Tomatoes and Joint Pain

The past couple months I’ve been experiencing some joint issues that have made me worried. Mostly stiffness and popping joints, but also knee and elbow pain.

It crept up on me so until I really thought about it, it seemed like ones of those symptoms that had “always been there.”

But then, I tried to start running again and my knees just about gave out on me. Intense pain and stiffness after doing only a few miles.

It was time to investigate.

I had written an article about nightshades and joint pain for Living Well Daily and I had tried cutting out nightshades before with no real noticeable difference. However, I wasn’t super strict as I found it extremely hard to avoid peppers in seasonings due to eating out frequently.

Then I read/heard on a podcast (they all blend together sometimes) about how tomatoes especially can aggravate joints.

I took a look at my diet and realized I had been eating tomatoes every day for the past several months, and almost every day for the past year or so. My lunch was typically chicken/tuna/salmon mixed with avocado and tomato.

So what the heck, I figured I’d cut them out again along with all nightshades  and see what happened.

I was doing good for a week and then came across an extended list of nightshades that had one on it I hadn’t seen before- goji berry.

And of course, I had just started taking an all-natural vitamin C supplement that was made from berries- including goji berry.

So I cut that out too.

It’s been about three weeks now and my joint issues are incredibly improved. I still may be consuming some chili pepper spices here or there, but I think cutting out the tomatoes and the goji berry are making a huge difference. My knees feel a lot better, I’m 80-90% less stiff, and the popping is much improved.

As far as why tomatoes and nightshades can aggravate joints, I won’t go into much detail right now. You can check out the article I wrote here for a bit of the science, but mainly, it has to do with a leaky gut.

And my gut is basically a sieve.

I’ve been experiencing increasing symptoms of leaky gut and reacting to foods I’ve tolerated in the past.

So it’s about time to really start diving into a leaky gut healing plan.

Glutamine has made it’s way back into my daily supplement regime, and I’m researching the best ways to heal my intestinal permeability, including the autoimmune paleo protocol.

My SIBO has also flared up again and I know that can greatly contribute to a leaky gut. I had some Candibactin AR and BR left over from when I did the Johns Hopkins herbal antibiotic protocol, so I figured I’d finish off those bottles and see if it helped at all, while I pay down my credit card enough to have some money to go see a SIBO specialist.

Paleo Vegan Carrot Cakes (Pinterest Win(?))

Tonight I am getting together with three other couples for a game night. It was supposed to be four other couples, but unfortunately our friend Marsha, her husband Bryan, and their baby boy Camden all came down with the flu. And Camden is teething. Not a fun time.

Of course, she’s the one who lives a couple hours away so we had been planning this get together for awhile and all really looking forward to it. So that is a big bummer.

Anyway, for this get together we all decided we would each bring a healthy dish and do a potluck. We are all trying to eat healthy and many of us have special diet restrictions. Marsha is dairy free, I’m grain free/dairy free/legume free and Shannon is a type one diabetic.

Marsha said no one could bring just plain veggies so I decided to skip from my norm of bringing a salad or veggies with dip, and bring a healthy dessert recipe that I had found on Pinterest months ago.

Presenting: grain free, dairy free, paleo, vegan, raw (mini) carrot cakes!

I’ve always loved carrot cakes so I instantly gravitated towards this.

The only ingredients are:

  • shredded carrot
  • dates
  • nuts (I used walnuts and almonds because I ran out of walnuts)
  • shredded coconut
  • coconut cream
  • a touch of honey
  • and spices

Perfect.

I technically shouldn’t be eating nuts right now because I am trying to do the autoimmune paleo protocol, but I figured one little treat really wouldn’t set me back any further than the alcohol I knew I was going to drink tonight.  

Before I go any further, I readily admit: I am NOT a baker and I’m not a great cook.

I tend to improvise (see almonds above) and follow recipes loosely, something that is not that good of an idea for baking.

(I once made brownies and realized I didn’t have eggs. So I thought I had recalled reading that I could replace eggs with applesauce. Nope, that’s an oil replacement. So the brownies turned out more of a chocolate cake-pudding, needing a spoon to eat, but they were still quite tasty.)

Many times, my foods turn out tasting pretty decent but looking terrible. Or, I just burn the heck out of them (i.e zucchini chips).

So, because this recipe called for no actual cooking or baking I thought it was worth a shot. And according to the directions it was an “easy” level recipe.

I suppose that’s true…if you have the right equipment.

Another issue I have is I tend to not actually read the directions until I’m ready to go. I bought all my supplies yesterday, but didn’t read the directions until I went at it.

The recipe needs a food processor. It says you can use a blender, but maybe you need a Blendtec or Vitamix. My $20 blender definitely did not work.

So, first you shred the carrot and then add the dates, walnuts, coconut and spices to the food processor and pulse it.

I ended up having to chop up the dates by hand (awful). I then tried to blend everything in the blender but it all just stuck to the sides while the blades whirled into air.

Then I remembered I had bought a hand-held food processor thingy from a yard sale last year.

I whipped out that bad boy and dumped all the ingredients into it. I cranked away at it for about five minutes and finally ended up with something that was semi-blended.

Then I looked for my tins to press them into mini carrot cake shapes.

They were gone.

No idea where the could have gone but I swear I had muffin tins at once point.

But alas, they could not be found so I decided I would just hand shape these babies.

Into balls.

Raw carrot cake balls.

Lovely.

So you can imagine already this recipe is not going to turn out like the picture.

Then it was time to make the glaze.

I hand blended the coconut cream, spices and honey.

And for whatever reason, it came out very lumpy.

Tasty, but lumpy.

So now I have raw vegan carrot cake balls with lumpy cream on top.

Gingerly, I put one on a plate and asked Alex to try it.

“I just eat this whole things at once?” He asked.

“Yup.” I said.

He hesitantly put it into his mouth and made a few interesting facial expressions while he chewed.  

“How is it?” I asked.

“Actually, it’s not bad. It wasn’t very sweet at first but then it got sweeter as I chewed.”

“Would you eat another one?”

“I would.”

Now, granted, this boy knows my baking skills and he also knows better than to say it’s awful.

But I tasted one: I did like it! They are not pretty, no, and you have to like coconut and you also have to be ready to chew a little but, and you also have to be ready for the fact that they contain little sugar.

But after all that they are actually pretty good.

I may make them again for Thanksgiving at my parents. With their food processor. And muffin tins.

Here’s what I tried to make. Click on the photo for the link to the recipe.

carrot

And here are mine:

my carrot

That’ll do, Jasmine. That’ll do.

Sugar, Leaky Gut and Heart Disease

I just listened to a really interesting Robb Wolf podcast where he had Dr. Rhonda Patrick on his show.

She outlined some very interesting research that simply explained how sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to endothelial inflammation and subsequent heart disease.

Here goes.

We know that sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to both intestinal permeability and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

But the mechanism of how hasn’t quite been figured out.

Dr. Patrick found new research that shows not only can insulin resistance occur in muscles and tissues, but it can also occur in the gut cells.

Therefore, if we eat too much sugar and refined carbohydrates, this can lead to insulin resistance in the gut cells. Then, as the gut cells are not able to get the energy they need, they experience mitochondrial dysfunction and eventually die.

As gut cells die off, intestinal permeability results.

(Remember, there is only a single layer of cells the separates the contents of our intestines from our bloodstream.)

As gaps in the intestinal lining happen, bacteria that reside in the gut are able to make their way into the bloodstream.

Gram-negative bacteria  are surrounded by an endotoxin (also called lipopolysacchrides). When in the gut, the endotoxins aren’t necessarily harmful to us as other bacteria in the gut keep these endotoxins in check.

But once they get into the bloodstream, bad things start to happen.

One is that the immune system can react directly against the endotoxin, creating an inflammatory response.

Another much worse scenario is that the endotoxin binds to a receptor on a VLDL particle.

(A VLDL particle is a smaller denser LDL particle that has just dropped off its cholesterol load to the cells that needed it, and is headed back to the liver to be recycled.)

Now that the endotoxin is bound to the VLDL, its can no longer be recycled by the liver.

And the immune system, flagging the endotoxin, initiates an inflammatory response against the particle, creating a foam cell.

This traps the particle against the endothelial wall and unleashes an inflammatory cascade that can lead to plaque formation.

Boom.

This just makes so much sense and it really ties the whole picture together.

Robb Wolf and Dr. Patrick both recommend getting a particle count done when you have blood work. This will measure to total number of VLDL particles. The more VLDL, the greater the risk of heart disease. Just getting a total cholesterol count and HDL/LDL numbers will not show the whole picture. CRP is a good inflammatory marker to get as well though it’s not a sensitive as they would prefer.

How Do I Feel- Really?

Sometimes its so easy to get caught up in the daily symptoms you are still experiencing, and not take a step back and see how much progress you’ve made.

I can start to get down on myself and my health situation pretty easily when I’m feeling like crap or not happy with how my body looks.

It’s been four years since my health first started to decline, and four years that I’ve been trying to get back to good.

And while it seems like such a long time to feel like crap most of the time, so many hours spent researching, looking for answers, going to doctors (let alone the money I’ve spent on doctors and supplements), I really have made progress.

Here’s what’s better:

  1. Energy. While my energy is not where I’d like it to be, it is so much better. I used to crash every afternoon and need to take naps. Some days, I couldn’t even go to work my energy was so low. That happened usually about every 2 or 4 weeks. Now, those days are maybe every two months or so.
  2. Adrenal fatigue. It’s been about a year since I really burnt out my adrenals from running too much, but I can tell they are getting back to being better, based on my energy levels.
  3. Sleep. This is the big one. I have finally found the right combination of supplements, herbs, and sleep hygiene that gives me a LOT better sleep than before. I still have trouble falling asleep sometimes, and I don’t sleep totally soundly, but I sleep a lot better and do not have to rely on medications to help me fall asleep. This alone is a big part of the reason numbers 1 and 2 are so much better.
  4. Anxiety and heart palpitations. I’m still pretty high strung and tend to get anxious, but I don’t have debilitating anxiety attacks like I used to. And the heart palpitations are all but gone.
  5. Muscle weakness. Again, this is not 100% but a good deal better. And I’ve been lifting weights and strength training for the past 6 months or so, and seeing a good bit of progress there.

So while there are things that have remained the same or gotten worse over the past four years, some things have gotten better, or even much better. And it’s important to focus on that.

New GI Doc, New (Old?) Disappointment

Welp, I shouldn’t really be surprised. After all this is an old, conventional MD. But still, he came with good recommendations so I had high hopes.

He came out to get me right at 2pm, my appointment time, which was a great start. He listened to my history and asked a good deal of questions. But then, the fatal statement that proved to me he was not up to date on SIBO research.

“I don’t believe you have SIBO because you aren’t having diarrhea.” He said this, mind you, right after looking at my lactulose breath test results showing a significant rise in both hydrogen and methane production. “I think all of your issues are due to the fact your bowels are not moving.”

At this point, I had two options.

  1. Try and educate him on SIBO-C, methane, and how to properly read a breath test, or
  2. Don’t bother with the above and listen see what he had to say about improving bowel motility.

I quickly assessed my options and went with number two.

I just can not seem to make myself an authority figure to doctors. For the most part, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve done the research. I even bring the studies with me to the office! But as soon as they say something that proves to me they haven’t read the latest research, I tend to think all is lost and there’s no point in educating them as they aren’t likely to change their minds anyway.

So I listened as he gave me the same information I’ve read on the internet as thousand time (eat more fiber, drink water, exercise, take fiber supplements and a laxative if needed). I tried to explain I’ve done all that (I was running an hour a day last year, same issues. I drink so much water I pee almost every hour. I have eaten up to 50 grams of fiber a day with no improvements. Ahhhhhh!!)

I told him I didn’t want to take a motility drug because I wanted to know why my bowels have stopped moving. The human body doesn’t just quit functioning properly for no reason. There’s always a reason!

Also, I am only 27. If I started the drugs now, it’s likely I’d have to take them for the rest of my life, which I hope to be for quite a few more years. And I don’t want that.

While he was very understanding about those concerns, he didn’t really have anything else to offer me. He said to try some of his recommendations and call him in a month.

He did offer me one solid piece of advice that I think may play a big part, if only I can implement it: Relax and have fun!

Stress can mess up the bowels, big time. And I’m certainly always stressed. Even though I love my job, my boyfriend, and my life as a whole is not stressful, I put so much stress on myself. To lose weight. To look better. To exercise better. To learn more. To do this, do that. Be creative, keep the apartment clean, find a house, where to live. I even stress myself out to have fun!

But even though I know stress is a part of it, it is not the whole of it. I still think SIBO and impaired colonic motility are a problem that needs to be fixed.

So here’s where I am now:

Luckily, knock on wood, the peppermint/fennel/ginger gels are still preventing most of my bloating and abdominal pain symptoms if I take them before a fibrous meal. The problem? They are giving me a false sense of hunger, so I am noticing I am eating more. And my weight is starting to creep up again. That’s unacceptable to me, (as well as another source of stress!)

However, I am going to continue with that supplement and try to keep my eating under control. I am also considering doing another round of herbal antibiotic protocol in conjunction with the peppermint gels. I don’t think it will hurt, and I also want to use up the remaining product that I have. Then, my plan is to get my functional doc to order another breath test so I can see where I am at.

If at that point I am still having symptoms and the breath test is positive, its time to bring out the big guns and find a SIBO expert, even if I have to go all the way out to Portland to do so.

If things are improved or the test comes back negative, then I’ll work on repairing and rebuilding my gut.

Until then, I am going to continue with the diet that I’ve been doing, but I think I may need to bring my protein intake down a bit and increase the fat intake. I’m considering adding collagen protein in the morning.

I might try a fiber supplement and see how that goes, though I have a strong feeling that my gut won’t care for it.

The 30 Day No-Alcohol Challenge

I think the time has come.

I’ve given up alcohol before in the past; I think the longest I went was about 2 months. I was trying to address candida issues at the time, and took a strict dietary approach.

It was difficult, but not impossible. I was really disciplined.

Now, alcohol is a big part of my “fun time”. My weekends surround going out for drinks Friday after work, and I pretty much keep drinking until the wee hours of Saturday night. And I pay for it all day Sunday, and a good part of Monday.

The question of whether that payment is worth it has been stewing in the back of my mind for a few months now. Now it’s at the forefront. And I’m also concerned that I’m actually paying for it all throughout the week.

My brain just still isn’t working as well as I know that it can, as well as it used to. And I wonder if the alcohol is playing a major part of that.

In addition, I’m noticing that my emotional state while drinking is becoming more dramatic. Last night, I had too much to drink and found myself crying hysterically while watching a documentary about mold exposure. A bit dramatic.

Though alcohol does provide a gentle lubrication to have more truthful conversations with the ones I love, I also know that anytime Alex and I get into an argument, I’ve been drinking. I overreact and become more sensitive to things that wouldn’t bother me when sober.

So, I’m going to do the challenge.

Thirty days seems like an awfully long time, but I think I’ll just focus on seven days. Going a full week with no alcohol. Making it through a weekend and seeing that I can have just as much fun and enjoy my time without the need for alcohol.

The question is- when do I start? I’m taking my last four day vacation at the end of this week, and then the following weekend is Alex’s birthday. Not great timing to decide to give up alcohol.

But maybe it actually would be better if I were sober for his birthday. That way I can make sure we get around safely and ensure he has a great time. And not have to worry about me needing to end the night early because I drank to much.

So as of now, next Monday, August 31 will be the start date.

I’ll start with one week, and if I can go a whole 30 days then I will be very proud of myself.

I’m excited to see how my brain function improves, let alone the weight and skin benefits I know I will get.

SIBO and Weight Gain

I gain weight very easily.

It seems I’ve been on a diet all of my life, and to some extent I’ve likely messed up my metabolism quite badly. I have to eat very low calorie and maintain and exercise regime to keep my body at the weight and shape I prefer.

Essentially, I’m fighting my set point. And its hard. But it’s a choice I’ve made.

With SIBO, though, it seems like I have to try even harder to keep my weight down. And when I do slip up and eat more than usual, my body stores it as fat immediately.

And now, I’ve come across some research that may explain what’s going on with that.

There are two types of organisms that are predominant in SIBO- hydrogen producing bacteria and methanogenic producing archaea.

And a study on nearly 800 subjects published in 2013 found that subjects who tested positive for both elevated hydrogen and methane levels had a significantly higher BMI than subjects who tested positive for hydrogen or methane alone. I have both hydrogen and methane producing organisms in my SIBO.

In a previous study by the same researchers, they found that subjects who were methane-producers had a higher BMI than people who were not methane producers (hydrogen was not tested).

And finally, a animal study demonstrated that when germ-free mice were colonized with a particular strain of methanogenic archaea called Methanobrevibacter smithii, they gained more weight than other mice.

M. smithii is the most abundant methanogenic archaea in the human GI tract, and appears to be the predominant species in methane-positive SIBO.

The researchers hypothesize the reason for the increased weight in humans may be due to this:

M. smithii feeds on hydrogen gas to produce methane.

Normally, hydrogen bacteria are self limiting. Once they create a particular amount of hydrogen gas, they get a signal to stop eating.

But if M. smithii is there eating up the hydrogen gas, the hydrogen-producing bacteria continue to ferment food and produce more hydrogen.

But that’s not all they do.

Hydrogen bacteria also synthesize short-chain fatty acids that you (the host) use as fuel, and they also make calories more available.

In essence, they help you get the most calories from what you eat.

So someone without SIBO may only absorb 75% of the calories from a particular food, but a person with SIBO may absorb 90%, and therefore need to consume less food overall to maintain caloric balance.

This hypothesis isn’t proven, and it’s likely there are more factors involved such as hormone dysregulation and metabolism dysregulation.

But it’s an interesting idea and it seems to make sense based on my experience.

So its at least good to know my struggle to keep my weight down since getting SIBO isn’t all in my head. And there are a number of folks out there that sees to have weight issues with SIBO as well.