Discover the Digestive ‘Galaxy’ 🌌

There is a whole world within us. Not only are we complex human beings in the way we think, feel, and interact – we contain a universe (of sorts) in our intestines. That’s right, the human microbiome contains an estimated 100 trillion microbes – most of which live in our gut (our largest organ, the skin, also contains a microbiome).

The microbiome influences our energy balance and metabolism (e.g. risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes), gut permeability (and whether one develops “leaky gut” syndrome and/or food sensitivities), immunity, and inflammation.

What influences the microbiome? Our diet, genetics, antibiotics, and probiotic foods being some of the most important aspects.

What to learn all about your digestive ‘galaxy’ and the common issues along the journey? Let’s start at the top and work our way down:

Day 2 and Day 3 are on the same YouTube channel. This is like a mini college course – Digestion 101 so feel free to take notes as you learn all about your digestive tract and ways to improve it #nerdoutwithme

BONUS: for additional information, support, and community – consider joining our Go with your Gut Facebook group

Health Trends & Predictions 🔮

We’ve been approached by a couple of companies this week to consult about health trends and the future of nutrition and wellness. Would you like to take a peek into the now and what’s to come? No crystal ball nor clairvoyance needed.

#1 – Personalized medicine and nutrition. We’re all so used to customizing our license plates, shoes, clothes and the like…and when it comes to health and dietary advice we know there’s no-one-size-fits-all. What works for a celebrity, your best friend, or even cousin may not work for you. We all want to know what we should be eating to best fuel our bodies for performance, heal our guts, and be genetically appropriate to help prevent cardiovascular disease or even improve our memory and brain health. Enter food sensitivity testing and DNA testing to fill a gap in the market that helps figure out the best foods to avoid, and incorporate, for your unique body.

#2 – CBD products. Many of us are interested to see what CBD can do for our pain, our poor sleep, and even to help with anxiety. From gummies to tinctures and pain patches, there’s a lot of research and people experimenting on themselves with these substances to alleviate health issues.

#3 – Herbs & Botanical Medicine. Plants have been used to help our species deal with all sorts of maladies since time immemorial. During the Middle Ages, folk healers were called upon to help people in the community with their health issues. However, sharing generations of herbal knowledge was parti-cu-larly dangerous during this time as a church in power not only had strict roles for women, but also condemned the pagan practice of herbalism. This sent herbalism underground and it nearly died out. Fortunately some pioneers in the 1960’s and 70’s brought this ancient knowledge back into ‘mainstream’ attention. Depending on the plants used, and the knowledge of the herbalist, this can be an effective, low-cost option, and generally one without so many of the dangerous side effects mentioned in pharmaceutal drug ads.

#4 – Plant-based diets and Intuitive Eating. There are many specialty diets floating around these days: keto, gluten-free, low FODMAP, vegan, paleo…and interest in plant-based eating is growing. Whether for health, animal or environmental reasons, many people are looking to incorporate more plant-based meals. Meatless Mondays are a good start, if that’s something of interest to you. Intuitive eating, or mindful eating, really is different than just letting your inner two-year-old run your diet. It’s about paying attention to your thoughts and feelings around your meals and after. How do you feel physically after your meal? How full or stuffed are you and what does that feel like? Part of Intuitive Eating is about slowing down, which creates a little bit of tension in a world that seems to demand that we eat quickly while we do any other number of activities – including driving, working, or watching TV.

#5 – In, out, and all-around Health & Wellness Changes. A typical progression when making healthy changes is starting by changing what one is putting into their bodies – mainly their food and drink. After having spent time reading through ingredients lists on food, the next common change is that people will take a look at their personal care products and/or cosmetics – the ingredients put on the body (which, of course, get absorbed through the body’s largest organ, the skin). The next progression tends to look more at changing the environment closest to one’s individual bubble – such as the home – and then thinking more globally. This could initially look like changing the cleaning products used in the house and adjusting laundry detergents, fragrance sticks and plug-ins, or water quality. Thinking globally, one might start looking the company practices behind their favorite coffee, chocolate, and more to see if they value fair trade practices, organic or sustainable farming practices.

While some of these are certainly not new, they were definitely more fringe ideas back a decade or so ago. Which ones do you think will trend into the future? What are some other changes you anticipate seeing in health and wellness?

Recipe: Easy Breezy Basil Pasta

As many of you have probably heard us say, we love food; however, what we don’t love is spending an hour preparing each meal of the day. Sometimes we just need a lunch or dinner to fit 3 requirements: to be nutritious, delicious, and quick. This meal checks all of the boxes and more – it’s gluten-free and plant-based (vegan even). After the early days of taste-testing gluten-free pastas (mostly with dismal results), we are deeply in love with Banza pasta – it provides about 14 grams of protein per serving, about double that of regular pasta, and is made from chickpeas. *Italian chef’s kiss* You’re welcome in advance 😉

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission

Prep time: 15 minutes total

Servings: about 2

Ingredients

1/2 box Banza Cavatappi

1/2 package Miyoko’s Vegan Mozzarella , chopped or shredded

2 cups tomato sauce

2 tsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp fresh basil, sliced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Instructions

Boil water, add pasta and cook for about 10 minutes or until desired firmness. While waiting, heat chosen tomato sauce on low and add nutritional yeast, dried oregano and rosemary, and garlic powder. Thinly slice fresh basil. Once pasta is done, drain and place on plate with tomato sauce , vegan mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil on top. Easy chickpeas-y meal. Enjoy!

When Food is Foe 😈

It certainly is a frustration and a struggle when you suspect that the food you’ve been eating is somehow contributing to the trouble you’re having with your gut, brain, muscles and joints, or skin.

A short list of common symptoms related to food-induced inflammation can range from heartburn and stomach pain to bloating and diarrhea. It could manifest as headaches or migraines, loss of focus, anxiety and/or depression. The symptoms could show in your achy points or in your skin as rashes or breakouts.

Your Personalized Diet

Everyone needs to eat according to their own needs, preferences, and lifestyle. A diet that works for a celebrity, your best friend, and even your cousin may not be what creates health for YOU.

Truly personalized nutrition doesn’t just take into account your height and weight, age, ancestry, activity level, or food preferences and lifestyle, it also means finding out which foods are causing an inflammatory response in your body.

Gut Permeability aka “Leaky Gut”

Having a “leaky gut” was a condition once unbelieved but is now well-documented in scientific literature. When there’s a compromise or breach of the cells lining the gut, there is a potential for all sorts of maladies, including poor nutrient absorption, food sensitivities, and many symptoms throughout the body.

Inflammation: the Good AND Bad

Just like stress, inflammation isn’t all bad. When you get a cut, the area of the trauma will start to swell and redden as the immune and circulatory system rush to the scene to stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and start laying new skin structures. The problem is when stress, or in this case, inflammation becomes chronic. This situation can ignite a host of disorders including arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and, quite possibly, autism and mental issues.

How do you heal the painful symptoms associated with stepping on a nail? Sure, you could try covering it up, wrapping the area with pillowy gauze and taking aspirin, but you haven’t removed the root cause. So the first step to true, actual healing is to have the nail removed.

How might diet-induced inflammation show up for you? We’re all different so while soybean might cause one person a headache or migraine, for another it could cause joint pain or heartburn. Same with gluten, blueberries, or even green peppers.

Just because a food or diet is labeled as anti-inflammatory doesn’t mean it’s acting that way for you. In fact, surprisingly enough, we’ve had two clients in the past year for whom tumeric, a known anti-inflammatory, was actually INFLAMING them. One of the clients had been taking it everyday (!) in attempts to quell her joint pain.

The Multiple Problems with Elimination Diets

One of the keys in reducing diet-induced inflammation in the body is first identifying the foods that are causing the ‘fire’ in the body. Why not start with an elimination diet to try to improve migraines, autoimmune conditions or gut health? Why not try eliminating the most common allergens (e.g. wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, corn, and soy) or trying FODMAPs? While a particular food may relate to certain symptoms, it’s not necessarily the best course of action to subject clients to an elimination diet because they are difficult to sustain , are often inconclusive (do you have a mirgraine or heartburn because of the gluten or because you’ve been under stress or because of barometric pressure change in the weather?) and they don’t usually give the full relief clients need and desire.

1. They could miss a genetic component important for you to know and to share with your family. A good example of this would be a person who eliminates gluten from their diet and feels better. Unless they were tested for celiac disease, they wouldn’t know how stringently they might need to follow the gluten-free diet. Their relatives might also be unaware of how their expression of ‘silent celiac’ disease could be infertility, skin rashes, mouth sores, osteoporosis, and even lymphoma. 

2. Extra stress is another problem of elimination diets. They are frustrating and mentally demanding (trying to figure out a symptom’s cause might feel like a scene from A Beautiful Mind or this It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme), time-consuming and perhaps most importantly – they are not as successful as testing. The reason for this is that as you eliminate or add in foods, you may not do so slowly or completely enough AND since the immune system is in a heightened state of alert still responding to the foods you haven’t eliminated, you’re likely not going to feel 100% or even 80% better. Instead of spending 6 or more months removing foods from your diet – not feeling sure that you’re even getting better, or not getting a 100% resolution- you may want to consider another process. With our protocol, we guide clients through step-by-step, starting with 10 days of their ‘safe’ foods and then systematically expanding their diet in a way that allows us to determine other food reactions and intolerances.

3. Elimination diets don’t necessarily ‘put out the fire.’ Because our genetics and environment can play a role and impact our abilities to deal with inflammation, you can’t just avoid foods that cause you problems. Our body’s response to stress plays a role too. The great part of knowing your food – and food chemical – sensitivities is that they give a wider, more accurate picture …when it comes to discovering that molds, yeast,  FD&C Blue #2, or benzoic acid are also causing issues, perhaps in your household environment or products. Once we remove the ‘known offenders’ in your diet (including supplements and hygiene products), the immune system starts to calm down and then we can safely start food reintroduction and see more clearly what causes your problematic symptoms. Otherwise, with elimination diets, you’re mainly just guessing about the foods, supplements, and hygiene/household products you’re using and whether or not they are ‘safe’ for you.

Supplements aren’t the Answer

“Can’t I just take extra probiotics, collagen, turmeric, or fiber to help my gut?” You could play the guessing game and potentially waste time and money in trying to find the perfect supplement (or twenty). Here’s the problem: you’ll likely not see a great benefit from them if you’re still eating foods that irritate your gut’s lining and that cause inflammation in the body. As mentioned before, you could be reactive to turmeric and therefore adding that supplement could be your personal kryptonite.  

Want a faster, better way to help your gut AND body heal?

Consider comprehensive food sensitivity testing. Why comprehensive? Because, for example, just looking at IgG levels doesn’t mean that the food is the problem necessarily; IgG can be elevated for a number of reasons. It’s more important to look at multiple markers of inflammation being released by a cell in response to a food – including cytokines, prostaglandins, histamine, leukotrienes, interleukins and more.

If you’re tired of feeling “gross”, being so bloated you look 5 months pregnant, and have stomach pains that distract you from fully participating in the life you want to live, or have other ‘unexplained’ symptoms that could be related to the foods you eat regularly, consider a comprehensive program that includes your test results and implementing the proper protocol with expert guidance and support.

Food sensitivity testing is one of the most powerful tools we have to help clients finally improve life-long symptoms and get back to engaging in life more fully. Interested to see if the testing is a good option for you? Schedule your complimentary, 20-minute Discovery Call and let’s get your healthy journey started!

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‘Crap-e’ Diem! 5 Tips for AM Poo

What partially inspired this topic was an experience we had while in our dietetic internship (for those unfamiliar, to be a registered dietitian-nutritionist one has 4 years of medical training and then a year of paying, not paid, internship). Between our collective stress as a cohort and our lifestyle factors, which included adult beverages and dancing at bars on weekends, it’s no wonder that, while walking with a friend to meet with our program director, she had a grimace on her face. When asked what was wrong, she grouchily responded, “I haven’t had my morning poo”. We were flabbergasted. Though we were far from the Bridgerton-era of delicate sensibilities, no one talked about poo. Ever. She helped to change that, as her simple statement helped illustrate how integral a morning routine, with a healthy bowel movement, could be. Lest you ever find yourself grimacing because you too have not had a good morning poo, we’ve got you, boo.

Pooping is a common problem in the United States, affecting all ages and populations. About 16% of adults, and 33% of adults 60 and older have symptoms of constipation.

What are symptoms of constipation?

< 3 bowel movements per week

stools that are hard, small and difficult to pass

a feeling of having incomplete bowel movements

Who could be at risk for Constipation?

Pretty much everyone. But more specifically:

• Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth

• People who are not getting enough fiber

• Those taking certain supplements or medications (including iron supplements or diuretics, calcium channel blockers, depression, and pain medication)

• If you’re stressed you’re probably not going to be pooping very well

• Those with certain health conditions or gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. IBS)

Constipation can be a sign of a medical problem so you’re going to want to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to rule more serious issues out.

5 Tips for a Good Morning Poo

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission.

1. As a general principle, you want to ensure you are drinking enough water. This seems basic and so many people skip over this, but don’t. When the body isn’t properly hydrated, it draws water out of the colon, which results in hard, dry stools.

2. This goes along with #1; get enough fiber into your diet. Plant foods are a great way to achieve this; however, if you increase your fiber intake without getting enough water, you’re going to have more ‘plumbing’ issues. Adults should get at least 25 grams of fiber per day.

3. Move your body and get your bowels moving. Whether it’s a light morning jog, walk, or even jumping jacks, this could help move things along your digestive tract.

4. Hot beverages. The heat from tea, coffee, or hot water and lemon can help stimulate a bowel movement. The high levels of caffeine in coffee are known to stimulate the bowels. A word of caution, you don’t want to have to rely on this.

5. Squat it out. A toilet stool or Squatty Potty can put your body in a position to make elimination easier.

Remember, talk with your friendly registered dietitian-nutritionist to investigate the amounts and types of fiber in your diet as well as to plan more fiber-rich meals.

So try these tips and ‘Crap-e’ Diem everyday!

Recipe: Jackfruit Peanut Noodles

Our first instinct was to call this recipe “Jolly Jackfruit” for two reasons: the red and green vibrant colors are reminiscent of the holidays AND it’s a meal that promotes feeling jolly afterward, fueled with plant-proteins and bright vegetables. It doesn’t hurt that the peanut sauce is to-die-for delicious. Use this meal for your new year’s resolutions of eating healthier and/or more plant-based. Enjoy!

Prep time: about 20 minutes

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission.

Ingredients

2 cans of young jackfruit

2 tbsp olive oil (coconut oil works too)

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups kale, chopped

1 cup full-fat coconut milk

2 Tbsp coconut aminos (or use soy sauce or tamari)

2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil

1 Tbsp fresh ginger

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (1-2 limes needed)

1/2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional, to help provide a multi-dimensional flavor to the peanut sauce)

8oz rice noodles, prepared according to package instructions

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat then add garlic, kale, and red bell pepper to cook for 4-6 minutes. Stir regularly. Drain the jackfruit and remove hard core. Use your hands to pull, or ‘shred’ the jackfruit. Add it to the skillet and cook for about 4 minutes.

Now it’s time to prepare the peanut sauce. In a blender, add the coconut milk, peanut butter, coconut aminos, lime juice, maple syrup, toasted sesame oil and ginger. Blend until smooth then taste and add seasonings or spice until it’s to your liking.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and then add the rice noodles and cook according to the package instructions While waiting, pour the peanut sauce into the skillet to coat the jackfruit and veggies with the peanut sauce. Stir and cook for about 2-3 minutes before removing mixture from heat. Serve by placing noodles in a bowl and topping with the jackfruit and veggies. Add cilantro, peanuts, or red pepper flakes for additional flavor and garnish, if desired. This dish is best served fresh but can be easily heated up the next day for a delicious lunch.

If you are allergic to peanuts, take heart – almond butter worked just as well for this recipe.

Celiac vs. Gluten Intolerance

nomenclature

Source: Sapone A, et al. Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification. BMC Medicine. 2012; 2013

Gluten is the scary gremlin on the health scene. Just because your best friend, neighbor, or favorite celebrity is gluten-free, does that mean you should be too?

What is gluten? It’s a collective term for a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley and derivatives (i.e. spelt, einkorn). Gluten is well-recognized for giving breads a doughy, elastic structure; but beyond breads, it is used as a thickening agent and flavor enhancer.

Quick note: Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed. Some experts maintain that gliadins are catalysts for problems typically attributed to gluten.

Celiac disease

For those with celiac disease (CD), exposure to gluten triggers an autoimmune attack on the intestines. When the villi (finger-like projections) of the intestines become damaged, the body cannot absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment and serious chronic health conditions.

People generally develop celiac from a combination of genetic disposition for the disease, a stressful event triggering the genes, and a diet with exposure to gluten, wheat, gliadin, barley, etc.

The diagnosis of celiac disease can be challenging since it shares symptoms to other conditions such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, and even lactose intolerance. Blood tests can reveal auto-antibodies to gluten and often an endoscopy follows; this is where a biopsy can reveal intestinal damage, if one hasn’t started a gluten-free diet already. The presence of genetic markers HLA-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8 only shows you may develop CD; it is not a confirmed diagnosis for CD as not all of our genes fully express. Because those with celiac are at risk of malnutrition , other auto-immune conditions, cancer, and osteoporosis, proper diagnosis and support is essential.

For those with celiac disease, it is essential to avoid gliadin/gluten for the remainder of life.

Wheat allergy

Wheat is one of the 8 most common food allergens in the United States. The reaction to ingesting wheat can include rashes, hives, swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, a rapid heart-rate and anxiety.

Unlike celiac disease, where there’s an immune reaction to all gluten-containing grains, for those with a wheat allergy there is only a reaction to the proteins in wheat. Wheat allergies can be diagnosed via a skin prick or blood test.

Sometimes wheat allergies are diagnosed in children but can fade in time.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) may experience
similar symptoms as those with CD (including gas, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches, forgetfulness/foggy thinking), however, antibodies to gluten are not produced nor is there intestinal damage (two hallmarks of CD). There’s not enough evidence to know for sure if eating small amounts of gluten causes damage.

Interestingly enough, there is evidence linking gluten intolerance to a number of other health conditions including autism, depression, digestive disorders, even schizophrenia.

The symptoms often improve after removal of gluten from the diet.

Detecting gluten sensitivity is difficult since there is currently no accepted diagnostic test for NCGS. It is important to rule out celiac disease and wheat allergy. An elimination diet should be done under supervision of an expert nutritionist.

If you suspect you have celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten sensitivity, it is important to get a proper diagnosis and work with a qualified healthcare professional on an elimination diet and food sensitivity test as well as support for following a gluten-free diet.

gluten testing

The results of an individual’s food sensitivity testing showing gluten, gliadin, and wheat as issues.