Swedish Egg

Swedish Egg

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hot Salad Bar

 


Unless you prepare it yourself, you can never be sure if a meal is totally symptom safe. And then there's life in the real world, where restaurants exist.

I've been on this journey long enough to feel comfortable taking a few risks with eating out. In general, I find salad bars and hot bars a pretty good bet.

Today's lunch-on-the-go features sauteed vegetables, chicken salad and a ripe avocado-tomato medley. Besides needing to pick out the sautéed onions, the selection was near perfect. Thank you Maple Farms in Hadley, MA. It was delicious!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fiber & Constipation: The Dirty Truth?

Since 19th century health nut Sylvester Graham (the “prophet of bran bread”) began espousing the nutritional and moral superiority of whole vs refined grains, Fiber has assumed a central role in medical lore as essential for healthy digestion and elimination.

Today, whenever issues of constipation come up, one of the first questions you get asked is "Are you eating enough fiber?" Ironically, often, the answer is "Yes!" Many people suffering from irregularity eat extremely high fiber diets. (As a former raw foodist, I myself was an excellent example of this unfortunate phenomenon.) In such cases, adding more fiber is rarely a solution. On the contrary, experience leads many people with bloating symptoms to develop a near mortal fear of fiber (think of the incredible expanding psyllium seed, and other "bulking" agents that threaten to blow your intestines up to monstrous proportions).

At any rate, in response to anecdotal evidence challenging the value of fiber for bowel health, investigators have begun asking: What if fiber isn't the constipation cure-all it's promoted to be? Research designed to answer this question, ended up with remarkable results, as evidenced by the following title:

Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms.
[Ho K-S, et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Sep 7; 18(33): 4593–4596]

Here's the scoop on what went down.

Sixty-three constipated adults between the ages of 20 and 80 (median age 47) were enrolled in the study referenced above. All subjects went on a 2-week fiber-free diet. Afterwards, if they had found the fiberless plan to be beneficial in terms of constipation relief (which all of them did), they were asked to remain on as low a fiber diet as possible.

Six months later, a follow-up was performed. 41 of the patients had remained on a no fiber diet, 16 on a reduced fiber diet, and 6 had resumed their high fiber diet for religious or personal reasons. And guess what? Those in the first two groups reported significant improvement in their symptoms, while the few who went back to a high fiber diet remained as constipated as ever.
A classic "zero-fiber" meal: Roast Chicken

Patients on the zero fiber diet got the best results, improving from an average of 3.75 days between bowel movements (sound familiar?) to just 1 day (the dream!) Results for the 16 low-fiber dieters were mixed, but most people in that group also started having daily poops.

To read the entire study, click here. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the paper:

"This study has confirmed that the previous strongly-held belief that the application of dietary fiber to help constipation is but a myth."

"Constipation is often mistaken by the layman as the state of not passing stool, with the subsequent false notion that making more feces will allow easier defecation. In truth, constipation refers to the difficulty in evacuating a rectum packed with feces, and easier defecation cannot possibly be affected by increasing dietary fiber which increases bulky feces."

"It is well known that increasing dietary fiber increases fecal bulk and volume. Therefore in patients where there is already difficulty in expelling large fecal boluses through the anal sphincter, it is illogical to actually expect that bigger or more feces will ameliorate this problem. More and bulkier fecal matter can only aggravate the difficulty by making the stools even bigger and bulkier. Several reviews and a meta-analysis had already shown that dietary fiber does not improve constipation in patients with irritable bowel diseases."

"The role of dietary fiber in constipation is analogous to cars in traffic congestion. The only way to alleviate slow traffic would be to decrease the number of cars and to evacuate the remaining cars quickly. Should we add more cars, the congestion would only be worsened. Similarly, in patients with idiopathic constipation and a colon packed with feces, reduction in dietary fiber would reduce fecal bulk and volume and make evacuation of the smaller and thinner feces easier. Adding dietary fiber would only add to the bulk and volume and thus make evacuation even more difficult."
  
All this is GREAT news for those of us C types following a SIBO-safe diet! (Since fiber is the Great Fermenter, there is very little of it in a good SIBO protocol.) However, everyone has a different body, and a different response to food. I get terrible bloating from whole grains, but do find that a little "bulk" can sometimes push a stool through. However, I always try to keep it in the realm of the less-fermentable starchy vegetables (carrots, winter squash), sometimes Jasmine rice, and occasionally, Lundberg rice cakes.

What's your experience been with fiber and constipation. I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!


NOTE: Thanks to Dr. Norm Robillard for pointing me in the direction of this groundbreaking study. To learn about Dr. Robillard's work, visit his digestivehealthinstitute.com.

 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ginger Tea

A nice cup of freshly brewed ginger tea.

If you suffer from digestive problems like SIBO or IBS, you really must learn how to make ginger tea, one of the kindest drinks ever invented to help calm, warm and comfort your tummy.

Ginger is a first class anti-inflammatory, so it helps to soothe irritated tissues in the intestines and throughout the body. Ginger also has warming and stimulating properties. Ginger tea is well known to aid a sluggish digestive system, and also is effective for reducing nausea due to pregnancy, motion sickness and other causes.

Nothing could be easier than making ginger tea from freshly grated ginger root. Simply use one teaspoon of ginger root (grated or minced) per cup of water, and follow either of the two methods outlined below. A thumb-sized chunk makes 2-3 cups.

A thumb-sized chunk makes about 3 cups of tea.
It's probably a good idea to peel off the ginger skin before grating. If you don't have time, at least scrub the piece you are using to remove traces of outer contaminants. Peeling is essential if you are using conventionally grown ginger, but even organic ginger root should be scrubbed clean. Always discard moldy bits first.

Use a box grater for speed, and don't mind those fibers.
   
*Remember to use approximately one teaspoon grated ginger per cup of water.* That's basically all you need to memorize, and you've got this recipe dialed in.

Quick Method: Place grated ginger in a mug, mason jar or teapot. Pour boiling water on top. Steep 5-10 minutes, strain and drink. The longer it steeps, the stronger the tea.  

Slow Method: Place grated, minced or thinly sliced ginger in a pan, add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Depending upon how long it steeps or simmers, you often can get a second batch of tea out of previously used, once-steeped ginger root. I've also been known to add this soggy ginger to soups, smoothies and marinades, for a little extra zing. And because waste not, want not.

Enjoy ginger tea plain, or with a squeeze of lemon. If desired, you can also sweeten it with a SIBO-safe sweetener, such as stevia, Lakanto or a touch of raw honey (a touch means 1/2 teaspoon). Just be careful on the honey--not the best choice during a flare, or during early stages of the SexySibo diet, due to high content of fermentable fructose. That being said, honey-lemon-ginger is an outrageously satisfying drink and perfect for colds and sore throats, too.

Note: It might seem more convenient to brew ginger tea using pre-made tea bags, but besides this beverage neither tasting as spicy nor having equal medicinal value as fresh ginger root tea, consider this.

A 2010 study reported that powdered ginger may be "naturally contaminated' with several mycotoxins, aflatoxins and something called ochratoxin A. (I never heard of that one before, either.)

Researchers steeped tea bags containing powdered ginger in hot or boiling water, and analyzed the resulting tea for contaminants. They found that up to 40% of the toxins present in the powdered ginger migrated into the tea, especially the aflatoxins and ochratoxin A. The most toxins ended up in the tea made with boiling vs lukewarm water, contradicting my intuitive feeling that because boiling water kills germs, tea made with boiling water must be safer.

I'm not suggesting that all powdered ginger and ginger tea bags are contaminated with toxins, but after reading that study, I'm sticking with fresh. Fresh ginger is by no means immune to contamination, but when you start with an actual root, you can see what you're working with. I prefer organically grown ginger that is firm to the touch, with a taut skin. Store it loose or in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Ginger that appears soft or moldy, with brown or blue spots, should be discarded.


REFERENCE

Iha MH and Trucksess MW.
Aflatoxins and ochratoxin A in tea prepared from naturally contaminated powdered ginger.
Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2010 Aug;27(8):1142-7.