Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Magical Mystical Bromelain

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Ours was certainly fun with Benjamin, although he is obviously still a bit young to know what’s going on. He was a good sport though and even had his photo taken on Santa’s knee.

ben_santa

Posing with the big man

As my culinary contribution to the evening feast I decided to make one of my favourite All-American dishes from the south – pineapple cheese casserole. As I figured we would be consuming plenty of other trans fats and sugars, I thought I would tweak the recipe and make it a little healthier. Besides, if I could get it to a healthy enough point there’s no reason we couldn’t make pineapple cheese casserole a weekly staple!

I used less sugar in the recipe and used a mixture of crackers with crushed almonds and cashews for the crust, both of which I think were sound decisions. I also substituted canned pineapple for a fresh pineapple and juiced the core of the pineapple rather than use off-the-shelf pineapple juice. The result? It was absolutely disgusting! The casserole came out completely bitter and I couldn’t even finish what I had served up on my plate.

I couldn’t understand what went wrong. I had tasted the pineapple before making the casserole and it was fine. I had also tasted the juice I made from the core and while it wasn’t particularly sweet it should not have created a bitter taste in the end result. Or could it? The engineer in me went into overdrive and I set about some research.

Ananas

Pineapple fact of the day – once a pineapple is picked it will not ripen any further

It didn’t take me long to discover fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is destroyed by the processes used in commercial canning and juicing. This enzyme is very unique in that it can break down proteins and as such is often used in commercial meat tenderisers. While the enzyme is contained in the whole pineapple it is particularly concentrated in the core. So when I combined the pineapple chunks and the juiced core with cheese, which is very high in protein, I was brewing up a chemical reaction that would tarnish my already lacking reputation as a master chef (at least I didn’t blow up the kitchen this time!)

However, I couldn’t stop my research there. If bromelain could destroy one of my favourite recipes what else could it do? Well quite a lot as it would turn out:

Digestion: Given it’s ability to break down protein, bromelain can be used as a natural digestive aid.

Anti-inflammatory: Bromelain appears to also be effective outside the digestive system in reducing inflammation and swelling. In fact, a lot of research has been done on bromelain as an anti-inflammatory in Germany and it is now the 13th most popular herbal supplement there.

Sinus Relief: Some studies have shown bromelain to be effective for treating sinusitis. In Germany, it is now commonly used after sinus operations for this reason as well as its anti-inflammatory properties.

Cancer: Still very much early stages, but a recent animal study showed that bromelain was able to stop tumorous growth without causing healthy cells to die. If it can be developed, bromelain may prove to be the basis of a cancer treatment program as effective as chemo-therapy, but without side-effects that come with such an aggressive treatment.

On face value it seems like bromelain is a miracle substance and so my next thought was what it could do for Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I could not find any information on this, but I did come across some posts online from women who said that fresh pineapple had done wonders for their morning sickness. So if any HG sufferers have had any experiences with eating fresh pineapple or fresh pineapple juice (note that canned pineapple and commercial pineapple juice do not contain bromelain) I would really like to hear more about it. (A word of warning to anyone who is going through HG now though – because of its acidity pineapple is extremely painful to bring up. Also, the affects of bromelain on pregnant mothers is completely unknown).

Now that I am about to return to running with a potentially suspect knee, finding out about a natural anti-inflammatory has me very excited. But even if it doesn’t work, it’s a great excuse for drinking more fresh pineapple juice!

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Running for HG

Hi everyone,

Well the year is nearly over and I’m happy to report that we’re now over 10% of the way to our $5,000 fundraising goal for HG research. Thank you very much to everyone who has donated so far, your contribution is making a huge difference. With the end of the financial year fast approaching in America, now is a great time to make a tax-deductable donation. If you have any money to spare we’d really appreciate it!

With the end of the year approaching so fast I have another thought on my mind – returning to running. I haven’t jogged 100 yards since Benjamin was born owing to a knee injury I sustained. I decided with all the constraints on my time the easiest and best thing to do would be to go easy on the knee for a while and I decided to not run until the new year. Thank goodness I still have two other disciplines to keep training for- back when I was purely a runner I would be very unpleasant to be around when I couldn’t train!

Early in the season there are often a lot of fun running races around 5-10k in distance. However, there is one in particular that has me excited – the HER Foundation is hosting a 5k run/walk at the National Harbor in Maryland! The race will be held on May 12 (Mother’s Day), so if you’re available please consider entering or volunteering at the event! It’s set to take place on a great course all along the waterfront that will take in views of the harbor as well as the famous “awakening” sculpture.

Find out more about the race here

national_harbour u80-r

If you have never run 5k before it could be a great opportunity to achieve something you might not have thought possible… or even kick start your career as an endurance athlete! 5k is roughly 3.1 miles and while that might seem like a drop in the ocean next to the 140.6 miles I plan on completing in July, I can assure you that that wasn’t always the case for me!

I ran my first 5k race the first year that I came to America. I was still competing at a pretty high level as a 400 metre sprinter back in Australia, but found that the track and field scene was pretty dead for adults in America unless you are at Olympic standard. With work commitments I was finding it very difficult to commit the time needed to maintain my standard and without any training partners or races to look forward to I just couldn’t get motivated.

The final straw was when the local Lacrosse team started taking over my track so I couldn’t train there. Rather than not train I decided to just jog around the neighbourhood and soon I was addicted. I felt like I was getting more from my workouts in a shorter period of time and as I bonus I got to explore the area and take in the scenery. After a few months I told Brynn I was going to do a fun run.

I spent a bit of time looking into races and soon had my first one picked out – the Arlington 9/11 Memorial 5k. Before the race came around I’d already started planning on running a marathon, but that’s a whole other story in itself!

I didn’t really know what a good time for the race would be or what I was capable of. I hadn’t even timed myself on my runs around the neighbourhood. I remembered someone once saying that 4 min k’s were good, so I figured 20 minutes would be a nice round goal to strive for. The race was held in the afternoon, so I expelled a lot of nervous energy most of the day (the apartment had never looked cleaner), but still felt ready to break that mark when I hit the starting line.

When I arrived there seemed to be some pretty fit looking people in the front pack, so I went into the next pack back. Then the gun fired and I was off like scalded cat. I felt good and didn’t have many people in front of me so thoughts began crossing my mind about how I was born to do this and I was just a natural. Then I hit the 1km mark and reality set in – straight away I knew I’d have to ease off the pace if I wanted to be standing at the end.

photo016

Amongst the crowd at the start of the Arlington 9/11 5K

The new pace I adjusted to felt good for the next three k’s, but then my body had another reality check. As I approached the Pentagon the other runners seemed to be getting faster and I was ready to wind down. I really wanted to walk, but had come this far and was determined to get the best possible time I could. I threw everything I had into that final kilometre, but people were passing me like I was standing still. As I turned the final corner I could see the clock – it was still 19 minutes something! I went into an all out sprint and managed to finish in 19:49, beating my goal by 11 seconds.

After crossing the line I sat down on the curbside before I had a chance to collapse. It took about five minutes before I felt I could get up and walk, but I was hooked! I couldn’t wait for my first marathon!

I’m looking forward to running again, but it will be a while before I am full speed again. I’ve begun weight lifting with my legs again to hopefully strengthen any imbalances that may¬† have led to this current injury that I’m getting over.

In baby news Benjamin had his 8 week doctor visit this week, which sadly meant that he had to get his shots. It’s a big needle for such a little guy, but he handled it surprisingly well – he’s obviously a lot tougher than his old man! Owing to all the milk he keeps drinking he’s now weighing in at 12 pounds, which has rocketed him up the charts since his last check.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and thanks again to everyone for your support!

More HG in the News

My next post will be up soon. In the meantime I thought I’d share this video I just came across: http://media.smh.com.au/news/world-news/kates-morning-sickness-no-laughing-matter-3907037.html

Training (with) a Baby

Hi everyone,

I have to admit that training with a newborn has not been as smooth sailing as I anticipated (and I can hear everyone who’s been there done that laughing really hard!) One of the most important ingredients in successful endurance training is to get sufficient rest and babies aren’t exactly the most conducive thing to that. Brynn and I have been watching Benjamin in shifts so that the other is able to sleep properly, but ultimately there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get the sleep you really need.

In addition to finding time to sleep, finding time to train hasn’t been easy. Just this Friday I tried to squeeze in a 30 minute cycle on my indoor trainer while I was watching young Benjamin. I managed to get him all settled down in his bassinet, but only got through 12 minutes before he began crying. After spending the next twenty minutes getting him settled again I squeezed in another 4 minutes before he began stirring again. The next time it was less than a minute, so I ended up just giving up at that point.

Still drinking...

Still drinking…

However, I think we have turned the corner now thank you to an amazing DVD I came across called The Happiest Baby on the Block. It’s based on a best selling book by Dr Harvey Karp and I figured it would be easier to watch the DVD than get through the book. It focuses on five key things to calm a fussy baby. Using a combination of the five S’s (Swaddling, Sideways/Stomach position, Swinging and other movement, Shushing and Sucking a pacifier) has a pretty good chance of getting a baby to settle down (at least until they’ve realised they’re still hungry!) In hindsight it all seems like common sense, but just like a triathlon it’s all in the technique!

Since practicing these techniques we have had Benjamin sleeping longer and more often. When he is awake he is much calmer, especially when it comes to feeding. Over the weekend I was able to get in about 5 hours sleep altogether while on Ben watch! I can swaddle him and put him in his swing with some white noise and he’ll be out for hours!

It’s unbelievable how much of a load off this is for both Brynn and I. Although we are overjoyed to be parents of a newborn, it is difficult to enjoy at times when your baby comes between you and a good night’s rest.

The thing that I am most excited about (naturally!) is how much easier it is going to be to fit in the training I will need for Lake Placid and not burn out! Come July I am going to be there no matter what, but the idea of crossing the finish line on two legs in a respectable time was one I was starting to look at as a pipe dream.

Now I just need to make sure I don’t stuff up my knee any further. I haven’t run since injuring it back in October and I’ve finally had a week with no pain. I’ve decided to not run again until the new year so as to not have a relapse, which is also good news for my swimming and cycling training.

In the latest Hyperemesis Gravidarum news I see that Princess Kate has cancelled all public engagements until further notice, which is not in the least bit surprising to me. Hopefully she will be able to keep her hydration high enough to stay out of hospital.

Interviewed for Today.com

I was contacted by Today this week for a phone interview and this story is the result. It’s great to see HG getting so much attention this week, hopefully this will help with attaining research funding.

Fit for a Princess

Hi everyone,

As you may have seen in the last 24 hours Princess Kate has been diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I really feel for her, but the good news in her case is that the problem has been diagnosed early and she has access to the highest level of health care. Even so she is in for a very rough few weeks at a minimum, where she will probably be in and out of hospital.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kate’s decision in coming out about HG. There is still some stigma surrounding the condition because of a lack of education and as with anything in life ignorance breeds ignorance. There have been a number of high profile celebrities who have been rumoured to had HG, but have kept it behind close doors fearing it will damage the public’s perception of them. Because the condition is not well understood some people still see it as a psychological problem and for some reason these celebrities think people will see them as crazies and it will affect their careers (but this doesn’t stop celebrities acting crazy in all other kinds of ways!). Bottom line: it took a lot of courage for Princess Kate to make her case public, especially given the early stage of her pregnancy.

Although the silver lining to this thunder cloud is that this will raise awareness for HG, the media reports have been coming out with some pretty strange claims, so to set the record straight:

  • Hyperemsis Gravidarum IS dangerous. HG has resulted in a number of problems including liver failure and babies being born underweight, even when proper medical care is provided.
  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum cannot resolve itself in 48 hours. Although there are exceptions, most cases are only diagnosed when there is a weight loss component of at least 5kg (10lb), which cannot happen in two days. HG by definition lasts at least several weeks.
  • Having Hyperemesis Gravidarum does not necessarily mean that the royals are expecting twins. It means statistically there is a slightly higher chance than with normal pregnancies, but the chances are still slim.
  • One study that I’m aware of has indicated that HG may be more likely to affect mothers in the first trimester if they are expecting a girl. However, it was pretty inconclusive and my son Benjamin is living proof that plenty of boys come from mothers with first trimester HG. So I’d hold off on buying any “It’s a Girl” cards just yet.
  • HG affects pregnant women of all ages. It affects women from all shapes, sizes, ethnic groups, cultures and climates.

The other good news is that the royal family (and the entire commonwealth for that matter) has a new addition to look forward to and when he/she arrives Princess Kate will be completely HG free.

In my wife Brynn’s case giving birth ended up being one of the easiest parts of the pregnancy. And upon looking into young Benjamin’s eyes she knew that all the pain and suffering had been worth it.

Ben doing what he loves most - eating

Ben doing what he loves most – eating

Benjamin is exactly six weeks old today and is in great health. It is really hard to believe that such a healthy baby could be the result of a pregnancy that was fraught with so much sickness, but Brynn and I are incredibly grateful that he is so well. It is very easy to take health for granted until someone close to you has so many difficulties.

Bath time

Bath time