Category Archives: Health Issues

More Diet Advice to a Friend

You’re “fat” and you’re determined to do something about that. But you’re overwhelmed at the road ahead of you, which you’ve skipped down before, thinking, “This time! This time!” Darn it– that time and that time must have been circular highways, because somehow you ended back here at fat again.

Again. Again. Why is it always again? You’ve lost 8.1256 pounds this month’s go-round, but do you really have what it takes to ditch 50 pounds for FORever?

Forever means like, well, forever. Never stop. Ever. Suddenly, you dip your head, slump your shoulders, let out a deep sigh, and look at the ground. Maybe I can’t do it, you think. Why try?

Why try? Why try? I’ll tell you why. For every ray of sunshine that rises in the morning. For every star in the evening sky. For every smudge on the wall from the hand of your child. For every kiss from your husband. For me writing this post. For you wanting it so badly. For your liver, heart, brain, hormones, ovaries (if you have them) and knees, all weight-sensitive body parts.

Don’t be overwhelmed. You can do this! While it IS all about the long haul, the victory is won in the moment! Every moment presents each of us with the same important question: Will I keep my motivation in this moment? Not, “Will I keep my motivation for a year?” Or, “Can I eat this way for 30 days?” NO. Repeatedly for the rest of our lives the question is, “Will I keep my motivation in THIS moment?” And if you don’t, you truly, really do have the next moment.

Motivational Baloney

That’s great talk, Terri. That’s  motivational. For a moment. Till I fail. Motivational speakers help us for a moment. And only a moment. Everybody knows that.

That’s right. That’s right. That’s 100% true. The only person who can change anything is you. But I believe in you.

My mom once told me, “Terri, I wish I had your self-confidence.” I about fell off of my chair. First, this is the woman who made me most of who I am. Second, I’m not that self-confident. I believe in myself. I believe I can find a way. I don’t give up easily when handed a problem. But when I was on the volleyball end-line serving the game-point serve for the win, I really didn’t want to be there, despite a 98% successful serving percentage. When I started writing about nutrition, I was scared, thinking maybe the die-hard Paleo, Raw Foodists, low-carbers, Mediterranean dieters, or heck, even the food pyramid advocates were right. Doubt assailed, and continues to assail, me like a mad hornet. I have enough self-doubt for about 20 people. (Want some? No, no. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to show you it can be done, self-doubt and all.)

I’m helping my good friend Annie again with her forever weight loss plan, and I’m sharing things we talk about. I don’t know if I’m “qualified” or not. I’m not a nutritionist or a health coach or even a practicing physician anymore. You should check out everything you read here and not act blindly on any of it, especially health-related stuff. I can’t know the ins and outs of your story. I know I once struggled with bulimia and food addiction. I know obesity runs in my family. I know I’ve gained a new assurance around food, what I eat, and why I eat it with each passing year, and I know it’s required a hard look at my diet, my thought life, my history, my spirituality, and my driving motivation.

I’ve read about obese people losing all their weight and arriving at skinny, only to realize it didn’t provide the peace and security they envisioned. I don’t want that for any of you. This means interior work must be a priority as well as exterior work. I believe we are presented with problems in life to reach wholeness. It’s better than any video game you could ever play or design.

Doubtful and overwhelming thoughts crave full expression, not submersion. 

We’re only as strong as our ability to express our greatest weaknesses and fears. If you want to put obesity behind you, you have to face-to-face encounter your negative feelings. Instead of submerging negative feelings, they MUST be met and offered the light of day. I mean, for crying out loud, they’re there! The way people try to hide things is almost comical, if it wasn’t so sad. Hiding dirty socks under the bed for too long just keeps the room SMELLY!

I beg you to work very hard all day to catch negative emotions and name them. They are the junk food poisoning your brain and keeping you obese, telling you words like:

  • always
  • never
  • failure
  • can’t do it
  • too much
  • overwhelmed
  • stressed
  • weak
  • ugly
  • fat
  • too hard

So remember.

Permanently losing weight comes one choice, each moment at a time. You can change any bad choice now and from this choice onward.

Permanently losing weight requires cleaning up your thought life by identifying your feelings and expressing them fully to yourself. Start this assignment today. Now. (And teach it to your kids and spouse.) How did this article make you feel? Why?

Weight loss itself will NOT bring you happiness. Permanently changing the patterns that keep you on the circular highway of weight loss will.

You are worth it. Your body is worth it. Your kids are worth it. Your spouse is worth it. Your God is worth it. Persist despite your awareness of self-doubt.

I’ll keep sharing ideas that Annie and I discuss as they come up. There are MANY. If permanent weight loss was just moderately hard, you’d have done it a long time ago!

Terri

 

 

Diet Advice to a Friend

I have a friend (distant family member, really) whose weight and eating have led to morbid obesity. She’s a normal woman. With a normal job. And a normal life. But a VERY abnormal weight. She and I have worked together in the past to help her find her way to weight loss and vitality. (This is not an ad. I don’t do consulting. Nothing I say anywhere on this blog should be used as medical advice. I know you know that. NOT medical advice. My friend Annie is under the care of her own physician for overall health.) She did awesome. She rocked health and wellness and could have been a poster woman. Everyone was so proud of her. Then, life kicked her butt with some uninvited and completely undeserved huge life stressors, and eating right and being active fell down the ladder of importance. She and I had to stop corresponding and working on her health and weight due to lifestyle constraints beyond our control, but she knew I cared a lot. Discouragingly, she gained lots of weight back, and embarrassment and shame about her eating and her weight pursued her and closed in for the kill. But I was so happy when she contacted me the other day to see how we can get back to getting her on track again.

 

Since I’ve been busy trying to research select alternative treatments of traumatic brain injury and pancreatic cancer, I haven’t been able to put anything up on the blog. So I asked my friend if I could share some of what we write back and forth as encouragement to others too. She agreed, and my response to her request for my help is below. (Her name has been changed.) If it feels right, I’ll occasionally post snippets of our conversation to hopefully encourage others. She and I both want people to succeed.

 

My dearest Annie,

You can never let me down. I promise. This isn’t about me at all. It’s all about you! This whole thing is a million times over more than being about food and weight, and through it you will transform your food, your life, your inner spirit. That’s what it will take.

A couple of years ago, you moved forward in health and vitality. You’ve fallen down and you’re skinned up. Okay. But now, it’s time to move forward again. I believe the hard times and the face plants come to show us, to help us learn, to carve more deeply into ourselves and what our lives mean to us. What we want them to mean to ourselves and others. I see our bodies as a reflection of our inner state. In your letter, I heard shame, disappointment, and guilt. You’ve had a rough time of it all year. There’s NO doubt! And your eating simply reflected that inner (and outer) chaos.

 
That’s what we’ll do here. We’ll prioritize, organize, take action, and then frequently regroup to assess needs. Here’s some of your list. [I’ve worked with Annie before so I know how she successfully lost weight before. The questions I ask her below wouldn’t apply to everyone, they’re specifically tailored for Annie based on our prior work.]
 
 
You’ve got this! Let’s start working now and develop some goals for the next month, months, and next year. You do very well with directed goals.
 
With love,
 
Terri

Before You Give Up On Your Diet

By NMajik at en.wikipedia (Own work (Original caption: “Source: Self”)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By NMajik at en.wikipedia (Own work (Original caption: “Source: Self”)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the last post in my little Specific Carbohydrate Diet series. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is just a real food diet, with some added food tweaks that good observers throughout history have discovered reverse disease and promote healing. It is not the holy grail of diets, although for some patients, it is the cure they were looking for. (You may prefer the word “control” instead of the word “cure,” since these patients will probably never be able to go back to DiGiorno pizza.) I definitely suggest the SCD for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis as a starting point diet because there is research behind it. (See here for a short summary of the evolution of the SCD diet with references.)

When I used a form of SCD for my gastrointestinal issues (not inflammatory bowel disease), I ran into a few issues and the diet stalled for me, even regressed. I don’t give up easily when I think there’s a way to accomplish something, and so I played around with the diet and I read what other people trying the diet were saying. I’ve compiled a little list of things to try if SCD is not working for you.

Remember, nothing here on my site is medical advice and should always be investigated and explored. Talk with your doctor and maybe get a referral to a dietitian for help. This is the internet. Believe nothing. Question everything.

Eliminate “pesky” foods that are allowed on the diet: nuts, peanut butter, eggs, dairy. Foods that we know cause life-threatening allergies can also cause other immune reactions in the body that aren’t nearly so serious. Even though they aren’t life threatening like true allergy, they still can cause bad, uncomfortable immune reactions, especially at the interface of the gut lining (but not limited to the gut lining).

Common food allergens like nuts, peanuts, dairy, and eggs are notorious for more than just anaphylaxis and hives! If you read research studies, you’ll see them coming up again and again for things like migraines, eosinophilic esophagitis, and eczema! I feel like medical doctors only communicate the life-threatening aspect of these foods (which is super important, of course), and ignore their involvement in so many other disease states. So people walk around treating their problems with creams, puffers, and pills, when they could be investigating their diet.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet allows eggs, almonds, nuts, peanut butter, homemade yogurt, cheeses and butter. All good foods! But also all known top allergens that can perpetuate illness in susceptible people.

(Coconut is not necessarily a top 8 common allergen, but I’ve read of many SCD’ers having trouble with it, particularly the flour. I’d add it to the “pesky” list.)

How do you know which “pesky” to take out? Well, you can start with the one you have a sneaky suspicion about. Or you can see if your doctor will order you an IgG blood panel (which has such variable results for people), although you need to know up front that many conventional medical doctors disapprove of them. Or you can eliminate them all, and slowly bring them back in one at a time.

Whatever you do, be smart and make sure you’re getting any nutritional deficits accounted for!

Cut down on baked goods. When people switch to the SCD, they often, understandably, try to recreate the diet they had been eating: muffins, breads, pancakes, and cookies. ALL of these things can be made on the SCD and are super tasty! However, the ingredients for them come from the “pesky” category (almond flour, eggs, butter, and so on), so they really shouldn’t be routine food fare. They also come with a big whop of sugar; yes, I know it’s honey, but fructose in excess has its own negative effects. Baked goods are great as a transition to ease families into eating more real, wholesome foods. If my kids hadn’t had a baked good, I would  have had some runaways.

In any area of the diet you may be lapsing and skimping in, get strict again. Get back to eating only the legal foods with “no exceptions.” It’s so easy to let products back into our kitchens. A little guar gum here. A little BHT there. Some maltodextrin there. Some modified food starch. And then you’ve walked down the slippery slope and fallen. Crash and burn for a few little ingredients that really weren’t even that important to you!

Studies indicate that emulsifiers may cause problems for inflammatory bowel disease, so if you’re struggling, get the “small stuff” back out!

Alternatively, perhaps the idea of “being strict” is sabotaging adhering to the diet well, and adding in a few select real, whole, foods, like rice and/or potato may be helpful in overall adherence to the diet.

Even though certain foods are not allowed on the diet, that doesn’t mean that a person’s body and disease will not tolerate them. Yes, it’s best to adhere to the diet as it is written, but it is VERY likely that adjustments will have to be made. Remember, the diet is not magic. It can’t prophesy exactly what your body will and will not tolerate. If adding in a food that may not be problematic anyhow is the price to pay for keeping on the diet instead of giving up completely, it’s worth a trial! Make sense? (But do talk with your healthcare provider who is overseeing your diet. They might have some other tips they’d like you to try first.)

Elaine Gottschall, the author of the diet, did not intend for The Specific Carbohydrate Diet to be a forever diet. She advocated moving off the diet once symptoms were well-controlled.

Read about FODMAP foods. Foods have natural sugars and molecules that we don’t absorb and that feed our gut bacteria. It’s actually a good thing. But sometimes, guts that are compromised need a break from these too, or else they’ll have painful bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation.  FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAP foods can cause pain outside of actual inflammatory disease and would be worth exploring. I have noticed that many people suggest cutting down on fruit if the SCD isn’t working well for you, and I can see where certain fruits will exacerbate a FODMAP condition. Here’s a good site with FODMAP information. Just click on the symbol, and it brings up a nice handout.

Take away the power struggle. When it comes to kids, they MUST understand the diet and their bodies. Kids usually make good decisions when they’re given good information and see the impact of certain foods on their bodies. Make it a point to understand the diet and read the book, then paraphrase it and explain it to your child. Kids need empowered, not controlled. Sometimes our fears lead to a strong need to control, but kids will buck this. Well, at least mine do!

The mind-body idea. We KNOW that there is a BIDIRECTIONAL process between the brain and the gut and conversely, the gut and the brain. It works from the bottom up. And the top down. If you’re ready to take it beyond diet and supplements, maybe it’s time to move inward. Google things like mindfulness and IBD. Or hypnotherapy and IBD. See what you think. This area has definitely piqued my interest. It takes me months and years to write, so you’ll definitely want to read in this area before I get any posts up on it!

Well, that’s it for today. I’m sure there are other tweaks. I think the best tweak is to know you’re going to be okay. Know that nothing can get you, because you’re bigger inside than anything you can comprehend. If you’re on the religious side, know that you’re a spiritual being forever with a human body but fleetingly.

Feel welcome to post any tweaks you’ve found beneficial.

Over.

Terri

 

Explaining That Diet Does Help Severe “Stomach” Problems

baadsgaard-alfrida-ludovica-vi-opstilling-med-ananas-druer-ogImagine having diarrhea 15 times a day, every day. Add some blood to that. While you try to walk across a university campus. Or coach basketball.  Or serve on a Navy ship in the middle of the vast ocean. Or learn to add, subtract, and multiply.

This is life with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, collectively called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). And when I was a medical student on general surgery, I swear it seems like we were digging around every day in some poor patient’s intestines due to his or her inflammatory bowel disease. Many emerged from surgery with bags to collect their liquid bowel movements.

I feel like I’ve heard it a thousand times. “My doctor says it doesn’t matter what I eat for my Crohn’s disease.” Have you heard that? Do you believe that? That’s 100% false. Research since the 1970s shows that patients can go into remission with special “nutritional shakes.” 

Patients are often convinced that food impacts their disease, but they can’t always pinpoint how or which foods. Medical studies weren’t very helpful in the past; they looked at things like fats, amino acids, and vitamin D, finding some correlations, but nothing to hang their hats on. So hard-working doctors just shrugged their shoulders and said, “It doesn’t really matter, dear patient. Just eat.” [Scram. I’ve got 8 patients waiting to see me. I don’t have time to listen to you speculate about whether or not milk gives you diarrhea.]

But fascinatingly, studies have shown for forty years now, plus or minus, that IBD can be controlled with nutrition! Well, more accurately put, researchers and patients controlled IBD with exclusive enteral nutrition. Exclusive enteral nutrition, EEN for short, is basically just a “nutrition” shake kind of like Ensure or PediaSure, only it tastes much worse. The ingredients in the shake have been pre-digested so they can be absorbed completely in the small intestine.

Studies have repeatedly and reproducibly shown great results for IBD patients and EEN, particularly Crohn’s disease. How great? Well how does upward of 100% sound to you for a remission rate? Would you even settle for a 70% rate? Yeah. That good. I’m cherry picking a little; some studies didn’t have such high success rates, but most did. And some studies that didn’t look all that good to begin with looked better after the study results were adjusted for patients who just couldn’t tolerate the special liquids (often quite a few). Also, results were consistently better for pediatric patients [who often heal more quickly and have to be compliant whether they like it or not—and sometimes choose to be compliant because they feel so much better!]. (Kansal, 2013)

But patients and doctors, I guess, weren’t having that. Too yucky. Too restrictive. (Just for interest, I notice that Nestle seems to make many of these nutritional EENs.)

What’s in that shake?

Great minds pontificated about what it was in the EEN drink which could cause these patients to do so well. They played around with the liquid formulas with good success, trying to make them less repulsive and less expensive. Then they pondered, “Well, can we let our patients eat [cake] and take some of this EEN stuff?”

So researchers let patients drink the liquid EEN formula and have free access to table food at the same time. Yum! With free access to table food, despite the nutritional “shake,” the remission rates weren’t as good as when a patient ate only EEN liquid—but they were better than the patients who received no EEN at all. Aha! So it’s starting to look like something in table food perpetuates increased inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease patients. (Triantafillidis, 2015)

Okay. All Mama’s good table food really threw a wrench in the great effects of the EEN shakes. What next?

Well, allowing table food was a step backward, and researchers thought, “We need another twist. What can we do? This is fun.”

So researchers gave patients nutritional “shakes” and they let them eat only certain allowed foods. (NO CAKE this time. Sorry.) Bingo. Success rates held at about 70% of patients showing improvement and or sustained remission. (I know a lot of doctors who made just 70% in class and are successfully practicing. Pass equals MD, baby. Seventy percent is pretty good.) That’s awesome. How happy would you be to be symptom-free and able to eat some real food?  (Sigall-Boneh, 2014)

It’s 2017. Can we ditch the EEN altogether and just eat real food?

Now, we have to cap it off. Could patients get off of the disgusting “shakes” altogether? (Good-bye, Nestle…) Well, the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology is about to publish a study done by a Dr. Suskind (and his team, of course!) from Seattle Children’s Hospital. Ten pediatric patients followed a diet called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for three months, and 80% of them had symptoms improve significantly and even resolve and lab markers normalize. Eighty-stinking-percent! Let me repeat: eighty percent success. WITH FOOD.

Way to go Dr. Suskind and team. Way to take medicine back to truly patient-centered, do-no-harm care! And most importantly: WAY TO GO PATIENTS AND PARENTS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THIS STUDY! Changing how you eat is hard work, and most people balk, standing in the corner cowering with too much fear to leave their pizza and bread behind. Not you. Not you. (Suskind, 2017)

[Click here for a readable summary of Suskind’s report and here for an abstract of it.]

Meh. Study needs to be bigger.

Now, I showed someone Suskind’s research summary, and she replied, “But there’s only ten patients. I wish it was bigger.”

Sigh. So do I. But it’s what we’ve got. And it’s so promising. I’m ebullient. Diet alone! Eighty percent remission! With real food. No diarrhea! No bleeding! No stomach cramps! Virtually 100% safe. No injections! No risk of white blood cell counts crashing. Why won’t people try this?

Reminds me of a verse I learned from a big book, although I’ve adapted it. “The fiddle plays and you won’t dance. The singer wails a mournful tune, and you will not cry.” We are hard to please. Impossible nearly. What do we want? A magic bullet pill with no side effects?

I must close now. But you will not want to miss my next post about the amazing stay-at-home mom who made it her life mission to show the world that inflammatory bowel disease can be controlled most of the times with real, whole food. And I’ll explain a little about the diet that saved her 8-year-old daughter’s life and which she spent her life studying and evangelizing.

Terri

Citations:

Kansal, S., et al. “Enteral nutrition in Crohn’s disease: an underused therapy.” Gastroenterology research and practice 2013 (2013).  https://www.hindawi.com/journals/grp/2013/482108/

Triantafillidis, John K., Costas Vagianos, and Apostolos E. Papalois. “The role of enteral nutrition in patients with inflammatory bowel disease: current aspects.” BioMed research international 2015 (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4352452/

Sigall-Boneh, Rotem, et al. “Partial enteral nutrition with a Crohn’s disease exclusion diet is effective for induction of remission in children and young adults with Crohn’s disease.” Inflammatory bowel diseases 20.8 (2014): 1353-1360. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263548102_Partial_Enteral_Nutrition_with_a_Crohn’s_Disease_Exclusion_Diet_Is_Effective_for_Induction_of_Remission_in_Children_and_Young_Adults_with_Crohn’s_Disease

Suskind, D. L., Cohen, S. A., Brittnacher, M. J., Wahbeh, G., Lee, D., Shaffer, M. L., … & Giefer, M. (2017). Clinical and Fecal Microbial Changes With Diet Therapy in Active Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. Abstract only: http://journals.lww.com/jcge/Abstract/publishahead/Clinical_and_Fecal_Microbial_Changes_With_Diet.98120.aspx

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

A Letter To My Kids About Food

Dear Kids,

I love you so much. I see all the amazing things you are going to do and all the amazing people that you, as amazing people, are going to touch. I see all the brilliant, creative, and even practical ideas that you daily produce and will continue to produce for yourselves and the world. You are each precious to my heart. I often wonder how God can love each one of us human beings as special entities–and yet none more special than the next–and here, in my heart, I feel a meager bit of that bottomless capability. When compared to each other, you are each so different, but in my heart, you are loved with the same love.

What I want for you is to live boldly and freely, living up to your potential. Over the last four years, I have learned that for me to do so I must eat a real, whole food diet adjusted for some food sensitivities I have picked up (or maybe I was born with, I don’t know). You know how persistent I have been in keeping our diets clean, real, and whole. I do this because I see the effects it has on our allergies, our headaches, our stomach aches, our bowel control, our joint aches, our asthma, our skin rashes, our immune systems, and even our moods and concentration.

In essence, I persevere because I know now that what we all eat contributes to how well we can participate in life. And I want you all in.

Dear daughters, I want to tell you what I have told myself as I feed you to go do your work in life. Maybe it will help you when you have your own kids. Maybe it will help you now.

 

    Encourage and provide tons of vegetables and fruits.

Pay attention to which ones the kids like and how they like them prepared, making sure to keep those in the food line-up, while introducing new ones to stretch the taste buds.

Make it a goal to not buy pre-packaged foods. Give extra effort to buy whole foods without labels.  

I’ll admit we almost never reach our goal of “no labels,” but having this goal makes us very aware of our purchases and motivates us all to read labels. I love it when you pick up something packaged, and then put it down, saying, “Oh, we can make this. We don’t need to buy it.”

Don’t keep a lot of snack foods on hand other than nuts, vegetables, and fruit (seaweed is fun too), but respect kids’ needs for snacks.

I know the human liver was designed to certainly give three to four hours’ worth of glucose streaming in with no trouble. Perpetual snacks are not necessary in a healthy individual doing regular activities. However, sometimes, lunch was too small. Or supper not to the liking. Or volleyball camp consumed extra energy. Or friends are over. You name it. A well-placed snack is a good snack. But constant, mindless snacking is no good for the body.

Most kids like sweet stuff.

I’ve noticed you eat much better overall when you don’t feel deprived. I’ve also noticed you love a good smelling kitchen. Keeping you on track is easier when I prepare a dessert or sweet every now and then. How often? I honestly can’t say. I watch cues, and I know.

On vacations and certain occasions, step out of the way, letting kids enjoy the moment and the time with family and friends with abandon.

Sure, in the long haul, if a kid never ate ice cream or birthday cake or drank a soda pop, it’d be healthier. And there are probably some kids who will strike that path because of their parents’ rules. Then, there are kids who will just sneak it. Eat it with guilt and shame. Or break free at 18 from all the confinements. You can lie to your parents, but you can’t lie to the body. So eat some, then let it rest. For most people (not all), the body can handle an occasional gluttonous feast.

Do not equate food with body size or self-image. At the most basic level, food is eaten for the body to work right. (Most of the people we love most aren’t skinny.)

It seems like no matter what, somehow, everyone wants to bring it back to size and fat and how you look. I’d be lying if I said society doesn’t care about that. I try not to lie to you. But think about it. Most of the people we love the most aren’t skinny, so love and skinny can’t be equated. (It’s okay, you skinny friends. We adore you too!) Function is the most important, and whole, real food provides nutrition to keep those we love hiking and walking with us—and the processed foods keep them from doing exactly that.

Model real, whole food eating as a parent.

     Sometimes, you just have to say no.

One pediatrician I trained with always told parents, “If they’re told ‘no’ at 2, they’ll accept it at 16.”

I’ll tell you, once Halloween hits, the sugar bliss doesn’t want to stop until after Easter. I’ve seen the effects of all that stuff on your skin, stomachs, and noses. Sometimes, I have to be the meanie and say no.

Realize that even “healthy” things aren’t healthy for all people.

Food sensitivities are everywhere. For some, dairy is very health-promoting; for others, it flares up asthma. For some, whole grains lead to great energy; for others, grains, including whole grains, lead to listlessness and headaches. Sometimes, a parent will tend to think that how they eat is best, which may not actually be best for everyone, including their children. You know that I have a daughter who thrives on meat. I have another who doesn’t. Forcing one into one pattern and the other into another pattern could be highly detrimental to your lifelong eating patterns and health. Best to encourage you all to keep it real, not processed, and as fresh as possible, with awareness of food sensitivities.

     Teach what you know in the kitchen about cooking and actually talk about nutrition.

Life is not about food. It’s about living with your whole heart.

Love,

Mom