Monday, June 18, 2012

Well that sucks.

So after all of my excellent efforts last week, I completely sabotaged myself this past weekend.

I am up 3lbs on the scale and feel like a pile of crud.  Cheat foods:

chips (not many but STILL)
english muffin
restaurant food ICK

That doesn't seem like a lot, right?  It was enough.  I feel ick.

Detox today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gluten. Is it bad?

Honestly, its just a protein found in wheat species.  Why is it the focus of so much hate?

Up to 1% of the population are true "celiacs."  These unfortunate souls have a reaction to partially-digested gliadin, which is a type of protein that will become gluten through further digestion.  In an epic situation of misguided immune response, digestion of gliadins in a celiac's intestine results in a protein that literally causes the immune system to attack the body's own intestine.  It's pretty unpleasant.  Symptoms include all sorts of intestinal difficulty and also poor nutrition (because the chronically-inflamed intestine is not doing its job and absorbing nutrients from our food) and failure to thrive in babies.

Gluten sensitivity is far more pervasive and most people don't even know they are victims of this vague disorder.  Not really an allergy and not really an auto-immunity, this disorder is just when the body reacts improperly to gluten and gluten precursor proteins.  Sensitivity to gluten can cause swelling, chronic inflammation, sinus issues, migraine, lethargy, intestinal disturbance, joint pain - really the list goes on and on.

So where do we find gluten?  EVERYWHERE.

Gluten protein is found in all stuff containing wheat, barley, rye, spelt.  Interestingly, grains like oats do not have the same "type" of gluten (the gliadin family) but they do have a similar protein which some celiacs cannot tolerate.  Only about 10% of celiacs and gluten-sensitive people have a reaction to oats, so they are generally considered "safe."  Quinoa is a different type of grain and therefore is naturally gluten-free.  The following is a life of "safe" grains:


So should you go Gluten-free?  Honestly?  That's up to each individual.  Do you have unexplained pain, swelling, bloating, attention issues, lethargy, depression and chronic sinus issues?  Well then what do you have to lose?  Go gluten-free and see what happens.  If after a few weeks of no gluten you feel 100% better, you may have your answer.  Then if you eat a bagel and your symptoms are back en force, you will be convinced.

But its not as easy as it seems - Gluten is everywhere.  The FDA allows 2 parts per million gluten in so-called Gluten Free foods.  If the label says gluten-free, it is safe by law.  However, if it doesn't say and you're looking for it on a label, look for this (information taken from this website).

Potential Sources of Gluten In Processed Foods and Beverages

Watch for these words on labels. They are a tip-off that the product contains gluten:
  1. Emulsifiers
  2. Flavorings
  3. Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
  4. Natural Flavorings
  5. Stabilizers
  6. Starch
  • Baked Bean (Canned)
  • Baking Powder
  • Beer
  • Breadings and coating mixes
  • Brown Rice Syrup (May contain malted barley)
  • Canned meats and fish in broth
  • Caramel Color (Usually corn derived, but check)
  • Cheese products- Sauces and some shredded cheeses
  • Condiments (Carefully read condiment labels. Gluten is often used as a stabilizer or thickening ingredient in ketchup, mustards and Oriental sauces)
  • Deli Meats, breaded fish and meats, pre-packaged ground beef products and hot dogs
  • Dextrin (Usually corn derived but always check)
  • Dry-roasted nuts
  • Flavorings, food starches, seasonings, and malt are general and vague words to watch for on labels of packaged foods. These terms are often clues that the product may contain gluten. For example, "malt" vinegar and "malted" milk powder contain gluten.
  • Frozen french fries (In the coating)
  • Gravy Products (Dry products, bouillion cubes, and processed, canned products)
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) and Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)
  • Imitation fish, meats and cheeses
  • Instant flavored coffee/cocoa mixes
  • Licorice candy (black and red)
  • Matzo Meal
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Mono and di-glycerides
  • Pickled Products
  • Salad Dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce which is commonly made by fermenting wheat. (Check ALL processed sauce labels- From BBQ sauce to ice cream toppings, chili pepper products and tomato sauce products-all may contain gluten)
  • Sausage
  • Self-basting poultry products including turkey with added "solutions"
  • Snack foods including flavored potato chips and corn chips
  • Soups, stocks and broth
  • Spice and herb blends (spices and herbs in their natural form do not contain gluten)
  • Rice products with seasoning packets
End quote.

If all of these foods are potential gluten sources, what the heck can we eat?  Basically you need to cut out processed foods - which you should be doing anyway.

All I know is that I went gluten-free for 3 days and lost a pound, felt great, and was motivated to go further.  Yesterday I totally fell of the "wagon" of anti-inflammation food when I drank beer (wheat, sugar, alcohol, chemicals!) and ate some pretzels (actually in moderation but still).

Happy Father's Day to all of the Dads!  I'm off to spend some time with my favorite father - my husband!  (my own Dad is a close second :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Going Gluten Free. EEEK!

GOAL:  Stop feeling like crud and start losing weight.

PROTOCOL (yeah, I said I was a scientist):  Stop eating chemicals and determine which food groups make me feel like crud.

Do I want to go cold turkey and stop eating EVERY possible inflammation-inducing food immediately?  Or do I want to reduce one food at a time?  The risk is that elimination of gluten wont feel any different to me because I'm still reacting to something else.  But I'm going to give it a go.

So I'm gluten free as of yesterday.

Day 1 went well - I had ONE thing that contained gluten and that was the steak sauce my mom slathered on my meat at dinner.  I couldn't stop her, I didn't even know it was on there and honestly its a bit rude to tell someone that just cooked you dinner that you don't want to eat it.  Anyway it was only about 2tbl of sauce.  I definitely ate more than I normally do - I rounded out the day right about 2000 calories and I bet that's because I was kinda looking for something if you know what I mean.  Before dinner I was kinda like:  THERE'S NOTHING TO SNACK ON THAT ISN'T GLUTEN FREE!!  So by virtue of the fact that I couldn't snack I proceeded to NEED a snack IMMEDIATELY.  This makes no sense but mind games are part of this process and they need to be dealt with too.

My pantry is awful - honestly.  There are reduced fat chips (loaded with crud), pretzels, another kind of pretzel, crackers, 4 boxes of cereal, rice off all kinds (technically doesn't have gluten naturally but I will need to determine if my brands are sprayed with gluten-containing stuffs), pasta (hello?) and a few varieties of convenience foods like bars, fruit cups and fruit leathers.  Most will be off limits to me.

Despite snacking a bit extra, I woke up this morning and was down 2 lbs of most probably water-weight.  Day one of no gluten and 2 lbs go away?  If this keeps up I might accidentally lose some weight!  I'm motivated to continue.

It's Day 2 and I was a bit stumped on lunch.  I didn't have leftovers from dinner and my pantry is not friendly right now so I rooted around and found .... what's pictured above for lunch.  A beg of iceberg lettuce, a scoop of canned chicken (goodness I hope there wasn't nasties in there, I didn't think to check but its a good brand so hopefully nothing awful in it!) w/1tbl EVOO mayo and Penzey's buttermilk ranch seasoning (these are clean, I checked!), a handful of dried cranberries (clean!) and about 5 cherry tomatoes quartered.  It was ... DELICIOUS.  I paired it with some fresh pineapple that you can see in a baggie above and was totally satisfied.  And I *THINK* it was gluten free.

Tonight we will have grilled chicken and veggie skewers at the park - we're having a picnic!  YAY!

Later I will discuss why gluten is bad and list some resources people have shown me in case anyone wants to try to go gluten free.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book review: Read Me. I am interesting and sciencey.

I read this book:  "The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book" by Jessica Black, ND*.

Here is the author's professional web site:

And here is the author's official book site:

Review:  I liked it!  I couldn't find any wrong information in it - which was refreshing since many books with the word "diet" in the title end up being pseudo-science or just stating "facts" that are plain wrong.  Basically, the idea is that the foods we eat are causing chronic inflammation which leaves us more susceptible to injury, diabetes, heart disease, even cancer.

One issue I have (in general and by no fault of Dr. Black's) is that no one mentions that these molecules that are critical for inflammation are ALSO important for other processes in the body.  For example, a friend once asked me why, if arachidonic acid is so bad for inflammation (it really IS a major mechanism for turning on the inflammation response), is it an additive in baby formula (sorry to use your question, friend X but its an important point)??  Well - arachidonic acid doesn't JUST mediate inflammation.  Its a HUGE component of the membrane or protective barrier for our nerve cells.  Without it, brain development halts.  See?  That little molecule that seemed so bad for inflammation turns out to have multiple roles in the body.  This concept is called pleiotropy and its something that's really important to know and understand in life science.  You cannot flood yourself with one molecule that seems "healthy" based on ONE of its jobs without there being consequences for a possible other role for that same molecule.  Don't believe me?  Check this out:

I heard a story on NPR this weekend about how Calcium supplements cause heart disease.  In fact, plaque in your arteries (oh yeah I am talking to YOU!) is only partially made up of that bad boy cholesterol.  The rest is - that's right - CALCIUM.  Do you take a supplement that your doctor suggested?  I did.  Then again, I had my thyroid removed and I needed to support my parathyroids for a while during recovery.  I don't take it any more cause I'm skerred.  Check out this un-scientific but interesting article from an NPR reporter and if you're still skeptical leave me a comment and I will distill the real scientific literature that I've read (in British J Med and JAMA):

Flooding your system with fake Calcium (and before you ask, adding Vit D or Magnesium does NOT change the risk of heart disease) to solve the problem of brittle bones might NOT be the right thing.  Calcium does other things in our bodies - did you know that?  Did you know that every muscle contraction requires calcium?  That the way cells talk to one another - their "language" - is small molecules like (and including) calcium?  And did you know that your artery plaque is made up of calcium?  So are kidney stones and gall stones.

So anyway.  Completely removing something from your body that it requires and that it has EVOLVED to require or flooding your system with fake chemicals that are supposed to take the place of getting said chemicals from a varied diet are not the answer.

I realize I've gone off on a tangent here.  I'm cool with it.  What it boils down to is that our bodies are not prepared for the industrial revolution.  We have only evolved to handle hunting and gathering.  So we should probably only eat berries, lean meat (yeah dude, hot dogs and bacon are not acceptable), the occasional legume and fruit, etc.

I will leave you with this parting thought:

We can talk about that another time. 

*you can buy Jessica Black's book on Amazon or just use this handy link.  You're welcome!  :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Figuring out what works

Food allergies or intolerances can be a bitch.  But what triggers them and what's the difference?

An allergy is a situation where a foreign substance (Or in the case of autoimmunity its something within our own bodies!) triggers a histamine-mediated immune response.  Antihistamines can be helpful but in my case, the over-the-counter ones don't work well for me.  Is it because I've taken them on and off for my whole life and I'm "immune" (ha ha a science pun) to them?  Perhaps.  Remember though that everyone's chemistry is a bit different.  It's completely possible that an antihistamine molecule doesn't interact as well with MY PERSONAL histamine receptors - HOLD UP.  I don't even know how antihistamines work.  BRB I will find this out and boil it down for you guys.

*cue hold music*

OK so there are many types of antihistamines on the market - but the most common and actually the most effective despite its sedating effects is still Diphenhydramine or Benadryl.  It works by blocking histamine binding to the histamine receptor.  So your body can go ahead and release histamine by the bucketful into the bloodstream but it cannot elicit its nasty effects because its being blocked like a bouncer in a nightclub ;)

Back to business.  An intolerance occurs when your body literally doesn't have the correct machinery to digest something - and anything that travels through your digestive system without being digested can be an irritant.  (Sidebar:  Even too much fiber can be an irritant - but I'm sure everyone knows that.  Incidentally, this is why those chitin and Ali and other such drugs cause massive intestinal upset - they are allowing undigested foods (fats) to pass through your lower intestine and they are major irritants.)  Those that are cursed with the wretched Lactose Intolerance are not "allergic" to milk.  They just cannot digest milk proteins because they lack the machinery (an enzyme) to do so.  So it passes through the digestive system in tact and irritates the system.  A milk "allergy" is different - that's histamine mediated.

SO - many people actually have food intolerances or allergies that go completely undetected because we are not programmed to consider food when thinking about our health and how we feel.  As naturopath doctor (ND), Jessica Black says in her book The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book:

     "Many people have wheat allergies or sensitivities. Symptoms can be as severe as celiac disease, in which no gluten is tolerated at all and results in gastrointestinaldamage, or as minor as postnasal drip, cough, or phlegm. It is well documented that many neurological conditions are related to gluten intolerance as a result of nutrient deficiency due to malabsorption."

For me, I think my food intolerances or allergies (I'm not sure which they are yet) are subtle.  They lead me to become inflammed - my face gets puffy, my weight goes up because of massive fluid retention, and I get snotty and coughy (that's a real word, I swear).

On Tuesday night I had a meeting after regular work, then I met the family to watch the transit of Venus.  I didn't get a chance to eat dinner and didn't have any snacks on me.  I was starving!  We hit up the local Tim Horton's for a panini on whole wheat and a cuppa chix noodle soup.  I know there are loads of chemicals in these fast foods but I figured this was way better than a burger and fries at the local Wendy's or *gasp* McD's.

When I got home, I noticed that my nose was running quite a lot.  By bedtime I was coughing a bit more than normal.  I took a Benadryl and went to bed.  Wednesday morning I felt it.  I was puffy, bags under my eyes were larger than normal and I was up on the scale 1.5 lbs.

Food intolerance?  Food allergy?  What I know is this:  When I was eating clean foods that I prepared at home, I felt better.  Suddenly I eat fast food and I feel like junk.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Update - meds work.

Hi!  Sorry its been a few days - it was a busy week.

The asthma/allergy meds are doing wonders.  I feel good.  My level of exhaustion after a busy day at work is normal - not debilitating.  I'm still on the inhaled steroid, the singulair, and anti-histamines at night for when my allergies are worst.  All-in-all, its been a good week.

I've been eating clean.  What I mean by this is limiting processed foods (I define something processed as something that is changed from its natural state), eating as much fruits/veg as possible, eating no/little pure sugar, drinking lots of water and not having fake sugars at all.

Is it the allergies being under control or is it the eating?  Whatever it is, I feel good and have lost EIGHT POUNDS in the last week.


Carry on, we are going to the Greek Festival so I will write more on diets, foods, anti-inflammation lifestyles, etc. tomorrow!