Are You Still Doing GAPS?

Chunky squash chicken soupI’ve fallen completely in love with nutrition. So I decided to do an interview with myself about the first, crazy, named diet I ever tried: GAPS. Read with a mild sense of humor at times. Please don’t use anything on my site as medical guidance. (I always say “please,” but I mean it…) Use what I write to scoff. Laugh. Plagiarize. But not as medical treatment or recommendations. Even thought I think I’m right, you should know that I’ve been known to lock myself out of my house, leave fully loaded grocery carts standing in the parking lot, and call my husband by my first real boyfriend’s name.

Are you still doing the GAPS diet?  No.

Got a longer answer than that?  Of course!

Why did you start the GAPS diet? It seems a bit loco sounding. I mean, bone broth and sauerkraut? Really? How did a legit, well-trained, seemingly-normal MD like you go off the nutritional deep-end like that?  Well, honestly, it doesn’t sound too extreme anymore. Now, it all just sounds like good, old-fashioned, traditional food minus a few things. But to answer your question, I had a severe form of a very common problem. In fact, I was told never to talk about it with people, they don’t like to talk about it and they don’t want to hear about it. I suppose I can tell you. I trust you. I started the GAPS diet because my stupid gut wouldn’t move, even with medicines, more than twice a month. Anal retentive woman, I guess.

Did you try any other more normal diets before this?

Oh, like– vegetarian-in-a-box? I’m kidding. A traditional vegetarian diet I think is actually a powerful way of eating, especially if one throws in an occasional egg and/or some fish. But so many vegetarians think a vegetarian diet is about just not eating meat–and they sacrifice their own bodies to the industrialized food package.

Well, anyhow, the standard medical repertoire and more than 4-5 doctors had finally 100% failed me, and I scoured the internet hours and hours for alternative “cures.” I started reading tons on-line and trying this supplement and/or that food, falling into the idea that “one” thing would help.  I tried a gluten-free and dairy-free diet for a couple of months while I researched.  I tried an elimination diet with only sweet potato, lamb, and white rice too.  Repeatedly, though, I kept hitting on people talking about special “healing diets.”

A healing diet? Pft. What in the heck is a healing diet? I know. I know this sounds so stupid to newbies and nutritional novices. When I first started reading about this stuff, I thought, “These people are crazy. CRAZY. WHAT do they eat? How can they think a person should cut THAT out of their diet? Oh, the gullible heap.” (I have a little judgmental problem. Life is working on it.)

And this leaky gut they keep talking about? I can’t remember which staff doctor in training told me that leaky gut wasn’t a real thing, but I know I was taught that!

To answer your question, a healing diet takes into account the fact that the condition of our gastrointestinal tracts helps determine our health—whatever part of the body we want healthy (skin, brain, intestines, joints, etc.). And food predominately determines the condition of your gut.

So, using food, a good healing diet will look to keep the immune cells of the GI tract happy. It will look to offer the nutrients the cells lining the intestines need. It will look to make sure the GI’s immune system is not barraged. It will look to make sure the mucous (Did you know mucus is the noun form and mucous the adjective? Cool, huh.) protective layer of the GI tract is regenerating. And it will nurture beneficial gut microorganisms and weed out not-so-beneficial microorganisms.

A healing diet will remove foods that commonly inflame the entire body and will provide abundance of foods which carry necessary nutrients and restorative properties. The best healing diets will also force you to address more than food, things like sleep, stress, skin care products, and so on.

Okay. I see what you mean about a healing diet now, I guess. But why GAPS?

SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) then GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) were the first “nutritional intervention” diets I kept hitting on. They seemed maybe to be the rage, fad diets of the time. I don’t know. (I later learned of others. And I’m sure there will be plenty more.)

I read all the pertinent websites and bought the books to read. I decided to set out on the GAPS diet to give diet a full attempt to prove to myself that nutrition would not change anything in my health–because I was 100% convinced that diet would change nothing.

Why GAPS?  It seemed the most radical and extreme!  (Have I made it clear enough that I seriously thought all of this was INSANE.  Detoxification?  Gut dysbiosis?  Leaky gut?  Liver support?  Adrenal fatigue?)  But if there was something I could do to avoid a colectomy later in life, I was willing to try! And GAPS seemed, at the time to me, to be one of the most stringent diets, and I wanted to cut to the chase, do the hardest first, and cross diets off my list.

I knew nothing about nutrition, and that’s how I made my choice. Brilliant, eh.

How long did you stay on GAPS?  I stayed on GAPS for about 18 months.

Eighteen months! New humans are turned out in less time than that. Did you cheat? Sometimes on accident. And  sometimes I’d choose to “cheat” and see if I could expand my diet without having any problems from it. But the GAPS diet book says it can take up to two years, so I wanted to give it its due chance. If I clearly could see I had no issues with a food, I’d eat it on special occasions, like maple syrup or a baked potato. And dozens of times I struggled with eating too many dates, honey, almond flour, and peanut butter, all “allowed.”

Why did you stop GAPS?  My constipation finally became manageable with lots of magnesium and the GAPS diet. I became enchanted with nutrition and kept reading. I stumbled across something called butyrate for gut health when I was interpreting a Metametrix stool test I had taken (I know. Weird. A stool test.) and decided to try it as a supplement for my GI tract. Its effect was magic on my gut–GAPS had gotten me part of the way and this seemed to finish it!  But butyrate is still a supplement, and I don’t like supplements.  We (well, our gut bacteria) can produce butyrate naturally from certain foods, so I next added in potato starch (Bob’s Red Mill) and began eating food sources of butyrate, like sweet potato (cold), rice (cold), green plantains, green bananas, potatoes (cold), and a few, diverse legumes.  So after about 18 months, I think you have to technically say I came off of GAPS because I was routinely adding in foods not on the diet.

I still keep a lot of the ideas that GAPS taught me in my diet:

  • Homemade broths for gelatin, calcium, magnesium.
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
  • Offal, such as liver, heart, tongue, and marrow.
  • Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. (Some say GAPS doesn’t advocate carbohydrates and raw vegetables.  I don’t think that is accurate.  It is not written as a low carb plan per se. It allows a person to eat navy beans, lentils, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash, peanut butter certain fruit, and honey as tolerated by a person. And it only excludes raw vegetables until a person’s symptoms improve. Now, how each person will interpret and follow the diet will vary.)
  • Minimizing exposures to environmental things I can control and helping the body deal with them–such as avoiding plastics, excessive fluoride, unnecessary skin care products, etc.  Taking Epsom salts baths.
  • Well-placed supplements.
  • A never give up attitude.

I will continue this long, verbose self-interview later. My kids need food and school…

The Holiday is Over

christmas_decorations_in_a_store_bow_8-1Well, the holiday is over. How did you do? Did you eat too much? Eat the wrong things? Know you’re going to pay for it this week?

What? You still have dinners to go to today and tomorrow? Leftovers staring you in the face?

Come on. You have 38 days left. Thirty-eight days. Thirty-eight days left of holiday food torment. Did your first day set the tone you wanted for the next 38 days? Mmmm? Or maybe not.

Listen to me. And listen to me good. You have a choice. Each day. Each moment.

That one hard thing

Think hard. Hasn’t there ever been anything hard you’ve done that required effort? Required diligence? Have you run a 5K? Have you painted a bedroom? Have you played in front of a crowd? What have you done that required work?

Because you could have stopped doing it. You could have walked to your car instead of to the 5K finish line where a banana and water was waiting for you. Some fashionable curtains could have tied together a two-tone bedroom. Nobody dragged you kicking and screaming to the stage with your clarinet.

You. Your choices did all these things in your life.  YOU.

So, I want you to think hard again. You’ve paved the connections in your brain between neurons for persistence by doing these hard things before in your life. Great job! Now is the moment to capitalize on your earlier successes. When it feels like you can’t say “No” to that food or that latte, remember that one hard thing you did. Feel the shoes on your feet, the concrete under your feet. And say, “I choose me, not food.” And run on.

Feel the paint brush in your hand, see the accidental paint spatters on the carpet, and say, “Sometimes I drop some paint, but I keep painting.” And paint on.

See the audience’s eyes on you, while you play your zombie-stiff clarinet song with racing heart. And say, “I choose to do this in front of the glares and stares of the world.” And play on.

You see, it is your choice. I promise you, nobody is going to grab that roll or those mashed potatoes and stuff them in your mouth. (Visualizing that, are you?)

But YOU might grab that roll and those mashed potatoes or that brownie this holiday season. YOU.

I can quit

Once, when I was having a hard time at pharmacy school personally, my volleyball coach looked at me and said, “Terri, you can go home. [Home and dear family support was six hours away.] Take a break.” I tried to argue with her. I couldn’t go home! I’d lose a whole semester of grades! A whole semester of money! No matter what I said, she told me it didn’t matter. I could go home. Finally, I realized, I could go home. I could quit whenever I wanted. And suddenly, I knew I had the fight in me. I knew I could pull myself up by my bootstraps, get my head wrapped on straight, and I could do this hard thing.

When I had to change the way I ate 4 years and five months  ago (I remember the date I dove in to 100% change), I did the same thing. I recognized my choice. MY CHOICE. I thought of all the hard things I’d done in my life, and I knew I could do this one.

I haven’t fought every food and nutrition battle you’ll have to fight. But I’ve fought a lot the last four years. Battles from myself. My tongue. My mom. My kids. My world. The TV. Gluten. Dairy. Eggs.

But I’ve run 5Ks, painted rooms, and I’ve played in piano recitals. I remember those things. When I am faced with food choices I know don’t benefit me, I recall those successes. I feel them. I smile at them. And most of the times, I move on just fine.

Move past the dribbles and play your song

Sometimes I don’t move on just fine. That’s probably most like painting. I never get the drop cloth spread out the way I should. I often think I don’t need the drop cloth. I’m just going to paint this one little touch-up. I won’t dribble. And I always do. Always do dribble. But seriously, who stops painting a whole room because they dribbled?

Today, while you’re shopping, looking at leftovers, visiting family. Next week, when the baked goods and cheap candy start rolling in (Gosh, wasn’t it just Halloween?). Thirty-eight days from now, remember it was YOUR choice.

Did you run? Did you dribble, yet keep painting? Did you play your song?

Eating right isn’t about now. It’s about hiking with your kids when they’re old enough to hike. It’s about that trip to Europe you’ve always dreamed after you retire. It’s about getting down on the floor to change your grandbaby’s diaper. It’s about writing that book with great mental clarity that comes from real food.

It’s about YOU.

And doing the hard thing. Each step of the way.

YOU CAN DO THIS. STARTING NOW.

Run. Paint. Play your song. You’ve done it before, and you can do it in this area too!

Happy Friday!

Terri

Photo attribution: By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Thanksgiving Recipe Adaptation Tips and Links

sweetcashewcream-1Are you struggling with any Thanksgiving recipe adaptations? Have an awesome adaptation discovery you’d love to share? Please stop by today’s post!

My greatest adaptation tip is that most of the time, I can substitute olive oil for butter—-in baked goods, for topping steamed vegetables, and in casseroles. Obviously this won’t work for something like caramel! Another tip I’d like to share is to not give up on a beloved recipe; there’s almost always a way to adapt it. I have kept all my old recipes and over the last few years, I’ve been slowly adapting them as I learn new cooking and baking techniques and supplies.

Okay. Let’s look at how to adapt most of those Thanksgiving favorites.

Mashed Potatoes: I use tons of good quality olive oil, some full-fat coconut milk, and salt and pepper.

Tips: Don’t use too much coconut milk or they’ll taste like coconut. I use about a 50/50 oil to coconut milk ratio (heavier on the olive oil, more scant on the coconut milk), and my family is good with that. If you do get more coconut flavor than you’d like, it can be countered by adding some garlic, rosemary, and/or chives.

Gravy: Arrowroot flour/powder is my go-to thickener now. It works but it is finicky like a princess’s cat. I suggest that you do NOT add it to boiling substances or you’ll get a snot consistency. And when you add it, whisk like your life depended on it. Tapioca starch/flour is similar in nature, and I treat it the same. I have noticed that performance does depend on the brand! My higher quality flours perform better.

Procedure: I use about 1 tablespoon of arrowroot for each cup of liquid. First, I make an arrowroot slurry by mixing the arrowroot in the smallest amount of lukewarm temperature water as possible (maybe a tablespoon for a tablespoon), and I set that aside. Next, I bring my gravy broth to a boil, shut off the heat, move the pan over off the burner, THEN add the arrowroot slurry, whisking like crazy.

Green Bean Casserole: For this one, I make my own onion rings, dipping onions in a gluten-free flour and then frying them, and I make a homemade mushroom soup. It’s a lengthy process but my family loves it so much. Here is my recipe. I like it better than other ones I’ve seen out there because the onion rings are closest to the ones I remember from the can.

Cranberry Gelatin Salad: In place of Jello, I use plain gelatin and juice to make my own gelatin. I use maple syrup or honey instead of sugar. Everything else is just the same as the recipe has been handed down through the generations. Here is my recipe.

Corn Casserole: I haven’t adapted this one to reach the near 100% whole food mark yet, but I’ve adapted it for gluten-free, dairy-free. Everyone’s favorite family recipe is a little different, but you can find gluten-free, dairy-free cornbread mixes at the store. There are gluten-free, dairy-free brands of canned cream corn you can use. Use olive oil in place of butter. If your recipe calls for sour cream, you could try making some cashew cream as a substitute. (But plan ahead, you have to find raw cashews and soak them for several hours.) Have you perfected this adaptation?

Pecan Pie: Easily adaptable. I use olive oil in place of butter, maple syrup in place of corn syrup and brown sugar, and arrowroot in place of flour for thickening. Here is my recipe.

Pumpkin Pie: Another easily adaptable pie. I use maple syrup in place of sugar and any dairy-free milk for the milk.

Coconut cream, banana cream, and peanut butter cream pies: I’ve had success with adapting these using alternative milks (coconut cream is best for the consistency as it has the most fat) and arrowroot in place of flour.

Pie Crust: There are very pleasant gluten-free, dairy-free pie crusts available frozen in the store. My daughter makes her own crust using Bob’s Red Mill (I believe any gluten-free flour combination will work. We have tried just using arrowroot for this recipe. But it got stringy, so best to make it with a “combination” gluten-free mix.) I believe I also featured this recipe in my pecan pie post.

Granny’s Adapted Pinch Pie Crust:

  • 1 cup of gluten-free flour (tested with Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Follow these directions very closely. It’s not hard, but the wording is confusing!

In a 1/2 cup measuring cup, put in 3 tablespoons of milk and then fill, IN THE SAME 1/2 cup measuring cup with the milk still in it, up to the 1/2 cup mark with olive oil.

Transfer to a small mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Whisk together to immerse. Add the flour and mix well. Use your hands to knead gently and briefly.

Push into the pie pan.  We do this by forming about 8 or so little balls and placing them around the pan. Then, we push them together, up the side of the pan, and a little bit over the lip of the pan Next, we use our fingers to flute the edge.

Use as directed in your recipe.

Sweet Potato Casserole: We make the kind with the pecans and glaze on top. It is so good. Here is my recipe. However, there are some marshmallows you can buy now that don’t use any food coloring, if you need to do the marshmallow topping.

Whipped cream: I make a sweetened cashew cream. I haven’t posted the recipe yet on the blog, so I can’t link to it. But it’s very similar to the ones that are out there on the internet if you care to Google it. Or ask below, and I’ll type it in the comments for you.

Stuffing/dressing: I don’t have this one adapted yet. My family doesn’t miss it too much. But there are some great recipes out there. Do you have one?

Need to be egg-free? Following an auto-immune diet? Lastly, I highly recommend The Curious Coconut and her autoimmune recipes for more rigid food restrictions. I don’t know her at all. But I have purchased her holiday e-cookbook and it is amazing! I recommend trying some of the recipes ahead of time because they’re a little tricky and can give unexpected results! We have made a couple of the dinner rolls, and they looked so cute in her photos…

What questions do you have about adapting recipes? Are you stuck on one? Are you scared to try? Do you have an AWESOME one you’d love to share?

Choose food that doesn’t make you sick and doesn’t make you overeat. Best wishes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Terri

 

 

Do You Have Some Medical Misconceptions?

Four years ago I stepped into a new medical realm to fix some GI problems. I bought lots of books, joined some internet forums, and read like the dickens. I can distinctly remember the feeling of smugness when I first started reading forums, as the members talked about so many things I thought I had the best information on. Some fallacies I started with include:

  1. Leaky gut is not real.
  2. Folic acid is just as good as natural folate.
  3. We get enough iodine.
  4. Cholesterol is bad for you.
  5. Fat is bad for you.
  6. Saturated fat is really bad for you.
  7. Vegetable oil is better for you.
  8. Diets should be rich in whole grains and fat-free dairy products.
  9. The American Diabetes Association and nutritionists had the best diet figured out for diabetic patients.
  10. The American Heart Association had the best diet figured out for heart patients.
  11. Not much crosses the blood brain barrier, thereby making the brain an island unto itself.
  12. Gluten-free, dairy-free diets are foolish fads.

So many misconceptions! How did I learn those things? Well, let me tell you. The pace of medical school and residency is breakneck. My professors and staff doctors verbally handed me the information that they thought I needed. Some of them were bigwigs on boards and in associations. They helped make guidelines. They wrote textbooks. They taught medical continuing education.

I took notes. I filed away what they said. I did a good job.

And I kept right on passing that information along.

It’s not right, folks.

  1. The best thing you can do for your health is inspect what you eat. If you pop or smear any medicine at all (for allergies, headaches, coughing, heartburn, skin rashes), you need to take it down to 100% whole food as a bare minimum place to start. 100%.
  2. Then, you need to look at the known allergenic foods (often called the Top 8: dairy, eggs, peanuts, nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish—I’d personally also throw corn in there from talking to a lot of moms) and think hard about trying an elimination diet to take those out for a time, slowly reintroducing them back in one food at a time. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.
  3. You need to find some real vegetables and real starches you can ingest and feel good on. Great vegetables are broccoli, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, Brussels, asparagus, spinach, kale, endive, radishes, cucumbers. Great real starches are potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, parsnips, butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin, cassava root.
  4. Get good sleep.
  5. Move.
  6. Get outdoors.
  7. Use your brain to think more and solve more problems. (Not necessarily the world’s problems, probably best to start with your own. I suppose if you don’t have any, then it’s okay to proceed to the world’s at your own risk.)
  8.  Tackle your misconceptions about yourself, your friends, your spouse, your family your enemies. Then, get right with yourself, your friends, your spouse, your family, your enemies. See another viewpoint.
  9. Modern medicine tries to separate “us” from the body. I think that’s a huge misconception and would like to suggest something. Pray every single day for yourself for five minutes consecutively to Someone Out There. (Any health hacker up to the challenge?)  I’m Christian. I don’t know or even really care what you are. But over the last year, I’ve tried something a little foreign to me. I’ve taken to praying for myself. I used to think it was selfish to pray for myself. So many other people had big, bad, scary problems; I needed to pray for them first! And by the time I got through them, I had fallen asleep already. Oops.But over the last year, I’ve taken to praying for myself first. Hardest. Most. One month, in fact, I only allowed myself to pray for myself. (Heavens, of course I cheated.) And that has been life-changing for me. Looking at it now, I feel so “duh.” Of course I needed my own prayer the most! We all do! Well, anyhow. Science is showing that meditation, yoga, mindfulness, whatever, that these things affect our health. So try it. Pray to Someone Out There. Pour out your fears, your challenges, the people who get under your skin, your petty grievances, your body aches, your anger, your hurt, your desires–pour it all out to this Someone Out There. I dare you to try it every single day, on your knees or back or toilet even (so sorry), for five minutes a day for 30 whole days in a row. Just try it. No one else allowed in your prayers except you and The Someone Out There; you can pray for other people later.

Well, I’ve digressed. I wish you the best success in feeling good with life and fixing your own misconceptions. What I learned in med school was great. I’m glad I did it. Modern medicine is amazing. Just this month it saved my little girls’ life. 100 years ago, she may have died or been permanently affected. We need modern medicine. But we also need to do the other things.

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll get back to writing more regular. I’m so excited to be reading about the blood brain barrier, microglial cells, and brain fog. I don’t know how it will all come together, but I can’t wait to summarize it all up and share.

Terri

 

 

Dairy-Free, Dye-Free Fall Frosting

91vwsqbattl-_sy679_A little natural Halloween pearl for the curious, adventurous baker.

If you need to color some frosting a rich yellow or orange without artificial food coloring, try a dab or two of red palm shortening–and you’ll also pack in a smidge of vitamin E.

You’ll have to be willing to play with it though. My family made some cut-out cookies for our pumpkin carving night last week. I mixed together for the frosting: Spectrum “All Vegetable” palm shortening at room temperature (this is white and is not truly “vegetable shortening,” but palm shortening), powdered sugar, vanilla, and a dab of Nutiva’s red palm oil (which is a solid at room temperature) for color.

The ratios depend on how thick you’d like your frosting, how sweet, and the color you’re aiming for. My ratio was approximately 1 cup of Spectrum’s (white) “all vegetable” palm shortening to 1 cup of powdered sugar to 1 teaspoon of vanilla to about 2 tablespoons of red palm oil. All estimates. It will need played with. Taste as you add more red palm oil so that you don’t pick up any unwanted off-flavors associated with unrefined red palm oil. Mix with an electric mixer. This could be thinned by adding your choice of alternative milk.

Please note that there is controversy regarding palm-derived oils and the destructive clearing of land for palm plantations and displacement and endangerment of native animals.

Sustainable palm products do not completely eliminate these issues, but it is an important step at preserving land and animals while continuing the livelihood of the local people who rely on production.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

Terri

 

Can I Get That Banana in Pill Form?

YOU THINK YOU EAT vegetables, fruits, and plant matter just to get your daily dose of vitamin C or folate? Perhaps so, but since you can get those from vitamins and supplements, why go to the pain of cooking when you could pop a pill? Goodness, even boxed donuts are fortified with iron and B vitamins! So vegetables, fruits, and plant matter that nobody really wants to eat seem senseless anyhow.

Right?

No way.

Interruption: Thank you SO much to Molly Green Magazine for giving me a spot to share the medical value of eating real, whole food. My article here you’re reading today ran to help provide an alternative viewpoint to a ketogenic diet article running in the same issue. I just love that the editor loves to keep things balanced! And for the record, I absolutely see a place for ketogenic diets, but I am very wary of protecting the microbiome too.

In addition to my article, this quarter of Molly Green Magazine features articles on “Aquaponics: A Fishy Business,” “Duck Egg Delights,” “Strawesome: An Alternative to Plastic,” “SEO: The Key to Growing a Business,” and “Help! My Homeschool Teen is Being a Pain”—and other fascinating topics for exceptionally curious minds! Check it out! 

Bacteria and Macaroni and Cheese

You can’t have the easy way out! Nice try. The real reason to eat plant matter is for the trillions of bacteria living within you. It sounds strange, but our intestines are perfectly designed to function in sync with billions of bacteria living and giving inside of us—as long as we feed them properly. Unfortunately, the processed foods that we rely on, such as most breakfast cereals, macaroni and cheese, most store-bought bread, crackers, and pizza (and certainly white sugar), do not make it to the lower part of the intestines where these bacteria live. We are starving out some exceptionally friendly, essential bacteria that we need for our health.

The Case of the Missing Fiber

Those essential bacteria need fiber. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you loftily say. “I’ve heard of fiber. I eat lots of oatmeal and salads.”

No. That won’t cut it. It’s not enough. There’s one type of fiber that was naturally included in traditional, healthy cultures which is virtually absent in today’s civilized, processed diet. It’s called resistant starch. Yes, you’re reading correctly; the fiber that you need and probably are not getting is a form of starch. It’s not broken down by the body to be absorbed like other starch is (and thus you don’t get all those calories), so it makes its way to where the bacteria live in your colon.

When the bacteria there eat this resistant starch, they make beneficial, natural substances that bathe the colon cells and reduce colon cancer. However, the bacteria’s by-products also work to fight diabetes, boost the functioning of the brain (perhaps decreasing dementia), soothe the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and support a healthy metabolism. In fact, this kind of “fiber” is so important food companies are researching ways to add it to your food!

But there’s no need to wait and get it from a box or modified plant. Of course not. Real food always wins! Get the benefits of resistant starch and its power without spending any extra money on your food bill and without your family giving you dirty looks. I mean, they eat rice, potatoes, and bananas, don’t they? Yes! You’re in business. Health is on the way. If you want to get fancy, green peas, lentils, beans, and plantains can be added to the mix.

The Value of Leftovers

Wait. This is too good. You know there has to be a catch. Well, there is a small one. Resistant starch is a bit fussy and might go away as a food ripens or when a food is cooked, at least when it’s cooked and hot the first time around. It’s related to some fascinating physical chemistry. Although Grandma didn’t know the physical chemistry, when she served leftovers or made a potato salad, bean salad, or rice salad, she was serving resistant starch.

For potatoes, resistant starch is available in raw potatoes, but most people don’t like those too well. (Did you know that despite what people say, eating raw potatoes is not toxic? Green potatoes are potentially toxic, and cooking does not inactivate the toxin.) Cooking potatoes changes the resistant starch to available starch, which is nearly all absorbed so your gut bacteria don’t get any food. However, cooling the cooked potato in the refrigerator re-forms resistant starch. Eat the potatoes cold (as in potato salad) or reheating them up at this point still preserves the resistant starch.

When it comes to cooked rice, cooling it down also allows resistant starch to form; fresh, hot, cooked rice has little to no resistant starch. Lentils and beans (especially navy beans) contain some available resistant starch when cooked, but they will also form more as they cool down in the refrigerator, too. Grains, nuts, and seeds contain some resistant starch, but potatoes, green bananas and plantains, and legumes contain more. As for bananas and plantains, resistant starch is found in green fruits. As the fruit yellows, the starch becomes plain starch which feeds you more than your bacteria.

It’s Not about Roughage

For people who are on low-carbohydrate diets, such as for weight loss, diabetes, or to control other health conditions, it is vitally important to eat fiber, including resistant starch.

Unfortunately, when people think of “fiber,” they think of “roughage.” It is so much more than the “rough” matter in the vegetables and fruits we need! The roughage may be the least important part because the bacteria do not create beneficial substances from it! If our gut bacteria are not fed properly, the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract can be compromised, the colon cells will not receive the beneficial substances formed by the bacteria, and the rest of the body’s functions will be affected.

It’s a little confusing how bacteria living in our digestive tracts can affect the neurons and myelin sheaths in our brains—or how they can regulate our blood sugars and body size. But research is proving this to be true, and science is backpedaling as it realizes how far off base we have gotten in our modern eating habits.

A diet rich in whole, real plant matter feeds us not only our vitamins and minerals, but also feeds our gut bacteria important substances like resistant starch. Maybe health doesn’t come in a pill after all. Eat whole. Eat real.

 

Hypoallergenic Food

Listen, you’ve heard the term hypoallergenic as it relates to your jewelry, your skin care products, and your laundry detergent, but have you ever thought about the food you eat? Have you ever thought about if what you eat is hypoallergenic? No, no. NOT sterile. Hypoallergenic doesn’t mean sterile!

You don’t blink an eye when a friend says, “Oh, I can’t wear cheap earrings. My ears get sore.” You get that! We can all relate to people needing hypoallergenic jewelry or skin products. But have you ever thought about the food you eat and whether or not it’s hypoallergenic to your system?

Yes, indeed! Just like these external substances can lead to immune reactions, so can the food you eat! However, the food you eat leads to a chain reaction of internal immune system activation that doesn’t just sit right there at the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

You have immune cells lining the intestines which sample the foods you eat and decide whether or not they like it. Whether you like the food doesn’t matter. Whether the food you eat is healthy or not doesn’t matter. If the immune cells sample it and don’t like it, they are going to send out signals (histamines, prostaglandins, interleukins, interferons, and other cytokine signals) in the blood stream which can affect any organ system in your body: you stomach, your brain, your skin, your reproductive system, your lungs, your connective tissue (joints, as an example), your thyroid.

My Oligoantigenic (What!?!?) Diet

When I first started down this fascinating nutrition avenue a little over four years ago (from a classic diet of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pizza or pasta for supper), one of the first things I learned about and tried was an “oligoantigenic diet.” I had read that some people with the same gastrointestinal malady that I suffered from had been treated in a medical research study with an oligoantigenic diet!

What in tarnation is an oligoantigenic diet? I’d never heard of that! Basically, it is a strict, hypoallergenic diet that allows only foods which are accepted to be very mild on the body’s immune system. Once I figured out that I could think of an oligoantigenic diet as a type of “hypoallergenic” diet, I got it! Choose foods which cause the least known reactions! For those of you familiar with a strict elimination diet, you know what I’m talking about here too.

So I started on a (miserable) diet consisting of three foods which don’t seem to rile up people’s immune systems too much: lamb (I didn’t even like lamb), plain sweet potato (I had only ever eaten those as fries), and white rice (which I had never eaten plain). Did I mention it tasted miserable? But persistence led me on a food journey of a lifetime (for a lifetime).  And as I’ve heard it said, “I didn’t know I was feeling so bad till I started feeling so good!”

An oligoantigenic diet (or hypoallergenic diet) is NOT meant to be a long-term diet. A person starts with a small group of 3-5 foods and builds from there, learning to observe signs and symptoms that tell him or her that a particular food category raises immune reactions (by observing for headaches, GI changes, spikes in fatigue, skin rashes, and other clues).

The Pesky Foods

Never once going through pharmacy school, medical school, residency, and hundreds of hours of continuing education did I ever hear about a hypoallergenic, oligoantigenic diet or even an anti-inflammatory diet. (I was served plenty of donuts, bagels with cream cheese, and pizza, though.) It took me going after my own health to learn about nutrition.

Since my oligoantigenic diet, I’ve done a lot more reading. What I’ve found is that the same foods that doctors KNOW are immune provoking because they cause true, life- threatening food allergies, are the same foods that can be removed to lighten the load of a body stressed by health problems. By removing known immune-provoking, inflammmatory-producing foods, the body gets a rest from the prostaglandins, histamine, interleukins, interferons, and other cytokines that it makes in response to something it thinks is harmful.

Although any food can cause allergic and sensitivity issues, there are eight foods that are medically known to cause the majority of the reactions. Why? These foods have what I call “pesky proteins.” They have proteins in them that have very, very strong bonds, making them difficult for our digestive tracts to break down. The better food is broken down into its smallest parts in our intestinal tracts, the less inflammatory it is to us.

The pesky eight foods are:

Peanuts
Tree nuts
Milk products
Egg
Wheat
Soy
Fish
Shellfish

These are the common drop-dead if you eat them allergenic foods. But I’m not talking about drop-dead allergies here. I’m talking about you and me and Mr. Smith walking around with headaches, bloating, fussy guts, allergies, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, depression, fatigue, puffy eyelids, puffy faces, coronary artery disease, increasing forgetfulness, dry and itchy eyes, chronic sinus problems, joint pain–do I HAVE to keep going? I sure can. Sometimes by simply eliminating the above food categories (with NO cheating), a person can gauge how much food is affecting their health.

Enter Anti-Inflammatory Diets

Since trying my three ingredient, hypoallergenic diet, I’ve discovered a whole world of anti-inflammatory type diets, which aren’t as strict as an oligoantigenic (hypoallergenic) diet. I find it fascinating that these diets often eliminate the Pesky Eight foods, capitalizing on what we know about the immune system and health! However, anti-inflammatory type diets incorporate and expand further on the idea of the immune system and inflammation in the role of health problems.

Each named anti-inflammatory diet (sometimes called autoimmune diets) has its own unique quirks. In general, though, these diets do three things.

  1. Eliminate most of the Pesky Eight foods (although seafood is usually encouraged if a person knows they are not truly allergic) and a few other problematic foods which don’t make the top eight. (Things like corn, any gluten grains, beef, chocolate, citrus, tomato, and beans)
  2. Eliminate processed foods, refined foods, including sugars.
  3. Include abundant vegetables and fruits.

Anti-inflammatory diets (autoimmune diets) seek to eliminate the most common food problem causers and also try to bring in food problem solvers.

Conclusion

Diets in general can be overwhelming, and when they talk about restricting food groups, diets can be downright terror-provoking. As I’ve journeyed away from an oligoantigenic elimination diet, my own diet landed very similarly to many of these anti-inflammatory type diets. It wasn’t by choice and planning. That’s just how it fell. I can’t eat many of the Pesky Eight foods and feel good doing so. My body likes hypoallergenic food best.

I hear a lot of people say that no good diet restricts food groups. I really, really understand what they’re saying. However, LOOK AT THE PESKY EIGHT! They are good, healthy foods!!!!! But if the GI tract immune system triggers a cascade that sets the rest of the body on edge, you’re not going to feel good.

So please, when someone says they can’t eat dairy or wheat, give them a break. When they say they can’t eat eggs or beef, give them a nod. It’s just as frustrating for them as it is you. And if you have any nagging health problems, talk with your doctor about a dietary referral to see if an oligoantigenic food trial helps you gain control of any of your issues.

Don’t use anything on my site as medical guidance or instruction. I hope it sparks curiosity to help you want to learn more. And, oh yes, I like to think that for most people, autoimmune type diets can be expanded with a whole health approach.

Be well. Be curious.

Terri