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December 24, 2012 · 4:00 am

Holiday Survival Strategies

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I had a really trying Thanksgiving.

My husband, Chris, and I traveled back to Pennsylvania to celebrate it with our families. Both sets of parents live there and we haven’t been back for the turkey day festivities for over 10 years. It should’ve been wonderful… and most of it was, except that I was dealing with some major gut issues. I was suffering from my old nemesis, fructose malabsorption AND was having major problems with the rest of the FODMAPs, too.

We ate Thanksgiving dinner at his parent’s house, at my sister’s house, then at my parent’s house. You know what was on my Thanksgiving plates at all 3 of those places? Slabs of turkey. No cranberry sauce, no green beans, no nut butter-thickened turkey gravy. Turkey. That is it. My body simply wouldn’t stand for anything else.

Since then I’ve been doing much, MUCH better. I’ve really incorporated the low-FODMAP diet into SCD and have seen WONDERFUL results. Really, it is amazing.

What I’m trying to tell you is that I’ve navigated the holidays waters and have come out the other side without too many scrapes.

The following are my strategies to remain sane during digestive-problem-flares (to be utilized during any time of the year):

1.  Take care of yourself

First and foremost, make sure that you have plenty of your feel-good food. For those of us who suffer from malnutrition or have lost weight during the introduction phase, get enough calories. If you need a few extra portions of frozen chicken soup, make it and stick it in the freezer. If you believe that bone broth will help heal you, by all means, buy those stewing bones, drop them in a pot and let it simmer away on the stove!!

It is also critical to get enough sleep. I’ve borrowed this next part from the Paleo folks; make your bedroom dark and get to bed early! Bow out of those get togethers before your normal bedtime. Sometimes we all must draw those boundaries and guard your “recharge” time. For goodness sake, it will help you ward off colds and leave you feeling ready to face any holiday gatherings that you’ll attend. Best of all, sleep will give your body a chance to heal.

2. Pamper yourself

Over Thanksgiving, I had a few cups of tea everyday. I really enjoy a steaming mug of green tea or peppermint tea, but what you drink is your choice. It always makes me feel better.

I also love to sit by the fire with a good book. Or snuggle up with a cozy blanket around your shoulders and watch a great movie. For the men out there, watch a good football game.

For the women out there, other ideas include getting a manicure/pedicure or paint your nails yourself! A hair cut and weave always leave me feeling good and well taken care of, with little energy expended (but my wallet is a bit lighter when I leave the salon). Buy some special lotion or facial scrub, whatever will make you feel happiest.

3. Do NOT watch the Food Network or Cooking Channel

This one is self-explanatory.

4. Steer clear of bakeries and eateries with incredible (SCD-illegal) food/beer

When my health is poor, I often feel wistful about the food that I used to eat. And what I enjoyed A LOT was baked goods and fantastic restaurants. Damn those inventive bakers and chefs.

This category includes microbreweries with awesome ales (ah hem… this one is for the men) and wine/beer stores. If you must go into a store like this, steer clear of the dangerous aisles that are stocked with lots of craft beers. Stick to the aisles of dry wines (wines with low residual sugar) and buy something that you’re dying to try.

5. Focus on anything other than the kitchen and food

It really helps to keep my mind and body occupied with other thoughts and activities.

Wrap presents. Run errands for your mother. Get that last minute holiday gift (but avoid the mall’s food court).

Those ideas work during the holiday season, but what about during the festivities? These are my strategies to employ during holiday meals or parties:

1. Only help with the food preparation if you must

It is difficult to cook/bake food that you can’t eat, depending on how you feel.

2. Don’t look at the food on the table (if it is filled with stuff that you can’t eat)

Seriously, at Thanksgiving, I focused on my plate and on other people’s faces at the table. I didn’t let myself look below their faces. I kept my gaze fixed on them from the neck up and pretended that the table was just blurred out and fuzzy.

3. Focus on others by asking them questions

This useful strategy is a great mind-distracter. I used this one while at a Christmas luncheon at work. My colleagues ordered a few amazing appetizers that weren’t SCD-legal. While they began eating, the discussion lagged. I took this opportunity to lead the small talk. Not only did I learn more about my co-workers through my questions, but it also gave me a chance to tell them about things that interest me, which I usually don’t mention.

At the very least, employ one of these lines (depending on who you’re talking to):

Are you ready for Christmas?

What are you going to do for New Year’s Eve?

How was your Hanukkah?

4. After the meal, get away from the table ASAP

It is better not to linger at the table, especially when there are serving dishes with a few pieces left of delectable-looking fill-in-the-blank left on them. Do the dishes while coffee and dessert is being served. The hostess will thank you for it! If you must, go watch football with Uncle Billy and your 2 brother-in-laws. Get your nieces to show you what their favorite presents were. I’m not kidding, just get outta’ there!

I hope that you, dear Reader, are in good health and don’t need these strategies, but if you do, then good luck.

You will get through the holiday season. If I can do it, you can do it.

Happy Holidays and XO,

Theresa ~SCD Griddle

 

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How I Drink Coffee (When I Drink Coffee)

Do you like coffee? I am mad for it.

In my daydreams, I sip on a mug-full of the rich, creamy elixir. Sadly, the good old days when I could drink the stuff are over.  I haven’t been able to stomach it for awhile now, even if it’s watered down.

That’s sad, right? I think many people with IBS / IBD have had a similar experience.

Recently, I’ve noticed that coffee is a popular topic. There’s an article about special coffee here, a post about it there. I’ve heard that the type of roast is important, or the way it is dried may make a difference in its palatability. But I have a hard time believing that I can’t drink coffee anymore because of some mycotoxin that is introduced during the drying process. So instead of wasting money on a pound of the artisanal expensive stuff (which will probably give me an aching belly, too) I thought I’d try something else first; a cold-brew technique.

Paleo in PDX has mentioned cold-brew coffee every now and then, in fact, in this post, she wrote about making a coffee ice cream out of it. She also wrote that the cold-brew technique yields coffee that is about 70% less acidic than normal coffee. Paleo in PDX talked about how good it is.

I decided to try it. I deeply missed a yummy cup of coffee.

Whether it is lukewarm or piping hot doesn’t make a difference, I wanted to enjoy a simple pleasure again.

I searched around a little and found an incredible How-To post which explains the steps to the cold-brewing process. It was written by an editor named Dan Souza at America’s Test Kitchen. You know, they are the folks who write Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Oh how I used to love that magazine. Anyway, I digress. Dan has described and illustrated the process so well, that I’m going to link to it here.

I followed his instructions and brewed a batch of coffee concentrate. After I strained it and added a bit of water (not too much, I like it strong) , I sampled it next to the normal hot-brewed stuff that my husband drinks. The verdict: the cold-brew version produced a superior cup of coffee. It is delicious. It is smoother and more complex, less bitter, noticeably less acidic and all-around tastier. I don’t drink it everyday, or even a few times a week, but for the first time since I’ve began my diet modification journey, I can drink a small cup of joe without stomach pains.

And I don’t miss the cream and sugar that I used to dump into my coffee cup! It is that good.

Thanks to Paleo in PDX and Dan Souza at America’s Test Kitchen, I can enjoy one of my favorite beverages again – every now and then!

It may seem like a small thing, but it has made me extremely happy.

Thanks!

Theresa ~SCD Griddle

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The Double-Edged Sword

I’m on a journey to heal myself through diet modification.

When I first learned of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), I immediately read Breaking the Vicious Cycle. Elaine’s book gave me the rules; for one to adhere to SCD, all you have to do is go through an introductory period, then the diet consists of meat, specific fruits and veggies, yogurt (and certain cheeses) and nuts. Simple, right? Really, that’s it.

I didn’t give it much thought. The science made sense to me. The rules were straightforward and in I jumped! (Of course, there are other great approaches like Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) for example.)

But I’ve come to realize that this simplicity is a double-edged sword.

Let me explain.

My journey on SCD has led me to a place where my health has drastically improved. I feel great, have tons of energy, my weight is normal again (thank the Lord) and have returned to a semi-normal workout schedule. Yogurt or nut butter (alone, or on bananas, or with almond flour pancakes) used to be my go-to snacks. They were yummy. I was happy. But while my body has been healing, my gut has informed me that it does not want to digest certain foods, like eggs, anything dairy, and large amounts of nuts (nut butters and nut flours). And I can’t rely on fruit when I want to grub because I’ve gotten fructose malabsorption and I don’t want it again!

The diet is a double-egded sword for me because – I flourish when I consume meat, specific veggies and small portions of fruit – but I can only eat meat, specific veggies and fruit. No more yogurt as my easy snack choice. And I certainly need to limit my consumption of nuts.

So, these goodies are off my list of acceptable food items and these mini-meals have become my downfall. I struggle with it everyday. Instead of noshing on yogurt, I must quiet the cravings for something, anything. Darn, it is hard, especially when I have time in my schedule (and I am not overly focused on something, like I was while studying for some licensing exams).

In battling the urge to snack, I realized something;

I devour treats in response to emotional triggers.

Some people believe that food is love. Others eat goodies as reward. My biggest emotional trigger is boredom. “Hmmm…” I say to myself, “do I want to escape my doldrums?”

My answer is always a resounding, “YES!!!” and I walk to the fridge to swipe a snack. And that bit of tastiness actually takes away that feeling for a few seconds.

Another reason I grab a bite is to buffer the transition from one activity to another. Do you understand what I mean? Like, I’ll be watching television, but it is time to take the dogs out. So I get up to walk them, but first I go by the kitchen and grab a muffin, stuff it in my mouth, then leave with the pooches. This is the pinnacle of mindless eating.

The only way to modify why I eat is to actually feel my emotions and then respond in ways other than eating.

UGH. It is tough. I don’t like feeling bored and I certainly enjoy a little bite of something when I get home from work. (Why do I feel like I’m on The Oprah Show?)

These are my strategies for dealing with the urge to snack (whatever the reason).

When I want a treat because of an emotional trigger, I stop a second. I try to identify the feeling. Then I acknowledge it and tell myself that I don’t need to put food into my mouth based on x, y or z emotion. I literally say to myself, “I am bored. That doesn’t mean I have to snack.”

It is hard to face the cold truth. It even harder to turn around and leave the kitchen without a decadent bite.

Another way I’ve dealt with the urge to nosh to ask myself, “Am I hungry enough to eat leftovers?” If the answer is yes, then sure, I’ll warm something up. Sometimes I find myself standing in my kitchen contemplating the leftovers are available for my consumption. A lot of times I leave empty-handed after this question, too.

I have also found that if I stay in the present and focus on the activity that I’m doing (or need to do), it will sometimes stop the incessant chatter in my brain, but only if I’m super-focused like a laser beam. This one doesn’t work very well for me most of the time, my urges are too basic, too built-in, too established.

My last strategy for dealing with actual hunger during non-meal times is to have savory snacks on hand, like beef jerky. This is a no-brainer. It quiets the urge and is substantial enough to take away any hunger-pangs. My only problem here is that I go through it too quickly.

These are my anti-snacking strategies and they have helped me confront my emotional triggers. They aren’t pretty. Diet modification requires a change in behavior and mindset. But you know, I’d rather grit my teeth and slug through personal choices and routines than be sick all of the time.  And if I can deal with the double-edged sword, you can too.

xo, Theresa SCD Griddle

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The Only Constant is Change

The only constant is change.

We’ve moved from the scorching furnace of summer into the harvest-time of fall.

The days gradually shorten. With an abundance of darkness, I’m tempted to try hibernation.

But I digress, I like to celebrate this time of year- it is Halloween.

I usually don’t go overboard with costumes and decorations, but I embrace the holiday in my own way.

My city holds an annual pumpkin festival. It is held in the park down the street.

While enjoying the activities and booths of arts and crafts last year, my husband and I came upon a pumpkin carver.

He sculpted the most wonderful jack o’ lanterns.

Aren’t they great?

As the tree leaves turn color and the autumn weather turns more crisp, I continue my journey on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

The SCD has revealed itself to be much more of a journey than I expected.

One of the biggest ways that I welcome the transition into fall is by altering what I cook.

These are my most recent undertakings:

I’ve been roasting pumpkins and seeds.

Who doesn’t love pumpkin? Wonderful in soups, amazing in baked goods.

And the seeds are great simply prepared with ghee and salt.

Or if I feel more adventurous, I add a few generous dashes of Penzy’s Spice mixtures.

The pumpkin seeds are crunchy and I was surprised that they didn’t give me trouble- I must be healing! 🙂

(After 7 months, I hope so!!)

Baking meats…

This turkey made a great dinner – with plenty of leftovers!

Don’t you love how the act of oven-roasting heats up the whole house?

Nice and warm and full of great scents.

I totally enjoy squashes…. roasted butternut squash is tasty.

Especially if I leave it until there is a touch of brown caramelization.

Add a bit of chopped parsley and it makes a perfect side dish!

It is so sweet that it is almost like dessert.

(But I’m sure you already knew that).

And speaking of dessert…. I whipped up this cheesecake. The recipe is in Breaking the Vicious Cycle.

Now that my diet is stable, I’m really drilling down to make sure I know what my sensitivities are.

That means that I need to try new things. So I baked up a batch of cheesecake, which is made with dry curd cottage cheese.

It went well at first…. then after dealing with my body reacting negatively over the course of a week or two, I realized that dairy and I don’t get along.

HUGE epiphany.

And yes, dairy includes yogurt….maybe I won’t cut yogurt out completely yet.

I’m surprised by the foods that I thought were my friends!

Now that I’ve cut way back on dairy, except for ghee,  I feel better!

Dairy is now the enemy.

I want to substitute  yogurt and dairy treats like cheesecake for a little meaty snack…

Something to keep on hand when I need some extra calories. Something safe.

I’m considering beef jerky.

Know of any good recipes? 🙂

Have I told you how much I like pecans and cashews?

I soak and dehydrate nuts weekly. These little babies made excellent snacks.

We seem to get along pretty well if properly soaked.

Never forget to soak them. Trust me.

This concludes my latest endeavors.

The SCD has revealed itself to be much more of a journey than I expected.

I’m surprised by the foods that I can’t tolerate… I thought many of them were my friends. Apparently not.

I’m surprised by the need for constant evaluation. My food tolerances keep changing; it definitely keeps me on my toes.

But I can take the continual modification because it means that I will just feel better and better.

And that is always a good thing.

I couldn’t leave you without one last picture of the magnificent jack o’ lanterns!

Happy Halloween!

xo, Theresa ~SCD Griddle

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My Venture into Exercise

Yep, there she is. That’s my mountain bike, which I affectionately call Black Beauty.

I’ve missed my bike.  I will tell you why in a minute.

First, let me tell you about myself. It is obvious that I’m not your average mountain biker. By now you probably know that I’m not a twenty-something-year-old male. No, I’m a 37 year-old woman and I enjoy a wide range of activities that your typical almost-40-year-old-woman doesn’t; I enjoy riding my bicycle on trails.

Here’s the truth: I’m not a good mountain-biker, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of tackling my fears. I get afraid when I come upon steep, rutted hills or big rocks. Most of the time, I get off my bike and walk when I think a part of a trail is above my skill level, because I’ve encountered more than my share of falls. But there are times when I accept a physical challenge and I complete it successfully. I like that the best. It gives me confidence. And I love speeding down dirt trails on my nearly 15 year-old bike and feeling the wind in my face, the sun on my shoulders.

At this point, I should say thank you to by brother, Steve, for “lending” me those bar-ends seen in the picture above.

This is the Liberty Canyon connecting trail. It winds around, over and through those little hills. It is good for beginners and is one of my most favorite routes.

So back to why I haven’t been riding. I began the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) about 7 months ago. I had read Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall and decided to change how I was eating. My gastrointestinal problems were getting increasingly worse. I had had enough. But I was totally unprepared for the massive changes that I experienced when I began SCD.

Chicken soup and even plain old hamburger upset my stomach. It was rough. I had no energy. I couldn’t think very clearly. I lost a lot of weight. I kept myself on the introductory diet for a month (huge mistake) because I thought anything else I ate would probably send me to the bathroom, too. If I ever eat chicken soup again, it will be too soon.

But with the help of family members and a lot of research online, I figured out a few things. I progressed from the introductory diet into the phases. I made more mistakes, but they have informed me of what I can tolerate and what I cannot. And I’ve read a bunch of research about my GI issues.

For a few months, things have been going well. I’ve been feeling more full of pep and I’ve put on some weight.

I decided it was time to get back in the saddle again… the bike saddle.

I’ve gone on a few rides. I’m trying not to over do it. Firstly because I’m out of shape from inactivity. Secondly, because I’m afraid if I go too long, leaky gut could make another appearance in my life! Ugh, NO THANK YOU!

Since I began biking again, which was two weeks ago, I’ve gone on probably six rides and I’ve gained a few pounds from the additional muscle that I’ve built in those two weeks. I can see a difference in my body and I feel stronger, too. Things with my GI tract seem to be holding steady but I will continue to be cautious.

I’m telling you all of this because I know what it is like to have GI problems and to be unsure if SCD is going to help you. It is difficult to make it through low-energy times. It is disappointing to step on the scale only to find that you’ve lost more weight. I found it extremely hard not to be able to do activities that I enjoyed because I didn’t feel ready.

Hang in there. Do the work. Research your problems. Keep a food log. There is health and life ahead, just keep trying.

Next up, surfing! 😉

xo

Theresa ~SCD Griddle

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Essential Fats!

Sometimes I hear about good fats.

I usually don’t pay attention.

I haven’t worried much about my fat intake because I’m active and have digestive issues, so I always figured any fat is probably okay for me. But now that I’m trying to heal myself through diet modification with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I want to make sure that I am eating enough of these good fats.

Good fats are monunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like essential fatty acids. At the molecular level, unsaturated fats have a double bond, which makes the molecule easy to break. Molecules termed mono- have only one double bond, but those called poly- have multiple double bonds. (If you want more information about “good” fats vs “bad” fats, go here.)

Do you know how important essential fatty acids are?

When I refer to good fats, I am talking about essential fatty acids. These are polyunsaturated oil molecules known as omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid). They are necessary for good health, but the body cannot synthesize these, so we must ingest foods rich in essential fatty acids.

There are other fatty acids that aren’t known as “essential” because humans possess all of the enzymes required for their synthesis. These are incredibly important, like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), (these are found in fish), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and arachidonic acid (AA), (these last three are derived from omega-6 linoleic acid).

Essential fatty acids serve many functions such as:

  • mediate inflammation (extremely important for those of us with IBD)
  • play roles in cellular functions
  • make healthy, flexible cell membranes
  • affect mood and behavior
  • protect us from cell damage by neutralizing free radicals

Really, these fatty acids affect our whole bodies. If you want to learn about them, go here and here.

People can be deficient in their essential fatty acids. It is most obvious in the skin; dry skin (who doesn’t have dry skin?), scaly or flaky skin, cracking/peeling fingertips or heels, lackluster skin, and small bumps on back of upper arms. There are many more symptoms. In order to see a more complete list, visit this link.

Is easy to be deficient in the omega-3 fatty acids because alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) is tough to get. It is such an important micronutrient that I have begun to specifically search it out. It is found in these food sources:

  • Flaxseed oil and ground Flaxseeds (the oil is legal, but the seeds are SCD-illegal)
  • English Walnuts (higher concentrations), Walnut oil, Black Walnuts (lower concentrations
  • Canola oil (SCD legal but not recommended)
  • Soybean oil and firm Tofu (both SCD-illegal)
  • Kiwi fruit seeds
  • Purslane (an herbaceous weed that grows almost everywhere in the U.S. – unsure if this is SCD legal)

ALA easily oxidizes, which is why producers partially hydrogenate oils that contain it. According to The Green Kitchen Handbook, by Annie Berthold-Bond, “manufacturers removed essential fatty acids from oils in the interest of preserving their shelf life.”

The omega-6, Linoleic acid (LA) is much easier to acquire. It is in various oils, seeds and nuts like:

  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower seeds and oil
  • Pine nuts
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil (SCD-illegal)
  • Pecans
  • Sesame oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Other sources include almonds, chicken fat, egg yolks, lard and butter.

The oils containing LA also have saturated fats. These are fat molecules with structures of single bonds are more difficult to break. They are stable and have longer shelf lives. This has led to their widespread distribution and thus, are much easier to incorporate into your diet.

These good fats are so important, but don’t take my word for it. Here is an excellent article that explains much of this information in greater depth and also gives intake recommendations.

See you later, I’m going to run out and pick up a bottle of flaxseed oil!

Theresa ~ SCD Griddle

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