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Monday, April 29, 2019

Importance of Gut Health

It has been a long journey back to health. Along the way, I thought I might never get here.

I fell ill in 2009. It was a strange illness that no specialist could diagnose. I was sleepy... always sleepy. The brain fog was awful. I caught myself napping in front of the bananas at NTUC Fairprice. Life looked drab and dreary. I was so tired that I wondered whether that was what Death felt like. Often, I thought it would be wonderful to sleep and never wake up again because when I was awake, life looked so grey. I went from gynaecologist to endocrinologist, looking for a definite diagnosis. There was nothing wrong with me, they concluded. My bloodwork showed normal levels of everything.

Yet, I did not feel well. I had to find my own solution.

Looking back at the past 10 years, I realise that much of what worked addressed my gut health.

Going onto Probiotics
As a child, my Mom fed me 1 course of antibiotics every 2 months. Every time I had a flu, she would bug the doctor for the strongest antibiotics. This cannot have been good for my gut flora. Since the bacteria had mostly died, the yeast, candida, thrived in my gut. My body could still manage to counter it through my 20s and 30s. By the time I hit my 40s, the candida was winning. The more ground it gained, the more ill I was.

Daily consumption of milk kefir helped immensely but I was still ill.

Going off Gluten
Candida had triggered the onset of my celiac disease. I went from asymptomatic to fully symptomatic. Thanks to candida, eating gluten triggered an auto-immune response that destroyed my intestinal villii. For years, I wondered why whatever I ate, came out the other end recognisable as food that went in. The transit time was only 6 hours. Anything that I had eaten 6 hours ago, would be passed out already. When I went to see a TCM doctor for a stubborn flu, she felt my pulse and looked deep into my eyes, "We need to heal your digestion." I wondered how she knew.

I was still ill because I was severely undernourished.

Avoiding Xeno-Oestrogens
At around that time, a new maid brought in an infestation of bed bugs. I sprayed permethrin daily in our bedroom for 1 year. Pesticides contain high levels of xeno-oestrogens. As a result, my oestrogen levels went through the roof. Oestrogen encourages candida to become even more virulent.

So, my candida did even more damage to my gut.

I became very sensitive to non-organic veggies. My body reacted to the presence of commercial pesticides. So, I had to grow my own organic greens.

Going onto Turmeric Paste and Pomegranate Juice
To address my oestrogen dominance, I went onto bodybuilding sites where men complained about moobs. Apparently, turmeric and pomegranate are both anti-oestrogenic. They certainly worked wonders for me. The month after I went on therapeutic doses of turmeric and pomegranate, my bleeding slowed to a trickle from what was previously a blood flood. My skin turned from oily to dry.

Oh wow! Yay!

The body's endocrine system is a finely balanced one. High levels of oestrogen can cause low levels of thyroid hormones. Blood tests showed me to be hypothyroid. Once you have a hormone imbalance, it affects every other hormone. I had weird levels of cortisol and insulin. I could never eat porridge because withing 30 minutes of eating porridge, I would be too sleepy to stay awake.

Going onto Rosemary and Ceylon Cinnamon Tisanes
My digestion was still not as it should be. I became more and more sensitive to foods. I decided to take rosemary and ceylon cinnamon tisanes daily. One or the other or both. This has done wonders for my gut health. After about 1 year, I no longer had runaway candidiasis. This has helped my gut to heal.

I finally began to properly absorb nutrients.

Losing Weight. Building Muscle.
The more nutrients I took in, the more weight I lost. Previously, I could only absorb sugars. The more I ate, the more weight I put on and the more muscle I lost... and I was still tired, oh so tired!! Everything I put in my mouth converted into fat storage, not energy.

My PE tuition teacher was wonderful. For 2 years, she accompanied me through hormone crashes and hormone recovery periods. Frequently, I thought that I would never build back the muscle mass that I had lost but Tracy was just wonderful. She stepped up my exercises gradually and from barely being able to do 1 push up, I can now do 10. I went from screaming at 5 leg lifts to doing 60.

I could not cycle more than an hour a day without experiencing a hormone crash and extreme tiredness the day after. Even in 2018, there were days when my hormones crashed and I could not even get up out of bed. For the past 10 months, that has not happened.

Keeping Hope Alive
It was a long and hard slog. For months, I refused to even look at the bathroom scales because nothing budged. It was demoralising to exercise so much and not see progress. Tracy told me that I was losing inches but maintaining weight because muscle is heavier than fat, but I really wanted to see the needle move downwards. For months and months, it never moved. I could cycle 2000 calories a day and lose no weight at all.Yet, if I ate just a little more, I would gain 1kg.

I kept hope alive by telling myself that I was exercising for health and not beauty. I wanted my energy back and a certain quality of life that I had lost since 2009. I stopped looking at my weight loss goals and focused instead on the exercise regime. Just do it blindly and don't worry about the results. Focus on the process, not on the results.

I looked forward to our Europe holidays once every 2 years because in the cold winters of Europe, I could walk a lot. I could walk all day. I became stronger after every Europe holiday where I pushed myself to walk.

I've lost 2.5 inches off my waist, 3 inches off my hips. I feel lighter and stronger. I went from Size L to Size S or XS. I can now throw off flus within a day when previously, I needed 2 months. I wake up in the morning energetic, happy and in love with life. I haven't collapsed in 10 months!!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Proud of Chong Pang Food Centre

I am a creature of habit. For 5 whole years, I would take lunch daily at the Koufu Food Court near Admiralty MRT station simply because we used to live near there and I enjoyed...

- the vegetarian dishes
- the economy rice dishes
- the roast pork
- the creamy teh si kosong

... and it was a no brainer decision to do that every day. Don't even have to think. Just go there everyday. Then, they changed the economy rice dishes to appeal to PRC taste buds and the roast pork people disappointed me by giving me 200g of roast pork when I paid for 400g. Not cool! There is very little there to like there now.

So, I began exploring Chong Pang Food Centre. Chong Pang is noisy and cluttered. Weird smells hit you in the face when you walk through. For an autistic person, this can be quite overwhelming. So, for 5 years, I avoided it. To me, it was a dirty and smelly place. However, the more I explored it, the more yummy stuff I found, and the prouder I became of this very dirty and very hot food centre. I wish someone would renovate it so that the environment does justice to the yummy food that is there. I do wish I could go there every day now but on some days, the heat and the noise and the smells are just too much to bear.

Also, never go there in heels (even low ones) because the floor is so oily, you might slip. On rainy days, watch every step you take and walk slowly. Same reason: you might slip. Lastly, never wear short shorts no matter how hot the weather. For some reason, there are a lot of 70+ years old elderly folks and they STARE. I suppose, in their generation, people did not wear shorts very much.

Chuan Kee Boneless Braised Duck

I had no idea of Chuan Kee's pedigree when I first started frequenting the stall 2 years ago. I was attracted by the long queue and the beautiful slabs of braised pork. The signage said braised duck but for close to 1 year, I did not even try the duck. I am loyal to their braised pork. It took me another year before I realised that they make the best duck rice EVER!

Then, I discovered that this is a Michelin Bib Gourmand hawker. Waaaaaah! Impressed man! Kowtow and give thanks that there is Michelin Bib Gourmand hawker 5 minutes from my house! I felt so blessed.

My only issue with this stall is that they don't speak English and I speak lousy Chinese. I often have problems understanding what they are telling me so I resort to smiling brightly whenever I feel stupid. When in doubt, just smile widely.

All said, this stall certainly deserves its Michelin Bib Gourmand. Nothing they do is sloppy. This was so obvious when I approached them to tapau food that I could not finish. I presented the Skinny Dark Man with my leftovers and noted with great respect that he took my messy plate, divided up the different ingredients and placed them NEATLY in a circle. He took the trouble to re-plate my food even on a piece of waxed paper. How impressive is that?! Now, either he has culinarily trained under excellent chefs or well... this stall's work processes and staff training is above par.

In any case, such attention to detail and quality appeals to me.

Bai Nian Yong Tau Fu

At the start of this week, I noticed a new stall with a queue as long as the Great Wall of China. I cannot read Chinese so I had to take a picture of the signage and get The Husband to translate. Lo and behold, this is another excellent hawker that does yong tau fu differently from others. Best of all, this place does only beehoon so even their soup is gluten free. I am thrilled to bits. There are so many things that I cannot eat at food courts because of hidden gluten. Till now, I have not found a single beehoon soup stall that I dare to eat from because the same stall would have cooked noodles in the same water as the beehoon. This stall serves nothing but beehoon.

Bedok Chwee Kueh

Bedok Chwee Kueh stands shoulder to shoulder with Tiong Bahru chwee kueh as the best in Singapore. I actually prefer Bedok chwee kueh.

Yishun: Bad Reputation But Good Food

However one looks at it, Petunia has been living in "unsavoury" neighbourhoods for umpteen years. It started with our HDB flat in Marsiling and then now, we are on the outskirts of Yishun. Go on the internet and you will find that a lot of weird people and crimes make the headlines from Yishun.

It definitely is not cool to tell people "I live in Yishun," or "I live in Marsiling." So, I am inordinately proud of my Chong Pang Food Centre with more than its fair share of top hawkers.

Hmmmm... **feeling smug**