Category Archives: Nutritional Intervention

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

 

 

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

 

A Real Fiber Challenge

256px-annibale_carracci_the_beaneaterI have just completed the most fascinating 30 day food experiment. Well, actually, my husband and kids requested that I cut it short at 29 days, so it was actually just a mere 29 days. I’ve read that what we eat affects our brain, and I believe it, but during this “30 day” experiment, I lived it! It was very uncomfortable, like how I picture walking around hypo-manic would feel.

Experiment

My goal was to eat 50 grams of fiber from real, whole foods, supplementing if I had to with supplemental powders for 30 days. Nothing was counted except fiber grams, and only those as listed in a nutrition facts count on any given internet site or on any given label. No resistant starch was included to get me to the 50 gram mark, so I am sure with resistant starch included, I was definitely exceeding 50 grams of fiber daily.

Foods

I realized very quickly how hard getting 50 grams of real, whole food fiber was going to be, and that my normally vegetable rich diet wasn’t going to get me but less than half of 50 grams! THAT was a SHOCKER!  I love red cabbage and broccoli, but at 2 grams of fiber a cup, I couldn’t eat enough of that stuff to get me anywhere close to 50 grams! (Most fruit is the same way! About 2-3 grams per cup!)

I didn’t have a set list of foods. I just looked for the highest fiber counts I could. What did I eat all month?

  • Beans about daily
  • Avocado about daily
  • Chia about daily
  • Bananas very commonly
  • Sweet corn in season
  • 100% whole grain/seed buckwheat, quinoa, and seed-based soaked and fermented homemade bread
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Flax
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Peas
  • Dried fruit: figs, apricots, dates
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Pumpkin
  • Berries
  • Plantains
  • Sauerkraut
  • Peanut butter
  • Cocoa powder/cacao nibs
  • Bulleted list is getting too long: Broccoli, red cabbage, kale, cabbage, cilantro, parsley, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, rice

Results

Appetite: After my mid-morning 25 grams breakfast/brunch of the above foods, I was not hungry. The first week I had pretty intense cravings for sweets, but these calmed down by week two. By week two throughout week four, I was NOT hungry. Nothing sounded good. It was hard to cook for my family because nothing sounded good. I just wanted to hand them more beans and say, “Supper’s ready!” I forced myself to eat more because I wanted to try to hit the 50 gram mark. I literally couldn’t do it. So about every night I had to top off with about 10 grams of chia seed or inulin powder.

Weight: I started with my appetite rather than my weight because some people will find the weight gain disturbing. I started at about 138 pounds, and I ended up at about 146 pounds. I believe my weight went up because I forced myself to eat. Had I let my eating follow my appetite, the numbers may have been different. HOWEVER, my husband gained 5 pounds this month! This is one reason he feels he gets a veto on any diet I experiment on myself (and subsequently my family) with. He didn’t like the high fiber diet. Isn’t that strange he gained weight? I thought so!

Endocrine: My two-hour postprandials ran in the 90s. This is where they ran before this experiment as well.

Neurological: Three days into the diet I developed a severe headache which didn’t go away until on about day four I took an Aleve. I used to take Aleve about three times a week before I changed my diet (four years ago). I now take it maybe once or twice a year. Also, by the third day, brain fogginess and tiredness had set in.

I could have tossed all this onto a stressful life heap, but what was new was a tremor! By about the third day, I developed a fine tremor which made buttoning buttons difficult. I just felt tremulous throughout. The tremor lasted until about week three, when it slowly receded. In this time, I tried changing my coffee, because it felt like you feel when you have too much coffee.

Psychological: Flat. Flat. Flat. Edgy. Edgy. Edgy. Go. Go. Go. OCD. OCD. OCD. Forgetful. Forgetful. Forgetful. (Because I literally felt like my mind was on speed.) My kids wanted me to stop the diet. My husband wanted me to stop the diet. I wanted to stop the diet, but I wanted to see where this would take me. My husband said, “Maybe you’re depressed.” I felt like my face would crack if I smiled, and I said, “I don’t think I’m depressed. I don’t feel like I’m depressed.” So I watched some hilarious YouTube videos and laughed my socks off. I wasn’t depressed.

But my brain was bad. It had a motor and it wouldn’t shut off. My whole body had a jittery motor! No meditation. No prayer. No sitting watching TV. No whatever—would make my brain shut off. I corresponded with some people during this time, and I know they think I’m a raging lunatic. I accept it that I have some of those qualities above, or at least have some of them at various times; they make me me! I like a clean house. I like my to-do list done. But this was taking all those traits and raising them to the 50th power all at the same time!

With that tremor, headache, fogginess, racing mind, edginess—I just was a mess. The second reason my husband says he gets diet veto power!

Gastrointestinal: I usually cruise along happily on what I eat, but occasionally, I get it in my head that it’s time to try something new to see if I can get off of magnesium, which I see no end in sight of. I’ll be on it till I die. (Don’t get me wrong! I’m happy that it works! That’s more than many people with severe slow transit have!) My constipation flared up after three days into the experiment (along with that horrid headache), and I had to up my magnesium. Then, I overshot, of course. Then, distended anal vessels flared up from the overshoot and from the increased abdominal distention. Ouchie.

Usually, I take my magnesium about every third day, and it still works “daily.” On this experiment, I had to take magnesium every night. Bummer.

Bloating was very bad the first week. Then, by week two, it actually decreased to less than my normal baseline! That was nice! It came back for some reason the last week of the experiment.

I checked a UBiome right at the start of my little experiment, and then the kit was in the room where they baby was sleeping. So no UBiome after.

Reproductive: At the end of the first week, I was having hot flashes at night and very restless sleep, along with the tremor I already mentioned. These went away by the end of week two. I had Mittelschmerz that woke me up one night, which I’ve never had before, although that’s maybe not fair. I’ve had it during the day a couple of times before like that.

Summary:

At the third day of week one, things were uncomfortable: headaches, brain fog, flatness, irritability, jittery, tremulous, bloating, constipation. I hung in there this way for two weeks. At that point, I decided maybe I’d have to take a day off this challenge. So, I fasted and my head and tremor seemed to improve dramatically late morning and early afternoon. Then, at 3 pm, since I felt good, I decided to get back at it.

All my symptoms returned by late evening. I took to eating a late breakfast/early lunch to have some moments of clarity. By the end of three weeks, I could feel, and my husband noted too, that I was having increased moments where I was more “me” again, even after eating. What was surprising was that this week was a very stressful week in our home, with a common childhood disease making the rounds of the house. Yet, I was feeling calmer. Still not baseline (which, lol, isn’t all that calm to begin with!).

I’m two days off the high fiber diet, and I’m feeling like me again.

Go ahead and criticize my self-study. There are flaws. I DIDN’T put it on the internet to bash high fiber in any way, shape, or form. I am putting it here for us to maybe learn something together. I’ve come up with a differential in my head. What do you come up with? (But be nice. My kids read my blog stuff.)

I’ve decided that I won’t jump into high fiber suddenly. That was pretty painful.

With respectful regards and voracious, healthy curiosity,

Terri

PS: Always be careful! Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider before you make any big changes. Don’t use internet information to experiment without your doctor or healthcare provider knowing and being on board.

Addendum: After thinking on this more and more, I’m thinking that my poor results stem from either sensitivity to the foods I started consuming more of (chia, non-gluten grains, legumes) or dysbiosis of my GI tract leading to these symptoms. I do not believe it was the “fiber” per se.

Image attribution: Annibale Carracci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain, PD-Art.

 

 

Gluten-Sensitivity Validation and More Discouraging News about Obesity

I’ve wanted to make time to share two articles with you from the last week or so. One on the brain and obesity and one about gluten sensitivity.

The first, and I’m going to summarize brutally, indicates that middle-aged obese people have smaller brains.

Now let me fill in a few details. The journal Neurobiology of Aging posted the article  “Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life,” reporting that when middle-aged, obese study participants were compared to middle-aged, normal weight study participants, the obese patients had more brain atrophy. (Atrophy means shrinking or wasting.) When matched according to white matter volume, obese patients’ brains appeared the size of patients ten years older.

Make sense? Basically, obesity for some reason predicted that a middle-aged person would have a smaller brain, about the size of someone ten years older. (Brains naturally atrophy as we age.) An obese patient’s 50-year-old brain would look 60 years old.

(What is obesity? If you don’t know your BMI, I suggest you calculate it so that you are not lying to yourself about the state of your weight. Obese people tend to just call themselves overweight. And morbidly obese people tend to just classify themselves as obese. Here is a BMI calculator.)

Please focus on changing your eating for forever—not on temporary weight loss. The article (and other articles reporting on it) really focuses on the weight. I DO believe that weight is important—BUT more in light of the reflection that food choices are not being matched for the individual person. You can lose weight eating only green beans from a can and shrink your belly. But I don’t think that’s the best deal to protect your brain!

Eat real. Don’t eat anything processed. If the weight is still stubborn, eat real, unprocessed AND make it PLAIN. Protect the brain. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Your kids are worth it. Obesity kills your life slowly. Painfully.

Next article up is about gluten-sensitivity.

Do you feel bashful saying you’re gluten-sensitive? I mean, it’s not like you’re terribly allergic and going to die. Or celiac and really killing your organs by eating wheat. You just, well, you just don’t feel good after eating that bread. And your mom gets a little frustrated with you at family gatherings, having nothing to thicken the gravy with! Can’t she use a little bit?!? That wouldn’t hurt you, would it?

The journal Gut ran a research article titled “Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease.”

That’s a long title. I’ll explain the article really briefly:

Definite lab abnormalities were found in those who reported gluten sensitivity, and the changes were NOT the same as those found in celiac disease. Gluten sensitive patients had lab markers suggestive of systemic immune activation and a compromised intestinal epithelial barrier integrity. (Specifically, they had increased levels of soluble CD14, increased lipopolysaccharide-binding protein, increased antibodies to microbial flagellin, and elevated fatty acid-binding protein 2.)

Specific symptoms they looked at for inclusion in their study were bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, memory problems, thinking problems, or numbness and tingling of your arms and/or legs. They felt these were the most common symptoms associated with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

After six months of a gluten-free diet, the non-celiac gluten sensitive patients felt better and their labs returned to normal.

The discussion of the article is very interesting, worth a read if you are up to the terminology being thrown around.

I’m one of those people who hates to be a nuisance, but when I eat gluten, I get side effects. So I went gluten-free four years ago (and ate real, whole foods and watched out for other food sensitivities). Being a medical doctor by training, it was really hard for me when the medical field really shamed the idea of gluten sensitivity. Suddenly I was personally pitted against everything and everybody I believed to be true and right professionally. The last four years have been QUITE the eye opener professionally.

So it’s good to see validation.

I really, really encourage you to eat whole, real food. No strange added ingredients. Grains as fresh and whole as you can if you do them. Oils and fats as unprocessed and as close to the source as you can get them. Skip white sugar unless you’ve decided it’s a really special day.

The Homeschooling Doctor logoYou are worth feeling good.

Terri

 

Give Your Kid a Brain Edge

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Want to give your kid a brain up? I know we think about waistlines and cavities when we think about junk food, but we really need to be giving thought to THE BRAIN!

A brain is a precious thing to waste, but indeed as parents, we are doing just that with our dangerous eating and feeding habits. The food a child eats nourishes his or her gut bacteria (or doesn’t). Then, by-products and interactions of the child’s own gut bacteria feeds forward to interact with the function and development of his or her brain.

Stomach. Brain. Connected.

Fiber Helps the Brain

Research supports that high fiber foods– and I ALWAYS suggest that any nutrient (including fiber) be eaten in NATURAL, WHOLE food forms (cook ’em, saute ’em, roast ’em, bake ’em, eat ’em raw—-don’t care–just eat them)– contribute to children’s “cognitive control.”

Cognitive control? Sounds spooky. What the heck is cognitive control? Some sort of mind straight-jacket?

Ha! NO!!! It’s simply a scientific way to say: the ability to adapt to a situation and make good decisions, to execute better behavior in it, and the ability to perform a task well.

Can anyone say, “Make a bed!” or “Put away the silverware!” or “Do your math homework!” or even “Hold still!”? All those, and so much more, require a person’s cognitive control. His or her ability to complete a task properly, to reason it out, to put a brake on talking and moving when talking and moving aren’t appropriate in the moment.

According to a study in The Journal of Nutrition, “Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children“, dietary fiber may play a role in cognitive control among children. The children in this study, ages 7-9, who ate more total dietary fiber, insoluble fiber, and pectin performed better on the selected performance task in the study. (The performance task wasn’t making a bed but I think it should have been…)

A big, bad, sad 90% of American children do not get even close to the recommended fiber intake set (ranging for about 20 grams to 38 grams, depending on the age and sex)! AND the sources that most people turn to for fiber (breakfast cereal laden with sugar) is a sickening poor fiber food source for the gut bacteria.

[I also disagree with the use of bread for fiber, unless the bread is honest and pure. I’m sitting here looking at the bread label in my parents’ home and this is what I see: enriched unbleached flour (refined flour), high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, monoglycerides, sweet dairy whey, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, calcium propionate, natural and artificial flavor, calcium sulfate, citric acid, ascorbic acid, soy lecithin, and so on.

This is NOT bread. I do not know what exactly this is. But it is NOT bread. I have made plenty of bread in my life, and I did so with about five or less ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. If I got fancy, I added eggs, milk, and butter or olive oil. You must seek out the ingredient list and not rely on the large print on the front that ways, “Whole grain bread!”]

Where to get “Fiber”

What do I suggest instead? Real, whole food rich in plant matter (Always keeping in mind what is tolerated by an individual. I know many people don’t tolerate nuts or legumes or certain vegetables. But there IS something a person can tolerate. Find it.). Good examples:

  • Greens and lettuces
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Apples, oranges, blueberries, cherries, grapes (all fruits higher in pectin)
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and hard squashes
  • Nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Avocados
  • Peas, beans, lentils
  • Real, honest, pure whole grains: pure oatmeal, pure quinoa, pure wheat
  • Dried fruits: raisins, figs, apricots

Not a Matter of Your Parenting

When we feed kids diets low in lots of vegetables, fruits, and fresh produce, it’s not just a matter of “good mom”, “bad-mom.” It has nothing to do with you, mom! We’re talking about your kids. I am not here to define your parenthood by your nutritional choices.

But please know when kids don’t eat plant matter as close to the way it is found in nature, they miss out on all these complex fibers that scientists are realizing now affect us by affecting our gut bacteria. And the gut bacteria affect the development of the brain.

When your kid fusses and you want to throw in the towel and let him eat macaroni and cheese every day, realize the role you are playing in the complete development of your child’s brain, at a time when really, what goes in their mouth is mostly up to you and the groceries you bring home.

Persist, mother. Persist, father. A secure child is a child who knows that their parents will never give up on them. Your persistence and devotion is your greatest asset! Don’t stop just because of some pouting.

Be creative. Be firm. Be funny. Be loving. Be stubborn. Give rewards. Withhold rewards.

Do what it takes with love and compassion to get them there.

Your child’s gut microbiome is overwhelmingly tied to the health and function of his or her brain. Don’t give up on vegetables and fruits.

The brain of your child is at stake.

Good luck! Questions always welcomed.

Terri

 

Citation:

Kahn, Raine, et al. Journal of Nutrition. Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children.  January 1, 2015 vol. 145 no. 1 143-149: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/145/1/143

Image from Wikipedia: Giuseppe Arcimboldo [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons