Category Archives: GAPS

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

Eleven Reasons THAT Won’t Work For You

Xiao_er_lun_-_Confucius_and_childrenIt’s so easy to let jealousy torment you when your husband loses 30 pounds eating very low carb (while sneaking in Snicker bars)–and you only lose 5 and swear it makes you manic. Why does it work this way?

It’s so easy to cry and wallow in yourself when you try everything for your multiple sclerosis (MS) and nothing seems to make it budge–well, not like it did for Terry Wahls, who changed her diet and lifestyle and went from a zero-gravity recline wheelchair to riding a bike. What does she have that you don’t?

And how about these people with cancer? The people who go to Mexico and get coffee enemas? Why does one come back glowing and cured and the other one we remember with love and frustration, saying, “Tsk, tsk. She wouldn’t take chemotherapy and look what happened to her. Goes to show. . . ”

I could go on and on. He dropped gluten and his arthritis went away. She started coconut oil and frankincense for her dementia and now she recognizes her family again. He gave up dairy, started some aloe, and his constipation is gone for good. Going raw, vegan cured her chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Dropping all grains and all dairy and all sugar and starting physiologic folate helped his autism. Fish oil cured her depression.

Can I stop? Do you get the idea? Is this you?

Shocker. Spoil alert.

Stop reading if you’re completely sold on a new diet or have just spent big money on a new supplement because I have some bad news.

It may not work for you. (Gasp. Shocker.)

But I have some good news too! It MAY work!

Today I want to help you understand maybe why you’re not getting better doing the good things you’re doing. Why each person’s health plan (diet, supplement, exercise, sleep, etc.) must be tailored individually. It sounds overwhelming to think you actually have to formulate your own health plan, that it’s not written out there for you in some book, but isn’t that really the journey of our whole life? Finding out what makes us tick? What brings us peace? Coming to terms with our limitations and expanding our strengths?

“I Don’t Have MS, Terri.”

Medical doctors group symptoms and tests together to arrive at a diagnosis. A label. A name. The name helps us to know what to expect for a patient’s outcome. What we’ve tried before that has helped or not helped.

Dementia. Psoriasis. Ulcerative colitis. Multiple sclerosis. Migraines. Crohn’s Disease. These are labels. They are necessary labels! For example, we know that the group of people who have ulcerative colitis symptoms and tests will need monitored for colon cancer, and that many celiac patients can be symptom-free following gluten-free diets. Having a label helps!

But there are tough cases. Cases which don’t fit, and sadly, they’re more common than medical doctors want to admit or even know about. These patients doctor shop, so often a doctor isn’t given the chance to even know that refractory cases are as rampant as they are. There are diagnoses that don’t have good treatments, like irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.

These patients, these refractory cases, are like a nebulous cloud which floats around looking for answers. Why can’t they get their answers?

I have a friend (actually I have many friends with MS, sad to say) with classic multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and diagnostic tests. She repeatedly tells me, “Terri, I don’t have MS. I’ve never believed I have MS.”

You’d think as a medical doctor, I’d laugh my head off silly.

Maybe you, as a vociferous alternative health proponent are thinking, “She must not be doing it right. She needs to do this [insert your desired diet or supplement]. She needs to try harder. She needs to try longer. . .”

Now, my friend is a little frustrated. She has had MS for years, and sometimes it’s better. Sometimes it’s worse. She has tried nearly everything.

What I want you to think about for people–is the possibility that our labels group similar health cases together which may stem from different causes. And when that is the case, when the underlying cause of presentations which LOOK the same is NOT the same, a person can bang her head into a wall (this is one of my favorite images because I’m so prone to doing this if I’m not careful) wondering, “Why not me? Why can’t I? Why did it work for her?” Except in a highly motivated individual who says, “I’m moving on. I can do this. That failure taught me something,” this can be counterproductive and harmful.

One Leukemia: 11 Diseases

And now I get to the crux of my post. When I was in medical school, I learned about acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). I learned it as ONE disease entity. ONE (a bad disease entity at that). New research shows that this AML that I learned about as one disease, is actually 11 diseases, with 11 different causes–which show up looking the same! This helped explain why some people responded so well to treatment and some people tragically did not. We weren’t treating ONE disease, we were treating ELEVEN!

See: Genomic Classification and Prognosis in Acute Myeloid Leukemia

I think that most of our clinically diagnosed diseases will ultimately be found to be caused and/or impacted in different ways. Until that day that you know exactly what the cause of your illness is–your obesity, your thyroid problem, your irritable bowel, your IBD, your arthritis, your insomnia, your depression, your constipation, your MS, and so on–until that day, you’re just going to have to take a flat-out comprehensive approach to have the best outcome.

So…

  • Should you eat low carb?
  • Should you eat high fat?
  • Should you eat dairy?
  • Should you eat meat?
  • Should you eat grains?
  • Should you take calcium?
  • Should you supplement with CoQ?
  • Should you take iodine?

And so on and so forth. Whether you should or shouldn’t may depend on your genes, how they are expressed, your gut microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses), and how your environment (sun, exercise, sleep, diet, daily doses of inadvertent toxins) interacts with those.

There is no ONE diet. There is no ONE lifestyle. In fact, there’s probably no one dementia. No one MS. No one IBS. There may be 11.  So find a platform which resonates with you. Try it. Be willing to modify it. Don’t abandon what works. Keep what works and build your plan. Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Start with absolutely real food if you have a problem you really need to tackle. And move forward, tweaking as your body tells you.

(And, of course, seek medical advice and always be safe.)

Terri

Photo credit: By An unknown Chinese artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Outsmart Your Diet

 

“You’ve started a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, and you’re feeling pretty zippy. Household purchases of tissues for allergy symptoms are down, and household purchases of toilet paper for gastrointestinal regularity are up. The kids no longer complain of tummy aches and itchy rashes. Your energy level feels amazing. As long as Enjoy Life® chocolate chips and Rice Dream® are around, what is there not to love about eating this way? Why doesn’t every doctor prescribe a gluten-free, dairy-free diet? You just can’t understand it!

Enter nutrient deficiencies. Wheat products and dairy products, despite being pesky foods for the body to digest, pack huge nutrient punches. They are even vehicles for specifically added nutrients which are deficient in our diets, such as folic acid in bread and vitamin D in milk. Doctors know that an improperly implemented gluten-free, dairy-free diet is a set-up for nutritional disaster. They have nightmares of vitamin D-deficient women with broken hips and spina bifida-afflicted newborns from folic acid deficiency. Gluten-free, dairy-free diets make them cringe inside.

A poorly thought-out gluten- and dairy-free diet that relies on processed gimmick products can lead to nutritional deficits—sometimes causing problems much worse than those originally set out to be cured. None of us want that, particularly for vulnerable children. In addition, going gluten-free before an appropriate celiac disease work-up really complicates matters because celiacs should not have a speck of gluten. Please make sure to talk to your doctor about changes in your family’s diet and don’t be afraid to ask for a referral to a nutritionist to help you. This article is not intended to be medical advice but instead to raise awareness. So what are the most common deficiencies when gluten and dairy are cut out and how can they be addressed?

CALCIUM: Dairy is hands-down the easiest way to meet calcium requirements, and calcium is necessary for all of your cells to function. Although it is absolutely possible to obtain the recommended calcium intake without dairy products, it requires exceptional diligence and a willing palate. Good food sources of calcium besides dairy include kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, peas, dried figs, and bone-in canned salmon and sardines. When we eliminated dairy two and a half years ago, my kids ate just about none of those foods. Now, they will eat bites of every single one. However, it takes about three cups of cooked kale or one can of sardines to equal the 300 mg of calcium in a glass of milk or cup of yogurt—and that’s not even enough calcium for one day. My kids are good, but they aren’t that good! I work very hard to serve calcium-rich, natural foods daily, but I also choose to supplement with calcium fortified non-dairy milk and a calcium supplement. If you use a non-dairy milk (such as almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk), be sure to shake it well because the calcium often sinks to the bottom…” (Molly Green Magazine)

If you’re on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, you need to outsmart it so you can be tip-top healthy.  Can you guess the other nutrients besides calcium that you’d miss out on if you eliminate gluten and dairy? Can ya’?  What do you think they are?  What non-processed foods (and yes, I do consider rice milk and gluten-free English muffins to be processed) do you think you can use to bolster them?  Find out by clicking over to Molly Green On-Line where I write for the wonderful price of free.  If your fingers are broken and you can’t–or you’re just tired of being jacked around all the time by internet personalities–then take a stab in the comments, and I’m happy to share what I know in conversations there.  It won’t be laid out so nicely with great, amazing graphics, but it’ll get you the information.  And THAT–is what I care about!

Seriously, ask away.  I just want you to have the information.  Not dogma.  Not a one-sided view.  Not entrenched, inflexible opinion.  Information, pure and simple (although often quite complex 🙂 ).  And I don’t care if you get it here, in Molly Green, or anywhere else, as long as its accurate.  You never learn if you don’t ask questions.  You never learn if you think you know the answers already.

Enjoy your weekend!

~~Terri

Paprika Chicken: Sure to Please and Super Easy

Our family really loves this recipe. It is very quick to make and super easy. It can be made dairy-free by using olive oil  in place of the butter. It is good for when you want something that is easy but still very yummy! 😉

paprika chicken

PAPRIKA CHICKEN

(Served four with leftovers.)

2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips or use the pre-cut “tenderloins”
1/4-1/2 cup melted butter or olive oil
Salt, 1 teaspoon
Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon
Garlic powder, 1 teaspoon
Paprika (or smoked paprika), 1 teaspoon
Oregano, 1-2 teaspoons

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius).

2.  Place the chicken in a 9X11 pan.   (Don’t be afraid to cram ’em in there.)

3.  Drizzle the chicken with either melted butter or olive oil.

4.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano.

5.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until juices run clear when the chicken is pressed down with a fork.

Serve alongside a side of potatoes or sweet potatoes or rice or squash and something beautifully green.

Family “gustar” report:  100% success rate.  Everybody approved.  Super delicious and super easy.  If you want to make it even better, then consider pounding your chicken.  But this adds a little more mess, work, and time.  I am in fifth grade, and I make this for the family myself.

Warmest wishes for health and happiness from our kitchen to yours–from our family to yours!

~~Mary and Terri

Curing My Colon

Last post was my personal gastrointestinal story.  Did you come back for more?  Really?  I know.  Forget Freud and his envy idea.  Freud had it all wrong.  I have the real psychological envy theory figured out.  What is it you ask?  Drumroll.  We all desire something actually within our reach.  More drumrolling.  Whether male or female.  Final drumroll.  Colon health.  Yep.  Forget those nether male parts.  I want none of that.  But colon health?  Sure.  A little bit of “colon envy?”  Probably so.

How did I achieve the object of my heart’s desire, colon health?  Let me tell you.  (But let me first remind you that this is a personal story.  It is not intended and should not be used as medical advice.  Eating real food could be dangerous for your health, and I must tell you so for your own good.)

1.  Massive nutritional intervention (aka dietary overhaul):

Did I say massive?  Oh, man.  Was it.  My nutrition has changed so much, I don’t even recognize food served at potlucks and ball parks anymore.  (Our soccer club is begging for parents to work in the concession stand.  Not this mama.  I’d lose sleep if I handed any of that stuff out.)  I started a diet called GAPS and followed it for 18 months before diversifying what I ate.  People really get hung up on names of diets, which I disagree with, but I certainly now know that a person has to have a blueprint to follow to start changing their diets.  I would have failed without a guide. What people eat has become so off base, so unnatural, that we CANNOT see it.  A real food-based diet was key.

So what do I eat?  The bottom line is I eat REAL, unprocessed food and I usually try to avoid grains.  My diet is rich in vegetables (all types but particularly greens), fats (plenty of it), fruits, and fresh meats.  You will find my diet devoid of processed foods, sugar, processed flours, low in grains, and devoid of processed oils like vegetable oil.  Did I mention that my diet was rich in vegetables?  Well, my diet is rich in vegetables.

But diet alone wouldn’t kick the colon and relieve my envious spirit.

2.  Identification of food intolerances:  

I was shocked, appalled, and disgusted when the GAPS introduction diet helped me identify food intolerances for two reasons.  One, I love to eat.  Two, food intolerances seemed so, oh, I don’t know, just so weak and finicky.  (I didn’t like the thought of being that dinner guest.)  For awhile, I told myself the intolerances were just in my head.  But careful exclusion and reintroduction revealed that I had sensitivities to dairy, nuts, coconut, chicken, eggs and certain fruits and vegetables.  I also knew that gluten was problematic too.  Definitely some of those foods slowed my gut down and I had to take them out.  Out.  Out. Out.  Dairy, nuts, gluten, and eggs were worst offenders for me.  (This will lead to my next saga of curing my leaky gut.  Leaky gut leads to food intolerances.)

But diet and removal of problematic foods were not Holy Grails in my colonic development.

3. Experimented with probiotics: 

I have used many types of probiotics and probiotic foods (and drinks).  I don’t always use the same kind.  My gut is moving now with one called Jarrow Ideal Bowel Support (lactobacillus plantarum).  But last fall before I got pregnant, it was moving with VSL #3.  (VSL#3 increases butyrate.)  There was a period where it moved with GI Pro Health’s lactobacillus  acidophilus.  But never could I deviate from my diet and  high dose magnesium.  Some people have success with S. boulardi and soil based organisms, but these didn’t help me when I tried them.  For me, it does seem valuable to drive up the dose to about 40 billion colony forming units daily.  That is usually much higher than the labeled dose.  Probiotics may help decrease inflammation, provide a better environment for the host’s normal bacteria, and may also make metabolites to feed other host bacteria.

Although much improved with diet, intolerance identification, and probiotics, my colon was still in Freudian-like angst.

4.  Removed Mirena IUD:  

I do not recommend this if you REALLY do not want an addition to your family.  (For us–Welcome Baby Girl Number Four!)     But progesterone is known to influence GI peristalsis, so to gain any edge I could, I had my Mirena IUD, which provides a little progesterone, removed.  Incredibly, for about two weeks after the Mirena was out, my gut moved well on its own, only to revert to its usual slow self.  Hormones definitely play a role in constipation.  I hope to have more posts on this later.

Colon health still evaded my pursuits…

5.    Working on GI colon barrier:

The integrity of the GI tract, its bacterial flora, and its mucous layer is important.  If I can help these to be restored, I can decrease chronic inflammation in the gut which could irritate and exacerbate my bowel troubles.  To work on my GI colon barrier I incorporate homemade broths and gelatin into my diet.  I remove known inflammatory foods and foods that I am intolerant to, which would increase inflammation.  I use the probioitics.  Butyrate is known to be anti-inflammatory in the gut, and I started taking that.

Yee-haw.  That just about takes care of it!

6.  Butyrate:

For me, this supplement called butyrate (butyric acid) finally allowed me to stop taking anything for constipation.  Now I have to get off of the butyrate again (like last fall)!  I have loads of posts on butyrate, and although it seems very safe, I still don’t like supplements.  Assuming you have the appropriate bacteria in your colon, you can eat particular foods to increase butyrate production.  After having a baby recently, I have once again resumed butyrate and will try to transition to butyrate-producing foods once again to see if I can be supplement-free for my GI tract like I was briefly last fall!

Colon envy averted.

7.  Other implemented changes that don’t work in isolation but help in a minor way:  

  • Find quiet time to sit without interruptions:  Not an easy task to accomplish but it seems to help.  No TV.  No cleaning.  Just sitting and reading. The gastro-colic reflex is great in the morning, and so getting up early before everybody else and before the stress of the day helps capitalize on this natural reflex.  If I miss this window, I may skip that day.
  • A warm drink in the morning:  It seems to offer a slight nudge.  Caff, decaf, or tea.
  • Feet on a stool to help anatomical alignment:  I used my kids’ little step-stool for a long time.  Then I bought a Squatty Potty, but my step stool was just as good.  Let me tell you, a Squatty Potty or step stool is NOT going to get your bowel MOVING again if you don’t even have urges.  But it may provide better anatomical alignment so that if you have stool in your rectal vault and an urge, it is easier to pass.
  • Large meals rather than grazing:  A large meal stimulates the gastro-colic reflex more than a small snack.  The term gastro-colic reflex refers to the movement of the colon in response to a meal.
  • Cherries:  I hate to mention one food which helps.  For so many years I had to listen to people tell me to just eat prunes, sauerkraut, pickles, or watermelon.  “If that doesn’t do it–you’ve got problems.”  Well, yes I did.  No food ever, ever helped me.  If it had, I would have been content to stop right there.  But this past summer, I found that those large, red cherries actually did help peristalsis.  Of course, bowls of them.  So I tried some dried cherries.  Worked, too.
  • Bowl retraining:  As the rectum and colon are under chronic distention from chronic constipation and stool in the rectal vault, they will “reset” themselves to accommodate more stool.  Thus, it will take even more distention and pressure to make it push stool out the vault.  If you’ve had constipation long enough, you may need to have some bowel retraining, which you can ask your doctor about.  It may require biofeedback exercises and enemas.  Enemas are not good to use routinely.

 

Closing:

Despite my attempts at humor, if constipation is your problem, so much so that you’re considering a colectomy, then I strongly encourage you to ask your doctor if it’s okay to try the things I talk about above.  I know some of you are just about unresponsive to anything.  You may not achieve complete success, but maybe if you can get some of the simple over-the-counter meds working for you again, you might be able to avert a huge surgery.  When I started this journey, I had to take high dose over the counter meds to get my GI tract to move three days later.  Slowly, with these changes, magnesium started working again.  And now, I’m actually confident I’ll be med-free for constipation in the near future.  And along the way, I’ve shed headaches, fatigue, and allergy prescriptions.  I’ve left some things out that I’ve tried since they didn’t seem to contribute greatly, but maybe they did more than I know.  I don’t mind questions.  Good luck.  The best to you.

Remember, this is my story.  Please seek the advice and treatment of a real, live doctor you trust.

Terri

The Unglorious Call to Action

IntestineThat is a personal problem.  Not a medical problem.

Here’s the poop.  No.  No.  I mean scoop.  My call to nutritional voodoo was, well, to say the least, not a glorious one.  Other nutritional blog hosts–oh such extraordinary, amazing recovery stories from horrible illnesses like multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.  Motivating and inspiring us all to higher eating!  My issue–hmmm.  Right.  Not so inspiring.  Considered by the uninformed to be a personal problem, not a medical problem.  Ah, well.  Even if I arrived in Nutritional Nirvana via a clumsy fall on my derriere, I am here all the same.  My gut is working.  And the pursuit of that goal is pretty much what started this blog.

My History

I’m a 39 year-old female.  I have had chronic constipation all of my life.  Although not a common issue, I can remember twice in high school when I had horrible stomach cramps prompting me to head to the nurse’s office.  On the way, the visceral pain overcame me, and I passed out leaning against the lockers in the hall.  As a sixteen year-old girl I did not make the connection between constipation and these symptoms.  Neither did anyone else!  “You just need to eat more.”  Mmm-kay.  It never dawned on me that my gut was trying to move against a brick and it hurt!  I thought bricks were normal.  I mean, nobody talks about bowel movements at 16!  (I suppose I’m not supposed to talk about them ever.  But since I’m a medical doctor, no orifice or function makes me blush.)

Each decade, my GI function worsened, and I did finally realize in pharmacy school that my gut was abnormal.  The next ten years brought rounds of different fiber preparations (I can make darn tasty desserts with Metamucil wafers), docusate, milk of magnesia, magnesium supplements, suppositories, Miralax, yogurt, probiotics, prunes, shredded wheat (half a box a day), and finally, despite my attempts to only use them sparingly, daily stimulant laxative became required.  Mind you, even with those stimulant laxatives which were needed at doses which would kill a normal human being, my bowel movements still only occurred about every five to ten days and still were not easy to pass.  My gut was slowing down from slow to stop and becoming refractory to everything I knew to try.  I visited several doctors through the years and I always got the same answer:  more fiber and water.  Got a colonoscopy.  Pretty negative.  Got checked for low thyroid and celiac disease.  Negative.

I decided to think outside of the box and took to the wilderness of internet medicine.  Talk about crazy.  How do some of these people say these things without a license?  Guess I’m glad they can because it tipped me off in the right direction, and I embarked on the odd diet called GAPS (at least that founder has a medical license)–before I knew about Paleo which sounds way cooler than GAPS.  (Ha!  Ha!  I actually have landed on a diet which has no name but uses the templates of several diets.)  GAPS helped me identify food intolerances and taught me how to eat a nutrient dense diet.  It got my gut usually responding again to high dose magnesium (Natural Calm), but I don’t think high dose magnesium is good to take for the rest of my life.  So my endeavors persisted.  My goal is NO supplement for my constipation.  For myself, I try to use supplements as a bridge to achieve my health goals.  Once my health goal is achieved, I’d like to try to maintain it with food choices if I can.  However, I recognize there are conditions which will require lifelong dependence on medicines and/or supplements, not to mention declining content of certain nutrients in our food sources.

Achieving Success

This week I’ve lived large, taken a chance, and dropped the magnesium which sustained me through pregnancy.  My gut is working daily!  Back in November 2013, my gut was also working very well daily, and I was set to write this post back then.  I had started butyrate (butyric acid), and although it isn’t supposed to make it to the colon, it worked like a charm on my gut.  My GI tract moved daily and even my stupid food intolerances seemed diminished just in time for Thanksgiving.

But I hate supplements (please know that I do take some). I wanted to allow my body (I consider those bacteria in my gut to be part of my body.) to make its own butyrate, so  I tried to incorporate green bananas, green plantains, cold potatoes, occasional bites of raw potato and sweet potato, some legumes, and potato starch slurried up in water each night to get my own gut bacteria to make butyrate.  Things were going great.  Just great!  I was able to stop my butyrate and still have the same effects.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.

Then, we were blessed with pregnancy.  Let me rephrase that.  We were blessed with a baby.  Pregnancy is no sleigh ride with jingle bells. (Increased constipation has always been in an issue in pregnancy.  This time was much better.  There was a time at about 14 weeks along where my gut completely stopped and nothing I did made it move.  I got worried, but after a couple of weeks, that lifted and magnesium helped again.)  However, I worked through all the food and supplement aversions and stomached magnesium, which I needed again every single day in excessive doses.  I bid “good-bye” to butyrate and resistant starch foods, which sounded disgusting during this time.  I delivered in July a beautiful, healthy girl.

About two weeks ago, I decided it was again time to get rid of that excessive magnesium and all that it was probably doing to my calcium balance.  Besides that, the magnesium didn’t always work daily.  I decided to take butyrate again and started incorporating resistant starch foods into my diet.  Would the experiment work for me again?  I was nervous since I had proclaimed success with butyrate in fall of 2013.  What if it failed?  I would have reported it, you know.  But I would have felt very stupid because I never want to lead anyone astray.  The experiment for me has successfully repeated itself.  Now all that needs to happen is to continue the resistant starch foods and see if I can taper myself off of the butyrate supplement.

Closing

So you see, mine is not the most glorious nutritional conversion story there is.  But it’s real.  It has convinced me that eating a nutrient dense diet, excluding inflammatory foods, and supporting the body’s bacterial flora is key to health and curing disease.  I am pretty much 100% convinced that this experiment would never have worked two and one-half years ago in the gut that I had then.  I’ve worked very hard and tried a lot of things to rehabilitate my broken colon.  In the next post, I am going to list what I feel has been most important for getting my gut peristalsis in working order.  I will report what worked for me.  Don’t assume that what works for me will work for you.  I want to make sure you seek the advice of your doctor; I don’t want you to overlook serious health conditions because you’ve given up on conventional medicine.  Don’t use my story as medical advice.  That it is not.  This is my story.

~~Terri
Photo credit:

Originally from en.wikipeida.  Author Dflock.  Now public domain.

Folate Delivery Dressing

I have one more post on folate to share before I leave it behind.  It is a recipe I use to help my family eat more greens,Greens eat good food including the folate-powerhouse spinach.

Goal: 

Eat more folate-rich foods, including greens.

Why:

Some people–maybe you–can’t metabolize the form of folate called folic acid very well.  Folic acid is what is added to most grain-based processed foods and used in most vitamins.  These people do much better with folates found naturally in foods.  Since they don’t metabolize folic acid very well, their bodies are basically functioning on a “folate deficiency” despite adequate intake of folic acid.

So what?

I don’t know.  Which reason do you want?  Folate deficiency may play a role in depression?  Bipolar disorder?  Birth defects?  Anemia?  Atherosclerosis?  Alzheimer’s?  Chronic fatigue syndrome?  Gout?  Hearing loss?  Blood clots?

Although the research on folate’s connection to many of these conditions is not clear-cut, there are some suggestions.  On something as simple as eating real, folate-rich food, I don’t see a need to wait around for the million dollar research study.

Plan:

When it comes to folate, spinach leads the pack.  I use this simple dressing which the kids enjoy to deliver folate-rich greens, including spinach, to my family.

 

Folate Delivery Dressing

1/3 cup of bacon drippings
1/4 cup of maple syrup (or honey or sweetener of choice)
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
Diced onion (may omit)
Salt and pepper to taste
Spinach (or greens of choice)

Heat bacon drippings in skillet over medium-high heat until melted and hot.  Add onions and saute until golden brown.  Add the maple syrup and whisk.  Allow to thicken and bubble.  Add apple cider vinegar and whisk again.  Allow it to reduce and thicken a little.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Use the dressing to pour over fresh spinach, tossing to wilt.  Use just enough to coat as desired.  Alternatively, the greens may be added to the pan and cooked a little.

 

warm bacon dressingBottom Line:

Nutrient deficiencies abound.  Not huge deficiencies that can be pointed at directly.  But little micronutrient deficiencies.  Feed yourself and your families fresh vegetables, fruits, and foods to overcome these deficits.  You’ll feel the difference!  It is important.  I just wish I could emphasize this enough!

Thank you to my lovely, young daughters for the graphics on this post.

~~Terri