Category: Fermented foods

A Ketogenic Diet Improves ME/CFS Symptoms

No doubt you’ve heard or read about a ketogenic diet, going keto or even just keto as the newest diet trend. Actually, a ketogenic diet is much more than a trend. “Ketogenic” is a term for a low-carb diet (like the Atkins diet). The basic idea is to get more calories from protein and fat and much less from carbohydrates. It was originally developed to use with children who had seizures many times each day. Now it is promoted for weight loss, improving athletic performance and halting inflammation.

Most of the carbs that are easy to digest, like sugar, soda, pastries, and white bread are the first to go.

These types of processed carbs start to change into sugar molecules in your mouth. Take a piece of white bread and hold it in your mouth for a few minutes. You will be surprised at how sweet the piece of bread becomes–thanks to the work of enzymes in saliva.

I’ve been half-heartedly following a sort-of keto diet for the past year or so. I started it to lose weight, but never went fully keto even after I lost 10 pounds. At this time, I was baking sourdough bread using an ancient wheat variety called Einkorn. The loaves were so healthy and tasty I didn’t want to give up bread. Also, I was concerned about following a strict keto diet when my underlying health was so poor. My conventional medical training scared me off of it.

Ketosis is a mild form of ketoacidosis

Any extremely low (20-30 grams) or no-carbohydrate diet forces the body into a state of ketosis. This occurs when people eat a low/no-carb diet and molecules called ketones build up in their bloodstream. Low carbohydrate intake causes blood sugar levels to drop. The body begins breaking down fat to use as energy. A body in ketosis is actually a mild form of ketoacidosis, the leading cause of death for people under 24 with Type 1 diabetes. I saw several patients in ketoacidosis when I worked in hospitals. It was always an emergency. Additionally, I had a patient die from ketoacidosis when I was doing home-based medical care.

I searched the literature for ketogenic diet research on this damn disease. However, no studies were done on the effects of ketogenic diets in Chronic fatigue syndrome. Some CFS clinicians recommend ketogenic diets as a management strategy[9][10] citing mitochondrial[11]immune, and neuroinflammation as pathways through which ketogenic diets could confer some benefit (Source). A ketogenic diet is well-known for the way it reduces inflammation, especially in the brain.

Char, from Chronically Hopeful, started going keto last year about this time. Here’s her story.

I often get asked what this ketogenic diet has done for me. What benefits have I had? Why should somebody give up those delicious carbs and starchy foods? Are the benefits really worth the sacrifice? In this post I’ll explain my journey so far. In short, in my opinion, the answer is yes – it’s […]

via How the ketogenic diet reduced my ME/CFS symptoms — Chronically Hopeful

In her blog, Char writes about following Dr. Sarah Myhill, a British doctor running her own specialist M.E. clinic in Wales, United Kingdom. Her website is an extensive resource of articles and information based on her treatment of patients. The website runs to 920 web pages and has had over 6 million individual visits. Dr. Myhill believes the disease is characterized by a cellular mitochondrial dysfunction and has published several studies.[1][2][3][4] She has treated in excess of 10,000 CFS/ME sufferers over her 30-year career (Source).

Tracking Protein, Carbs and Fat AKA The Macros

So, with Char’s results in mind, and a long look through Dr. Myhill’s site, I started back on a ketogenic diet, one that is low-carb, moderate protein and high fat. This time I’m using a smartphone app to track my carbs, protein and fat intake to be certain I get enough nutrition and remain in ketosis. Again, I have Char to thank for her instructions.

The thought of tracking macros scares many people into delaying their keto journey, but it’s really not as complicated at it might seem. There are some great tools available that make the whole process so easy. 40 more words

via How to set up a macro tracking app for your ketogenic diet, part 2 — Chronically Hopeful

So, with Char’s results in mind, and a long look through Dr. Myhill’s site, I started back on a ketogenic diet, one that is low-carb, moderate protein and high fat. This time I’m using a smartphone app to track my carbs, protein and fat intake to be certain I get enough nutrition and remain in ketosis. Again, I have Char to thank for her blog entry.

My lean body mass, the weight I would be at if there were no fat clogging things up is 108 pounds. I think I weighed that in grade school. 😉 That means I should shoot for 65 grams of protein, 25 grams of carbs and a whopping 132 grams of fat.

So here we are, the second day into my ketosis journey–but hopefully not ketoacidosis. I’m almost 66, overweight and have a family history of Type 2 diabetes so this is a real possibility.  However, I wasn’t diabetic the last time my blood sugar levels were tested. But I will be careful and listen to my body and its signals.

If you have questions or comments, please enter them below.

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Farmers market

How Eating Locally & Seasonally Helps My Chronic Illness

Equations were never my strength. Even before ME/CFS I couldn’t remember the common ones, like how to find an area of something. If someone looked at me funny because of it, I reminded them that Albert Einstein never memorized his phone number. He didn’t want to crowd his brain with information that could easily be found. That usually shut them up. 😉

Anyhow, here’s an equation that even I can remember.

Saving Money=Sustainable Nutrition=Healthier Body

It’s not news that we are living in a nation of quick and easy meals from a box, freezer or the bag handed through a drive-up. fast-food-pickup

It isn’t easy to eat healthily and sustainably, especially on a budget. Here’s how I manage it.

Starting with produce, I check organic prices and if there is a good conventional produce sale. Most of the time the loss-leaders are on the Dirty Dozen list, so I don’t buy them. Once in while I can snap up a great bargain–like a couple of months ago when organic avocados were selling 2/$1 because they were all ripening too fast.

You don’t know about the Dirty Dozen list (not the Steve McQueen movie)? Each year the Environmental Working Group looks at all the pesticides applied to all the crops grown for sale in the US and assigns each fruit or vegetable a rank in comparison to each other. The top 12 “winners” are called the Dirty Dozen.

Farmers market
Local Farmers Markets are the best for purchasing local produce.

Summer fruit and veggies I don’t grow myself are bought at one or more of the local Farmers Markets. Here I can talk directly with the grower and be certain no pesticides were used–especially glyphosate (RoundUp®).

While I’m at the Market, I also buy pastured pork products from a family farm where the pigs roam about and don’t receive antibiotics to grow faster. My beef is grass-fed and raised on a friend’s farm where the cattle receive excellent care.

I used to do public relations for the top crop seed breeder in the US. As part of this, we spent time in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska where a whole lot of feedlots hold a whole lot of cattle. These steers spend the final months of their lives, sometimes up to their knees in manure, in a crowded feedlot with cattle they never met before. No wonder grass-fed tastes better. Just think of the stress those feedlot animals are under!

If you want to eat better for less, these are good ways to cut your food budget:

EAT LESS MEAT

Even when bought in bulk, meat from animals that have the freedom to wander pastures is expensive. Organic is not as necessary to purchase as beef that is 100% grass fed. Why is this important? First, grass-fed cattle are on pastures all spring, summer, and fall here in Wisconsin. They can remain outdoors even during winter in many other areas of the country so you know they are as close to having a good life as it’s possible for cattle to have.

cows on meadow
Grass-fed beef is superior to conventionally raised.

Second, grass-fed beef has a very good nutritional profile compared to conventionally raised steers. This meat has less total fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more conjugated linoleic acid and more antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E (Source).

Although my freezer is still full of freezer paper wrapped roasts, steaks, hamburger, we don’t have meat at every meal. You could try observing a Meatless Monday for a few weeks. Then look at the difference in your grocery budget. There are lots of vegetarian main dishes you can find online

If you are interested in some of my recipes, let me know in the comments. I was a good cook when I was working. However, I didn’t really have time for something that couldn’t go in the crockpot or on the table in less than an hour.

When I started getting better I began to change my eating habits. This inevitably leads to learning how to cook all over again. I love that I now know the most nutritious ways to prepare meals and snacks, but I know I would find it more difficult if I were still working. Soaking beans and grains, making sourdough bread, and accounting for the time my Instant Pot needs to naturally release before opening all take more planning than I was up to when working.

The obvious solution is a multi-generational home. Grandparents would be the traditional cooks and childcare providers for their children’s families. Sadly, I don’t see that happening much around me or with me. Sometimes I dream about what it would be like living with my daughter and her family (husband, 2 girls, dog) and it’s all good. Until I remember they live in the Washington DC/Baltimore Metroplex. 

Now, where was I?

Ah, yes. Here it is.

BUY IN BULK

Grocery stores are offering more and more healthy choices. Frequently, they will have a bulk foods department that may or may not contain organics. Conventional granola, trail mix and sesame sticks bought in bulk are an environmentally responsible choice even if they aren’t all that healthy. If you want to be super PC, buy from the local health food cooperative, natural foods store or buyers club. pexels-photo-458796.jpeg

I buy in bulk whenever possible because of things like steel cut oats at half the price of the imported can. For example, splitting a quarter of a cow. I have a small chest freezer, but my friend who split the purchase with me got everything from her half of a quarter into her side-by-side freezer.

EAT SEASONALLY

Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are more expensive, not to mention less sustainable, because of the fuel and other resources used in transport from other areas with different growing seasons. Buying local is, by definition, buying seasonally. It’s good for you in several areas. Traditional medicine, like Ayurveda from India and Chinese Medicine, stresses eating seasonally because of the way our bodies have evolved. When we are in tune with the environment, we can heal and then maintain our wellbeing. Most importantly, eating locally grown food in season is much less expensive at both ends of the marketplace transaction.

For example, my friend, Mary, who milks cows and raises grass-fed beef and pork, has few to no marketing expenses.  I see her at the Farmers Market where I and many others buy individual cuts and put in orders for bulk beef. Before selling directly to the consumer, Mary had to settle for what cattle futures were the day she shipped steers to the feedlot. Now she can sell at a price that keeps her profitable. Would you believe Mary sold bulk beef for the same per pound price this fall as in the autumn of 2015? (No special favors. The price was the same for everyone buying her beef.) What other food has remained the same price over the same period? pexels-photo-709817.jpeg

Fruits and vegetables reach their nutritional peak at the same time they are harvested. This, conveniently, is also when they taste best. According to the University of California-Davis, as a bell pepper progresses from green to red it gains 11 times more beta-carotene and one and a half times more vitamin C.

Once a fruit or vegetable is harvested it begins to lose nutrients and taste within the first hour. The USDA’s Table of Nutrient Retention Factors shows frozen fruit, in most cases, is more nutritious than fresh fruit that was picked before ripening and transported from who knows how far away.

If you’re not familiar with Farmers Markets, call the local reference librarian and ask. If your community has 211 phone service you can use them, too. Most often, you’ll find something if you ask around. Local Harvest is a clearinghouse for small farms raising healthy plants and animals. You pop in your zip code and nearby farmers who register with them pop back at you.

With all the new things in the produce department these days it can be hard to tell if a certain fruit or vegetable is in season. You can find a produce person at the store and ask them. And don’t forget to make room in your budget to purchase organic produce on the Dirty Dozen list. I’ve read you can break down some pesticide residue with a brief (10 min) soaking in a sink full of cold water and about a quarter cup of white vinegar.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Recipe requests? Let me know below.

Here are similar posts you may like.

http://aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/maximize-nutrition/

http://aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/diet-therapy/

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Diet and Nutrition Therapy for Chronic Illness

This is the second of a two-part post that first appeared on GreenMedInfo.com. Information about the author follows the references. If you missed the first post, read it at http://aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/fight-autoimmune-diseases/

 

A Low Lectin Diet As a Therapeutic Intervention for Autoimmune Disease

In effect, researchers propose that minimizing intake of lectin-rich food substrates can lessen the persistent antigenic stimulation that results in defective immunological tolerance and causes the immune system to target the body itself (Source). Immunological tolerance is essentially the ability of the immune system to discriminate self from non-self, which is lost with autoimmune disorders (Source). This is also the rationale behind therapeutic regimens such as the paleo diet and autoimmune paleo protocol.

Whereas acute lectin toxicity in humans is insidious, manifesting with symptoms such as nausea, abdominal distention, vomiting, and diarrhea, “In experimental animals fed on diets containing plant lectins the evident symptoms are a loss of appetite, decreased body weight and eventually death” (Source). Therefore, a disease resulting from the effects of lectins can be long-latency, incubating in a sense for many years or decades before culminating in a life-threatening disorder. Thus, it is difficult to correlate symptoms with lectins, and many people may not make a connection between their health issues and the foods they are eating.

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism: More Research is Required

A well-warranted criticism of lectin science and the paleo community is that the foundations of their anti-nutrient arguments are based on animal and in vitro (cell culture) studies, which may not be fairly extrapolated to human physiology. On a ladder representing evidentiary quality, where meta-analyses and systemic reviews are positioned at the top, these study designs occupy lower rungs, are oftentimes found to be methodologically inadequate, and may not predict human reactions (Source).

Many of the studies upon which paleo advocates hang their hats are rodent models, where laboratory animals are fed disproportionately large levels of lectins or lectins from raw legumes, which may not be applicable to human health (Source). The lectin soybean agglutinin (SBA) is commonly cited as inducing intestinal permeability in paleo circles, yet piglet models have shown that disturbed barrier function only occurs when SBA is included at high levels in their diets (Source). Thus, a dose-response relationship may occur and a threshold may be reached beyond which lectin consumption is not tolerated. In addition, some of these same animal models, in fact, reveal that lectin toxicity is reduced by inclusion of oligosaccharides and simple sugars such as sucrose, which naturally occurs in the diet, given the specificity of lectins for carbohydrate moieties (Source).

Also commonly demonized is the peanut lectin, which has been shown in cell culture studies to disrupt the cytoskeletal (filaments and tubules) organization of intestinal tight junctions and lead to intestinal permeability, a phenomenon which may account for the increased allergenicity of peanuts. Paleo champions recommend avoidance of peanuts due to their atherogenic effects in animal models, yet human trials demonstrate that peanuts may improve cardiovascular risk, illustrating that animal studies may not be generalizable to human physiology (Source).

Another point with merit is that many foods included on the paleo diet, such as avocado, banana, beetroot, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, cucumber, garlic, grapes, leek, mushrooms, mustard, oregano, parsley, peach, pomegranate, potato, pumpkin, taro, tea, tomato as well as various spices and nuts have all been demonstrated to exhibit lectin activity (Source)(Source). This underscores the need to distinguish between lectins and potentially toxic lectins, as the latter may predict poor physiological responses, with the immunostimulatory and gut barrier compromising effects of prolamins and agglutinins being implicated as some of the worst.

Moreover, lectin content varies, and some lectins are relatively innocuous since they are denatured by cooking (Source). Other studies, however, suggest that some lectins are not neutralized with cooking, so researchers have not yet arrived at firm conclusions in this respect. Historically, many ancestral practices, such as soaking and sprouting grains, treating corn with lye, eliminating the hull and bran of brown rice to consume the lower lectin white rice, or peeling and de-seeding vegetables, became intuitive cultural rituals in order to minimize lectin consumption. However, most of us in the industrial age have abandoned these practices and adopt mono-diets where so-called anti-nutrient rich foods are ingested in excess. Soaking, sprouting, and cooking nuts and beans, as well as fermenting vegetables, have been similarly elucidated to decrease the content of phytates, another much-maligned anti-nutrient (Source).

However, whether these approaches have scientific merit is still hotly contested. A recent randomized, cross-over trial challenges the validity of these preparation techniques and concluded not only that soaking did not improve gastrointestinal tolerance, but flatulence ratings were higher for all points for soaked nuts compared to unsoaked. Moreover, the researchers state, “Recommendations to soak nuts prior to consumption to reduce phytate concentrations and improve gastrointestinal tolerance have received much attention in the popular press. This is despite no supporting scientific evidence for the practice” (Source).

Bioindividuality May Dictate Vulnerability to Anti-Nutrients

One reason lectins may pose a problem for some individuals but not others is due to genetic variability in the cell surface glycoconjugates (carbohydrates covalently linked with other chemical species) to which lectins attach, and due to the fact that the glycoprotein tips to which lectins bind are hidden behind sialic acid molecules (Source). However, this protective screen of sialic acid molecules can be removed by the enzyme neuraminidase that accompanies pathogens such as influenza and streptococci, which cause the flu virus and Strep throat, respectively (Source). In fact, this explains the ability of infections to induce or exacerbate autoimmune disease: “This facilitation of lectins by micro-organisms throws a new light on postinfectious diseases and makes the folklore cure of fasting during a fever seem sensible” (Source).

The prevailing gut ecology may also influence susceptibility to the adverse effects of lectins. For instance, the red kidney bean lectin PHA is lethal for rats when administered in high doses, but non-toxic in germ-free animals devoid of a microbiome (Source). These findings suggest that the toxic effects of PHA could be mediated by its ability to enhance navigation of gut bacteria into systemic circulation (Source).

The centrality of the microbiota to food reactions is also applicable to another anti-nutrient frequently cited in the paleo community, phytic acid. Also known as phytate, the storage form of phosphorus in plants analogous to phosphorus in animals, phytic acid is often cited as another reason why grains and beans are excluded from a paleo diet. Phytates have been observed to bind to and inhibit absorption of minerals such as calciumzinc, and magnesium (Source). However, phytates have also been demonstrated to elicit paradoxical hormetic effects, having antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-osteoporotic activity (Source).

Also neglected is the fact that the commensal microbes that inhabit the gut synthesize phytase, an enzyme that degrades phytate, in a dose-dependent manner (Source). In someone with dysbiosis, however, a condition applicable to almost anyone with chronic illness, this ability may be compromised. Much of the reaction to anti-nutrients may, therefore, be contingent upon the functional medicine pillar of biochemical individuality, which is a confluence of genetic proclivities, microbial terrain, environmental stressors, and the prevailing landscape of the body.

When to Implement a Low-Lectin Diet

While some lectins such as WGA and gluten are unequivocally inflammatory in most cases of chronic illness, the science on lectins is far from settled. For example, lectins may exhibit beneficial hormetic effects, as some studies reveal that lectins induce apoptosis and autophagy (self-devouring) of cancer cells, modulate endocrine and immune function, and serve as metabolic signals for the gut.

However, because of the detriment to quality of life incurred by autoimmune disorders, a therapeutic trial of a low-lectin dietary regimen like the paleo or autoimmune paleo diet is deserving of consideration. While there is a paucity of high-quality peer-reviewed human studies, the clinical experience of countless physicians supports the efficacy of these interventions. In addition, data is accruing in favor of these dietary interventions for cardiometabolic conditions and autoimmune diseases, which is further described in my article “Landmark Study Suggests Efficacy of Autoimmune Paleo Protocol”.

The success of these dietary protocols may not only be attributed to their eschewal of immunogenic foods, but also to their inclusion of bioavailable nutrients. According to the hierarchy of healing practiced by naturopathic doctors, less invasive, low-risk modalities should be attempted first when possible according to the therapeutic order, a philosophy with which dietary strategies such as these are compatible.

Researchers echo the aforementioned sentiments, with: “Although it is common knowledge that some dietary lectins can adversely affect the growth and health of young animals…it has not been rigorously established that findings with animals are also directly applicable to humans. However, because the glycosylation state of the human gut is basically similar to that of higher animals, it may be confidently predicted that the effects of dietary lectins will have similarities in both humans and animals” (Source). Self-experimentation through an elimination diet is the gold standard for identifying reactions to food constituents, and lectins are no exception.


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47. Markiewicz, L.H. et al. (2013). Diet shapes the ability of human intestinal microbiota to degrade phytate—in vitro studies. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 115(1), 247-259.

48. Yau, T. et al. (2015). Lectins with potential for anti-cancer therapy. Molecules, 20(3), 3791-3810. doi: 10.3390/molecules20033791.

49. Pusztai, A. (1993). Dietary lectins are metabolic signals for the gut and modulate immune and hormone functions. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 47(10), 691-699.

50. Taylor, H. et al. (2017). The effects of ‘activating’ almonds on consumer acceptance and gastrointestinal tolerance. European Journal of Nutrition.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

How I Conquered Low-Energy and Digestive Chronic Conditions

Most folks who are chronically ill are aware of “regular” medicine in which you see a doctor and usually receive medication and “alternative” medicine, also called natural, traditional, holistic or functional. I’m not out to change anyone’s faith in their healthcare provider, but if you or a loved one is facing a serious chronic illness or chronic condition you need to at least be aware there are alternatives. Genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors all have a direct influence on long-term health and chronic illness issues.medical sign

When pursuing my Master’s degree, I focussed on what was then called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) along with my Geriatric NP preparation. (I certified as an adult NP because it gave me a wider scope of practice.) However, geriatrics was my calling. Perhaps because I was in my early 50s when I earned my NP certification?

CAM has always had a number of treatment modalities under its umbrella–acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, yoga, and music therapy, to name a few. The newest non-traditional western medicine entry is something called Functional Medicine (FM). FM practitioners look at the cellular level to fix, or if that is not possible, support errant body systems. It addresses the underlying cause of chronic illness instead of treating symptoms.

Functional Medicine

I used FM earlier this year to reset my hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). The HPA axis is shorthand for the feedback loops that exist between two brain structures–hypothalamus and pituitary–and the adrenal glands located right on top of both kidneys. The H-P part of the axis produces hormones that signal the adrenals to control the body’s reaction to stress and regulate things like digestion, energy storage/expenditure, and the immune system.

I was convinced I had what is popularly called “adrenal fatigue” and “leaky gut” and these two aberrations were at the root of many of my symptoms. I found an FM practitioner within driving distance, but this wasn’t necessary as she worked exclusively through email and Skype. To confirm my own diagnoses and determine what was really going on, I did a saliva test and a stool test. Neither test was difficult or even messy. The tests arrived in the mail with complete, easy to understand instructions and their own paid return after sampling. I also completed a detailed health history and medication list.

My test results were not a huge surprise.

  1. Low stomach acid–this is fairly common with older people and affects how well food is digested
  2. Adrenal insufficiency–they worked so hard they were worn out
  3. Gut wall permeability–aka leaky gut, in which particles of food and anything else in the intestines can migrate through the cell wall separating the gut from the blood supply

With the exception of low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria), FM diagnoses are not recognized by more conservative healthcare practitioners. It’s not how they were trained in school and is so new that it is not a part of the emerging medical standard for treatment: Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM). FM hasn’t been around long enough to have much of a research base, but that didn’t worry me. My disease has no FDA-approved medications or treatments and no one has identified the cause, so there was really nothing to lose.

FM had no help for a cause of ME/CFS. However, it could help alleviate some of my symptoms. At this time, I was exhausted, had poor digestion, loose stools, and no body hair, to list a few of my signs (observable) and symptoms (felt by individual). Now that I had confirmed FM diagnoses for my self-diagnosed chronic conditions we got to work.

Lifestyle changes

Sleep hygiene–the name reminds me of old Army videos about STDs, but it covers all the things that help you regulate and improve sleep patterns, including regular arising and bedtimes along with no screen time for two hours before sleep

Relaxation–already meditating about five days/week, I needed to increase this to every day and work on ways to relax during the day when I was off the cushion

Natural Light–I was to spend 10-15 minutes outdoors without sunglasses first thing after I got up as a way to help reset my circadian rhythm, which would help decrease my high cortisol (stress hormone) levels

Additional Salt–sea salt or Himalayan salt were recommended and I was to start adding salt to my food at the table and when cooking (I’d cooked with no added salt for over two decades.)

Dietary Reboot

The new diet was strict.cutting board with food

  • NO fast food
  • NO processed food
  • NO ice cream, my “drug of choice” 🙁
  • NO toxins, like MSG or chemical sweeteners like Splenda(R) and NutraSweet(R), and any artificial coloring
  • NO inflammatory foods, like all forms of sugar, any fried foods, refined wheat flours, or saturated fats (except coconut oil)
  • Primarily plant foods, like antioxidant-rich leafy greens and colorful fruit
  • High-quality proteins, like cage-free eggs, fermented dairy, and grass-fed beef or organically fed and pastured chicken and pork

For blood sugar balance, I was to do no fasting, eat complex carbs and have something to provide energy (protein) at supper. I was to take Betaine HCL, to boost stomach acid, and digestive enzymes. Additionally, I wrote down everything that went into my mouth to help me identify any possible triggers for my issues with bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn.

Hormonal Support

To better regulate and reset my HPA axis, I was prescribed two hormones: DHEA and pregnenolone, a B vitamin cocktail to increase ATP (cell energy) production, and other proprietary vitamin products to help the adrenals recover. Both DHEA and pregnenolone are hormones produced by the adrenal glands from cholesterol. They have a number of beneficial effects, including memory improvement and reducing stress-related fatigue. Pregnenolone is the precursor to DHEA, the sex hormones progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen, and cortisol. (Source)

After six months of this regimen, I was sleeping better, had more energy and the hair on my arms and legs was coming back. (Body hair started disappearing about three years into this damn disease along with my lunas, the half moons at the base of the nail.)

Even though I saw a dramatic improvement with FM, I couldn’t afford to continue. The consultation fee, medication purchase, and tests cost well over $1,000. I discussed this with my FM practitioner and she pointed me in the next direction–candida. (Cue scary music)

Candida

Reviewing my stool sample results, I saw the microbiome was dominated by lactobacillus organisms and Candida other than the dreaded C.albicans. The cause of Lactobacillus domination was easy to identify–I was drinking 16-20 ounces of dairy kefir and 12-18 ounces of kombucha daily, along with an occasional fermented vegetable.

I didn’t know much about candidiasis (Candida infection), except for C.albicans which can cause exhaustion, vaginal infections, cravings for sweets, a white tongue, brain fog, loss of libido, joint pain, and a weakened immune system. (Source) I dug into the literature and found that there are many more types of candida than problem-causing albicans.

C.albicans is part of the normal flora of the mucous membranes, respiratory, gastrointestinal and genital tract in women. It only becomes an issue when the balance of normal flora is out of control.  C.albicans can also cause problems when it colonizes damp areas of skin, for example under large breasts or fat folds. (Source)

I decided to start my candida species treatment with probiotics that had a different profile from the Lactobacillus species in my fermented drinks and food. Specifically, I was looking for Bifidobacteria and Firmicutes. I found I needed two probiotics to obtain the specific strains of bacteria I wanted.

Here’s what I used:

After a month on both probiotics, the digestive enzymes, and Betaine HCL, my stools firmed up, my bellyaches went away and so did the heartburn. Cautiously, I stopped the BioSchwartz probiotic and was a bit more lax with Betaine and digestive enzymes–only using them at suppertime when I had my large meal of the day. (Your main meal should be at the midpoint of the day but that schedule just doesn’t work out when you have a 69-year-old husband who has always eaten his big meal at night. I cause so many changes to our lifestyle that I try to accommodate his preferences whenever possible.) Currently, I take the Zenwise Labs probiotic for a week each month to keep my microbiome healthy and Betaine with digestive enzymes whenever I have a large meal.
If you want me to go into more depth on these or any other issues or if I’m overwhelming you with too much information, please let me know by commenting.
 You might also want to read:

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Maximizing nutrient absorption from foods

Don’t know about you, but I really dislike most salads and cooked greens. I ate vegetarian for a couple of years when I was living in a Buddhist household in Milwaukee. I don’t recall problems cooking or eating, but I do remember we ate a whole lot of salads. Nutrition wasn’t something I thought about a whole lot.

At that time, I was going to the Milwaukee School of Engineering to get my bachelor’s in nursing and Eric (Ric) and I were separated. Corey (Corinna, our daughter) was away in her first year at The Citadel. I was attending class, full-time, all day and then I worked the overnight shift (7 pm to 7 am) at a local hospital on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

But enough background for right now. I figured out that the only way I was going to eat enough greens to satisfy my recovering body’s need for good nutrition was to do smoothies in my old  Vitamix blender. I bought it in 1995 when I had severe TMJ and whiplash and could open my mouth only far enough to slip through a straw. Everything I ate for several weeks was thrown into the V-M and whirled to become liquid.

Diet and nutrition are proven to reverse diseases

Another important aside: Were you aware there are proven diets to reverse heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure)? Unfortunately, doctors get only a tiny bit of nutrition education in medical school and often do not know about the importance of diet/nutrition in keeping us healthy. So instead of encouraging us to eat a sensible, whole food diet, we are given pills that suppress the symptoms but never touch the cause. Nurse Practitioner education is not much better. I’ve never looked at a syllabus for Physician Assistant education, but I bet it has very little on nutrition, too.

A huge part of our nation’s growing problem with obesity and diabetes is that people who begin to investigate about nutrition and diet run into a deluge of conflicting and confusing advice. What to do? When I want evidence-based information about nutrition I go to two sources.

The first is Nutrition Facts.  This site is a non-commercial, science-based public service provided by Dr. Michael Greger that relies on individual donors to keep the site alive. There are more than a thousand videos on nearly every aspect of healthy eating, with new videos and articles uploaded every day. Best of all everything is free of charge and evidence-based.

The second site I use is called GreenMedInfo. Sayer Ji, the site’s founder, has a robust natural medicine database with over 10,000 health topics. Searching for ME/CFS brings up 30 entries with the first one being the book Plague, about the retrovirus controversy from five years ago. Querying with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome brings up 45 abstracts of published papers, 19 substances (adaptogens, curcumin) that are used for treatment, six “problem” substances (breast implants, aluminum hydroxide), six therapeutic modalities (yoga, acupuncture) and two problematic actions–vaccinations in general and Hepatitis B vaccine in particular. There is a monthly/annual fee for accessing the database, but there is an informative, free newsletter.

Maximizing nutrients

Back to maximizing nutrition.  Phytonutrients, like beta-carotene and lycopene, can exist as microscopic crystals trapped inside the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. They’re only released when the cells are disrupted, which is why my mother was right–we have to chew our food really well.  Food particle size ideally would be reduced to smaller than the width of individual plant cells. Most vegetable particles end up greater than two millimeters when you chew them, but when we break open all the cells in a blender (especially Vitamix and Blendtec), we release much more nutrition.

kale in store
Green vegetables, like kale, are very healthy and good nutrition.

So, my veggie and fruit smoothies are the perfect way to get all your nutrients without eating all those yucky greens. Here’s a basic recipe with the products I use as links:

  • 1 frozen banana (take the peel off before freezing)
  • 2 raw pastured eggs (because of concerns for salmonella, do not use raw eggs unless you have visited the farm or they are labeled salmonella-free)
  • 1 cup blueberries (I pick my own and freeze them)
  • 1 cup frozen organic strawberries (strawberries are on the Dirty Dozen list so must be organic)
  • 1 serving broccoli or kale (optional)
  • 1 heaping scoop of Green Superfood
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of brewer’s yeast (also called nutritional yeast–not what is used to make bread) for all the B vitamins that are needed for adrenal health
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process) for antioxidants
  • enough kefir, kombucha, coconut water, or filtered water to come up to the top of the ingredients in the container, usually 8-10 oz.

You’ll want to mix this very well so there are no remaining lumps from frozen berries. With my old VM, I have to stop every now and then to pound the container on the counter to let the thick mixture settle into the air pockets introduced by blending. You can add more liquid if this occurs, but I prefer my smoothie to be almost the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

Absorption of nutrients is the next step in maximizing our nutritional intake from real foods. Real food is anything that does not come in a box, is a single entity (a potato), contains no refined grains, such as enriched white flour or any type of white rice, and no added sugar–real or sugar substitutes, like high fructose corn syrup or Splenda(R). More about nutrition and cooking later.

Other posts related to this one:

How I Conquered Low-Energy and Digestive Chronic Conditions

Sugar is soooo bad for you and so is the sugar industry

My Recovery Started With Buddhism and My Cells

My Recovery Started With Buddhism and My Cells

There was a whole lot of sturm and drang associated with having to quit working as an NP about 18 months after I was diagnosed with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome):

  • Seeing my income drop precipitously
  • Being unable to afford COBRA insurance and so being without coverage until Medicare would begin two years after official disability determination (don’t get me started on how colossally stupid it is to grant disability and then make us pay out of pocket for healthcare)
  • Self-image issues related to being chronically ill and yet not looking “sick enough” that drove me into endless cycles of pushing myself to act normal and then crashing/relapsing for days or weeks afterward
  • Self-esteem issues associated with no longer being able to do what I loved and friends and family doubting I was really as sick as I claimed
  • Almost losing my home to foreclosure before I could get it refinanced with the help of my former husband and still good friend (we’ve since remarried)

Reflecting on it while composing this post, I realize my journey back to being as healthy as I could be with a fatal, chronic illness started with the foundational Tibetan Buddhist practices known as ngondro (NUUN-DRO), during which practitioners perform 100,000 repetitions of what is called the preliminary practices:

  1. repeating Refuge and Bodhicitta prayers while prostrating the body full out on the floor with arms above the head
  2. purifying karma through visualization and repetition of a 100-syllable mantra
  3. constructing mandalas to purify attachment
  4. purifying delusion through visualization and prayer

I lived alone the whole time (3.5 years) I was doing ngondro. I did an evening practice to eliminate obstacles, too. It worked for me as Dharma teachings Buddha & lotus budpromised it would. Like most, if not all, Buddhists who complete the preliminaries, I was changed inside and out. Most evident on my face, which even on a good day looks like I’m grumpy and dissatisfied, my features softened and I even looked more peaceful. I no longer felt self-pity, unfocused anger, disappointment and recrimination (what did I do that gave me ME?).

With little time to do much online research while doing ngondro, I dove back into it when my Buddhist practice no longer took all day. One of the first places I found a spark of hope was Donna Schenck’s blog at http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/ Donna became quite ill with her last pregnancy and found her body repaired itself when she began fermenting, or culturing, food.

Like Donna, I started with dairy kefir (KEFF-er or KEY-fur), essentially milk that uses beneficial bacteria to consume at the lactose (milk sugar) and turn the result into a delicious, tart beverage. Then it was on to a fermented tea called kombucha (COM-BOO-CHA), fermented carrots, dill pickles, sauerkraut, radishes, and garlic, among other veggies. I found I wasn’t a huge fan of fermented veg (if you have a prize recipe, send it to me and I’ll try it).

I reasoned the body makes new cells all the time and these new cells would be healthier and stronger because of the beneficial bacteria I was consuming. I felt better drinking kefir and kombucha. This drove me to learn more about cultured foods. At the same time, I started buying vegetables at the local Farmers Market and signing up for lots of food blogs. Ultimately, I became a member of a site started by a young woman named Wardeh (WAR-DEE) who showed how she uses traditional ways of preparing foods that are seasonal and more nutritious than conventional, processed food. Here’s the website: https://traditionalcookingschool.com/

Something else was going on at the same time. I began working with the ANS Rewired program. This proved to be as good for me mentally and physically as meditation and cultured foods. More on that in the next post.

If you found this article interesting, you may want to look at:

This program made all the difference in my ME/CFS recovery

How I Conquered Low-Energy and Digestive Chronic Conditions