Blastocystis Hominis, You’ve Been Caught

So remember those digestive issues I’ve been experiencing for the last several weeks that mysteriously popped up & that I’ve been in the process of fixing using a very specific combined SCD/paleo approach? Weeell when the doctors said that I did not have any parasitic bacteria present in my gut, they were wrong. Yup, that’s right. Turns out I have been infected with a parasite known as Blactocystis Hominis (B. Hominis, for short). But it took a couple stool tests for it to show up. Sneaky little parasite. 

In my most recent stool test the results came back that I have few Blastocystis Hominis present in my gut. Few. Some numbers or perhaps a percentage would be nice. But I guess I’ll settle with few, since that’s all they’ll give me.

When my doctor first called back to tell me the news she informed me that my treatment option was to take a dose of antibiotics – they had two variations available & I could choose which one I preferred. Or, since my symptoms had cleared up & I was no longer experiencing diarrhea I could choose to do nothing. My initial thoughts were hell no am I taking an antibiotic. But rather than express this viewpoint to my doctor I politely told her that I would need a few days to think about it, hung up, and began my new research project.

For the past week I’ve done hours of internet research on Blastocystis Hominis, the traditional medical approach to treatment & different antibiotics’ effectiveness on the parasite, the natural/holistic approach to treatment & different herbs’ effectiveness on the parasite, other methods/tactics used to kill parasites, etc. etc.

I’ve learned a lot about this specific parasite & have come to realize that while I tend to have a rather anti-antibiotic mindset that in certain cases they may be necessary & this may in fact be one of those cases. This parasite is one of the hardest to get rid of for a couple reasons. First, while antibiotics & natural herbs traditionally used to kill of other parasites have been proven effective against B. hominis, it can build up resistance to both forms of treatment rather quickly. It also has a complex life cycle consisting of four different life stages, which do not all respond to the same treatment and therefore while one antibiotic or herb can effectively kill off one form of the bug, say the adult form, the eggs (or cysts) will remain unharmed & thus allow the protozoa to reproduce following treatment. Lastly, B. hominis can inhabit multiple segments of the digestive system, can hide in intestinal mucus, can stick & hold on very tightly to the intestinal membranes, and can retreat to areas such as the large intestine & colon in times of “danger”. 

An additional tricky thing about B. hominis is that it has been found present in the GI tract (in smaller quantities) in completely asymptomatic or seemingly healthy people but also in the gut of those (usually in larger quantities) experiencing severe digestive problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, IBS-like symptoms, and more. In recent years it has been discovered that different subtypes of the parasite exist and it is speculated that certain subtypes may cause negative symptoms while other subtypes do not. Subtype I is believed to be the pathogenic type, more likely to cause symptomatic infections or pose risk when combined with other types of infection or when in the presence of other pathogenic or “bad” types of bacteria. Subtype 3 is believed to be the asymptomatic type, predominantly found in the guts of individuals experiencing no current negative digestive symptoms. However, there are also intra subtypes found amongst subtype 3, and differences in the morphology of these intra subtypes correlates with the organisms pathogenic potential. In other words, if B. hominis (subtype 3) exists in one morphology in an individual they will experience no symptoms, however if that same organism transitions to a more mature morphology then the individual will progress from an asymptomatic to a symptomatic state. In other words, Blastocystis hominis seriously sucks. 

Blastocystis hominis, in it’s parasitic state (or when it grows/gets out of control) can do a lot of damage to the intestinal wall, leading to a leaky gut, inflammation, & decreased immunity. This alone explains why there is a strong association between B. hominis & IBS and why B. hominis is so often detected in patients with IBS. This also explains why the symptoms I was experiencing back in May/June were so similar to those that occur when someone has a leaky gut or IBS/IBD. I will never know for sure but my speculation is that I somehow contracted this parasite & either 1. my immune system/gut was already compromised (due to a past recent viral infection or just overall stress in general) allowing the parasite to reproduce & cause some serious damage or 2. there were some other bad bacteria already present in my gut & they joined forces with the new addition (B.hominis) to wreck havoc together. Joy.    

The strength of the disease (termed, Blastocystosis) greatly depends upon the condition of your body. Since I was able to heal my leaky gut & correct any other bacterial imbalances with a gut healing protocol (that you can read about here) I currently have few B.hominis present in my gut & have what would be referred to as an asymptomatic case of B. hominis. So while I could easily choose to do nothing, put the parasite in the back of my mind, & hope that it presents no future difficulties, this is not something I feel comfortable doing. B. hominis attacks the body violently & creates trouble when it’s under stress or weakened. While I aim to keep my daily life as stress-free as possible, one of my favorite activities is CrossFit, an exercise/fitness program where stress is inevitable. I am also entering my senior year of college & want to be able to go out with friends & enjoy myself without having to worry about my leaky gut or digestive issues returning. Because of this I want to completely eradicate my gut of all Blastocystis hominis. I want those suckers outta here. 

In order to do this I have made the decision to use a combined medical/natural approach. I am going to continue with my current diet that now consists of low-starch veggies such as cooked zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, spinach, and carrots, lots of healthy fat primarily animal fats, coconut oil, and olive oil, and a good amount of protein ideally from grass-fed/pasture-raised animals or wild-caught fish/seafood. I have also been drinking bone broth (made weekly from the bones of local, grass-fed cows) every morning and consuming gelatin (in the form of tea gummies) regularly. This is the diet that has helped to heal my leaky gut/digestive issues most likely caused by this parasite in the first place and therefore will be the one I stick with as I begin my plan in killing the parasite for good. I may make a few adjustments here & there, adding a few more types of vegetables or foods as I see fit but most simply each of my meals will consist of a some high-quality animal protein, a good amount of healthy fat (either added or naturally occuring in the cut of meat), and some low-carb/sugar veggies. I have yet to make any firm decisions regarding the antibiotic but I think that taking it is inevitable & as soon as I have a solid plan laid out I will be writing a follow up post on the exact steps I am going to take, so stay tuned!

While people generally have large amounts of trouble eradicating this parasite, which I initially found discouraging, this now serves as fuel for the fire. I am highly determined to get this parasite out of my system so that I can continue to heal my gut & become the healthiest version of myself. See ya later, B. hominis. 

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SCD Reflections – Weeks 2 & 3

So this is going to be a pretty short post. I didn’t really change much during weeks 2 & 3 of my Specific Carbohydrate Gut Healing Protocol because I already had a lot of change/activity going on & I didn’t think that messing with my diet would be a good idea.

During Week Two, I had two visitors – the first being my mother and the second being my precious little monthly gift. My mom came to Denver for a mother-daughter visit & to fly me back to Maryland for the rest of the Summer. We had a lot planned over her five day/four night visit & were constantly bouncing from one activity to the next so I thought it would be best to keep my diet consistent & stick with the meats, fats, & carrots/zucchini purees during her stay. I did however up my kombucha intake quite a bit to about a bottle a day (thanks mom!) & did make a butternut squash soup for us one night. Both of these didn’t seem to cause any problems : )  Also since my monthly gift also came for a visit during this week which contributed to its own set of GI distress/symptoms I figured I’d also let that run its path before introducing any new foods or making any other changes.

During Week Three, I had a big change at the beginning of the week in the form of me traveling/moving from Denver to Maryland. I figured it would also be a good idea to give my body a couple days to adjust to the new environment/time difference & get settled in at home before changing up anything diet wise as well. During this first week back at home I’ve noticed a general improvement in my symptoms as I’ve continued to up my fat intake each day by adding more coconut oil into my pureed carrots or zucchini as well as drizzled on top of my lean meats (such as beef patties or chicken breast). I’ve found that increasing my fat helps a lot with hunger cravings & keeps me more satiated & able to go 4-5 hours in between meals. The couple of small changes I’ve made during this week have been trying out Avocado Oil (which I added to a zucchini puree), trying out Cilantro (which I added to some shredded Chicken), and experimenting with leaving some of the zucchini peel on & not removing all of the seeds prior to pureeing. All of these changes seemed to go ok. Lastly, I got multiple blood tests/stool tests taken at the beginning of the week so get confirmation that I do not have any sort of inflammatory infections or gut parasites/viruses. The tests all came back negative except for one blood test which showed a small amount of white blood cells in my gut. My doctor spoke with the GI specialists at the office who are not concerned with these results, although they do show a certain amount of inflammation in my GI tract so I’m going to keep this in mind and will do a little bit of research on it in the upcoming week. 

Lifestyle-wise I’ve been adding more CrossFit WOD’s back in which don’t seem to be doing any damage so far! Last week I went in for a total of 3 WOD’s – two which were more intense & one that was a little less intense & more strength-based. I plan on doing this again during Week 4 but will probably add in an additional less intense/strength-based WOD along with at least two days of yoga. I’ve also been practicing free-running sleep which is pretty much just going to bed when you begin to feel tired – ideally within an hour or two of the sun setting – and waking up naturally. The first couple of days I still got sleepy around the 3-4 pm point but the past couple days have felt pretty awake/energetic throughout the day. I’m hoping to get to the point where I have steady and abundant energy during all light hours & do not have those late afternoon slump/lack of energy periods. I’m going to be home through the end of August & hope to continue sticking with this free-running sleep cycle for the majority of my remaining summer vacation so I can enter the new school year well-rested, rejuvenated, and with healthy body, mind, and gut. 

During Week Four I plan on making a few small changes:

First, I’m going to start taking a new probiotic. I had to leave the Klaire Labs probiotic I was taking back in Denver because it requires refrigeration but I had also ordered another probiotic a few weeks back, Prescript-Assist, which does not require refrigeration and has been highly recommended by health professional, Chris Kresser, among others. (I was weary of trying this probiotic out at first because it also contains pre-biotics, which I read in Digestive Health with Real Food (by Aglaee Jacob) should be avoided if you are experiencing diarrhea because it can exacerbate the symptoms and also can feed the the bad bacteria in the gut in addition to the good bacteria.)

Second, I’m going to start making tweaks to my vegetables such not peeling or de-seeding the zucchini prior to cooking/pureeing, eating both carrots and zucchini cooked but not pureed, and adding in one or two new foods – either spinach, green beans, or yellow squash. 

Week Four has got some seriously exciting stuff in the works.. ; )

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Pork Chops, Simple & Delicious

So this isn’t exactly the most creative “recipe” in the world. But, it’s simple and it’s delicious (hence the name). And it’s this way of cooking pork chops that converted me from someone who formerly hated pork chops, seeing them as too dry & bland, to a proud bone gnarling enthusiast. 

And seeing as though I’m in the midst of a real food/paleo/SCD – style gut healing protocol I don’t have a lot to work with recipe wise. So I figured I would share this one. I’ve made pork chops this way four times now over the course of two weeks and they’ve been down right delicious every single time. I declare them restaurant-worthy. They’re also super quick to make, they can be on the table within 15 minutes – so long as the pork chops are de-thawed – so they’re great to make when you want something meaty & satisfying but don’t have a lot of time to cook. And great to have in the back of your mind for when you want to impress someone who you don’t mind sucking on a bone in front of. But maybe skip it for the squeamish, “polite” guests, because bone sucking is an absolute requirement with these bad boys.

Simple (& Delicious) Pork Chops

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Time: About 12-14 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Pork chops, preferably bone-in
  • Coconut oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Spice(s) of choice – Sage, Cinnamon, Ginger, Rosemary, etc.

Kitchen Tools:

  • Flat-bottomed cooking pan
  • Tongs
  • Baking sheet
  • Aluminum foil (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Add enough Coconut Oil to your pan to cover the bottom (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  3. Heat up the Coconut Oil to medium-high heat for about a minute
  4. Add Pork Chops to pan & sear for two minutes on first side
  5. Flip each pork chop over & sear for another two minutes on second side
  6. Add Pork Chops to baking sheet (can be lined with aluminum foil to help with clean up), top with a little bit of Sea Salt & put in oven for 8-10 minutes. I’ve found 8 minutes to be perfect for 3-4 pork chops, but gage time depending on the amount you’re cooking. 
  7. Remove Pork Chops from oven, sprinkle some additional Sea Salt on top, add spices of Choice, and Serve!

Side Notes:

  • The spices listed above (under ingredients) are those that I’ve found pair nicely with Pork Chops. Cinnamon + Ginger + Sea Salt, or Sage + Sea Salt have been my favorites so far.

Pictures:

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Reflections After One Week of SCD

I have officially completed the Intro Phase of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and am a little over a week into my gut healing protocol. Aka, a little over one week closer to healing my gut.

The Intro Diet is meant to be followed for 2-5 days & while I was originally planning on following it for three days, I decided to follow my gut instinct (literally..) & go for another day. So Monday – Thursday of last week my diet consisted of carrot baby food, chicken soup/broth, and homemade gelatin gummies. Basically I got a sneak peak into the dietary joys of a nursing home.

But in all reality, it wasn’t really that bad. Sure I was a little hungry. Ok more like ravenous. But the week went by quickly. And turned out to be well worth the deprivation because it helped. That’s right, one week in & I am seeing progress. And man does it feel good. My symptoms have not completely gone away but they’ve gotten significantly better. 

First, I’d like to briefly outline what I did/ate for the Intro Diet (as well as the days following)..

Monday – Thursday all pretty much looked like different variations of this:

Wake up & first thing take my Probiotic with a big glass of cold water

Next, dissolve 3-4 grams of L-Glutamine in around 8 oz. of water & drink that while boiling some hot water

Once the hot water has boiled, fill a mug of half bone broth with half boiling water (& some salt & sometimes powdered ginger), Take a Digestive Enzyme & drink the hot bone broth during my morning meditation/stretching routine

Meditation/Stretching Routine: It’s pretty simple. Basically I begin seated or standing (whatever I feel my body needs that morning) with my hot mug of bone broth at my side & dab a little bit  of Peppermint Essential Oil into both palms. I rub my palms together & spread the Peppermint Oil all over my lower stomach/belly area. I then close my eyes & focus on breathing deep & sending positive, healing energies towards my gut. After a few minutes of this I cup my palms underneath my nose & do a few rounds of inhales & exhales, making sure to make my breaths as deep as possible & using the peppermint scent to clear out my head & awaken my body. Depending on my mood I will then engage in some light yoga or stretching movements (seated, standing, or a combination of both). I usually drink my bone broth throughout the session & once it’s done & I feel complete I will go & fix my breakfast. 

Breakfast: Chicken soup* with small amount pureed Carrots (either mixed in or on the side) – 

Lunch: Usually a grass-fed beef Burger with a small amount of pureed Carrots & homemade Gelatin Gummies**

Snacks (if needed): Gelatin Gummies, a can of Sardines with Lemon Juice, another Burger, or a a mug of hot tea or large glass of iced tea (usually Peppermint or Licorice Root)

Dinner: Chicken Soup (+ another burger or small amount of pureed carrots if needed)

 

*Chicken soup was made by cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot for 4-5 hours then shredding/storing the chicken meat & adding the chicken carcass back to the crockpot covered in water & to simmer down. After 12-24 hours, I strained & discarded the carcass & added the chicken meat back to the broth, letting it all cook together for about an hour before cooling & storing it in the fridge

**Gelatin gummies were made by steeping tea bags (usually a combination of Licorice Root, Peppermint, and/or Ginger) in 3-4 cups of boiling water & then re-heating the water to a simmer while whisking 5-8 tablespoons of Gelatin into the tea one tablespoon at a time until all incorporated. Then pouring the mixture into a pyrex baking dish, refrigerating it for 3-4 hours (or overnight), and then cutting the gummies up into individual squares. 

 

Overall what I noticed:

  • My symptoms seemed to get a bit worse before they got better. The first 2-3 days I definitely saw an increase in my predominant symptom
  • I was very tired. But despite how tired I was I was not experiencing very high quality sleep. I’m not sure if it was due to my nervousness/preoccupation with my digestive issues or my hunger resulting from the diet switch (or a little of both) but for some reason I experienced some trouble sleeping during my first week. I’m usually pretty good about sleeping throughout the night but I would wake up a couples times a night & would have trouble falling asleep & getting back to sleep after these interruptions. I also was not able to sleep in past 6:30-7:00 am despite still being tired.
  • Slight symptoms of what could’ve been die off – the body’s reaction to the shift in bacteria & killing off of bad bacteria. The symptoms of die off can range from an increase in your negative symptoms (such as diarrhea or constipation) to headaches, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, brain fog, intense cravings, etc.  For me, I think the die off came in a couple different forms – my symptoms increased (& both my stools/pee began smelling pretty awful), I experienced anxiety/restlessness, and on the 4th day I experienced some serious fatigue/brain fog/flu-like symptoms. 
  • While it was hard, I think it was definitely a smart decision to take time off from CrossFit during this first week. Rather than my normal exercise routine I chose walking, light yoga classes, and meditation classes over going into my CrossFit box. I simply was not eating enough calories to support this type of activity & I think this type of stress would’ve hindered my progress. 

Progress/Benefits seen thus far:

  • An improvement in my urgency/frequency to use the bathroom. That is all I will say.
  • My skin looks healthier. I have psoriasis, and luckily I’ve been able to put it into remission & get most of it all cleared up but there were a couple remaining faded spots on one of my legs and arms that I’ve noticed have gone away even more so over the past week! My skin also looks very hydrated & smooth and is overall glowing. Get at me, bone broth. 
  • The vibrating/rumbling sensation in my lower abdomen has disappeared! I began experiencing these odd vibrating sensations in lower left abdomen shortly after eating & also throughout the day/night that were beginning to concern me, but about two days into the Intro Diet these went away completely. I take that as a good sign.
  • My sleep has improved now. I think seeing some sort of progress has settled my anxiety about my gut issues & with that I’ve been able to settle into a deep sleep almost every night following the four initial days on the Intro Diet.
  • I finally went to a guided meditation class at this meditation center nearby my house that I’ve been wanting to check out for months. Meditation is intimidating & can easily be put on the back burner especially when there is so much else going on in life that you’d rather prioritize such as exercise, studying, hanging out with friends/family, sleeping, etc. But taking this time to slow down & heal opened up the opportunity to finally check out a lead meditation class. The class was an hour & a half long (with a quick potty break in the middle) and while it did seem pretty long, I loved it! And since then I’ve successfully started my own daily meditation/breathing/relaxation type practice. Every morning I begin my day with a few minutes of deep breathing, body/mind scanning, and positive thinking. I like to take this time to start my day off focusing on both myself & my own personal healing as well as on others in my life who I feel could benefit from some positive vibes & good thoughts sent their way. 

Soo with that being said, what’s next..?!

I’m going to continue with the SCD/Paleo approach to healing my gut. I’ve now added zucchini back into my diet successfully (in the cooked & pureed form) & have also increased my fats (mostly in the form of coconut oil & animal fat) which has helped with the hunger pangs. Oh & I’ve also added a Kombucha or two (exclusively in the form of GT’s Organic Raw Gingerade) – girls gotta have a treat! I’ve kept everything else the same & am still seeing progress! I plan on sticking with this for the next week & then reintroducing a safe vegetable or fat back in every 3 days or so to provide more variety & nutrients to my diet. I think next on my list will be either cooked/sauteed spinach or cooked/steamed green beans. Hopefully all goes well. I will be posting my week two progress next week!

Oh & a quick tip for anyone out there wanting to try out this type of gut-healing protocol – preparation is key! 

 

IMG_5271Made a quick trip to Whole Foods to get stocked up on some essentials – Ginger Kombucha, Whole Chicken (for soup), a portion of Salmon (on sale baby!), some Marrow Bones (for bone broth), & a can of Salmon (for quick protein in a pinch!)

IMG_5281

Prepped for the first half of the week. Left to right – a batch of Licorice Root/Ginger Gummies (before being cut up), Pureed Zucchini & Carrots, Shredded Chicken, Shrimp, Beef/Turkey Burgers, & plenty of Chicken Stock/Bone Broth. 

 

A few meals from the first week:

IMG_5280photo (16) IMG_5279

IMG_5276
 

 

 

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Gut Healing Strategy Part One

The other day I posted about how I’ve been dealing with digestive issues. I’ve been wanting to write a follow up post all week outlining my gut healing strategy, but unfortunately life got in the way. And by life I mean my summer school class. I’m taking a class on the structure & function of cells which is one of the class required for my major, and also one of the classes most commonly failed by the average biology student at my college. So I thought that taking the three week long intensive version offered for the first time this summer would be a better alternative. Now, two weeks in, do I think that taking this class over the summer was a good idea? Hell no. Buut, one week from now, will I think that taking the class was the right thing to do? Hopefully. If I pass, that is..

Anyway, point is, the class is intense & extremely time-consuming. BUT it’s only three weeks long. I’m two-thirds of the way done. Home stretch baby. I have nothing to complain about. Juuust wanted to give a lil excuse as to why I didn’t write this post earlier.

But now it is officially the weekend & I’ve got an hour of morning left before I head over to yoga sooo, with a steaming cup of peppermint tea by my side, and an 8tracks sweet sounds playlist playing softly in the background, I shall begin.

Since I first realized that it was time to heal my gut I have been doing a lot of research on the topic. Well, as much research as I am able to in the midst of my cell structure & function studying. Basically, I’ve been googling the crap out of topics such as “Paleo Gut Healing”, “Gut Healing Protocol”, “Healing a Leaky Gut”, “Paleo and IBS”, “Paleo and Leaky Gut”, “Real Food Gut Healing”, “Top Supplements for Gut Healing”, “Digestive Health Paleo”, ETC ETC..

And I’ve found a lot of helpful articles and references. Many of which are reinforcing the same general approach, which is quite reassuring. Some of the professionals and resources I’ve found most helpful in my research have been:

I’ve also been reading and re-reading the Digestive Health chapter of Practical Paleo. And I purchased Digestive Health with REAL Food by Aglaee Jacob last week and have skimmed through the entire book and have started reading a couple pages before bed each night. The book is amazing. Once I get through that baby I am definitely going to be well-educated on the entire digestive system/digestive process and the real food approach to healing digestive conditions.

Lastly, about a year & a half ago I worked with Ben Greenfield (through the one-on-one nutrition coaching service he offers) to heal some digestive issues I’d been having – mostly some gas/bloating that were most likely a side effect vegetarian/vegan-ish phase. Ben led me through a gut healing protocol that was based off of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet approach and using that along with some supplementing, I was able to transition back into eating meat again and was able to get rid of my gas/bloating issues with much success. So I revisited the meal plan that he had outlined for me, and did some more research on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). The premise of the SCD is remove complex carbohydrates, lactose, sucrose, and other problematic and/or gut-irritating foods to eliminate all sources that bad bacteria and yeast can feed on and in turn allow the gut flora to normalize while the intestinal tract repairs any potential damage. The SCD Diet begins with an “Intervention Diet” or “Intro Diet” where only easily digestible, thoroughly cooked foods are consumed in order to jump start the gut flora rebalancing and reduction of inflammation in the intestines. The Intro Diet floods the body with natural anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals and consists of well-cooked meats (such as beef burgers), homemade chicken soup (bone broth baby), eggs (preferably hardboiled or scrambled/fried all the way) boiled or steamed & pureed carrots, and homemade gummies or gelatin squares. While quite restrictive, the Intro Diet is only followed for 2-5 days and must not be skipped in order to jump start the healing process and give the body the proper anti-inflammatory compounds to reduce inflammation quickly. After the Intro Diet you can begin to incorporate more well cooked, easy to digest low carbohydrate vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, butternut squash, and other squashes and other food groups such as some fruits, high quality dairy (if tolerated), and nuts/seeds.

The foods included in the Intro Diet and Phase 1 of the SCD are very similar to what Aglaee Jacob recommends in her book. She outlines seven factors for gut-healing foods: real, unprocessed food, easy-to-digest, low irritant and low allergen, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, carb-restricted, and customized. She also recommends an Elimination Diet protocol, similar to the Intro Diet of the SCD. The goal of the Elimination Diet is to eat only REAL, easy to digest, nourishing foods in order to eliminate your negative digestive symptoms, and allow the entire system time to heal and reset. The foods included in the Elimination Diet are most all types of animal protein from healthy, pastured animals (with minimal processing so that means no bacon or sausage at first unfortunately), traditional fats such as coconut oil, ghee, extra virgin olive oil, and animal fat (duck fat, tallow, or lard), and “safe” vegetables – carrot, zucchini, spinach, and green beans (always cooked, peeled, and de-seeded as much as possible). Seasonings such as cinnamon, lemon/lime juice, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, most fresh herbs, and chives are also allowed along with herbal teas and sparkling water.

So since I realized the other week that it was time for a gut healing intervention, I’ve been gathering the tools necessary to officially start healing my gut – I’ve been accumulating knowledge and new resources to help me on my journey and have also made multiple trips to many different grocery stores to gather my supplements and food supplies.

Last week I removed all potentially gut irritating foods, and have been incorporating many of the principles I’ve read about into my daily routine. I stripped my diet down to well-cooked and mostly pureed low carbohydrate vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, butternut squash, and spinach. I made and consumed plenty of Bone Broth daily. I began taking L-Glutamine on an empty stomach every morning. I also took Oil of Oregano for 6 days straight, which is an essential oil with powerful antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic effects, in order to try and kill off any potentially harmful or bad bacteria that had colonized in my gut. (Read more about Oil of Oregano here). I have also been working on eliminating life stressors such as stress from school work or exercise (been doing my very best to walk/practice yoga over CrossFitting), and have begun a morning ritual/meditation-esque practice. I began taking Digestive Enzymes (NOW Foods) before each major meal, and ordered a Probiotic (Klaire Labs) that finally came in a couple days ago!

Now that everything has been gathered I’m ready to officially start my Intro or Elimination Diet. Basically what I am going to implement (starting fresh Monday morning) is a hybrid Gut Healing Protocol using principles of both the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and Real Food Digestive Approach. Over the weekend I stripped my diet of everything except for Bone Broth, well-cooked high quality meats (in the form of Grass-fed burgers, pastured pork, and organic, pastured chicken), a small amount of pastured pork liver (from my local farmers market), gelatin gummies made from Herbal Teas (Licorice Root and Lemon-Ginger), and a small amount of Butternut Squash with each meal. Sunday I made the chicken soup from the SCD & am switching over from Butternut squash to steamed and pureed carrots, in a very small amount.

I am going to do the Intro/Elimination Diet for 2-3 days, after which I plan to start slowly incorporating in some of the safe veggies and traditional fats recommended by Aglaee Jacob. I am keeping a journal to track all progress (or lack there of) and symptoms. During my Intro/Elimination Phase a typical day will look something like this:

  • Morning: Big Glass of Water with L-Glutamine dissolved into it + Probiotic (taken on an empty stomach)
  • Breakfast: [Digestive Enzyme] Chicken Soup + small amount of Pureed Carrots*
  • Lunch: [Digestive Enzyme] Grass-fed beef burger (with or without hidden liver) + small amount of Pureed Carrots
  • Snack: Herbal Tea Gummies, Can of Sardines, Oysters, or Tuna, and/or Bone Broth
  • Dinner: [Digestive Enzyme] Chicken Soup and/or Grass-fed Burger or other form of animal protein + Licorice Root, Peppermint, or Chamomile Tea before bed
  • Throughout the day: Plenty of water with lemon and/or ginger, or Iced soothing herbal teas

*If the carrots don’t seem to be working well with my system I’m going to replace them with steamed, pureed, and de-seeded/peeled zucchini squash.

ALSO, I know that despite the negative results from my first stool sample there is still a possibility that that a pathogenic or bad bacteria is present in my system that could be contributing (or causing) my symptoms but I’ve been to the doctor here and spoken with multiple doctors on the phone who aren’t concerned. I plan on seeing another doctor once I’m home in Maryland in two weeks and getting another stool sample (or couple of stool samples) ordered along with a blood test (in order to check my hormone levels and what not) to ensure that there isn’t a pathogenic bacteria present. In the meantime however, I’m trying things my way with a little proactive, real food based approach. And even if it doesn’t help or completely fix my digestive symptoms, it can’t hurt. I think it’s still a worthwhile experiment and will allow me to get one step closer to regaining my digestive health and eliminating my GI issues for good! So let the healing experiment officially began..

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Healing the Gut, Paleo Style

Alright, confession time.

For almost a month now I’ve been experiencing some digestive issues. And up until about a week ago I had been ignoring those digestive issues. As some of you may know, last Winter I developed some all but lovely full-body guttate psoriasis. In order to get the psoriasis to go into remission I decided to experiment with following a more restrictive version of the paleo diet known as the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (Paleo-AIP, for short). The basis of this protocol is to remove the remaining possible gut irritants from a standard paleo-based diet in order to allow the gut, and thus the body, to heal. This experiment worked. After about one to two months of a stricter diet, consisting of mainly meat, veggies, & high quality animal/plant fats, I was able to say farewell to the greater majority of my psoriasis. (You can read more about my personal experience & success with the paleo-AIP here & here, if you’d like.) After following this type of diet for a couple months, I no longer viewed it as an experiment, but more of a lifestyle change. While I do enjoy (and did occasionally miss) some of the foods I had cut out, such as nuts & nightshades (mostly the tomatoes & peppers, I’ve never been much of a spicy pepper or eggplant fan), not including them in my daily diet & watching out for them when eating out at restaurants & such became like second nature. But as I began to feel better I slowly started to reintroduce some foods such as coffee, dark chocolate, eggs, & some nuts/seeds. Oh & I also began allowing myself slightly more flexibility with the quantity & types of alcohol I consumed. (You’re only in college once!)

And things were seemingly going great. My digestion was pretty regular, my psoriasis was almost completely gone, and none of the foods I was reintroducing seemed to be causing me any problems. Except perhaps the nuts, and of course, the alcohol. But if anyone claims that their body handles alcohol well & that they thrive after a night of drinking I call bullsh**. It just ain’t so.

Anyway, I visited home for a weekend for my little sister’s graduation (about a month ago) & when I came back the first either Monday or Tuesday back was when things took a turn for the worse. Now I’ll save the dirty details for my immediate family & roommates (pretty sure they know enough to cover the rest of you) but basically it initially started with an urgency to “eliminate” soon after eating meals so I just assumed I was eating something my body couldn’t handle. After cutting back on the FODMAPs (I’ve had some difficulty with these in the past) it seemed to help this issue a bit. But then it progressed into basically every morning having a sudden urge to go as soon as I was mentally awake & having to run fast-walk into the bathroom. Good thing that baby is right next door. For a few weeks (during my whole ignoring what was going on phase), this usually would just happen once a day, first thing in the morning, & then I’d happily go about my day, eating whatever meat + veggies + fat, & occasionally fruit combinations I pleased. But then this past Monday things took a turn for the worse-er & when I realized that I was clearly not fully digesting all of my foods properly it hit me that it was time to put a solid plan into action to get my digestive system back on track.

One of the most frustrating parts about this situation is that I’m not exactly sure what’s going on or how my digestion has gotten so wacky. I believe my diet to be one that is very nutritious – I incorporate bone broth, high quality fats such as coconut oil & avocado, plenty of leafy greens (kale & I know each other quite well), & organ meats such as liver & heart into my weekly routine – and have been feeling great eating this way. Which is why I think I was in denial/ ignoring the whole dysfunctional digestion situation. How could I possibly be dealing with gut issues again when I’m eating such a high-quality, balanced, real-food diet?

Well, what I’ve come to realize is that sometimes these things just happen. Sometimes preventing them is under our control, and sometimes it’s not. But either way, when something like this does occur it’s best not to ignore it, even if the doctors tell you to. I went to the doctor’s office last week & got a stool sample test done & the results came in the other day which ruled out 8-10 of the most common bacterial pathogens, such as Giardia, and E.coli. The best advice they could give me was to eat a plain diet, avoid eating any dairy, & maybe take a probiotic and/or fiber supplement. And other than that just give it a little more time. A little more time, riiight. I’ve given it a month, isn’t that long enough to conclude that something is definitely wrong?!

Since this visit I’ve done my research & I know there could be a number of possibilities or explanations for what could be going on – I could have IBS, or leaky gut, I could have extracted some type of bad (or parasitic) bacteria from the airplane on my way back to Denver or from the dog I walk daily, I could be experiencing some internal inflammation caused by occasional lack of sleep, diet stressors such as poor quality/ conventional meats, alcohol, dark chocolate and/or caffeine, or I could simply be dealing with a bacterial flora imbalance.

So not quite sure how, but somehow my gut has become damaged. And no matter how much kale, liver, or coconut oil I consume, without a properly working gut I cannot be healthy. It’s physically impossible since the gut is the center of nutrient absorption. So you know what that means. It’s time to heal the gut, again.

And how do I plan on doing this? Paleo style. Duh. Because I believe (with every fiber of my being) that a paleo, REAL food – based diet along with positive lifestyle changes, such as plenty of good quality sleep & stress management, can truly heal all digestive issues. I’ve done it once. I’ve done it twice. Third time’s the charm, right?

 

A follow-up post detailing my exact strategies for tackling this digestive issue once & for all is in the works. So stay tuned!

 

Posted in Autoimmune Related, Digestion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Creamy Ginger-Citrus Zucchini Soup

Now that it’s officially summer I have a lot more time to cook & play around with creating new recipes so I’d like to kick off the beginning of what I hope to be many summer-themed recipe posts with one of recent favorite go-to recipes. I’ve made this zucchini soup three times now & each time I’ve finished the entire batch within two days. Last time I finished it within one day. Ok make that one sitting. Although I could argue that it was technically two sittings considering I sat & ate one bowl full then got up to fill my bowl with the remainder of the soup & then I sat again to eat a second bowl. One sit plus one sit equals two sits. And one batch in two sits is the sign of a good recipe.

Creamy Ginger-Citrus Zucchini Soup

zucchini soup

Time: 50 minutes – 1 hour total

Makes: About 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cups zucchini; chopped into semi-circles (about 2-3 large zucchinis or 4-5 medium/small zucchinis)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Juice from 1/2 an orange
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger (can substitute fresh ginger)
  • sea salt to taste

Kitchen Tools:

  • Medium pot
  • Steamer basket
  • Food processor or high-powered blender
  • Large bowl
  • Spoon
  • Measuring cup
  • Teaspoon

Directions:

  1. Begin boiling about 3-5 cups of water in medium pot (to steam zucchini)
  2. Peel about half the skin off of the zucchini prior to chopping by peeling about every other section into stripes (see pictures below). This step is optional – you can leave all the skin on but removing most of it does result in a creamier soup
  3. Slice each zucchini down the middle, lay flat, & then chop into small semi circles
  4. Once water is boiling, place chopped zucchini in steamer basket on top of boiling water, cover, & turn down to simmer for 15-20 minutes
  5. Remove pot from heat & place steamed zucchini in large bowl to cool
  6. Let zucchini cool for at room temperature for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with a layer of sea salt & place in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes
  7. After zucchini is cool place the zucchini in the food processor (leaving behind the excess water that was released into the bottom of the bowl, due to salting)
  8. Add avocado, lime, orange, ginger + sea salt & blend until creamy
  9. Taste & adjust quantities of lime, orange, ginger & sea salt if needed to suit your preferences

Side Notes:

  • It’s best that the zucchini is cool prior to blending so you might want to let the zucchini sit in the fridge longer than 30 minutes. It also might help to prepare/steam the zucchini the morning or night before preparing this dish & then allowing it to cool all day or overnight in the fridge.
  • Feel free to double or triple the amounts & blend/steam in a couple batches to make enough to last all week or for a larger amount of people!

Pictures:

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