Living with Less Inflammation

elimination diet

In Spring of 2011, my husband and I decided to do an elimination diet. We also found out that most folks (like us before we decided to do one) don’t understand what an elimination diet is. While Tom and Ali¬†give a very nice overview of their elimination diet plan here, I can tell you a few things about it:

1. An elimination diet is designed to help you recognize any food sensitivities you might have.
2. An elimination diet is not easy and will require time and dollars and sacrificing things you want to eat.
3. An elimination diet will, in the long run, help you avoid foods that cause inflammation in your body (and these are different for everyone).

To say it was an undertaking is an understatement. I cooked for probably an average of 2 hours per day. But we lived to tell the tale, and I highly recommend the process. After going through the entire diet, there were still several foods I was “iffy” about…couldn’t decide if I had really reacted to them. So this February we did the entire thing again! Call us crazy, but it was helpful. I indeed tested sensitive to bananas and potatoes. And things that I’m still not sure about are yeast and gluten. My reaction wasn’t very strong, but I feel like there was a reaction there. So who knows? Someday we may need to do it again.

This elimination diet also has a couple pleasant side effects:

1. I feel better than in any other time of my life physically and mentally. Even though I have been struggling with insomnia for over three years, when I eat like this I still have enough energy to tackle the day.
2. Weight loss. Unless you were already eating a ton of veggies, legumes and gluten-free grains, you will be full (there is no caloric restriction on this diet) and shed weight. The first time around I lost about 5 lbs and my husband around 9. This time I shed 8 lbs and my husband 11! Without really trying!

Even if you have no interest in the elimination diet, I cannot recommend enough the cookbook in which it is found. Tom has a Master’s in nutrition and certification in functional medicine. Ali also has a degree in nutrition and is a cooking instructor (it shows….her way with spices and food combinations is amazing). We have only found two recipes in the entire book (and we’ve probably tried over 100 of them) that we didn’t like. That is better than any other cookbook or website’s record for our family! They recently came out with a second cookbook full of more gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free recipes, and I bought that, too. I’ve already found several winners in there as well.

Eating healthy takes dedication and time to adjust, but in the long run, it’s worth it. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Giving our bodies the proper fuel will help them to function optimally.

The Whole Life Nutrition Elimination Diet: Phases 2 and 3

Here’s a quick update on our progress with the elimination diet. Read more here if you are playing catch up.

Days 10 to 15: Phase 2

On Day 10 we introduced lemons and limes to our diet. We included it in smoothies, in our water, in our salad dressings, and to Husband’s delight, had some lemonade (he likes variety in his beverages). My favorite recipe was a lemon lentil soup.
On Day 13 we added in wheat-free tamari (kind of like soy sauce). We had it on asparagus and greens, in our collard wraps, and on our sunflower burgers.
Neither of us noticed any strong reactions to these foods.

Days 16 to 28: Phase 3

Phase 3 involves reintroduction of foods that sometimes cause irritations in people. We began with root vegetable pancakes (which tasted so delicious! yay, potatoes!) and breakfast greens. I noticed quite a few symptoms related to potatoes, so I am going to re-test those. I ate almost an entire pineapple by myself, though, and had no problems with that! ūüôā We’ve had several meals that we both enjoyed a LOT, including Curried Vegetables with Indian Fried Rice as well as Coconut-Lime Chicken (which we introduced two days before Easter to prepare us for some meat….Husband wanted his ham!). Husband continues to not notice any particular sensitivities and accuses me of hypochondria when I mention any of mine. I think I’m sensitive to bananas as well (boo, because I used to eat them almost every day!).

Overall impressions:
1. Husband’s family has many digestive issues, and he thinks he may have a mild case of IBS. He has trouble digesting most vegetables.
2. We’ve both lost weight on the diet. Not incredible amounts, but enough that we both feel better about our bodies. I’m guessing quite a bit of it was inflammation/water retention. I’ve noticed that my abdomen and face areas have slimmed the most, same with Husband.
3. We’ve decided that we are going to try to eat “Phase 3 style” most of the time with occasional treats, depending on what we find out during the Challenge Phase.
4. The diet continues to be a problem socially. Virtually everything served everywhere contains at least one of the Challenge foods: gluten, oats, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, or yeast. We both hope that none of these produce monumental reactions in us just so we can participate in social functions without feeling like a burden.
5. Things I miss the most: cheese and peanut butter. Sunflower butter and almond butter on rice cakes with dried figs or raisins have been a staple snack for me. Surprisingly, I don’t miss baked goods as much as I anticipated, though we also haven’t had them in the house… ūüėČ

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Collard Wraps with Sunflower Pate

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Sunflower Seed Burger with side of avocado and pear

Sunday Sunshine 04.24.11

Happy Easter!  May your joy in the risen Christ be full today!

Here are a few good things from this week:

Video by Robyn O’Brien (author of “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It.”). ¬†This is great basic info on food allergies and insensitivities. ¬†(Mom, WATCH THIS.)

The Case for Once A Month CleaningSimple Homeschool

Now Is All We HaveKisses from Katie

The Whole Life Nutrition Elimination Diet

Husband and I started the Whole Life Nutrition Elimination Diet (“a strict plan designed to promote cellular healing and to allow for the identification of foods that cause an immune reaction”) on April 2nd. ¬†Our reasons?

  1. To see if we could find any triggers to some of the symptoms in our bodies (me = eczema, Husband = migraines)
  2. To show our daughter, who is currently on a gluten-free diet, support
  3. To improve our overall diet (though we had already been using a lot of the recipes out of the book, this seemed like a good jumpstart to get even more whole foods into our meals
  4. To lessen our salty/sugary/fatty cravings
  5. Because what I know about nutrition has expanded so much even since I wrote this post

So here is a little re-cap of our experience so far.

Days 1 and 2:  Green smoothies (with no banana or citrus) and water

Day One was actually the hardest for me. ¬†I could drink as many smoothies as I wanted, ruling out hunger, but the ones I made were really disgusting. ¬†I ditched some of the book recipes and started doing my own recipes (but, of course, including lots of spinach, kale, cabbage, parsley, etc.), and they were slightly tastier. ¬†Don’t get me wrong–I love a green smoothie, but almost every version I’ve ever made has included banana and almond milk, and our blender left a significant amount of pulp. ¬†Using a straw helped me gag them down until I got the hang of “good taste” ratios. ¬†That night I went to bed feeling shivery, nauseous, and achy, much like the flu. ¬†The book says that’s to be expected, so I didn’t worry about it.

I felt much better after a good night’s rest, and we continued with the green smoothies on Day Two. ¬†I have foumd my favorite recipe to be the Minty Green Smoothie on page 97.

Days 3 to 9: Phase 1

Day Three was GREAT for me. ¬†I was so excited to be able to eat real food again, even if not very many foods. ¬†We feasted on lettuce wraps with sweet potato, brown rice with seaweed, adzuki beans and avocado, seasoned with cumin and sea salt. ¬†Yum! ¬†At this point Husband has complained about 3,487 times that “this diet sucks!” and I’ve told him I’d rather have him quit and support me verbally than stay on it and be such a whiner, but he is even more of a stubborn mule than me and presses on. ¬†We eat more of the book’s recipes, like Lentil-Brown Rice Casserole, Coconut Quinoa Pilaf, and Sunny Sunflower Seed Burgers, and he complains a little less (I already knew he liked these recipes from before we started the diet).

I really have noticed a huge change in my sweet cravings. I still like a fig now and then, and maybe a nice medjool date after supper (they have never tasted so caramelly delicious before!), but I’m not wishing for cookies in the afternoons. ¬†This makes me happy. ¬†I do, however, miss peanut butter like it’s my long lost child. ¬†Husband buys me a little tub of sunflower butter, and I spread it on brown rice cakes with slices of fig, and I’m golden. ¬†Though between the two of us we’ve gone through half the tub in 6 days. ¬†Oops! ūüôā

The hardest part so far has been the social aspect. ¬†I already was attempting to abstain from gluten most of the time (though haven’t been as good about it since Christmas, other than for pastas, breads, and basics like that), but having to bring my own separate meal to small group meal night wasn’t fun. ¬†It also wasn’t horrible, though. I didn’t feel bad about what I was eating, and I was glad to not have the “I ate too much fatty food” feeling afterward. ¬†Husband was pretty bummed on Saturday, though, when he went to guys’ night and munched on a bag of sunflower seeds and dried fruit while the rest of the guys had beer and wings and cake. ¬†He, too, survived. ¬†But neither of us would want this to be a long-term thing, where we can’t eat anything anywhere because it most likely contains gluten, corn, soy, oats, yeast, dairy or eggs.

I’ll post more later, since we’re now beginning the “re-introducing foods phase” with lemons and limes.

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I want to send a big thank you to Shelley for introducing me to this cookbook and for being the guinea pig on the diet, which encouraged me to give it a go.

Meal Planning – Seasonal Suggestions

I had an epiphany while I prepared supper last night. ¬†While I am a huge proponent of meal planning, and there are many methods to it (this being closest to what I do), I realized that I rarely prepare a meal more than once or twice per year. ¬†I have a binder that is full of favorite recipes I’ve pulled from magazines, websites, blogs, and as it has grown, I have so many “favorites” (meaning I’ve prepared it more than once and we’ve all liked it) that we eat a very wide array of dishes.

There are a couple of stand-bys that use ingredients I always have in my pantry, meals I can whip up on a moment’s notice or put into the rotation on a busy week. ¬†Those dishes I will make probably once every month or two. ¬†They include:

  • Pasta with red sauce and italian cheeses
  • Pancakes and eggs with fruit/veggies
  • Eggbake (breakfast-for-supper is just so easy!)
  • Chef salad
  • Chicken and biscuits (comfort food)

Another idea that I think is fabulous if you are just learning to meal plan is having “theme nights.” ¬†I’ve never done this, but I feel like it would limit choices, thereby making it easier. ¬†For instance, Monday is Mexican night, Tuesday is Crock Pot night, Wednesday is pasta, Thursday is salads, and so on. ¬†Plus then you will usually have a pantry well-stocked for these themes.

If you are a seasoned meal planner and looking to shake things up a bit and add some new ideas to your routine, I thought I’d post a few of our seasonal favorites here, ones from my binder. ¬†Some of the recipes could easily be included in multiple seasons, so go for what is local, fresh, seasonal and incorporate it. ¬†Enjoy!

Winter:

Spring:

Summer:

Fall:

Simple Woman’s Daybook 02.16.11

Outside my window…the birdfeeder that, last week, lay on a huge drift of snow, today lies on the deck!

I am thinking…about giving thanks.

I am thankful for…creativity in its many forms.  I love to marvel at the beauty of what God has created and all that I see others creating.

From the kitchen…Black Bean and Yam Quesadillas.
I am wearing…jeans, a sky blue camisole and a brown long-sleeve top.
I am creating…a big mess, mostly.
I am going…a little bit crazy trying to catch up with all that I got behind in while I was sick.
I am reading…Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson and One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Still.
I am hoping‚Ķfor an early spring. ¬†I am sick of the snow, but I don’t want things to get flooded up north. ¬†So whatever God wills.

I am hearing…Markus yelling at his new truck toy in the other room.
Around the house…is mostly that mess I was talking about.  And some new Valentine stuff I got for the kids.
One of my favorite things…is soft hair.

A few plans for the rest of the week: work, library field trip, chiropractor, small gropu, more work, a possibly visit from family?

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…another old one from the files!

Miracles 021308

For more entries, read here.

Sunday Sunshine – Health Edition 04.25.10

One luxury I am unwilling to give up, sadly, is my fitness membership. I go the gym 3x/week on a regular basis, and though we pay through the nose for our gym, I can’t imagine going without. We don’t have room for a treadmill or an at-home gym, and when I do things like the 30-day Shred, I have to modify a lot of moves to “fit” in the TV room. ¬†Plus, even with at-home stuff, I would never have the ability to use the same amount of muscle groups that the machines and free weights at the gym allow me to.

An added benefit of belonging to our gym is that we get THE SINGLE BEST FITNESS/NUTRITION MAGAZINE I HAVE EVER READ with our membership. ¬†I used to subscribe to Shape and Self back in the day, and while both were fine, I never read those magazines cover-to-cover like this one. ¬†It is full of sensible, balanced advice from well-researched professionals. ¬†There are inspiring stories of real weight loss from people who used diet and exercise to reach their goals. ¬†No get-slim-quick stories here. ¬†And the nutrition articles are top notch. ¬†I get so so so so sick of reading articles about “Top 10 Low-Cal Snacks” in other magazines and finding recommendations like red licorice or a handful of Wheat Thins or other processed junk. ¬†Low-Cal does not equal Healthy, and these writers know that.

Their spiritual advice doesn’t always apply to me, but I just skim past those things and take what’s worth taking and leave the rest.

I’m going to link to some of my favorite 2010 articles I’ve read so far…but feel free to browse around their website (I am not being paid for this plug–I just really like them!), where you’ll find a ton of great stuff. ¬†And if you’re more like me and want to hold the magazine in your hands and see all the pretty pictures, you can subscribe to it without being a Lifetime member. ¬†Without further ado…

Resolutions Workshop 2010

6 “Healthy” Eating Choices to Rethink

From Sedentary to Unstoppable

Fiber: Why It Matters More Than You Think*

8 Ways Exercise Makes You Gorgeous

Detox Done Right

*If you read none of the others, at least look at this one!

Home Cookin’

No matter how busy I am, one thing I make time for is cooking wholesome meals for my family. Last night I made Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Pot Pie (recipe in her cookbook), however, and though it was made from scratch, it veered much more toward “comfort food” than “healthful dining option.” But good gravy (pun very much intended), was it DELICIOUS!

Other meals as of late:

  • Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese
  • Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes w/bacon, eggs and fruit (another of those comfort foods from the same cookbook)
  • Potato Lasagna
  • Homemade pizza
  • Pad Thai (from Vegan with a Vengeance)
  • Meatless chef salads (we eat that usually at least once a week)
  • Chicken Flautas with guac, sour cream and refried beans
  • Veggie stir fry
  • Fresh-baked bread with veggies and fruit on the side

So though we don’t always eat conventionally (like breakfast for supper, more vegetarian than non), we try to get variety in our diet. ¬†A blessing: Anja eats pretty much everything we eat. ¬†Lately she even asks for more lettuce once she’s finished her salads! ¬†And she really likes veggies and hummus for snacks.¬† She used to not touch raw carrots, but she has come around and likes them now.¬† That makes me so happy. ¬†I hope Markus will at least give everything a try when he gets to eating age.

What are your family’s favorite meals? ¬†I’m always looking for ideas! ¬†Especially because we joined a CSA for the summer. ¬†I’m going to have all sorts of new veggies to try out, and I’ll need recipes.