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Colonoscopy Demystified

Before you go running, embarrassed, uncomfortable, uneasy or uninterested, hear me out for a moment.

I am going to delve into the uncomfortable, but discussion worthy, world of preventative healthcare procedures: Colonoscopy.

I am turning the fabulous age of 52 this spring, and that means I’m nearly 2 years past that advice we get at our half century exam: “You are due for a Colonoscopy”.
Like many others, I heard it, and moved on.
But there, in the back of my mind was the thought of my grandmother who at the ripe age of 70 was diagnosed with, and treated for colon cancer. She lived to an even riper age of 96. I shudder to think she might not have been with us that long if they had not caught it in its early stages.

I just recently had mine, so, I thought in the interest of good health I would try to demystify the process by sharing my own experience, and suggest a few helpful tips. Hopefully that will mitigate any fears people might have about getting one, and be helpful for those who have one upcoming. Because you should get one if your health provider  recommends it, if for no other reason than to have peace of mind. (Same goes with a mammogram gals! A couple of minutes of discomfort is no excuse to not have one.)

When you schedule your procedure you will be given a cleanse regime. If you work, I would recommend scheduling your appointment immediately following a day off. That way your ‘cleanse’ day is on a day when you can be home, because you will need to be close to your bathroom for a few hours. You start the flushing part of the cleanse in the  late afternoon/early evening prior to your appointment, and that is when you will want to be in the comfort of your own home and near your own potty.

The following is the prep and cleanse my Gastroenterologist recommended prior to the procedure. (Isn’t ‘procedure’ a nicer word than COLONoscopy? Which just reminds me over and over what is coming up? Yeah, I think so too!)

First, they will advice you what medications and supplements (including fiber) to stop taking 7 days prior to your appointment.
Then at 3 days prior, you begin a low fiber diet. I was surprised at how much I really had to think about this, since I apparently tend to eat a fairly high fiber diet, but it really isn’t difficult. I actually kind of enjoyed the opportunity to have a delicious white flour buttermilk pancake along with my eggs! Other options for your meals would be a good yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, lean white meats or fish. You cannot have any raw fruits or veggies, no seeds or whole grains. I’m not a fan of canned fruits, except mandarin oranges or canned veggies. I just figured I eat so healthy on a regular basis, a couple days without were no biggie. Protein that is not gristly is a good bet to keep you full feeling and yet low fiber. If you are gluten free, just watch for the ‘whole grain’ items. Try to find foods made from plain white rice, and contain no seeds. Many GF try to bump up the health factor by using whole grains or adding whole seeds. Stay away from red dyed foods, that can result in a less than clear test.
I tried very hard to keep my fiber intake as near zero as possible, because I wanted the doctor to have as clear a view of my insides as possible. I mean, if you’re going through the effort to do this in the first place, make it count!

Then the day prior your procedure you start your clear liquids diet. At noon, they had me take 2 Dulcolax tablets. I think this is so that it’s easier to move stuff through your system later.
This day is a bit more challenging because clear liquids are, by nature, not very filling.
Here is what I found to be particularly helpful and actually worked to keep me feeling satiated: I started my morning with a cup of black tea for my caffeine hit (no dairy allowed this day! None! Nada!), then followed that with beef bouillon broth. I have the brand Better Than Bouillon on hand, so that is what I used for the broth. (Be forewarned though, some of those bouillons have meat bits in them, so be sure to strain them out with a fine sieve!) To make this more hearty and filling, I ‘bloomed’ (which means – allow to rehydrate) about a 1/4-1/2 tsp of Knox Plain Gelatin in a couple tablespoons of cold water in a mug. I heated the water for my broth in a microwave safe container and whisked in the bouillon. Then, using a strainer to strain out any potential meat bits, I poured the reconstituted broth into the mug containing the gelatin. Whisk this mixture to combine, then drink.  Adding the gelatin to the beef broth made it feel more hearty and rich. It really worked to curb any hunger pangs or cravings. You can achieve the similar results by eating jello following your broth, but it isn’t nearly as tasty. I was so pleased with the result, I would do this anytime I wanted a hearty tasting broth for a snack. (It would be a perfect ‘in-between meal’ low cal snack for someone trying to drop a pound or two)

If you are a coffee drinker, that will be a no-no, decaf or not. Something in the coffee can cause rigidity in your colon and you want that baby as pliable as possible for the scope to go through. So, tea it is for your morning wake up beverage. Or coke. Or mountain dew.

I sipped this beef broth brew throughout the day, into the early afternoon. Then I switched to chicken broth. I still added the gelatin to keep me full.  Another trick is chewing some gummy bears. I bought an organic, juice-based, brand, but remember NO RED. You cannot consume anything that has red dye or red coloring in it. They stress this quite emphatically! I’m not a jello fan, so I didn’t have it, but if you like jello, go for it. I also had a box of orange popsicles on hand, just to change it up. But again…NO RED.

Around 4-6pm, you will start to consume your ‘flush’ solution. (Flush. Oh, you will be doing a lot of that, literally!) Honestly? For someone who drinks a LOT of water on a regular basis, this was a breeze. My ‘flush’ solution consisted of a bottle of Miralax and 64oz of Powerade. You mix the two together (really shake it up) and then consume 8 ounces every 15 minutes. I used my phone to set the timer at each dose. Like I said, I drink a lot of water, so this was no biggie, and it tasted good to me. (I like the taste of Powerade LemonLime, but you can use Gatorade if you like.) You will start to feel a bit full as it starts to work through your system, so long gone are any hunger pangs you might have had earlier. Trust me, from here on out, you really don’t feel hungry! This is also the time you want to have a good book at hand or downloaded to your smart device. You and your bathroom will be BFF’s for the next few hours. I suppose the time it takes to work through you is dependent upon your system. For me, I started at 4:30pm and I was about done by just after 10. And when I say ‘done’ I mean tied to the very near vicinity of the bathroom. Be sure to buy the softest TP you can find. I even invested in some flushable wipes. Oh, and be sure to have a cup of broth or juice before you go to bed, so you don’t wake up dehydrated.

The day of the procedure is actually easier. I again woke up and had a cup of black tea, a cup of chicken broth-gelatin mix.  I was instructed to consume a 10 oz bottle of Magnesium Citrate 4 hours prior to my procedure. It comes in a little bottle and you have to choose the lemon flavor because the other one is grape=red dye. (These items are available at the drug store) I used a bubble tea straw and just sucked it down. I didn’t think it tasted bad at all, and it was slightly effervescent. It tasted like a very tart lemon drink. The straw helps it go down fast. This is another time where you will want to be close to your potty. But it’s not nearly as intense as the previous days cleanse, there just isn’t much left. And its must shorter also. Depending upon when your procedure is scheduled you will or will not have time to eat or drink something prior to this step. I’d try to get some water in for sure, because 2 hours prior, you will stop drinking all liquids. As I’ve mentioned, I drink a lot of water. That was kinda hard for me. No water, no hard candies, nothing those last 2 hours.

The procedure will vary I think, depending upon your clinic. I thought it was very tolerable, the staff was very kind and compassionate, explaining everything in detail. The actual procedure was far easier than I thought it would be, and FAST. I was given the option to watch on the monitor, or not, and initially I was going to try and sleep through it. But since I for some reason wasn’t even aware when it started, when the picture came up on the screen in front of me, I was mesmerized. So I watched and asked questions along the way. The nurse who administered my drugs said that I would be given an amnesiac and I might forget everything. Well, I don’t know if it worked, or didn’t, because while I don’t remember the details beginning and ending, I remember the watching the video feed. I guess that is the best of all outcomes!

Following the procedure you will be wheeled back to recover and they will not let you go till you pass gas. And that is about how matter of fact they state it. You don’t leave until you ‘blow off some steam’. (Lame attempt at humor here, I know) I dozed off a bit. It was a good excuse to take a little nap. Then your designated driver will pick you up and take you home!

Well, that’s about it! See? No big deal really. I’d say that the only uncomfortable part was the bloated, gassy feel you get afterwards.  But in the end that really didn’t affect me much. I knew my results right away. I got a clean bill of health and a free pass for 10 more years of no worrying!

I hope that demystified the whole colonoscopy process. The whole process has come a long way in the past decade or two. No longer do you have to choke down that gag-inducing chalk stuff. And no longer do they totally sedate you. I know it’s a procedure none of us really want to have, or heck, even think about. But if it is recommended you get one, I hope that my sharing of the experience takes some of the fear and embarrassment out of the whole ordeal.

The nurse told me I could cross it off my ‘Bucket List’. Ummmm, I have a lot of things on my Bucket List, but that is not one. However, knowing I have clean bill of health, I have the peace of mind knowing I can work on that Bucket List!

 


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Domestic Goddess Cooking Tip: Vanilla Sugar

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When I make my Monkey Bread I like to roll the dough balls in my own homemade Vanilla Sugar which is mixed with Cinnamon.
Of course, this sugar is great in application you’d want that hint of vanilla with your sweetness: Hot Cocoa, Cinnamon-Sugar Toast, Sugar cookies, Shortbread, Pie Sweetners, etc.
I’ve been working on switching from refined white sugar to organic cane sugar, but I noticed that some brands are more coarse than the standard traditional white sugar we normally find. So that my family and guests don’t get the impression I’m adding sand to my sugar, I improvise and ‘refine’ the sugar a bit finer, myself.
First, grab your Vitamix. I assume a blender will work also, just work smaller batches so that it has a chance to turn over the sugar without turning the bottom to powdered sugar before the top has a chance to mix in.

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Scrape a couple of vanilla bean guts into your sugar, and then give a quick whiz in the mixer. I use the tamper to really force the top to the bottom and I pulse it with my other hand.

Here, you can see the difference in coarseness in a before:

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And the after:

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Your not aiming for powdered sugar, which your Vitamix CAN DO, so don’t over do it! Pour the sugar into a mason jar or airtight container, add the stripped vanilla beans and let sit for at least a month.

If you have standard C&H white sugar, you get to skip the refining process. Just add the scraped vanilla bean insides to the sugar. mix well, add the beans and let it sit.


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Gluten Free Monkey Bread

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With our little family being on our own for so many years, we developed Christmas traditions to fill the void that would normally be filled by the bustle of  family gatherings. Our traditions are activity based, and certain foods we enjoy every year. When the children were little, Christmas Eve consisted of Ham, scalloped potatoes and a green veggie, all foods easily popped in the oven to bake while we were at church. After dinner, we made traditional Christmas Eve phone calls to out of state Grandparents and relatives. The girls opened the gifts relatives had sent while on the phone, so that the relatives were able to share in the joy despite the distance. Once all the calls were made and well wishes given, the girls opened their annual Christmas PJ’s. While the girls changed, I would make a batch of homemade hot cocoa to be poured into Santa mugs, while dad warmed up the car. Once ready, we piled into the car and drove around the neighborhoods, enjoying the Christmas light displays. This was immediately followed by checking Norad’s Santa Tracker, setting out Santa’s cookies, and finally little ones tucked into bed.

Christmas morning was a continuation of traditions. Trying to beat the girls awake, I would stumble down blurry-eyed to get breakfast/brunch going. In between mixing and baking time, with coffee in hand, presents were opened. Breakfast was served. Messes cleaned up. Then we host an Open House for our local friends. While our friends come and go, spreading and sharing cheer, Big Man tends the Roast Beast.

For many years I made the same Christmas Brunch starting with a yummy Apple-Ginger Strudel Bundt cake, Quiche Lorraine (made with leftover ham from Christmas Eve), fresh Fruit Salad and Steamed Asparagus. However, with the diagnosis of gluten intolerance in the girls, I decided to change things up with a Gluten Free Monkey Bread. Monkey Bread on Christmas morning has become a welcome new tradition. Nothing says warm, cozy, yumminess than bread dredged and baked in buttery cinnamon sweetness. Along with this, I serve a crustless quiche and simple fruit salad. It’s a great way to start the day. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Gluten Free Monkey Bread

1.5 cups Brown Rice Flour
2 cups Tapioca Starch
1/2 cup Sorghum Flour
1 tbsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Baking Powder
4 oz (1 cube) Unsalted Butter, Frozen
1 cup Water + 1 cup Whole Milk or Almond Milk. (You may not need it all- read Step 3)
1 large Egg

Dough Dredge

1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
4 oz Butter, melted. (1 stick-use regular salted butter- you may need more. better more than not enough!)
2 tsp Vanilla

Optional: Chopped Pecans

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
Lightly butter a 9 inch baking dish – such as a 9 in pie plate or 2 in deep casserole dish. I prefer round, but you can use a 9×9. (The photo above is made in a Bundt pan. While prettier for display, I have achieved better baking results with a pie dish, the dough cooks more evenly.)

To make the Dough:

1. Combine the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, and xanthem gum in a large bowl.
2. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour. If possible, use the smallest holes. Toss the dry ingredients as you go, coating the butter and mixing it well into the flours.
3. Mix the egg into 1.5 cups of the liquid, and add to the flour. Continue to add additional water until you get a dough that is soft, but firm enough to hold the shape of a ball. If your flours are dry, you might need more water. You want it to be the texture of a sweet bread dough. It needs to be firm enough to hold its shape, but moist enough to not turn out dry. It’s better to err on the side of moist.

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To Assemble:

1. Mix the white and brown sugars together with the cinnamon and put in a shallow bowl or pan.
2. Melt the butter, add the vanilla and put in a shallow bowl or pan.
3. Roll the dough into balls that are about 1.5 inches in diameter. The balls should be smaller than the length of your thumb. My technique is this: With my right hand, I use my fingertips to grab a small ball of dough. I use that hand to drop into the butter. I then flip the ball, and on the palm of my left hand, shape it into a ball. Then, still with my right hand, I drop the ball into the sugar. Using my left hand I toss the balls in the sugar and lay in the pan. This will prevent ‘club hand’, as they put it in the cooking realm.

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4. Dredge the rolls in the Vanilla/Butter mixture, then roll in the Cinnamon-Sugar mixture. Scatter the balls evenly in the pan, laying them so the the next layer fits into the empty spaces of the first. They should be nestled like loosely linked puzzle pieces. If you run out of sugar or butter, just make some more and continue.

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5. If there is any leftover sugar, butter, or if using pecans, sprinkle over the top.

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6. Place on a rack in the center of your oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. You will need to check it at 20 mins, but it might take up to 30 minutes to be fully cooked. You do not want it doughy.
7. Let rest for about 5 minutes, then turn over on to a serving platter.

Note: If you decide to give this a try, please leave me feedback in the comments. I am going to bake a trial run this year modifying the recipe with Pamelas Artisan Flour, the same one I use successful for my GF Scones. If it improves the taste/texture, I’ll be sure to modify this post.

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