Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stuck on Stage 2 (of the GAPS diet)

Breakfast on this beautiful spring morning was a Japanese inspired kale, carrot and ginger soup with an egg poached in it. I also added fermented veggie juice, which always adds a refreshingly tangy dimension, I think. 

I've grown to love the sour flavor of fermented veggies and their juice. My body must know it's good for me! I can already feel good things happening - my gut is activated rather than sluggish.  This is progress!

I did try to move on to stage 3 a few days ago. This was exciting because it introduced "pancakes" made of squash,  eggs and either ground nuts or nut butter. However,  my body reacted badly with intense abdominal pain in more than one organ.  I tried baking the batter instead of frying it but still had gut aches. Alas, the only thing to do is to go back to stage 2 until the pain and inflammation subside.

Stage 2 doesn't add a whole lot more from stage 1: egg yolks, fermented veggies, and ghee. After trying the ghee  I decided to wait to eat it until my constipation is lessened;  dairy can make constipation worse and I'm still worried about having a serious dairy intolerance or even a straight-up allergy.  I did decide to add the white of the egg, in addition to the yolk, since I'm pretty sure I don't have an egg allergy (most people are allergic to the whites and not the yolks apparently).

I can't wait to eat nuts as well as fried and baked foods. Eating only boiled foods is quite boring, especially for a food lover like me. This diet is both necessary healing and torture. Still, as my boyfriend pointed out, if I didn't encounter any issues along the way, how would I know I was doing the introduction diet right? If I just sailed through it, I might have worried I hadn't quite done it right. 

For now, stage 2 until my the daily gut pain goes away, or until my doctor tells me otherwise. Like anything in life, this diet doesn't have to be completely prescriptive. We are all unique individuals, with different guts, gut flora et cetera. I've been drinking some carrot juice here and there even though it's not supposed to be added until a later stage. We've got to use some intuition, experiment and also it's very important to CONSULT A DOCTOR. I just want to stress to everyone that I am working with a doctor on this. It's a very intense diet, and it needs to be done carefully, and with a lot of support. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013


(I'm a health nut) I've always wanted to get sugar out of my diet, in theory. In reality, it tastes so good! I've never thought of myself as a big sweet tooth, yet I've always had my favorite sweet treats. We've all probably heard that sugar is bad for us - it makes us gain weight, causes blood sugar spikes, feeds bad bacteria, and so on. Trying to quit sugar? Apparantly there are ex-crack addicts who said quitting sugar was harder than quitting crack. Maybe this is urban legend but from my experience trying, I'm inclined to believe it.
If you want to quit sugar, how far do you go? Just refined sugars? Do you allow maple syrup or honey since the former has good minerals and the later has enzymes among other healing properties. What about fruit? Where do you draw the line?
The GAPS diet makes the distinction between two kinds of sugars. The simplest sugars are called monosaccharides in contrast to their counter parts, which are calleddisaccharides because they are made of two monosaccharides. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride explains the following information in her book which outlines the GAPS diet, called Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
1. Monosaccharides (mono-sugars)
The most common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose. "These monosaccharides or monosugars can easily penetrate the gut lining; they do not need digestion," says Natasha. Honey and fruit are primarily made of glucose and fructose, which is why they are allowed on the GAPS diet.
Galactose is found in yogurt or other soured milk products. Natasha states in her book that most of our carbohydrates should come from monosugars.
2. Disaccharides (di-sugars)
The dissaccharides, or double sugars, are found in table sugar (sucrose), milk (lactose),  and maltose (starch). When digestion is compromised, as is the reason why people do the GAPS diet, the enterocytes that live on the villi in the small intestine, whose job it is to break down our foods, cannot break the double sugars down into monosugars. The double sugars "stay becoming major food for pathogenic bacteria, viruses, Candida, and other fungi, getting converted into a river of toxic substances which damage the gut wall even further and poison the whole body.
Grains, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, and cassava all have a lot of starch in them, and are not allowed the GAPS diet for that reason. Whatever starch does get digested,  breaks down into the double sugar maltose. But a GAPS person cannot break down the malatose, and so these foods are basically poison for GAPS people like myself.
So all fruit sugar is good right?  Fruits actually do contain some sucrose and/or maltose. Natasha explains:
"Most fruit, particulary when unripe, contains some sucrose, which is a double sugar. That is why it is very important to eat ripe fruit. Most vegetables and some fruit contain a little bit of starch. However, the amount of sucrose and starch in fruit and non-starch vegetables are tiny compared to grains, starchy vegetables and table sugar. In the majority of people with digestive disorders, their gut lining can cope with these tiny amounts of sugar and starch from fruit and non-starch vegetables."
To see exactly how much of each kind of sugar different fruits and sweet things have, see this list by Paleo expert Loren Cordain. Below, I'm going to be my mathematician self and crunch some numbers and some of my favor sweets.
The amount of double sugars are measured in grams per 100 grams of food item.
Less than 1 gram: Avocado, blackberries, blueberries, Casaba melon, sour cherries, elderberries, figs, grapes, lemon, lime, pomegranate, star fruit, tomato, dried prunes, raisins (including golden).
[1-5) grams: Apples, sweet cherries, grapefruit, guava, kiwi, orange, papaya, pears, pineapple, plum, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
[5-10) grams: Apricots, banana, cantaloupe, mango, nectarine, peach, dried apricots, dried figs, honey (5.7 grams).
Some high hitters are:
Dried peaches: 13.2 grams of double sugars in 100 grams of dried peaches.
Molasses: 34.7 grams of double sugars in 100 grams of molasses. 
Dates: 44.6 grams of double sugars in 100 grams of dates.
Maple syrup: 75 grams of double sugars in 100 grams of maple syrup.
Table sugar: 97 grams of double sugars in 100 grams of table sugar.
While honey and table sugar have almost the same amount of total sugars, 82 grams and 97 grams respectively, table sugar has 17 times the amount of double sugars! And even dates, which are often used as an alternative sweetener in raw and Paleo recipes, have almost 8 times as many double sugars are honey.
I recently found a recipe for grain-free Pineapple Upside-down cake from Home, Health, Happiness which called for dried cherries as the sweetener in cake. It was really yummy! Dried cherries are a great idea for a GAPSer, since cherries are low in double sugars. However, where do you get dried cherries that don't have added table sugar? Certainly not at Trader Joe's!
Does anyone know where to get dried cherries without sugar added? What are your favorite recipes using only the foods with low double sugars? Please comment and let me know!

Friday, April 12, 2013

TRASHED: Our planet and our bodies

Last night my wonderful boyfriend took me to see the premier of the new documentary TRASHED. As you can guess, the film is about the devastating effects that our daunting production of trash have on the health of the planet, including human health of course.

The film was not fantastic, still, it had a lot of helpful information and important points. To me, environmental films like these are always worth watching, because every time I do, I become more committed to reducing my footprint on this planet.  My boyfriend and I both walked away from the film wanting to make strides in living plastic free. We loved the woman whose family of three only had one bag of rubbish to throw out for a whole year! Yay for (almost) zero waste!

Speaking of zero waste, San Francisco is featured as the reigning hero in this film. The last 20 minutes or so are about SF's leading actions towards its Zero Waste 2020 goal. All the plastic from our trash is going into the environment and leaching into the water or being burned into the air as toxins that are storing up in our bodies and being passed onto our babies.

As for my own journey towards zero waste, I've already made some progress. One thing that I have appreciated about the GAPS diet, is that since I am mostly eating meats and veggies, and not processed foods, my consumption of trash has also decreased. Think of all that packaged food in the grocery stores!!! I am now buying less plastic wrap. I don't even feel good about buying food in "recyclable" containers, since so much of our recycling doesn't actually get recycled. Re-use is definitely better than re-cycle.

My current food garbage:
plastic wrapping of meat
Brita packaging
Coconut flour plastic bag (I could buy bulk but it could have gluten contamination)
ties or rubber bands around veggies (I try to save and reuse)
Plastic from my non-dairy culture starter
Tea bag (need to use loose leaf and buy in bulk)
Coconut/Almond milk containers (need to learn to make homemade nut milks!)

Any ideas on how to minimize those?!!!??! Please comment. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Surviving Stage 1 of the GAPS Diet

I did it! 

Five days of only broth, soup, boiled meat and squashes and veggies (only non or low starchy ones) and Sauer Kraut juice. Those are the stage 1 allowed food. For a full list of the foods allowed at the 6 different stages of the GAPS introduction diet, see a nice page put together by Health, Home and Happiness.

Alright,  I might have eaten a few other things not on that list. This diet is so challenging,  and hard to stick to and yet there are very few sources of support for how to deal with this. However,  my only cheats were foods that are allowed on the full GAPS diet (stage 7): fruit, honey and the kombucha drink. Those things don't sound too bad right?  

The reason the Full GAPS diet allows fruit and honey because they mostly have monsugars. Refined sugar, or table sugar, is a di-sugar, which actually takes work for the body to digest. Monosugars are absorbed easily by the body. To learn more about this, read my blog on sugars.

My kombucha cheat may have been a bad idea, since kombucha is fed refined sugar there may still be sugar in the kombucha drink unless the drink was cultured for long enough that the culture consumed all the sugar. With store-bought kombucha, you can't be sure. If you brew it at home, make sure to brew it for longer, say about 30 days. 

Besides avoiding the disaccharides, and grains do break down to disaccharides, it is very important to avoid starch on the GAPS diet. One of the most common mistakes in the GAPS diet is to remove all grains but not remove starches. For other common mistakes see the post by The Healthy Home Economist.  My previous comfort food when I tried the Paleo diet was sweet potatoes, but alas, no more. I love kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) with coconut oil and himalayan sea salt. It is my new favorite thing to eat! I've been a little bit too worried that it's higher in starch than other squashes, but from a brief web search, it seems like it is in the same category as other winter squashes which are allowed on GAPS. 

A nutrotionist told me to deal with GAPS cravings by mixing honey with butter or coconut oil. She also recommended ginger tea with honey,  between meals as all sweet things should be taken.  The website Home Health and Happiness recommends some juice and a nap to deal with carb withdrawals. However commercial juice is not recommended for many reasons.

One thing I feel there is not a lot of support on, is how to deal with the emotional experience of the GAPS diet. Since the GAPS diet is to heal the gut, and the gut-brain connection, its no surprise that it might also be a moody experience. As all these toxins are released and bacteria die off, it's triggering my depression and anxiety. The rest of this blog is focused on ways to ease the emotional stress: 

Another recommendation to help with the detox is to take baths, with Epsom salts or other detoxifiers. Living in my tiny San Francisco apartment, I don't have a bath tub. So I've been doing a foot bath every night. I made a nice mix:
1 cup Epsom salt
1 Tablespoon Almond oil
80 drops mixed essential
(I used Rose, Rose Geranium, Jasmine, and Ylang Ylang) 

The foot bath is very relaxing, and I do it before bed. It actually helps me sleep better than a full bath. I think a full bath might be too intense for me, as well as dehydrating. With a foot bath, I get some detox support and a lot of relaxation. For city girl who walks around a lot, not always in comfortable shoes, I think these foot baths are going to become a regular part of my life! 

I'm doing this diet because I have years of gut issues, depression and anxiety. One thing that I've learned over the years is how to use music to support my emotional needs. While I love dancing, poppy music, I don't have the energy for it right now while in the beginning of the introduction diet. But I need uplifting music. So, mellow yet upbeat music is what I am looking for and I found this in Yo La Tengo's new album "Fade" (2013). Sometimes bands that have been around for awhile disappoint. Not this album. It's got all the best features of Yo La Tengo's lengendary past, and yet it's also refreshingly unique. I can't get enough of it! Highly recommended for the GAPS intro diet, or for a happy, mellow Sunday afternoon.