Swedish Egg

Swedish Egg

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pink Salted Coconut Bliss Bites (Raw, Paleo, Gluten-Free, low-FODMAPs, SIBO-safe)

If you are on a strict SIBO-safe diet and can tolerate small servings of nuts and seeds, you are guaranteed to ADORE (if not come to worship) these chewy little Coconut Bliss Bites!

Sexy Sibo Pink Salted Coconut Bliss Bites are a naturally gluten-free, unbaked raw dessert that I created out of desperation and inspiration (!) using a variety of SIBO-safe nuts and seeds, a drizzle of raw honey to sweeten and my beloved Himalayan pink salt to add the flavor complexity that takes them over the top. Raw shredded coconut plus a touch of coconut oil make these bites divinely smooth and chewy at the same time while protecting your belly with healthy, antimicrobial coconut fatty acids.

For those who don't know, Himalayan pink salt is high in minerals, does not come from polluted oceans like sea salt (my previously preferred crystal sodium source) and tastes better than any other salt in the world, imho, which is why it's the only salt I use. (Click here to read all about it!)

And now...the recipe!

Pink Salted Coconut Bliss Bites


1 cup raw walnuts
¼ cup raw almonds
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup almond flour
½ cup (+ 4 Tbs) shredded coconut
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
4 Tbs coconut oil
2 Tbs raw honey (or maple syrup*)
2 tsp vanilla extract

*If honey is out for you, use maple syrup instead—just increase the almond flour by a couple tablespoons to make up for the lower viscosity of maple syrup. Also, please see my note below, after the recipe, on the Honey vs Maple Syrup controversy for SIBO peeps. 


Pulse together nuts and sunflower seeds until chopped very small, but with some bigger pieces here and there. 

Add in almond flour, 1/2 cup shredded coconut and pink salt. Pulse to combine. Add in coconut oil, honey or maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Pulse until well combined. (If using maple syrup, add 1 or 2 Tbs more almond flour to stiffen dough.)

Transfer mixture to 8x8 Pyrex baking dish and press flat to fill dish. Sprinkle top with remaining 4 Tbs shredded coconut. Shake pan side to side to get the coconut evenly distributed, then press it gently into surface using the back of a spoon or spatula.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. Slice into 1-inch squares to make 64 Bliss Bites, or shape as desired. Seal in plastic or airtight container and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy right out of the fridge or warm them up to room temperature before eating for a softer, more blissful bite.

Don't they look heavenly?

Sexy Sibo Pink Salted Coconut Bliss Bites

Honey vs Maple Syrup: Which Natural Sweetener is Safe for SIBO?

There is no consensus on whether honey, maple syrup, both, or neither are SIBO-safe sweeteners.

Here's the scoop: Honey, which is high in fructose, a disaccharide, is SCD and GAPS legal but not allowed on FODMAPs. (The D in FODMAPs stands for Disaccharides.)

Maple syrup, which is high polysaccharides, is low-FODMAPs but not allowed on GAPS or SCD, both of which eliminate all the longer-chain sugars.

Are you confused yet?

Bottom line: sweeteners are a highly individual food category for SIBO peeps. To find out which (if any) sweetener works for you, you will need to a) tune in to your intuition, and b) test each one on yourself—if and when you feel ready, separately and in small doses.

Personally, I am able to use raw honey (from clover or other flowers) every day and tolerate it well, taken in small, one-teaspoon servings. I tried maple syrup recently and wasn't sure if it was that or the yogurt I mixed it with that made me bloat, but bloat I did. So I'll have to retest maple syrup all by itself, alone, another time. For now, I am happy with honey. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Unstuffed Peppers with Ground Beef & Spinach

Enjoy this savory dish at any meal. One pan cooking at its finest! Carrots and red bell peppers make it sweet, herbs make it fragrant. FODMAPS-friendly, SIBO safe.

Unstuffed Peppers with Ground Beef & Spinach

1 tsp coconut oil
1 small carrot, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded 
   and diced
½ pound grass-fed ground beef
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
pink salt & black pepper to taste
2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1/4 avocado, diced (optional)

In a cast iron frying pan, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add beef and brown for 1 minute. Add red bell peppers and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Add chopped spinach, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until spinach wilts, about 1 minute. When beef is no longer pink, mix in fresh chopped parsley and avocado (if using). Makes 2 tasty servings.

Bonus Tip
If you happen to have any pre-cooked winter squash or pumpkin hanging around, try stirring in a few tablespoons when you add the spinach—it provides a delightful sweet taste and smooth-texture note!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hydration practice: For motility and emotional well-being.

After years of chronically dehydrating myself, I recently started drinking a quart of water first thing in the morning. I fill a 1QT mason jar at bedtime and chug-a-lug in the AM. 

It was hard at first but I'm starting to crave it. Sometimes I add fresh lemon juice for taste, or a slice of lime or lemon to make it pretty. Pretty counts.

Water is so important to just about every aspect of health, including motility. After all: Water flows. It’s silly to expect your bowels to operate in a regular flow pattern if they are lacking water. 

Plus, the whole job of the large intestine is to pull water (and the nutrients it contains) out of the stool prior to elimination. 

Imagine if the stool is low in water to begin with? The colon just might want to hold on to that stool for as long as possible, straining to extract every last drop.

“Hold on” is the operative phrase in the previous sentence. And it’s not just about poop. Holding on—to people, objects, feelings, the past—is common in people with C. There is a huge emotional component to constipation that needs to be addressed if motility is to improve. One way to do this, interestingly, is by drinking more water.

This was explained to me by a wise young woman named Chaya Leia Aronson. Chaya is a registered nurse, Reiki practitioner and certified practitioner/teacher of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy. I went to see her for an abdominal massage two weeks ago (my first time ever) and again, yesterday. (Maya Abdominal Massage, by the way, is amazing. If you’ve got belly issues, I highly recommend it.)

At our initial meeting, Chaya noted from my health questionnaire that I don’t take in a lot of H2O. That’s for damn sure. For decades, it’s been no secret that “I need to drink more water.” Many of my clients are in the same boat (water, water everywhere…) and I’ve successfully counseled them on improving their hydration status. But when it came to following my own advice, not so much. 

Here’s a list of my main excuses:

•I don’t like the taste of plain water.

•I’m never thirsty.

•I don’t drink with meals because it dilutes the digestive juices.

•I’d rather drink tea.

•Herbal tea counts.

That kind of thinking kept me stuck in a chronic state of dehydration for most of my life...until something Chaya said struck a deep and resonant chord in me. She said that in her experience, she has observed that women who don’t drink enough water often are anxious, and often have a hard time allowing themselves to experience their emotions.


She also said that the choice to drink water—the very act of drinking it—is a way of nourishing yourself and, in particular, your emotional self. As a symbol (in dreams, for example) water represents feelings. The idea that drinking water equals giving yourself permission to feel your feelings, well, that’s a million dollar idea, baby. That’s a key.

How many adults with IBS-C suffered trauma of some kind in childhood, and have been stuffing or suppressing those emotions ever since? Possibly most, according to the research. (To read more about it, try: Early life risk factors that contribute to irritable bowel syndrome in adults: a systematic review.)

Anyway, sitting there in Chaya’s warmly lit office as we spoke about water and feelings, I realized that what she was saying made total sense. And I knew I was ready.

I listened carefully as she introduced the concept of Hydration Practice. Similar to yoga practice or meditation practice, hydration practice means consciously committing to nourishing yourself with water. Beautiful idea!

The goal is to drink 2 – 3 quarts of water per day. Chaya said I could start with just two (phew!) and suggested I get the first quart into me first thing in the morning, via a process she calls “front-loading”. Before tea, before food: 1QT of water. Just glug it down. And then after lunch, in the afternoon: Quart number two.

So I started. I bought a nice glass 1-liter pitcher; I bought a lemon. I bought a pretty green glass to drink out of at work. 

By now, I’ve been doing hydration practice for two weeks and the weird thing is, I really like it! At first my tummy felt uncomfortably full from the morning quart, but now, it doesn’t. My famous craving for tea is less. My dry skin looks plumper and pinker. And my motility…

Well, the motility is a work in progress. Adding two quarts of water a day has not produced an overnight miracle. But I expected a cumulative effect. 

It’s going to take some time for my formerly perma-shriveled, water-starved cells to get used to the fact that they don’t have to conserve every microscopic particle of H2O that comes their way. There’ll be more where that came from.

The drought is over. It’s a miracle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My lactulose breath test.

I was on the fence about doing a lactulose breath test. 

There were a few reasons for the ambivalence. 

First, based on my symptoms, I was pretty sure I had SIBO anyway. The GI doc I'd seen had warned me the test was really expensive ($375 if I did it through her with Commonwealth Labs). She also said she was ready to treat me without testing and even gave me a prescription for Rifaxamin before I left her office. 

Considering her opinion, and knowing that one accepted way of diagnosing SIBO is retrospectively—in other words: if symptoms resolve on treatment, you have SIBO—why spend the extra dough on testing?

The second reason for my hesitation was that some controlled studies (comparing the results of people with and without IBS) have cast doubt on the validity of the lactulose breath test itself. There may be a high rate of "false positives" in IBS-free people. This makes some experts think the lactulose test may be more useful for ruling out SIBO (when a negative result is found) rather than for diagnosing it from a positive result. So again, why should I bother?

Third, the test takes 2 or 3 hours to do at home and requires a restrictive prep. Part of the prep is to not take any antibiotics (including herbal), probiotics or laxatives for TWO WEEKS prior to testing. WHAT? Magnesium and herbal laxatives help make my life possible!

And there was the restrictive prep diet: your choice of eggs, chicken, fish, white rice (unless you are grain-free) and white bread (unless you are gluten free) the day before you test. That's it. A little salt and pepper is permitted, but no honey, sugar, dairy, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, etc. Nada. Plus you have to fast on water for the final 12 hours preceding the test.

It was a lot to wrap my mind around, but in the end, I decided to do the test anyway, albeit through a different lab and with a different doctor who only charged me $130 (that's more like it).

Why did I make this decision? Because inquiring minds want to know! I wanted that formal diagnosis. If the test came out positive, it would give me a baseline, too. And there's nothing like a positive test to confirm a diagnosis and help keep the patient on track.

I took the test the second week in February, sent it in to Genova Diagnostics and the results came back on the 17th. Positive. It was official. I have SIBO.

These are my results. The graphs show my baseline breath levels of hydrogen and methane gasses before drinking a lactulose solution, and my production of these gases over the 2-hour post-imbibing period. In the case of a positive test (which this is) the type of gas produced indicates which type of microbe is overpopulating the small intestine.

As suspected, I am a methane producer. IBS-C people usually are. (My proud motto"My farts don't smell"was another tipoff, since methane, as I recently learned, is an odorless gas.

As you can see, I started out with high baseline levels of methane. These levels decreased initially, but when the lactulose hit my distal ("far away") ileum, they shot up again. Hydrogen levels shot up at that point, too. This indicates the presence of both methane-producing and hydrogen-producing microbes, although the methanogens are prominent.

At my house, everybody eats.

I found it a bit confusing why at first, my breath gas levels went down but apparently that is not uncommon, according to this excellent article from Allison Siebecker (my hero) and her research partner Steven Sandberg-Lewis, which helped me make sense of the results:

Anyway, considering that I began with elevated baseline levels, the reported "mild increase" of 14 points suggests I have a mild-to-moderate case of SIBO.

It was good to have confirmation. A little weird (bacteria are taking over my body!) but good. I suppose I could feel invaded, but I decided instead to position myself as a wonderful host. The hostess with the mostest, you could say.

Nevertheless, I've had it with these guests. Hence I came up with a plan: Herbal antibiotics, biofilm disruptors, digestive support and motility support (a key component). At this writing, I am, in fact, nearing the end of a 30-day protocol that I will share in forthcoming posts. So stay tuned. And leave a comment below if you're thinking about doing lactulose testing, or have any questions. I'd love to hear from you.

xo Diana


Monday, March 16, 2015

Your SIBO safe foods list: Trust your gut.

Long before I ever heard of SIBO, I knew I had "digestive problems". Officially, I called it IBS-C.

For those who don’t know, IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is a functional bowel disorder, meaning it has no known apparent physical cause. People with IBS suffer from gastrointestinal pain, gas and bloating, and exhibit altered bowel habits of different types. IBS-C means you exhibit Constipation, everybody’s favorite sexy word. There’s also IBS-D for Diarrhea, another really sexy situation. And IBS-M for Mixed, an awesome combo of C and D. (IBS-M is also known as IBS-A, for Alternating. The naming experts haven’t decided which they like best, so you might see either in print.)

Anyway, I've suffered from IBS-C since I was a young woman. Sometimes it’s gotten better, sometimes worse. I’ve dealt with it in different ways, applying all my knowledge as a lifelong natural foods devotee and alternative health seeker, an armchair (lay) herbalist and, finally, after earning a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition in 2002, a bonafide clinical nutritionist.

My gut got really bad in the spring of 2013. I was constantly bloated, my pants didn't fit, I felt like I couldn't eat anything. So one morning, while writing about all this in my journal, I decided to put on my Tireless Investigator hat and try to figure it out.

What I did was to think about different foods and imagine how they felt in my belly when I ate them. I'm a sensitive person, highly empathic. I've known for a long time that even just by holding a food in my hands, say, a bag of Red Hot Blues organic corn chips (cue salivary glands) I can sense how it will feel in my body, which is often: not so great.

So, sitting there that day, in the throes of an IBS flare, I tuned into myself and imagined different foods—how they looked, smelled, tasted. Some food thoughts made my innards clench. A very few caused no response at all, or an actual sense of comfort. Our mind-body connection is very strong. Even in response to a thought, the body knows.

After imagining lots of different foods in my mind, I came up with a short list of foods that I knew I could eat without causing myself more pain. Foods that wouldn't make me bloat or feel like I had a bunch of sour puke rotting in my gut all day long.

The short list looked like this:

three safest foods
spinach • broth • eggs

It's a very short list, true. But I knew it was super safe. I could eat anything on this list and not feel sick! Hope glimmered. It was a beginning.

From spinach with eggs poached in broth I spread out. Here's my expanded list from that same day:

my safe foods

cooked vegetables
green beans

salmon, shrimp, fish
raw goat cheese

fermented foods
carrot pickles
water kefir
24-hour yogurt

raw f & v
fresh ripe tomatoes
sweet red peppers
snow peas
carrots, carrot juice
green herbs

safe treats
coconut butter
cacao nibs
very dark chocolate

One problem I had with my list was the protein section. Back when I was doing this tuning-in exercise in early 2013, I was a strict vegetarian. Had been for a full year. In fact, I was coming off of several years of eating a plant-based, pescatarian (i.e. vegetarian + fish) diet and for much of that time, a high raw food diet with plenty of green smoothies, salads, raw vegetable juices, nuts, seeds and dehydrated delicacies.

I was very reluctant to put chicken on the list. Even the fish and shrimp was a concession. But I could tell, in my gut, that chicken would digest. It was a sad moment for me. I would really rather not eat animals. This is still true. It was a big coming to terms.

I realize now that because of my particular IBS-C situation (think slow transit time and a redundant colon) eating so much fiber and complex carbohydrates was a bad idea. Fiber and complex carbs, as well as fructose and other simple sugars, are highly FERMENTABLE. Inside your warm, dark, juicy intestines these carbohydrates get digested by bacteria that make GAS.

Most of these bacteria are supposed to just hang out in your large intestine where they belong. In fact, we need carb-fermenting bacteria in our large intestines, so much so that in the colon, these little guys are even affectionately known as friendly flora

But after a while, if the large intestines don't empty out regularly, the semi-digested foodstuff in your small intestines backs up. And when those fun-loving, friendly colonic bacteria sneak on up the road to party in the small intestine, whooping it up and replicating themselves into millions of bacteria babies, it’s a bad situation. Then you’ve got SIBO.

The only way to get those microbes out of there is to kill them off, either by drugging them (with antibiotic herbs or drugs) and/or by starving them. Which brings me back to my safe food list, and another really interesting thing.

Soon after I came up with the above list (which, by the way, has been added to, subtracted from and refined over time since I created it in 2013) I started doing a bunch of research online. First I found out about FODMAPS: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, i.e. gas-producing sugars and starches. Then I learned more about GAPS (and it's older cousin SCD, which I'd heard of before but mistakenly thought was just for celiac disease). When I put the two diets together, low-FODMAPS+GAPS, there was my list!

I knew I was on to something.

Right around that time, an article came out in the Townsend Letter that recommended the same crossover diet for treating SIBO: a low-FODMAPS, grain-free, broth-based GAPS/SCD-style program. I was so excited when I found that article, written by naturopathic doctors Alison Siebecker and Steven Sandberg-Lewis.

The Siebecker-Sandberg-Lewis article confirmed that people with my kind of gastrointestinal symptoms seem to be okay eating only the foods that are allowed on both diets (low-FODMAPS and GAPS/SCD), because these foods don’t feed the bacterial overgrowth. In fact, eating this diet can even heal the problem, provided the underlying cause (in my case, C) is also addressed.

Since those days, more research has been done on SIBO, more people are writing about it and more food lists and dietary interventions have been proposed. Dr. Siebecker, for instance, has created a detailed, color coded downloadable list that is fabulous. (Click on the “learn” tab at the top of this blog for link.)

It’s very helpful to read other people's legal/illegal food lists but if you have IBS or SIBO, I strongly encourage you to do what I did: 

Sit quietly with yourself. Access your inner wisdom. Honor your intuition. And make your own list.

In other words: Trust your gut.

There might be some foods on someone else's list that won't agree with you. Others that are missing from their list that don’t bother you at all. The bottom line is this: Only you can know what your own personal safe foods are.

Your short list of truly safe foods, the ones you’ll go to during a flare, is likely very short. Any expanded lists will only be accurate sometimes, depending on whether or not you are flaring, and to what degree. But the short list - that's your go-to. And boy is it nice to have a safe place to rest!

For me, a medium poached egg, cooked in broth, on a soft green bed of wilted spinach is calm belly heaven. What’s your pleasure?

Saturday, March 14, 2015


If you are reading this, it's probably because you—or someone you know—has SIBO.

Me, too. And I'm a nutritionist. Also a science geek. I love to read studies and write about them. I'm trying to figure this SIBO thing out.

I hope what I learn, and what I share here will be of service to you.

The name of this site is Sexy Sibo because hey—what's not sexy about burping, bloating, poop and farts? Not a whole lot! Are you with me?

I started this blog on a different platform called WIX (click here to see) and am moving it over to blogspot now, bit by bit. Please be patient and enjoy whatever is on here at the moment. Leave a comment or email me and I'll write back as soon as I can. Promise.

It's great to meet you!