RESTART Program Chronicles: Day 5

I often hear clients say that they can actually taste their food on this program.  It sounds crazy but it’s true.  Once you stop masking the flavor of food with sweetener, you can actually taste its natural essence.  Omitting the sugar coating allows our taste buds to enjoy the real deal and it can be a brand new experience even if you’ve been eating that food your whole life!

Today I experienced the true flavor of my morning tea.  For decades I’ve had black tea (English Breakfast, Earl Grey, or lately Irish Breakfast) with milk (now coconut milk) and sugar, stevia, or honey.  More than any other food or drink , I was most concerned about how I could possibly enjoy my morning tea without sweetening it, even just a bit.  The first four days of this detox were ho hum in the tea department.  I didn’t hate it but I certainly didn’t enjoy it.  Until today.  It tasted bold and rich and I didn’t mind its lack of sweetness at all.  In fact, I see no reason to return to adding a bit of honey to my tea when this detox is over.  (Remind me of this later if I forget.)

I kept fatigue at bay today.  I noticed a little bit this afternoon, but nothing like the extreme fatigue of yesterday.  It’s 8:30 at night and I’m not overly tired.  I’ve had no other detox symptoms, so that’s a relief.  This actually doesn’t feel like too much of a challenge, at least this early in the game.  Ask me again in a week or two. 😉

Breakfast was an egg scramble with onion, garlic, and mushrooms, all topped with some salsa and some avocado on the side.  I also enjoyed my daily fruit ration – half a grapefruit.  It was heavenly.  img_0279

Lunch was the last of the leftover curry chicken and cauliflower, and 6 oz. of GT’s Gingerade kombucha.  I didn’t snack today at all which means I must have had enough healthy fats to keep me energized until dinner.

Dinner was simple.  I stuffed red and orange bell peppers with tuna salad (tuna, homemade mayo, celery, green onion, Bubbie’s brand fermented dill pickle relish, and fresh, cracked pepper) and served them on top of salad greens mixed with avocado oil and roasted sunflower seeds.img_0282

Homemade mayo is easy.  I use 1 cup avocado oil (from Costco), 1 whole egg, 1 tsp. dry yellow mustard, 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  I put all the ingredients in a glass measuring cup and emulsify it with an immersion blender.  It whips up in about 15 seconds.  The key to successful mayonnaise is to be sure all ingredients are at room temperature.  My egg was right out of the fridge so I put it in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes.img_0281

I’ve survived 5 whole days without sugar and I’m doing just fine.

 

RESTART Program Chronicles: Day 4

Fatigue!  That’s my word of the day.  I feel normal, just very fatigued.  I’m guessing it’s a result of this detox.  I spent most of my day working on different projects from home, nothing crazy.  I also donated blood right after lunch.  I haven’t donated blood in years, but wanted to start again because the demand is so high and I have the type (O+) that makes me a universal donor.  Once the pint was drawn I felt very flushed and they had to lay me flat and put a cold cloth on my forehead and neck.  Apparently this is fairly normal.  After several minutes I felt better and they sent me to the snack table:

img_0274Thanks but no thanks.  Next time I’ll take carrots or something.

I drank the bottle of water they provided me and went home.  I intended to rest for a couple minutes but woke up two hours later when my daughter got home from school.  I still couldn’t shake the fatigue.  It’s 8:30 p.m. and I’m in bed writing this post.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I’m guessing this will pass quickly.  Glad I could listen to my body and give it the rest it needs.

For breakfast (and afternoon snack) I had this delicious Apple Pie Smoothie.  I doubled the recipe for me and my beloved so there was plenty for both breakfast and snack.img_0270I added a couple scoops of gelatin for extra protein and I was satiated until lunch (leftover chicken curry from last night).  img_0269

For dinner I made this easy, spaghetti (zoodles) with meat sauce.  I browned organic ground beef (I get the 3-pack at Costco), added the marinara sauce (it’s sugar free!) and make zucchini noodles with my spiralizer.  Once the meat sauce is done I simply add the zoodles to the pot and toss to coat and then let it simmer for a couple minutes.  That’s it. img_0275

img_0276

img_0277The whole meal took about 15 minutes to assemble and was really tasty.

It’s 9:00 p.m.  Nighty night!

My RESTART Program Chronicles: Days 2 & 3

Today is day 3 and often about the time that “carb flu” symptoms start raising their ugly heads.  Luckily, though, neither Andrew nor I are experiencing anything unusual.  It could definitely still happen, so I may have just jinxed us by even mentioning it.

Breakfasts yesterday and today have been my favorite meals.  I make pancakes out of 2 eggs and 1 green-tipped banana (per serving) – just blend these two ingredients to make a batter and cook on the griddle as you would any other pancake.  I like to top mine in plenty of butter, toasted coconut, and cinnamon.

img_0251This is what a “green-tipped” banana looks like.

img_0253Batter = 2 eggs + 1 banana per person.

img_0255Full pancake griddle and toasting coconut (unsweetened of course!)

img_0258Voila!

Today’s breakfast was a salmon and spinach scramble, avocado, and kraut.  Pretty tasty!img_0264

Yesterday’s lunch was romaine lettuce leaves wrapped around turkey, cucumbers, red onion, and tahini sauce, which is made from sesame seeds.img_0260

img_0261

Dinner last night was odd, only because it was a strange combination.  That’s what I get for not planning ahead.  I made a pork loin in my Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) which turned out dry (I didn’t use a recipe, but a client told me about slow cooking a pork loin with a jar of salsa verde.  I’ve done the same with chicken which makes a flavorful, tender, shredded chicken.  But in the IP, it was dry.  I’ll adjust the cooking time next time.)  I served it with roasted cauliflower and a simple green salad.  The cauliflower was the best part!img_0263

Lunch today was leftover pork and cauliflower from last night.  This afternoon I snacked on a small handful of nuts (macadamia and almonds) to hold me over until dinner.  The fat content on mac nuts is very high, so a little goes a long way before you’re satisfied.

For dinner I made one of my favorite curry chicken recipes from PaleOMG.  I didn’t have cilantro on hand, so my picture doesn’t do it justice, so see the link.  I served it over cauliflower rice (from my freezer…thank you Trader Joe’s) and not the one in the recipe, which calls for honey.

Last, but certainly not least, was tonight’s dessert.  I hadn’t had any fruit today, so I sliced up a green-tipped banana, sprinkled some cinnamon on top, added a dollop of coconut cream (just 100% coconut cream from Uwajimaya), and toasted coconut.  Heavenly doesn’t begin to describe it and it’s a million times better than this photo would lead you to think.

img_0268I seriously almost licked the plate!

Boom!  Three days down.  We’re 1/7 of the way there!

My RESTART Program Chronicles: Day 1

One of my very favorite things in my work is teaching the RESTART Program – a five week class with a 3-week sugar detox built in.  I’ve been teaching it for the past 3 years and absolutely love to see my clients’ health transform.  I help guide my groups through the sometimes difficult side effects of giving up sugar (what I refer to as the “carb flu”); teach about digestion, blood sugar balance, and healthy fats; and offer emotional support all along the way.  But I don’t usually DO the detox with them, mainly because I eat a fairly clean diet and if I joined every class I teach on the detox, I would literally be detoxing several months out of the year.

But this time, and of his own free will, my husband Andrew is one of my participants.  This is the first detox of its kind (or maybe any kind) he’s ever done.  So, it only seemed right to do it with him.  After all, I do all the grocery shopping, cook all our food and I really want to support him, so I’m all in.  Today and for the next 20 days I hope to post how it’s going, what we’re eating, any challenges we’re facing, and so on.

Day one, yesterday, was a snap.  We had six house guests with us for breakfast and lunch, I taught my Sunday RESTART group in between, and I was excited to get started.

Oh, wait!  Let me back up a second and mention our pre-detox dinner.  It was my lovely mother-in-law’s 70th birthday celebration this weekend and both her kids and their spouses took her out to a lovely dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants, Brooklyn House.  We had a delicious Last Supper with a couple glasses of wine, appetizers, dinner, and rich, yummy desserts all around.  I don’t often indulge like this, but it was a special occasion and I knew it would be a while before I’d enjoy another meal like this one.  Let’s just say I slept poorly, my stomach was overly full, and I probably could have skipped that second glass of wine.  Yes, it was totally worth it!img_0244

Back to Day 1:  Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with salsa, avocado, bacon, a bit of sauerkraut, half a grapefruit, tea and water.  It was delicious and satisfying.  img_0245Fruit is very limited on this program, so I savored every last drop of that half grapefruit!  The fat content of the meal kept me satiated for several hours.

For lunch, I served up an organic rotisserie chicken (and refrained from skinning the whole bird and popping it into my mouth as I’ve been known to do) with a large, colorful green salad with oil and vinegar.  I used organic spring greens, more avocado (it’s a theme, as you will see), red bell peppers, cucumbers, and red onion.  To drink I shared a bottle of kombucha with my sweetie.img_0246I garnished my plate with a few amazing garlic olives (more good fat)!img_0247

Lunch was a bit late (1:30) and in the late afternoon I had a “dainty handful” of almonds, but I wasn’t up for cooking a big dinner (sorry, kids!) so I’ll spare you the picture of the two fried eggs I ate for my final meal of the day (which my 10 year old daughter prepared for me).

img_0249Geez, my hand looks HUGE in this picture! Ah, well.

Just 20 more days to go!

 

Back-to-School Preparedness

back-to-school1As a mom of two kids – a son (11) and daughter (10) – it’s time to start planning for back-to-school, even though we’d rather not think about it until a day or two ahead of time while we continue to enjoy these last lazy days of summer.

Last year I made the mistake of just letting things go from summer one day, to Surprise! It’s the first day of school! the next, with disastrous results. I vowed to NEVER do that again. (I’m not sure if it was lack of preparing for the transition, but for the first time in his life my son experienced serious anxiety at the start of the school year. It was debilitating enough that he missed the first few days of 5th grade, and though we were able to eventually incorporate some helpful coping mechanisms, it was an issue throughout the year.) This year, especially since my son is transitioning to middle school, my goal is to help it go as smoothly as possible. Preparation is key.  So as we embark on the new school year, I’m focusing on four areas:

  • Healthy food
  • Adequate sleep
  • Creating good habits
  • Organization

As a nutritional therapist, of course offering my children healthy food is a top priority. But it should really be a top concern for any parent. If you think of food as fuel, the very thing that will literally energize your kids, then what you feed them is even more important than how much they eat. Let’s say your kid wolfs down a bowl of cereal, even a so-called “healthy” one, and washes it down with a tall glass of orange juice before running out the door. It will likely be around four hours until their next meal. Amped up on sugar (ever read the sugar content in a nice cold glass of oj?) and carbs, the poor kid is going to crash before the end of first period. They won’t be able to sit still, focus, or learn because their blood sugar level is through the roof! They’ll burn through that breakfast in no time and be starving to death by lunch. Do you see how this may be setting her up for failure right from the start? Instead, feed your little learner some protein and healthy fat. Think eggs and bacon or sausage; Greek yogurt (full-fat please) with blueberries and walnuts; a smoothie with a banana, almond butter, and spinach (I promise they won’t taste it); or even non-instant oatmeal with butter, cinnamon, just a bit of maple syrup and berries. Skip the juice all together – it’s practically pure sugar!   This may sound extreme. This may sound like more work for you. This may even sound more expensive. But, getting up a few minutes earlier and budgeting right will make a huge difference for your kiddos. They’re totally worth the investment, right?!!!

Don’t even get me started on our country’s school lunch program. Let’s just say it leaves a LOT to be desired. However, it is what it is and for many parents, it’s the only option. Talk to your kids about making the best of their school lunch. By federal law each lunch tray must contain a serving of fruit and vegetables. I have seen with my own eyes how kids go through the lunch line and then discard the offending vegetable before even taking a seat, let alone a bite. If kids eat veggies at home, they are more likely to do so at school. Be sure to include vegetables in home cooked meals. Expose your budding athletes/nerds/bookworms/socialites with a variety of colorful plant matter every chance you get. If they don’t like it, don’t ever give up on it, but go onto the next one. The earlier you start your family on vegetables the better.

pizzaIn addition to encouragement around eating their veggies and fruit, talk to your kids about choosing entrees that look healthier. Let’s take pizza, because what kid doesn’t love pizza? Usually they’ll have a choice between cheese pizza or one that’s more “loaded”. Suggest the loaded one. It will likely have more protein (pepperoni or sausage) and complex carbs if you’re lucky (i.e. onions, tomatoes, mushrooms). Stay away from the most processed of foods – like the pb & j sandwiches that are crimped together and packed in plastic – there is nothing redeeming about those! Chocolate milk? That’s 19 grams of sugar going straight down Johnny’s gullet right before he’s expected to sit down, be quiet, and learn. Best option is water or just plain milk. If chocolate milk is a point of contention, let it be a one-day-a-week-only treat, say Friday’s. It’s best to skip it altogether but that may be a battle not worth fighting.

If you’re able to pack a lunch at home, more power to you. This gives you and your child more say in the matter of their nutrition and well being. Sit down with your kid and together make a list of all the foods s/he is willing to eat, starting with their favorites at the top. List them in categories of protein, fruits, vegetables, and snacks. Post it on your fridge and be sure to have at least one item from each category available on any given day. As you’re packing their lunch, check the list and assemble accordingly. Better yet, have little Joey and Jennifer pack their own darn lunch. This is appropriate for most kids starting in about 3rd grade, maybe even earlier. It’s a life skill that will serve them well forevermore, they’re more likely to eat what they pack, and your trust in them to do it themselves boosts their self esteem. For you, it’s one less thing to do each day, and what parent wouldn’t be thankful for that? I call that a win/win! Just be sure they pack a healthful meal.

sleep2

Adequate sleep is a must for students and parents alike. Our bodies do a lot of healing and restoring while we sleep, so this is a category to be taken seriously. Ever enjoyed some quality time with a child who didn’t get enough sleep the night before? Yeah, me neither! Kids. Need. Sleep. LOTS of sleep! I’m not a sleep expert so I’m not going to tell you how much sleep your little minnie-you needs, but if they’re frequently yawning, melting down, unable to cope with the normal tasks of daily life, whining excessively, or otherwise horribly behaved little creatures you’re too embarrassed to claim as your own in public, chances are they need more sleep. Here’s a tip: The best way to make sure they get more sleep is to put them to bed earlier. Rocket science, I know! Oh, and absolutely no electronics or TV within an hour of bedtime. (And in general, our pediatrician recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time on school days and two hours on weekends.) The amount of sleep your kid requires will ebb and flow. Pay attention to their circadian rhythm (sleep patterns) and growth spurts and adjust accordingly. My 11-year old can sleep until 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning. Since that isn’t possible on school days he’ll need to go to bed earlier. Luckily, our middle school starts at 9:05 so he’ll be able to sleep a wee bit later than kids whose school days start freakishly early. (That’s a whole other topic and soapbox I won’t tackle in this article.) Just know that growing bodies require a lot of sleep and it’s up to parents to assist our kids in getting the zzzz’s they need.

Habits

Teaching our children about creating good habits will pay off in spades as they grow more independent. Forming habits early lays a foundation for future success. Isn’t the ultimate goal of parenting to give your kids the tools they need to live an independent and productive life on their own eventually? We parents always remark how quickly the time goes by, and it’s true. Imagine your daughter turning 18, getting ready to leave the nest, but unable to manage her time, clean up after herself, or have the confidence to make wise decisions. We absolutely owe it to our kids to raise them up with the skills they’ll need to take their next step in life, whether it be heading to college, work, or the gap year I wish I’d had traveling the world.

I love my kids to death and at this point can hardly imagine them leaving home, but I certainly don’t plan on them living under our roof when they’re in their 20’s and beyond. So…habits! There are likely innumerable good habits one could list, but in the interest of time, I will share the ones we’re currently focused on as they enter the 4th and 6th grades. We have these habits broken down into 4 categories: How I take care of myself; How I take care of my room; How I help around my home; and Other things I need to do. IMG_9380Soon, this will be in the form of a chart for each kid – laminated so they can use a dry erase marker to check off what they’ve done in each category – with a point system attached because my particular offspring are motivated in this way. Here it is:

  • How I Take Care of Myself
    • Take a shower daily (important at this age, more so maybe than younger kids)
    • Wear deodorant daily (ever smelled a middle schooler’s pits? Gag!)
    • Brush teeth twice daily
    • Floss teeth daily (Despite recent media reports, this IS important!)
    • Keep nails trimmed weekly (My kids are known for their “pterodactyl toes” and it’s truly horrifying!)
  • How I Take Care of My Room
    • Make bed daily
    • Put dirty clothes in hamper (no, the floor is not a hamper)
    • Put clean clothes away in closet/dresser
    • Tidy attack weekly (I know there’s carpet under there!)
    • Vacuum weekly
  • How I Help Around My Home
    • Take the garbage and recycling out weekly or as needed
    • Do the dishes (One kid gets odd days, one kid gets even days)
    • Do my own laundry weekly (Hallelujah! This is a new one for us.)
    • Clean the bathrooms weekly (Kids will rotate who gets the full bath and who gets the half bath and there’s a step-by-step how-to guide under the sink in each bathroom)
    • Change the cat litter box weekly (a combined effort with one emptying the box and the other sweeping the floor)
  • Other Things I Need to Do
    • Daily homework and reading assignments (with the goal of weekends off)
    • Pack lunch the night before (mornings are much more pleasant this way)
    • Unload lunch bags right after school (no fermenting or rotting food overnight)
    • Unload backpack after school, giving parents anything to review (nothing like getting a notice for a fieldtrip after the deadline)

FullSizeRender(1)

My final strategy for back-to-school success is helping my kids stay organized with the use of a planner. This is a new one for me, so only time will tell how well it works, but I’ve heard from middle school teachers that their #1 piece of advice is to stay organized. I’ve always been one to keep a calendar, to do list, etc. so I’m hoping to instill this strategy in my kids.

As it turns out you can purchase planners/organizers for kids online that correspond to their age/grade. I chose these for my son and daughter (but many other planners and apps are available):  Middle school planner and Elementary school planner. I held a “Planning Summit” with my kids last week to show them best practices for using an organizer. I had them write down the events they already know about: soccer practices, riding lessons, Girl Scout meetings, etc. on their weekly and monthly calendars. I explained the importance of writing things down in their planner as soon as they hear about them – birthday parties, assignment due dates, field trips, etc. In my daughter’s elementary school planner, there’s a place for the week’s spelling list – she’ll write these down as soon as they’re assigned. My son’s middle school planner has a page for writing down his schedule of classes.

In the beginning, I will likely review their planners each day to be sure they’re staying on top of their assignments, calendars, etc. My hope is that this tool is something they will use on their own to stay organized. My son has been very ambivalent about starting 6th grade, but as soon as he looked through his planner, he said, “This actually makes me more excited about middle school.” That was music to my ears – believe me!

Fellow parents, I hope you find these strategies helpful as you launch your kids into the next school year. With healthy food, adequate sleep, creating good habits, and helping them stay organized, we’re setting them up for success. If you have any questions or comments about this post, please don’t hesitate. I wish you and your children all the best for the 2016/2017 school year and beyond!

Namaste!

The Deodorant Diaries

Back in 2012 when I started my nutrition program I learned from a fellow student how to make my own deodorant.  Not only was it simple and cheap to make, it was effective.  Gone were the days of Dry Idea roll-on which likely contained harsh chemicals and aluminum, which some studies suggest may lead to breast cancer.  Making deodorant is simple:  Mix equal parts coconut oil, baking soda, and arrowroot powder to form a paste, and store in a jar.  Some people add essential oils, but I have sensitive skin and didn’t want to take any chances, so I kept mine to just those three ingredients.

Everything was going along swimmingly for at least 18 months, when suddenly I developed a rash under my arms.  At first I thought it was die-off from my SIBO protocol.  My underarms looked like they were on fire – bright red and burning – and they itched like crazy!  The rash grew worse, but was isolated to my arm pits.  My naturopath was stumped; he’d never seen anything like it.  He even pulled out his manual on skin disorders and couldn’t find anything.  After doing some of my own research, I realized I was probably reacting to the baking soda.  According to my google search it’s not all that uncommon.  So, I tried making the same deodorant sans the baking soda.  It was a major fail in the olfactory department!  In other words, I stunk!

So, I tried some natural deodorants like Toms of Maine (totally ineffective) and a couple others I found at Natural Grocers.  None worked.  I even read that magnesium spray could work.  It didn’t. It was embarrassing and I found myself keeping my arms tightly at my sides whenever possible.  I spoke to the clerk at New Season’s Market and she suggested I try a crystal deodorant which is kind of like a salt lick for your pits.  (Or maybe not!)  Though this was the best thing I’d tried since my homemade variety, it still didn’t offer the kind of odor protection I was hoping for.

I finally concluded that I was going to have to opt for a commercial brand of deodorant and antiperspirant  if I (not to mention those around me) was going to be able to stand myself.  Being super conscientious about safe ingredients, I researched the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) app called Skin Deep which rates all sorts of products based on health concerns such as cancer risk, developmental/reprotoxicity, and allergy risk.  I settled on Ban Invisible Solid, Antiperspirant & Deodorant, Unscented which received the very best rating of “1” from the EWG.  Easily available at Walgreen’s I gladly laid out $5.99 for my purchase and hoped my stinky days were behind me.  Not only was this rated optimally, it also didn’t contain baking soda – a sure win!  That was, until I peeled back the label and read the entire list of ingredients.  Among them:  Barley extract!  (Read:  GLUTEN!)  Gluten is a known trigger for autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s.  So, I returned it to the store.Ban

Back to the drawing board I went.  I googled “Gluten Free Deodorant” and up popped Gluten free lifestyle with a short list of 5 brands of deodorant that are gluten free across all their varieties: Gillette, Lady Speedstick, Mennen Speedstick, Old Spice, and Secret.  I cross referenced each one with the Skin Deep app and found that all but Secret had unfavorable ratings.  And the best of the bunch in Secret‘s line was this one:SecretNext I went to Amazon to order it and was pleased with the 5-star ratings and positive reviews until I went into sticker shock when I saw the price: $19.99 per 2 oz. unit.  WTF?!!  Apparently, if it sounds too good to be true it is, and the bastards at Secret discontinued this particular product driving the price sky high for the “secret” stash of what’s left of this particularly effective odor reducer!  Don’t they know the pain and suffering I have endured to get to this point?  Apparently not!  So I did what any reasonable consumer who doesn’t want to stink would do and I ordered two!  Folks, that’s 2 cents shy of $40 for 4 oz. of pit stick and who knows if it will even work for me?  All I can say is it damn well better!

I waited in anxious anticipation for the brown suited UPS driver to deliver my order as promised by 8:00 p.m. today.  Shout out to UPS for having it here by noon!  Though I had a house full of company (my adored “nutri-sisters”, a.k.a. my tribe from nutrition school including the one who taught me how to make my own deodorant in the first place, who by the way brought her home fermented blackberry hard cider for us all to enjoy in the middle of the day on a “school day”), I ran the package upstairs and ripped it open like a six year-old on Christmas morning.  And here’s what I found:IMG_8549Your eyes are not deceiving you, one is missing it’s lid!  Seriously UPS or Amazon or whoever the hell lost the lid to my $20 deodorant?!!  And now I have to send it back.  Because apparently to get my refund they want my uncapped Secret solid back in their slippery, money grubbing hands!  What do you suppose they’ll do with it once they get it?  I don’t even want to know.  All I can say is the one I’m keeping had better f*%king work!

The end.

 

Children and Vegetarianism: Good Idea or Not?

Last spring my sister-in-law asked for my advice concerning her “tween” daughter, my niece, who had her heart set on becoming a vegetarian.  Then today I had lunch with a dear friend who told me her 11-year old daughter had become a vegetarian about a year ago.  Though my friend didn’t ask for my opinion, I offered it anyway as I firmly believe children should NOT eat a strict vegetarian diet, especially prepubescent kids.  In fact, I don’t think it’s the healthiest choice for adults either, but their brains are more fully developed (in most cases) and they can choose to eat whatever they please for better or worse.

In both instances, these girls were taking a stand for vegetarianism because of their love for animals.  That is a noble stance for sure, but it doesn’t take into account the health of their growing bodies.  Nutrition isn’t usually something most kids consider so it’s up to adults to help them make informed decisions.  It’s also a very fine line that we must tread upon carefully as most kids entering their teen years are seeking more independence from their parents, and if we cross the line, they may just do the opposite of what we know is best for them.

So here was my sister-in-law’s inquiry verbatim:

I don’t want to discourage her, but I also am not interested in being a short order chef.  She has been eating the meals I prepare, but has been refusing to eat the meat.  I’m fine with that, but I worry that she isn’t getting the protein and iron that she needs.  The girl is fiercely independent and makes her own spinach smoothies, insisting that will cover her iron needs.  And she adds chia seeds to everything, as she feels that will cover any other nutrients she’s missing.  Smart girl.  But I thought I’d ask the professional.  Do you think it’s safe for her to go vegetarian?  If so, do you have any suggestions for how I can help her fill the holes with the whole foods she craves?  Serious problems as a parent.  Hahaha!  My kid is obsessed with eating healthy!  Help!

And here was my response:

Hey, thanks for asking my opinion on this.  I definitely have one (surprised?)!!! …I get the ethical issue, I do.  But, a vegetarian diet is NOT healthy long-term especially for a growing child/adolescent.  It’s ok for a short term “cleanse”, but otherwise I would do everything in your power to dissuade her.  We humans evolved to eat animals.  Period!  (Why else would we have sharp canine teeth if not to eat meat?!!)  I know the vegan/vegetarian population would disagree strongly.  But trust me, it’s not going to get her all the healthy fat and protein she needs.  …EVERY cell membrane in our bodies depends on healthy fats for their composition (i.e. animal fats!).  I get that she wants to be healthy.  I get that you want to respect her desires and pushing her to eat meat might make her dig her heals in even more.  However, I implore you to find a way to make sure she eats a balanced diet including animal proteins, fats (including some from animals), and complex carbs.  Perhaps she could leave out a certain type of meat (beef or pork, for instance) or agree to eat chicken only once a week and seafood more often.  Spinach and chia seeds are great, but alone won’t give her the iron and protein she needs.  Not even close!  Have a conversation with her about where you source your animal proteins.  Purchase only humanely raised, pastured/grass-fed animals.  Only wild fish and seafood.  No factory farmed anything!  There are many problems with a vegetarian diet, including the fact that many vegetarians don’t actually consume many vegetables at all!  They grub on simple carbs (breads, pasta, cookies, etc.) that just add to their health problems.  I know several “recovering vegetarians” who have serious health issues as a result of their choice to do so when they were young and absolutely sure it was the healthiest choice.  It’s not.  A couple of resources come to mind if you want to research further:  The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith is a book that talks about just that.  Another fantastic book is Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger.  (Side note:  Denise Minger was a die hard vegan who as a teen started having serious health problems until she did significant research and discovered much to her regret that her vegan diet was largely to blame.  She went on to challenge and debunk the infamous “China Study” which you can read about on her blog rawfoodsos.com.)  …I’m delighted she is obsessed with eating healthy.  Let’s make sure she understands what eating healthy means!

My words must have left an impact, because my niece was back to eating meat shortly after this exchange.

In my urgency to get my niece back on the right nutritional path, one important thing I completely forgot to mention is the relationship between the foods we eat and our hormone production.  This is critical to children’s growing bodies.  Hormones are composed of amino acids.  Amino acids are derived from proteins in our diet.  Some hormones, specifically our sex hormones testosterone and progesterone, are derived from lipid cholesterol.  Lipid means fat.  A diet devoid of animal proteins and fats does not allow for adequate hormone production.  Not cool!

Vegetables are great and should take up most of the real estate on your dinner plate.  But leave room for consciously raised animal protein and fat.  This balance is what our bodies need to thrive.

FlatIron 1

 

Life Without Eggs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alas, I think my doc was right:  I have a sensitivity to eggs.  At first I doubted him because I’ve consumed at least 2 eggs a day for the past few years with no known side effects.  He suggested that eggs may be the reason for my severely itchy ears – a chronic problem that I’ve put up with for literally decades!  Reluctantly, I went off eggs for about a week and honestly couldn’t really tell a difference.  So, I added them back in one day and that night my ears were on fire!  I took them out again, maybe two weeks ago, and have noticed improvement.  My ears still itch, but not to the point of me scratching at them in my sleep until they bleed.  I guess that’s good, though I REALLY miss eggs!  When you can’t have gluten, dairy, corn, or soy, your food choices are noticeably limited; when you add eggs to the list, you’re egg-ceptionally limited (so bad, I know)!

Here’s the thing – my ears still itch.  What does that tell me?  I have other unknown sensitivities!  According to my physician, itchy ears are a classic sign of food sensitivities.  What gives?  If I make a mental list of things in my daily diet that could potentially be problematic, I suppose butter, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes) or coconut milk could be to blame, but I’m just not ready to further restrict my already pain-in-the-ass diet.

If I were my own client, I would make myself keep a detailed food journal and would cut out ALL potential inflammatory foods.  I would likely take the advice of another client who suggested doing the blood panel for food sensitivities, coughing up $225 to get some real answers.  But the truth of the matter is, for me, right now, I’m just not ready to know.  I really want to enjoy my summer and not further nit-pick every damn thing I eat.  I guess I’m willing to just let it be for now.

It is crystal clear that I have a leaky gut.  That just goes with the autoimmune disease territory, and is the reason for my growing list of food sensitivities.  And, from all my research, where there’s leaky gut, there’s leaky brain.  This would explain my brain fog/fatigue (What did I mean to do when I walked into this room?  Terrible word recall or the wrong word coming out of my mouth.  Falling asleep sitting up reading a really good book.  Poor short-term memory.  And so on.)

“All disease begins in the gut.” ~Hippocrates.  That dude was so smart!  He knew this some 2,000 years ago, and science is proving he was spot on.  All the new studies coming out about our microbiomes and how our gut bacteria affects our mental and overall health are helping us connect the dots.  And did you know the brain is directly connected to our immune system?  This discovery was just made!  (http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/administration/office-of-the-dean/school-news/researchers-find-textbook-altering-link-between-brain-immune-system)  Science is so freaking awesome!

Back to my gut.  I posed this question to an esteemed SIBO specialist (Dr. Allison Siebecker) not too long ago:  Let’s say you have a client with Hashimoto’s, heavy metal toxicity, and SIBO – where do you start with treatment?  After a long, thoughtful pause, her answer was “Start with healing the gut.”  I know this to be true and I have been working towards this for many months now.  I’m feeling way better than I did a year ago.  And I still have a long way to go.

In the fall or winter, you very well may find me radically healing my gut:  sipping nothing but bone broth and pureed carrots for days on end and popping L-Glutamine capsules like candy, then adding back one easy-to-digest ingredient at a time, very slowly, to rebuild my gut and re-boot my immune system.  But for now, I intend to enjoy my summer, eating the fresh, local Oregon bounty (sans eggs), getting outdoors with my family, being among friends and other loved ones, and sleeping in as much as possible.

Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

Though I’ve never been, somehow I feel like I’m at confession:  “Forgive me, it’s been 20 days since my last post.”  That was the post I admitted falling off the rails.  What’s happened since?  Life’s been good for the most part – and busy as always.  We’re winding down the school year and looking forward to the lazy days of summer.

As for falling off the rails, I’m still off where SIBO prevention is concerned.  I have been eating a mostly paleo diet, with a slice of gluten-free raisin bread from New Cascadia Bakery now and again, or maybe daily (but just one slice).  Grain free, otherwise (well, except for a wee bit of rice, and I mean like 1/2 cup twice in the last month).  I’m nearing the end of 4 weeks on a new round of herbs – Dysbiocide and FC-Cidal (Biotics “big guns” for treating SIBO) and I’ve been feeling great!  My body responds well to herbs.  A few more glory days left, then back to prevention.  What does this mean?  I’ll get to that in a minute.

I just saw my doc.  My chief complaint is severely itchy ears (now that the herbs have calmed my gut bloating).  He wants me off eggs as itchy ears are typically indicative of food sensitivity, and eggs are a common culprit.  Giving up eggs hasn’t exactly sunk in yet.  He says I should know within 4-5 days if eggs are the issue.  And if they are, I will surely die!  Have I mentioned I eat at least 2 eggs every day of my life?  Probably more when I’m trying to prevent SIBO from recurring?  And as soon as my herbs run out in a few days, I will be revisiting the SIBO prevention diet – SCD/low-FODMAP.  I have one word:  f*#k!  NO eggs, NO grains, loads-of-peppers-and-greens-and-bacon-and-other-meat-and-10 green beans at a time, NO onions or garlic, and NO chocolate – in other words NO fun whatsoever!  I agreed to be strict for the first 7-10 days, then play around with introducing foods.

I spent the weekend at the 2nd annual SIBO Symposium where top GI docs (MD’s and ND’s) from all over the country presented the latest research in SIBO, treatment options, and numerous case studies.  My big take-away:  A definitive treatment does not exist!  Everyone is different and therefore everyone responds differently.  The recidivism rate is sky high in a matter of months.  So, I’m asking myself, If this is a chronic condition, why the hell am I jumping through all these hoops to kill the bastards (and by that I mean the bacteria in my small bowel that shouldn’t be there, except that they are)?  Why not just accept the uncomfortable symptoms, take some herbs now and then, and get on with my life?  Because, says my doc, he has had patients heal completely, so there is hope.

I’ll be back on low-dose Erythromycin (prokinetic) to help with my MMC (migrating motor complex) that helps the small intestine flush itself clean several times a day.  (Those of us with SIBO have problematic MMC’s.)  I’ll be adding in Acetyl-L-Carnitine (transports fatty acids to the mitochondria for breakdown) and Iberogast (additional prokinetic) this time around.  And, I’ll be taking Prescript-Assist (probiotic) twice a day to repopulate my gut with healthy bacteria.  And, of course, the prevention diet, though after the first 7-10 days I will likely lighten up a bit as my body allows.  I will also be having a full blood panel done next week, including lipids, thryoid antobodies, and more, plus a urine test to see where I’m at with heavy metals.  Let the good times roll!

Oh, by the way, I’m collaborating with another Portland practitioner to start a SIBO Support Program.  We’ll have monthly meet-ups, potlucks, food demos, speakers, etc. as well as private nutritional counseling packages available specifically for SIBO sufferers.  Stay tuned for more information from the “Happy Gut Girls.”

Happy Gut 1

Happy Gut 2

 

Off the Rails

Since my last post on May 8, I’ve gone completely off the rails, at least as far as my SIBO prevention protocol is concerned!  What does that look like?  Well, it sort of looks like real life.

In the past 12 days, I’ve eaten out a few times.  Most notably, I dined at Paley’s Place, arguably one of Portland’s finest restaurants, to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday.  He claimed it was the best meal of his life!  I had fresh Halibut en Papillotte (Potatoes, Fennel, Olives, Capers, Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc), braised greens, the most amazing wine I’d ever had, and for dessert –  Warm Chocolate Soufflé Cake.  Though I made sure not to eat gluten or dairy (besides loads of butter, which I tolerate well), I’m pretty sure FODMAPs were nowhere on the chef’s radar!  Nor mine!  It was impressive!  I was a bit bloated (mostly due to the dessert I’m guessing), but it was totally worth it.  Celebrating life’s milestones are not to be missed!

CatieMy 8 year old’s filet mignon at Paley’s Place (I think I ate about half her entree too!)

Speaking of celebrating, the previous night, my husband and I and another couple went to dinner and the theatre.  We celebrated my husband’s new job promotion.  Dinner was at South Park.  I had Manila Clams (White Wine, Garlic, Parsley, Chili Flake) and a salad topped with fresh Oregon strawberries, hazelnuts, and Parmesan cheese.  Parmesan is a hard, aged cheese, and I read recently that even those of us with casein intolerance (casein is the protein in dairy), the casein in aged, hard cheese is denatured in the fermentation process and often tolerable to those with dairy sensitivity.  So, I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed every bite.  (Still not sure about any reactions to the cheese.  Usually my skin will break out with dairy and so far this hasn’t happened). I had one glass of red wine.  My gut was pretty uncomfortable during the theatre production, but I still felt it was worth it just to indulge.

My son and I had lunch at a great Labanese deli called Karam.  Our meal was entirely gluten- and dairy-free and SO tasty.  Henry said the chicken was the best meat he’d ever eaten.  It was spiced with cinnamon and other fragrant spices.  Our plate also had roasted lamb, rice, hummus, and tabouli.  We ordered a side of their warm, gluten-free pita bread (made with buckwheat) which was delicious.  I felt totally fine after this meal.

We ventured out for Asian food a time or two, and it didn’t sit well with me either time.  You win some, you lose some.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about my health issues, food issues, and life in general.  I definitely want to heal my gut.  I just don’t want to do it at the expense of taking all enjoyment out of life.  Perhaps it’s a timing issue.  Perhaps I need to be in a different mental space.  I definitely plan to do more research and educate myself on all the options for treatment.  I think if I’d felt better during my protocol I would have stuck with it.  But when I started feeling crummy again, it just didn’t seem worth it.  I also need to re-test for SIBO.  It could be gone.  I have a hunch that my current issue has more to do with yeast overgrowth.  Whatever the case may be, it’s going to take time to figure out.  I read a comment from one of the top SIBO docs recently that it can take months or even years to treat gut issues such as SIBO.  I need to find a balanced approach – one where my physical health, emotional health, and my general well being are looked after.