When Food is Foe đŸ˜ˆ

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!

Food Sensitivity Testing with MRT

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Most people – whether younger or older, ill or well – benefit from knowing which foods their bodies react negatively to.

Here’s the kicker: the food you think is healthy, may not be healthy for you.

If you’re healthy and want to stay that way, the focus is on prevention; since food is central to any wellness plan, to eat in a precise and personalized way is best.

Dealing with health challenges?

Maybe you’ve given up some of the ‘big 8’ offenders (e.g. wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs) but are still having some symptoms. Perhaps you’ve done (ineffective) skin testing or IgG food sensitivity testing. In either case, you know you need to drill down further and find out if your everyday “healthy” foods (e.g. blueberry, turkey, or tumeric) are actually inflaming you. This has been the case for many of our clients, some visual examples of food sensitivity testing results are below.

Conditions associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease
  • Heartburn / GERD
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Autism and ADD/ADHD

Symptoms associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Constipation / diarrhea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Eczema, psoriasis, and acne
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Insomnia and poor sleep
  • Brain fog
  • Stomach and abdominal pain
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Nasal and sinus congestion or post nasal drip
  • Food cravings
  • Muscle and joint pain or stiffness
  • Water retention and difficulty losing weight

Additionally, this is a test worth doing if you plan on having children (to help lower inflammation in the body and improve fertility) or if you have children who are ‘picky eaters’ (oftentimes, kids intuitively know that a certain food is ‘hurting’ them and they try to avoid it).

If you want to lose weight or improve performance, this test provides you with the foundation for your personal diet strategy and may provide the missing link necessary to achieve your goals.

What makes MRT different? How does it work?

Some of the other tests you may have done, such as a skin prick or a food sensitivity test ONLY measuring IgG levels, often lack the accuracy in determining actual food sensitivities you may have.

Figuring out what our sensitivities are can be difficult; here’s why – the reactions can be delayed or dose-dependent. This means we may not immediately feel the effect of a food reaction; it may take many hours or days to appear. If it’s dose-dependent, we might feel okay with a little bit of the offending food, but stacking it gives us a reaction.

Mediator Release Testing (MRT) is a patented blood test that shows how strongly your immune cells react to the 170 foods and chemicals tested by measuring chemical mediators released from the cell. When released from immune cells, chemical mediators such as histamines, cytokines, and prostaglandins produce damaging effects on the body’s tissues, leading to the development of symptoms. Fortunately, MRT takes the guesswork out of identifying food sensitivities!

Here are some examples of ‘healthy’ foods that were showing up as inflammatory for clients, including: bananas, turkey, blueberries, coffee and more!

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Test results are only part of the equation. With your functional medicine dietitian-nutritionist, you’ll put into play the LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) protocol to help get you the results you desire. Curious about finding out the foods and food chemicals causing inflammation and symptoms in YOUR body? Contact us and see if MRT testing is right for you.

Blame it on the Alcohol?

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Image source: pixabay.com

Jamie Foxx’s song “Blame it” encourages blaming alcohol for all ruined relationships, unsafe situations, and perceived enhancement of other’s attractiveness. Outside of the many issues and poor decisions can that can result from a night of boozing, including a high credit card bill, higher risk for accidents, and even a 2am Taco Bell run…there are more. During Covid-19, some are hitting the wine and beer harder.

Let’s review the basics: alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells in the body. Moderation (the amount considered to not contribute to any major health concerns) for the average woman is defined by the CDC as not more than one drink per day and for the average man as not having more than two.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts, “there has been an increase in the proportion of US adults who drink on any given day and an increase in calories consumed from alcoholic beverages when drinking occurs.”

What effect is this having on us from a weight loss perspective? Or a liver-health one?

Now we appreciate the humor some of you bring to our appointments:

“I think I’m drinking enough water. There’s water in beer, right?”

“I’m not too concerned. It’s called a liver, not a die-er”

“Wine-o? Maybe; I prefer ‘wine-yes'”

With alcoholic beverages being among the top five contributors to total caloric intake among US adults, this is something we need to talk about. But beyond calories, here are more reasons to explore your relationship with alcohol:

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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.

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

#2 Problems Solved! Have the Perfect Poo

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If your bathroom visit has you feeling less-than-stellar, whether from incomplete bowel evacuation or runny rapid transit, you may wonder what’s going on with your gut. We will solve the mysteries of these #2 issues so that you can sit down and take action!

What’s your number?
If you’re looking at the stool chart feeling as through you run the gamut of each type, start to observe toilet clues and investigate reasons that may underlie issues of diarrhea and constipation. Like most changes, this starts with awareness. Track the number associated with the Bristol stool chart type that best matches your bowel movement.

Water makes all the difference. Diarrhea results when the intestine doesn’t have time to reabsorb all the water from the food waste before it exits. On the other hand, if too much water being reabsorbed, constipation occurs and results in hard, dry rabbit-poo-like stools.

When you can’t wait another second….diarrhea. Common causes of diarrhea include:
Food allergies or sensitivities
Lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance/Celiac disease, or malabsorption of fructose
Hyperthyroidism
Emotional stress
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Gastrointestinal infection

Sh*t happens….hopefully. Constipation involves the passing of hard, dry stools that resemble rabbit or deer excrement. Are you eating sugar, processed carbs, packaged foods? If so, you’re at higher risk for constipation. Or perhaps it’s one of these common issues:
Low fiber intake (or too much fiber and not enough water)
Food allergies (dairy and wheat can also lead to constipation issues for some)
Hypothyroidism & hormonal imbalance
Lack of physical activity
Dehydration
Issues with the nerves or muscles in the intestinal tract

Whoa! That stinks!
If you find that your flatulence clears a room or your BMs are so stinky they cause a plane to turn back, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. For the deadly gas (silence optional), the problem has its roots in sulfur compounds. One reason why flatulence can flatten the mood: bacteria adds sulfates to trapped air bubbles in the gut, creating smelly farts. Food can lead to foul smells particularly when one is consuming foods high in sulfur (think Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, and onion).

Smelly poo can have its origins from food as well. Those who eat a lot of animal protein tend to have stinkier BMs. A weak digestive system will contribute to foods not breaking down well and putrefying in the gut. Poor diet and stress often have key roles to play as can food sensitivities and inflammatory bowel disorders.

Have the Perfect Poo
Though seemingly as mythical as unicorns, some people claim to have the perfect poos. You can too! First, you have to know what you’re aiming for. On the Bristol stool chart, a perfect poo would ideally be a 4, with 3 and 5 being strong contenders. Let your competitive side show as you try some of these tips to improve your digestive wellness.

  • Get more fiber (think fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains)
  • Drink enough water! Some people like to jazz it up with some lemon and/or mint.
  • Address any underlying thyroid issues
  • Consider eliminating gluten and/or dairy from the diet (both are a common cause of diarrhea and constipation) or other foods on your sensitivity results
  • Fermented foods (i.e. kimchi, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut) may be beneficial as they can support the colonization of healthy bacteria in the gut. Consider a probiotic supplement.
  • Exercise!
  • Incorporate stress management techniques
  • Get enough sleep

It is important to give your body the tools it needs to be healthy. Every piece of food eaten is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. If it passes too quickly in the digestive tract, important nutrients are missed. If it takes too long, damage may occur in the colon (think diverticulitis as an example). Remember that there are plenty of neurotransmitters in your gut and the brain-gut connection is real. Your thoughts, anxiety, depression, stress, and mood impact your gut.  With all of the information and ideas presented, what step will you take to  achieve gastrointestinal balance? 

The Straight Poop on Stool

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Everybody poos. Are we getting awkward yet? Fantastic. Yes, we each have our own bathroom habits and the information your unique #2 supplies can help you, and your healthcare practitioner, explore gut issues and even food sensitivities.

What is poo made of? Though some females claim it’s all glitter and unicorn smiles, nope; it’s the pretty much the same as our male counterparts. Stool is about 75% water with the remainder being a combination of fiber, live and dead bacteria, body cells, and mucus. Yay! (Bowel) Moving on…

Often times, our BMs (bowel movements) have established themselves in a certain way for most of our lives and we’ve never stopped to examine them. Have you ever wondered what is “normal” in terms of consistency and frequency? 

Next time, before you ‘flush and dash’, take a look….what is the shape, texture, and color? Does it float or sink?  Each of these factors can give insight into hydration, food sensitivities, digestive issues and more.

Oprah has her microphone, plumbers have plungers, fortune tellers have crystal balls, and dietitians..well we have the Bristol Stool Chart! Behold this amazing tool that can help you categorize your BMs and problem-solve to make them into everything you’ve ever dreamed your digestion could produce.

Disclaimer:  these poos are not real. No poo was harmed in the creation of this blog.

bristol stool chart numbers

Poo Types
1: hard, rabbit-like pellets that are hard to expel
2: a contiguous piece but lumpy and still a bit hard
3: a smoother sausage-like poop with cracks
4: sausage or snake-like, smooth and soft
5: soft pieces, clearly separated
6: mushy stool, ragged edges, not well-defined
7: entirely liquid stool

I think mine was a ‘4’ – is that okay? Gold star for you, perfect pooper! In general, the goal is to stay within types 3-5.

Why is poo brown? When red blood cells break down, there’s a pigment called bilirubin which is made. The bacteria in the intestines transforms the combination of bilirubin, iron (from the red blood cells), and waste into a brown poo.

But what if my poo is red/yellow/green/tarry/mucus-y? Oh gosh, pull up a stool…er, chair…okay, bright red can be from a bleeding ulcer, hemorrhoids, or even eating beets. The first two are worth seeing a doctor about, the third is just a reminder of something you ate within the past few days and isn’t serious. Yellowish-green color can be caused by the green bile that combines with the waste products in the gut but move too quickly through the intestines to turn brown before making the exit. This color, which is typically involved in a malabsorption disorder (i.e. celiac disease), is associated with excess fat in the stool. The green color can also be caused by eating lots of leafy greens, food coloring, or iron supplements. Black tarry stools can indicate that there has been blood which, along its route in your intestines, dried up. This can signal internal bleeding and is worth a trip to the doctor.

Mucus can be clear or vary from white to yellow and looks a bit like jelly. Gawd, can this get any more gross? Yes, because even though mucus is normal to have in your gut to help move things along without much friction, sometimes this can get out-of-hand when there are ulcers or inflammation in the intestines. You may want to let your healthcare provider know if this is an issue for you.

How often should I go? Disturbingly enough, a pediatrician once asked a young dietitian-to-be how often she had a BM; the answer of “once every 3-4 days” was met with a response of “that’s normal, everyone is different.” Only later in her studies did the young one find that having 3-4 days worth of toxins in one’s gut is not normal nor healthy. This is why a dietitian worth her sea salt is going to ask you about not only what goes into your mouth, but what comes out the other end. Because we ❤ you and want you to feel amazing. To answer your question though – ‘normal’ will vary from 3x a week to 3x per day. Generally transit time from eating to expelling runs about 18-72 hours. 

Get a handle on what’s going on inside your guts by paying attention and talking with a healthcare professional about your digestive concerns.

Stay tuned! Our next topic will be problem-solving diarrhea and constipation as well as tips on how to have the perfect poo!