Archive for tag: diet

The Great Food Debate

I've been embroiled in a debate on different eating habits for a few weeks. It's been a heated debate. Information has been passed back and forth, but the science is a hard sell for those that don't know or understand it. I say, science, because it's not just the facts about Paleo, gluten-free, Mediterranean, or whatever eating patterns/diets, but about nutrition in general. It's about how our bodies handle food and what they need to be healthy.

There are a million and one (and probably more) "diets" out there. Right now, Paleo and gluten-free seem to be trending the most. Celebrities are using them to "get healthy." People are using them for weight loss or to control the symptoms of one disease or another. Some are using them to lower their inflammatory levels. But few seem to know the actual science behind any of it.

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Image source: www.towelmate.com

I'm admittedly biased. I've been a diagnosed Celiac, and gluten free for 16 years. The more information that I learn about grains, etc. -- the more I'm glad that I don't eat gluten. But the general public doesn't have the information that I have. In fact, it seems that most professionals don't either. But that's not the purpose of this posting.

When I started out writing this, I thought about my friend and how vehemently she adheres to her beliefs about "nutrition" and eating. She's a registered dietician. We've argued back and forth about grains, about how she thinks that Paleo/Mediterranean is bad for athletes, about how impossible it is to follow, and about how there's a lot of "false" science/claims about that particular eating pattern. The whole experience has been a major illustration on the adherence to beliefs that people have -- not just for her, but for me. It's also been an exercise in frustration.

I can only "recommend" what science (and anecdotal evidence -- but that's another story) shows to be true. For example, I can explain that zonulin destroys tight junctions in the gut, brain, and reproductive organs, and that the main sources of tight junction destroying proteins are grains and legumes. I can quote studies all day long (and all night long) -- and I have. I can distill the science down to very simple words that anyone could understand by using pictures, analogies, and more broad terms. I can do all of these things, but that doesn't mean it's going to change anyone's mind, and it also doesn't mean that they're going to be willing to put it into practice.

We're very steeped in our beliefs. Usually, those beliefs have absolutely nothing to do with evidence. My friend, for example, focuses on athletes and sports nutrition. The concept of carb-loading with pasta or the use of sports drinks is very much a part of her reality. She's concerned about having energy available for use. She's not concerned about inflammation, overall health and well-being, the prevention of disease, or whether or not someone might develop cancer or an autoimmune disorder. She wants to run marathons, or play 4-hour-long matches. Her reality and mine are very, very different. Chances are, that no matter what I say or provide her with, she will always adhere to her thoughts about nutrition. It will always be about the quick fix. My hope is that she'll come across a difficult case and be forced to broaden her concept of what healthy eating is.

Patients aren't any different. Some may have more or less information than my friend. They may be coming in with a copy of some new fad diet book, or a cookbook of recipes that their Aunt Sally said worked really great to help her lose weight. People may walk into the office carrying a well-worn copy of the all-carrot diet, asking what to do about their increasingly orange skin. They'll be emphatic about drinking their diet coke, eating their bowl of pasta, or consuming 3 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before every meal.

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Image source: msmomofosho.wordpress.com

It will be our job to walk them through their questions, hopefully bring some experience and education to the table, and talk them through ideas and possibilities that will help them find some form of healthy, sustainable ground. They may resist with everything that they have in them. As I write this, I'm thinking about how much I struggle with sugar or eating rice, and how hard it has been for me to give them up; I'm not there yet. It's our job to work with them, using their limitations (even if those are beliefs), and our education to help them get to someplace healthier.

My friend and I will probably continue to argue about what we should or shouldn't be eating. The only thing we've been able to agree on so far, I think, is that there's no one single "right" way. There's no perfect way that everyone should be eating. We're all human, and each body is different. The science may figure out that everything we "know" is wrong, and everything must be changed. I may never be able to fully give up sugar or rice. But whatever happens, we'll all hopefully be happier and healthier because of what we learn -- about food, about our relationship with it, and our relationships with each other.

Have a great week, everybody.

Week 12 - Breathe

We're nearing the end of the trimester. It's the calm before the storm. Since my classmate Lexxi just reminded me, I'll remind you. Did you: do your FAFSA? Taxes? Register for classes?

This week starts the last minute projects and presentations before practicals and finals. Actually we have part of a practical on Friday for PT. I'm going to rehab a knee with Rheumatoid Arthritis -- which I'm finding as a bit of a struggle. How do you give someone exercises for a degenerating joint, when they have to move the joint? I've been pondering it quite a while. Here's hoping I come up with something good.

This week and next week, our program hosts a cadaver lab demonstration for the nursing, PA, and other health professions programs that we share space with. For those who aren't familiar, we share some campus space with the St. Petersburg College health profession programs and Barry University PA programs. Since some of our classroom space is at the St. Pete Caruth Health Education Center, we see a lot of students from other programs running around -- including RN, PA, EMT, etc. Unlike our program, they don't have cadaver exposure, which always surprised me.

So, since we do, we host workshops toward the end of each trimester to expose those students to what the body really looks like. Several of our students will spend an hour or more in the lab going through some general parts of the anatomy, and explaining function, etc. I've always been surprised that the other programs don't have cadaver exposure. I honestly feel that dissecting has given me invaluable information that there's no way I would have known otherwise. Even still, when someone asks me a part of the anatomy, my mind automatically goes to the cadavers to visualize it. I do this during classes; I've done this during boards. It helps to actually SEE where the origins and insertions are, how the vasculature and nerves surround and penetrate the muscles, and how the muscles layer and invest in each other.

I haven't been in the cadaver lab since I finished that portion of basic sciences several tris ago. I'm REALLY looking forward to it. I think most of the other student-instructors will be from basic science tris. It'll be fun to get to interact with them. That's a privilege I don't often get.

On Saturday, I went to the Gluten Free for Life Expo. Last year Grey and I went, walked through, and received a ton of samples, coupons, and business cards from local gluten free businesses. This year, I was by myself, as Grey was at an FBLA conference. I ran into Julia, my classmate, and her daughter-in-law, Stephanie.

Beyond running into them and seeing my friend who runs a local acupuncture clinic, the expo was a total waste. And it wasn't just because of the samples and coupons -- which I guess were there -- it was because of the quality of products. If you've ever been to a health food store (and I'm guessing all of us have), you've seen that there's just as much junk food there, as there is at any other store. It's labeled as "organic" or "all-natural" or "healthy", but the difference is only that they use sugar instead of corn syrup, organic versus conventional, and substitute refined with less refined. That doesn't make any of it healthy.

So, I talked with the reps for a company (that I won't name), because they recently reformulated their products. They are dedicated to having gluten free, GMO free products. I respect this tremendously, however, they still have some pretty big problems. Previously, they were using sorghum flour -- which has been a staple in gluten free cooking for a while. Even I have used it on a regular basis (although not for several years). The rep mentioned that they were having problems with their sorghum flour becoming contaminated with GMO soy. So they changed formularies and started using buckwheat and millet instead. The problem is, that these other grains contain lectins, in very high quantity. Lectins, in brains, beans, and potatoes, cause disruption of the tight junctions in the gut -- leading to leaky gut. Leaky gut leads to food intolerance, inflammation, and lipopolysaccharide invasion (toxins from gram negative bacteria that naturally live in the gut). Big problem. Check this out: The Lowdown on Lectins. And if you're a real glutton for punishment Dietary Lectins as Disease Causing Toxicants for far more in depth information.

So, I talked to the rep about how the choices they've made in substitutions are likely to affect their customers. The lady didn't have a clue what I was talking about. But she seemed pretty scared in response and said she'd pass it on to their recipe people. I'm sure it won't go any further. I looked through the ingredient list on EVERY product they had there. The few that didn't have millet or buckwheat had TONS of sugar. *sigh* Gluten free isn't always healthy.

Since my "conversion" to mostly Paleo, I just can't look at food the same way. I'm always thinking about the grain or carbohydrate content, how much I'm allowing my gut to be exposed to the lectins and sugar, and what it's doing to me. I'd say I'm about 80% Paleo now. I go back and forth -- trying to only have rice a couple times a week, and sugar maybe once. It IS a struggle sometimes, especially when I'm stressed out. But I feel SO much better.

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And before I go, I've wanted to share this guy with you all for quite some time. He stands outside a defunct mini-golf turned car dealership parking lot. I often wonder why he's still here -- maybe it's because he's so awesome. I haven't come up with a name for him yet. I'm willing to entertain suggestions. There are lots of oddities around St. Pete.

Have a great week everybody.

Fall Is Here

The calendar says it's fall. I never would have known. I'm honestly ready for the weather to be cooler. It's about this time that I start missing Home. Around this time of year the leaves would be falling, it would be sweater weather, and somebody, somewhere, would be throwing a hayride in a pumpkin patch. Surely the scents of firewood and burning marshmallows waft through the air somewhere on this planet right now.

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(Image source: timeatthetable.org)

Midterms have already started. So far there's been one. There are two this week and the week after and I don't even want to look at my schedule after that because I know it's UGLY. Things are going so fast. My fellow students are already making plans to go Home on Thanksgiving break. I'm inclined to bake and sew and do all the things I used to do when the weather would normally cool off. One of these days I might have to turn the AC down to 60º in the house and curl up in a blanket just to get the same effect. I guess there's something that I'll never get used to about being here in Florida.

We're coming up on Halloween and there's a big Halloween potluck sponsored by the Motion Palpation Club. We're all discussing costumes for the event. I don't want to ruin it for anyone--so I won't drop ideas or tell what I've heard. I imagine we'll have some amazing costumes. We've got some crafty and creative people--especially in my tri. So, I can't imagine what they'll come up with.

I'm still working on my marketing project. I present right before Thanksgiving and I have so much work left to do. I'm inclined to go off the deep end and jump headfirst into my most ideal practice's business plan. I've got some pretty lofty ambitions with a pretty broad scope. Some may not even be feasible. I don't know that it will ever happen, but a girl can dream, can't she? My classmates and I have traded ideas in the hallway, while waiting for class to start, and in the parking lot - but I don't think that anyone has actually laid everything down in some type of practical form.

Special thanks to Dr. Jourdan, who is letting me exercise my baking muscle and have someplace to share my baked goods (so I don't eat them all myself). We've been having "Breakfast Friday" or this next week "Coffee Monday." This week it's cheesecake (gluten free, of course). I'm hoping to convert more of my recipes to Paleo--including this one. It shouldn't be too hard.  This recipe is VERY simple--few ingredients and easy to adapt.

Andrea's Favorite Simple Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 packages of cream cheese of your choosing, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs (or equivalent egg replacer)
  • Crust items of your choice (cookies, graham crackers, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
  2. Crush up the crumbs and mix with the butter. Press into a springform pan.
  3. Mix the cream cheese with the sugar, eggs/egg replacer, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Pour cream cheese mixture into crust.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes or until set. Cool for an hour or so. Place in the fridge to chill.
  6. Serve with garnish of your choice (or plain).

The conversion to Paleo will probably start with using coconut sugar in place of regular sugar. I'm not sure that vanilla is Paleo friendly, but I could probably use powdered vanilla bean instead of liquid vanilla (never use imitation vanilla--it contains hepatotoxins).

The crumbs could be anything. I'm sure I can come up with a Paleo friendly cookie of some sort. I've made cheesecake crusts with everything from brownie crusts to homemade graham crackers. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have accomplished this. I've also made this recipe gluten free and vegan before. Just substitute Tofutti cream cheese or rice based cream cheese (if you can find it) instead. It was actually richer than the dairy based version. You can also add an orange oil or lemon oil to the cheesecake to make it more flavorful.

Good luck on all the midterms coming up, everybody. I'm planning a series of blogs with something unique for all of you--maybe starting next week. We shall see.

If you make the cheesecake, drop me a line and let me know how you like it and what ingredients you used. Enjoy!

It's Springtime, Right?

Well, you wouldn't know it by looking outside. We've had a few really nice days, but it's expected to be in the 50s one day this week. It's almost April! What is going on? I know everybody up in the Midwest has had snow. I just keep looking out the door bewildered and checking the Weather Channel on my phone. I never know what it's going to be! Bundle-up or flip-flops, or my personal favorite, blue toes in flip-flops? We just take it day by day. 

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I thought for sure that I'd make it outside for something this weekend, but it didn't happen. I did, however, make a cameo at the Gluten Free Expo at the St. Petersburg Coliseum. Grey and I showed up about an hour before it was over, wondering if they'd have some great speaker at the last minute or some new revolutionary products. There were, of course, TONS of giveaways and coupons and brochures. I did grab a few business cards from vendors and talked to a health coach while I was there. 

I must say, though, that I was disappointed. While I'm grateful that I now have free snack fodder for the boys' lunches for the next month plus, I'm not sure how healthy it all is. There's just so much processing going into gluten-free products these days. Nothing they were giving away or selling was anywhere near simple or resembling anything homemade. 

I talked to a baker about Paleo cooking. She said that the biggest problem for them was cutting out the sugar. She wanted to substitute Stevia--which in some Paleo circles is forbidden (no artificial sugars or regular sugars). Although I'm not sure what other ingredients she was going to substitute, the sugar, I think, was the least of their worries. 

In Diet and Nutrition, Dr. S has been teaching us all the pathways and extolling the dangers of grains, sugars, and indirectly, processing. We've linked all these starches, Omega 6s, and sugars to everything from heart disease to Alzheimer's. Of course that doesn't make it all so easy to give up, but the argument is getting more and more persuasive. So I have to think--just because something is gluten-free, that doesn't make it healthy. Whether it's the canola oil, the high fructose corn syrup, or the ingredient that I can only dissect with a piece of paper and a chemistry textbook, it may still be gluten-free, but it's also a science/health experiment. I know for a fact, that gluten-free can still be simple. The more ingredients, the more likely that there might be a problem, and that doesn't work for anyone. 

I'm beginning to explore the ins and outs of the Paleo diet and trying to marry it with my own sense of nutrition. I suspect I'll be more restrictive in many ways than what the standards are. I still can't see/justify eating huge amounts of bacon. Something just doesn't seem right about that. I'm not sure whether it's the huge amounts of fat, the salt, or the nitrates. Yes, I know that all of those are available nitrate-free, but last time I checked--we were all students, yes?--I also know that I will never eat beef or eggs again. I think there has got to be a way to balance nutrition and our evolutionary developments with the limbic system. Otherwise, we'll all end up eating only 35 cups of Romaine lettuce with steaks wrapped in bacon. And between you and me, none of that sounds all that appetizing. 

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Last but certainly not least, I want to congratulate everyone on making it through midterms. We finally had our last one on Thursday. I'll spare you all the drama involved, but I know we are all extremely glad that that is over. I want to offer Dr. Ott my undying gratitude for being, perhaps, the coolest-headed professor I've ever come across. I must find for you, Dr, Ott, 5 million gold toilet stickers. You deserve them. (And if you want to know the story about the gold toilet stickers, you can email me). 

Everyone also deserves congratulations for making it through Mercury retrograde. Thankfully, Mercury went direct on St. Patty's Day--and not a moment too soon. I was tired of fixing everything, fighting and mediating fights, and just generally being in a funk.

Happy First Full Week of Spring to everyone and Happy Easter, Ostara and a Blessed Passover to all who celebrate.

This week's pictures are from Lake Maggiore--which is not far from my house. I was hoping to get some gators in there, but it was a bit too cloudy. If you enter through Boyd Hill and take the trails, I PROMISE you'll see some BIG gators. To my classmate Lauren, here's where you (don't) want to go. :) 

Living Gluten Free

On Easter, this year, while everybody's eating their dark chocolate Paleo-friendly bunnies (I like to bite the ears off first), I'll be celebrating 15 years of being gluten-free. It's hard to believe. "Back in the day", things were a whole lot different than they are now. It seemed that few people had celiac (or were gluten-free) or knew anything about it--including the professionals. The testing was different--biopsy and IgG anti-gliadin or anti-endomysial blood tests. The pre-made food was a lot harder to find (and surprisingly less expensive) and the education of the medical community was nearly non-existent. My how things have changed! There are sensitive and specific blood tests now (tissue trans-glutaminase), everything seems to have a gluten-free label on it, and docs--especially those in our profession, seem to know more and more about the benefits of going gluten-free.

My household has been gluten-free--exclusively--for the last 5 years. It's so important that the whole house be in support of the diet. For me, it was a no-brainer. Both Grey and I are Celiac, and Forest has never purposely had gluten. All the support groups stress how important it is to avoid contamination (and NOT cheat!). In order for a product to be considered gluten-free, it has to have less than 200 ppm of gluten.

For Celiacs, even small/accidental exposures are dangerous. People might not have an overt reaction to contamination amounts, but they might still cause sub-clinical symptoms--flattened villi, malabsorption, deficiencies, and constant damage to the GALT--leading to lymphoma and GI cancers. Yikes, right?! These small amounts can remain in cooking utensils, porous cooking pans, and shared equipment. So, after a major move and shift within the family, we started over with new utensils, new pots and pans, and a completely clean house. Other than the occasional poison-carrying visitor and the cats (whose food smell reminds me of wheat bread toast), we don't even allow lickable envelopes (Did you know that glue contains wheat?).

I can't begin to say how much of a difference going gluten-free has made in my life. Besides feeling infinitely better, I've experienced a number of benefits--from clearer thinking to better skin and hair (and most importantly, a happier gut!). For Grey, the benefits were a lot more dramatic. He was born at the 95th percentile, and before being diagnosed, dropped to less than 5th percentile. Of course, that was a long time ago--and now he's bigger than I am! 

I've been asked if I'd endorse a gluten-free diet. I absolutely would. I'm not so sure that I'd endorse all the pre-packaged foods being sold on store shelves right now. Processing is pretty much always bad. But, with all the research that's coming out about lectins, gliadin, and grains, it's making more and more sense for pretty much everyone to be gluten-free. So, I'll leave all of you with this: Educate yourselves about what you CAN put into your body--and what effects it might have. If you're not doing it for yourselves, do so for your patients. Remember that not all cases are textbook (in fact most cases of Celiac aren't). If you need help, feel free to contact me. And for some other resources, check these out:

And one last thing: I'll leave you with some "crack" containing, non-Paleo, yet gluten-free yummies--just in case you're going gluten-free and missing something sweet. (Don't hate me, Dr. S.!) 

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These are gluten-free, can be made egg-free and dairy-free, are vegetarian (but not vegan) and are most definitely NOT sugar-free. 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar (not white - turbinado or dehydrated cane is best)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg replacer (1 Tbsp. egg replacer powder with 3 Tbsp water - or sub 1 egg)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla (I make LIBERAL use of vanilla - DO NOT use imitation vanilla)

Instructions

  • Mix this stuff together with the mixer.
  • Add in the following:
    • 1-1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix (6 parts rice flour : 2 parts potato starch : 1 part tapioca starch) (Keep some extra just in case you need to stiffen up the dough.)
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 cup (or more) chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli mini semi-sweets mixed with their 60% cacao)
  • Bake for about 12 minutes per pan.

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No baking adventure is complete without flour all over the kitchen LOL. Please do your part to continue the tradition.

Next Food Adventure: Converting gluten-free to Paleo. I accept this challenge.

Have a GREAT week everybody!