Walk, with crow

When Things Change

I’ve been surprised by many things in the past few weeks. For one thing, I am surprised by the number of people diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who think it’s good to post pictures of their distressed colon on the Internet for the whole world to see. That will not be happening here.

Mostly I have been surprised to learn that I have some kind of IBD. We’re not sure what to call it yet — first we were told that it’s Crohn’s Disease; then it started to look like something else. There are more diagnostic tests coming up this week, and then more decisions to make. (I feel so lucky to have a good team helping me — traditional and alternative doctors both, and super-supportive friends and family.) Whatever name it ultimately takes, there’s no doubt it’s changing my life for the long term.

One of the biggest deals about this new situation is learning how to feed myself in a new way. Right now, I have to eat tiny meals six to ten times a day. That orange? I can’t eat it. Not yet, anyway. The anti-inflammatory diet I’ve chosen — because my Chinese medicine doc strongly recommends it and it has helped me in the past — is called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). It comes from a book called Breaking the Vicious Cycle, by Elaine Gottschall. Here’s the brief version: no grains (none!), no complex sugars (honey, blessedly, is okay), and no lactose. I can eat veggies and fruits if they’re peeled and cooked. After some time, I should be able to have them raw, too. (Orange, watch out!)

It may seem frivolous, but one of the things I am most grieving is my jam life. Making bright, richly textured jams with refined sugar has been a big part of my identity these past few years. And you know I wanted to start a little jam business, too. For the time being, that’s off the table. It needs to be, while I focus on getting well. Also, I’m not certain what will happen here on the blog. I’m pretty sure Hitchhiking to Heaven won’t become an “IBD blog.” There are already plenty of great resources available for that. For example, I was thrilled to find that there is a Pinterest board for SCD recipes, and a lot of them look great. There are also cookbooks and listervs and every other kind of thing. I’m taking it a step at a time and relying on people I trust to help me filter information.

Of course, now that I’ve said I’m not going to be all about IBD and the SCD, I do want to tell you what I did today: I went on a steroid-induced (cuz I have to take them for a while to keep the inflammation down), grain-free, bread-baking spree. Using the recipes in Breaking the Vicious Cycle, I made banana bread, cheese bread, and plain-old-bread — all using almond flour. The banana bread contains honey. The plain bread contains a mysterious product called dry-curd cottage cheese, or farmer’s cheese, which is not always so easy to find. The cheese bread contains, well, cheese. Mild cheddar, to be exact. It’s my least favorite of the three, but I don’t care. I am just so glad to have a little something to nibble with my tiny bowls of soup! Half of each loaf went into the freezer for next week. I felt inordinately proud of myself for doing this.

I can also say something about what I might do here in the future: I will be allowed to play with fruit on this diet. In fact, cooked or home-canned fruits will be best for me. So I’d like to come around here every now and then and let you know about new fruit adventures. I foresee small projects — things like honeyed preserves, fruit leathers, fruit juices. They’ll have to be simple, sugar-free things. In fact, I’ve already made a tiny batch of honeyed apricot butter with some puree I had in the freezer. (Here’s how: 3 cups puree, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, slow cooked for 30-40 minutes until it’s thick, meaning that there’s a clear track on the bottom of the pot and the excess moisture has evaporated. Popped into a jar in the fridge. Easy.) I’m also thinking of juicing the blackberries and rhubarb I froze last summer. Don’t you think they might be good together?

There is, too, some small thought that I might eventually end up with a pressure canner, because preparation is everything on this diet. Did you know that the idea of pressure canning completely freaks me out? It does. But I may try it anyway. Stay tuned. ;-)

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  • Reply Susan Covey February 5, 2013 at 6:49 am

    I’m so sorry! Wishing you well in your journey to health.

  • Reply Gloria February 5, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Shae I hope you are feeling better now you have a diagnosis to grapple with. In some ways this sounds like an interesting diversion. I’ve worried for a while now about bloggers eating rather too much jam and cake. I imagine you will approach your changing needs with the same enquiring skill as you have your preserving endevours, and we will all feel the benefit. Can’t wait. G x

  • Reply Audra February 5, 2013 at 7:11 am

    So sorry to hear it, but hope the diagnosis helps you figure out how to feel (and be!) healthy. We’ll miss your phenomenal jams.

  • Reply Judy Workman February 5, 2013 at 7:29 am

    I asked for and received a pressure canner for Christmas so I will be learning to use mine along with you. Just please let me know where to find ingredients that are not readily available. You may be cooking with a whole lot of things I have never heard of before. Good luck, I will follow along with you on your new journey.

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 8:57 am

      Thank you, Judy. A pressure canner would be a whole new world for me. I will definitely try to give sources for any odd ingredients that crop up in future recipes!

  • Reply Annette Lowrie February 5, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Hi Shae,
    We will join you on your adventure in food! This is just a new challenge and one that I believe a woman with your cooking skills is up to.
    I’ve always wondered about making jam with honey so I hope you will publish some new experimental recipes next Summer. Maybe there are concentrated fruit syrups or special techniques for making yummy sugar free jams. We could all use less sugar.. but I still need jam! Forge a path for all of us.
    Many people would be grateful to find grain free or lactose free food recipes as well. Post away.
    ‘Love your blog and look forward to all future postings on whatever topics you want to explore. Annie

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Thanks, Annie! I’ve experimented a bit with using concentrated, unsweetened fruit juices in jams using Pomona’s Pectin (like this one), and that has worked pretty well. Whether or not I’m allowed that kind of pectin on this diet is still an open question. So much to learn!

  • Reply kaela February 5, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Oh, Shae. You know I was pulling for some exotic parasite that you could blast away with antibiotics and have done. :( And your fledgling jam biz! Double-sad-face. But given how many people ask me about making sugar-free jam, if you can figure out a way to make it work, you’ll make a fortune. If anyone can do it, you can.

    And, at the very least: you still have bacon. :)

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:02 am

      Bacon! I do! And thank you for this powerful encouragement, Kaela.

  • Reply janeen February 5, 2013 at 8:56 am

    thanks for sharing your process & wishing you creative inspiration as you make adaptations to your eating and recipes;))

  • Reply Kerri February 5, 2013 at 9:00 am

    HI Shae…
    So sorry to hear about your troubles! The problems you are experiencing seem to be happening to more and more people. I know that doesn’t make it any easier, but hopefully more and more treatments/recipes/blogs/etc will turn up to help everyone. I agree with Annie, it is a just a new challenge… and it sounds like you are facing it head on and with purpose! All of us will keep our fingers crossed and look forward to any posting you do!!

  • Reply Julia February 5, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Well, Shae, it looks like we’re not letting go of you that easily! With all the excitement people are showing here for sugar-free or alternatively sweetened jam, myself among them, I think you have your work cut out for you. But, in the meantime, please feel better, okay? : )

  • Reply Dana February 5, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I’m so sorry, Shae. However, I have to agree with the masses that I think all of your work toward the jam business goal will pay off in another, surprising way. You have proven yourself an expert in making lemonade out of lemons, and now honey-sweetened, slow-cooked lemon essence perhaps?

  • Reply Joel February 5, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Bug hugs friend.

    Your honesty and optimism are so admired. Bug giant hugs… Your use of pinterest was ingenious as was your bread.

    Thinking of you and cheering you on from the north,


  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse February 5, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I hope these difficult changes allow you to discover some good and open the door to positive changes. Take care, Shae.

  • Reply Debbie February 5, 2013 at 9:53 am

    What a coinky-dink. I spent yesterday in the emergency room with what turns out to be ilitus or crone’s. When I had been instead dx’ed with colitis this fall. Very confusing. Here’s to finding what helps each of us, likely something different in many ways, yet similar.

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:06 am

      Wishing you the best on your healing journey, Debbie. All these diagnoses can indeed be so confusing. I think you are right that each of our paths will be unique, and yet we can support each other along the way.

  • Reply Caroline February 5, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Shae, I hope you feel better soon! I agree with what everyone is saying about a sugar free jam business (helllooooo extra paperwork!). I actually kind of hate sugar and started making more dried fruit last summer for my own personal stash, and I ended up being more excited to have jars of dried bartlett pears in the pantry than I would for pear jam.

    I hope you get a pressure canner and write about it, because I also want to get one and learn how to use it and I’d rather read your instructions than figure it out myself. I also hope you share some of the new recipes you make for yourself, because as other people are mentioning, so many people have issues with one or more of those ingredients that you mentioned.

    Feel better!

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:07 am

      I wouldn’t have figured you for a pressure canning newbie, Caroline. Yes, let’s blow up our kitchens together. Joking. It’s not supposed to be that hard, right? We’ll figure it out.

  • Reply Katti February 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Dear Shae, I was diagnosed with IBD some years ago and had to take cortison for quite some time. What helped me to get rid of the disease was drinking lots of the local brand of extremly sulfuric mineral water called “borjomi”. (I have been on an oversees mission for 4 years to Georgia/Caucasus.) Since that time I did not have any break-out of IBD – it’s 7 years now without any medication. So maybe you want to give it a try…Note: The sulfuric water tastes extremely awfully disgusting. But, it did the trick…. All the best to you!!!!
    (Oh the website is http://www.borjomi.com; but I’m sure you will be able to find a local US brand of sulfuric mineral water as well…)

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Thanks for this feedback, Katti. I’m glad you are well!

  • Reply Michelle M. February 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Shae. Wishing you relief from the symptoms and success with the new diet and eating habits. Maybe you’ll write more often about your backyard gardening efforts? I’ve enjoyed those posts and, well, just about anything you’ve chosen to write about. You’re an innovater so I know you’ll have plenty to show and tell on your “new” blog. Michelle

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

      You know, Michelle, I have already been thinking that with less time spent making jam, I may have more time for the garden. Thanks for the nudge. :-)

  • Reply Marisa February 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Oh Shae, what a huge bummer of a disappointment. I am so sorry that this has turned out to be the answer and that the solution is surrendering so much of what you love. I think fighting back with honey-sweetened fruit butters and compotes is a brilliant way to go. Here’s hoping that this ends up taking you somewhere better than you could have ever imagined.

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:10 am

      I have to believe it will lead somewhere new, surprising, and good, Marisa, thank you! And if your honeyed apricots are any indication at all of what is to come, there’s a whole world of good preserves to be made without refined sugar.

  • Reply Rachael Flug February 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    When one doors closes another one opens. (lovely Chinese proverb that I learned long ago). Here’s hoping that your healing journey will bring you renewed well being and surprising recipes.

  • Reply Pamsc February 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I would love recipes for jams and fruit dishes without refined sugar! I follow a primal way of eating. Pumpkin pie sweetened with honey is delicious (roast the pumpkin or squash before pureeing it to bring out more of the natural sugar). No crust needed, or make one with nuts.

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:13 am

      Yes! I’ve actually made one of those pies this week, with roasted sugar pie pumpkin and an almond crust. (It was the first thing I chose out of my new SCD cookbook.) I love it so much that I am freezing roasted puree while the squash is still in season, so I can make a few more throughout the year.

  • Reply Helen February 5, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Good luck Shae and I hope you feel better fast. I have been juicing and canning fruits, berries and grapes without sugar for awhile now and enjoy the results (I dilute by half with my well water). I find it easier to drink my daily fruit etc. quota rather than eat the fruits raw or canned. I also make fruit leathers and a multitude of dried fruits which I reconstitute (easier to digest) for cereals etc. I’ve never used almond flour, have tried rice flour–something new to explore. I’ve also made many small batch jams with honey, works well and I prefer the taste and consistency.

    • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:15 am

      This is inspiring, Helen, thank you! Do you use any sweetener at all in your fruit juices? (I dilute mine, too.) Nut flours are pretty wonderful for quick breads and crusts, I think. I’m going to try cashew flour next. :-)

  • Reply Shae February 7, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I feel so uplifted and heartened by all of these supportive comments. Knowing that I have friends here makes it so much easier to face these changes. In fact, right now I feel excited by the opportunity to learn so many new things and to heal on a deep level — and to share a part of my journey with you. Thank you, everyone!

  • Reply Oh, Honey — Blackberry-Rhubarb Juice « Hitchhiking to Heaven February 10, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    […] that I’ve had to give up refined sugar, honey seems like nothing less than a miracle. I’ve been thinking of all those beautiful […]

  • Reply shellee February 11, 2013 at 3:31 am

    It was generous of you to share this information; am reading same book for family member and feeling pretty overwhelmed. Will follow your progress with great interest.

    • Reply Shae February 11, 2013 at 9:03 am

      Thanks for this comment, Shellee. I can definitely appreciate how overwhelming it feels, and I wish the best for you and yours. It’s quite a commitment. Right now I’m mostly feeling grateful to have an option that can really help with long-term healing, but I know I’ll have times where I feel deprived and/or frustrated, too. It helps to be able to figure these things out together!

  • Reply Jayne February 11, 2013 at 6:08 am

    I’m sorry to hear of your health problems. I hope you are feeling better soon. My husband was just diagnosed with diabetes and silly as it sounds not being able to make as much jam was something I felt sad about! I look forward to seeing what else you come up with while avoiding sugar, it sounds like something a lot of us should be doing!

    • Reply Shae February 11, 2013 at 9:05 am

      Thanks, Jayne. So sorry to hear about your husband’s diagnosis. You know that being sad about not making jam isn’t going to sound silly to me! We’ll just have to get creative. :-)

  • Reply Barbara February 17, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Hi Shae,
    Such a bummer. I know how hard this one is. I had to completely redo my diet eighteen months ago similar to yours. No sugar was key. On a selfish note, I have been hoping you would go sugar free with your jams. I would love to try them instead of just reading about them, not that I am complaining. (-: I think you are in good company. I meet so many people who have been going through this lately. It is so disheartening at first, but after I got the worst of the symptoms under control a whole new adventure began with food. I know you will create amazing food in the near future. Hope to see you at Esalen in May.

    • Reply Shae February 22, 2013 at 5:20 am

      Barbara, thanks for your encouragement from further down the path. It is a new adventure, and I’m actually enjoying many aspects of it. I’m finding it’s not at all hard to create small batches of great fruit spreads using just fruit and a little bit of honey. (Can you eat honey?) So I do hope to share more about that.

  • Reply Kate Payne (@hipgirls) February 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Oh, Shae! I had no idea you were dealing with this. Surfacing from a not-so-hot-with-interwebs phase and catching up. I’m here anytime to calm your pressure canning nerves. xo

    • Reply Shae February 22, 2013 at 5:21 am

      Kate! I may well have to take you up on your willingness to soothe, when I decide to plunge into those hotter waters!

  • Reply Tamika February 24, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Hi Shae,
    I’ve been following along here for a couple of years (quietly) you are such an inspiration on so many levels! I’m sorry to hear about your health issues, but it’s what prompted me to chime in. I have made some of Roost Blog’s recipes, they are SCD based, though her blog has morphed well beyond a healing recipe blog, she began it to help heal her husbands Crohns,he is now medication free. I have celiac disease and all the intestinal/bowel issues related to prolonged diagnosis. I’m a gluten free pastry chef (and jammer) who now has to limit even more grains, sugar and (I just found out) nuts! I commiserate with you and feel the same challenge with food and the future of my farmer’s mkt and wholesale business.
    It is tricky eating out in the food world, you are resourceful, so creative! and have a wonderful support group here on your blog!
    Deep breaths.. and do take us along on your journey, you may be helping someone else who’s struggling.
    (you’ll totally rock pressure canning! no worries, it’s safe).

  • Reply What’s That in Your Pectin? « Hitchhiking to Heaven March 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    […] been on my mind because I’m contemplating the best ways to make jam without added sugar and my new diet says I can’t add pectin to them. I don’t often use added pectin, anyway, but I really […]

  • Reply Sara March 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I’m behind in blogs, and so sorry to hear about all you’re dealing with. I can see from more recent posts that you’re adapting with grace, but still it must seem so unfair. I hope by now (one month out) you are starting to see the rewards of this new diet and that it’s hopefully helping you. All the best!

  • Reply Cynthe Brush March 12, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Like Sara, I’m behind reading blogs. Caught your comment about being off sugar on Facebook and was curious to know what was up? Sorry about the digestive upset / discomfort, glad you’re feeling better per your more recent posts.

    Suspect the causative culprit for many folks are the GMO food additives that have been invading USA food manufacturing since the mid-1990’s. Most, if not all, white sugar is from GMO sugar beets, which is why I only use ORGANIC cane sugar or organic honey. Many food additives (citric acid, corn starch, dextrose, dextrin, fructose, lecithin, sorbitol, and more) are manufactured from GMO corn and soy crops, which are known to wreak havoc on animal and people’s digestive systems.

    I’ve been a LabelGMOs volunteer, now educator, since AUG 2011. It’s changed the way I look at ‘food’ and restaurant dining. The November CA vote may have been narrowly lost (likely ‘fixed’), but the fight for safe, clean food is spreading across the USA as we begin to grasp how our health and environment are at stake.

    Back to the ‘no sugar’ subject….you may want to consider the book: “Canning & Preserving Without Sugar” by Norma M.MacRae. You will have to be careful of the ingredient sources to avoid GMO products though.

    • Reply Shae March 17, 2013 at 5:45 am

      Cynthe: Thanks for adding to this conversation. I have Canning & Preserving Without Sugar and find it to be a very useful reference. You know, all of my health care practitioners have noticed dramatic increases in autoimmune disorders. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if GMOs were playing a part in that, along with so many of the other ways we’ve been distorting and poisoning the world in which we live, breathe, eat. :-(

  • Reply Rangpur Lime Preserves with Honey & Chile | local kitchen March 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    […] right? She of the fabulous jamz and the pigeon love? If you do, you may have heard that Shae was recently diagnosed with some form of IBD, a blanket term that describes inflammation and/or irritation of the GI tract, typically of […]

  • Reply Citrus Aigre-Doux with Honey « Hitchhiking to Heaven March 17, 2013 at 11:22 am

    […] an organic Merlot from Bonterra Vineyards for this recipe. Dry red or white wines are allowed on GAPS and the SCD! And I’ve always had an easier time with organic wines than conventional. Organic […]

  • Reply Honeyed Apricot Blueberry Jam: No Added Sugar « Hitchhiking to Heaven March 25, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    […] been eyeing my last pint of apricots since this no-refined-sugar thing started in January. When I caved and bought a clamshell of un-local organic blueberries — […]

  • Reply Cherry Rhubarb Jam with Ginger & Honey (No Refined Sugar) « Hitchhiking to Heaven May 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

    […] — I’m still trying to use up my freezer-bound over-enthusiasm from last year. Because I’m off refined sugar, I wanted to see whether I could put all these things together in a honey-sweetened jam using […]

  • Reply Bee House Apricot Jam « Hitchhiking to Heaven June 20, 2014 at 11:40 am

    […] you may wonder what’s up with the sugar in this jam. It’s pure cane. I’m still off sugar, myself, but I wanted to give this recipe what it seemed to need — a moderate amount of the […]

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