Health

Erica: A Teenager Healing with the GAPS Diet! (Guest Post)

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This post is especially exciting to me! This girl is going to change some lives :).

Erica kindly agreed to share her story. She blogs at Edible Attitudes.

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Erica’s story:

When I reflect on my childhood, I don’t remember a long period of time when I didn’t have some type of aliment. I never dealt with anything life threatening but everything was cumulative and seemly unconnected.

My first health problem was at the age of six months old when I had my first infection. Between the ages of two and three I was on continuous antibiotics because the ear infections would not go away. I began to notice environmental and food sensitivities to lactose, dust, pollen, and certain plants. In fourth grade, I began to have problems with my joints, specifically my ankles.

Seventh grade was when things began to rapidly spiral downwards. It started with my knees and ankles causing me a lot of pain. At the time I assumed it was because I am a softball catcher. But soon the joint inflammation spread and caused me to be in pain on a daily basis and everyday tasks were more difficult.

By the start of my sophomore year of high school, only 3 years later, I developed tendinitis in both knees and elbows, multiple fingers, left wrist, and right bicep.

My journey has taken a lot of work and sacrifice! I started seeing a functional medicine doctor in 2011 and was taken off gluten, dairy, corn, MSG, sugar, and soy. I took supplements that helped manage the joint inflammation. This helped a little bit but I still struggled with pain and multiple other health problems. I was frustrated and ready to change my diet again if necessary. I started the GAPS Intro Diet in November of 2012 with my mom and brother. This led to my first large and noticeable change in the joint inflammation. A few months prior I had developed a deep stabbing bone pain in my foot and within the first month of starting the GAPS Diet, it was gone. My knees also felt better and I could catch longer before having joint pain. Although GAPS was clearly helping, I still had pain, numerous other health problems, and couldn’t reintroduce foods without a flare up.

In April 2013, I was instructed by my doctor to remove salicylates from my diet because I had developed a sensitivity. My diet was limited to about 20 foods for four months.

It was hard, really hard at times, but it was totally worth it. In only a few weeks all my pain was gone. Completely gone for the first time in five years! I am 17 now and a senior in high school and am proud to say that I am free of joint inflammation. This spring and summer I played my first pain free softball seasons in five years. I no longer dread walking up and down stairs or biking or using a scissors or bending down to pick something up. Daily tasks aren’t painful anymore.

I assumed that the biggest change from modifying my diet would be physical, but it has actually been a mental transformation. I have learned to have perseverance, discipline, and self-motivation. I took responsibility for my health. It is not my parents’ responsibility to micro-manage everything I eat and do, it’s my body and I learned to step up and care for it. I have also learned life long lessons such as, people’s opinions shouldn’t matter to me. I know why I am changing my diet. I know that it works and that is enough for me.

I still have a restrictive diet because I am still working through other health problems, but I have been able to reintroduce salicylates without joint inflammation returning.

If I hadn’t been encouraged by my mom to change my diet and if I hadn’t taken responsibility, I can’t imagine how different my life would be now. Hardly anything about taking ownership of your health is easy, but it so worth it when you start to feel better and have a better quality of life.

If this sounds like you or someone you know and would like to read my whole story, you can purchase my book, A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy. (Kindle version)

This post was shared on Healing with Food Friday.

Why Change What You’re Eating?- Lauren Finds Balance with Real Food (Guest Post)

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Yay! I have another food healing story to share. This is doubly awesome since my computer died and I’m in the process of finding a new one. So THANK YOU, Lauren 🙂

Lauren lives in beautiful Summerside, Prince Edward Island.  She has a job she LOVES in healthcare and recently adopted a bunny named Binky. Some of the stuff she shares on her blog: whole foods, home cooking, fermentation, probiotics, natural birthing and fertility, alternative medicines, and homeschooling.

Check out her blog at Naturally Living in the Maritimes.

Lauren’s Story 

I’m always growing in my real-food diet. It’s been a journey from the first time I picked up a book on veganism and renounced meat for good, working in a used book store to now, through a struggle with my eating disorder, to now – confidently eating and cooking organic veggies, grains and meats.

I was a vegetarian for 4 years, and a vegan for a year and a half of that time. I was 19, I had left an unhappy home and it was a stressful time. I was starting out on my own in my new apartment, a vegetarian because it was cheaper and easy to cook. I had a two burner stove top, a microwave, and an Easy-Bake Oven sized toaster oven. My diet consisted of veggie chicken nuggets, pierogies, garlic bread and alcohol. I was running every night and had started to become concerned about my weight.

That winter, I was the victim of a sexual assault. It went unreported and I didn’t talk about it. It was someone I’d seen every week and I was so stressed, I was beginning to unravel. I needed something in my life I felt I could control. I found myself falling, very quickly, into purge-type anorexia. The weight gain from hormonal birth controls coupled with the pressure on my body of eating processed foods, day in and day out caused me to gain ten pounds. Apparently, those ten pounds were what set me over the edge. It was a really dark time.

After about a year of hiding my diet-pill-and-diet-coke diet and two hour workouts, seven days a week, I decided I’d change my mind about veganism, and “go paleo”. I didn’t understand what paleo was, and I figured that my best bet was just to eat lots of meat because that would help me put more muscle on, and more muscle meant that my basal metabolic rate would be higher, burning more calories daily. It didn’t work because in order to have enough meat to get me through my new high-protein diet, the quality of meat suffered. I gained weight, and that was more stressful.

After about six months of this, I found my first blog on “Real Food” eating. I decided that the best thing I could do for myself was to make real food – quality vegetables (organic if possible), limiting chemicals and boxed products, humanely-raised local meat, and cooking things myself. I sat my fiancé down and had a conversation about how we could afford these foods and we determined that we could do everything but the meat – it was too expensive. So, we set about on our new, real food, vegetarian diet with the promise that I would become accountable to my fiancé about my calorie intake and my purging habits.

The results?

We cooked better, we found great recipes, we felt healthier. Both of us lost the weight we’d put on – for me, it was about 15lbs, for him it’s been almost 20lbs, and he’s still losing. I felt more confident about myself, not due to me being skinnier, but about the fact that eating had become a method of fueling myself and I truly enjoyed the act of cooking. Eating is not scary, it’s not something to be calculated and counted and stressed over. It is now an art and a hobby. Grocery shopping is something I look forward to every week. I’m even looking at becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist! Aubrey took up baking breads, and we started working towards self-sufficiency together. I’d be lying if I said a negative-thought about food never crossed my mind, but I now put it aside and think about the positive things that I love about eating real food. Today, at 22, I’m feeling the healthiest I’ve ever been, I feel I’m being responsible to those animals I read about almost five years ago that made me turn my back on meat to begin with, and I feel like I’m honoring myself. I love my body, I love what food does to heal me, and I’m proud to be an example of how food can not only physically heal your body, but emotionally heal your soul as well.

Best wishes on your real food journey and I hope my experiences can be a push to heal yourself as well!

Why Change What You’re Eating?- The Story of a Boy With a Starving Brain (Guest Post)

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The past couple of weeks have been amazing and exhausting! I had my finals and graduation for my Nutritional Therapy program!!! Yay!  Add in all of my procrastinated homework, my regular day job,  and birthday parties for my daughter and I’m pretty beat. But grateful !

Everyone at our graduation celebration had a chance to talk about how changing what they ate changed their health. I’m a total sucker for a good healing story, and there were a lot of them :).

Drastically changing what you eat isn’t an easy thing, so most people just don’t do it. Food is a BIG deal! Your mommy gave you food to take care of you and show you love. Our culture is built around food, eating out, convenience, addictive foods.

So over the next few weeks I’m going to share some stories of people who transformed their lives by changing what they were eating. Like I said, I love a good story so I’m pretty sappy about the whole thing. The first one is by Kristen of Live Simply.

Piper's-Story

                                                 By Kristen @ LiveSimply

This post is long overdue.

A story I have been wanting to share, but just haven’t had the courage to sit down and write.

A story about my son Piper, a speech disorder, a starving brain, and how real food and a key nutrient played a key role in his rehabilitation.

This is Piper’s story…

In 2009 I found out I was pregnant. The thought of carrying life inside my belly for nine months seemed to be a daunting task.  I, like most mothers, wanted to provide my child with the very best start in life. One area life that was not ideal was food. I ate a Standard American Diet of heavily processed foods, low-fat everything, and lots of take-out. You can read more about our real food journey here, but in short, after spending many nights watching documentaries like Food Inc. and reading countless Micheal Pollan books, I was convinced a dietary change had to be made. I cut all the processed foods from our life and went a step further, a huge step, I eliminated all animal products from my diet. The only animal product I consumed was honey.

Keep reading….

This post was shared on Healing with Food Friday.

What’s the Big Deal?- Food Allergies and Sensitivities

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A lot of people are suddenly claiming to have food allergies or sensitivities. Do you ever wonder why?

I work in public school. Every year the list of students with life threatening food allergies grows bigger! When I was a kid, I knew only two people with food allergies the entire time I was growing up.  (Some studies confirming the increase in food allergies, here and here.)

There are some theories on what’s behind the increase:

1. The introduction of GMO’s into our food-These non-foods could be causing our bodies to treat them as foreign invaders, triggering an overreaction of the immune system.

2. Poor digestion and leaky gut-  If our digestive system doesn’t break down our food properly, some makes it into our bloodstream undigested. Our bodies don’t recognize these larger particles as food! Once again, our bodies treat the food as a foreign substance and the immune system overreacts. (See What Does My Belly Have to Do with My Brain?)

3.  Improper preparation of foods- People in traditional cultures ate real, whole foods. They also prepared their foods in ways that made them more digestible, and neutralized anti nutrients. The food we’re eating today can deplete the body of nutrients and aggravate the digestive system. (Ancestral preparation of foods: fermented foods, traditionally prepared sourdough, soaked grains)

4. Pesticides and chemicals in food- Maybe we’re having reactions to the non-food substances in the food?

I think all of these theories have some truth to them. But whatever the reason, what’s the big deal about eating foods that your body is having a reaction to? Beyond the obvious hives and anaphylactic reactions that some people have.

When you expose yourself to the foods you react to, this is what happens:

1. The continuous inflammatory response to the foods causes your adrenals to produce cortisol in response to the inflammation. This will cause your adrenals to be depleted. If you have adrenal fatigue, it’s likely that you’re reacting to a food (or multiple foods).

2. It causes too many immune responses that could be avoided. This means you will have constant inflammation in your body. Some inflammation is appropriate and necessary, but too much has dire consequences. Too much inflammation is related to a LONG list of diseases. Depression, Bipolar disorder, autism, dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, IBS, and autoimmune disorders are a few of the diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation.  That’s huge!

Removing foods that you’re sensitive to is essential to the health of your whole body. (I also recommend improving digestion and detoxification.)

You can find out which foods you react to in a few different ways. None of the ways are perfect, but you have to start somewhere 🙂

1. Elimination diet- Remove common allergens from your diet and add them back in one at a time. Pay close attention when you add them back in! The most common food allergens are dairy, gluten containing grains,  eggs, soy, corn,  tree nuts, peanuts,  and shellfish. I know this is a pain, but it can be life changing. It’s also the most reliable way to find out what’s making you sick.

2. Blood tests that test for IgE, IgG, and IgA- IgE is the immediate immune response that everyone recognizes: hives, rashes, swelling, or respiratory problems. IgG and IgA can have a delayed reaction. These tests aren’t perfect. You may end up showing that you don’t react to things you obviously react to. Or they may say you have a whole bunch of reactions because your immune and digestive systems are over reacting.

3. The Coca Pulse Test- This one is practiced only in alternative medicine circles. But it’s free :). You take your pulse after eating a meal to narrow down what your body may be reacting to. Then, when you suspect a certain food may be raising your heart rate, you take your pulse using only that food. This is an indicator of a food reaction because when you eat something that inflames your body, your adrenals will produce hormones to reduce the inflammation. The adrenal hormones also raise your heart rate. Using this test, I accidentally found out I had a reaction to green beans. Weird! But I felt better when I stopped eating them.

Here’s an article on Coca Pulse Testing to explain it further.

I hope this helps people to understand that the whole food sensitivity thing is a big deal!

And remember, if you discover food sensitivities, it’s not as big a deal to eliminate them as you think it is. A lot of people are eating this way. Google is your best friend :).

This post was shared on Healing with Food Friday.

Your Brain on Elderberry

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My kids always ask me for elderberry capsules when they start getting sick. I think it’s great that they choose this over any other cold or flu medicine ❤ !  Elderberry is a folk remedy with a crazy list of benefits.  It’s a powerful antioxidant, helps lower cholesterol, improves vision, and helps your body fight bacterial and viral infections. Elderberry juice has been used to treat influenza, and was very effective!

But, of course, I’m interested in what elderberry does for your brain:

“Elderberries are wild shrubs, growing eight to ten feet tall, and are found along streambeds and waste areas across most of North America. They are exceptionally high in aconthocyanins, a potent antioxidant that helps protect brain cells and mitochondria from damage.” –Dr. Terry Wahls

“Elderberries are packed with quercetin, a flavonoid that’s critical to your brain’s health. Like blueberries and strawberries, the flavonoids found in elderberries help reduce harmful inflammation at a cellular level. Additionally, quercetin increases the activity of your cells’ mitochondria, which you can think of as the “powerhouses” within each of your cells. By boosting your mitochondrial activity, you’ll boost your overall energy level, too.” – Dr. Majid Fotuhi, author of The Memory Cure

I was talking to a guy last year about  the benefits of elderberry. He said, “Oh, I have those in my back yard. We never do anything with them.” He invited me to come over when his berries got ripe this year. I was so excited! I decided I was going to make my own elderberry syrup. I was going to be that mom!

He called to tell me the berries were ready last Friday. I started researching recipes and found out that  some elderberries are poisonous. And even the ones that aren’t poisonous need to be cooked to remove toxins from them. The stems need to be removed because they’re poisonous. There’s nothing like the internet to make a person paranoid. I wasn’t even sure if I should do it. But elderberries are one of my favorite natural remedies, so I decided to try.

Yesterday, I brought my daughter and her friend over to pick them. The berries were too high to reach, so the elderberry guy pruned some of the branches from the high part of the bush and we started picking them off.

The berries were unbelievably tiny! It took a super long time, but the elderberry guy was really funny and entertaining, so the time flew by. Later, he gave us a tour of his AMAZING 100 year old house. The girls got to pick some blueberries, too, until my daughter got freaked out by the spiders.  It was an adventure.

Tonight I cooked up 1/2 the berries after looking at this recipe. Of course, I didn’t actually follow the recipe because I almost never do.

In the pan:

*1 1/2 cups elderberries with every single stem removed 🙂

*about 10 leaves from the stevia plant in my garden

*2 tsp ground cinnamon

*1/2 tsp ground ginger

* 1/2 cup water

I brought them to a boil and then reduced the heat. I simmered them for about 45 minutes. They smelled great. I tried putting the mixture through a strainer and hardly any came out. I ended up putting the whole mixture in the blender and adding 3/4 cup of water (I should have put more water in there to begin with), and blending it up. I made a HUGE mess and used up a lot of dishes. But it tasted really good!

I put the pulpy stuff into some of those ice cube trays that look like hearts. Then I put them in the freezer for later.

Next time I would use more water-maybe about  2 1/2 to 3 cups? And then I would have some syrup to put through the strainer. I don’t want it to be too runny, though, because I am not using honey to thicken it up.

I’m still alive :). My brain feels better already.

What Does My Belly Have to Do with My Brain?

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How does what’s going on in the digestive system affect the brain? Now that I understand more about how the body works, I realize if your digestive system isn’t working, the rest of your body can’t possibly work! But I have to say that for most of my life I just thought of food and digestion as calories and fat. I wanted to be sure I didn’t eat too many calories, because that’s the important thing, right? Being overweight makes you unhealthy, right?

I didn’t pay attention to the fact that:

“Every cell that makes up every tissue that makes up every organ DEPENDS on the body’s digestive system to provide nutrients it needs to keep functioning.”

That’s a quote from the Nutritional Therapy program I’m taking. It makes sense that all of the materials that make up your body have to come from somewhere. And that “somewhere” is from the real food you eat. And after you eat it, your digestive system has to turn it into something you can use. The food starts as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It must be broken down into tiny pieces that the body can recognize: amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose.

If your digestive system isn’t working, it’s not so pretty. Your protein will putrefy, your fats will turn rancid, and your carbs will ferment. If your digestive system IS working, your body and brain are able to work.

Here’s the quick version of good digestion:

1. You see and smell the food and your brain starts telling your digestive system to get ready.

2. You start to salivate, and the saliva contains enzymes that start breaking down the food as you chew.

3. You swallow and the food goes down your esophagus.

4. Your food reaches your stomach and stomach acid is released, stomach acid activates pepsin in order to break down protein. (Cool fact: the pepsin must be activated by the stomach acid, if it were active all the time it could digest your stomach because your stomach is made of protein!) A layer of mucus protects the stomach lining from the strong acid.

5. When the food in your stomach is properly “acidified” and broken down, your pyloric sphincter opens up to let those stomach contents into your duodenum (the upper part of your small intestine). Once the food is in the duodenum, hormones are released to signal your gallbladder to release bile (to emulsify fat) and to trigger digestive enzymes to be released from your pancreas (hormones: cholecystokinin, secretin).

6. The amino acids, fatty acids, and sugars are absorbed into your small intestine and distributed throughout your body.

7. Your large intestine is filled with indigestible fiber, bile, water, bacteria and sloughed cells, which is then eliminated.

So what can go wrong?

There are some digestive problems that seem to happen a lot in our culture.

1. Not relaxing and paying attention to our food. This prevents the body from entering “rest and digest” mode, or the parasympathetic state.

2. Not chewing well. This makes the rest of the system have to try to compensate.

3. Low stomach acid production.

4. Poor gallbladder function. This is HUGE, almost everyone I’ve met needs support in this area! Maybe we’ve had too many years on low-fat diets? Or eating bad fats? You actually need cholesterol to produce bile.

5. Liver stress=no bile

6. Poor quality food (fake food made in a lab)!

7. Undigested proteins= food intolerance or allergy

8. Undigested proteins, fats, carbs= an irritated gut, bad gut microbes (yeast, bacteria), leaky gut

What does this have to do with my brain? Shouldn’t I have a stomach ache?

This is what I thought, and I actually did not seem to have digestive symptoms until I started healing my body.  My symptoms were depression and anxiety, and I was really exhausted. Some people do have digestive symptoms with their mental symptoms.

There are 2 main reasons why digestive problems would affect the brain (and everything else):

1. Poor digestion= not enough raw materials for neurotransmitters and hormones.

2. Bad bacteria and yeasts feed on undigested or poor quality food. Bad bacteria and yeasts chemically alter your brain, and not in a good way!  Depression, anxiety, Bipolar disorder, autism, and schizophrenia are correlated with poor gut microbes. Read more:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-neuroscience-of-gut

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201206/do-probiotics-help-anxiety

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gut-second-brain

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-05/uoc–cgb052813.php

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling.aspx

What to do with this information?

That’s a really good question. I think that some people can benefit from probiotic supplements and probiotic foods (like kombucha or live sauerkraut). I needed to correct my digestion and eliminate some foods that were aggravating me. I did the GAPS diet and I love paleo/primal recipes, too. I had to eliminate starches and most sugars (I can eat honey).

Do I think everyone needs to do the GAPS diet? I’ve been thinking about that, and I think there might be something that can be done that might be a bit less restrictive. Any plan for a healthy brain would DEFINITELY involve healing digestion and detoxification. The plan would also involve getting rid of foods that you are intolerant to.  And of course my favorite thing, good microbes!  I am a big fan of  bacteria :).

If you decide to take the plunge and start GAPS or paleo/primal, I have to say that the food is delicious!!! I never feel deprived because I eat delicious food. I’ve talked to other people who have started eating a more ancestral diet and they say the same thing. It doesn’t feel like punishment.

The only drawback is that we do live in the real world, and there are people who don’t eat that way, so other food is always around unless you stay home.  A big plus is that I have become a really good cook and my family loves what I cook.

Congratulations, you made it to the end. Thanks for reading!

This post was shared on Healing with Foods Friday.

My New Favorite Morning Drink (Besides Coffee)

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lemon Himalayan salt

Here it is:

*8 oz warm/hot water

*Juice of 1 lemon

*1/8 tsp of sea salt (Himalayan, Celtic, Realsalt, etc.)

*Stevia if desired

Drink first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

That’s it! This drink does so many good things for your body.

Drinking 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt in your water helps it work better for hydrating every part of your body. I’ve tried many times in my life to “drink enough water” like I was supposed to. It never made me feel better and I had to go to the bathroom a lot. Now I know that it’s important to drink water with a bit of salt in it in order to get all of the benefits.  This is SO IMPORTANT if you have adrenal fatigue, which a lot of us do :). We drink too many cups of coffee to kick our adrenals into action. The adrenals only have so much to give!

The adrenals produce a lot of different hormones: stress hormones, sex hormones, and a hormone called aldosterone. Aldosterone tells the kidneys to retain sodium when it’s needed, for many functions in the body. One important function of salt is to facilitate the transport of nutrients into the cells, such as calcium, magnesium, glucose, and amino acids(sodium-potassium pump). If you have adrenal fatigue, this isn’t working so well.  James Wilson (author of Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome) says:

“Another consequence of low aldosterone is electrolyte imbalance and cell dehydration, which both have negative effects on almost all physiological reactions in the body. Aside from salt cravings, low blood pressure and light-headedness, patients with adrenal fatigue often experience an irregular heartbeat, lethargy, muscle weakness, and increased thirst. These are all a result of imbalance in sodium and other minerals, including potassium and magnesium. Increasing your salt intake is one way to help restore these imbalances.”

So give your poor adrenals some love! ❤

In addition to the hydration and adrenal benefits, lemon water in the morning can assist your body with digestion and detoxification (more info here). In my opinion, improving digestion and detoxification are two of the most important things you can do to improve your mental health. And I am a BIG FAN of mental health and balanced energy!

I’ve had enough ups and downs in my life, have you?