“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Healthy Superbowl Eating

We're having a few friends over for the Superbowl tomorrow. While I'm still sad about giving up beer, I am very happy to have found a way to enjoy buffalo wings--healthy style! Buffalo wings, I love buffalo wings! In fact, my many attempts to become vegetarian in the past have all failed because of my love for these cute little bits of delicious-ness. You can imagine how horrified I was to find out that they rank high on the list of prohibited pro-flammatory foods (oh, the curse and injustice!). BUT I was willing to give it up if it meant, obviously, the health of my vision.

So, for a couple weeks, I just resigned myself to never having buffalo wings ever again. Then, the boy realized that there was probably a way to bake them. I was not convinced; how could you possibly replicate all that goodness through baking? A quick internet search later and I found a highly rated recipe for healthy buffalo wings. I plan to substitute the margarine with butter, which I am allowed to eat in extreme moderation and is preferred over margarine. I also found a healthy blue cheese dip. Not too sure how tasty it will be so I might end up doctoring some ingredients. All in all, I'm pleased and relieved that I can at least enjoy some party food on my own terms. A couple weeks ago, I went to a friend's house to watch the game and almost died listening to everyone crunch on Doritos. Hopefully, tomorrow's recipes will be tasty so I won't feel as left out anymore.

UPDATE: The wings turned out really well! I couldn't even tell the difference between baked and fried---actually, I thought they were better than most wings I've ordered. We ended up broiling them for less than 15 minutes because our oven gets super hot. Also, we added some Sriracha Chili Sauce to the hot sauce and that added a nice kick. The dip was so-s0. Next time I might just stick with a low-fat sour cream and yogurt base (cottage cheese is kinda weird). It will also be fun to branch out into types of chicken wings, like a honey-ginger glaze or something. I'm still not supposed to have wings all that often so they will still be a treat, but this was a very nice healthy-ish alternative!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Worth a Try

I had a delicious dinner last night, and you should try it--regardless if you give a shibbibbles about inflammation. We made Brown Rice with Black Beans and Cilantro (Cook's Illustrated March & April 2009). Roasted Carrots and Parsnips made a nice accompaniment, and the meal was really good!  Just be careful when coring those parsnips!  If you have an easy and safer way, let me know because I almost lost a finger a couple times...

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Year of the Ox - Happy New Year!

Ironically, I began this anti-inflammatory diet on American New Year's.  Then, I broke several cardinal rules on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year...

As you can see from the picture, there were so many delicious things to eat!  Egg rolls, rice noodles, stir fry, roast duck and pork, soup, and a fluffy white heavenly-looking coconut cake.  


So I cheated and ate a couple deep-fried shrimp balls and roast duck, all washed down with a glass of white wine.  It all tasted great and made me miss my old diet.  I tried to rationalize my choices: the shrimp balls were not battered and fried in canola oil; the roast duck was oily but still 'roasted'; and the white wine was not red but at least gluten-free.  At first, this was fine and then I felt crummy/paranoid.  Less than a month into this and I was already falling off the wagon.  Was I nuts?  Was I playing with fire?  What if these tasty things spurred another inflammation attack?  I had planned on eating one bite of the beautiful coconut cake...but felt worried about my previous eating choices.  So, I ended up washing dishes in the kitchen while everyone else ate cake.  At the end of dessert, I began clearing the table and picked up the cardboard round the cake sat on.  There were little bits of frosting and yellow cake still stuck to it.  Right before dumping it into the trash, I found myself---like a complete crazy woman--eyeing these yummy bits.  I took a deep sniff of it: it smelled great and I realized that I miss sugar a lot.  Then I threw it away.

So what did I learn tonight?  I learned that eating with other people who are not on a diet is very painful.  I also learned that I really miss some foods.  Lastly, I learned that a little cheating is probably going to happen...and I'm trying to tell myself that I'm making lots of other good changes at the same time.  For example, I'm still going strong on no french fries and no coffee.

On New Year's day, you're not supposed to do anything that you don't want to do for the rest of the year. Tomorrow, I will go back to my regular anti-inflammatory meals--because that's what I want to do for the rest of the year.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Hidden Wonders of...Turmeric?

During one of my crazy internet-searching frenzies last month, I came across a message board hosted by the American Foundation for the Blind.   Here I found some folks who also suffer from MFC.  Most of the posts were full of confusion: Why was this happening to me?  What is your life like now?  Should I keep going with the prednisone?  

Then, like this little gem, I found a post from a woman who claimed to have been cured!  By turmeric!  She went out and got turmeric supplements as a natural remedy to her MFC.  In as little as a month (!!!), this woman halted her MFC and even regained some vision.  This was and is a little incredible.  I sat on this bit of information for a couple weeks, vowing to stick with the new diet for now before involving supplements.

Then I found myself in front of a Vitamin Shop and the next thing I know, I'm purchasing a 30-day supply of turmeric supplements.  A bit of research into this spice revealed that it's famous for its anti-inflammatory properties.   I found another article that connected turmeric to the remedial effects of Indian cuisine, which is great because I love Indian food.

However, I've always been lousy at remembering to take daily pills (apologies to all those forgotten antibiotics), so this could be tough.  The pills are large and smell strongly of turmeric but they don't taste strong.  So, here's hoping.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tasty Treats

So, one of the challenges of my new diet is actually finding suitable recipes.  As someone used to searching by a main ingredient ("I feel like lamb!"), I now found myself totally lost.  I might punch in a main ingredient and then find a recipe filled with deep frying or sugar or something else strictly prohibited.  

I did have some tasty meals this week though.  On Tuesday, I had Barbequed Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Just go a little easy on the hoisin sauce, generous on the ginger and garlic, and add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes.  I used romaine lettuce instead of iceberg for more color and an easier 'pocket'.  With the leftover chicken filling, I made a salad by putting it all on a bed of baby spinach leaves and a sprinkle of flax seeds.  Both meals were pretty good!  Last night, the boy and I tried out Saag Tofu.  Also very tasty!  We ate it with brown basmati rice.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Just a quick post to commemorate Obama's inauguration...It's a bit off-topic because he has nothing to do with my choroiditis or alternative health approaches.  However, without getting overly sentimental and emotional, I can't help but feel overwhelmed in a good way.  All day, I have been feeling this way and given the sad moments of the past couple weeks, today offered some welcome relief.  Perhaps 2009 will truly be a radical year.  The nation's first Black president?  The healing of my choroiditis?  

Oh, why not? I'll take it.

Happy inauguration day, everyone!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A is for Acupuncture

My visit to my acupuncturist was interesting and informative.  A newcomer to acupuncture, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  What were the limits?  Would the cost be worth it?  How would I know the acupuncturist would actually be taking care of me?  To top it all off, it was a frigid day for Philadelphia and I was cranky to be on the bus. 

Dr. Wang, the acupuncturist, invited me in to her office and began asking me questions about my multi focal choroiditis.  She also asked me about my family's history with vision problems and also auto-immune issues.  Finally, she asked me if I knew why any of this began happening, and of course I did not know.  Nobody knew for sure.  My doctor at Wills Eye has been baffled for years and keeps testing me for diseases like Cat Scratch, Lyme, and Syphilis...all of which I test negative for.  Dr. Wang then sighed, which made me feel nervous.  Just the other day, a different acupuncturist admitted that he personally had never used acupuncture for a case like mine and suggested that I look elsewhere.  

Fortunately, Dr. Wang did not turn me away but she did give me a very realistic assessment of what she could do.  The acupuncture could never restore or regain any of the vision I had already lost.  What she could do, however, was restore my body's Qi (chi) and strengthen its immune system.  This would help to fend off future inflammation attacks.  She also hoped that the acupuncture would decrease my stress levels because it seems that I have begun stressing about my stressing (very true).  At best, she believed that the current inflammation affecting my eye could be cleared up.  In other words, she could maintain my current state of vision and hopefully keep the MFC from attacking the left (aka "good") eye.

I was eager to get started but sensing my desperation, Dr. Wang said that this was a pretty serious case.  One or two sessions would not be enough.  I didn't care and told her that I'd do anything, even though she's out of my insurance network.  So, I signed up for 10 sessions at a discounted rate of $500 total.  I will see her over the course of 2-3 months, twice a week at first and then just once a week.

And then the good part!  She got immediately started and began administering acupuncture for my stress.  Needles were inserted in my shins, wrists, stomach, and ears (PS. Acupuncture is not as painless as I was led to believe.  It was like little pin pricks) A timer was set for 20 minutes and I was told to relax relax relax.  This is kind of hard to do when you're half naked, unable to move, and jabbed with needles.  However, oddly enough, I found myself sleeping in less than a few minutes!  Maybe this stuff actually works!

When I went home, I prepared some oven fried chicken breaded with panko.  Then I sauteed some kale and sprinkled it with some flax seeds.  I then went to sleep for a glorious 11 hours.  Maybe it was the acupuncture, the end of a long work week, or the feeling of content that comes along with taking health into my own hands...whatever it was, I slept great and hope for many more restful nights.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be visiting an acupuncturist for an initial consultation into my eye situation. I hope that my diet, coupled with some alternative medicine, will result in some positive change. My doctor at Wills does not seem to have any answers for me, so I'm branching out in terms of medical care...

An update on the diet! So far, so good. It is too soon to tell if there have been any influences on my eyes. I do feel overall much healthier. My stomach is much calmer (probably most impacted by cutting out coffee altogether). Morning drowsiness also seems to wear off quicker than it used to. Aaaaaand....every woman's dream come true: my waist seems to be slightly more slim. I'm only half-joking about that last comment. At a petite 5'0" and just shy of 100 pounds, weight loss is not quite a priority for me right now. However, if you are looking to lose some weight, I can definitely see how an anti-inflammatory diet would promote your efforts. It's so fat-free and basic that it's hard to imagine being overweight for long on this eating plan.

One of the bigger struggles I've had with this diet have been looking for snacks and such. Meals are not overly difficult to prepare (although I'm being flexible right now by still eating small amounts of chicken and pork). It has been difficult to watch television without a delicious plate of french fries or potato chips or even popcorn (!). Instead, I now reach for the bowl of mixed unsalted nuts (hold the peanuts). However, I am particularly excited about my upcoming shipment of Chunks of Energy, which are cubes of blended nuts, seeds, and honey. I first found them at Whole Foods in the bulk section but have since ordered 10 lbs of Chunks from their website. Not only are these incredibly anti-inflammatory but they are also low fat, raw, and mostly vegan. Plus, they are pretty tasty for someone who is no longer permitted candy bars, chips, fries, etc etc. SIGH.

I think in a couple more weeks, I will become more at peace with this new diet. So far, researching new recipes has been quite positive. I have branched out into new territory by cooking with quinoa (I recommend the Baked Spinach and Quinoa recipe available through the New York Times' Recipes for Health section) and tonight, I ate a chilled soba noodle salad. As this blog continues, I hope to share more fun and insightful recipes! Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will look forward to tomorrow's acupuncture appointment and keep you posted...it's time to kick choroiditis in the ass!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A New Year, A Lifetime Resolution?

Hello and welcome to my blog! I hope that this will be a meaningful attempt to keep track of and reflect upon my experiences with an anti-inflammatory diet. For approximately five years, I have been suffering from Multi-Focal Choroiditis, a poorly understood condition which produces inflammation of the retina. It is my hope that this new eating lifestyle will decrease and manage MFC.

Much of my battle with MFC has been very passive, waiting for doctors to prescribe prednisone, laser treatment, or Avastin injections directly into my eye. When symptoms flared up, I went to the doctor and recieved some type of drug. The drugs would usually keep the inflammation and leakage under control for a few months...and then I would repeat the cycle. I resigned myself to living this way for the rest of my life. Eventually, I knew the inevitable would occur: full blindness in my affected right eye.

Part of me did not worry too much. In 2004, when all this began, I told myself that technology and research would advance in the coming years. For now I would be a medical mystery but one day, there would be a "cure".

In December 2008, I had a disheartening appointment. The inflammation in my eye was flaring up again...something it had not done in years. My doctor admitted that he had no answers for me, and the appointment ended with yet another Avastin injection. I went home and immediately began researching everything I could find on MFC and found helpful community support groups. A small handful of posters mentioned the remedial effects of an anti-inflammatory diet. The basic philosophy guiding an anti-inflammatory diet is that our body's ability to produce anti-inflammatory hormones has been thrown out of balance with the introduction of pro-flammatory foods. By restoring our body's natural balance through the introduction of healthy food, inflammation could be kept at bay. I was intrigued.

Here it was: potentially a way for me to take this condition into my own hands. Almost five years after my diagnosis, I knew I could no longer wait for a medical miracle to fall out of the sky. It was hard not to wonder: was this trick--eating healthy--something I could have done so long ago?

Curious, hopeful and above all desperate, I rang in the New Year with a lifetime resolution to eat healthy. As someone who generally shuns resolutions, this one should be interesting. I invite you to read my blog and share your own experiences. I extend an especially warm welcome to my fellow MFC-sufferers...perhaps we can begin answering our own questions about this very serious condition.

I will use this blog to not only report out on my reflections but also to share information about helpful books, recipes, and websites.

Happy New Year!