Drinking wine after all these years…What’s the deal?…Does drinking wine increase inflammation?

The two bottles of New Zealand wine we purchased and savored over this past week, yet to finish both bottles.

Its hard to say what prompted me to want to try drinking wine after almost a two decade hiatus. Many years ago I was told by the medical profession that any form of alcoholic beverages could increase inflammation. 

In hearing this bad news at the time, I totally lost my taste for drinking wine.  Why consume anything that was destructive to my health when almost five years ago I changed my way of eating to exclude all grains, starches and sugars? 

Since that fateful day in August 2011 I haven’t had as much of a taste of any foods included in these food groups and have been relatively pain free from a chronic inflammatory spinal condition that has plague me for almost 30 years. 

My dear elder sister has lain in bed for over 10 years with this same condition with severe muscle wasting and nerve damage from the same hereditary condition that will prevent her from ever walking or being mobile again.

Medical science is not exact.  All I know is that by living in this narrow food bubble, I am pain free and able to travel the world.  For fear of changing that scenario, I’ve also stayed away from wine, fearing that an occasional glass could send me into a tailspin, reversing all the good benefit from this way of eating.

A pretty flower on a walk.

Scientific data changes.  Over the years with the online assistance of Dr. William Davis, who wrote the book, Wheat Belly and many other successful books since that time, he had taught me in personal email communication to test my blood sugar using a glucometer when trying a new food, at one hour and again at two hours. 

If my blood sugar didn’t escalate to any degree after ingesting the single item on an empty stomach, then, most likely that particular food wouldn’t be increasing my levels of inflammation. 

In the beginning of this way of eating I tested 100’s of foods narrowing my options to a relatively short list; grass fed beef, free range chicken and eggs, wild caught fish, full fat dairy (in moderation), nitrate free bacon and organic non starchy vegetables. 

In the interim I’ve completely avoided any processed foods, foods containing chemicals, soy, beans, rice and fruit, all of which can exacerbate inflammation.  For me, this way of eating has worked. 

For Tom, this way of eating has completely eliminated GERD and IBS, chronic conditions from which he suffered for years, now completely gone…gone…gone.

Flowers blooming on the farm.

As a side benefit, weight control is easy as we continue to enjoy delicious meals, neither of us ever gaining weight.  Its only when we’re on a cruise or out to dinner that Tom indulges in his favorites; bread, fries and sweets, often gaining as much as seven or eight pounds on a cruise.  Otherwise, we never have any such items in our temporary homes.

Frequently reading medical studies, (many of which are often skewed by money grubbing sponsors), I’d noticed that drinking wine in moderation, no more than two small glasses a day, may actually be instrumental in reducing inflammation and blood sugar.

Overall, with heredity against me, I’d have full blown type 2 diabetes if I didn’t follow this restrictive low carb way of eating, another inflammatory disease.  My glucose levels escalate on days I may eat too much or too many of the foods I can eat. 

Excess low carbs foods and protein in itself can exacerbate the production of glucose in the blood along with poor insulin management.  This isn’t an “eat all you want” way of eating as many assume. 

Its high fat, low carb, moderate protein way of eating that creates homeostasis (definition: “the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.)”

Lemon tree growing on the farm.  We have a tree outside the front door from which we’ve been picking and using lemons since our arrival.

No doubt, I could go on for hours on this topic but prefer not to be repetitive from many past posts.  If you’d like more information, please email me and I’ll send you a list of easy to read books with information from reliable medical professionals and scientific studies that more clearly define this lifestyle in more detail.  (We don’t sponsor or receive any remuneration from these authors or publishers).

Curious to see if I could drink an occasional glass of wine, two at most on any given day, I recently purchased a new glucometer, test strips and lancets  at a local pharmacy.  (My older glucometer had quit working and the test strips had expired).

I began testing my blood after drinking both red and white wines on an empty stomach on separate days (New Zealand brands, of course) to see what would transpire.

As it turned out, my blood sugar went down after drinking two small glasses.  This phenomenon, not new, is based on the liver being too busy processing the alcohol to pump out more glucose, keeping the blood sugar relatively low when drinking in moderation. 

This response is different for everyone.  Most diabetics cannot drink at all and are advised to completely avoid alcohol. Please check with your medical professional as to what may be acceptable for you

We continue to visit to the pink cockatoo pair on the farm.  They makes lots of noise when they see us.

In any case, when Tom and I shared a glass of wine at “happy hour” a first for us in many years, we couldn’t help but giggle over the enjoyable experience. (Tom rarely drinks at home).

I must admit, I got quite a “buzz” after drinking two 3 ounce (85 gr.) glasses of wine as we languished in the chaise lounges on the deck.  Not surprisingly the red wine affected my ability to sleep well that night when the white had no effect at all.  Both were very dry wines, a Cabernet and a Pinot Grigio.

I’ve missed an occasional glass of wine.  Now that I see no deleterious effect, I feel comfortable trying an occasional glass of white wine with dinner while on cruises and out to dinner.  I’ll avoid the red, which taste I’ve always preferred, for the sake of a good night’s sleep, a common side effect experienced by many red wine drinkers.

There are carbs in wine, approximate 3 grams in a five ounce glass which I’ll factor into my diet on the days I choose to have a glass or two which won’t be that often.

An adorable baby goat tied up at the side of the road in the neighborhood.

Gee…now that I know this I think back to all the wine tasting I’ve missed in our travels.  Obviously, there’s no way to make up “for lost time” nor do I want to.  However, going forward it may be a delightful adjunct to social events and dining in our future travels.

As we toasted each other at our few “happy hours” over this past week, we made eye contact as we were reminded by our friend Sue in Minnesota who always explained we should to make eye contact with the person with whom you’re making a “toast.”  Most certainly, this adds to the festive occasion.

Next time you have a glass a wine (if you so choose and its appropriate for your health) look into the eyes of the person your toasting, saying “Here’s to you!”  We’ll be toasting to all of YOU!

Also, happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who celebrate in the South Pacific!

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Photo from one year ago today, March 17, 2015:

A year ago today, while my sister was visiting us in Kauai, we found the elusive Hawaiian Monk Seal, lying on the beach at the Napali Coast.  We were so excited to see this amazing creature.  For more photos, please click here.

Is a good memory needed for travel?…How I improved my memory after it started to decline…

Peculiarly, my memory is better now than when it was when I was 20 years old (so I think).  When I turned 50, while working at a stressful job, my memory started deteriorating rapidly. I expected to be a mindless blob at 60, let alone, my now almost 65.  

I’d find myself wandering around a room, wondering why I was there, forgetting my keys (don’t we all?). On occasion, I’d get into a stranger’s unlocked car in a parking lot that
happened to be the same color and model as mine. That scared me. Remember names? Forget about it! Impossible, at that time.

About 10 years ago, I started working out after a five year hiatus during the stressful job.  The more I worked out, the more I noticed that my memory was gradually improving over time.  
Changing to a low inflammation diet and upgrading my exercise routine over the past year as I wrote in a post two weeks ago, gradually enhanced and thus, creating a leap in my memory. Plus, spending seemingly endless hours researching for our adventure, pushed my memory to a whole new level.
To sum up what worked for me:
3. “Exercising my brain” via hours of research, learning new information, decision making.
4.  Being passionate about any topic of interest which fires up brain cells.
Many studies suggest stress relieving activities such as meditation, yoga, and Pilate’s may be instrumental in improving one’s memory.  For me, learning new information is fuel for my soul, providing great stress relief and enjoyment. Thus, my memory improved.

Through this lengthy and time consuming process of planning to travel the world for years to come, I discovered that good memory was a benefit of good record keeping.  

Documenting our travel plans in a methodical order on an series of Excel spreadsheets within a single workbook was highly instrumental in building a foundation for our itinerary.  Keeping detailed records of our itinerary, deposits paid, balances due, a to do list, an estimate of eventual “actual” travel and living expenses, cruises, flights and other means of travel is a constant point of reference leading to building my memory.  

Subsequently, referring to this Excel workbook, without even trying, somehow I’ve memorized every detail.  Much to my surprise.  Its seems to me that, “the more I remember, the more I remember.”  This is a far cry from where I was over ten years ago.
Dementia is a common and expected fact of aging.  We see it in our family members, friends and acquaintances.  We witness lapses of memory in our loved ones, dismissing it, in part for fear of embarrassing them and also, for our own vulnerability. 

Perhaps, we may be able to prevent our own memory loss by being physically active, eating healthfully and living a proactive life. If we stay engaged, busy, passionate about our lives, purposefully and frequently memorizing tidbits of information while entering into lively animated conversations (easy to do in this heated political environment), we can retain and actually improve our memory. 

If we read to learn, not only to entertain and listen to others with undivided attention, maybe, just maybe, we will remember, not only what happened 40 years ago and also last year and… most of all, minutes and hours ago.

After all, every step of our lives is but a memory only minutes later.  Drawing upon those memories is the essence of life’s richness to share with those we love, to gather into our hearts in times of sorrow and to take with us into our old age.
As I close for today, it would be typical for one to make a joke, a play on words on memory loss. I won’t. I can’t think of any!