Elimination diets

Some of the girls I talk with about fitness (in an attempt to have some solidarity and not bore my non-competing friends too tears) have brought up bloating. Particularly post competition, and how difficult it is to deal with. Some girls were recommending apple cider vinegar (definitely worth a go), some have suggested adding fiber or eliminating dairy or some other trick. For me, I can honestly tell you I rarely get “bloat” and when I do, it’s usually my own damn fault.

I don’t get “bloat” because I know what causes it for me. It’s that little demon called gluten, occasionally it’s from too many nuts which are hard to digest, and sometimes it’s from overindulging in salt (think Indian food). But I only know these things because I have been able to isolate the causes. If you don’t isolate the cause you might never know what is causing the issue!

This is where an elimination diet comes in. Precision Nutrition writes about the benefits of these here. In my opinion they are probably the simplest solutions to a nagging issue. Here is how it works.

1 – Identify possible allergens in your diet. Some common ones are:

    • Gluten
    • Non-glutenous grains
    • Dairy
    • Nuts
    • Citrus fruits
    • Beans and legumes
    • PUFAs (heat processed or “vegetable” oils)
    • Nitrates or nitrites
    • Other chemical additives

2 – Find a stretch of 1 or 2 weeks (1 week if these are small elements of your diet, 2 weeks if you eat these regularly) where you will be able to be completely faithful to your diet and completely eliminate these items from your diet. This is super important. You must not cheat on this because this isn’t about weight loss, this is about finding out how your body reacts to foods and if you don’t clean them out of your system, you might not react accurately.

3 – After the 1-2 week elimination period, choose 1 servings of eat of the suspected allergens and “test” them. For example, on day 1 after the elimination period you can test gluten. Take 1 slice of bread and eat it at some point during the day. Over the following hours and even the next day, monitor how you feel. Do not test more than one food per day and do not accumulate test food. So on the 2nd day, eliminate gluten again and test something else until you are through the list.

4 – Monitor your reactions and results. Make sure you write it down. Common reactions are stomach ache, bloating, acne, mental fogginess, headache, bowel issues, heart burn, nausea and fatigue. If you experience these symptoms it means you are probably sensitive to that food.

5 – Determine your next steps. If you reacted to certain allergens, decide if you can completely eliminate it from your diet, or if it will just be a once in a while thing. You can also decide what things you want to add back full-time. You may discover that something you thought was a problem is not after all.

When I have done this I found I reacted to gluten the strongest, non-glutenous grains to a small extent, dairy gives me skin issues and nuts and beans in large quantities give me stomach ache. So I have completely eliminated gluten and reduced my dairy, grain and nut intake. I don’t eat beans at all anymore.

Short Term Goals

In general I live a pretty healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately there is a bit of a pendulum effect and the more strict you try to be the more you want to rebel against these restrictions. That’s why I maintain that you sort of have to “sneak up” on health changes.

 

I have been a little bad over the past few months. Not consistently bad. My eating and exercise are still probably 80% there, but the other 20% is way worse than it should be. I have been indulging in sweets and alcohol too often and my portion sizes seem to be creeping up along with the scale. I’ve tried to reaffirm my good habits with some goal settings, but I’ve been undisciplined for too long now. My will power has gotten a little lazy as of late.

 

So let’s take it back a notch. Baby steps.

 

Let’s do a daily and a weekly goal for now and just get that will power flexing again.

 

Goals for today:

 

Zero sugar – this includes raisins, which I have been indulging in, honey, maple syrup and artificial sweeteners (other than stevia)

 

Honey Comb

Honey Comb (Photo credit: beepollenhub)

 

Back workout – do 30 minutes of cardio and a full back workout right after work

 

Goals for the week:

 

No grains – I have been having popcorn too often because it’s a grain that is gluten free and I love it, so not allowing any grains this week will help kick that to the curb.

 

No dairy – my skin has been breaking out from all the dairy I’ve been consuming between the yogurt, the lattes, and the cheeses. No more!

 

Get in 4 workouts – I’ve been pretty consistent with at least 3 workouts per week, but I want to get in that extra one.

 

No alcohol – I don’t typically drink very often, but there seem to have been a few too many “occasions” recently.

 

The reason I am not making these overarching goals is because I won’t stick to it 100%, which is fine… usually. But I’m going off my plans a little too often so taking things day by day and week by week makes it way easier. I can commit to just about anything for a week… that’s only 7 days!

 

Next Monday I’ll let you know if I succeeded. 🙂

 

Duck eggs and lamb burgers

One of my goals for this year is to buy more food locally. In trying to keep with this sentiment I have purchased meats from local farms (naturally raised meats) and headed down to the St. Lawrence Market this past Saturday to pick up some produce and support the local economy.

Some notable purchases include Ontario grown Brussel Sprouts, Fresh ducks eggs and Ontario raise ground lamb.

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

I realize I have not shared a recipe with you in absolute ages and since I have recently been cooking with some more interesting items like those mentioned above, I thought this is the perfect time to share.

The duck eggs I just cooked sunny side up and did not season with anything because I wanted to really taste them and notice if there were any differences. I would say that the yolk was creamier and denser with a slightly buttery taste. It was delicious… oh and the shells are green! This may have been why I bought them :-/

Anyways, on to actual recipes:

Lamb burgers (makes 4 burgers)

For me, lamb and cumin are two flavours that just go, so this recipe is pretty heavy on the cumin, just adjust if you are not overly fond of the combo (it makes it taste kind of like a gyro)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground naturally raised lamb
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tbsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • A few good grind of fresh pepper

Plus:

  • Buns of your choice (I use a Portobello mushroom cap that I cooked in the oven for about 5 mins of 350)
  • Toppings: goat cheese, lettuce, tomato

Directions

Lamb Burger and Portobello Bun

Lamb Burger and Portobello Bun

  1. Pre-heat a heavy bottomed or grill pan or barbecue to medium-high heat
  2. Mix all the ingredient in a large bowl with your hands (it just works better, trust me)
  3. Rinse you hands and leave them slightly wet (helps keep the meat from sticking to your hands); form the mixture into 4 evenly sized patties that are slightly thinner in the centre (for even cooking)
  4. Place the patties on the ungreased pan and cook for 5-7 minutes each side or until done in centre
  5. Arrange the burgers with desired toppings and enjoy.

Please do not grease the pan unless you are using extra lean lamb. It already has a lot of fat in it that will coat the pan as it cooks. I had to drain the fat off throughout the cooking to avoid “frying” the burgers.

Also note that the addition of bacon is always good idea, I just didn’t have any on hand. So if you do, make you mouth happy and add bacon. 🙂

Secret Friends

Cover of "The Eat-Clean Diet: Fast Fat-Lo...

Cover via Amazon

Tosca Reno (AKA most amazing source of fitness motivation ever!) once posted a chart comparing various diet strategies.While I was looking at it I realized that I love the Eat Clean Diet, but Paleo is kind of awesome too.

Unfortunately (or fortunately maybe?) there are a lot of different varieties of paleo and the one Tosca used to compare is the original and quite extreme version that I would not recommend.

Because I am gluten intolerant, I started looking up recipes that were naturally gluten free instead of substituting low nutrient value foods to replicate glutenous foods. This led me to paleo blogs, recipes and cook books. I have followed an eat clean diet approach for a lot time. It’s my “go-to” method for shedding weight and is how I eat day-to-day. So when I started learning about Paleo I felt a little like a traitor.

But guess what? I think that they are secret friends!!!

There are some fundamental differences between them , but the core is the same. Both diets are designed to have you eat the way you were designed to… they just differ on how that actually works.

In my mind the main differences are:

  • Grains – paleo say absolutely no grains, where as the ECD encourages whole grains IF you can tolerate them
  • Dairy – most paleo diets say no, but primal says full fat dairy from healthy animals is ok IF you can handle it, where as the ECD encourages low fat dairy products
  • Saturated fats – paleo encourages animal fat consumptions ONLY from good sources (i.e. grass fed cows), where as the ECD says no or limited saturated fats, and encourages unsaturated fats instead
  • Meal Timing – paleo discourages snacking, ECD encourages eating every 2-3 hours.

Those may seem like big differences, but here is why I think they really get along quite nicely: JUST EAT REAL FOOD!

That is the main message in both. Neither diet says “hey, go buy my special brand of nutrition shake and eat that for 2 of your meals instead of food”. They aren’t trying to sell a product… they are trying to teach you a LIFESTYLE!

So true to form in my family, I have picked both over and taken what I like from both and here is where I come down on each:

 

ECD

Paleo

Grains

Winner!

Dairy

Keep the fat though!

Sat. Fat

Yummy!

Meal Timing

Definitely!

I think the goal is to find out what YOUR body does well with. If you are allergic to tomatoes, it doesn’t matter how healthy they are… don’t eat them. Some foods cause inflammatory reactions in almost all people and these should be avoided across the board (like refined sugar), but otherwise it’s about finding what is healthiest for you personally.

Is it the Gluten?

My Mom is awesome, a little crazy, but awesome. She does more research on health matters than anyone I know… including myself. So last night when I got a text message asking if I had white spots on my nails, I sort of knew where it was going.

I should give you a little background to this situation.

I have an 11 year old brother who has Type 1 Diabetes and a 21 year old sister who has just had half her thyroid removed and is going through trying to find a happy balance for her hormones. My brother was diagnosed at 2 and this was really the start of my Mom’s trip to research-ville. I have never ever seen someone read so many books on nutrition, hormones, exercise and mental health, EVER.

Recently she started with a nutritionist who has a book about hormone health. She started reading a few more books about hormones and how diet affects them, and that is when she texted me about my nails.

So the question: Do you have white spots on your nails?white-spot-on-fingernail

My nails are painted right now so I couldn’t look, but now that I was thinking about it, no, right now I don’t have any white spots. Come to think of it, I used to have those all the time. I would probably have 2-3 white spots on my nails at all times and I never thought anything of it. I haven’t had them in about a year though… weird.

Before she could expand further on this I did a quick google search. Go ahead, google “white spots on nails”. I’ll wait.

Back? I bet you came up with a bunch of articles telling you that it’s because the nail bed was damaged. That’s a possibility. But buried amongst those articles of lazy doctors saying “it’s nothing” are articles that say it’s caused by Zinc Deficiency. Interesting…

My Mom texted back a bit later about the zinc deficiency, but added something that was definitely not among the top articles on google. The fact that zinc deficiency is a common sign of gluten intolerance because it cannot be absorbed by the damaged intestine. If you look up zinc deficiency you will find some fun side effects, but the worst one is thyroid damage. I managed to avoid this completely by accident by going gluten-free because I generally feel better on a gluten-free diet.

After that little tidbit I started scrounging around the internet for more weird symptoms of gluten intolerance. If it affects one hormone, there are bound to be other things that it is affecting. At the same time I started doing an inventory of the things that used to be issues but aren’t anymore. This is the list of things I came up with.  I’m not saying ALL of these are a direct cause of giving up gluten, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority are.

  • Fatigue – I still get tired a lot, but I used to be tired all the time. Surprisingly, over Christmas while I was eating small amounts of gluten, all of a sudden I wanted to sleep 18 hours a day. I haven’t done that in a long time. 3 days gluten-free and I am getting my energy back… interesting.
  • General pain – this is a weird one. I think some people might call this fibromyalgia, but all I know is that when I eat gluten the places on my body that carry fat, they hurt. Not like an ache or injury, the skin and muscle are just sensitive. This is particularly noticeable on the side of my thighs because I brush against things and it hurts… not bump, nothing that should hurt, just pressure and I’m in pain. Start cleaning up my diet and the pain subsides. Right now I still have some sensitivity, but I’m guessing in a week or two it will go away.
  • Stomach pains – this is not an upset stomach. This feels like sharp, stabby pains. This is definitely gluten because it always happens within an hour or 2 of eating a little more gluten than I should.
  • White spots on nails – like I said, they are completely gone now. I haven’t had them in over a year.
  • Healthy hair – there is a definite line between where my hair is healthy and where it is dry. This might be from dying it, or exposure to the environment… or it might be about a year and a half worth of growth while I have been limiting gluten.
  • Illness – I used to get sick a lot. If someone was sick around me, I was done. Now I rarely get sick, and if I do it is mild.

Yes these could have different reasons (other than the stomach pains), but I am slowly accepting that gluten might have been a bigger problem than I thought it was. For a long time I have been brushing it off as no big deal… but maybe it is.

I know the whole gluten thing seems a bit like a fad, but if you have some generalized health issues and you don’t know the cause, try doing some research on it… you never know.

Oh and another thing… apparently if you go gluten-free they cannot test you for gluten intolerance. You have to continue eating gluten to get tested. So I can’t find out for sure because I’m not willing to do that to my body, but if you are currently still eating gluten, don’t stop just yet. Talk to your doctor and get tested. Or do what I did and just cut it from your diet and see if you suddenly feel way better.