mine was fractured because I'm double-jointed: instead of my elbow bending in the right way when I fell, it bent the other direction.

"When will my arm straighten out?"

"Hopefully never. Come back in a month if it isn't feeling better."

The doctor also looked at my shoulder, hand and wrist, which still hurt from time to time, but that was about it. I've regained most of the use of my arm: I can unlock a door, open my purse and take the lid off the deodorant without help from my foot, but I still move the mouse around with my left hand at work.


Today found me back at the orthodontist's office. Drum roll, please: my teeth fit together again. The canine doesn't knock against the tooth below it anymore. As soon as all my teeth are firmly in place, I'll celebrate with a bacon cheeseburger.


Speaking of food, the Cuisinart food processor (and food processor/blender combo) are on sale for $69.99 at Macy's.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Soft Real Food

Pumpkin pie in August? Chareva's butternut squash crustless pie? Is it a meaty cheese or cheesy meat dish? Peanut butter bars? Nope--though all of those are great, save the last one. It's marrow and mushroom custard from The Odd Bits by Jennifer McLagan.

Even if you don't require soft food, it's well worth making. I get marrow bones cut about 2" long and steam them for 15 minutes, then extract the marrow with a filleting knife. Boil the bones for a few hours for broth for another dish; save the marrow for custard or making croutons. (Roll them in almond flour and fry them in fat.)

McLagan recommends having a sharp-tasting salad with the custard; I had a bit of V-8, a few bowls of lemon ice cream, some nut butter and dark chocolate.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Truth in Advertising: Breakfast

Want to be like cardiobunny Mom and bounce around like it's 1989? Have some healthy whole grain waffles. Gotta carb up so you can work out, and you gotta work out so you can burn off those carbs! Since all those lovely whole grains and complex carbohydrates break down into sugar, the kids will soon be bouncing off the walls, too.

Want to relax and act like a normal person? Eat some sausage instead.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Recovery: How It's Going

Best conversation yet:

Cashier: How did you get hurt?
Me: I fell off my bike.
Cashier: Are you going to ride a bike again?
Me: Nope.
Cashier: So you didn't lose your common sense.

That was Sunday. It's Friday, and strangers have stopped asking what happened to me since I'm a lot less black and blue now. I'm washing my own hair, putting on makeup and getting through a day at work without exhaustion. I don't do much at home besides cooking and dishes, and out-eating a teenage boy. Two eggs or a quarter pound of beef is a snack; either one used to be a meal. Rebuilding flesh and replenishing blood (I bled for a day when I fell) must take a lot of nutrients. I'm not wearing the extra calories--I've lost weight.

The braces are working. My front teeth are straighter than they've been since I was a kid, and I can chew a little bit, very carefully. Since the tooth that broke was narrower than an implant, I'll have to have my top teeth re-aligned to make room for an implant, and the bottom teeth re-aligned to match the top. It's going to take 18 months. Once I'm able to chew again in a few weeks, I'll celebrate with a Carl's Jr. low carb bacon cheeseburger.

Meantime, the braces are giving me a dry mouth at night. Drinking a lot of water right before bed doesn't help you get a good night's sleep. An Oramoist dry mouth patch worked well, but the texture and stickiness of it were disgusting. I've been using the old trick of rinsing with sesame oil before bed.

The wound on my ankle that the nurse didn't clean (my sock hid it) needs Neosporin and zinc oxide to heal. Coconut oil is great, but it only kills lipid-coated bacteria.

I've found the mental energy to focus on something beyond InStyle magazine. I'm reading the delightful book The Meat Fix, which Tom Naughton recently reviewed. There's a lot of bathroom humor (maybe it's not that far above a fashion magazine), but the author suffered from IBS. My own problems on a so-called "good diet" were farther north, but I can relate. I was in a lot more pain then than I've been with my accident. It isn't giving much away by saying the author solved his problems by dumping his vegan diet in general and soy in particular. (I was never vegan or vegetarian--I just stopped eating wheat and so many carbs, and poof! my stomach felt better.)

If there's a bright spot in this, I haven't been in much pain. The worst parts have been the tetanus shot, which made my arm hurt for days, and getting braces put on while my gums were still bruised. (Would you believe that braces and cuts inside your upper lip are a bad combination? Obvious, but I'd never thought about it before. Some wax for the brackets helped.) Maybe I have a high threshold of pain; maybe I somehow avoided hitting any nerves, so to speak; maybe it's something I eat or take.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Soft Low Carb Food Recipes

A diet of soft food doesn't mean you have to live on protein shakes or broth. Over the past week and a half, I've been making real food, mostly paleo, that I can eat with my dental injuries--and that I can make with an arm injured, and that doesn't get stuck in my braces. These three recipes, along with others on this blog I've labeled "soft food," are my best results.

A suggestion: get a food processor strong enough to puree meat. The Cuisinart 9-cup food processor does the job, and I can put it together with one hand. A battery-powered can opener that sits on top of the can as it works is indispensable if you can't open cans and have few plug-ins. For opening jars, run hot water over the lid for a minute, hold the jar between your heels, and twist. For portable dishwashers--let's just say it can be done.

Clam Chowder

2 strips of bacon
2 cans (~3 to 4 cups) clams, with juice
2 cups stock
2 cups clam juice
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into 1" pieces
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can (~2 cups) coconut milk

In a soup pot, fry the bacon. When done, add clam juice and stock until boiling, then add clams with juice, cauliflower, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Puree in batches in a food processor and return to the pot. Stir in coconut milk, heat, and serve.

Hamburger soup

1/2 pound hamburger
1 cup V-8 vegetable juice
salt and pepper
Guacamole dip (homemade, Yucatan or other brand made with just avocado and spices)
Finely grated cheese

Separate hamburger into small bits and brown over medium heat. Add V-8 and heat until bubbling. Puree in a food processor. Top with guacamole, salsa and cheese if desired.

Breakfast Eggnog

3 eggs
1/2 can (~1.5 cups) full-fat coconut milk
Dash of cinnamon and allspice
Dash of salt
1 big squirt of liquid stevia

Put all ingredients in a blender and puree.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


A gift from my neighbor. I'd cite the source if I knew it.
ETA 10/9/2012: Using a Google image search, I see that this photo is from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson, a collector of old, anonymous photographs.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Low Carb Liquid/Soft Food Diet of Real Food

Never again do I want to hear how hard it is to do an elimination diet. If you think you have a natural right to happy and content and eat whatever you want without consequence, of course it will be hard. If you see life as a series of challenges to be met, and see that every food has consequences, it will be easier. And in fact, I find eliminating certain foods easier than eating them in moderation.

My recent bike accident has left me unable to chew and with limited use of my right arm. (I'm right handed.) I can't eat wheat or carrageenan, can't tolerate more than a little dairy, and can't tolerate a high-carb diet. That leaves me with a low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diet of soft foods. So far, it's been a minor challenge. No, that's not an understatement, and no, I haven't had any protein shakes. I'm snooty as a Frenchman about food.

To live on a soft LCHF diet of real food, you'll need a food processor with a motor powerful enough to puree meat. At the moment, the Cuisinart 8-cup food processor (what I use) is $99 at Macy's. Pricy, but you should get many years' use out of it. (It also makes nut butter; slices, shreds, juliennes and chops vegetables; shreds hard cheese; and makes pesto--in seconds.)

Even with one hand, there was nothing hard about making pate or chocolate ice cream. If you're worried about getting enough nutrients, liver is Mother Nature's multivitamin. This pate doesn't have a strong liver taste. Need I say the chocolate ice cream is wonderful?

Making Liver Pate

My food processor's maiden dish was pate. In went a whole slice of cooked beef liver. It turned into puree in a few seconds. In went five slices of done but lightly cooked bacon (one at a time), then half a cup of mushrooms cooked in the bacon grease, a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise, a little salt and herbes de Provence, and I had pate. Some people like to add sauteed onions to their pate.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Yes, chocolate ice cream can be LC, real food. Shake up a can of coconut milk (the full-fat kind) and pour about 1/4 cup of it in a medium mixing bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of baking cocoa and stir until it's smooth. Add the rest of the coconut milk and stir in a teaspoon of cinnamon, a few shakes of salt, (ETA: a beaten egg), and a big squirt of liquid stevia half a cup of Splenda. Put it in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coconut Oil for Road Rash from Hazardous Exercise

My bike accident a few days ago left me with bad road rash. To help keep it from getting infected, I've been applying coconut oil to my scrapes and rinsing my mouth with it. In my last post, I linked to a couple of papers about coconut oil's ability to kill certain bacteria, and in some cases, its superiority over traditional antibiotics. So far, I don't have any infection.

What has surprised me is how fast my scrapes are healing. I don't have a photo of myself from four days ago, but the pink spot on my chin was a bad scrape, so red the nurse called it a cherry. She put two bandages on it. Here's how it looks today:

This isn't Photoshopped--there's just a rosy pink spot of intact skin and no scar. Same story with my knee. Look very closely above my kneecap and you can see the thin brown outline of where a large bandage was.

I didn't bother applying coconut oil to a scrape on my foot. It was small, so I figured it would be fine on its own. After a few days, though, I started putting coconut oil on it, too. (In fairness, the nurse didn't clean this one since it was hidden by my sock.)

I've been using unrefined coconut oil, applied twice a day.

This misadventure has got me thinking about the cult of exercise. How many injuries come from "healthy" exercise like biking, running, and other sports? When I worked at the Air Force Academy, where cadets are required to play a sport, around 10% of them at any time were in a cast. The receptionist at the orthopedic doctor's office said they saw bike injuries all the time; my best friend mentioned she flipped over on her bike last week; my dentist's wife broke her thumb the same way. Listen in on a few random conversations at the salon or the break room and you'll hear someone saying they got injured in an exercise class. Look at any running magazine and you'll see an article on injuries.

If you're really good on a bike or need it for transportation, I wouldn't discourage you from riding one. Same if you enjoy a sport so much you're willing to suffer the inevitable injuries. But I'd like to see an end to the idea of somewhat hazardous recreation passing for being part of a healthy lifestyle. Various studies have shown that huffing and puffing doesn't do much for weight loss (see Dr. Briffa's blog). For weight loss, diet is where it's at. Next time someone goes on about healthy exercise like biking, feel free to send them this photo.

Injury from falling off a bike. Not shown: a broken tooth, two displaced teeth, braces, and a fractured arm.