Inflammation and Osteoarthritis


By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

As promised, I wanted to share a little more insight into inflammation.  This time I wanted to talk about arthritis in connection with inflammation.

An excellent article in Well Being Journal (January/February 2010), discusses the long-documented connection between infection and osteoarthritis.  This was news to me.  But as I was reading this, all sorts of light bulbs were going off in my head.

You see, we have a Friesian horse, Otto.  We’ve had him since he was about 6 months old.  When he was 8 years old I took him in for x-rays because the muscles in his hind quarters had atrophied.  I had a hunch he wasn’t using his muscles in his hind end like he should, and that it might be due to some sort of injury in his hind quarters.

According to the vet, the x-rays showed severe osteoarthritis in his right hock (a joint in horses’ hind leg) and moderate osteoarthritis in his left hock.  This was not good news – especially at such a young age, and considering we hadn’t ridden him much, so it certainly wasn’t because of wear and tear or overuse.

The vet said the arthritis would just continue to progressively get worse and there really wasn’t much we could do except make him comfortable.  That didn’t sit too well with me.  I was determined to figure something out to help Otto heal.

One of the first things I did that seemed to help him was to change his diet (along with the diet of our other 5 horses).  They were eating grain twice a day which consisted of cracked corn, oats, molasses and vitamins and minerals.  I wrote about this previously, but when I found I was gluten sensitive and did my research on gluten and its effects on the human body, I theorized that it must have similar effects on a horses’ body.  I had talked with some very knowledgeable horse people about lactic acid build up and inflammation in horses, especially in the intestinal tract and realized there was probably a connection between the grain and that inflammation.

I also took him off of alfalfa hay.  All of our horses used to get a mix of orchard hay and alfalfa, but I switched them all to hay without alfalfa (orchard and timothy).

Within a few months, his coat started looking more smooth (he used to get a lot of swirls in his  coat), and he started looking more proportional – his hind quarters were filling in and he was building muscle.

A year has gone by and he still looks OK, but I know he could be doing better.  I knew there must be something else I could do to help heal him of the osteoarthritis despite what everyone was telling me.  Then I read this article.  I was so excited.  Here’s the connection.

The biggest cause of osteoarthritis is infection.  Antibiotics will only help if it’s a bacterial infection.  If it’s viral, fungal, or parasitic, they won’t do any good.  Otto always had a high parasite count when I would get the horses’ stools tested.  Various natural worming remedies weren’t working.  Interestingly, a few months after taking him off grain, I had his stools tested again for parasites and they were close to zero (after being extremely high!).

So, once source of possible cause – parasites – under control.  Now, with this new insight, I am developing a “protocol” as if there is another source of infection.

Here’s how infections can lead to osteoarthritis.  Candida, for example, is a commonly found in the digestive tract.  This can be caused by antibiotics (which he was on when he was younger), diet, and other lifestyle choices.  This can lower the immunity and allow the fungus to grow out of control, and sometimes spread beyond the digestive tract and affect other areas of the body.  If it gets into the blood it can travel to the joints and become encapsulated in the joint capsule.  Here it is sheltered from the body’s defense mechanisms and most medications.

Another possible source of infection is from the mouth.  Bacteria in the mouth can also work their way into the blood stream via a tooth experiencing decay or gum disease.  It enters the blood stream by this route and can also spread throughout the body and can penetrate the joint capsule, again causing osteoarthritis.

Treatment in these cases is suggested as building the immune system by eating a healthier diet.  In humans this would look like lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, low sugar, organic meats, low processed foods and grains.  In Otto’s case, I strongly believe the change in his diet helped.

The author of this article in Well Being Journal suggests that coconut oil is a key component to incorporate into the diet to help with osteoarthritis.  Coconut oil supports the immune system and helps fight infection.  The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil have potent antimicrobial properties.  The nice thing about the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil is that they are deadly to harmful bacteria, but do not effect the friendly gut bacteria.

So for Otto, I am now researching coconut oil and horses.  I’ll keep you posted as to what I find out.

Another strategy I am going to use with Otto is the use of essential oils.  I am going to use certain oils that may be antimicrobial on Otto (along his spine as well as his coronet band, an area along the fur on the top of his hoof).  I am going to try using oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, wintergreen, cypress, and peppermint.  If he has an infection inside the joint capsule of his hock, my theory is that the size of the molecules of essential oil are so small that they will be able to cross this capsule, where many other drugs are unable to do this.  Essential oil molecules are small enough that they can cross the blood brain barrier, so I’m assuming the same will be true with the joint capsule membrane.

We shall see, and again, I will keep you posted.  But these new developments may be exactly what I was looking for to help Otto.  I may be doing dressage on him someday soon after all!

Geneen Roth on Women, Food, and God

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

I was introduced to Geneen Roth’s work through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She talks about the connection between food and emotions. Having lost and gained over 1,000 pounds over her lifetime, she has a little experience in this area.

I loved her insights and I know many of them will resonate with you as well. I wish you could listen to her lecture at the Institute because it was amazing. I so wanted to share it with you, but in lieu of that, since I’m unable to, here is a short clip of an interview with Geneen that can give you a glimpse of her work.

Watch the video and if her work intrigues you, you can read one of her many books or you can dive into her work more deeply at one of her workshops or on-line courses.

With such an abundance of food in this country (and so little of it healthy options), for many, food has become an “emotional tool.” Through her work, Geneen has helped thousands of people transform their relationship with food, and has helped them return to a more natural way of eating. I love it!

The Herbal Academy of New England’s Quick Jam

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Over the weekend I saw this post on Facebook from the Herbal Academy  of New England.  I do love jams and jellies, so this simple, healthier version that you can make in the middle of winter intrigued me.

I decided to try it out for myself today, and I was pleasantly surprised.  This recipe has no sugar in it, and although it’s not nearly as sweet as the jam I make in the summer (which is loaded with sugar!), it still tastes good – just a different kind of good.  So long as you go into it not expecting it to taste like “regular” jam, it’s really enjoyable!


As I was making it, it was turning out really – thicker than I thought it was going to be, and it was cold due to the frozen berries I used, so it actually reminded me of a sorbet.  Lindsey and Frankie tried it and they agreed that we could easily eat it as a frozen dessert.  So this has a couple of uses!

In the recipe from the link above, you’ll notice that it has 3 different options for making the jam.  I chose to go with Option #2.

But here’s how I changed it:

I used 1 10-oz. bag of mixed organic frozen berries.  The next time I make it, I think I will go with straight strawberries.  I think I’ll like the consistency of strawberries better.

I also only used 1 Tbsp. chia seeds instead of 2 Tbsp., as I was a little hesitant to put them in the jam in the first place (I think 2 Tbsp. would have been just fine).

I also added the 2 Tbsp. honey along with 2 Tbsp. maple syrup.  Just having the 2 Tbsp. honey wasn’t enough for me and I thought the maple syrup would give it more of a sweet “kick,” and it did!


I didn’t think this would work for toast, but Frankie really wanted to test it out, and she said she actually liked it.  We had a hit!  So, of course, I had to try it as well, and it was really good.  And SO easy!  Missy, our dog, even loved it.  I took her outside to run around and she wouldn’t leave my side until I gave her some toast with the jam… then she still wouldn’t leave my side until she knew I didn’t have any more.


So, all around, I think this recipe is a keeper!  A success with the entire family.


Food – Beyond Nourishment


Pulled Pork on top of Sweet Potato Polenta at The Southern Steak & Oyster in Nashville

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Mike and I are just leaving Nashville after a couple of days of touring the town, tasting the local food, and enjoying yet another beautiful horse area.   We spent some time just south of Nashville, in a town called Franklin, as well.  It’s a teally cute town – friendly and lots more foodie options!  I had no idea the number of local farms here, and the strong connection they have with are area restaurants.

Earlier today I was trying to explain to Mike how important good food was to me and how, after being in Nashville for a couple of days, I felt really happy or satisfied or just “something” that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  I mentioned that I feel the same way when I go to West Michigan.  There are so many good food options in both places.  And as I contemplate this feeling, I realize that it’s not just the good taste in the food (which was stellar) or the quality of ingredients (which were amazing as well), but there was something more.

As I sit here in the airport and contemplate my experience the last couple of days, I tell Mike that I feel really nourished.  “Nourished.” That’s the feeling I was trying to explain, and that’s exactly how I feel.  

I feel nourished from a nutritional standpoint – I had a variety of meals with a variety of ingredients, all of great quality – local and organic as much as possible.  

I feel creatively nourished – from the perspective of a culinary artist – truly appreciating the efforts and creativity that went into the restaurants – from the building and furnishings to the staff, the cooks, the ingredients, the recipes, the presentation – the whole package.

I feel socially nourished.  You can feel the energy and passion of the people who own and work at these restaurants and farms.  Their overall goal isn’t to push as many people through as possible (although I’m sure they wouldn’t complain about a good flow of customers).  But their satisfaction, it’s obvious, comes from knowing they are sharing a gift with everyone that walks into their doors… and they hold themselves to high standards because that’s what they desire.  They aren’t trying to please investors or shareholders by trying to cut corners and costs.  They do it well or they don’t do it at all.

Finally, I truly believe that a majority of the people we came across during our stay really enjoy what they are doing and enjoy offering their good to those that choose to come into their restaurants.  There seemed to be a team spirit or a strong sense of community – something that is unfortunately lacking in many businesses today, including the food industry.

So, again, as I’m sitting in the airport, I am overcome with gratitude for those that grow and raise high-quality food and for those that share their creativity, and the love and dedication to provide these foods to the rest of us.  Thank you for what you do!