Once we agreed on a menu, Bev thought it would be fun to invite two other friends to dinner.
“Great, then we can capture their reactions on video!” I enthused.
We made a list of ingredients for the three recipes we selected, then set off to do our errands, not realizing it would take us hours to make all the stops we needed to make for culinary and personal purposes.
By the time we got back to Bev’s kitchen, it was 3:30 PM. We got busy prepping, cooking, and baking.
My work as a copywriter for SMART Growth Marketing creates an ongoing opportunity for me to discover new industries and professions, and hone my persuasive writing skills. A few months ago, I wrote copy for Dr. C’s (as he’s known by his patients) digital marketing campaign, which included an informative eBook on Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT).
In 2002, I discovered the benefits of bio-identical progesterone cream through Arbonne, which became the solution I’d been seeking for most of my life. But until I wrote the eBook with medical information provided by Dr. C., I had no clue about the widespread impact of hormones and hormone deficiency on every aspect of health and well-being — from heart disease to diabetes — not only menopause or anything relating to sex. Having spent decades seeking alternatives to synthetic hormones, e.g. the pill, the panacea most gynecologists prescribe for irregular periods and other female health problems, I welcomed the discovery of bio-identical progesterone, which regulated my cycle with no harmful side effects.
Even back in the day at the age of 19, I remember challenging the doctor who explained that Provera, a synthetic version of progesterone, would not solve my problem, but would instead create a “false scenario” in my body so I’d get a period every month. “What’s the point of that? And why can’t we solve the problem so my body functions the way nature intended without putting synthetic garbage into it?” I remember asking.
I’m paraphrasing slightly, but I intuited at a young age that nothing good could come from taking synthetic hormones that failed to address and correct the issue — and worse, had the potential to inflict more harm over time. So began my decades-long journey from doctor to doctor, with the same frustrating results. Eventually, I learned to smile, say “thank you” and take the prescription for the pill, then rip it up as soon as I left their office.
Years later in 1998, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a complex condition that affects women in various ways. In most cases like mine, it’s not obvious by looking at someone’s physical appearance that they even have PCOS, which is characterized by acne, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, excess facial and body hair, and — as the name suggests, ovarian cysts. For me, it began with a strange outbreak of cystic acne on my chin (something I never dealt with as a teenager), prompting my first visit to a dermatologist, who took one look at me and declared, “I’ll give you something to clear up the acne, but this is a hormonal problem. You need to go back to your doctor and get to the bottom of it.”
I took his advice, which led to a referral to the Fertility and IVF Center of Miami in the spring of 2000, where a specialist determined I had simple ovarian cysts and endometriosis. After my outpatient procedure, the doctor handed me a prescription for the pill, which I accepted and never filled. By then, I knew it was pointless to engage in debate on the topic. Thankfully, the acne and the simple cysts cleared up and dissolved on their own, and once I discovered Arbonne’s natural progesterone cream, I experienced regular cycles. Problem solved. Or so I thought.
Fast forward to a few months ago. The acne on my chin returned with a vengeance, though this time it was not cystic. However, it recurred in an endless cycle, creating redness, discomfort and itching. Combined with the onset of insomnia, which is especially difficult for a deep sleeper like me, and low energy levels, I realized it was time to book an appointment with Dr. C. I called Jody, his Chief Operating Officer and former partner in SMART Growth Marketing, to start the process, which began with detailed blood work, followed by an office visit with Dr. C. to review the results and decide on a plan forward.
I spent about 30 minutes in his office, during which he explained that PCOS is a complex problem involving sugar metabolism, progesterone, thyroid, and androgen sensitivity. He noted that PCOS people tend to have insulin resistance but since my blood sugar was really good (72), that was not the case with me. While I was not a “clear-cut” case, Dr. C said it was rare for him to see patients who were 50 pounds overweight, with significant acne, noticeable hair growth and spots on their skin, high testosterone, zero progesterone levels, and a blood sugar of 120.
He also explained that other things can mimic PCOS, including gluten sensitivity. Not only does gluten play a role in skin manifestations, it is the number one reason people have autoimmune thyroiditis, a condition my blood work also revealed, along with a B12 and vitamin D deficiency.
I appreciated his thoroughness in not only explaining the causes and cures for my health issues, but in prescribing a course of treatment that incorporates medical-grade supplements, a gluten-free diet, bio-identical thyroid and progesterone, and Spironolactone for its secondary effect of blocking testosterone from the skin.
During our conversation, Dr. C was forthright, knowledgeable and open to answering my questions. He took his time, explained everything clearly, and made me feel as if my concerns were important. I wish every doctor practiced medicine in the same way, where they consider the unique needs of each patient and create an individualized protocol to solve their specific health issues. In six weeks, I’ll return to determine if we need to make any changes to this regimen, based on blood results. It’s another example of Dr. C.’s attentiveness to detail and concern for his patients.
It was definitely worth the drive to Orlando from South Florida to spend some time with Dr. C. and his wonderful staff.
For the past several months, I’ve been involved in an excellent collaboration with author Frances Castelli, whose compelling real-life story will offer hope and information to concerned parents. If you’re navigating the complexities of broad-spectrum anaphlyactic food allergies in your children, this book is for you. Featuring input from family and friends, including husband Ralph and children Anthony, Hope, and Natale, The Kitchen Chemist will offer practical guidance, based on the author’s personal experience, on how to accommodate your children’s allergies and help them develop into thriving, productive, and happy adults — even if they never outgrow them.
The second half of The Kitchen Chemist will be devoted to 30 mouth-watering, yet allergy-safe recipes created by the author herself. Having had the pleasure of getting to know Frances as we bring the book to fruition, she is one of the strongest, most inspiring people I have ever met. Thanks to her unrelenting pursuit of knowledge, her commitment to her kids’ well-being, and her ability to alter and create savory recipes, all three — now young adults — are fully equipped to take care of themselves and handle every situation with ease and wisdom.
It’s been a joy to discover the Castelli family’s story and interview everyone involved, especially Ralph, Anthony, Hope, and Natale, who bring their own unique perspectives to The Kitchen Chemist.
From the book description:
It is said that children don’t come with an instruction manual. Imagine standing by helplessly as your baby gasps for air and clutches her throat on the floor, unable to communicate, or breaks out in hives when a relative gives him a hug and a kiss at a holiday gathering. While most parents juggle school and work schedules, quality family time, and extracurricular activities, feeding their children is rarely a matter of life or death.
For Frances Castelli, such traumatic events were common; the adage took on an entirely new meaning when she discovered all three of her children had multiple anaphylactic food allergies.
In the Castelli household, even food we consider “healthy” could be fatal.
What would you do?
In TheKitchen Chemist, author Frances Castelli recounts her unanticipated journey into the world of broad spectrum anaphylactic allergies with humor, grace, and honesty. From consultations with endless medical specialists to in-depth research into the composition and interaction of food, you’ll discover how this devoted mother transformed from distraught parent to confident kitchen chemist. She debunks the myths, offers practical advice for parents and kids, and shares 30 safe, delicious, and easy-to-prepare recipes (yes, even desserts!). Now grown-ups with lives of their own, her children, Anthony, Hope, and Nat prove that life with food allergies can be full and enjoyable, even if they never go away. They are passionately living their dreams and want others to know they can too.