The Mites of Misery

Hi, all!

Have you ever had that feeling of total helplessness? That nothing you can do can make things better? Well, I’m usually not one to ever feel this way. Heck, usually if I sense a problem or something I am not happy with, I go straight to analyzing all I can do to fix it.

Well, today’s post is about a little something that I have felt absolutely helpless to. One word. One cool sounding word that packs along so much misery.

Chiggers.

Ever heard of them? I hadn’t either until trying to figure out what the heck was all over my feet and ankles, and itched like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

Because of my unfamiliarity, and discovering the itch in the middle of the night, I assumed I had gotten mosquito bites while outdoors for the Fourth or hiking the day before. The next morning I examined the bites and realized they were all in clusters, were smaller than normal mosquito bites and itched a whole lot more.

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My second thought was bed bugs. Now I’ve had two bed bug scares before and, because of this, am pretty educated on the little critters and the process of getting rid of them. So I went through the protocol — took apart my bed, threw sheets, mattress cover and duvet cover in the wash, and vigorously searched, clorox wiped and vacuumed the area surrounding my bed. Every little nook and cranny was investigated, but I could find nothing.

In times like these, you realize how much you take for granted comfort and peace of mind. I didn’t even want to be in my own room, let alone sit or lay on my bed. I had planned on sleeping elsewhere that night. Until I got a text from a friend.

My friend Lauren (fellow veganista!) who I had hiked the Billy Goat Trail with, on the Maryland side of Great Falls Park, just a couple days before had texted me asking if I had bites on my feet. As much as I wasn’t thrilled about the remaining insanely itchy, red bumps all over me,  I was SO relieved to know she was experiencing the same bumps in the same place. YAY, this meant my bed probably had nothing to do with these bites and I would be safe to sleep soundly. Or so I thought.

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Lauren suggested that we had gotten bitten by chiggers. She had gotten bitten once before while out working in dense vegetation (bio major) a few years back. I started doing my research on the handy-dandy Internet and realized that what I had all over my ankles and feet were most definitely chiggers. I was once again relieved to have a diagnosis, but what I was about to find out about these critters would most definitely not sit well with me.

Here goes:

Chiggers are the juvenile form (larvae) of a certain type of mite, which are a part of the arachnid family, along with spiders and ticks. Chiggers are found through out the globe, but are most common in highly vegetated, grassy fields, gardens, parks and moist areas around lakes or rivers. Well there I had it — my hike at Great Falls was my demise. Note to self: never hike again!

But there’s more — Chiggers are bright red, but not visible to the naked eye, as they are about 1/50th of an inch. In the larvae stage only, chiggers are parasitic to animals or humans (if they come in contact with a plant). They are only prevalent in areas with high humidity in temperatures ranging from 60-90 degrees F.

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Chiggers are most attracted to moist areas of the body, so bites are typically found at sock line, behind knees, groin or armpits. Despite common myth, chiggers do not actually burrow into your skin to feed, but inject a feeding structure into the skin and enzymes to break down host skin tissue. This then hardens the surrounding area and results in a feeding tube called a stylostome. The crazy part is you don’t typically react until the chiggers are done feeding and fall off, as their anesthetic then wears off (I didn’t notice mine until 3 days after hiking!).

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Your body’s reaction to the LOVELY stylostome is what causes the irritation and the unbearable itching. And trust me, I’ve had my fair share of mosquito bites as  a literal mosquito magnet anytime I’m outside. After this experience, I would take 1000 mosquito bites. Chiggers bites are seriously 100 times itchier. The worst part? You have the fun little guys for not a couple  days, but a couple weeks!

In a continued attempt to gather as much information as I could, I was reading medical sites, testimonials, you name it. I can’t tell you the amount of testimonials that made me want to run for the hills. One was a guy who was in so much discomfort from the chiggers he considered cutting off the skin with a knife, but instead burned himself multiple times with a cigarette. Another lady covered her legs in toxic cleaning chemicals to feel a burning sensation, masking the itch. These chiggers mess with your mind. I too have felt like doing crazy things.

So how have you dealt with the itching, you ask? Any and every way I have read about. Seriously. Thus far, I’ve tried Benadryl anti-itch cream, hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl anti-itch gel, solarcaine, baking soda/water mixture, Vick’s vapor rub/salt mixture and lastly, but most successful, ice cold water and Chigger-ex.

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First night: Vicks/salt mixture wrapped with towels — was a no-go = no sleep

Everything had taken off the edge for 20-30 minutes or so, but then the itch would be right back. After all these trials and errors, I read that there was a specific ointment for Chigger bites, so I figured I had to give it a shot. This ointment is super thick and creamy, infused with chamomile and aloe vera, giving it a very calming, spa-like scent.

Useful: I now have a routine for the most chiggers bearability (word?). Anytime I’m feeling itchy, I soak my feet in ice cold water for 5-10 minutes until I hit numbness, let them air dry, cover the bites with Chigger-ex and cover my feet with high socks. It seems that once my feet return from numbness, the compression from the socks, and most definitely the Chigger-ex, reduces the itch.

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It has been absolutely insane the amount that these bites have affected by daily life. Just little things you wouldn’t think about, like wearing sneakers to workout or sandals to run an errand OR SLEEPING, is unbearable. When I’m driving in the car, I have to blast the AC on my feet or I’ll have an itch attack. My first night with chiggers, I got maybe one hour of sleep. The second night I learned my lesson and took a sleeping aid.

It’s crazy to think I had no idea what a chigger was just a few days ago when now they seem to dictate my life.

I suppose this is just one of those things — one of those things that make you stronger and wiser in the long run. I will tell you one thing, I will definitely never be wearing shorts again on a spring/summer hike, and probably won’t be going hiking for a while.

I hope you learned a little something from this post today, although not my traditional food/exercise related post. I most definitely would never wish chiggers on anyone, so be sure to inform all your friends and fam!

Tips to avoid getting chiggered yourself: (save yourself from the misery!)

  • When in humid, moist climates with tall vegetation, or near bodies of water, wear bug repellent, pants, and long socks that are tucked in.
  • In the case that you brush by plants, wipe off that body part immediately, as chigger larvae are actually relatively easy to brush off before they have formed their stylostome.
  • As soon as you return home from outdoor activity, hop in the shower and wash yourself with warm, soapy water to clear off anything you might have picked up.

Well, I should get back to scratching now. My bites are being needy again. JK. Obvi that makes them so much worse and leads me to a downward spiral of scratch-fest. If anything, this has been a great self-discipline practice. Optimism at its finest, eh?

Chow for now!

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2 Year Veganniversary

Because what’s the difference between him and any other animal?

The day has come! A huge milestone in my plant-based lifestyle has been reached, and I couldn’t be more enthused.

July 5, 2015 marks my 730th day vegan, or my 2 year veganniversary!

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My veganniversary present to myself! The back has the engraved date of the day I went vegan — purchased on Etsy, created by @fiercedeer

Like I’ve mentioned time and time again, choosing to go vegan and continuing to choose vegan everyday has been the greatest decision I have ever made.

What started as an experiment to spice up my blog site with an edgy topic turned into an overall lifestyle transformation that has brought me to where I am today; happier and healthier than ever before.

I feel beyond grateful to have found veganism; to now recognize that what I choose to purchase as a consumer affects much more than my taste buds, my individual style or my satisfaction at that moment in time.

I now have the consciousness to realize the impact that my actions have on not only my  health, but the well-being of beautiful living creatures and the Earth that sustains us.

I know that I make a difference. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. Sure, I may be one person, but I’m one person that has made a substantial impact on my life and the lives of SO many others.

My dollar is my vote. My voice is my weapon.

In choosing to go vegan, I have made a difference. Over the past 2 years…

  • I have almost completely eliminated my chances of developing heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and many other western world diseases caused by the detriment of animal products. I have more energy for exercise, reduced recovery time, clearer, softer, more radiant skin and hair, a more positive, focused state of mind, while simultaneously extending my life and youthfulness by so many years.

Fun article — 10 reasons why you should go vegan in 2015

Watch the documentary Forks Over Knives to understand the impact the plant-based diet has on your health.

  • I have saved 404 innocent, intelligent, sentient living beings from constant fear, malnourishment, torture, and slaughter (vegetarian calculator). I have saved these animals from being torn out of their natural habitat, confined to cramped, filthy barns, cages and pens being hung upside down on the slaughter line, having their throats cut and bodies mutilated.

Watch the documentary Earthlings to realize the impact going vegan, and making conscious, ethical decisions as a consumer has on the well-being of animals of this planet.

***I believe that this documentary is absolutely imperative for anyone still consuming animal products to see. If you can put it in your body, you can watch how it gets there.

  • I have saved 3,218 lbs of CO2 from entering into the atmosphere, helping to alleviate the devastation of global warming (vegetarian calculator).

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Watch the documentary Cowspiracy to understand the impact animal agriculture has on the Earth. Don’t be fooled by what the government and  meat and dairy lobbyists are telling you!

  • Lastly, I have influenced SO many more people than I would have ever thought possible. I have recordered every individual that has chosen to share with me the impact I have had on their own lifestyle. To date, I have 24 names written down. From those 24 people, I know off hand that 5 have chosen to go vegan, 3 have gone vegetarian, and many others are now making more conscious decisions about their food. I realize that my impact probably extends much further than these people, which stands as the very reason I continue to blog and share my story.

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In midst of this celebration, I want to take the time to thank all my readers for your continued support! I hope over the past 2 years or so you have gotten something out of this blog site of mine.

Here you can read my full vegan transformation story, featured on thewishdish.com 🙂

Well, until next time! This veganista has got thangs to do!

Chow.

Sweet Summer Treats

Happy Thursday!

I’ve been making some delicious summer treats with the extra time I have had on my hands while I continue on in my career search, which I’ve been promptly sharing on my health Instagram (@chowidohealth). I have gotten many requests for recipes, so here I am attempting to please you lovely people!

***Disclaimer: most things I make, I am able to make educated guesses from previous experience with certain foods, and sometimes I don’t write everything down that I do. So if I’m not following an already established recipe, chances are I’m guestimating measurements and what not, but I shouldn’t be too far off!

First up is a hearty breakfast involving these yummy things called oats. As much I have been trying to stick to bounds of raw fruit in the morning, I do recognize that oatmeal breakfasts give me the most sustained energy for my mid-morning workouts. In efforts to get creative, I thought up this fun spin on traditional oatmeal!

Blueberry-Banana-Date Oatmeal Bake

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Obviously I had to immediately taste test 😛
  • 1.5 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup ground flax meal
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 ripened banana
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (up to you)
  • 3 medjool dates
  • Cinnamon (how much do you like cinnamon?!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together flax meal and water. This will serve as your binding agent. Stir. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Mash ripened banana to a creamy, non-clumpy consistency.
  4. Mix together oats, creamed banana, flax-water combo, and stir together.
  5. Pull apart medjool dates into pieces and add in. Mix.
  6. Add in blueberries. Mix.
  7. Add in as much cinnamon as you prefer. Mix.
  8. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes. (Watch them, because cook time will vary based on oven)

Make sure to let them cool once done cooking! Those berries get might toasty. Enjoy! And if you’re feeling extra indulgent, smother the top with a nut butter of choice. 🙂

Peanut-butter Chocolate Chip Brownies (Vegan, GF) – adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

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So moist & rich!
  • 1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup natural maple syrup (honey or agave works too!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all natural unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, if desired
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (I use the Enjoy Life brand)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Oil 8×8 inch pan. (I rubbed a dab of coconut oil all over)
  3. Cream together peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla extract and applesauce.
  4. Add chocolate chips into batter, and mix well.
  5. Pour batter into pan and place pan in oven for 18-22 minutes.

They are vegan, so no need to worry about them cooking all the way through! Take them out whenever you desire, depending on how gooey you like ’em.

I mentioned last post that I would be creating a What I Eat in a Day blog post, like this post last winter, as my next feature, but as much as I take pictures of food, I can’t quite seem to remember to take a picture of every single thing I eat and I want to be the realest I can with you all. I’m determined now though, so hopefully you’ll be seeing one very soon!

As for now, I’ll be living up the rest of my summer…maybe at home, maybe at a brand new place! Only time will tell.

Let the earth be your pantry and life be your jungle gym!

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Where’s the most creative place you’ve worked out?

I’m out. Chow!