Burnout and Stress, Food, Food Medicine, Herbal Medicine, Recipes

In Pursuit of GI Balance – An Adventure in Radical Elimination Diets (Don’t Try this at Home!)

In Pursuit of GI Balance – An Adventure in Radical Elimination Diets (Don’t Try this at Home!)

I started this blog following a decline in my vitality, after having surgery. I had my gall bladder removed, which was great.  However, then I got everything: GI thrush, Influenza, every cold in my daughter’s school. I was tired, stressed, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Maybe eat and sleep.

So I started by adding more herbs to my diet. Our family started eating more vegetables. Eventually we removed most carbs. We adopted a Mostly Reduced Lectin Diet, primarily as a means to eat more veggies. It certainly reduced our lectins (protective plant proteins) which are found in potatoes, legumes/beans, peanuts/cashews, and peppers.

I also have fought cravings for, well forever. Sometime in there, I gained 10 lbs, chalking it up to age. I accepted that, but then I started having GI issues. I have always been a person whose stress shows in their guts. I thought that now, post-Gall Bladder, post Career Change, I was supposed to be on the upswing!

No upswing.

I went hiking and drank untreated water, unintentionally. I got ongoing diarrhea. Wait, maybe I’d had this on and off – but never like this! I thought I had cryptosporidia. It’s a diarrheal disease from livestock – yup – that’s who shared our water sources. In 4 – 6 weeks I should be better.

6 weeks later – I wasn’t any better.. I got treated for traveler’s diarrhea, and for giardia. I didn’t get better, but I did get GI thrush. Again.

I stopped eating Sugar and Flour. This was tremendously helpful in managing my cravings. My tongue turned pink again. This was a first.  Pink is the color our tongues is supposed to be! Mine had not been that color longer than I can remember.  However, my GI system was not better. My doctor ordered a fecal culture and testing – no cryptosporidia, nor any other pathogens. She told me to stop eating dairy and eggs. Add in fiber and probiotics.

I shifted my diet again: no sugar, no flour, no dairy, no eggs, added fiber and probiotics. It did not change my GI system.  Maybe it was the nuts. I eliminated nuts, making my daily Walking Oatmeal with seeds and my sugarless flour-free chocolate cake with seed butter.

No better. Things might even be worse. I emailed Doc for help, to ask about a plan or an elimination diet.   I was told I could come in and talk with her……In a month.


I sat down and cried. I felt betrayed. I couldn’t go another month. What was I supposed to eat! I wanted to not wake up at 3 am every morning with GI pain or worse. I wanted to go to sleep with out my belly hurting, or to spend a day without it torment me all day. I wanted not to be filled with gas at times every day. And hot damn – I wanted to stop shitting 6 times a day.

My handsome husband stepped in. He’s a nurse. I am/was a doctor of animals. We know what to do. We were going off track – without a doctor. We were going to do an elimination diet!

His plan was radical. I mean radical radical.  Nothing I could find on the net was so radicle. But it matched what he would do to a human, and what I would do to a pet.  I choose 1 meat, 1 vegetable, 1 starch and 1 fruit, then add food back one at a time. I chose chicken, rice, carrots, and papaya. We added honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and black tea, just to make it do-able.

As a nurse….or a veterinarian feeding an animal…this likely makes sense. We can do that to the creatures under our care. You just – do it.

Well, it’s not so simple, when one is the creature!

On day 1, all my GI signs went away.  Day 2 was great, husband made me ‘pizza’ with a crust out of white rice, and topped with carrots and chicken. For dessert I got caramelized carrots with honey.

On day 3, I had to eat my dinner in the living room, away from all the other families food. I couldn’t stop Watching Them Eat!  By then I had already started cheating, a little. Adding a spice, or fennel tea, or wild rice instead of white… Little cheats.   On day 5, I decided to add new foods. I was going crazy! I did not mind eating these 4 foods, they were still good and the results were great, but I could hardly stand to not eat other food. I loved the happy pain free belly I now had!  It was great! But I couldn’t eat rice and chicken for the rest of my life! So we negotiated adding 2 foods at a time: White fish and sweet potatoes. I also cheated and ate a little brown rice and a bite or two of wild rice as well.

I was back to GI-sick for 2-3 days. Obviously, I went back to chicken and rice.

On day 9, I told my husband I was not going to be able to stay on this diet for more than a day or two. I wanted to plan my exit, not be rash. But exit I must –  I was about to just off a cliff, maybe with a parachute. I wanted to drink in the morning: Every morning! (I don’t drink much at all!) I wanted to drive race cars, or set the house on fire – just a little fire… Really, I felt crazy. We made a new plan.  I continued the 4 ingredient diet for another 2 days, actually traveling cross country, and attending a holiday potluck, without cheating. I knew relief was coming!  I wasn’t even tempted to cheat anymore, in the face of the relief, because I knew how badly eating regularly had made me feel. I was not at all tempted by the holiday desserts flooding the counters everywhere. Not one bit! I swear – and it was pretty weird not to be tempted.

At the potluck, I spoke with a physician. She could not believe I was going with out sugar, eggs or dairy. She thought that was the hard and amazing part. I thought to myself, Well, THAT ain’t nothing!” By talking to her, I realized just how hard the thing I had been doing actually was – enormously hard!

I returned home and started a new plan; a modified rotating diet plan. In this plan, you choose to eat from different families of food, and not eat that family again for 4 days. There are a lot of theories as to why this may work, and lots of information as to why it won’t work. In veterinary medicine, food allergy testing is considered of no use, but practically speaking, I have seen it almost always be of some uses. This is because food allergies, which are really intolerances, they shift around. So the science of testing does not work well, but the art of food trials – now that works. We are not talking about allergies here however, we are talking about sensitivities, or intolerances.  These things shift around, mostly flaring up against the things we eat the most.  My rotating, you avoid that.  Using this plan, I could rotate through more foods while ‘eliminating them.” Maybe I wouldn’t go crazy.

I modified it because I was still more interested in an Elimination Diet, rather than rotating through a vast array of foods. I limited myself initially to choosing 4 different food families and eating those for 2 days each. I found I couldn’t manage to eat the same 4 foods for 3 days, but I could for 2 days. Beef, green beans, white potatoes, and bananas. Pork, Quinoa, Squash, and Melon (that was a little tough).

After that it was Christmas. I really wanted to eat candy, drink eggnog, and share that big block of brie I got weeks ago! I choose Chicken, rice, corn , legumes, milk eggs and mangos. That might’ve been more than 4 foods! However, that way I could eat my candy (milk and corn syrup), drink my eggnog, and eat cheese. Guess what – I was great! (I might have felt a little nausea after downing 2 candy bars in 30 minutes, having not eating sugar for 3 months, but I don’t think that counts.)

The next round was Fish again, this time salmon (steaks and Lox’s!), broccoli, amaranth, and apples. OMG! I could not even finish the 2nd day! Wow! At least I know I am on the right path – it is food. I was beginning to wonder. Good feedback and – Ugh!


Since I started this blog, I have used myself as a laboratory. Weight loss has never been my primary goal, but eating healthy has been. Of course, I wouldn’t argue with 5 – 10 lbs off!  I tried the Low Lectin Diet, which increased our vegetable intake mild to moderately. I lost no weight.  I loved the psychology behind the Brightline eating diet, and am a big believer that sugar, corn syrup and likely flour are not our friends. I tried that diet, cutting sugar and flour. I think it was really helpful in controlling my cravings. Super really. It’s a bit obsessive if you ask me. I did not subscribe, or measure my food. I just cut sugar, flour, ate meals, avoided snacks (for the most part), and I got control over my cravings. I also lost 2-4 lbs, maybe. I don’t know because my scale broke, but I do have a mirror. I eliminated dairy and eggs with no effect.  I removed nuts, shifting to seeds. No help.

I tried a radical elimination diet, way more radical than anything out there on the web. I failed to stick to the diet. Yet I feel I succeeded. Now, I am using a rotating diet, to investigate what makes me tick, and what makes me – well, sound more musical, and less comfortable. By the way, I am pretty sure I am in the 5-7 lbs weight loss range. My cravings – still mostly controlled.  When I have eaten most of my regular foods, which will take a few rotations, then I will test out the failures in each group. After that, we’ll see. I might consider this rotational diet for the sake of an eating plan. I certainly plan on continuing to eat in ways I have learned controls cravings, avoids GI distress and focuses on balance. Even if I eat sugar sometimes.

It’s all about balance!

by Tama Cathers, an independent food laboratory with feet.



Burnout and Stress, Food Medicine, Herbal Medicine, Parenting, Personal Wisdom, Yoga

Food Wisdom Herbs Yoga: A Pursuit of Health & Happiness

Food Wisdom Herbs Yoga: A Pursuit of Health & Happiness

I am re-titling my blog page. When I started out, I wanted to share what I knew. I know lots of stuff, from herbs, to mothering, to medicine. What I was, however, was in search of the right stuff to make me stronger, more resilient, and to rebuild my body systems. I put up a lot of recipes. My search and growth lead me, and continue to lead me, down pathways different than I first envisioned. My subjects are broader and my search is still ongoing. The title I first chose, it’s not fitting me right now.

So as this is the beginning of the New Year, I am putting up my New Title, to better reflect this blog.

I will still be throwing in recipes, from my current explorations as well as from the past; you know, when I ate things normally.  In addition, I will be posting some of my stories chronologically.  I want others to be able to follow a progression.  I hope the story is one of growth and flowering, or at least change. I figure it will be, because, well – that’s what I do.

I have spent 9 months trying to figure my life out, inside and out.  Inside – that means how do I eat without craving, binging, eat for health, eat for vitality. My bar has fallen recently; all I want to do is eat without GI disturbances or pain.  Outside – that means how do I work in this world in a way that promotes health for others as well as myself. How do I negotiate the world of invariable stress, while remaining balanced, even through the tuff stuff.

I am still in search of that combination that brings us balance; parenting, working, studying, developing, self-care and nurturing others, relationships rocky and smooth, exercise, writing, insights, play…

I have come a long way already, from despair to curiosity regarding work. From hope, to despair, and now to curiosity about how to eat.  I am working hard at developing new parts of myself, and beginning to untangle the web of Unseeing that wraps around all women.  I am now parenting a teenager, and learning first hand about parental toxicity and alienation.  I am deep in two yoga teacher training courses, as well as a sex coaching program. They are very hard, but good work.  I am now married, and managing the tidal waves from that. So much good stuff, turned over and ready to be examined and learned from! It may sound horrible, but it is a really really good trip.

I hope you will continue to come along.

Let’s see where we can get to, together.


by Tama Cathers, ex-Marine, Snowshoe Bunny, Hollow Cave Deep Sea Diver, Monk, and Racer Driver….Nah! Not really!


Burnout and Stress, Personal Wisdom, Yoga

Cow – The Story of a Yoga Pose

Cow – The Story of a Yoga Pose (#1 TriYoga)


I’ve always thought I could do “cow,” or “table top.”  (The yoga name is Bitilasana.)

Today, I learned that I cannot.

I thought I knew and understood how to so this position. In fact, it looks like the simplest yoga pose besides the basic standing pose.  I guess I never actually thought about it. It seemed so simple.  I “just did it.”

Like many things, most things…everything, it bears thinking about.  Like many ‘simple’ things – it is simple, but it is not EASY!

The pose does have different versions, I learned, and differs slightly with which yoga system you are training under.  You may argue which one is correct, but as a student, I won’t join you. Different systems, different teachers teach the same thing in different ways.  That’s just life.  It is a table top type of pose, on your hands and knees.  Today, I was told that my knees should be behind my hips, and my hands should still stay under my shoulders, at least in this system. I didn’t know this, nor did I realize I wasn’t doing it correctly.

Now that I am getting some feed back, you would think I, and the room mate in my head, would be happy now.  Embarrassingly, I found the pose done this way extremely challenging. As soon as I got in this corrected position, my arms started to tremble and shake.


We work through as many of the variations and props we could throw at it.   It took a long time to work out what the problem was. Was it my wrists? I went through several blocks and wedges to find the thing that worked best. When I used blocks under my hands, I couldn’t do it at all. When I used fists that was OK. When I use my flat hand, I couldn’t staying in the pose but a few seconds. Even with my knees under my hips, it was hard. If I used a wedge and turned it with the high side towards me that helped my wrists, but it was not comfortable on my arms. This is the way wedges are usually used. When I turn the wedge around, so the high side was pointed away from me, I found it immediately relief. My wrist hurt a little, but it was acceptable.

Rather it being a wrist problem it’s a problem of upper arm strength. How embarrassing. I’m just freaking weak.


However – I consider this good news! I can work on that! I’ll get over my embarrassment.

What I did learn, other than how to correctly do the pose, is how much shame we carry around with our abilities, and disabilities. It’s amazing.  We invest so much in our beliefs about what we can do, our abilities, likes and dislikes, and even our weaknesss and disabilities.  Then we double the impact: we tie our views of self and worth to these abilities. I was acting like my worth is tied up in whether I can do cow asana?

Apparently it is.

It was.

I’m taking that investment back.

Ability is always a moving target. We start out unable – in everything we try. We develop ability through practice and healthy doses of failure. Eventually, over time, we lose our sharp edge of ability.  In the end, we often loose all ability and often even our eternally apparent wisdom. So given the fact all this – all of this – is temporary, I’ve determined to learn from the learning. That is practice. And practice, well that is The Practice.

Yoga is about the process of getting into a pose and out of a pose. It is about the experience. The whole experience.  Even more, it is about how that experience informs us about ourselves and our attachments.  This whole ‘failure of being able to do cow’ was a beautiful success in those terms.

I’ll take that and run with it!


by Tama Cathers, DVM, MS, BA, KSU-CVM Zoo Wildlife Exotic Animal Intern in another life,  Instructor Vicksburg Quest,  Elemental Self Defense supporter,  Threshold Choir Director, TriYoga & Sangha Teacher Training Student, Potter & Poet, Writer & Wire Wrapper, repeat offender – Appalachian Trail hiker, Gardener, Herbalist, Dog lover, Mother, and sometimes representing aspects of divine loving mother Kali who will cut your head off, all for your own good of course.


Burnout and Stress, Travel, Yoga

Traveling Cross-Country

Traveling Cross-Country to Yoga Teacher Training  (#1- TriYoga)


I vow to be open to the spontaneity of life. I vow to let what happens happen. I vow to keep my heart and mind open on this trip.

I wish I’d thought about these vows eight hours ago, before my seven hour trip turned into a 9 hour trip, before my Airbnb accommodations for the night canceled on me, and no one respond to my Couchsurfing requests. I wish I had thought of these before I got frustrated by not being able to check for accommodations due to traveling through heavy traffic and construction.  That would’ve been a great time to start this practice. Regardless, I’m starting it now; on the small curvy Pennsylvania roads, leading to a very small town, with a very old-school, and a yoga teacher training which I have been looking forward to attending for several months.

When I signed up, it sounded like a great idea. As the time is gotten closer, I’ve doubted that initial enthusiasm. My mind argues: What the hell am I doing signing up for a yoga teacher training anyway?!  Whose bright idea was that? Plus, there’s just too much to do at home. I have a big trip coming up. I have a business to start. I just need some time to myself.

My response: I’m going anyway

I’m going to try to be present. To be here and now. To breathe. No matter how slow the practices. I hope it slow. I hope it’s boring. I hope I’m forced to let go of my crazy mind, with all it’s plan making and all the ways that I try to control my life, because my life is a full catastrophe on wheels.

This is what I wanted – after all. Isn’t it?

I’m rather nervous – but not really. I’ve done enough new and exciting bold and weird off-the-wall things, that I know how to do it. Inside I feel a small seed an ember of excitement. I’m going to found that ember. I’m going to keep it safe I’m going to blow on it and feed it and see what it grows into.


by Tama Cathers, DVM, MS, BA Biology and Sociology, 2nd Degree in ToShinDo, Elemental Self Defense,  Threshold Choir Director, TriYoga Teacher Training Student, Sex Coach Trainee, Mixed Media Artist – Ceramics, Fused Glass, & Wire Wrapping, 2000 miler Appalachian Trail hiker, Gardener, and Herbalist.


Burnout and Stress, Food, Food Medicine, Recipes

In the Raw – Spiralized Zucchini 

In the Raw – Spiralized Zucchini


My daughter got on an airplane today, kissing me good bye, and leaving me with a gigantic yellow bell pepper of which she’d eaten the end off.  That’s what moms get, I guess, good-byes and half eaten vegetables.

My fiancé (now turned husband) is gone for the next three days working night shift. He left me with two pork chops, an avocado, a wheelbarrow full of zucchini and yellow squash’s, a bag of spiraled zucchini, and a bunch of limes. I’m starving! I don’t want to cook! What am I going to do?!

I did a Google search for spiralized zucchini limes and avocados. Not being one to actually read recipes, I just look at the list of ingredients and decide to make something up.  It’s got to be fast. It’s got to be tasty, and it’s got to not heat up the kitchen!

This is what I came up with. It’s tasty. Fast… That would depend on your internal clock and your belly hunger.


RECIPE: Spiralized Zucchini, with Fresh Corn and Pork


4 cups of raw spiralized Zucchini squash (fortunately premade)

One ear of corn fresh or cooked kernels removed from the cob

1/2 avocado cut in quarters, 1/4 for the sauce and 1/4 for the finished meal

Protein of Choice: One Pork chop deboned, ½ cup chicken, shrimp, egg, tofu, seitan…    Cut pork into small bite size pieces.

One very small onion or equivalent, diced

1 to 2 cloves of garlic

Juice of one lime

One bell pepper – slightly nibbled, cut the nibbled bit in away

2 Tablespoons yogurt drained or Greek yogurt

3 basil leaves

1 nice sprig of parsley

5 to 8 Grinds of cracked pepper

1/2 teaspoon of salt

And amount of Sirachia appropriate for your pallet



Place Basil leaves and parsley and a small blender and blend. Add yogurt and half the avocado, lime juice, Salt and pepper. Add an appropriately sized squirt of Sirachia. Blenderize all into a dressing. Season to taste. Add the dressing judiciously to the spiralized zucchini (it may make more than you need!)  Add corn. Mix well.

Eat the bell pepper, while cooking. You are starving and can’t wait; eat up.

Add onion and garlic to a hot pan cook until slightly caramelized. Add pork. Heat briefly until warm.

Place the zucchini with dressing and corn on plate, top with pork chop and onions, add remaining half avocado as garnish, add a sprig of parsley, for presentation. Eat up!


The idea of raw zucchini was not appealing to me when I first read about it.  Due to this, the first time around, I cook the zucchini. Don’t do this. It heats up the kitchen and it’s a waste of time, and leaves you with limp “noodles,” that really don’t justify the noodle title.  I tried it again with raw zucchini.  That mistake slowed the speed with which I got it to my belly, but was well worth it. The spiralized raw zucchini is not disgusting, to my surprise. It’s really nice, actually.

It’s took me 30 minutes to make, because I was busy making mistakes. With spiralized zucchini on hand and cooked pork chops, it goes very quickly, if you have an idea of what you’re going to actually do, (which I did not.) The recipe also uses very little heat and keeps your kitchen more cool in the summer.

I think it might taste really good with some apple!

Now please take about 17 squash home with you!


by Tama Cathers





Burnout and Stress, Parenting, Personal Wisdom, Travel

The End of Our Trip

The End of Our Trip

It is our last day before heading home. Today we are sleeping in. This seems like the most important thing to do in London today. It won out over Windsor Palace, Harrod’s, Harry Potter, and the markets. It even beats going to Dover; the last stop on our tentative itinerary. Given the fact that we got up at 3 am yesterday, it makes sense. I think however, it is more than that.

We spent yesterday doing laundry, and eating. That is really all we had on our plates.

That …. is unusual. What I notice is that my life no longer has these gaps of time in which ‘nothing’ is planned. The time in which one might grab a book and read, or rest.

At home, I get to get over jet lag. This time we won’t have done any work to avoid jet lag, as we did on the way over.  A day after I return, I am getting married. (Yay!)  Somehow, I must unpack, write vows, and stay awake past 5 pm! (That will be the hardest part.) I do need to spend some time with my new husband-to-be. Then it will be off on a honeymoon.

In that upcoming trip,  hiking along the Appalachian Trail with my newly wed husband, those down times are required. Of necessity, there are days that one has the important tasks of eating, laundry, and resting. How will it feel, to limit myself, to revisit these times of recharging. I realize I have lost those times. Will I rage against them when imposed upon me? Will they be temporary? Will I bring them back into my daily life?

Through the thin walls of our cottage, I can hear the family next door, with several little children. They have the opposite problem. Days upon days of nothing but eating, laundry and naps. That too is extremely challenging. What does life mean without some sense of ‘doing” something? The question is how do we find, and maintain, that balance point, even through our career development and family emergence? I know many of us struggle with this.

It is interesting for me to experience the extremes of this dichotomy, within such a short period of time. I have gone from not a moment unscheduled, to an extended break from paid work, as well as my hobbies and vocations. I can really feel the challenges in both sides of this: Too Busy/Not Enough challenge.

We have not even dived into the deeper questions of why we do this to ourselves, and why we feel what we do when in these times. Why is it hard to acknowledge that living a good life is no longer enough? Why is it not enough to make it through the day, or through our life, without becoming famous (or at least having someone outside ourselves acknowledged us/our work?)

We use busy-ness to keep us from feeling empty, to keep us distanced from others. The contact might make us feel. Or think. Why is that so uncomfortable? What happens in the stillness / what arises? What is so scary?

See I am doing it now. Here I am blogging on vacation.

In doing so, I am also experiencing, revisiting, some things that were lost and I miss. I am seeing some things that pinch and noting that I would like to change. Inside, I am changing. This is all what I wanted: to change my life, to slow down, to BE more.

It is uncomfortable. I think, however, I am on the right track. I will continue on.

Soon, I will write about food and herbs and yoga adventures. Who knows what else might happen before then! It’s so exciting!



by Tama Cathers

Note below:

img_5706.jpgThis is my favorite art detail.  I can feel the warm slow lick of the comforting dog on the foot of this child, I can hear the thoughts of the dog, and feel the sun, tongue and breeze on the foot.  It makes me laugh and feel warm all at the same time!Details of a Statue

Burnout and Stress, Parenting, Travel

The Near the End of Our Trip to England and Paris – I feel like a healthier person

The Near the End of Our Trip,  I must say, that the trip has not been without it’s good moments – and a few bad ones. I have loved holding my daughter’s hand while we traveled through the cities. I loved watching her be a child, and watching her practice being adult-ishness. She is still in charge of much of the navigation, but also the playing. Bubbles, straws and drinks or a few rocks still provide an hour of entertainment. I am in charge of…well, everything else, including seeing so many famous works of art, landmarks, and architecture. Seeing these things has changed our understanding of history.

Overseas travel has gotten easier in the last 10 years. There seems to be no need to change much money, debit cards work everywhere except for artists, tips, and alms. The internet helps to navigate your almost every step. I semi-successfully used Uber, as well as Airbnb and Couchsurfing. Oddly enough, the trip has gone entirely according to plan. Even the parts ‘without plans’ went according to plan: adventures were had!

Other than those difficult incidents (or 1 notable day), it has been a good trip. About a week too long, but good. The trip itself has been one of the hardest travel experiences I’ve had; from planning, to travel, driving on the other side of the road, traveling alone with a child, going so many placee – all were challenging.  I feel that I have worked out my leadership and responsibility muscles, more than I am used to in my previous day-to-day life. That is okay. I need to develop these qualities to tolerate more extended periods of leadership.

While I feel tired (my feet hurt from so much travel by foot), and fatigued (from not enough sleep), and drained (from being the tour guide, decision maker, cook, laundress, chauffeur, cheerleader, counselor, parent and disciplinarian), I do not feel anxious in the way I did before I left. I no longer feel my worth is tied to other specific people’s opinion of me. I am getting a slightly tougher parental and personal skin (I hope.) I am not so scared of what comes next in my life, and who I will be, and if I will like myself in my next portion of life.

I feel like I have really had a break from my old life. I no longer feel like a XYorZ Professional. I feel like a person. I feel calmer. I feel healthier, in my soul. I think that is a great spot from which to start the next stage of my life.