Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mercury in corn syrup...ewww

Here, have a link to this post about mercury in corn syrup from Scott over at the Modern Forager blog.

Here's the actual news article, for those wishing to skip our bloggy musings. :D

As if corn syrup wasn't bad enough already... It's like a horror movie!

*insert your best scream here*

Allergy vs. Intolerance...which is which?

This is in response to Eli, who left me a comment asking me to talk a little more about the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.

Apologies all around! I forget that while I was a Pecanbread moderator, I answered the same questions over and over...and over and over. LOL. Now that I have my blog, sometimes I am tired of explaining before I even start, so I skip over stuff. Thank you, Eli, for calling me on it.

What's a food allergy, anyway?

A true food allergy generally shows up on a skin test. This is the test that most people are familiar with. It tests for IgE, which is an immediate reaction. This is a true allergy -- generally the anaphylactic kind, but hives can also be a symptom of true allergy. I do not know of anyone who has been healed of a "true" food allergy on SCD.

The skin tests, of course, can be wrong. An acquaintance of mine had a life-threatening allergic reaction to shellfish, went to the emergency room, and tested negative to shellfish allergy right then and there. Do you know what the doctors did? They shrugged and told him to never eat shellfish again.

Here is a page that explains IgE testing. It is the most common because it identifies life-threatening allergies. The other forms of allergy testing are not generally covered by insurance.

In Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Elaine Gottschall urged people to stay away from foods to which they were truly allergic. Do not eat foods that you are allergic to.

So what's an intolerance?

The second type of allergy testing is IgG testing, which tests for antibodies that don't show up as a reaction on a IgE test. These are usually intolerances that can be healed (at least to some degree) while on SCD.

It also helps to mention that almost all of these tests suffer from a fair degree of inaccuracy -- you may show up as allergic to something and have no allergy to it at all, and vice versa.

Here's a page that explains the drawbacks to IgG testing:

Elaine didn't put much stock into allergy testing. She said at one point that some people who were following the diet and getting well decided to get allergy tests. They were horrified at the result. They were getting better, but the tests indicated they should avoid the foods that were making them well.

In the category of hugely important and catastrophic intolerances, I'd like to mention celiac disease. CD is a genetic intolerance to wheat, but it is not an allergy. So, gluten could be ripping your digestive system to shreds while the allergy test calmly insists that you have no problem with gluten at all.

So, I personally will have to define an intolerance as something that YOU have a reaction to -- something YOU can measure, not the lab. Who cares if the allergy test says beef is fine for you, if you get horrible stomach pains after eating it?

But my personal favorite way to distinguish between the two is with this little phrase:

If you're allergic to a food and you eat it, it could kill you. If you're intolerant to a food and you eat it, you'll just WANT to die.

Thank you for writing, Eli. I hope that helps. :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hidden food intolerances

One thing that a lot of people just starting on SCD have trouble with is understanding hidden food intolerances.

I am queen of hidden food intolerances. In fact, all of my intolerances have been hidden.

At one point in my life I tested mildly allergic to cats and dogs, and mildly allergic to milk.

In more recent years, I tested allergic to cats. That's it. :)

I have no allergies to any foods -- on paper, anyway.

And yet, I am severely intolerant to all grains, cow dairy, eggs, probably citrus to some degree, and probably feedlot beef.

You can be intolerant to a food without being allergic.

How do I know this? How is this possible?

See, when you eat foods over a long period of time that your body can't really handle, your body tries to tell you. Sometimes there's a real allergy that can show up on a test somewhere, but often it just doesn't.

In some people, these intolerance reactions balance out -- if one food causes diarrhea and one causes constipation, then it can kind of balance out so you don't notice. Your body also may dial back your immune response so it doesn't keep going crazy over the exposure.

Imagine your body is a glass of water. Now imagine that each food intolerance is a dark dark drop of food coloring. Let's say each intolerance is a different color. You end up with a muddy glass of water with five, six, ten drops in there. In that kind of environment, another drop of something here or there isn't going to be noticeable.

Now, let's say you go on an elimination diet. You eliminate everything possibly problematic. Your glass of water is crystal clear.

I bet you'll notice as soon as one of those drops of food coloring hits this time, won't you?

I might have celiac disease, which is a genetic inability to digest gluten. I might not. It's hard to say. In order to be tested, I'd have to start eating gluten again. Thanks, but I'll pass.

I myself never had any intestinal reactions to food until I went on the SCD. I was diagnosed with RA long before I knew I had problems with foods. About a year in, I discovered that gluten put me into an instant flare. That was the first sign.

Another thing I noticed was that I was having some success treating my RA with sulfasalazine. It's a medication used to treat RA, but it's also used to treat colitis and Crohn's disease. This put up a red flag in my mind. I found some relief by cutting out gluten and dairy, and then I found even more relief on the Paleo diet. But something was missing, and I knew I was terribly addicted to sugar. I finally cut sugar out completely, and that was when I found the SCD, while in a horrible die-off phase from the sugar withdrawal.

After I went on SCD, more food reactions became noticeable. Some people misinterpret this and think SCD "caused" extra food allergies. Not necessarily -- your body might just not have been able to tell you before.

About three months after I'd been on SCD, I wasn't sure the diet was actually working. So far, I hadn't noticed any "weird" reactions, certainly nothing like others I'd read about had been experiencing.

Well, I decided one morning to try almond butter. I had a spoonful in the morning at work.

Less than 30 minutes later, I was running for the bathroom!

Yeah, almond butter didn't agree with me at ALL. I was totally amazed. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. Ever!

Later, I had more signs -- when I overdid yogurt and when I ate tomatoes are two other notable ones.

My son (who has high functioning autism) has completely different reactions. He'll have gastrointestinal signs, but also behavioral signs. Some foods ONLY cause behavioral reactions. The only way to know for sure was to test each one carefully.

This is why I think SCD is a wonderful diet -- it's completely customized to YOU through the Pecanbread protocol.

Only an elimination diet will be able to tell you which foods you can tolerate.

The Pecanbread web site can provide that. On the site, there are "stages" to help you. You start with easy to digest foods, and you work your way up to harder foods, waiting 2-4 days between each addition. The stages are only a guide -- you may find that some stage one foods don't agree with you, but the stage two foods are fine. That's OK. They're just there to give you some guidance and a starting point.

You do this at your own pace, monitoring your own reactions. Obviously, don't eat anything you have a true allergy to, even if it is SCD legal.

I think many people with autoimmune diseases have undiagnosed intolerances. People with chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, autism, colitis, Crohn's, and even people with ADD/ADHD have benefited from this diet -- it's sort of a step further than the Paleo diet.

There are many Pecanbread members who have suffered from at least one of the listed ailments -- people who have found an improved level of functioning with SCD. And they're there to help you, too.

Good luck and good eating!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Making the time to cook

There was a bit of a kerfuffle around the Internets regarding Mark Bittman's Article, Fresh Start for a New Year? Let's Begin in the Kitchen. If you look at the comments, the recommendations were greeted by many readers with outright hostility.

Of course, if you're on the SCD, you're used to doing this sort of stuff. Cooking foods from scratch is no big deal anymore.

But I gotta say that the comments do reflect how many people who are new to SCD feel -- that the SCD is IMPOSSIBLE.

It's not impossible. But it does require a reshuffling of priorities.

You think you've got no time?

Are you sure about that?

I will be the first to tell you that I am a very busy person. I have a full time job. My husband and I work on a side business at least two nights out of the week. I put out a newsletter every two months for a nonprofit organization. I write monthly scripts for a podcasting company. I track new releases for that same podcasting company as an associate producer. I have moderately active rheumatoid arthritis.

And I cook pretty much every last thing my son and I eat from scratch.

By the way, I also found time to watch American Idol last night. I'm also reading Macbeth.

Lest you think I have no free time, I generally enjoy at least two evenings a week of relaxation, and the weekends are also fairly low key (I do spend at least half of one day shopping and cooking).

So how do I do it?


If you found the time to watch American Idol last night, you have the time to do the SCD diet. It's not impossible, but it is different.

What you can't do ... is expect your life to be the same.

See, you can't walk into your house at 4 p.m. with no plan (or ingredients) for dinner at 6 p.m. It just doesn't work like that. There will be no tearing open a box of this or a packet of that. There is no going out to dinner or ordering a pizza. These are not options for those of us on SCD.

You may find that SCDers have NO PITY for those of you who do not know how to plan your meals ahead of time. LOL. The good thing is, you can learn!

On SCD, you have to think ahead and cook ahead. But once you have a rhythm, you'll be absolutely fine.

Personally, I do not know exactly what I am having for dinner tonight, but I have plenty from which to choose. I have SCD-legal canned salmon and tuna in the pantry, frozen chicken, beef patties and fish in the freezer, and cooked veggies in the refrigerator (and more frozen ones in the freezer). I've got cooked chicken in the fridge for my son's dinner, because I made two large pans of chicken breasts at one time so there would be food for days. I've shredded it into a number of different concoctions with spices and oil. Today I had chicken with applesauce for my own lunch.

I made almond butter brownies over the weekend and hard boiled some eggs. Those are for my son's lunch and are all partitioned out into baggies for that purpose. I also cooked fresh pineapple wedges for my son a day or so ago. They'll be good for the week in a large Ziplock bag.

Every few days I walk two or three blocks down to the local grocery store to pick up legal bacon or other meats, onions, whatever fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables I plan to eat for the next few days. Once a week I shop at Costco. Yes, you heard that right. There are three of us in our house, and we spend the bulk of our food dollars at Costco. Buying in bulk makes a huge difference for us price-wise. We pick up legal chicken, beef, avocados, pineapple, eggs, and carrots at minimum every week, and we go through it all.

I like to shop sales at the local grocery store -- in fact, I got Cornish game hens for 99 cents a pound last week. I roasted them in the oven and picked at them for a few days, because I cooked two at a time.

If there's something I need to make for the next day, I usually just make it while my son eats his dinner, or just before I start work for the evening on my other projects.

So. I hope that is somewhat inspiring to you. You can do it, because I am doing it. I don't exactly know HOW I am doing it, but I know that I am. LOL.

I wish you luck and courage in your SCD journey!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Scientific method, and vitamin D

Happy new year! I've got a couple of interesting links for you that I wanted to share.

Because I tend to be a sort of armchair expert on a variety of dietary (and other) subjects, I happen to get a lot of e-mails from my family and friends referencing one thing or another, basically asking, "Is this true?"

I've got enough of those saved up to write a book on it. Hey, there's an idea.

But I digress.

On Dr. Michael R. Eades' blog, he picks apart the whole correlation versus causation thing. Hallelujah. A doctor who understands the scientific method. What won't they think of next? This article should be required reading for just about everybody.

Next! I found this great article on Influenza and Vitamin D from the Free the Animal blog. I rarely e-mail links to my family and friends, but this one I sent!

And I've got some more Vitamin D information from the Conditioning Research blog.

All fascinating stuff, and worth your time to look over. Enjoy, and keep taking that cod liver oil!

Yes, yes, I'm aware of the new controversy regarding cod liver oil. Go read here. It should help.