Ever since I started having mystery digestive issues about 8 or 9 years ago now, I began researching all the different potentials for what could be wrong with me.
After ruling out anything serious, I made some dedicated attempts to try to fix what I thought was an imbalance of my gut bacteria. To this day, I still don’t know if that had much to do with the issue. However, with all the new research happening on the microbiome and how intricately linked it is to so many other parts of ourselves (our stress levels, various illnesses, the list goes on), I have decided to always pay close attention to my diet as well as antibiotic use.
I am someone who has petit mal epilepsy and generalized anxiety disorder. Something significant I have learned over the years is how truly linked all of our conditions can be. My anxiety could have come as a comorbidity with the epilepsy, and my digestive issues may have come from chronic high stress levels over time.
Additionally, about 12 years ago I began getting migraines regularly, primarily during my menstrual period. I learned that this can be due to a hormonal imbalance, such as too much estrogen and not enough progesterone, which can also occur from chronic stress. This was proven to me when I got a hormonal IUD inserted that made my body’s progesterone levels higher, and my migraines disappeared.
It’s clear that managing stress should always be a priority — and especially is a no-brainer in someone with an anxiety disorder. For me, it certainly is. And what a part of managing stress is for me is not just promoting relaxation through meditation, breathing techniques, etc., but making sure my gut does not get totally out of whack again.
Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known and also one of my favorite doctors to follow, has recently written about the recent microbiome news in his 2020 issue of the Self-Healing magazine.
I’ll paraphrase two of the most recent findings he wrote about regarding the microbiome that I think are important to know:
There may be a link between your gut bacteria and your personality. The magazine states that “various types of bacteria previously linked to autism spectrum disorder were also associated with differences in sociability in those without autism.” The research showed that people who have large social networks and social activity were more likely to have higher microbial diversity.
The important thing about this is that people with more microbial diversity will typically have lower stress and anxiety levels.
Not too long ago, I learned about this myself when I took a gut health test from Thryve (https://www.thryveinside.com). You send in a stool sample, and they give you an overview of what kinds of bacteria your gut has, as well as a general picture of how healthy your gut likely is.
The really cool thing about this is that they will tell you what strains are out of normal range and how this could be contributing to your mental state, physical traits or other conditions. This test showed me in its overview that I was likely to have anxiety due to my microbiome. Amazing, since it’s 100% correct that I have anxiety, and I really didn’t realize gut bacteria (or lack thereof) could still be influencing this. From there they will formulate a probiotic for you, which I have been now taking monthly.
So for me it’s just a question of what’s influencing what quicker. Is my anxiety disorder itself affecting my gut and that’s the primary issue, or is my gut worsening my anxiety disorder? Regardless, definitely more evidence there that I should be taking care of my gut.
The Mediterranean Diet May Improve the Microbiome. For quite some time now, there have been plenty of research studies out there showing the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Apparently, a new study about the microbiome is adding to the pile.
The Mediterranean Diet is one that focuses on eating fish, veggies, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil.
The study that was done took 612 older men and women, and half of them followed the Mediterranean diet for a year. What they found was that those who ate the Mediterranean diet had a more diverse microbiome than those who followed their typical diet.
This more diverse microbiome was also linked to better results when “testing for markers of frailty, or age-related weakness, including better walking speed, better handgrip strength, and improved cognitive functioning” (from “The Latest Microbiome News,” Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing 2020).
More research is needed on this still, but it appears as though the Mediterranean diet can possibly improve microbial diversity through all of the nutrients that it provides, such as magnesium, B and C vitamins, potassium, iron, etc.
Overall, I’m happy that we are finding out new things pretty quickly on how important the role is that the gut microbiome is for our health. Given this fact and based on my own experience through digestive issues, I can’t stress enough importance on eating well with a diversity of foods, and include probiotic-rich or fermented foods regularly.
This is my all-time favorite cookbook thus far. I purchased it because with all of the strange, persistent bloating, the constipation, and stomach upset that I’ve had for the past year or so, I knew I needed something that would be soothing and anti-inflammatory for my stomach.
This book is based on the GAPS diet. I had heard about the GAPS diet before in doing research in how to treat a variety of stomach conditions. The full GAPS diet is very strict and can be difficult to follow. All ingredients have to be pure and wholesome. I haven’t fully submitted myself to it yet, but based on what I know now about gastrointestinal issues, I believe in its efficacy.
I’ve learned that most G.I.-related problems are hard work to treat, plain and simple. That is, if you really want to get to the bottom of it. They often require a permanent change in your diet which might mean giving up things you’re attached to. It can take a long time to adjust.
I’ve enjoyed the journey, though, because I’m interested in doing what’s best for my body, and I know I don’t have to compromise on foods I love, because there are plenty of amazing, healthy dishes you can make. I had already cut down coffee to one cup a day and added coconut oil to it, I had eliminated any fatty foods altogether and made sure most of what I ate was easy to digest. But, I needed more good recipe ideas. I really felt that soups that were dense with nutrients would help my stomach, and this cookbook is full of those.
Regardless, this cookbook is awesome whether you have G.I. issues or not. The recipes are healthy, straightforward, unique, and most are relatively easy to make. You’ll just want to put effort toward making sure you get wholesome ingredients. When you do, you really feel how healthy what you’re eating is!
Ginger Turmeric Tea… Yum!!
I make the Ginger Turmeric tea out of this cookbook at least weekly now. It’s simple. Just purchase fresh ginger root and turmeric, peel them and slice them up. Boil some water, throw some slices in of both (about half as much turmeric than ginger), 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (I use unrefined, virgin organic coconut oil for consumption), and honey if desired. That’s it! Just don’t go crazy on the turmeric and ginger, because you don’t need much!
Note: The above link is an affiliate link; if you purchase this book through Amazon, I get a small commission that helps to support this blog. However the book is solely recommended based on my own experience with the book.
Glycemic Index is a measure of how quickly one’s blood sugar rises after eating a particular type of food. Many people on specific diets or individuals with diabetes need to pay attention to the glycemic index of foods in order that they keep their blood sugar levels under control.
Rice is typically considered a high-glycemic food, but studies have actually shown that whether it is high or low glycemic entirely depends on the type of rice.
Rice Gives a Wide Range of Results in Glycemic Index
According to the study, “rice has given a wide range of results in glycemic index (GI) studies around the world. The GI of white rice has ranged from as low as 54 to as high as 121 when bread (GI = 100) is used as the reference food (1-3). This makes it difficult to classify rice as a high- or low-GI food. Advice to individuals with diabetes may be incorrect if the product has not been specifically tested first.”
Amylose Content Plays Part in Glycemic Index of Rice
The different types of rice used in one studied were both brown and white rice varieties of three commercial types. Two of them had a normal amylose content (20%) and the other had a higher amylose content of 28%. There was also a waxy rice with 0-2% amylose content, a converted rice, a quick-cooking brown rice, puffed rice cakes, rice pasta, and rice bran.
The studies found that the rice that had a higher percentage of amylose had a lower glycemic index, and the relationship between these two are believed to possibly be exponential rather than linear. Most other rice products tested gave a high glycemic index.
As also stated in the study, “most rices contain 20% amylose but varieties that contain a higher proportion of amylose (eg, 28%) have been shown to have a slower rate of digestion and produce lower glycemic and insulin responses.”
Pelde Variety Rice Has Lower Glycemic Index
The GIs of the varieties brown rices that were tested were actually similar to their white counterparts except for the Pelde variety. Pelde brown rice gave a significantly lower glycemic index than did the Pelde white rice.
Brown rice pasta and rice cakes gave a high glycemic index, while the rice bran gave an extremely low glycemic index.
Oddly enough, the study also found that “the relationship between GI and the Insulin Index (II): the II was usually lower on the relative scale than was the GI of the foods. For example, the GI of Calrose brown rice is 83 but its II was only 5 1. We have no explanation for this result unless bread, the reference food, is unique in its capacity to stimulate insulin.”
High Glycemic Response Does Not Mean High Insulin Response
The bottom line for this is that one can’t assume that a food with a high glycemic response will have a high insulin response. It is possible “that many rice varieties, despite having a high GI, can be included in diets that improve carbohydrate and insulin metabolism in individuals.”
In the words of the article, “these results emphasize the need for individual countries to carry out their own GI testing, particularly of raw agricultural products, which are more likely to vary from one geographical location to another than do processed products, such as breakfast cereals. The findings also raise questions about the value of the GI alone without knowledge ofthe insulin response. In Australia, long-term studies are needed of the clinical utility of low-GI diets that specifically incorporate rice.”
Rice: a high or low glycemic index food? by Janette Brand Miller, Edna Pang, and Lindsay Branall Downloaded from http://ajcn.nutrition.org, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Low-carb diets greatly reduce your blood levels of insulin, a hormone that brings the glucose from the carbs into cells.
What does insulin do?
–One of the functions of insulin is to store fat.
This is why many believe that low-carb diets work so well, is that they reduce your levels of this hormone.
-Insulin hoards sodium, so high-carb diets can cause excess water retention.
Cutting carbs reduces insulin and your kidneys will start shedding any excess water, so it is common for people to lose 5-10 pounds of water weight in the first few days of a low-carb diet.
Weight loss will slow down after the first week, but this time the fat will be coming from your fat stores.
One study compared low-carb and low-fat diets and used DEXA scanners (very accurate) to measure body composition. The low-carb dieters lost significant amounts of body fat and gained muscle at the same time.
Studies also show that low-carb diets are particularly effective at reducing your belly fat, which is the most dangerous fat of all and highly associated with many diseases.
The “Low-Carb Flu”
If you’re new to low-carb eating, you will probably need to go through an adaptation phase where your body is getting used to burning fat instead of carbs.
This is called the “low-carb flu” and is usually over within a few days. After this initial phase is over, many people report having more energy than before, with no “afternoon dips” in energy that are common on high-carb diets.
Adding more fat and sodium to your diet can help with this.
Tip from Balancing Your Health: Daily carb intake can sneak up on you quickly! Track down your carb intake for a while so you can get used to what you can eat on a daily basis that won’t knock it up too high. Also, if you’re really trying to cut, count unrefined sources of carbs (for example carbs in a banana) the same way you would refined carbs; don’t give yourself an extra allowance of carbs just because they are from natural sources.
As many of us may already know, cooking depletes the nutritional content of our food by damaging nutrients and vitality of the food and at the same time making it more difficult to assimilate the remaining nutrients.
“At 113°F to 118°F the enzymes begin to break down and lose their catalytic power. At around 135°F we destroy the vitamins and phytonutrients (antioxidants). Minerals are not affected by heat, but if we boil our food, minerals will be lost in the water.
Another perspective on heating our food: Human skin burns and our skin cells die at about 130°F.
At around 160°F the sugars in carbohydrate-rich foods, such as potatoes and grain products, begin to caramelize, making them less effective as an energy source.
Cooked vegetables have lost much of their fiber content, which makes them less effective at sweeping out the digestive system.”
The diet is based on the foods that could be hunted, fished, and gathered during the Paleolithic era — meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruits, and berries.
But a true paleolithic diet is impossible to mimic because wild game is not readily available, most modern plant food is cultivated rather than wild, and meats are domesticated.
At best, you can eat a modified version of the original diet that’s gluten-free and includes lean meat, organ meats, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. It’s a wide variety of foods.
You won’t find any dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, potatoes, processed oils, and any foods that were grown after agriculture started.
On this diet, you’d skip salt and any drinks other than water, coconut water, or organic green tea.
You can satisfy your sweet tooth with raw honey or coconut palm sugar, but only in limited quantities.
Some versions of the plan encourage fasting, eating raw foods, and eliminating nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant).
Some plans allow a little flexibility, like adding some processed oils from fruits and nuts, such as olive and flaxseed oil.
The Caveman Diet: Food for Thought
A diet that includes whole, unprocessed foods is the basis of most all healthy diet recommendations. But so are whole grains, low-fat dairy, and legumes.
Including these food groups will help meet nutritional needs and contribute to a well-balanced diet plan. You can satisfy dietary requirements without these foods, but that requires careful planning and supplementation.
If the Paleo or Caveman diet appeals to you, be sure to supplement the plan with calcium and vitamin D.