My Stance On Alcohol

I wasn’t going to write a post on this, but a few people have asked me my thoughts on alcohol and gut health, so I thought it was time to address it. I’m twenty-five and I’ve barely touched alcohol since I was seventeen. Given that I’m a Kiwi, and we have a serious binge drinking culture in New Zealand, that’s a pretty huge deal. To say a lot of my friends didn’t understand “why”, would be an understatement.

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When people ask why I’m not drinking, I simply say I have an alcohol intolerance. I don’t know how I can prove that, I don’t know if it can be proven. I had my first drink when I was 15, and despite being crazy sick during my teenage years, I would drink socially at parties with my friends for the next couple of years. But the symptoms got worse as I got older; my throat would feel tight, breathing would get harder, my skin would itch and I felt awful. This happened within half an hour of consuming a drink. It wouldn’t matter the type of alcohol — I experimented with them all — my reactions just kept getting worse.

Alcohol_desgraciaThe worst symptoms would come the day after and last for about a week. I vividly remember a friend saying, “that’s just a hangover, get over it.” A hangover? Really? After having one drink?

My stomach would convulse on itself, I would run to the bathroom multiple times that first day and then would barely be able to go for the next week. I had sharp pains in my stomach and went from feeling nauseous, to dizzy, to so fatigued I could barely move. On top of that I found whenever I drunk, my IBS symptoms would leap out and make my life hell for the next two weeks. I remember my mum saying to me once, “Was it worth it, Sam?” and I looked up at her with my ‘oh woe is me’ eyes and said, “No way in hell was this worth it!”

I stopped drinking when I was seventeen, and my eighteenth and twenty-first birthdays passed with me being the most sober person in the room. To be honest, I don’t care. If I’m out with my friends, I don’t need alcohol to have fun. It’s never been something I’ve associated with fun and I’ve never been one to say “I could kill for a pint right now!”.

That’s not to say I don’t find it hard. When I moved out of home at eighteen to live in the university hostels, it was not easy being the ‘loser’ who never wanted to drink, who wouldn’t go out partying every night. I simply didn’t have the stamina that alcohol seemed to provide to keep up with my friends. And in winter, I didn’t have the alcohol blanket to keep me warm. It was hard being the sober eighteen year old, but eventually my friends accepted it and they knew I’d be perfectly fine without booze.

urlRecently, I was chatting with my hairdresser who also has endometriosis. She asked how I found alcohol and I told her I didn’t touch the stuff. She said she’d been wondering for a while if it was something she should eliminate to help alleviate her symptoms. She had noticed when she consumed alcohol it would wake her dormant endometriosis up and she’d start noticing symptoms. Amazing the links we manage to find, isn’t it?

So for those that have been asking: no, I don’t drink alcohol — ever. I don’t even cook with it because for me it’s just as toxic as gluten, dairy, or refined sugar. So many of the diets I have talked about and promoted recommend not going near alcohol, and if you want to be well — if you want the pain to stop and the symptoms to calm down — I really recommend listening to it. I know it’s hard, and once upon a time I even took to filling a vodka bottle with water… Yeah, that’s how sad it got! But it’s worth it to know you won’t be paying for it for days to come. And to be honest, I do find a little satisfaction when the friends I went out dancing with last night wake up with a pounding headache — feeling like death — while I am up bright and early to go the gym!

In saying that, I’m not going to slam anyone for drinking. I know very few people who don’t drink. Everyone is in charge of their own decisions and I’m not going to sit back and judge. In fact there is research to support that a glass of red wine regularly can be good for your health, and many tell me that unwinding with a few drinks at the end of the week can be a huge stress reliever. If it works for you, that’s awesome. It’s all about balance (meaning if you’re going out and abusing your liver by getting smashed every weekend, chances are your body will not thank you for it). Find your balance, find your happy medium and stick with it. Listen to what your body is telling you and take your cues from there.

What’s all this about ‘SCD’?

I want to take a little look at another diet that keeps coming up on my radar.The SCD diet, also known as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is credited for keeping the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease at bay. It’s also said to be able to treat ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, chronic diarrhea and autism. After hearing so many good things about it, I’ve started introducing a few of its principles into my own diet.

The SCD diet is similar to the Paleo diet in that it emphasises avoiding foods with grains, sugars, starches, or foods that have been processed. It takes a leaf out of the book of our distant ancestors, focusing on what they ate before all the modern conveniences of highly processed foods came into play. The idea is that by removing foods that are toxic and digestively harmful, you will have a natural, nourishing and gut-friendly diet.

The diet was originally created for those who need a bit of digestive support, but it can be good for everyone and has anyone who tries the diet feeling a little better in the tummy! Eating the SCD way is a chance to give your overall health a boost and to cleanse your digestion — so to speak. The diet works on the principle that not everyone’s digestive system has evolved to suit this modern world, where optimally digesting complex carbs and man-made products such as refined sugar is necessary.

9018429130_edcf1cb212This is where we take a leaf out of the FODMAP diet. The main principle of the diet is that carbohydrates are categorised by their chemical structure – monosaccharide, disaccharide and polysaccharide. Remember those? And we know saccharide means sugar, right? So while low-FODMAP tends to avoid monosaccharides and disacchardies in particular, on SCD only monosaccharide carbohydrates are allowed to be consumed as the others require extra digestion steps to break down the chemical bonds into monosaccharide carbohydrates. Comprendes?

As we know from low-FODMAP principles, any saccharides that are not properly digested cause fermenting in the bowel and can cause bacterial and yeast overgrowth which starts a chain reaction of excess toxins and acids. Before you know it you’ve got gastro-intestinal distress. The SCD diet is a natural way to break this cycle and eliminate food sources bacteria feed on. It works to restore gut flora and repair damage previously caused by the toxins and acids.

The diet works much in the same way as the FODMAP elimination process. You begin by eating easy-to-digest natural foods only, which allow the gut to begin the healing process. Then slowly you can add more complex foods back into your diet. Similar to the FODMAP diet, it’s very individual and personalised, so you need to figure out what works for you. That’s why the reintroduction process must be done with considerable care so you can monitor your reactions to each new food item. So what can you eat on the SCD diet?

  • Vegetables (unless they’re canned… stay away from canned vegetables)
  • meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (don’t buy processed meats and if possible buy free range, pasture raised meats and eggs and wild fish)
  • Nuts, peanuts in the shell, natural peanut butter
  • Oils: olive, coconut, soybean, and corn
  • Legumes (with the exception of a few on the ‘avoid’ list)
  • Natural cheeses (with the exception of a few on the ‘avoid’ list)
  • Homemade yogurt that has been fermented for at least a day
  • Most fruits and juices without additives
  • Weak tea and coffee
  • Water, mineral water, club soda, dry wine, vodka, scotch, bourbon, gin and rye
  • Unflavored gelatin
  • Honey
  • Mustard and vinegar
  • Saccharin

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The list that you can’t eat is a little bigger…

  • Sugars: lactose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, molasses, maltose, isomaltose, fructooligosaccharides, and any processed sugar
    • This includes cane, coconut and table sugar, agave syrup, maple syrup and artificial sweeteners.
  • All canned vegetables
  • All grains: anything made from corn, wheat, wheat germ, barley, oats, rye, rice, buckwheat, soy, spelt, and amaranth
  • Some legumes: chickpeas, bean sprouts, soybeans, mung beans, fava beans, and garbanzo beans
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, yam, parsnips, seaweed products, agar, and carrageenan
  • Canned and processed meats
  • Dairy: milk, milk products, ice cream, whey powder, commercial yogurt, heavy cream, buttermilk, sour cream
  • Soft cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, processed cheeses, and cheese spreads
  • Vegetable oil, Canola oil, commercial mayonnaise, commercial ketchup, margarine, baking powder, and balsamic vinegar
  • Candy, chocolate, carob
  • Instant coffee, commercial juices (they’re usually filled with all the sugars you have to avoid), sugary drinks (Coca Cola, Sprite, Pepsi e.t.c.), sweet wines, flavoured liqueurs, brandy, sherry

 

You can see how similar all these different diets are, can’t you? With a few tweaks here and there paleo, SCD and FODMAPs all borrow aspects from each other. I tried all three diets before adopting a combination of all three because at the moment, that’s what works for me however I know many people with Crohn’s, IBD, IBS and celiac who will choose just one and find that works for them.

A friend of mine had awful Crohn’s symptoms. She could barely work, or leave the house, or live her life! Her doctor warned her against trying an alternative form of treatment and swore until he was blue in the face that diet had nothing to do with Crohn’s (when will they take notice of the evidence in front of them?!). She followed the SCD diet strictly for three months and was able to come off all medication becoming symptom free. She said it wasn’t easy and there was a lot of food preparation and organisation involved — not to mention all the cravings. But as she said at the time, “anything was better than being sick.” And trust me, I can relate! That was over three years ago and she’s not had a single symptom since. She now follows a diet which is a combination of SCD and paleo and she feels great! YAY for taking her health into her own hands.

The best doctor I’ve had in my life once told me that I know my body more than anyone else. More than my mother, my father, or any of my doctors — and therefore I know what I’m feeling. I know what my body needs, so trust your gut and don’t be afraid to do what you believe is right for you. He was purely talking about my health, but I’ve used that advice in all aspects of my life since that day. So if there’s any advice I could pass onto you all today it would be to listen to your body. Listen to what it’s telling you and never be afraid to do what is right for you. Food for thought, as they say.

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W.o.E Nuggets!

You can tell me I have the culinary taste buds of a five-years-old. That’s ok. But the thing is, I LOVE chicken nuggets. I would never again let myself go near McNuggets, but I do believe that’s what started my obsession (*hangs head in shame*).

While crumbed nuggets aren’t too bad, nothing quite beats the good ol’ battered nuggets. Don’t you think? Just me? Okay…

When I started on the FODMAP diet, I realised if I wanted good, low-FODMAP chicken nuggets, I was going to have to invent them. So after a bit of fiddling, here they are!

First and foremost I, of course, would recommend you buy high quality chicken. Free range. Organic if possible, and even better, grass fed pasture raised. These are delicious as a quick protein snack or for dinner paired with some veges and maybe even some handmade potato chips.

Chicken Nuggets

W.o.E Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon melted ghee, or coconut oil, or organic butter (if you’re on a diet that allows butter)
  • ¾ C tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon rice flour (if you’re paleo and want to avoid rice flour you could use almond or coconut flour here. Coconut flour makes it slightly sweeter)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or garlic salt (if you can tolerate garlic)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Method

  1. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and mix together with ghee and tapioca flour.
  2. Add the rice flour and mix until lump-free.
  3. Add mixed herbs, salt or your choice of seasonings (sometimes adding paprika can be lovely!).
  4. Leave to sit in the fridge for five minutes.
  5. Prepare your chicken by cutting it into chunks.
  6. Put coconut oil into a fry pan and heat on the stove
  7. Dip the chicken into the batter mixture and transfer the chicken into the fry pan with the coconut oil. Repeat until all pieces of chicken are cooking.
  8. Flip the chicken regularly to avoid it burning.
  9. Once the chicken is cooked through, serve and enjoy!

 

The Miracle of Coconut Oil

I have a ten litre bucket of coconut oil under my desk. It’s under my desk because it’s the only place it fits. I’m slowly, slowly working my way through it. It may take me well over a year but man I love coconut oil!

I had a conversation recently with someone who couldn’t understand why I used coconut oil to cook with, why I put coconut oil in my smoothies, why I baked with it, why I used it as a moisturiser. I paused for a moment looking to see if she was kidding.

7651678866_2da2f55180“Isn’t it one of the worst oils for you? It’s so high in saturated fat!” she exclaimed.

She was deadly serious. I bit my lip and wondered where on earth I should start when it comes to the miracle that is coconut oil.

Maybe at the beginning…

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of a matured coconut, and has been used by many cultures around the world as a staple in their diet for hundreds of years. It is true it is high in saturated fat, however it’s not as black and white as it sounds.

Coconut oil is used extensively in tropical countries, particularly the South Pacific, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines. The health benefits of coconut oil are huge – hair care, skin care, weight loss, digestive aid, memory improver, thought to improve and/or reverse dementia and Alzheimer’s, kills candida fungus, helps hypotroidism, raises body temperature, improves or heals many skin diseases and fungal infections (acne, eczema, keratosis polaris, psoriasis, rosacea), boosts the immune system, provides peak performance energy, longer endurance, can curb your hunger, kills bacteria and viruses, preserves muscle mass and promotes ketosis, maintains cholesterol levels and regulates the metabolism. It also provides relief from kidney problems, epilepsy, high blood pressure, diabetes (type 1 and 2), HIV, cancer and heart diseases while improving dental quality and bone strength.

StruttoAt one time, the oil became so popular in Western countries such as UK, USA and Canada that the corn and soy oil industries launched a strong propaganda campaign in the 1970s telling people that coconut oil was harmful for the human body due to its high saturated fat content. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that people began to question the claims of that propaganda.

New data now shows that saturated fats are in fact harmless…all those stories about ‘artery-clogging’ and ‘heart attacks’ have been proven to be false. A myriad of studies were conducted that included hundreds of thousands of people and the results showed quite plainly that some saturated fats, like coconut oil, are in fact good for your health.

Despite being demonised for its saturated fat content, coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man with almost 90% of the oil being made up of saturated fats. Now the tables are turned and consumers are warned away from corn and soy oil whereas coconut oil is the best of the bunch. I call that karma.

Coconut oil is one of the few foods that can be classified as a superfood because of its unique combination of fatty acids. The saturated fat you’ll find in coconut oil isn’t your ‘average’ saturated fat you’d find in vegetable oils, cheese, fries or a juicy hunk of steak. It’s a saturated fat that contains ‘Medium Chain Triglycerides’ which are literally fatty acids of a medium length. Most fatty acids you consume in your regular diet are long-chain fatty acids, but medium-chain fatty acids (those in coconut oil) are metabolised differently.

See, coconut oil is a very unique case! These MCT’s go straight to the liver from the gut where they are used as a quick energy source where the beneficial properties will jump into gear having a therapeutic effect on the brain for disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. AND its high saturated fat content means it is slow to oxidize, resistant to rancidification, and can last up to two years without going bad.

coconut-1125_640Can you see why so many people have been jumping on the coconut oil bandwagon?! I’m such a believer in coconut oil I’d give hard chunks of it to my elderly dog in the hope it would help cure the problems with coordination and standing up in general that he was suffering as a side effect of old age. I don’t know whether they helped him or not but he did manage to hang on a year and a half more than we thought he would. (RIP my pup pup <3)

Many of you will know I’m from New Zealand. We have a high percentage of Polynesians living in New Zealand who have moved over from the islands. Some (rude/racist) people call them coconuts as a nickname. It’s not a nice name to be called BUT it’s because they consume so many coconut products. I watched a study that was documented on one of those ‘newsy-research’ shows last year when I was back living in New Zealand and it talked about the coconut craze. See, coconut oil has blown up in New Zealand. It is the big thing right now so a lot of TV news/health/food shows were jumping on the train.

coconut-389043_640In parts of the South Pacific many populations whose diet is largely made up of coconut products are absolutely thriving in good health AND there is very little evidence in heart disease. It’s when those populations move to Australia or New Zealand (or other places around the world) and start eating bad saturated fats such as vegetable oils in large quantities that their health starts to deteriorate. When they’re living on a more traditional diet as their ancestors ate, and consuming over 60% of their calorie intake from coconuts they live very healthy lives.

A study was done throughout the 1960s using two South Pacific Island populations (Pukapuka and Tokelau). These populations were examined over a period of time, starting before western foods were prevalent in the diets of either culture. The point of the study was to investigate the effects of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol in determining serum cholesterol levels. In both cultures, coconut and coconut products were a staple in the diets of the participants with up to 60% of their caloric intake coming from the saturated fat of coconut oil. The study discovered very lean and healthy people who were relatively free from modern diseases of the western world including obesity. The conclusion stated that vascular disease was uncommon in both populations and there was no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having a harmful effect.

When the decline of coconut products occurred in the late 70’s, coconut farmers found they could no longer afford to make a living based on coconut harvest. They left their farms, moved to cities that held other employment opportunities and adopted a new way of eating. A way that wasn’t based around coconut products. They were eating cheaper mass-produced industrial foods, particularly meats, which replaced the healthy organic ‘grow your own’ lifestyle they’d previously lived. Along with the change in their diet, they noticed a change in their weight, a change in their health and a change in their overall wellbeing. That brings us to today, the re-rise of the coconut product. Now it’s everywhere you look – coconut oil, coconut meat, coconut water, coconut milk…. And it’s SO good to include in your diet particularly if you have sensitive tummies (though I do recommend monitoring your reactions closely).

You’re likely to see a lot of talk about the pros of virgin coconut oil and that you should avoid refined coconut oil. Well that’s bullcrap. All coconut oil available for purchase is healthy. I can’t even begin to imagine where that myth came from but you don’t need to worry about it – it’s not true. Refined coconut oil is totally fine and healthy for you to eat. Refined coconut oil is usually rather tasteless and odourless, it can withstand slightly higher cooing temperatures before reaching its smoke point and it’s perfect for cooking foods where you need a clean fat without a dominating coconut flavour. It goes through a process called RBD – Refined, Bleached and Deodorized.

coconut-60397_640It renders a neutral flavour and smell and filters the oil of impurities. Some nutrients are certainly lost in the refining process but it doesn’t make the oil or unhealthy. It’s true it doesn’t have entirely the same health benefits as virgin, completely raw coconut oil, but it’s still much better than any other oil available for purchase. I personally use refined coconut oil because I don’t like the coconut taste of the non-refined stuff, and it’s also much cheaper, but that’s a personal decision. Whether or not you choose refined or non-refined it’s up to you, your preferences, your motivations for using coconut oil and your budget.

HOWEVER I do want to say a quick word about hydrogenated coconut oil. Sometimes coconut oil is hydrogenated to keep it solid at a higher temperature. If you have coconut oil in your cupboard you’ll know how quickly it turns to liquid. In the process of hydrogenating coconut oil it creates a synthetic trans-fat and I’m sure we all know by now by all the media hype all the dangers of trans-fat, yes? To put it simply, hydrogenated oil may cause your cholesterol to rise and could lead to stroke or heart disease. Best to be avoided!

Are you converted yet? Check out 45 awesome things you can use coconut oil for….

  1. Use it in cooking
  2. Use it in baking
  3. Use it as a replacement for butter
  4. Use it as a lotion on your skin
  5. Run some through your hair, leave it in overnight and wash out in the morning – a great conditioner
  6. Use it as make up remover
  7. Use it as a diaper cream
  8. Use as a lubricant
  9. It can lighten age spots if you rub directly into the skin
  10. When used every day it can soften men’s beard stubble
  11. Use it to help prevent stretch marks
  12. Use it in homemade mayo
  13. Massage oil!
  14. Use as a night cream
  15. Mix with sugar to make a body scrub!
  16. Use as a lip balm
  17. Use on cuts and scratches to help prevent infection
  18. To help soothe sore and itchy eczema or psoriasis
  19. Take 1 T a day as a supplement to help aid digestion, boost brain power or increase your energy levels (you can pop that tablespoon of oil into your smoothies and you’ll barely taste it!)
  20. Rub some coconut oil up your nose to help soothe seasonal allergies
  21. Use as a salad dressing along with some herbs and spices
  22. Oil pulling for good dental health
  23. Mix into hot lemon and honey tea to aid recovery from cold or flu
  24. Can help heal sunburn
  25. Reduce the itch of insect bites
  26. Use it on your thighs to get rid of cellulite
  27. To season cast iron fry pans
  28. Aftershave – even for women on legs and armpits!
  29. Use on split ends
  30. Mix it with a little salt and pour over your popcorn instead of butter
  31. Use it as eyeshadow – even better mix with coloured eye shadow and it’ll give it a shine
  32. Use as a lubricant on motors, electronics and even guitar strings (handy, as I always play the guitar while covered in coconut oil. No joke)
  33. Coat your kitty’s paw with coconut oil and it helps keep him/her from coughing up fur balls
  34. Add a little to your pet’s food to help with their overall health
  35. Use on (real) leather to soften and condition (makes my cowboy boots look so gooood! But test a small area first to be sure your leather product can handle it)
  36. Help clear up coldsores
  37. Mix with baking soda to help whiten your teeth
  38. Deep fry your food
  39. To use externally on pets struggling with skin issues
  40. Use coconut oil to calm those nasty bruises
  41. Mix with rosermary or mint to create a natural bug repellent (unless you’re in a malaria zone or something similar… in that case lather yourself with deet…)
  42. Rub over haemorrhoids to help relieve the pain
  43. Dip a cotton bud in the oil and use as an ear cleaner
  44. Rub on cuticles for good nail health8288386803_3a4ee20d94_z
  45. To help aid the healing and reduce scarring of surgery scars

 

For more information on coconut oil I recommend the book The Coconut Oil Miracle. It’s that book that kick started my coconut oil journey and maybe it’ll help you with yours!

 

Foodie Favourite: Hampton Chutney Co. (I ♥ NY)

HamptonChut1 New York, New York. What a melting pot of cultures, food, entertainment and people! I love this city with all my heart and after living there for a year I miss it with every fibre of my being!

One of my favourite places to eat in Manhattan was a simple little place you could find in either Soho or the Upper West Side. It’s a South Indian restaurant called Hampton Chutney Co. which specialises in Dosas. I LOVE dosas thanks to this cute place. For those who don’t know, a dosa is basically a large crispy sourdough fermented crepe or pancake, made out of rice batter and black lentils (trust me, it’s gorgeous!).

5273975769_caebb83899_zAt Hampton Chutney Co., all dosas are gluten free and there are tons of vegan options. They also sell uttapam which is made with the same rice-lentil batter but is made into an open-faced pancake.

My favourite dosa was always the grilled chicken with goat cheese, spinach and roasted tomato (though I also enjoyed the avocado, fresh tomato, arugula and cheese combination).

There are a variety of different fillings you can choose from which should cater to most diets as they’re very simple yet delicious. Find what works for you and go with it!

Hampton Chutney Co. also sell salads, sandwiches, homemade beverages (orange blossom lemonade!) and desserts.

Hampton Chutney Co. can be found at 68 Prince St, Soho and 464 Amsterdam Ave, Upper West Side. If you’re out in the Hamptons in Amagansett you can also find them at 6 Main Street. A perfect light summer meal.

Enjoy!

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Three-Thirty-itis Muffins

There’s an advert on TV in New Zealand and Australia (and probably other parts of the world) advertising soup. It talks about that time of the work day – 3.30pm – when lunch has been and gone and home time is still too far away. Your focus is lagging, the minutes are dragging, and your stomach is starting to growl again.

Despite my best efforts to have a lunch that keeps me satisfied until dinner, I fail. Daily. I always need something mid-afternoon. Savoury muffins don’t do an awful lot for me (I just don’t find them interesting) so I figured I’d create something half way between savoury and interesting/delicious, that would cure my incessant three-thirty-itis.

IMG_2914I’d previously been taking banana bread to work, but it usually disappeared by 10am (yes, I need something for morning tea too. It’s not all bad — eating every three hours is supposed to be good for your metabolism!). I’d also been taking carrot sticks. I wondered what would happen if I combined the banana bread with the carrot…

It took a couple of goes to get the right balance of ingredients, but I’m pretty happy with the result. If you can eat butter it’s even better heated with a little dollop of decent raw butter on the inside. Yum!

The best part is, these muffins are paleo, low-FODMAP, gluten free and dairy free. AND they’re really good! I am now cured of my three-thirty-itis! Hurrah!

Three-Thirty-itis Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 C coconut flour
  • 1/3 C coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 C coconut milk
  • 1/4 C maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • Handful sunflower seeds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Mix in the grated carrots.
  3. Add the eggs and mix until combined.
  4. Mix in the flour. The mixture will start to become a lot thicker.
  5. Add the coconut oil, milk and maple syrup.
  6. Finally mix in the spices (you can get creative here based on your own preferences. I personally love spices!)
  7. Scoop spoonful’s of mixture into the muffin tins. As the mixture is quite thick you may need to push it down with the back of a spoon to fill any air gaps.
  8. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds over the top of the muffins
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

They last for a couple of days in an airtight container and also freeze really well!

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The Low-FODMAP Diet

This was a originally written as a guest post for Paleo Britain (you can find the post here). However, as it is such an important topic for me, and for this blog (as essentially FODMAPs is a big part of the reason I started this blog), I thought I’d pop it up here too.

Writing a post about FODMAPs has been at the front of my mind for a while now. In my opinion, it’s a large and important topic, so when Paleo Britain approached me about writing a post, I knew FODMAPs would be a great topic to dive into!

History of the Low-FODMAP diet

While the low-FODMAP diet has gained quite a lot of traction in Australia and New Zealand over the last five years or so, it’s been slow to take off in other parts of the world. As a result, many people haven’t heard of it yet.

For some of you, the name Peter Gibson might ring a bell. He is the man who originally put non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) on the map. After releasing his studies on NCGS, he began questioning whether gluten was actually the cause of gastrointestinal distress or whether there was something else at play. Using a group of participants who didn’t have celiac disease, but were convinced they had gluten sensitivity, he ran a number of studies where participants were put on one of three diets: gluten-free, low-gluten, and high-gluten. Participants were unaware of which diet they were consuming.

Gibson separated out all potentially problematic food groups such as lactose, specific preservatives, and FODMAPs. His aim was to discover if one of these groups was responsible for intestinal symptoms instead of just gluten. The study revealed that FODMAP, not gluten (although gluten containing grains are included in FODMAP groups), was the cause of symptoms often attributed to gluten sensitivity. While Gibson has only recently come out with his findings, FODMAP has been around since 1999 when Sue Shepherd first developed the diet.

Testing for sugar malabsorption

DoingSpirometryAt the end of 2009, my gastroenterologist sent me to do a bunch of breath tests so they could test for sugar malabsorption. While FODMAPs may trigger symptoms of IBS and other digestive issues, there are specific breath tests you can do that will determine your individual sensitivity to certain sugars — in particular: fructose, lactose and sorbitol.

The breath tests were long and drawn out. They involved adopting a very plain diet for two weeks and going in every day to drink a clear liquid of the sugar they were testing (only one sugar at a time) to monitor my reactions to it. They work on the basis that the bacteria in the large intestine produces hydrogen and methane gas by fermenting carbohydrates. Most of the gas produced is transferred across the lining of the large intestine and into the bloodstream, which is then carried into the lungs where it can be measured through breath. It takes a while, but the results are quite worth it. My tests came back highlighting fructose and lactose intolerance.

It was from that point I loosely adopted the low-FODMAP diet. I started with the elimination process; eliminating all the FODMAP groups and then slowly bringing one back at a time.

So what are FODMAPs?

Essentially they’re a group of naturally occurring sugars that are not absorbed into the small intestine. Instead, they continue travelling down to the large intestine where (normal and healthy) bacteria is present. The bacteria sees the unabsorbed sugar as a food source and when they eat the FODMAPs, they ferment them, producing and releasing hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane gases that can lead to excessive flatulence, gassiness, bloating, abdominal distension, and pain. All that awful embarrassing stuff, basically! FODMAPs can also change the way your bowels work very quickly, so if your susceptible to changes in your bowel it’s quite likely you could experience constipation, diarrhoea, or a combination of both if you react to FODMAPs.

FODMAPs stands for:

  • Fermentable
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Disaccharides
  • Monosaccharides
  • And
  • Polyols

The science is quite complicated for most regular folk, so I’ll try and explain it in a way I wish I’d have been told at the start. (I’m sorry, it still involves a lot of necessary science speak!)

Fermentable is what we have just talked about – poorly absorbed sugars being fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. How quickly the molecules are fermented depends on the chain length – oligosaccharides and simple sugars are fermented very quickly when you compare them to fibre, which contains much longer chain molecules (polysaccharides).

Painted_Pony_BeanOligosaccharides are individual sugars that have joined together to make a chain. The two main FODMAP oligosaccharides are fructans (fructose sugars that join together to make a chain with glucose at the end), and galacto-oligosaccharides (also known as GOS) made up of galactose sugars joined together with fructose and glucose at the end. Some fructans you will probably recognise are onions, nectarines, garlic, wheat, rye, barley, chickpeas andcashews to name a few. And GOS? You’ll find GOS in beans (eg. kidney, baked, black, cannellini, pinto, lima, butter, soy, fava) as well as lentils and chickpeas.

Milk_-_olly_claxtonDisaccharides means two individual sugars that have joined together to make a double sugar. Only one disaccharide can act as a FODMAP in food and that is lactose. Lactose is made up of an individual glucose sugar joined to an individual galactose sugar. I’m sure many of you know about lactose – it occurs naturally in animal milks including milk from cows, sheep and goats. When lactose reaches the small intestine it is broken down into its component sugars by the enzyme lactase. Those of you with lactose intolerance may have taken lactase pills at one time or another – they’re not bad huh? Those pills are basically this enzyme which goes in there to help break down the lactose so it’s digestible.

Monosaccharides are individual sugars. The most important, problematic monosaccharaide that can act as a FODMAP is fructose which is also called ‘fruit sugar’. If you’re on the low-FODMAP diet you will probably find that you don’t need to avoid all fructose, it’s just those foods that contain more fructose than glucose (excess fructose foods) that need to be avoided. If a food has more glucose than fructose, or if fructose and glucose levels are even, then it is suitable on the low-FODMAP diet – however, only one piece of fruit should be consumed at a time. This area can get a bit confusing, so I’ll give you an example. Honey is a fructose heavy food. It has 40 grams of fructose per 100 grams, while it only has 30 grams of glucose per 100 grams. This means it is not suitable on the low-FODMAP diet. Kiwi fruit has 4 grams of both fructose and glucose per 100 grams, meaning it is suitable to include in a low-FODMAP diet. Other unsuitable foods under fructose are apples, boysenberries, cherries, pears, asparagus, sugar snap peas, agave nectar, high-fructose corn syrup(obviously!) and fruit juice concentrate.

Cherries_and_Crab_Apples,_After_G.G.

Polyols are often commonly referred to as sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol. The two polyols most commonly found in foods are sorbitol and mannitol. Polyols are found in some fruits and vegetables and are often used by food manufacturers as binding agents and artificial sweeteners (think sugar-free gum, mints and candy). High-polyol foods include apples, apricots, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, cauliflower, snow peas, plums, nectarines, prunes, watermelon and mushrooms.

Starting Point

Phew, so that’s the big heavy science stuff out of the way. I promise, the more you read it the more you’ll become familiar with the different strands of FODMAPs. It’s also important to emphasise that you don’t have to avoid all FODMAP foods. You can of course, if you choose to, but it’s not necessary. It’s taken me five years to fully realise that in order for the good of my health and my digestive system I have to adopt a full low-FODMAP diet. But for many years I just chose strands of the diet which seemed to work for me.

The process starts with an elimination diet which you follow for eight weeks. This means you avoid ALL FODMAPS for this time. If you find your symptoms have improved after this time, you can gradually reintroduce one FODMAP group at a time to see how you tolerate it. You may want to experiment with the different foods in each food group as you may not tolerate a food item in one FODMAP group, but you may be fine with low levels of another. See what works for you.

When I was reintroducing FODMAPS I started with fructans. I knew I was sensitive to fructans due to my issues with wheat, rye and barley. I started with apples, both cooked and raw, with disastrous results. I was so sick I didn’t try and reintroduce any other fructans for another week. Through my elimination and reintroduction I discovered apples, wheat and onions are complete no-go territories for me. Nectarines, however, I can have occasionally, and garlic I can tolerate in small doses. It’s the same in the fructose category – apples, pears, asparagus, watermelon, mango and cherries are all bad news for me but I can happily eat a good amount of bananas, pineapples, kiwi fruit, and oranges with no problem. It’s about finding what works for you and what doesn’t. That’s how I’ve operated over the past five years at least. Now I’m just eliminating all high-FODMAP foods to try and keep my gut smiling (to the extent that a gut can happily smile).

Are you vegetarian or vegan?

Don’t worry, you can all eat very well on a low-FODMAP diet, but it does require planning. Many plant-based proteins that vegetarians and vegans base their diet around contain FODMAPs (e.g.: whole wheat, barley, legumes, some nuts, and soy) therefore you may be at risk of not meeting your daily protein needs if you don’t tolerate these foods. You should be able to get most of your protein by consuming suitable nuts, seeds, tofu and tempeh (or other suitable soy products), cereal products based on high-protein, low-FODMAP grains and protein-enriched milk alternatives. If you don’t need to be gluten free (although I personally recommend everyone should live gluten free as I really don’t think gluten is good for anyone) then you can incorporate seitan into your diet as it’s made entirely of protein and has none of the problematic FODMAP carbohydrates.

A self-tailored diet

Remember, the low-FODMAP diet is highly individual. The whole point of FODMAPs is not to restrict your diet to be plain, boring and repetitive (except at the very start). The goal is to allow you to eat a balanced, healthy and interesting diet without having to deal with digestive distress! I should also point out, this diet is primarily used for those with gastrointestinal problems. It’s not necessarily recommended for those who are perfectly healthy and I’d check with your doctor or a nutritionist who is aware of the FODMAPs diet if you’re unsure it’s right for you.

I did ditch the low-FODMAP diet for a while when I went 100% paleo. Paleo, at its essence, didn’t work for me because many high-FODMAP foods are encouraged in paleo recipes. After getting incredibly sick, watching my leaky gut come back to a severe extent, and being miserable for a number of months, I backed off the paleo (and my overconsumption of nut based products that went hand in hand with my paleo diet) and reintroduced an entirely low-FODMAP diet. It’s taking some time, but I’m slowly getting back to good health, and I’m still loosely following the paleo diet. I still avoid most legumes and grains, but I’m not as strict with myself. You can easily incorporate paleo elements while eating a low-FODMAP diet. As with any diet, you just need to find what works for you.

Listen to your body. Your body constantly provides you with feedback so take a moment and observe. Monitor how you feel and take the cues from there. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of FODMAP in the near future. It’s making waves, you can be sure of that!

The following foods are high in FODMAPS and should be avoided

  • Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Asian pears, Blackberries, Boysenberries, Cherries, Figs, Mangoes, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Persimmons, Plums, Prunes, Tamarillos, Watermelon, White Peaches
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Garlic, Garlic Powder (in large amounts), Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions (red, white, yellow and onion powder), Scallions, Shallots, Snow Peas, Sugar Snap Peas
  • Cereals and Grains: Bran (from wheat, rye or barley), Bread (from wheat, rye or barley), Breakfast Cereals, Granolas and Muesli (from wheat, rye or barley), Crackers (from wheat or rye), Pasta, Couscous, Gnocchi (from wheat), Wheat Noodles (chow mein, udon)
  • Nuts: Pistachios, Cashews
  • Milk and Milk Products: Custard, Ice Cream, Milk (cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s including whole, low-fat, skin, evaporated and condensed), Pudding, Soft Cheeses, Yogurt (cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s)
  • Additives: Sweeteners and added fibre, fructo-oligosaccharides, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, inulin, isomalt, mannitol, polydextrose, sorbitol, xylitol
  • Drinks: Chamomile and Fennel Tea, Chicory-based Coffee Substitutes, Juices made from unsuitable fruits
  • Legumes: Beans (all kinds), Chickpeas, Lentils

The following foods are moderate in FODMAPS and therefore should be eaten in moderation

  • Fruits: Cherries, Longans, Lychee, Pomegranate, Rambutan
  • Milk and Milk Products: Cottage Cheese, Cream, Cream Cheese, Crème Fraiche, Mascarpone, Ricotta
  • Nuts: Almonds, Hazelnuts
  • Vegetables: Avocado, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Celery, Corn, Fennel, Green Peas, Savoy Cabbage, Sweet Potato

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