Podcast 058: Herbs & the Holidays: Handling Food Allergies & Sensitivities

Holiday foods are delightful & delicious, but what if you’re allergic to some of the ingredients? Never fear! In this episode we’ll share some of our best tips & tricks for when gluten, dairy, or other allergens are a no-no. Whether making a simple substitution, or trying out something entirely new, we’ve got you covered. We even have some strategies for if you accidentally get exposed – or even if it was accidentally-on-purpose!

PLUS: Listen in to get a coupon code for 25% off ANY of our online courses, good from now until December 21st!

Herbs discussed include calamus, ginger, chamomile, yellow dock, & blackberry.

Mentioned in this podcast:


Family Herbalist is our entry-level program in practical herbalism: detailed profiles of 87+ medicinal plants, along with up-close instructions for making your own herbal remedies. Try it for 14 days with our zero-risk return policy! Learn your herbs & make your medicines with this in-depth set of herb profiles & medicine-making instructions.


Episode Transcript

Katja: 00:13 Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn: 00:14 And I’m Ryn.

Katja: 00:14 We’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn: 00:19 And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast.

Katja: 00:22 We are not doctors; we are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Ryn: 00:28 The ideas discussed in our podcasts do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists here in the United States; these discussions are for educational purposes only. Because everybody’s body is different, the things we’re talking about might or might not apply directly to you, but they will give you some information to think about and to research further.

Katja: 00:48 We want to remind you that your good health is your own personal responsibility. The final decision in considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by your physician, is always yours.

Ryn: 00:58 That’s our disclaimer we use every week and this time probably less relevant than usual because today’s going to be all about treats.

Katja: 01:07 Yes, delicious, delicious treats, specifically from the perspective of food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances.

Ryn: 01:18 Because we have those and know about them, we talk about them, and we teach about them.

Katja: 01:23 We work with a lot of people who also have them. Sometimes the holidays can be a really stressful time, especially if it’s your first holiday having figured out some food sensitivities and things that you’re trying to avoid.

Ryn: 01:38 So, if you’re new to this whole gluten-free thing, then this is the podcast for you. [laughter]

Katja: 01:43 First, we have a couple of shout-outs. We have one to Mortar and Pestle Herbal, who is trying calamus for the very first time because we talk about it so much.

Ryn: 01:54 Spreading the calamus gospel over here, you guys. [laughter]

Katja: 01:57 That’s right. Also to Sherry, Samantha, and Allie, who signed up for new classes today. Allie signed up using the WELOVEYOU 25% off podcast discount coupon code.

Ryn: 02:17 If you’ve been waiting, now’s the time. There’s one week left in our seasonal sale here. We love you and will continue to love you after December 21st, but the code won’t work anymore, right?

Katja: 02:33 So, if you want to get 25% off any of our courses, you can check them out at CommonwealthHerbs.com/learn. You’ll find that we’ve got short courses, like the Elements of Detoxification, a Holistic Approach to Lyme Disease, Holistic Fertility, really cool things like that. Also, Basic Phytochemistry, which Ryn is wrapping up now.

Ryn: 03:09 A few more videos to add, a couple of things to shoot and put it in there, but it’s almost done.

Katja: 03:15 You don’t have to be afraid of phytochemistry, Ryn makes it really fun. I teach a class on supporting kids through puberty. Puberty is not really fun, but I can make it a little bit easier. We’ve got classes on formulation, energetics and holistic practice, holistic nutrition, but also we have our long courses. One is Herbalism 101 [ now called Family Herbalist ], which is sort of a short long course, depending on how fast you go. It might take you a month or maybe three months to get through it, but you’ll learn more than 85 plants in depth, also how to make more than two dozen different kinds of herbal medicine. All of it is with videos. The medicine making ones are step-by-step and they’re closeups, so it’s really easy to take your phone or your laptop in the kitchen and do it right there with us. We also have the Foundations in Holistic Herbalism course, which usually takes people nine months to a year, but at the end of that you are a safe and confident family herbalist and you can pretty much handle whatever is going to come your way in the course of a year.

Ryn: 04:39 Lots of options, but for any one of them, go ahead and get that code in there. WELOVEYOU, all one word, and you’ll get 25% off. That’s a good deal.

Katja: 04:52 It’s a wicked good deal. Alright, let’s talk about food allergies for the holidays. The first thing that I really want to point out here is a little bit of perspective shift, and this is a shift that I myself have gone through over the years. So often when our society really thinks about food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances, or anytime that you’re avoiding certain foods for healthy reasons, we really have this restrictive idea about it.

Ryn: 05:28 That’s the term people use. “Do you have any dietary restrictions? Please inform your server.”

Katja: 05:32 I’ve been gluten free and dairy free for 15 years. It was right when Amber was born, so it’s about as old as Amber is. That’s a really long time–15 some odd years. When I first started, people stopped inviting us to parties because they didn’t know what they would feed us. I wondered why they didn’t just ask me to bring something, why didn’t they just ask me what to feed me, or why not just have wine instead and then it wouldn’t matter. [laughter] But it was very awkward for them and the whole thing was just weird. I think now it’s a lot easier because the idea that people might experiment with their foods to see what works best for their own body is becoming much more mainstream, but there’s still a lot of backlash where people maybe feel offended if you aren’t going to eat their gluteny cookies or whatever. That can be painful for both sides.

Ryn: 06:53 Of course. Sometimes you’re going home for the holidays, you haven’t seen your family for half a year, and now Memme is there with her special cookies and you have to say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t eat any of those ingredients anymore”. How do you explain that? What do you do? You can get really caught up in it, it can be hard.

Katja: 07:14 We have a solution for that, we have some herbs for that that we will talk about a little bit later on. But the first thing is that I would really love to see our whole society (but at least myself and other people) start to look at food restrictions more as the opportunity to try something new. If you’re going to a brand new restaurant that you’ve never been to before, you’re pretty excited about what you’re going to have, trying something new, and it’s going to be really great. Or if you go traveling to some other country, part of the fun is seeing what kind of food they have and trying something new. We can actually look at food restrictions in that same way. Instead of focusing on the restrictive side of it, we can look at it as an opportunity to try things that maybe weren’t a normal or a common part of our own personal food culture, which I think is really, really cool. This winter, I have a goal to learn how to make Ethiopian food. I’m really excited to do that, but I had no idea what Ethiopian was even like until you took me to an Ethiopian restaurant. It was not spices or types of recipes that were present in my family whatsoever. They weren’t present in yours either, but you just found this restaurant and liked it.

Ryn: 08:47 Now, the berbere spice blend has become my go-to standard favorite for all the time forever and that’s where I learned about that.

Katja: 08:56 We cook with it all the time and I had never done anything like that. That idea of letting your food restriction in fact be an opportunity to broaden your horizon and try new things that are really exciting serves you in two ways (maybe even more than that). One is that it refocuses you from a place of exclusion to a much more positive place, and you can bring people with you that way, too. It isn’t just you; maybe the rest of your family says, “But we always eat ravioli on Christmas Eve”, you can say, “Okay, well we always did, but now we could try a new adventure and we could try some other thing on Christmas Eve”. The other side of that is that there’s so much amazing stuff out there and you can get stuck in a food rut. It’s so easy to do and having some opportunity to open up your horizon around that is really great, so we can be excited about it. Plus, more spices is always better. [laughter] Obviously there are definitely some recipes that are really sentimental for the holidays, so we try to adapt those the best we can. I’ve gotten pretty good at that and I’m going to talk about that a little bit more in a minute. But for now, I just really encourage you to think about new adventures as you are approaching the holiday. Especially if you are a person who maybe hasn’t identified any food sensitivities for yourself but are going to be cooking for somebody who does, your attitude towards them and their food sensitivities can also really help free them up. If you can see it as an adventure that you get to go on with them, as an opportunity to try something new, and you can show them that’s your attitude about it, trust me, you will have given them such a gift. So often people who have food sensitivities are really worried that they’re going to be an imposition and that people are going to not accept what they have to do, so if you can approach your friends with food sensitivities that way, it takes so much of the burden off of them and also the fear of offending you or whatever else. A couple of strategies: the first is if you are a person with food intolerances and you’re going someplace to share a meal, bring the thing that you’re most allergic to. What I mean by that is they’ll probably get the meat and vegetables right (it’s kind of hard to screw up meat and vegetables, unless they put butter on it and you’re allergic to dairy), those are reasonably easy. You can say, “Please don’t put butter on anything” and that’s probably going to be okay. But dessert is the place where it gets really, really tricky, so volunteer to bring the dessert. That takes the pressure off the person who’s hosting and also takes the pressure off you wondering if they got it right and if it’s really safe to eat this cake that they are so proud that they made and all this other stuff. It makes it easier for everyone. I also would say that whatever it is that you bring, bring a lot of it because you want to make sure that you get a satisfying amount of it. If you spend time making this amazing cake that’s gluten free, dairy free, it’s beautiful and so delicious and everybody’s saying, “Holy cow–this is gluten free? This is so good!” And everybody’s gobbling it down and you only got a tiny piece. Bring two cakes. [laughter] No one will ever be sad if you bring two cakes.

Ryn: 13:07 Worst case, you bring it home with you. Not such a bad case. [laughter]

Katja: 13:09 Exactly. Another strategy is if you are going, let’s say, to a holiday party at your work or someplace where it’s not as appropriate for you to bring something to contribute (maybe it’s being catered or something like that), then the Scarlett O’hara trick is the strategy for you, which is eat before you go to the party. There’s this great scene in Gone with the Wind where she doesn’t just eat before the party, she stuffs herself silly before the party and then she stuffs herself into a corset, it’s actually ridiculous. But she eats a lot of food before the party. Of course the whole thing is ridiculous because the whole purpose of eating before the party is so that she looks dainty and lady-like and doesn’t eat anything at the party because she’s not hungry. All of this is levels of ridiculous that I can’t even say, but it works very well. If you are going to a party and you’re worried that there won’t be something that you’ll be able to eat, there certainly will be things that will be beautiful that you will want to eat and you will feel bad that you can’t eat them. If you are hungry, it’s going to be really hard to not eat them. So, eat a good solid meal before you go to the party. You can always eat more at the party if it turns out that they made beautiful dark chocolate-covered strawberries that are dairy free and you know that they’re safe, just eat more. It’s okay, you’ll be full, that’s fine. But eat before the party, that’s what I’m trying to say. Another one is to plan meals together with people. If you are going home for the holidays and you’re telling your mom, “Hey mom, I’ve recently found out that when I eat gluten/soy/whatever, that’s what’s been really upsetting my guts. It’s inconvenient, I miss bread, and I miss ______ (whatever it is that your mom makes that you like), but I have really found that it’s just not worth it to me because it really makes my body feel gross. So, I’d like to work with you together to plan the holiday meal. Would you like to do that?” By doing that, it takes the pressure off the person who’s going to be cooking because they may be afraid that they’re going to make you sick, and that fear might translate into feeling offended that you’re not going to eat their food or that their food isn’t good enough for you, when that’s not what’s going on. But it might be hard for them to understand what is going on in a way that is reflecting your reality. By offering to plan together, it takes so much of the fear out of it because they no longer have to figure something out that they don’t really know the answer to and that makes them a little bit uncomfortable, and instead you’re working on it together.

Ryn: 16:20 People like to collaborate that way and then you can feel like you’re in it together, you’re working on something new, and it can be nice.

Katja: 16:27 This is a good time to intersperse one of our herbal strategies for dealing with, let’s say, going to the dinner, everything was supposed to be perfect, and then, oops, it wasn’t quite perfect. Something got some butter on it, you ate it before you realized, and now your guts feel terrible or something like that.

Ryn: 16:54 So, if you’ve already consumed your allergen and you didn’t intend to and you weren’t planning ahead for it, then our number one fix for that is good old gut-heal tea.

Katja: 17:07 We should really take a tally of how many podcast episodes gut-heal tea shows up in, because it definitely reflects the frequency with which we make gut-heal tea and with which we recommend it to people. It is a gut saver. I was going say it’s a lifesaver, but it’s a gut saver.

Ryn: 17:29 It makes a huge difference. If you’ve listened to our podcast for awhile then you’ve probably heard us talk about it, if you’re brand new, here’s the drill. Gut-heal tea is our name for a general strategy that we take rather than one specific formula that we make the same way every single time. Gut-heal tea means that we’re combining herbs that are digestives, that are (in the herbal action term) carminative, which means that they warm digestion and improve your digestive fire, your ability to break down your food. We also include vulnerary herbs, which are wound healers, and those are going to take down inflammation and help if there’re any irritations or even ulcerations in the GI tract. And we’re often going to include some lymphatic herbs as well to stir up those stagnant fluids and get them moving. When you eat a food allergen, you generate an immune response and a lot of that is mediated through the lymphatic system. One way to detect if you have a food allergy in play that you haven’t quite sorted out yet is if you eat and then you get bloating in your belly–that’s not gas, that’s fluid bloating.

Katja: 18:38 There might also be gas, but it’s not only gas.

Ryn: 18:41 Right. So, you feel bloated and then you take a bunch of fennel and maybe you pass a little gas, but you’re still bloated. That’s fluid bloating and that means that there’s lymphatic stagnation there. There’s an immune response going on and something you ate your body’s treated it as if it was an allergen and you want to figure out what. So, we want to get that lymph moving. We often will include some demulcent herbs in here as well to soothe and hydrate the body. Sometimes we put in a little bit of bitter herbs in there–just a touch–for more of that digestive stimulation. It’s a matter of combining these actions. In terms of a simple recipe or a formula to start with, you can combine ginger, chamomile, a little bit of plantain, calendula, if you like mint, you can put some peppermint or spearmint in there. I really like to put fennel into the gut-heal tea, and sometimes just a touch of licorice is really nice in there as well.

Katja: 19:45 Catnip is one we often put in. But you see how those herbs all kind of fall into those categories that Ryn was mentioning, the herbal action categories.

Ryn: 19:59 The idea here is basically to get a bunch of different supportive actions all together into the same formula in a way that tastes good. You might not do them all equal parts, you adjust it to your tastes and your need. If you’d like a little more detail on that, then we do have a blog post about gut-heal tea on our website. It’s easy to find: just go to CommonwealthHerbs.com, look for the search bar, type in ‘gut-heal’, click it, and there you go. It’ll pop right up for you. That’s something that is a great idea to make whenever you’re having a feast, honestly, because it’s super easy to indulge. You could bring the dried herbs along with you to the party, make it up, and just in case you get a little bit of gluten, that’ll help you out right away.

Katja: 20:48 Plus, this tea everybody’s going to appreciate because it’s also a great tea if you overindulged. Everybody at the table will be happy for a cup of this tea, it’s just going to have extra super powers for you.

Ryn: 21:10 Soothing and tasty.

Katja: 21:11 Alright, so whether you have food allergies or sensitivities or whether you are cooking for someone who does, here are some suggestions. I’m going to break them down into adapting things that are important traditions for you and then also new things that could be new adventures, because sometimes you have a traditional food that there’s not any way that you can makeover (like baklava; I don’t think there’s any way to make baklava that’s not gluteny).

Ryn: 21:53 That flaky texture is a tough one. I’m sure some industrious gluten-free experimental chefs are out there exploring on that one.

Katja: 21:55 I will be so happy to taste test it. I volunteer myself. So, we have some new exciting substitutes to put into that category. First, some recipes that you might want to adapt: one of the first ones that comes to mind, especially at this time of year, is sugar cookies. They’re really popular and maybe when you were a kid, you and your parents made sugar cookies together and then decorated them. Sugar cookies are actually super easy to adapt to allergens. On social media yesterday, I was baking a batch of sugar cookies into which I was putting powdered herbs to give them flavors. I made rose, lavender, and pine, and the recipe is on our Instagram and Facebook feeds (which is CommonwealthHerbs).

Ryn: 22:53 Those were three different batches.

Katja: 22:56 Yeah, it wasn’t combined. That would be weird. [laughter] Also, we filmed it and I’m editing that video to go on to our YouTube channel (which is also Commonwealth Herbs), so that you can see exactly how I made them. My standard recipe involves almond meal and I like Bob’s Red Mill, they make a really good almond meal. That’s how I approach almost every baking problem because I don’t have a nut allergy and because it also reduces the amount of carbs in whatever it is that I am creating. But if a nut allergy is a problem for you, then I highly recommend Namaste brand baking mixes because they avoid all of the top allergens. They’re really reliable.

Ryn: 23:53 Those are really great, consistency and everything. There’s a blend of what, tapioca, rIce?

Katja: 24:01 I think that’s all they use, tapioca and rice. They don’t even use potato, so it’s nightshade-free even. If you’re out there with a nightshade allergy and it’s hard, Namaste–they’ve got you covered. Nobody will know that it’s allergen-free because it bakes up so amazingly well. Anyway, the sugar cookie recipes are a really good. For desserts in general, I have the same recipe that I just sort of slide in one direction or another and it’s got four things in it. It’s got eggs, almond meal, honey, some kind of oil, usually coconut oil or ghee.

Ryn: 24:54 Well, there’s salt, there’s vanilla.

Katja: 24:56 Right, and then the flavory things. But that’s my base.

Ryn: 24:59 You don’t usually need to add baking soda for most things.

Katja: 25:02 I almost never use it. If I want to make cake, I put in more eggs. I might put in six eggs, I might put an eight eggs, depending on how much cake I’m making. Whereas if I’m making cookies, I only put in a few eggs.

Ryn: 25:19 Just enough to bind it together.

Katja: 25:21 Yeah. Sometimes I’ll put in some almond milk or coconut milk, especially if it’s pancakes and I need to thin it out a little bit (because I really like crepe-y kind of pancakes).

Ryn: 25:36 And in this context, that’s the drinking almond milk or drinking coconut milk rather than the canned ones that are super thick and all that.

Katja: 25:44 Exactly. If you’re a person who already is comfortable baking and you’re thinking you’ll just have to change your recipe, really eggs, almond meal, honey, and fat (ghee, lard, or coconut oil), and then you just slide that around. We have a bunch of recipes that use that as a base on our website–the URL to get to all of them is Commonwealthherbs.com/recipes–and you’ll find there my standard cake recipe, my standard muffin recipe, all different kinds of cookie recipes. I even have a cheese Danish recipe, apple fritter, raspberry cheese Danish.

Ryn: 26:39 You had the Kite Hill cream cheese. It’s like somehow they learned how to take almond milk and treat it like it was cow’s milk.

Katja: 26:51 They just use the same enzymes. They don’t put in a bunch of stabilizers or any of that nonsense, they just cultured it. They decided to culture it like you normally would, they did and it worked. The other one that I wanted to mention besides Namaste, King Arthur is another brand that has really succeeded in gluten-free baking mixes. They are fantastic. Those are the two that I trust most, both in terms of allergens (I trust them not to poison me) and in terms of the end product being satisfying to everyone. If you don’t tell people it’s gluten-free, they won’t know, so that’s really awesome. There are a lot of different brands of mixes out there and they’re not all created equal, but those two are ones that you can really depend on every time. One other thing that everybody always wants is gravy. I’ve come up with a really delicious gravy recipe, at least it’s delicious to me. The way that we manage this is that whoever’s house we’re going to, we’ll make the gravy when we get there. It’s not hard. Let me tell you about gravy. There’re two ways to have gravy: you can have the au jus method of gravy, which is the actual drippings from the turkey/roast/whatever, and that’s the French way, and then there’s the thick and creamy kind of gravy, which is what I prefer. The way that I used to make that thick and creamy gravy was to take all the drippings, put in a bunch of heavy cream, put in flour to thicken it up, whip it like crazy so it didn’t have lumps, and then it would be gravy. It’s actually no different when you’re making it dairy free and gluten free. You’re just going to change what you’re putting in there; I use either non GMO corn starch or tapioca starch, arrow root powder also works. The key here is you’ve got your pan, you’ve got all the drippings in it from the roast/turkey/whatever (or if you’re making it vegetarian, then you’ve got your mushroom broth and stuff like that going on), you just take some of your starch–whether it’s cornstarch, tapioca, or arrowroot–and mix it with cold water in a separate little container. I like those little tiny jam jars, the little tiny mason jars because they seal really good. The key here is that you’re going to shake it with the cool water and that’s how you’re going to get it to not be lumpy. It mixes in really well that way. Then you’re going to dump that into your pot with the drippings, meat juice, or the mushroom juice. I’ve tried the different kinds of plant milks and none of them really work like cream does, and I was wondering how I was going to get this to be creamy. You guys, it’s egg yolks–that is the key. For every cup of drippings that you have, you’re going to put in at least one egg yolk. Do this before you start the heat, because if you have the juices that are going to make the gravy already hot and you put an egg yolk in there, then it’s going to cook the egg yolk and you’ll get little scrambled parts in there, so don’t do that. It doesn’t have to be cool or cold, but only kind of body temperature warm, like you haven’t started heating it up again. Put in at least one egg yolk per cup of juice, and then whisk it like crazy and whisk it right away, don’t let it sit, just whisk, whisk, whisk until it all blends in. Once it’s all blended in, you can heat it up (even bring it to a boil) and you don’t have to worry about the egg yolk parts separating. That, the juice from the meat or mushrooms, and a little bit of starch makes the creamiest, awesomest gravy.

Ryn: 31:43 In this moment, I’m just kind of wondering (I don’t think we’ve tried this yet) but collagen powder has become a thing that lots of folks are really hyped about. That’s a thickening agent. I wonder if that would work.

Katja: 31:55 I don’t know. It’s not so much a thickening agent in something hot. It’s only thickening when it’s in something cold, so I think that wouldn’t work. Although if you were making a mushroom-based gravy because you’re vegetarian and you wanted to get extra protein, then you could just put it in there for fun. I don’t think that it would change the consistency at all, but you wouldn’t get the thickening action until it cooled, but you would get some extra protein, so that would be fine. But wherever we go for holidays now, whether it’s your parents or my parents or whatever, we don’t even make two kinds of gravy anymore. Everybody eats this gravy.

Ryn: 32:37 None of my relatives even noticed that anything was different this year.

Katja: 32:46 Your mom and dad knew because we were making it in the kitchen, but your aunts and uncles had no idea and your cousins just asked to pass the gravy. You can’t tell and it’s so good. Frankly you guys, I could eat gravy with a spoon all day long. I just love gravy. [laughter]

Ryn: 33:03 I know that at least one year you separated the egg yolks, took the egg whites, and then made–what do you call them? The little fluffy…

Katja: 33:14 Meringue cookies? Don’t throw the egg whites away, you can make macaroons with them or meringue cookies and they’re really good, so definitely do that. Meringue cookies usually are gluten free on the face of it. They’re usually just egg whites and sugar basically, and then some vanilla or cocoa powder if you make them chocolatey. You can pretty much Google any recipe for meringue cookies and do that with the leftover egg whites.

Ryn: 33:48 Nice. There’s a thing that I want people to make and have more of in the world because I think it will spread joy. [laughter] These are called bacon dates and this is like an appetizer.

Katja: 34:04 This is your chance to try something new!

Ryn: 34:06 What you need are some dates, and usually we get the pitted deglet dates but you can try different kinds. You do want them to be pitted though, because you’re going to bite right through them, and also because then it’s easy to stuff almonds into them. So, the first step is to get a bunch of dates, a bunch of almonds, and some bacon. You get the dates, push almonds right into the middle of them (sometimes I even push one in from both sides because I really like almonds), you get a good pile of them, and then take your package of bacon and what I usually do is slice it right down the middle so that you have half-length pieces. The entire packet; lay it out so it’s horizontal and then slice it right down the center.

Katja: 34:59 So that all of the bacon slices are half slices now.

Ryn: 35:05 Then you roll the dates right up in them, set them in an oven safe dish, and put them in your oven at 350F for 20 minutes, maybe a little longer, depends on your oven.

Katja: 35:23 It also depends on how crisped up you like your bacon. If you have a house where some of you like chewy and some of you like crunchy, then just take some out and then keep cooking the rest of them.

Ryn: 35:45 They’re so delicious. They’re sweet, they’re savory, they’re crunchy, they’re nutty. They’ve got everything all at once. Everybody loves them, they’ll disappear fast.

Katja: 35:55 You guys, Ryn’s birthday is coming on the 19th, and I think I should make some bacon dates.

Ryn: 36:02 Oh, we’re definitely going to do that. That, and we’re also going to experiment making some homemade Indian dishes.

Katja: 36:11 I’m going to try gluten-free samosas, keema matar (which is one we make all the time), bacon dates, and rum cake with raisins, walnuts, dates, and ginger. On the 19th, that’s what we’ll be eating.

Ryn: 36:35 Seriously though, bacon dates. They’re so easy and you can just bring the ingredients with you to wherever it is you’re going. You can hang out in the kitchen for a while, chat with folks, and rope some kids into putting them together with you. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s foolproof.

Katja: 36:51 Nobody will be sad that you brought bacon, unless you’re going to a vegetarian party, in which case this is not going to work.

Ryn: 36:58 I have no idea how vegan bacon behaves in the oven, but it’s worth a try. So if that’s your thing, then let us know how it works.

Katja: 37:07 But everybody else will be very happy that you brought bacon. There are a couple other things that we want to share strategies for if things go wrong or strategies for having a big rich meal and then feeling a little sluggish or a little speedy in your guts. It can kind of go either way, especially if you’re a person who doesn’t typically eat a lot of fat and then it’s a holiday and you’re eating a lot of fat. There are two plants that are really great here. For the people who eat a lot of delicious holiday food and then get sluggish and even constipated, yellow dock is a really good friend. Depending on your body, you can take several droppersful–like two or three droppersful–of yellow dock. It might take 15 minutes or it might take until tomorrow morning, but either way, it’s a really gentle, not habit-forming laxative that is super, super effective.

Ryn: 38:17 Even before you get the full bowel movement situation happening, it does relieve some of the digestive discomfort because it’s a bitter plant, so it’s very helpful. A simple tincture is really all you need there; it’s not one that you want to make a tea with, it’s muddy and bitter and not so great that way. The tincture is easy to take, works relatively quickly for many bodies, so that’s great. If you’re on the other side of that spectrum and, like you were saying, you had a bunch of fatty stuff and got diarrhea, blackberry is for you. There are a couple of ways to work with blackberry, you can make tea with this and that’s quite effective, but easier to carry around is a tincture. This is blackberry root specifically. There are times we work with blackberry leaf, but the root specifically here is great for diarrhea. It’s a nice astringent, it has affinity for the small intestine (lower intestines), so it tightens them up. When we make tincture with blackberry root, we’ll often tincture it in red wine instead of in straight up alcohol, because the red wine itself already has some tannins and some other astringent elements in it, so it works really nicely as an extraction medium for the tannins and astringent agents in the blackberry root. Plus, it contributes its own and broad spectrum is the herbalists’ way. [laughter] That’s super effective. If it’s very acute, then you might take as much as a tablespoon of that wine tincture at a time and repeat that every 20 to 30 minutes as needed, until you’re feeling a little more contained. [laughter]

Katja: 40:08 Two other ones that I love to have on hand: one is calamus (which we talk about all the time); if I’m feeling really heavy after a meal and especially feeling like I should definitely not have eaten that much and it kind of hurts, calamus is so amazing. Frankly, just take the calamus before you sit down to eat, but it really is a beautiful rescue for when you’ve really overindulged and should not have done that. That feeling is so uncomfortable and having a plant that can really help kind of mitigate that (the words I’m thinking are ‘disperse’, ‘evaporate’, and those kinds of things) and release that pressure is very wonderful. The other duo here–why don’t I just give you a chance to guess. If you guess it right and you email me and say you did guess it right. I will believe you and be very impressed. Are you ready? It’s ginger chamomile. Ginger and chamomile together are my best medicine. That’s my favorite. It’s awesome when you overeat, when you did not overeat but your belly still hurts. It’s fantastic when you get a headache after eating, which is a pattern that happens to me, especially on a big feast time meal. It’s also great to go to bed at night. If I was lost on a desert island and could only have one thing in the world, it would be ginger chamomile. Don’t tell me that’s two things, it’s one thing.

Ryn: 41:59 No, not when it’s you. Then that’s one thing together. Super handy, plus again, ginger chamomile is flexible. You can make that as tea, you could also make that as a tincture blend, you can make it an elixir. Lots of options there. Infused honey, even. Go nuts

Katja: 42:16 You can make it as cookies, and that’s one of the recipes; Commonwealthherbs.com/recipes.

Ryn: 42:24 I’ve got another strategy here and this one definitely falls under the rubric of harm reduction. This one also requires you to have some idea about your own personal degree of sensitivity to your allergens. By that I mean if Katja eats a couple of bites of something that’s got gluten in it, then there’s going to be trouble; you’re going to be super exhausted for a week or two.

Katja: 42:56 And I’m going to have MS symptoms, which is crappy.

Ryn: 42:58 Tingling, loss of feeling in the arms, stuff like that, so it’s really severe for you. For me, if I eat a couple of bites of gluten, I’m definitely going to have some gut pain, I’m probably going to be irritable for awhile, but I can function and (with appropriate administration of nervines) I can be reasonably polite. [laughter] So, it’s a different degree of sensitivity between the two of us. In my case, I’m able to get away with things like the following: sometimes I’ve gone to a party and said that I’m just going to eat what’s there. Like when my friend Killian got married, I said that I was going to have some wedding cake and it’s going to be great, but I didn’t go in blind, I took my bitters tincture with me beforehand. I think mine was probably calamus and a little centaury. Take that before you eat because bitters stimulate your digestion. Any capacity that you do have to break down the offending proteins will be enhanced by taking bitters before you eat, so that will help. Then a secret weapon available to us in the modern age is enzyme capsules. I definitely don’t advise this as a habit because it’s going to be expensive, for one thing, and also because it doesn’t really get every last bit of it and you are still letting some inflammatory reactions take place in your guts. But occasionally I have taken some enzyme capsules with my meal. I tend to take 1.5 to three times as much as the bottle advises, depending on how indulgent I’m about to be. I’m not brand loyal or anything, but I have worked with a particular product from the company Enzymedica called Digest Spectrum because that covers gluten, dairy, soy protein, and a whole bunch of other things that I have varying degrees of sensitivity to and they’ve worked pretty well. I first experimented with that when I was on an Herbal Medics trip down to a rural community in Mexico and I was going to have no control over the food. I did that and a couple of other strategies to get me through and that worked out really well. So, that’s one product. I’m sure there are others that are as good, but that may be something that you also try, again, if you know that your degree of sensitivity isn’t going to be a make-or-break kind of a thing, isn’t so severe that you’re going to lose function or be totally knocked out after exposure. In addition to that, I have a whole set of strategies that I call “What to do When You’ve Been Glutened”. I’ve got a blog post on that and I’ll link it in the show notes. It includes things like drink your gut-heal tea, sleep a lot, go for a nice long walk, fast for half a day or a full day, and drink bone broth, because these are all things that are going to reduce inflammation in the GI tract, help to heal any damage that’s taken place, and get you back to feeling good. Sometimes that’s the way we do it. If you’d like to dig in a little further to some of these thoughts, we do have something to offer there. I think we mentioned last week on the podcast that we have a supporters option now on our website. On any page on our website down at the bottom, you’ll see a couple of links to support us with a monthly contribution. At any level you choose to do that, we’ll also give you access to some goodies. We’re going to add one today right before we post up this podcast, and that is a set of ideas and recipes all around food allergies in the holidays, including some of the ones we discussed here, but a whole bunch of others as well. I think it’s 10 pages long. If you’d be so kind as to support us in that way, we’d like to hand that over to you.

Katja: 47:44 It’s so fun. I’m really excited about the supporter goodies that we’ve got, because it’s fun to add things to it and to be able to get to share things with you. I’m really enjoying that.

Ryn: 47:58 So if you do, thank you very much. In any case, always feel free to contact us; you can write to us at info@commonwealthherbs.com.

Katja: 48:08 That was info@commonwealthherbs.com if that was hard to hear. Or reach out to us on social media; it’s Commonwealth Herbs on Instagram and Facebook.

Ryn: 48:19 I think that’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll continue with herbs and the holidays.

Katja: 48:29 We’re going to be talking about solstice thoughts, which I’m very excited about. We’ll be recording it on solstice.

Ryn: 48:37 We’ll be very low key that day. On solstice day we don’t use any electric lights and a few other things, but we’ll tell you next time on the Holistic Herbalism Podcast. [laughter]

Both: 48:51 Bye!


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