When I used to work as a physician, I wondered what it’d be like to stay home with the kids full-time. Some moms would say, “I HAVE to work. My kids drive me crazy.” I always thought to myself that I’d still like to try it and see. Maybe crazy is a state of bliss that I’d like quite a lot.
I did get to stay home, and to my chagrin, I did fall into crazy. Crazy nutrition. At first, I honestly did wonder if I had taken neurotic to its pinnacle, but I kept reading and reading. And over the short four years since I began having any interest in nutrition at all, other than having the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, there have been some major upheavals in medicine regarding nutrition, particularly regarding fat and cholesterol. But I know there will be more.
One upheaval that intrigues me, because I swear real food is pixie dust, is doctors using a realfood diet to throw inflammatory bowel disease into remission without medicine. At Seattle Children’s Hospital, researchers are reversing serious cases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease using the exact same voodoo, or pixie dust (if you prefer), diet that Elaine Gottschall, a stay-at-home mother of two, used in the 1950s to save her 8 year-old daughter’s life from near-terminal ulcerative colitis. The diet, called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), was the last hope that Elaine had for possibly saving her child’s colon, maybe even the child’s life itself. Permanent poop collection bag? Death? How about we try this weird diet.
Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas’s Stodgy, Misinformed Diet
The SCD is not a new diet. It has been around in some form since approximately the 1920s, when Sidney Valentine Haas, MD was using it on his celiac and severely afflicted gastrointestinal patients. At this time, there was no known celiac disease and gluten connection. Dr. Haas, using close observation skills and taking good patient histories (all things falling into disfavor in today’s medical climate), felt that starchy carbohydrates and table sugar were bad for his patients. So he developed a diet which removed starchy foods and sugar, making it inherently gluten-free and grain free. He found that his patients did fine with fruit, and he strongly encouraged bananas, and he even thought there was something special about the banana.
His “banana” diet was pretty popular and was used to manage celiac disease until the gluten connection was verified. Then, Haas and banana diets fell into disfavor, ridicule even. However, Dr. Haas, a reportedly kindly man who lived into his 90s, never acquiesced that gluten elimination should be the sole treatment of celiac disease. He remained adamantly suspicious that most starchy carbohydrates were problematic and needed removed for a time (not a lifetime). He genuinely believed in his diet, and if you read closely, he is scorned for never succumbing completely to the hypotheses that gluten is the sole problem for celiac patients.
(Now, I don’t know whether he was right or wrong about gluten. I DO KNOW that there are celiacs who follow a STRICT gluten-free diet, never eating away from home, and I know they still have abdominal issues. So, perhaps his intuition is not as laughable as it seems. Perhaps, as time passes and we learn more, we will find facts that make him more right than wrong. I don’t know. History repeatedly shows genius in ridicule, and maybe there’s more to treating celiac than just taking away gluten.)
The SCD would have probably stopped right there if it hadn’t been for Big Magic (you really should read the book by this title, very good). Elaine Gottschall (now deceased, 1921-2005) called herself an ordinary, happy, stay-at-home, 1950s’ mom. She had two young daughters. One of her daughters, Judy, began experiencing incapacitating gut issues and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the tender age of four years old. Little Judy was so sick and malnourished by the time she was 8, she had stunted growth and even her neurological system was shutting down. Elaine and Herb were told their daughter had two options: colon removal or death. Elaine wouldn’t hear it and refused to take death or colectomy (colon removal) as an answer for her daughter if she could do anything about it.
So she did what all desperate patients do (or parents of patients), she doctor shopped. After much doctor shopping and no hope in sight except surgery, an acquaintance of a friend pointed her to an outdated, nearly ancient physician. She finally landed in the arms (figuratively) of our now 92-year-old Dr. Sydney Valentine Haas. He started her daughter Judy on his version of what is now the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Her daughter improved dramatically within days and even more in the months that followed, living a full life, even being able to eat a very diverse diet eventually.
Dr. Haas died within two years of meeting the Gottschall family. Would his diet die with him? No. Elaine Gottschall made it her mission to understand that man’s diet, even going back to schooland earning degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry, and cellular biology. If this diet helped Judy live and get her life back, she wanted to know why and share it with the others who were sick. Many times she wanted to give up, but her husband was convicted that the world needed this information that would be lost without Dr. Haas, and he knew Elaine was just the woman to do it.
Herb encouraged Elaine to write a book eventually called Breaking the Vicious Cycle, do health consults, and speak. She functioned at a grassroots level, and she touched thousands of lives, helping people turn their health around with the SCD. But, sadly, she could never break through to medical circles. Her daughter said: “She also wanted the acceptance from–if not approval of–the medical mainstream, which she never got. She was told stories by mothers who said their doctors would refuse to treat their children if they followed her diet…”
Doctors refusing to treat patients if they tried this diet? A diet that has now entered the halls of medical research with initial success? Elaine’s diet brought success to many suffering patients, but the patients’ doctors wouldn’t have it. How could a simple diet help? How could a stay-at-home mom know what she’s talking about? Who was she to challenge medical management?
Because of Elaine’s tenacity and courage (and ability to persist despite medical contempt), people today may have an opportunity to try diet over drugs. Some doctors are listening to patients and trying the SCD in clinical research. (See my last post.)
Elaine, Herb, and Judy (their daughter), thank you.
The SCD studies are small and sparse, but they’re pretty remarkable, especially in kids, whose healing capacities are always amazing. IF diet makes a difference, then I think Elaine Gottschall is right, the only way it’s going to get to medical doctors is if patients keep showing them. Dr. Suskind’s studies from Seattle are shedding some light, but they’re so small. With just a snap or a new successful medical discovery, his work will be trampled over forever, as Dr. Haas’s almost was.
Did Dr. Haas have it ALL right? No. Did Elaine Gottschall? No. Does the doctor named Natasha Campbell-McBride (who has taken Elaine Gottschall’s work further in her clinical practice, renaming her diet GAPS)? No. Does Dr. Suskind, a researcher using SCD in his studies? No. But continuing to cut out colons and continuing to prescribe immunosuppressants without ever trying significant dietary modification such as the SCD is irresponsible and, to me, unethical. Medical doctors maliciously, scornfully, and condescendingly name-call and ridicule diet theories they don’t agree with like pompous elitists. And guess what! When we do that, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and the public follow along. Then, we end up in a big mess. Like Days of Our Lives. Please stop the division.
You are never too small. You are never too insignificant. You are always enough. Your experience is for you. Your experience is for others. Live boldly with love and compassion.
Even your cooking can change someone’s life.
Sites and links I followed for information, which should always be verified before you even think about trusting anything…
Imagine 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.
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:
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.
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)
Eliminate processed foods, refined foods, including sugars.
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.
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.
It’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!
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.
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.)
Photo credit: By An unknown Chinese artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Vegetable Series: When we changed our eating two years ago, I resolved to be afraid of no vegetable. Not knowing how to cut it or cook it was NOT going to keep it out of my cart. For a long time I’ve wanted to do a series of posts on all the different vegetables we have tried and what we do to the poor things. May you, too, vow to try any and all vegetables in your supermarket! Go get ’em, tiger.
“I LOVE those French fries!”
Have you tried parsnips? Have your kids tried parsnips? Do you or your family like parsnips? Do you have a great parsnip recipe? Do you know what parsnips are?
For my kids, I often find keeping dishes simple and flavors not too complex suits their taste buds more at this young age. Plus, when you’re eating a whole, real foods lifestyle, faster and easier is much better for the cook, too! We made parsnip “fries” to prepare for this post. When my husband and kids came into the kitchen, I was frantically grabbing fries to stash and hide behind the coffeemaker so I wouldn’t have to make more to photograph! I was glad the “fries” were a gastronomical success! M5 year-old daughter said, “I love those French fries, Mom.”
This wasn’t always the case.
If you can do it with a potato…
As I’ve pointed out, we’ve only been eating this way for about two years now. The word out there is: If you can do it with a potato…you can do it with a parsnip. So I tried parsnips in soups, roasts, mashes, and casseroles. (“What is this, Mom?” As in, they didn’t approve.) I even made parsnip fries, which you could tell they didn’t mind, but they didn’t really eat many. My kids were just too close to their potatoes. Near removal of the potato and addition of parsnips on occasion, and my kids can now tally parsnips to the growing list of vegetables they’ll eat!
What am I saying? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Kids need repetitive exposure and a great example. Persist in a vegetable-rich diet for your family. Understand it may take years. Accept it and don’t give up. In the meantime, just be prepared to eat a lot of vegetables yourself…
What is a Parsnip?
It is a root vegetable which looks like a fat, white carrot (one of its relatives).
Commonly cultivated and eaten in Europe before the potato was introduced. (Do you know where potatoes originated from? The mountains of Peru.)
Usually thought of as a fall and winter vegetable, but since it stores so well, it is available year round.
It is a starchy vegetable and has a sweet, nutty taste and a potato-like texture when cooked.
Frost and refrigeration bring about a sweeter taste.
Neck to neck, there’s not much nutritional difference between a parsnip and potato. Parsnips have a little more calcium and a little more fiber. Parsnips are a little (not much) lower on the “net carb” ladder than a potato. The only real difference I can think of is that a potato belongs to the family called a “nightshade” and a parsnip doesn’t. (Nightshades are excluded for people who follow an anti-inflammatory diet because some minor research indicates they may be detrimental to the lining of the GI tract, may increase the body’s production of inflammation-producing chemicals, and increase arthritis and achiness in people. So someone on an anti-inflammatory diet could easily replace the potato with the parsnip.)
Parsnips are nice because they keep in your refrigerator forever. I choose them and store them like I do carrots. Often they come coated in a waxy material, so I always peel my parsnips with a potato peeler before using them to get this strange stuff off.
Then, do what you’d do to a potato! Here’s one to try, but don’t stop here!
Parsnips, washed and peeled
Salt as desired
Garlic powder and onion powder if desired
Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit (191-204 degrees Celsius). Cut the parsnips so that they resemble French fries. Toss in just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Sprinkle with salt and other seasonings. Lay each cut fry on a baking sheet so that the fries have space between them. You may need to use two baking sheets if you’re making a lot. (If you get them too close together, they steam each other and get soggy rather than crispy. Uck.)
Baking times seem to vary immensely. The best idea is to just watch. I start by baking in the preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes (but still watching them), and then I take them out and flip the fries. I bake for another 10-15 minutes or so. The goal is a fairly golden brown fry that isn’t burnt and isn’t soggy. Sometimes I remove the ones that look done before the rest.Taste before serving and add more seasoning as desired. Serve hot. Nobody likes cold fries of any kind. Do they?
Family “gustar” report: 5/5 ate these fries all gone. Will definitely try to include these more in our repertoire.
Note: Parsnips are discouraged for the GAPS/SCD diets.
One of the most serious effects of iodine deficiency is damage to a fetus. (Echo: Damage to a fetus…damage to a fetus…damage to a fetus.) Iodine deficiency wasn’t on my radar when I conceived last fall! I had had no dairy, no eggs, and no iodized salt for at least a year and a half, and I was taking no iodine supplementation, prenatal vitamin or otherwise. So I have to wonder about my iodine status prior to pregnancy and in early pregnancy. Early in pregnancy, I was too sick to tolerate a prenatal vitamin, and both my doc and I agreed that all I probably really needed to be sure to choke down was a folic acid supplement to prevent neural tube defects. (Strangely enough with the food and smell aversions, in my first trimester, I could not get over the urge to eat any and all kinds of seafood, which is a good source of iodine: sardines, oysters, mussels, clams, mahi mahi, tuna, shrimp, scallops, soft-shelled crabs, Nori, and dulse–you name it. I threw seafood cautions to the wind and gobbled that stuff down, since nothing else sounded good! Anecdotal but interesting.)
I wish someone would have told me that my best sources of iodine had all been removed from my diet, and even with them included, I would still have been at risk for iodine deficiency. So if you’re dairy-free, skipping iodized salt, vegan, intolerant or allergic to eggs, autoimmune Paleo, or follow a crazy diet (I can say that because I follow a crazy diet.), please just make it a point to make sure you’re getting sufficient iodine. And as always, don’t use anything on my blog as medical advice.
Not good. Statistics show that pregnant women’s iodine intake and levels are not sufficient and are continuing to decrease.
In the United States, there is a periodic survey which evaluates how our iodine intake is doing, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES has revealed that urinary iodine levels for pregnant and non-pregnant women in the United States have dropped significantly since the early 1970s. Adequate urinary iodine levels for pregnant women should be 150-249 micrograms/L (based on the World Health Organization standards). The United States has hovered around and then dropped below this point:
1971-1974: 327 micrograms/L
1988-1998: 141 micrograms/L
2001-2006: 153 micrograms/L
2005-2010: 129 micrograms/L (Goal is greater than 150 micrograms/L) (1, 2)
In the most recent survey, some regions such as California and Pennsylvania were alarmingly low, 105 and 125, respectively. And this doesn’t even take into account the interfering factors of halides in our food and environment which interfere despite levels of iodine!
So what does low iodine mean for pregnant women and their babies? (Not good.)
Iodine deficiency can lead to what is called “reproductive failure” in the female, which simply refers to repeated miscarriages and increased stillbirths. The more severe the iodine deficiency, the more the risk increases. One study showed that the frequency of reproductive failure was directly proportional to the severity of the iodine deficiency. Women who had iodine deficiency had twice the risk of reproductive failure. (There are many causes of “reproductive failure” besides iodine deficiency. Other nutritional factors such as selenium deficiency could also be responsible for reproductive failure. And aside from nutritional factors, there are many other causes, as well. So I am not saying, “Iodine is it.” Please don’t think that.) (3)
Known iodine deficiency effects on the fetus are numerous and include:
Increased miscarriages (loss before 28 weeks of pregnancy)
Increased stillbirths (loss after 28 weeks of pregnancy)
Increased premature births
Congenital anomalies (birth defects)
Increased perinatal morbidity and mortality (increased bad outcomes and death occurring shortly before or after delivery)
Cretinism (mental retardation with changes in stature, hearing–often a high tone defect, and sometimes the inability to use arms/legs due to severe rigidity)
Goiters in newborns
Hypothyroidism in newborns
Lower IQ (3, 4, 5)
Medical literature supporting iodine’s role in producing a healthy, in utero fetus and subsequent neonate is NOT hard to find!
All degrees of iodine deficiency…affect thyroid function of the mother and the neonate as well as the mental development of the child. The damage increases with the degree of the deficiency…
Iodine deficiency results in a global loss of 10–15 IQ points at a population level and constitutes the world’s greatest single cause of preventable brain damage and mental retardation. (5)
When a mom is iodine deficient, iodine deficiency is passed on to the developing fetus who has NO way of getting iodine or thyroid hormone except through the mom. You are it, Mama.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her baby absolutely relies on the mom’s thyroid hormone, which requires iodine to be made. The baby cannot make its own thyroid hormone until later in the pregnancy, and even then, it still needs iodine provided by mom as the raw material for its own thyroid hormone production.
Iodine is 100% necessary for the production of thyroid hormone, and if it is not sufficient, then the mother and baby will be exposed to hypothyroidism (lack of thyroid hormone). Thyroid hormone is necessary for the function of all cellsand is critically important for brain development, especially in a fetus and newborn. Thyroid hormone helps to make sure that the fetus’s cells grow, develop, differentiate, and express the right genes.
Most health organizations recommend about 150 micrograms of iodine daily for non-pregnant adults, but iodine needs increase when a woman becomes pregnant. To make more thyroid hormone to cover the baby’s needs, the woman needs more iodine. She also needs more iodine because during pregnancy, the blood filtration through the kidneys increases and extra iodine is lost in the urine during pregnancy.
It doesn’t end with pregnancy, either. Nursing mothers need more iodine because the iodine is transferred to the baby by her milk. The baby still needs iodine. (6)
The developing brain of the fetus is probably the most vulnerable target organ for iodine deficiency.
First Growth Spurt of the Brain
The developing baby’s brain has two major “growth spurts.” The first one is at 12-20 weeks (months 3-5). During this first one, the brain cells (neurons) are rapidly multiplying, moving to their correct places, and organizing themselves appropriately. Studies indicate that iodine repletion should occur by three months of pregnancy to prevent cretinism (severe mental retardation, deaf/mute, and effects on the arms and legs). Most of us in developed countries probably won’t fall into iodine deficiency enough that cretinism would develop, but I think it may be revealing in other neurological conditions as well, that getting the iodine levels back up in the first trimester is probably optimal. However, even if the first trimester is missed, iodine supplementation still shows beneficial effects in pregnant women and their fetuses.
The second spurt of brain growth occurs in the third trimester and doesn’t finish until the child is 2-3 years old! This spurt allows the cells that support the brain’s neurons (knows as “glial cells”) to multiply, move to their appropriate places, and to become coated with myelin. By the time of the second spurt, the baby has a functioning thyroid, so it doesn’t rely on mom for thyroid hormone anymore, per se, but it relies on mom for its source of iodine. If mom is not eating enough iodine, baby still can’t make thyroid hormone for itself and its brain. If mom didn’t get enough iodine in the first trimester, damages can still be minimized.
“Correction of iodine deficiency during the second trimester reduced neurological abnormalities, increased head growth, and improved the development quotient in a severely iodine-deficient area of western China. Correction at a later period did not improve neurological development, although there was a trend toward slightly larger mean head circumference and higher development quotients than in untreated individuals. ” (6)
There is a spectrum of how insufficient iodine levels affects the fetus.
“Mental retardation from iodine deficiency is not limited to the extreme form of cretinism, but instead extends over a broad continuum to mild intellectual blunting that may go unrecognized unless carefully investigated. Thus, iodine deficiency puts virtually everyone in the affected population at some risk for brain damage. Many studies have compared performance of iodine-deficient children with that of iodine-sufficient peers on standardized intelligence tests…iodine deficiency lowered a mean intelligence quotient by 13.5 points. In view of the many people living in iodine-deficient areas and their vulnerability to its effects on the developing brain, these numbers indicate a staggering public health problem. This and neonatal mortality, rather than goiter, have become the main reasons for advocating urgent correction of iodine deficiency.” (6)
Severe iodine deficiency and cretinism: The most notable and sad outcome of iodine deficiency, as it is completely preventable, is cretinism. I have read that early Alpine explorers would come across entire villages of “cretins” isolated in the mountains. These local pockets of population lived off of iodine deficient land, and it wasn’t until food started coming in from elsewhere and iodine supplementation was implemented in the 1900s that the incidence of cretinism was reversed. At the time, doctors and people in general felt it was something “in the air” or “in the water” of the valleys or perhaps a “genetic fault.” Cretinism presents with:
Deaf and mute
Spasticity of limbs (the arms and legs can draw up tight and not extend properly)
Mild iodine deficiency: Mild iodine deficiency effects are more pervasive and not as concrete to pinpoint. Children from low iodine pregnancies have been found to have:
Elevated hearing thresholds/ hearing loss (4, 7, 8)
Dr. Jerome Paulson, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics council on environmental health says this in May, 2014 for NBC News:
“The brain development issues are very subtle and are not likely to be noticed in an individual child. It’s an issue for society as a whole when you have a large number of children who are not reaching their full potential.” (9)
If iodine deficiency is increasing in our pregnant women, wouldn’t congenital hypothyroidism in the newborn be increasing?
So as I typed this post up, I thought, well–if iodine deficiency is creeping up among our pregnant patients, then our babies should have a higher risk of hypothyroidism (low functioning thyroid). In fact, a month ago, my hairdresser was telling me about her good friend whose baby just wasn’t very active. They checked, and it was hypothyroidism. I’ve never really looked at or been notified about increases in newborn hypothyroidism (congenital hypothyroidism) in any of the journals I subscribe to, so I Googled it. (Because low thyroid function is SO detrimental to a newborn’s health and brain function, one of the tests mandated by every state in the newborn screening poke includes a test for congenital hypothyroidism.) Sure enough, there is a rise of congenital hypothyroidism. I cannot and will not say it is due to maternal iodine insufficiency because I think most health problems are usually caused by a combination of factors, but I certainly am suspicious about iodine deficiency’s role in this. In Krakow, Poland, before the introduction of iodized salt, 1 in 3920 newborns had transient hypothyroidism, and after the introduction of iodized salt, the rate dropped to 1 in 48,474. (2) Experts are also considering the roles of perchlorate (a toxic byproduct of rocket fuel and fireworks production) exposure, as these seem to be contaminating our environment and entering our bodies, interfering with thyroid use of iodine, and whether use of iodine-containing disinfectants at the time of birth could contribute. (2, 10)
So why don’t we just put our pregnant women on iodine and crank her up good?
Case studies show reports of hypothyroidism in significantly iodine supplementing moms: So you’re a natural person. You’re not afraid of supplements. You’re pregnant, and you think you’re going to run out and start loading up on iodine. Not so fast. There have been cases of congenital transient hypothyroidism in newborns from maternal iodine supplementations, at doses of about 12.5 mg. Whoa. I would never want a baby to have hypothyroidism from over-supplementation! On the other hand, I think this area should be explored better. Was the mom supplementing other important nutrients needed along with iodine? How transient would the hypothyroidism have been in the baby? If the mom had kept supplementing, would the thyroid disorder have stabilized naturally? But we don’t know the answers to these nebulous questions, and so I accept that too high of a dose of iodine in pregnancy may be dangerous to the baby as well! On iodine deficiency in pregnancy, it is probably best for the iodine naïve woman to err on the side of recommended amounts. (11)
Prenatal vitamins: Slowly, recommendations are moving toward making sure women get iodine in their prenatal vitamins, and word is getting out there. NBC News had a little blurb on their site about it in May 2014. But, in my opinion, the information still is not out there to women OR their obstetricians. I just don’t think obstetricians are aware of iodine deficiency numbers in pregnant women, and I would venture to say many (most?) obstetricians don’t look at the prenatal vitamins their patients take! Only about 50% of prenatal vitamins in the United States contain iodine! And if they do contain iodine, the iodine content may vary by up to 50% of what is on the label.(1, 12) The American Thyroid Association recommends that all prenatal vitamins contain iodine, 150 micrograms. (13)
Best to get iodine optimized BEFORE pregnancy: This is good, but I feel iodine sufficiency needs to be in place WELL BEFORE pregnancy! If our pregnant women are low, that must mean that our child-bearing population is riding completely on the edge. In addition, it may be that some of the ill effects seen with iodine supplementation have to do with the iodine status of a person in the long-run! So the more iodine sufficient a person is their whole life, the more they tolerate extra supplementation without conversion to hypothyroidism. Dr. Elizabeth Pearce et al report on a study from Sicily which shows that moms who re-introduce iodized salt in the first trimester after having been off of it for two years have markedly increased risk of mom being hypothyroid! However, in patients who had used iodized salt routinely prior to pregnancy for two years, the risk of hypothyroidism in mom was much less (although not absent). (14)
Iodine deficiency is absolutely a problem in many pregnant women. Iodine should optimally be sufficient in the first trimester, and unfortunately this is often a period when women are not aware that they are pregnant or they are too ill to take a prenatal vitamin with iodine or eat iodine containing foods. I think that brings us back to the idea that we are functioning, many of us as a population, on a near empty tank of iodine to begin with. Adequate iodine intake should occur BEFORE pregnancy. I hope you are taking note and continue to take inventory of you and your family members’ sources of iodine. Eventually, after I summarize why in the heck we need iodine, I will do a more detailed post on iodine content of foods. You can see some basic summaries of this in my previous iodine posts.
I would like to tell you that your doctor, especially your obstetrician, is up on this. And maybe they are. But I have a sinking feeling most are not. If getting pregnant is possible for you, it is best to start thinking about iodine intake today.
Sorry for the long post. Hope those interested found some tidbits to ponder.
1. Kathleen L. Caldwell, Yi Pan, Mary E. Mortensen, Amir Makhmudov, Lori Merrill, and John Moye. Iodine Status in Pregnant Women in the National Children’s Study and in U.S. Women (15–44 Years), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2010. Thyroid. Volume 23, Number 8, 2013. (Link to full text)
2. John S Parks, Michelle Linn, et al. The Impact of Transient Hypothyroidism on the Increasing Rate of Congenital Hypothyroidism in the United States. PEDIATRICS Vol. 125 No. Supplement 2 May 1, 2010. pp. S54 -S63. (Link to full text)
3. Dillon, J. C. and Milliez, J. (2000), Reproductive failure in women living in iodine deficient areas of West Africa. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 107: 631–636. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2000.tb13305.x. (Link to full text)
4. Cresswell Eastman and Michael Zimmerman. Chapter 20: The Iodine Deficiency Disorders. Thyroid Disease Manager. Online. Updated February 12, 2014. (Link to online text.)
5. F Delange. Editorial: Iodine deficiency as a cause of brain damage. Postgrad Med J 2001;77:217-220 doi:10.1136/pmj.77.906.217 (Link to full text)
6. John Dunn and Francoise Delange. Damaged Reproduction: The Most Important Consequence of Iodine Deficiency. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2001 86:6, 2360-2363. (Link to full text)
7. DeLong GR, Stanbury JB, Fierro-Benitez R. Neurological signs in congenital iodine-deficiency disorder (endemic cretinism). Dev Med Child Neurol. 1985 Jun;27(3):317-24. (Link to abstract)
8. Alida Melse-Boonstra, Ian Mackenzie. Iodine deficiency, thyroid function and hearing deficit: a review. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2013 Dec;26(2):110-7. doi: 10.1017/S0954422413000061. Epub 2013 Jun 12. (Link to abstract)
10. Richard S. Olney, MD, MPHa, Scott D. Grosse, PhDa, Robert F. Vogt Jr, PhDb. Prevalence of Congenital Hypothyroidism—Current Trends and Future Directions: Workshop Summary. PEDIATRICS Vol. 125 No. Supplement 2 May 1, 2010
pp. S31 -S36 . (doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-1975C) (Link to full text)
11. Kara Connelly, MD, Bruce Boston, MD, Elizabeth Pearce, MD, David Sesser, David Snyder, MD, Lewis Braverman, MD, Sam Pino, Stephen LaFranchi, MD. Congenital Hypothyroidism Caused by Excess Prenatal Maternal Iodine Ingestion. The Journal of Pediatrics.
Volume 161, Issue 4 , Pages 760-762, October 2012. (Link to full text)
12. Angela M. Leung, M.D., Elizabeth N. Pearce, M.D., Lewis E. Braverman, M.D. CORRESPONDENCE: Iodine Content of Prenatal Multivitamins in the United States. N Engl J Med 2009; 360:939-940February 26, 2009DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc0807851. (Link to full text)
13. Public Health Committee of the American Thyroid Association, Becker DV, Braverman LE, Delange F, Dunn JT, Franklyn JA, Hollowell JG, Lamm SH, Mitchell ML, Pearce E, Robbins J, Rovet JF. Iodine supplementation for pregnancy and lactation-United States and Canada: recommendations of the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid. 2006 Oct;16(10):949-51.
14. Elizabeth N. Pearce. Iodine in Pregnancy: Is Salt Iodization Enough? J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Jul 2008; 93(7): 2466–2468. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-1009. PMCID: PMC2453047 (Link to full text)
Great overview of hypothyroidism in pregnancy adn a section on iodine:
Today continues on in the long, arduous, controversial trek that is iodine. For this post, I had wanted to take a critical look at how iodine affects fertility, both male and female, and pregnancy. The post was too long, so I am splitting it into three parts.
More iodine introduction and review today because I want to stress again how iodine deficiency may be present despite the common medical community saying it isn’t in industrialized/developed countries.
Iodine and pre-conceptual/conceptual fertility tomorrow or so, as time allows me to get my citations in somewhat presentable documentation form.
Iodine and post-conceptual fertility/pregnancy the post or so after that. (Notice the “or so?” Moms always learn to be wishy-washy on timing of events, right?)
I spent a long time searching about fertility and iodine, and thus my absence in publishing blog posts lately. One article and question always leads to another and another. Despite looking high and low, I will make no great conclusions regarding iodine and fertility. Sorry. Hypothyroidism (low functioning thyroid gland) and hyperthyroidism (over-functioning thyroid gland) clearly do play a role in male and female fertility, but connecting the dots to iodine has not been performed much yet in research studies. However, we DO know that iodine deficiency is one cause of hypothyroidism.
My take, off the cuff, without sources and science, regarding iodine
Although we absolutely need iodine, our bodies seem to become adjusted to regulating our thyroids and bodily systems based on how much iodine we give them. Our bodies make do, down-regulating this pathway and up-regulating that pathway, until a critical iodine low point at which the system fails and you see the serious consequences of overt hypothyroidism and offspring with severe deficits, such as mental retardation. Before that severe iodine deficiency crisis hits, there are varying degrees of “normal” a body can manage to function at in different people with the iodine amount provided–which probably aren’t really “completely normal” functioning states but good enough to sustain life and reproduction with little noticeable compromise.
To significantly replace iodine at this point, when a person is “low in iodine” but functioning “okay” (where the body has managed to find a nice “homeostasis” regarding iodine use), can do one of three things. It can:
1) Benefit the body without negative thyroid side effects (the goal and the most common outcome).
2) Bring about a hypothyroidism.
3) Bring about a hyperthyroidism.
If a person is already hypothyroid from low iodine intake, even if mildly so, hopefully iodine replacement will allow the body to start optimizing its iodine use for improved thyroid function and the functioning of other tissues that use iodine, such as the ovaries, breasts and prostate without any ill effects. In fact, most people do fall under the umbrella of tolerating iodine supplementation just fine and benefitting from it, but doctors worry a lot about iodine bringing about hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism in what were observably “normal” people. And this does happen. Cruise the internet for research studies and iodine supplementation anecdotes, and you’ll see good and bad outcomes. (To optimize replacement with the least amount of negative thyroid response, iodine supplementation needs to be taken along with some other important co-nutrients: selenium, vitamin C, and zinc. This is a topic for another post.) Iodine is a mixed, controversial medicine bag.
As an obvious reminder, don’t use anything in my posts as medical advice, only use it for introductory informational purposes. The internet is a not a doctor. And there can be huge risks from implementing what you find on internet health sites. Walk cautiously, and find a healthcare person you DO trust to talk things over with.
Let’s remind ourselves of why a person would be iodine deficient from the last Iodine Post and then eventually move on to what I could find regarding iodine on male and female pre-conceptual/conceptual fertility tomorrow…
Iodine deficiency erratically riddles the population of developed societies. Why? Who is at risk? Am I? Are you? Why do they say we are “iodine sufficient” if we are not?
Why would well-fed people be iodine deficient?
(I am omitting the discussion of goitrogenic foods and halides, which put people at risk for iodine deficiency disorders, despite adequate iodine intakes. I will discuss those in later posts. It is an important topic which needs its own post.)
Real food iodine sources primarily include dairy, eggs, ocean seafood, and seaweed. Iodine can be a dietary toughie to get because levels of iodine fluctuate greatly EVEN IN THESE REAL FOODS. I would like to contrast this with nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium, which although they are diminished in our modern food sources, they are abundant in MANY, diverse food sources which people eat, especially real food advocates.
Milk iodine content will vary depending on if the grass cows eat has iodine (Are they grazing on coastal pastures or iodine-deficient Great Plains grass?), if cows are supplemented with iodine-containing feed, and if iodine containing washes are used prior to milking.
Egg iodine content will vary depending on if the chickens are fed iodine supplemented chicken feed or not.
Vegetables and plants have no need for iodine, although they will take it up from the soil, passing it graciously on to us. Most soils away from the ocean coasts are iodine deficient (iodine is most abundant in ocean water, which falls on the land in the form of the rain cycle, replenishing coastal soil and plants with iodine from the sea), so eating “locally grown” food from iodine deficient soils will provide less iodine content.
Meat iodine content will vary, again based on what animals are fed or where they are grazing.
Sea salt mostly has only trace amounts of iodine.
Bread productsuse bromine rather than iodine-type dough conditioners, like they used to. (Heck, homemade bread doesn’t use either!) I realize to some readers that bread is a processed food, but it is eaten by most people. And the replacement of iodine-based dough conditioners for bromine-based dough conditioners, which interfere with iodine utilization in the body, plays a significant role in iodine deficiency disorders and the decreasing amount of iodine intake in the United States.
Seafood and seaweed’s iodine content vary by the kind of seafood but is usually a lot more predictable than the foods listed above.
Who is at risk? Examples.
If you stop and think, you can easily identify why people would be iodine deficient:
Case 1: An American woman who is dairy-free, doesn’t like seafood, and who has switched over to non-iodized sea salt because she thinks it tastes better. She still eats bread, but her bread has no iodine, and in fact does use a bromine derivative for dough conditioning. Hopefully she eats eggs and lives on the coast.
Case 2: An American college student who eats only bagels, cereal bars, or Pop Tarts for breakfast, sandwiches with chips at Subway for lunch, and some freezer-kits for supper. All these processed foods may not provide enough iodine, since non-iodized salt is used. Hopefully, some iodine is sneaking in through the cheese and eggs used in the products chosen. But we don’t know.
Case 3: A family in Australia who eats strictly organic, without realizing that studies show that organic dairy has less iodine, organic bread in Australia has no iodine, and their fruits and vegetables are grown in an iodine depleted area. They worry about mercury and radiation in seafood, and one child has an egg intolerance/allergy, so they shy away from eggs. I’m not sure where this family gets enough iodine. Maybe they take a multivitamin.
Case 4: A 67-year-old man who has lactose intolerance, who shuns salt because of blood pressure issues, who only eats the egg whites (not high in iodine) due to cholesterol concerns, and whose wife doesn’t like fish at all.
Case 5: A vegan who eats no dairy, no eggs, no meats, and no seafood. She could eat seaweed but doesn’t like the taste. Iodine intake is not lookin’ good.
Why do they say we are “sufficient” if we are not?
(Emphasized phrases are bolded by me.)
From The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 2010:
The WHO [World Health Organization] prevalence data emphasise that iodine deficiency is not only a problem of developing countries; the highest prevalence of iodine deficiency is in Europe (52.0%), where the household coverage with iodised salt is the lowest (approximately 25%), and many of these countries have weak or nonexistent control programmes for iodine-deficiency disorders. (1)
and The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 2009:
IDD [iodine deficiency disorder] can occur in iodine replete-environments.A high index of suspicion is needed to recognize these cases.It is pertinent that the correct diagnosis be made to avoid unwarranted life-long thyroxine therapy in patients presenting with goiter and hypothyroidism, which is easily treatable with iodized salt. These cases underscore the need for considering iodine deficiency in the etiologic diagnosis of goiter and hypothyroidism, even in iodine sufficient regions. (2)
From my research, I am concluding that iodine deficiency is insidiously surfacing in individuals and small subpopulations (for example, pregnant women, vegans, or those with multiple food intolerances) in many developed countries, probably riddling whole populations like a shot-gun due to unique dietary patterns and habits of individuals and their families. How is it that the medical community, chomping on their brominated office donuts, sipping their Coffee-Mate tainted coffee, and brushing their teeth with fluoridated Crest, may be slow to recognize this? (Yes. This was me.) Well, when the scientific community prudently checks to see if an area is getting enough iodine, they look at levels as a POPULATION, not in individuals. To determine the iodine sufficiency of an area, “on-the-spot” urines are checked for iodine in a sample of hopefully “representative” people.
Spot checks of urine for iodine content are known to be erratic and insensitive, so they can’t be used to determine true iodine status of an individual, but when they are collected and pooled together an overall snapshot of the area (or population) in question can be gained. The median (That’s the number that occurs in “the middle” when all the result values are lined up from smallest to greatest–it is not the average/mean.) is then used to determine if the tested population is iodine sufficient.
The median value determined can still “hide” a significant amount of the population who may be deficient. What values are on the low side of the median? How low do they go? If most people in the community who are checked use iodized salt and drink milk, well, those folks are probably iodine sufficient and pooled results tell the researchers that “all is well.” However, if you and your family don’t drink milk and skip iodized salt, plus you all hate seafood, your low urinary iodine spot check will be lost on the low side of the median. You’ll be told your community or population is iodine sufficient, and you won’t change a thing you eat. Iodine deficiency affects us as individuals, but unfortunately, iodine evaluations are made based on populations. True, accurate testing in individuals is pretty intensive. It requires a 24-hour urine collection, and so just getting “eyeball” spot urine results and pooling them together makes the most sense for determining a society’s iodine status. (3)
So as I did in the last post, I encourage you to take inventory of your family’s commonly eaten foods to see if you may be at risk for mild iodine deficiency despite your government and medical societies saying: “There is no concern of iodine deficiency in the United States (or Australia, France, etc.).” I’ll bring a wealth of information eventually on iodine to the blog, but it takes me time. Meanwhile, just explore your diets, and make sure you’re getting some foods which usually have decent sources of iodine.
Remember, food counts. It really matters. It matters for you and your family and their families to come. Let’s move on to iodine and fertility tomorrow-ish…
1. Iodine deficiency in industrialized countries. Zimmerman M. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society: Conference on ‘Over-and undernutrition: challenges and approaches. 2010; 69: 133-143. (Full text link.)
2. Iodine Deficiency Disorders in the Iodine-Replete Environment. Nyenwe EA and Dagogo-Jack S. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences. Jan 2009; 337 (1): 37-40. (Full text link.)
3. Estimation of iodine intake from various urinary iodine measurements in population studies. Vejbjerg P, Knudsen N, et al. Thyroid. Nov 2009; 19(11):1281-6. (Abstract link.)
Hey there! How are ya’? Good to have you drop by! Do you make these? Hobos. Probably my kids’ favorite summer meal. Super easy and leaves the kitchen pretty darn spotless. Not to mention a great way to work through the ground beef you have boatloads of when you buy beef in bulk! It is also a GREAT recipe to let the kids help with, layering on vegetables, sprinkling on spices, tearing off aluminum foil, and folding up the foil.
We use onions, potatoes, carrots, and ground beef. But you can use sweet potatoes, green beans, chicken, pork, or mix and match! We do these on the grill for great flavor and low mess, but you could also do them in an oven, too! My kids don’t eat sweet potatoes all that well, so I usually opt for potatoes. I peel them, which deprives them of some of the mineral nutrients, but right underneath the peel are “lectins.” Lectins can lead to increased intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) and some people have sensitivity reactions to lectins. Since I’m working hard to reverse some of these issues (with finally some fair success, I think), I choose to peel them if I eat potatoes. Also, for a make-ahead meal, these could be prepped ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to cook. Or cooked ahead of time and reheated in the oven.
Here is how we make our hobos or “hot pockets.”
This makes five packets for me, but it could EASILY make more! I just get lazy.
2 pounds ground beef (grass fed beef imparts some extra health benefits)
1 and 1/2 onions, sliced into circles or as desired
1/2-1 potato or sweet potato per person, sliced
1 carrot per person, peeled and cut into coins, not painfully thin, but not so thick it takes them forever to cook
Garlic powder, optional
Onion powder, optional
Olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the vegetables
Parchment paper, optional (I recently learned to use it to minimize aluminum transfer to foods cooked in foil. Compliments of salixisme.wordpress.com)
1. Mix all of your vegetables together in a large bowl. Toss with just a little olive oil to coat, and sprinkle if desired with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders. I found if I don’t use a tad of oil, the vegetables want to stick to the foil or parchment.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, place your ground beef. Season it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. I probably use a teaspoonful of salt, 3-4 shakes of ground pepper, and a couple shakes each of garlic and onion powder.
3. Lay out large rectangles of aluminum foil and line with parchment paper if desired!
4. Place a pat of ground beef (remember this makes 5 pats for us, but it can easily be divided into more) on each rectangle of aluminum foil. I push the pats down into irregularly shaped patties. Top with the mixed vegetables.
5. Fold the packets such that all the contents will stay enclosed, or draw up all the sides like a “hobo” bag.
6. Place on hot grill for about 20-30 minutes. (Sometimes I cheat and open one up, checking to make sure the beef is done as I like it.) If you make them in the oven, it takes about twice as long. You just want to make sure your carrots and potatoes are tender and the beef is done. Steam escapes when you open so be very careful!
7. Remove from heat, and serve in packet or transfer onto a plate. I usually divide one in half for each of my kids.
8. My kids like to top with mustard and ketchup.
Family “gustar” report: 100% success (5/5 of us)! When a friend asked about what in the world to do with all of her ground beef, I suggested these. Her family of six loved them, too!
Vegetable Series: When we changed our eating two years ago, I resolved to be afraid of no vegetable. Not knowing how to cut it or cook it was NOT going to keep it out of my cart. For a long time I’ve wanted to do a series of posts on all the different vegetables we have tried and what we do to the poor things. May you, too, vow to try any and all vegetables in your supermarket! Go get ’em, tiger.
So far we’ve hit artichokes,rutabagas, and jicama in “The Vegetable Series,” all vegetables I only learned to make AFTER our family’s big eating change. Today we’re going to add kohlrabi to the pot. Kohlrabi takes me back to my high school, big-hair days. I first (only) ate it at the house of one of my best friends, fresh garden-picked kohlrabi, sliced and eaten raw with a sprinkling of salt, with all her family gathered around the table. Fun times. Her mom was a cardiac nurse. No wonder they ate kohlrabi. But YOU don’t have to be a cardiac nurse or doctor to know the advantages of kohlrabi! Uh, uh.
Terry Wahls’, MD reversed her debilitating multiple sclerosis using a vegetable dense (also meats, fruits, and other food components) diet. One of her “rules” is that sulfur-rich vegetables must be eaten every day, about 3 cups worth. Kohlrabi counts as a sulfur-rich vegetable, which helps regenerate a necessary pathway for dealing with “toxins”, called the glutathione pathway. Sulfur-rich vegetables are also important for mitochondrial function, enzyme structure and function, and dealing with heavy metals.
Coal + Rob + Bee = Kohlrabi
Geesh. Learning to pronounce the names of some of these vegetables requires more effort than learning to eat them. So to start off, the vegetable called “kohlrabi” is pronounced to my ear like these three words combined: coal + rob + bee. Which is different from how I was pronouncing it before this post, a cross between what you get for Christmas if you’re naughty and a Jewish teacher of the Torah: coal + rabbi.
A wee kohlrabi plant in our garden. You can just see the bulb forming. Darn rabbits about ate all the leaves until we sprayed them with red pepper mixed in water and put out cute little flower wind-catchers.
Kohlrabi is a member of the same family as cabbage, Brussels, and cauliflower, the brassica (or cruciferous) family. In fact, its name is German for cabbage (kohl) and turnip (rabi). (1) (If you like languages, then think about “cole slaw.”) Although it looks like a root vegetable (such as beets or carrots), it grows as a bulb above the ground. I want to point out that cruciferous vegetables may interfere with thyroid hormone and iodine utility, however, some of my reading suggests that if you have enough co-nutrients, like selenium, this may not be a problem. So hopefully I’ll get a post out about this as I work through the iodine posts.
Good. Good. How do you eat them?
Without a doubt, my favorite way to eat kohlrabi is raw. It tastes like a radish without the spiciness and is every bit as crunchy. However, like many, many vegetables, you can steam it, roast it, grate it for a slaw, stir-fry it, or throw it in a soup. Fear should cause no restraint here.
How do you prepare them?
Chop off the greens. If the greens are still fresh looking, you can sauté or steam them as you would spinach or any other green you like. (If you’re not sure how to make greens, leave a question in the comments, and I can throw out some ideas.) If they are not fresh looking, and you want to use them anyhow, then wash them up and toss them in some broth you may be making. If you want, discard them. I’ve started composting this year, so my wilted greens go here. (I even Googled chemtrails a week or two ago. I am so lost. No going back now. Please can I have my aluminum deodorant back yet? 🙂 )
Deeply peel the bulb. Wash kohlrabi, and then start peeling. There is a fibrous outer layer that you want to completely remove. You can see the fibers running along the bulb, so it’s pretty apparent how deep to cut. I use a paring knife to peel them, rather than a potato peeler, and I hack off the ends because they’re hard to peel. Once it’s all peeled, slice it up and eat it with some salt. Or cook it up however you choose.
Kohlrabi keeps well unpeeled in the fridge, although the leaves do not. I’ve had mine in there before for a week or more (admittedly really a lot more). The leaves only last a couple of days or so.
Do your kids like it?
Yes. All three kids (girls aged 10, 8, and 5) liked kohlrabi raw. My husband, one daughter, and I all liked the kohlrabi roasted.
Recipes ideas and recipes from other sites:
Roasted kohlrabi: I have made roasted kohlrabi where I chopped the kohlrabi into small cubes, added chopped onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil to moisten, spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and roasted at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius) until golden brown. It looked like roasted potatoes, but they were not a bit starchy and had a bit of the cabbage family bite. Three of us liked it (out of 5), but next time I would mix it with a starchier vegetable like sweet potato or butternut squash for depth of flavor and texture.
Mashed kohlrabi: Instead of mashing cauliflower or rutabaga, try mashed kohlrabi. Steam the kohlrabi until fork tender (boiling it may make the mash more soupy). Place in a small food processor or blender or mash by hand with oil of choice (bacon drippings, butter, or olive oil would be good choices depending on your preferences and tolerances), just a bit of oil at a time until you get the consistency you want. Add salt and pepper to flavor. If you’re fancy, add some roasted garlic. (I am not fancy, but I almost always make the effort to throw some garlic cloves tossed in olive oil to roast in the oven while I’m preparing a mash. I think the roasted garlic makes “mashes” of any kind taste that much better, especially if you don’t/cant’ use butter and milk.)
Kohlrabi soup: This uses dairy and flour, but these pesky ingredients can be easily substituted with coconut or almond milk and arrowroot powder for those with intolerances.
Asian Kohlrabi slaw:Sesame oil and rice wine vinegar are the only flags I see for some folks with intolerances here. If you tolerate those, this slaw looks perfect!
Kohlrabi curry:We make curry like this a lot, but I’ve never used kohlrabi. Next time I have some sitting around, I’ll not hesitate to throw it in the skillet.
If you’re proud that you or your family has tried a new vegetable, even if it’s not “exotic” or “out there,” leave a comment. I’d LOVE to hear about it! Broadening the taste buds certainly seems to help when it comes to “healthy eating.” And look around you. Listen to those around you. Perhaps even look at yourself. Humanity and society cannot afford to continue down the horrific nutritional path that is now common practice. Processed foods HAVE to go. Work on it. If you don’t try, it will NEVER happen. And trying isn’t just serving it once, and saying, “They didn’t like it. They won’t eat it.” That is NOT how you learned to ride a bike.
Vegetable Series: When we changed our eating two years ago, I resolved to be afraid of no vegetable. Not knowing how to cut it or cook it was NOT going to keep it out of my cart. For a long time I’ve wanted to do a series of posts on all the different vegetables we have tried and what we do to the poor things. May you, too, vow to try any and all vegetables in your supermarket! Go get ’em, tiger.
If you’ve had Spanish, remember the letter “i” is always pronounced like an English long “e.” So ideally, it’s pronounced “HEEK-ah-mah,” but annihilating language, like vegetables, is always fun and “HICK-ah-mah” will work too! Honestly, you don’t have to know how to say it (or even cook it) to eat this crunchy root vegetable.
Texture: It’s a very crunchy vegetable that reminds me of the crispness of a water chestnut. Or maybe a crisper and juicier potato, as it is actually very moist. Flavor: Slightly (and only very slightly) sweet and a bit nutty. Its flavor is not very pronounced at all so it lends itself well to being a filler in stir-fries, salads, and salsas. Preparation: There is nothing to it. Wash the skin under warm water. Peel the brown skin off like you would a potato. Then, depending on what you’re going to use it for, slice it into long slices like carrots, small cubes like you would for potato salad, or grate it as for cole slaw. Uses: My kids prefer it sliced and raw, cut like carrots, and I have to admit, its crunchiness is delectably lovely. But you can also toss it into a stir-fry like you would water chestnuts, roast it with onions and garlic for an hour in the oven, or my absolute favorite, mix it with fruit and lime juice and make a unique fruit salad.
What do I usually do with it? I make a lime juice based jicama fruit salad or salsa that I think is very refreshing on a hot, summer day served as a side at any summer picnic or barbecue. I think the key is lime juice and any good sweet fruit, such as mango, strawberries, or pineapple. Sometimes, depending on the fruit used, you may need a little sweetener of your choice. Be fancy if you want and add in onion, cilantro, or mint to give it the flair! (Please note: If you are following a special diet, please see my notes at the end of the post.)
Jicama Pineapple Mint Salad
2 jicama roots, cut into 1/4 inch sized cubes (or smaller if you would like)
1/2 pineapple, cut into pieces as small as or smaller than the jicama (I used the store’s pre-cored pineapple with juice in bottom of container and added the juice for sweetness)
4 tablespoons of lime juice
Blueberries, about 1 cup
Mint, about 6 small sprigs, chopped finely
A touch of sweetener to taste if needed. I used a little orange juice but maple syrup, honey, or Stevia would work. (And I think there is no shame in adding just enough to sweeten it to your liking. No shame.)
Mix all ingredients together and allow to chill, letting the flavors meld together. And remember, this would be great with ripe, sweet mango instead of pineapple or as is with some ripe, sweet, in-season strawberries tossed in. Some people like to dash in chili powder or red pepper. I like that, too. But no matter. Go on. Try jicama. Live a little.
Family “gustar” report: 3/5 of us gobbled up this jicama salad, two adults and one adventurous child. Of the two culinary-cautious children, one will eat plain jicama slices and the other spits jicama in the trash. So there you go!
While the Experts Quibble, Eat Whole Foods
We here in the States are heading into a much-needed summer. Summer is a great time to commit to a whole foods diet! The produce is abundant and flavorful! Barbecue grills lend themselves wonderfully to easy, flavorful meals. The weather brings about desire for fresh, simple foods rather than the heavy, rich comfort foods of winter. If I could implore you once again to look at the items you place in your cart at the supermarket–are the items as simple as they can get? Are most of them label-free? The experts will argue about the best diet for the human body. You let them. Until they figure it out (which will be never), know that the BEST diet is based on simple, whole, real foods that YOU mix, match, and create masterpieces from and which allows you to feel your best.
Note: Jicama is not suitable for the GAPS and SCD diets. People with FODMAPS and SIBO should take caution, too. But each person’s GI tract is different! Although I have to lay low (even “no”) on cauliflower and asparagus because of FODMAPS, jicama and I get along okay! Jicama’s sweetness comes from inulin, an FOS–and FOS can be problematic to GAPS/SCD/FODMAPS/SIBO patients. However, I think that jicama’s inulin can be a great addition to GI health once symptoms are improving and foods are being reintroduced! But no matter, be patient, patient, patient, and eventually things slowly do improve! Although, I adhered to GAPS for 18 months, I have transitioned into allowing more foods (while keeping all the other premises) and paying close attention to any symptoms. I am much happier with the diversity. But it took a couple of years, and I’m still working on it!