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How to Effectively Navigate an Elimination Diet

Perform an Elimination Diet

Elimination diets are the cheapest, most effective way of identifying the foods that trigger inflammation and disease in your body. For many, elimination diets hold the key to conquering chronic pain and I use one with arthritis patients as outlined in my book Healing Arthritis.

The great news, is that elimination diets are generally short and easy to follow. My elimination diet requires just two main steps.

Step 1:  Remove Gluten, Dairy, Corn, Soy, Eggs and Sugar From Your Diet For 3 Weeks

Gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs represent the most common culprits for food sensitivities. Eliminating them makes it likely you’ll be cutting your problem foods from your diet. Sugar is also removed because it is a trigger for inflammation and removing it will help you learn to avoid processed foods, which usually include the common culprits, too.

A lot of times my patients ask me why we are removing all five foods at once, and whether it would be better or just as good to remove one at a time.  However, first you have to remove the foods and feel better, and then you can reintroduce each food one at a time to see if you feel worse.  If you only removed one food, you might not feel better because you are still eating another problem food.  It would be hard to complete the experiment because you might not notice you feel worse when you reintroduce the food, because you never felt better in the first place!

Continuing the diet for three weeks will give your immune system a chance to quiet down without the food triggers around.  More importantly,  it should reduce your symptoms and help you feel better.

Step 2:  Reintroduce Each Food One at a Time

Good job on making it three weeks without eating gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and sugar! Now, you begin the second, and final, step, which is the reintroduction of each food, one at a time.

This is when you will gather all the information about whether the food is good for you or not and you’ll uncover some food sensitivities.  Use this symptom chart to help you keep track.

Symptom Chart - Blum

For each food that you reintroduce, think about the symptoms on your list and use none, mild, moderate, or severe to describe your reaction to it in the boxes provided. This will help you remember later when you look back.

After the three weeks on the elimination program, do the following. Introduce one food at a time:  It doesn’t matter which order you choose to reintroduce the foods.  I usually tell my patients to choose the food you miss most to go first. Eat that food at least twice each day, for two days, noticing how you feel.  On day three, don’t eat the food, but continue to observe how you feel. If you have no reaction to the food, you are ready to move on to the next food on day four.

If you do have a reaction – such as headache, rash, brain fog, fatigue, digestive reaction, or other symptoms – stop eating it, and write it down in the above table so you don’t forget later.  [Once you know a particular food isn’t good for you, remove it again.]  The food reaction should go away within a day or two, but for some people it can take longer.  Try the next food: Once that reaction goes away, it is time to try the next food.

Finding out if you are having a noticeable reaction to gluten is important. If you don’t have a reaction and don’t have an autoimmune disease, you can add it back into your diet.  However, keep in mind that gluten is known to damage the gut, and so we still recommend eating it in limited amounts.

Be patient, because it will take you another two weeks or so to reintroduce all the foods you have eliminated. At the end of those weeks, you should now know whether gluten, dairy, corn, soy, or eggs are creating an immune reaction in your body.

Once you’ve identified your triggers you can successfully avoid them. But the better news is that it may not be permanent. Some people, after an additional period of healing, can reintroduce the foods and be symptom-free. In my own experience, I have been eating a diet 95% free of these foods for more than ten years, my reactions when I do eat them are minor compared to what they once were. They are still there, but it’s much more pleasant than it used to be!

Looking to make your elimination diet successful? Sign up for the email list (on the bottom right of this page) to stay up to date on our next article “5 Things To Know Before Starting an Elimination Diet”!

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Fall in Love with Ghee: Healthy, Dairy-Free & Tastier Than Butter

Ghee Jar

Have you tried Ghee? It’s creamy, it’s rich, it’s delicious! Ghee is clarified butter, the pure milk fat that is rendered by separating the milk solids and water from the butterfat. It’s made by melting butter and skimming the fat off the top.

Ghee has been used in Indian Ayurvedic cooking for thousands of years. And, just as we at Blum Digital, LLC believe that Food is Medicine, Ghee in Indian culture is seen as an aid for digestion, ulcers, constipation, and the promotion of healthy eyes and skin. It can be found in Indian beauty creams and is used to treat skin conditions.

“Ghee contains butyrate a short chain fatty acid found in the gut that is incredibly beneficial not only to the gut but to the entire body,” explains Mary Gocke, Director of Nutrition at Blum Digital, LLC. “Cutting-edge research suggests, among many things, butyrate can be used in the prevention and treatment of cancer. There are very few food sources of butyrate, Ghee is one of them.”

You can enjoy ghee in any way you would butter. From cooking to spreading it on gluten-free bread.

5 Reasons to Make the Switch to Ghee

1. Ghee Helps Strengthen the Digestive Tract — Ghee is high in butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces inflammation and helps balance the immune cells in your gut. According to Susan Blum, MD, in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, Ghee strengthens the intestinal lining, and improves the health of the cells that line the entire digestive tract, including the stomach, colon and small and large intestines. (1)

2. People with Dairy Allergies or Sensitivities Can Enjoy Ghee — Milk is comprised of two proteins — whey and casein. In the process of making ghee, these proteins are removed through skimming and straining, rendering it lactose and casein-free. Those with severe dairy allergies should refrain because ghee is not dairy free, but those with sensitivities or intolerances are usually fine.

3. Ghee Protects the Heart — Researchers found in a rural population of India a significantly lower prevalence of coronary heart disease in men who consumed high amounts of ghee. (2) Other researchers (3,4,5) corroborate these findings and further demonstrate in lab studies that ghee decreases serum cholesterol and triglycerides. They found, in fact, that arachidonic acid, a key inflammatory intermediate in the process of atherosclerosis, was decreased by 65% in serum lipids when ghee was used as the sole source of fat. (3)

4. You Can Cook With Ghee — Ghee has a higher smoke point, higher than nearly any other fat you might cook with — at 486 degrees, it is even higher than coconut oil! Smoke point is important because that is the temperature that an oil begins to degrade and create free radicals – those carcinogenic, unstable molecules that damage cells and cell membranes. Free radicals adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of diseases and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis and cancer. (6)

5. Ghee Can Help You Lose Weight — Studies demonstrate that Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), an Omega-6 fatty acid that naturally occurs in dairy and beef, has been found to reduce weight gain and decrease fat mass. It also has been shown to enhance immunity while also reducing inflammation. (7) One study, in particular, demonstrated that CLA among overweight adults significantly reduced body fat over 6 months and prevented weight gain during the holiday season. (8)

Ghee can be found in most health food stores as well as many specialty markets. Make sure the container says grass fed or pasture-raised.

Want to make your own? It’s easy! Check out the recipe HERE.

References 

1. Blum, S. (2013). The Immune System Recovery Plan. New York, NY: Scribner.

2. Gutpa R., Prakash H. (1997) Association of dietary ghee intake with coronary heart disease and risk factor prevalence in rural males. J Indian Med Assoc. Mar;95(3):67-9, 83.

3. Sharma, H., Zhang, X., & Dwivedi, C. (2010). The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation. Ayu, 31(2), 134–140. http://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.72361

4. Kumar, M.V., Sambaiah, K., Lokesh, B.R. (1999) Effect of dietary ghee—the anhydrous milk fat, on blood and liver lipids in rats. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 10(2), 96-104.

5. Kumar, M.V., Sambaiah K, Lokesh B.R (2000) Hypocholesterolemic effect of anhydrous milk fat ghee is mediated by increasing the secretion of biliary lipids. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 11(2), 69-75.

6. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118–126. http://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902

7. Pariza, M.W. (2004) Perspective on the safety and effectiveness of conjugated linoleic acid. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 79(6), 1132S-1136S.

8. Watras, A.C., Buchholz, A.C., Close, R.N., Zhang, Z. Schoeller, D.A. (2007) International Journal of Obesity 31, 481-487.

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Autumn’s Must-Have Immune-Boosting Foods

Autumn is here in full glory … the beautiful display of jewel-colored leaves, the waning light and the crisp, cool air all signal the arrival of the Fall harvest, a cornucopia of gut-healthy foods perfectly suited to cooler days.

It’s the perfect time of year to visit your local Farmers Market. Right now farm stands are hitting their peak with produce that has taken all summer to mature. Better yet, visit a farm and pick your own! From crisp apples to hearty greens and deliciously sweet root vegetables, Fall foods are nutritional powerhouses –they are packed with antioxidants that help your immune system fend off viruses and bacterial infections as we head into winter.

7 Immune-Boosting Foods to Add to Your Plate Right Now

1. Figs — High fiber and loaded with potassium, fresh figs are a rich source of phytosterols — plant nutrients that help reduce cholesterol. They are also high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid known to protect against cancer. Try them cut in half with just a drizzle of raw local honey. Divine!

2. Pomegranates — Pomegranate seeds owe their superfood status to polyphenols, powerful antioxidants thought to offer heart health and anti-cancer benefits. They are also a good source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Add pomegranate seeds to salads, sprinkle over oatmeal, toss in green salads, or blend them in smoothies.

3. Sturdy Greens — Leafy greens are full of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They are rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E. Boost your consumption of greens by adding them to salads, smoothies, soups and stir fry recipes.

4. Pumpkin Seeds — Rich in magnesium, immune-boosting zinc, fiber and plant-based Omega-3 Fatty Acids, pumpkin seeds are power-packed little kernels of nutrition. Either eat them raw (after they’re cleaned and dried, of course) or roast them at 170 degrees for about 20 minutes. Either way, toss them in salads or pack them to put in your bag for a midday snack.

5. Sweet potatoes — Chock-full of beta-carotene, vitamin C and magnesium, sweet potatoes are anti-inflammatory powerhouses. Try oven-baked sweet potato wedges, add sweet potato cubes to chili, or simply bake it as you would a white potato and add a little ghee, cinnamon and black pepper.

6. Winter squash — Packed with vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium and fiber, the winter squashes soothe our bellies, boost our immune system and support vision and skin health. Cut one in half, brush a little coconut oil on the flesh and roast it flesh-side down in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Yum! Or, add it to stews, curries and stir-fry recipes.

7. Parsnips — Though these veggies may resemble carrots, they have a lighter color and sweeter, almost nutty flavor. Loaded with potassium and high in fiber, parsnips have an impressive array of vitamins, including vitamins B, C, E and K. Use them in stews and soups or roast them for a delicious alternative to french fries.

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An Apple A Day? Better Make It Two!

An Apple A Day

Apples have long been associated with a healthful diet. After all, the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” which originated in the 1860s, is a common refrain around the world. (1)

Yet for some people, like those Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), apples can trigger digestive symptoms like bloating and gas. If you find apples give you these symptoms it is a sure sign that our 30-Day HealMyGut program is for you. Once you heal your gut apples will once again become a staple to your diet.

The fact is we need apples!

Researchers are finding that the humble apple is not only nutritious but also has healing powers that begin in the gut.

One study (2) in Japan demonstrated that the population of friendly bacteria, bifidus and lactobacillus, increased significantly by eating two apples a day for two weeks. The pectin in apples seems to play a significant role so drinking a glass of apple juice does not have the same benefit.

The finding is significant because apple pectin is a prebiotic — a non-digestible dietary nutrient, which beneficially influences the intestinal bacteria by stimulating their growth. These “friendly” bacteria fight inflammation and prevent a host of digestive problems. In essence, apples provide your gut bacteria the food they need to do their job.

Further, in another study a research team at Washington State University (3) compared several different types of apples to measure the amounts of non-digestible compounds they contain, and they found that Granny Smith apples, (yes those tart, green apples!), contained the highest levels of prebiotics, including dietary fibers and polyphenols.

Clearly, food is indeed medicine. Adhering to the old adage, “An apple a day” is good for you. There are thousand of varieties to try. Don’t wait …treat your gut to the healing powers of apples today!

As Dr. Blum says, “A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system, and using food as medicine is always the path towards getting there!

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

References
1. Story behind an apple a day. Ely, M. Washington Post Online. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/history-behind-an-apple-a-day/2013/09/24/aac3e79c-1f0e-11e3-94a2-6c66b668ea55_story.html

2. Effect of apple intake on fecal microbiota and metabolites in humans.
Shinohara K, Ohashi Y, Kawasumi K et al. Anaerobe 2010; 16(5): 510-515

3. Condezo-Hoyos L, Mohanty IP, and Noratto GD. Assessing non-digestible compounds in apple cultivars and their potential as modulators of obese faecal microbiota in vitro. Food Chemistry. 2014.