Friday, February 26, 2016

The GAPS diet -- two months in

I have decided that today is officially my last day on the GAPS Intro diet.  Having now completed all six stages, I have a very definite idea of what works and what doesn't and what food intolerance feels like for me.

Pinpointing the exact culprit of an intolerance episode isn't always so easy, as the symptoms tend to manifest themselves anywhere from 24-72 hours after the fact.  Having the diary has helped immensely, but sometimes it seems to me that there could be one or more foods causing any given intolerance episode. So, it has become a matter of repeated trial and error.

I am using the diary to identify potential food candidates for repeat trial. For example, I am currently suspecting the chickpea hummus I had a couple of weeks ago as well as the canned strawberries I had on my yogourt for breakfast a few days ago.  I will try each of these foods again, but in isolation making sure the rest of my diet is "safe" for a few days following the trial so if I experience intolerance symptoms during that period, I will be fairly confident that the trial food is the culprit.

So far, I have identified raw and cooked cabbage and black or green tea as definite irritants and now potentially strawberries and chickpeas.  "Try it and see" has become my motto and as of tomorrow I will be following the full GAPS diet while trying various foods for intolerance reactions.  I will not be reporting daily in the diary as I have been during the Intro diet, rather I will add an entry only to report the trial results of a new food and/or a significant change in my weight.

I have already tried potatoes, grains (in the form of bread and English muffins) and dairy in small amounts and I am greatly encouraged by the lack of reaction so far.  I will slowly increase my intake until I am certain that I am not gluten and/or dairy intolerant.  As mentioned above, strawberries and chickpeas will be individually tested again and monitored for reaction and eventually I will add other legumes in small amounts, again individually and monitored for reaction. These are all forbidden foods on the GAPS diet, but having tried most of them already, I am looking forward to adding as many of them as possible back into my diet.

Overall, I would say it has been a significant adjustment to my cooking and eating habits, but it has all been for the good.  I am feeling much better now than I was at New Year's, the constant sluggish, bloated, inflamed feeling has disappeared, my skin and "foggy-headedness" have improved considerably and I've lost 15 pounds!

I hope to be back to a new-and-improved version of my former diet within a few months and with luck and a little willpower, I would like to lose another 15 pounds.  Time will tell, but I hope you'll stay with me and see what happens!


Saturday, February 20, 2016

When life gives you sauerkraut, make a Reuben sandwich!

One of the wonder foods of the GAPS diet is sauerkraut and in the early stages you are supposed to have a teaspoon of the sauerkraut juice once a day to give yourself a probiotic boost. So, before I started the first stage of the introduction diet, I dutifully made a batch of home-fermented sauerkraut.  Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of juice created in the process, so I made a second batch and then a third. I never did get enough sauerkraut juice to take regularly and I ended up relying on kefir and probiotic yogourt instead. 

However, I have been eating the sauerkraut occasionally, and although it's tasty it's just not something I fancy very often. Which means I still have 2 full quart jars of it in the fridge and part of a third jar left.  So, for lunch today, I decided to treat myself to something I haven't had in years: a Reuben!  The thought struck me yesterday, so I had time to pick up the fixings while I was grocery shopping.  A nice rye bread, some good corned beef and some sliced Swiss cheese.

Encouraged by the non-reaction I had to the English muffins and cheese in the Tim Horton's breakfast sandwiches from last week, I decided a Reuben might not go down so bad either.  Try it and see.  That's my motto now.

Anyway, since I wasn't exactly sure if there was anything else that went into a Reuben, I consulted Mr. Google and found this great recipe on I didn't follow it exactly (as usual!), but instead used it as a guide.  The Russian dressing was the secret ingredient that put it over the top.

Another kitchen classic: my mother's sandwich grill. This little workhorse is over 50 years old!
As a bonus, I got to break out my beloved sandwich grill.  I grew up with this baby and I remember coming home from grade school for lunch and often having tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches made on this grill. And this was years before anyone had ever heard of panini presses!  I inherited it from Mum years ago and I still love using it. It still works great!

First, make the Russian dressing. The recipe calls for mayonnaise, but I was out so I substituted plain yogourt.  That and ketchup, horseradish and worcestershire sauce and you have Russian dressing which lends a certain je ne sais quoi to the sandwich.

That's one hefty sandwich!

Five minutes or so in the grill.  Pressing down gently to compress and let everything heat through and melt together.

And there it is!  Total toasty, melty yumminess!  Add a cup of mint tea and lunch is served!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Another sign of spring.

Timing is everything, so they say (who are they, anyway?). If I had posted this just a couple of days ago, I could have talked about what a wonderfully mild winter we've been having so far and that it was feeling like April etc., etc. But, as luck (and that fickle queen of irony, Mother Nature) would have it, this morning we woke up to snow.  Not much, mind you, but enough to remind us that, yes, it is still winter and we are in the middle of February. And the forecast for this coming weekend is a high (a high) of -16C with a windchill of -23C!  Yeah, definitely not spring yet.

So, despite the return of winter, I will talk about another sign of spring instead: garden planning and seed ordering! 

I took a couple of hours this past Sunday afternoon, curled up with a pad of paper and a pencil (and a good eraser!), a nice glass of cold, crisp Chenin Blanc and decided what I wanted to plant where in the vegetable beds this year.  After numerous attempts and much erasing and re-drawing, I came up with a simple sketch of my vegetable bed and plotted out what and where to put things. I wanted to post the final drawing, but my camera can't capture enough detail to make it worthwhile -- it's either too blurry or too far away.  Granted, it's not a very sophisticated camera -- certainly not a DSLR -- but it mostly serves my current needs admirably and unless I really want to get fancy I can't justify the expenditure on a better camera. At least not right now, so my apologies for not having a diagram to show you.  

Basically the plan is this:
  1. Transplant the rhubarb from its current shady location in the back corner of the side bed into a sunnier, central location in the main vegetable bed in the hope of increasing the yield.
  2. Start a dozen or so seedlings of each of my five varieties of tomatoes from seeds saved last fall, transplant some into rows in the vegetable bed and give the rest to friends and neighbours.
  3. In between the tomatoes, plant rows of Scarlet Nantes carrots, mixed heirloom carrots, lettuce, and peas.
  4. Plant pickling cucumbers to grow up trellises against the fence.
  5. Start a flat of dwarf marigolds (or, I might try these ones instead) to plant around the border of the garden to keep raccoons out.
  6. Plant thyme surrounding the pond and sweet woodruff in the shady areas along the property line, again to deter raccoons.
I've already put in my order for the carrot, lettuce and cucumber seeds from Urban Harvest, and just the action of doing so brings spring all the closer! Later, once the ground has thawed, I will take a drive to Richter's Herbs and pick up some thyme and sweet woodruff seedlings. Meanwhile, I will plan out what I want to do with the rest of the garden and in a few more weeks, it will be time to set up the sprouting nursery in the basement and get the tomatoes and marigolds started. The official countdown to spring will have begun!

Monday, February 1, 2016

The GAPS diet -- one month in

Well, here we are in February already!  I can't believe how quickly we sped through January and we are having an absolutely beautiful day here in Toronto -- sunny and mild -- it really feels like spring is just around the corner although I know February, March and sometimes even April and May can be fickle and cruel.  Plus, we've had next to no snow so far, so part of me feels that we are going to end up paying for having it so easy thus far. But, never mind, I'm just enjoying this gift for what it is in the here and now! Tomorrow will be what it will be.

So, it's been one month since I started the GAPS diet and how am I doing?  Overall, I would say pretty good. The healing hasn't been as fast or dramatic as I had hoped it would be (that's just me being impatient -- the books clearly say that it's a long, slow process; we didn't end up with compromised digestive systems overnight and we won't heal them overnight either!), but it HAS been steady.

The greatest thing about it, I think is that it has given me a good roadmap to follow to start an elimination diet (which is what the GAPS Intro diet is). Now having achieved a more-or-less neutral, non-allergenic, non-inflamed digestive system, I have gained practice in slowly adding foods back into my diet and I am becoming aware of which foods I can tolerate and which ones I react to and need to eliminate again for now.

I have discovered, for example, that coffee and black tea are irritants, although I can have 1 or 2 cups of coffee a week and not have any problems.  Raw and cooked cabbage, too, is a problem, although fermented cabbage (i.e. sauerkraut) is easily tolerated. I know now what it feels like when I have ingested a food that I am still intolerant of and I know how long it takes (approx. 48-72hrs) for symptoms to appear.  And that's why the diary has become such a vital part of this exercise.

As of yesterday, I moved on to Stage 4 of the Intro diet, which allows me to have roasted meat and vegetables and I am currently trying potatoes. Although potatoes are off the GAPS diet completely, I seem to be having little, if any reaction to them and even though I don't eat a lot of them, it's nice to have the option of having them boiled or roasted (no french fries just yet!!).  Now that I know how my body reacts to intolerant foods, I feel more confident in branching out and trying different things -- still following the basic guidelines, of course.

I am hoping to move forward through Stages 4, 5 and 6 in the next couple of weeks and on to the full GAPS diet.  The best thing so far, is the elimination of the abdominal cramps, gas pains and bloating, which I recognize now as the symptoms of food intolerance.  Whenever I do experience symptoms, I consult the diary, see what I had eaten over the previous 2-3 days and eliminate any new food for the time being.  A tablespoon of kefir or whey helps calm things down again in the meantime.

My skin is slowly clearing up and I am gradually losing weight so that's good. The brain fog still comes and goes, although it is more intermittent again, like it used to be, and not a near-constant thing. So that's good too. Hopefully, as I continue on and my gut heals further, the fog will dissipate.

Time will tell!  On to February!