Monday, January 27, 2014

Oh, the places you will go!

Or rather: oh, the foods you will eat!

In the last week, I've introduced strawberries, pineapple, lentils, red leaf and butter lettuce, full butter instead of just ghee, coconut meat, hazelnuts, raw whole almonds, a banana, fresh crab meat, Brussels sprouts, HONEY and aged white cheddar cheese. HONEY deserves all caps. It's a glory. And so outrageously sweet! It never tasted this sweet before.

One of these things did not go well - but all the others did, for the most part! I bet you can guess which one. Yup; it was the cheese. Within an hour to 90 minutes of eating it, I had terrible stomach pains that first felt like a side ache, and then a dull ache, and then everything passed uncomfortably. It is sensational to be both this aware of one's digestion, and able to pinpoint exactly what is causing what.

And there I was in last Monday's entry, waxing poetic about venturing out into the world… which I did, but only a little. I met some friends at a bar for one drink (which typically means 2 or 3 drinks). I successfully sipped chamomile tea the whole time and no one really cared at all; we still gossiped and caught up and laughed and debated. I also went out to lunch for a work event, and managed to eat a restaurant meal, only slightly modified (leave off the cheese, please add a poached egg). I suspect that the vinaigrette had some sugar in it, but if it did, how much - really? A pinch or two? Everything else in the meal was menu-approved. I also made it back to working out, just today; a huge challenge, but the first day back is always the worst.

And so yes, this process - it's tearing down my identity still, the same way I felt last week, though I AM feeling a little more like myself. Being back to 99% health (a slight sniffle remains) certainly helps. The mental clarity helps. I'm off caffeine now too, and I'm sleeping well, rising well, and have no energy crashes during the days - at all. That's actually a little disquieting when I think of it!

But there's one other little piece, that I first thought was due to deprivation. Then I thought it was due to illness. But now I think there's no explanation for it other than living my life without sugar, and the sugar highs and lows that occur from using food to fill time, to create breaks, to reward and to self-comfort. And that is that I'm way more emotional. If something makes me want to cry or tear up, I used to be able to choke that back damn well. And now, these last few weeks, I can't. I have to let the tears come, and let them flow. They may not last long, but it's like I have no choice - and it's pretty damn scary. For a control(led) freak like me, knowing the world is coming in, ready or not, is both terrifying and marvelous. Meaning: I marvel at it. This partnership between body and mind is indeed a marvel, isn't it? How about yours?

Monday, January 20, 2014


The illness is 90% kicked. I feel almost normal. A little lingering cough, still having no problem sleeping 9+ hours a night, but overall: I'm back.

And so, the big report: new foods today. Oh, my sweet lord in heaven above - it was the day for applesauce. No sugar, no additives, just pureed apples. But it feels like I'm cheating on the diet, it was so damn sweet; even though this is not a cheat - this is a step I'm supposed to take. (Soon, a peeled ripe apple. Then a full raw apple! I'm already dreaming of pineapple.)

And I made the GAPS Diet "bread". Drumroll… puh-leese. This is not bread. It is eggs, butter (or coconut oil) and almond flour baked into a dry teething biscuit.

That said - don't get me wrong - I'll take it. It feels akin to a carb. Like I'm biting into something filling. And I made them very lazily; I can do better. A good friend, by way of giving great support to me, said, "Just think - at least you know how to cook!" I keep hearing her say that in my head, and she is right. If I have to eat simmered  meat, at least I know how to make the best simmered meat possible. If I have to eat vegetables cooked to mush, at least I can make a killer silky butternut squash puree and sweet, soft, salty carrots in coconut oil.

So if I put some of my baking smarts to work, I can make this "bread" taste better and have a decent texture; I started browsing some GAPS Diet sites, and holy cow! There are some real dessert recipes on there! I may get through this three, five, ten, twelve months yet. (But dear universe, please don't let it be twelve months. I have weddings to attend and vacations to go on; I need to have a little fun.)

But all this here is the frosting. This is all the show. The details, the food. The three cheers for being done with antibiotics (today!) and on to straight dietary treatment.

Because beyond all that, the truth is, I'm stripping away how I identify my Self. Food, cooking, baking - for myself, for others, for little daily rituals I partake of and invite others to partake of with me - if you take that away, as it seems I have, what's left? Who am I? And how do I interact, out there in the world? It can't be chamomile tea dates forever, and I can't keep hiding at home for much longer. Now that I'm feeling well, I have to venture out there and so far, the Me without refined sugar, without grains, is a tender little Me. I cry at the drop of a hat. I feel prickly-alive. I feel so aware of the Right Now.

So I'm poking my sensitive little foot outside this week; stay tuned.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Who doesn't love a chart!?

Aaaand, what about a stool chart!? Right? Am I right? Yeah, it's a wild Saturday night over here!

However, I sort of love the Bristol Stool Chart… especially because I've been in an unhealthy stage of the chart for months and months and months - and now - in the last few days - I am not.

I'll leave that at that.

Today I added olive oil, to no negative effect thus far, and to the great joy of my palate. Over Christmas, John and I hosted a tasting party - we tasted between 3 and 5 versions of the following:

  • butter
  • olive oil
  • smoked salmon
  • dark chocolate
  • milk chocolate
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • sparkling wine (France, Germany, Italy, USA)
It was a wonderful theme for a party - engaging but not too focused on An Event - and I highly recommend it. You can pick almost anything, and tasting them side by side helps everyone know what the really do like, We have leftover samples of all these fragrant, strong olive oils, and today I rejoiced at the new flavor.

I also added about 3 sips of carrot juice, and man, I used to hate carrot juice. And after a week of fairly bland food, turns out? I still hate carrot juice. But no ill effects on the belly and I'll have a little more in the coming days because it is supposed to gear me up for much better tasting juices in the days to come after that. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Climbing uphill

Health-wise, I'm walking uphill, getting better, back to normal, my usual peak - but I'm walking extremely slowly. I have a three-day weekend and my biggest ambition for it is to catch up on laundry, and try to see Philomena. I'm not pretending I'll feel 100% come Tuesday; I'm being realistic. Maybe this is what happens when you've been eating mostly simmered meat for seven days.

But today! No more simmered meat! I sautéed it in ghee! And finished it in a hot oven. With some spaghetti squash mixed with sauerkraut, and half an avocado, it was the greatest meal of my life. Well, not quite. That was probably here. But it looked like a real meal - colors! textures! And it tasted like a real meal - flavors! Different from each other!

I forgot that yesterday I ate two boiled shrimp with my bone broth and simmered meat. Today, I ate three. Sweet as sugar.

Tomorrow, I will add a little bit of carrot juice! And cold olive oil, and by late in the day or Sunday, I'll try baking almond meal bread.

It's hard to describe both why I'm committed to this, and how I'm actually able to stick with it. It's very unlike me. That I've completed seven days, and am planning to keep going, is about as unlike me as a weeklong backpacking trip, or a weeklong vacation without any email.

But somehow - I'm doing it. Maybe it is taking the antibiotics each day, five times a day, that make me think that a Chips Ahoy, a tortilla chip in bean dip, a Twizzler, or any other of the million snacks that sit out at work, in beautiful glass jars, aren't worth it. Maybe it's my theory that sleep begets more sleep; discipline begets more discipline, on and on. So in this case, each day that passes successfully in turn strengthens my resolve to stick to the diet's rules, with even more commitment. Maybe it's that despite physical exhaustion, I feel an incredible mental clarity without sugar or grains or, sigh, chocolate. Maybe it's that somewhere in the soft, quiet, deep self, I know that this will heal my gut and I'll be able to enjoy a renewed healthy relationship with all kinds of food.

As I embark on a weekend of sweet, sweet rest - here's to hoping!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Like a three day weekend… except nothing like it.

But, a three day review instead!

Tuesday: no new foods added. I made it through work only because of forward momentum. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and it was a 'hafta' be there day so once I got up, I was going. I fevered, sweated, panted and phlegm-couughed through the day.

Wednesday: I could only recognize what feeling like 50% was like today, in comparison to realizing yesterday was a 25% day. And best of all: avocado! And real sauerkraut! Both went great during the day, so I took the big leap and make pancakes.

These are not pancakes.

They are a puree of eggs, raw zucchini, and nut butter of your choice. (Respond to the next thing you're asked with, "Nut butter of my choice," and you will get a laugh.)

They LOOKED a lot like pancakes. They did not taste like pancakes. But they tasted a little like nut butter, and between that and avocado, my palate is doing cartwheels of joy at all these exciting flavors. I bet you never thought that avocado was sweet - but it is to me!

Thursday: Only new food added was a different type of nut butter. Cashew. What?! Have you had this? It tasted so sweet I couldn't finish the tablespoon. I know that sounds crazy. But it truly happened. And as I write this, I wouldn't quite call my health 75% - that would be a leap too optimistic for this couch-happy West-Wing watcher, but 55% - I'm solidly confident about that.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Death on a Triscuit

That's a West Wing line and a good description of how I woke up this morning. And so despite being absolutely vital to the work day - I could not get up. A 102 degree fever, exhaustion, coughing, congestion, weakness - I have been laying around all day. It is harder for me to NOT go to work, than to go, when I am sick. There were a lot of tears this morning.

I added ghee and eggs to the menu today - not just the egg yolks as prescribed. I really felt I needed the whole thing. I increased my tablespoons of fermented juice (aka sauerkraut juice). I tried raw ginger tea. I still can't taste a thing! And I still can't decide if I have the flu or if these are so-called die-off symptoms. Which apparently can look exactly like flu, complete with mucous buildup.

Because let's get real here, people. If you're reading this blog, you know me. And so yes - for sure - a good 47% of me thinks this whole thing is total junk science and absolute bunk. It's like fluoride being a brain poison. It's like a cayenne-lemon detox diet that shockingly helps you lose weight by not eating for 7 to 10 days (duh)!

But then, I have long followed the emerging science on gut bacteria. And I read articles like this one, from no-bullshit Michael Pollan (who also published a pate de choux recipe of ease this week, that torturer!). That is a long article but if you want to come up to speed on the gut biome, it is worth your time. It includes the sentence, and evidence to support:

  • Medical science may be on the trail of a Grand Unified Theory of Chronic Disease, at the very heart of which we will find the gut microbiome.

Crazy! So I guess 53% of me, albeit skeptically, is willing to keep pushing through this, and see what can happen. Can one do a hard reset on their gut biome? Can I?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cold, flu, or SIBO?

Yesterday I woke up with a weird hacking cough. I've been off-and-on sick since the 12th of December with the cold that won't die, so I just thought this new cough was a slooooowly-fading-away form of the old cough, in a new form. And I was determined to start this SIBO Journey. So I did.

Today I have a fever and chills, the cough is definitely established in this new intense iteration, and I'm blowing my nose like crazy.

Is this an antibiotic side effect? Is this my body rebelling against the removal of anything resembling a traditional 'carb'? Is this just another cold? Is it the flu? (And I got a flu shot, dammit!) All I know is, I am basically miserable. (And I have a hellish week of work ahead where physical presence is required. Of course.)

But once you start an antibiotic, you have to stay the course. And if I'm taking these big-guns-drugs, I might as well keep on with the intense food restriction. And neither of those things are going to make me break this fever any faster. So that's where we are today - if yesterday was Tender, then today is Broken. And yet oddly committed to riding this out.

The menu is not an exciting one… more of all the same foods, plus a chicken stew with zucchini coins (cooked to mush). John told me it "smelled like death" but luckily I am so congested I couldn't even taste it! Small blessings?

Tomorrow and the next day I am due to add raw egg yolks and ghee to the menu. In the final piece of honesty, I learned this weekend that I can't give up coffee. I drink one or two cups every single morning, and apparently, have an addiction to it. I went without it twice in the last ten days (including yesterday) and by 3 PM, had a brutal headache that lasted until I had coffee the following morning. The lesson here is that from the get-go I'm not perfect on this process (though I am drinking it watered down, as suggested).

I excitedly found a couple SIBO Journey blogs… only to discover most of them were one or two intro posts, and then they stopped writing. So I hope to keep this SIBO one up, and begin adding more of my usual writing once again - it can't be all poop talk, all the time.

Can it?

(I'm kidding. It won't be.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014


My word of the year is Nourish. (What's your word of the year? Any time you're faced with a decision, you just plug it in. What could do I right now that would be the most nourishing choice?)

But the word of today was Tender. Feeling tender hearted, tender spirited. I've been making big batches of beef broth - which is fatty, messy, and smells gross for a while and then turns into smelling amazing. So today I had beef broth and the soft meat and gelatinous parts off the soup bones for breakfast. I had a beef broth, broccoli and onion pureed soup for lunch. And I'm going to have a simmered pork soup for dinner, with bits of mushy butternut squash. I'm not certain the squash is allowed, but I'm dying for it.

My snacks were: one cup of plain, lactose-free, organic yogurt. Three big sips of the juice that my live sauerkraut is sitting in. And three small sips of lactose-free kefir.

And a lot of chamomile tea.

Tomorrow will be identical, in terms of what I am directed to eat. I'm making chicken broth, too, to have something a bit lighter in which to stew my butternut squash, onions and carrots down into mush. Oh, and I can add garlic to all this too! Excuse me one minute.

I keep thinking how this will be in five, fifteen, fifty more days - and I keep trying to stop myself. One day at a time, and who knows how quickly healing will happen? And who knows how I will feel off of sugar for that long? That's the intriguing motivation of this lone day. I'm intrigued to know what it will be like to have no sugar, no fake sugar, no maple syrup, nadda, for a few weeks. I can't imagine I've gone more than two or three days without sugar in my entire life, after the age of about 11 (when I could get my own hands on cookies). What will it feel like? And is that enough to keep me toeing the line for as long as it's going to take?

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Next Journey

This blog started five years ago with a long (three month) work trip to Central America.

Most recently, it documented every thought (that I wrote down) while on a short (three week) volunteer trip and spiritual journey to Africa.

And now, dear reader (I think there are about three of you left)… you may want to go on your merry way. For this blog is about to turn inside. Way inside. Like inside my digestive tract. Inside the very walls of my small intestine.

This fall, my health insurance began accepting Naturopathic Doctors as Primary Care Physicians. And my sneaking interest in alternative care then combined with the fact that I have not had a regular doctor since I had a pediatrician, and the end of the equation was = I have a new ND! (There was a false start here worth noting; the first ND I met with made me feel unhealthy and skeptical and mean. The second one was - and is - amazing.)

So as me and my ND made our way through everything about my health, everything I'm concerned about or interested by, everything I've been through and want to achieve, we kept coming back to my digestive health. Which is … not great.

Don't say I didn't warn you; this is the journey, like it or not. Feel free to look away.

And my digestion (which, yeah, ok, is a nice word for bowel movements) has been worse and worse over the last 18 months or so, and been pretty atrocious in the last six. Just never regular. Just never satisfying. Just daily meh. So I took this totally crazy breath test (that turns out not to be crazy at all), and have the classic result of SIBO: small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

At first, I thought SIBO was crazy. I thought it was in the league of non-medically-accepted diagnoses, like adrenal fatigue or vertebral subluxation. This could not be a thing. Could it? Well, it is.

I went to a shiny, high end, solidly Western medicine, practically concierge-care type gastroenterologist - and he not only assured me the test for SIBO is very real, but that my results were indeed classic SIBO. His treatment plan, as a second opinion, was extraordinarily similar to my ND's plan.

And that plan starts tomorrow.

It is no easy plan. It is 10 days of very intense antibiotics, while starting a diet that should last from 3 to 12 (or more) MONTHS.

If you know the GAPS Diet - that's what it is. If you don't know it, all you need to know is what I won't be having, for 3 to 12 (or more) months:

  • Flour, wheat, barley, rice, corn, oats, cous cous, quinoa, rye, parsnips, white, red and sweet potatoes and everything made of them: tortillas, pasta, bread, cake, cookies, chips, crackers, chips, risotto, pizza.
  • Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, fava beans, black eyed peas, butter beans, cannellini beans. 
  • Ham, hot dogs, smoked or preserved or processed meat.
  • Ketchup! Chocolate! Cocoa! 
  • Maple syrup, molasses, sugar.
  • Chèvre, gruyere, feta, cottage cheese, mozzarella. 
  • Beer (but I don't care about that).
So when I come to your house, or we go out, what can I eat?
  • Beef. Lamb. Chicken. Wild Game.
  • Eggs.
  • Nuts (raw only).
  • Ghee, butter, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil.
  • Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, fermented sour cream and yogurt.
And ok, to be fair, I will be able to eat lots of vegetables and some fruits, too, eventually - and hard cheeses. Eggplant, squashes, onions, garlic, lettuces, carrots, cauliflower, capers, beets, asparagus, pineapple, pears, cherries, and more. But when you look at a list of things you can eat, and things you can't eat - it's hard to stop your imagination. 

So filled with anxiety, and total dread, I've been eating like a madwoman for the last month, since the diagnosis. I've put on another ten pounds. I've been thinking, if I just eat everything I want NOW, I'll be OK on this restrictive diet - which starts out literally with fat, meat and eggs for days before letting other things trickle in (first avocados, then nut butters, then soft lettuces, cucumber, etc, over the weeks that follow).

But I know that's not true. And so tomorrow it all starts. And I ate five pieces of sourdough toast for dinner, and then made a cherry-chocolate cake at 9 PM and ate three big squares. I'm gonna give that bacteria a big ol' feeding frenzy before I boot them out.