General, Supplementation

Becoming a Plexus Ambassador 

I have, over the past 10 years or so, been struggling with a variety of chronic health issues related to food allergies and sensitivities. The two most deliberating symptoms were severe headaches a few times a month and constant sneezing fits for a whole day every few months. Well, after trying diets upon diets, supplements upon supplements, I finally found something that cured me from my headaches! Too early to tell for the sneezing fits, since it’s been only 3 months, but I haven’t had any of these either. The cure comes in the form of supplements developed by a company called Plexus. I actually heard about them 5 years ago from an intriguing testimony and I was interested, so I went on the Website and found that one needs to know a distributor to order the supplements. Fast forward to 3 months ago, when a friend of mine mentionned that she was going to try Plexus. I told her I wanted to try too, so I became what they call an ambassador. By becoming an ambassador, one gets to purchase the products at wholesale pricing and becomes eligible for getting paid when purchasing more than a certain amount and signing on other ambassadors. In fact, getting only 3 people to sign on is enough to get your supplements for free (it would cost $115 a month otherwise). I haven’t done much on the business side yet, I wanted to see if the supplements work first, as I didn’t want to be talking to people about it without having experienced the benefits.

Also, interestingly enough, I was pretty skeptical and I didn’t feel that the supplements were doing much for me. It wasn’t an obvious change. After 2 months, I  was ready to give up, so I stopped taking the supplements. Two weeks later, I had a series of days with bad headaches. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t had any headaches during the last 2 months! I had forgotten I used to get headaches! I am now excited to see what Plexus will do for me over the coming months.

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General

What does it mean to activate your nuts and seeds and should you do it?

Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors to keep them from sprouting. They contain phytic acid (storage form of phosphorus, also known as phytates) which can block the absorption of minerals (particularly zinc, iron and calcium) by binding to them (for an extensive list of studies on the topic and for a more in-depth article, please read this). A moderate intake of phytic acid has been shown to reduce your risks of cancer, but too much of it can impede the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Phytates play an important role in plants; they give seeds the energy needed to sprout since the enzyme phytase will break down the stored phytates during the sprouting process. Everyone who eats plants consumes phytic acid.

Several methods have been developed to reduce the phytic acid content in food:

1- The most common one is milling. Unfortunately, it also removes an important a major part of minerals and fibre and it should be done at low temperature to preserve the phytase.

2- Pretreatment methods such as soaking and germinating are also widely applied and have shown some effectiveness. Soaking them starts the germination process and causes the protease inhibitors (molecules that inhibit digestion) to leach into the water. The soaking process is accomplished with enough room temperature water to cover the nuts, seeds or grains and about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar or salt in the case of nuts. The soaking time varies depending on the type of nut, seed or grain, but is generally between 8 and 12 hours.

3- Fermentating grains increases the bioavailability of minerals by providing the right pH for the enzymatic degradation of phytates. Natural fermentation of millet and rice has shown to reduce the amount of phytic acid. Fermentation is a step further than soaking. The soaked grains are left at room temperature for days in liquid and a starter (liquid from a previously fermented batch).

4- Germinating has been shown to reduce the phytic acid content by up to 40%. To germinate, drain the water after the soaking and let the grains sit at room temperature for a few days, rinsing them twice a day.

5- Roasting and cooking disactivates the protease inhibitors.
A combination of methods involving particularly fermentation seems most effective. Germinating or fermenting AND cooking will yield the best results.

All that being said, these ideas about the preparation of beans, grains and legumes are largely propagated through the work of the Weston Price Foundation and the claim that traditional cultures prepare them in some way before consuming them. I was wondering if the care taken by traditional cultures to process their grains was overstated. I did some research and found that it is quite real. This page was particularly interesting.

However, some people argue that:

1- Uness one lives in a Third World country, worrying about mineral deficiencies is a waste of time. Only zinc might be low in vegetarian diets and a good supplement will cure that problem.

2- Phytate is actually beneficial to the body as a powerful antioxidant and should not be avoided.

Studies and scientific data are often misleading and used to support different conclusions. The purpose of this blog is to look at the information available and test it through practical means. In this case, this would mean ingesting grains and nuts without preparing them and after preparing them to find out if it makes a difference. I read about people who had noticed a difference, so I know in some cases it is helpful. I believe for me, a combination of both will be optimal.

Plant Based, Vegan Ketogenic

Plant-Based Ketosis

I recently was listening to an interview with Dr. Toni Bark, from the Center of Disease Prevention, talking about the ketogenic diet. I had already briefly considered this diet as an option to pursue optimal health, but I had put the idea aside because it doesn’t seem sustainable long term, some claim that it’s dangerous (the Paleo Mom does a great job at providing a balanced view of the risks vs benefits of the ketogenic diet here) and I have come to believe that limiting animal products is also important for maintaining optimal health. But in the interview, Dr. Bark mentioned a few things that made me reconsider :

1- The brain functions better on ketones, which explains why this diet has been used to treat brain disorders (like autism and epilepsy). It is interesting to note that the ketogenic diet is meant to emulate a state of starvation. It originated from the discovery that fasting, which changes the body’s metabolic state, reduces and even cures epileptic seizures. This state can be replicated with a very low carbohydrate intake.

2- Inflammatory markers dissipate when a person is in ketosis (Dr. Bark personally measured it on her patients).

3- Most interesting of all, she puts her cancer patients on a plant-based ketogenic diet. I had never heard of anyone doing this before and I wanted to learn more about it. Here are the fats she promotes: coconut oil, MCT oil, hemp oil, fish oil, oil ice oil, flax oil, krill oil, hemp hearts and chia seeds. She encourages the consumption of avocados, seeds and nuts to maintain ketosis.

Now, I would like to dwell longer on the plant-based ketogenic diet. As a reminder, the ketogenic diet is high fat (70% of your daily calorie intake), moderate protein (25%) and low carb (5%). After 2 or 3 days of eating less than 20g of carbs, most people enter ketosis.

I already mentioned the fats that can be used in a ketogenic plant based diet, but what about proteins? Think nuts and seeds! You might want to activate your nuts and seeds by soaking them for a few hours before consuming them, please read this on the topic. Also, people underestimate the amount of proteins found in vegetables. Still, it would be very difficult to get enough fat and proteins without increasing slightly the amount of carbs and, although it might slow down weight loss and take longer to enter ketosis, it is advisable to increase your net carb intake to 30-40g. Clean vegan protein powders (like SunWarrior and Garden of Life RAW) will provide more proteins and green powders will be helpful to ensure enough greens in your diet (since greens will have to be temporarily reduced to attain ketosis).

I think I might give it a try, and use this page for inspiration on meal ideas. I also found a great little ebook here, but although it is a great starting point for my meal plan, it doesn’t include the macronutrients ratio for each recipe. It claims to offer a vegan keto meal plan, but the daily carb amount provided doesn’t seem reliable. For example, on day 1, the plan says 34g of carbs for the day, but my calculations dictate otherwise. Breakfast has 20g of carbs, 37g of fat and 32g of proteins. Lunch has 14g of carbs, 13g of proteins and 22g of fat. Dinner has 12g of carbs, 5g of proteins and 4g of fat. Great low carb meal plan, but not quite keto!

In the coming weeks, I think I will try to come up with my own vegan keto meal plan using the Fitness Pal calorie counter.

General, Lifestyle

Healing the Gut

The “gut”. The beginning and the end, the source of all chronic health problems. If you have been researching the topic, you know about the incredible role played by your gut bacteria and the impact of a leaky gut on your health. Studies have described the structure and functional capacity of the bacterial microbiome in the healthy state and in a variety of disease states. Gut dysbiosis is blamed for problems like food sensitivities, bloating, thyroid conditions, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, skin issues, digestive problems, weight changes and food cravings. Programs to heal the gut are popping all over the Internet. Most of them have great merit and many people have seen drastic changes in their health by following them. This blog post is not meant to be a step by step approach to healing the gut, but rather a general outline to get you started on your healing journey.

1- The most important step anyone could take to improve any health problem is to eliminate processed foods and replace them with colorful whole foods. Cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens and bone broth are particularly beneficial to the gut.

2- Eating consciously (smelling the food causes the stomach to produce hydrochloride acid and chewing well prepares the food) will improve your digestion and facilitate mineral absorption.

3- Listening to your body and noticing how it reacts to certain foods through journaling will allow you to adapt your diet to your needs.

4- Dealing with stress by controlling your thoughts, eliminating stressors when possible and ensuring you get time to wind down is one of the most crucial points that will help improve your health.

5- Making sure you maintain a sense of purpose will increase your overall well being. The mind gut connection is well accepted and having a purpose in life is essential to happiness. This doesn’t mean that you have to find a grand reason to be alive, but finding meaning in the little things will foster a sense of purpose.

6- Keeping hydrated will help detoxing and ensuring your bowels are moving. Just one caveat: I have seen health professionals advise that urine should be clear when one is properly hydrated. That is simply not true. Light yellow is what you are aiming for and just pay attention to your body signals and be aware that thirst can be confused for hunger.

7- Various supplements and herbs are promoted for gut health, but I will keep it simple: probiotics in the form of fermented foods and a reliable supplement as well as aloe vera juice. This is why Plexus offers a multivitamin that includes Aloe Vera , among other beneficial minerals and vitamins. 

Plant Based

Fasting Mimicking Diet: A 5 day experiment 

I have written about the benefits of fasting before, during my experimentation with the Bone Broth Diet. The Bone Broth Diet prescribes two days of fasting (500 calories are allowed) per week (not consecutive). I didn’t want to do that because I felt it was not sustainable long term. Plus, the benefits of fasting mimicking beyond fat loss really kick in after 48 hours (here is an interesting paper on the topic). Fasting mimicking as a way to enjoy the benefits of fasting without eliminating food completely is based the work of Valter Longo. If you live in Italy or the United States, you can even purchase two kits with prepackaged foods and supplement to undertake your own fasting experiment in compliance with his parameters (which I will discuss below) for one low payment of $600!

Needless to say, I set out to plan my own meals. The first rule is to keep all meals vegan during the fast, but I also wanted them to be grain free and legume free. Also, the program normally would include supplements, but I don’t know what they are and I just kept up with my normal supplement regimen. While researching the diet and reading the findings of the study, I discovered that there is a specific recommended macronutrients ratio to follow. In fact, during the study, the subjects ate 1090 calories, 10% protein, 34% carbohydrates and 56% fat on the first day. During days 2-5, they ate 725 calories, 9% protein, 44% fat, 47% carbohydrate. I decided that I didn’t need to stick to these percentages perfectly and my goal was to keep my caloric intake to about 750 on days 2-5 while consuming about the same amount of fat and carbohydrate and about 10% protein.

I used the Fitness Pal app to calculate my calories and macronutrients. I was off on the first day, it was what I would call a transition day. I had one slice of Against All Grain World Famous Sandwich Bread for breakfast with some homemade unsweetened chia seed jam, two cups of a creamy green soup that I made from one of my books for lunch and a mixture of roasted broccoli, peppers and mushrooms for supper. I discovered about the macronutrients ratio while figuring out what I was going to make for supper and, at that point, I realized that consuming enough fat would mean way too many calories in my meal. At that point, I decided I would skip lunch for the remainder of the experiment. For breakfast, a smoothie consisting of a whole avocado, 1/3 cup of berries, a greens powder and water is easy and satisfying. It yield a bit less than 300 calories and presents the right macronutrient profile. For dinner various veggies with oil, nuts and/or avocado also work well. I had lettuce wraps with zucchini hummus, cucumber pieces, peppers, tomatoes, and homemade guacamole one night. Greens with a creamy cashew coconut milk sauce another night and a salad two other nights.

I just loved the results from this experiment. I lost all my symptoms and felt like I gained clarity about food. Fasting mimicking should be done every month for optimal benefits. I might end up doing that in the long run, although for now, I decided I would wait 2 or 3 month and do the Green Smoothie Girl Detox program. In the meantime, I will keep meat eating to a minimum and avoid grains and legumes. After feeling well for a few weeks, I will try to reintroduce legumes and then, gluten free grains.

General, Paleo, Plant Based

Paleo? Plant Based? Who is Right?

Last week, I ended the Bone Broth Diet by eating some Einkorn flour pancakes. I have been feeling unwell ever since. It made me wonder if all grains should be out for me. During the week, I watched the Tyroid Secret series and lots of interviews were pointing to a paleo approach to healing. There are no doubt that grains can be inflammatory (a little more on this here) and should be avoided by some people. But, at the same time, I have been learning from Chris Beat Cancer (his Website is truly a wealth of information) and a lot of what he says makes sense. He promotes a cup of beans a day, very little meat, oatmeal for breakfast and potatoes as a health food. Not quite paleo, right? In some of his videos, he talks about the fact that, traditionally, people didn’t eat as much meat as we do because they saved it for special occasions. Only the rich could eat as much as we do and their overeating (meat, sugar, processed grains and dairy products) would cause them to suffer from diseases of affluence (like our Western culture today). In an interview with Dan Buettner, author of the Blue Zones, he explains that a huge factor in the cultures that enjoy longevity is that they eat at least a cup of beans a day. He promotes a plant based diet for optimal health and that is how he helped a lot of cancer patients get healthy. His goal is to nourish the body enough to allow it to heal. I may not have cancer, but that is also how I think I should be able to get better. The problem is, I think I might be sensitive to grains. I have been unwell ever since I reintroduced them in my diet and every time I eat them, my weight goes up a few pounds (a sign of inflammation?). I am not sure about legumes though, I haven’t tested them without grains.

I am still trying some new supplements I purchased last week, but if I don’t see any improvements this month, I think I might have to go paleo again. I might also look at other gut healing diets (like the GAPS diet or I was also considering the WHALS protocol).

Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Diet, General, Paleo

Taking a Step Back to Evaluate the Effects of Increased Nutrients on General Well Being

First, I want to emphasis how good I felt on the Bone Broth Diet even though I was not following it a 100%. I was having more fruit and sugars that the plan allows for (I know, I am weak!). Still, I felt better than I had in a long time. For this reason, I figured it would be a good time to test Einkorn flour. If you don’t know what Einkorn is, it is the only non hybridized wheat available today. It is dated back as far as 5000 years ago. Its protein, vitamin and mineral content is higher than any other grain. It won’t rise your glycemic index nearly as much as regular wheat and it bakes amazingly well! I have experimented with breads, cookies, pasta, pie crust, etc. It is just lovely all around! Unfortunately, I finally came to the conclusion that even Einkorn is off limit for me now. I tested it 3 days ago by eating only one small pancake and I have been suffering the consequence ever since. I have been feeling fatigued, and the brain fog won’t lift. I used to suffer for 2 days only after cheating with gluten, it looks like I am getting worse. No more gluten for me for at least a year! I have not decided completely swear off gluten because I believe gluten sensitivity is not natural, just like any other food sensitivity. Therefore it may be possible to heal it. I know gliadin is involved causing intestinal permeability (leaky gut) for everyone, even those who don’t seem gluten sensitive, but I think that there must be a reason for this. I mean, Jesus himself ate wheat! If it is as deadly as some make it sound, I don’t think he would have fed himself and his disciples using wheat (Luke 6:1). He is the Creator of the universe, he knows the human body more than anyone else.

  And that leads me to the second point of this post: I decided to take a step back. I have been testing various diets non stop since January and I am running out of motivation. What I would like to do now is to stick to a whole foods gluten free diet and focus on my nutrient intake. I became an ambassador for an organization called Plexus last week, and I purchased a package calle Tri-Plex after listening to a series of amazing testimonies by people who cured all kinds of health problems with these products. I thought it would be worth a try. An update will be coming soon on that, but in the meantime, I also plan to post more on general health and lifestyle topics.

Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Diet, Paleo

The Bone Broth Diet and Carbohydrate Intolerance

The Bone Broth Diet is a low a carb diet. It removes grains, corn, processed fats, artificial sweeteners, soy, all sugars (including natural ones), processed meats, white potatoes, beans and legumes. Since trying this diet, I have been learning more about the low carb world in general. For example, I recently learned about carbohydrate intolerance and how to establish a “safe” carbohydrate threshold. It’s called the two-week test. Most of us are carbohydrate sensitive to some extent, but the question is: to what degree? The preliminary symptoms are elusive; they include fatigue, intestinal bloating and loss of concentration. If it goes undiagnosed and unmonitored, carbohydrate intolerance can cause more serious conditions like hypertension, elevated triglycerides, diabetes, heart disease. The two week test eliminates the same foods as the Bone Broth Diet (plus all fruits, which I will do from now on), but reintroduce them after two weeks with the goal of assessing the person’s tolerance level. One carb every other meal (a piece of fruit for example) is added back into the diet while watching for symptoms to reappear (like bloating, depressed energy, craving for more carbohydrates). Before starting, it is a good idea to write down any symptoms. After the two week period, during the reintroduction phase. It is important to pay attention to any return of symptoms.

This second week on the Bone Broth Diet has been a failure for me. I had some dates a few times and some maple syrup twice. Many evenings my craving for sugar were so strong, I couldn’t resist. And that is exactly why I am doing this. I want to be in control of my food desires instead of my food desires controlling me. I will not go back to a more “normal” diet (including beans, legumes and natural sugars) until I feel I have victory of sugar cravings. I also believe that the two week test, or a variation of it, will help me establish a carbohydrate consumption level that doesn’t cause me to want more. I might struggle and fall a few times, but I will keep in mind that there is no need to go hungry during the test. The only requirement is to fill up exclusively on the non starchy foods allowed. I am planning on carrying out this experiment during the next two weeks. It might take more than two weeks if I end up cheating, but I will eventually get rid of my cravings and establish my craving free zone.

Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Diet, Paleo

The Bone Broth Diet and the Benefits of Fasting

I am on my fourth day of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet. The Bone Broth Diet is a low carb diet that involves sipping on two cups of broth every day. I her book, Dr. Kellyann talks about the benefits of drinking bone broth:

1- It fills you up without adding pounds.

2- It’s packed with collagen (keeps you looking young).

3- It heals your gut.

4- It heals your joints.

5- It’s anti-inflammatory.

In the context of the diet, one is supposed to fast on bone broth two days a week. I decided to skip this aspect of the diet partly because I am nursing and fasting is always discouraged for nursing mothers, but also, I wanted to adopt a strategy that is sustainable in the long term. And seriously, I don’t to be fasting two days a week for the rest of my life! However, I know that minifasts are very beneficial for healing and detoxifying and so, I would like to find a fasting option that I could maintain for the long term. One way is making sure not to eat 2-3 hours before bed. This means about 14 hours without food each day, which gives the body a chance to put all its energy on rejuvenation as opposed to digestion at night. For more profound healing benefits though, a longer fast is necessary. I remember hearing a health expert talking about the fact that the fast needs to be at least 48 hours for the body to start doing some real rebuilding. This particular article talks about a 5 day fast every few months. It’s based on the work of Dr. Valter Longo. According to his studies, eating 750 to 1000 calories for a 5 day period protects against inflammation, cancer and cardiac diseases as well as a water fast would. The foods consumed during these days should be mostly vegetable soups and nuts. That makes so much sense to me! I think I will start fasting this way every change of season. By the way, his work also promotes a mostly plant based diet with less animal protein, which conflicts with the Bone Broth Diet. As a sugar addict struggling to keep from endless cycles of over eating, I find meat protein very satiating, but in the long run, I am aiming at a more plant based diet.

Now, let’s talk about my experience with the Bone Broth Diet. The first day, was good. The first day is always good for me because of the excitement of trying something new. The second day was awful! I was always looking for food! I didn’t know why I felt the urge to eat constantly, but I was worried about my lack of self control. Things stabilized on the third day, but I really wanted something sweet and I almost caved in (already!) by making some form of a paleo treat. I didn’t have time, so I ended up eating coconut manna with almond butter instead. That is my favorite easiest snack when cravings strike. Today, I barely have any cravings at all! I feel satiated and healthy, and I don’t feel like food has power over me anymore. This afternoon, I made a delicious low carb chocolate treat that I am planning to have after dinner. I sampled it and it is truly amazing!

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Here is the recipe I followed. The only thing I did differently was to add about 2 tablespoons of a mixture made with erythriol and stevia that I grounded in the blended to the chocolate layer. Yum! (UPDATE: oops! I discovered that even stevia is a no no on this diet. I thought it was ok because most low carb diets include it. Starting on day 5, no more stevia for me!)

The Bone Broth Diet Cookbook is also pretty amazing! My favorite this week was the grilled salad with the ranch dressing and the grilled salmon with a blueberry sauce.

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That’s all for now, stay tuned for an other update next week.

Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Diet, General, Ketogenic, Paleo, Plant Based

Next experiment: Ketogenic or Bone Broth Diet ?

It’s been almost a week since I finished the Autoimmune Protocol and I have been wondering about what my next experiment should be. I have been eating following mostly Dr. Fuhrman Lose 10 in 20 plan. I like his Nutritarian approach, nutrient dense and plant rich, small amounts of animal products and no processed foods, flour and sugars. Here is the source for Dr. Fuhrman’s great food pyramid:

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The problem is, although I like that each meal contains lots of veggies, I tend to get bored with the recipes, as most of them seem to revolve around black beans and tomatoes or mushrooms and kale. It seems to me that they also use a lot of corn. Besides that, I need to get my blood sugar under control and this plan doesn’t keep me satisfied for long periods. I crave sweets all the time and I frequently feel hungry. I want to loose weight (between 5 and 10 lbs would be great), but not by starving myself. I want to find the right diet that will help me reach my ideal weight and maintain it effortlessly (or almost) by conquering my cravings. For this reason, I feel that plans with a reduced sugar load might be the answer for me. I have recently been learning about the Ketogenic diet and I am intrigued. A ketogenic diet is high fat, moderate protein and low carbs. My Keto Kitchen presents a clear food pyramid for the keto diet:

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Studies are being done to demonstrate its effectiveness as an anti cancer diet, since cancer cells need sugar to survive. However, I would try to keep meat protein consumption at 20% because of the possible link between meat protein and some forms of cancer. Also, I have seen meal plans that involve dairy and processed foods like low carb tortillas. I think a dairy free whole food plan would be preferable. I found the plan in the Keto Beginning particularly appetizing. After about a week of low carb intake, the body will be in ketosis and start using fat and ketones for energy instead of glucose. After about a month, the body will reliably use fat/ketones as a source of energy, this state is called keto adapted. The benefits of using fat and ketones rather than glucose for energy are, for example, stabilized insulin levels and reduced inflammation in the body. It reduces hunger and contributes to overall wellbeing. Once one has reached this state, carb consumption can be increased while maintaining ketosis. Also, one will usually go back to eating more carbs at some point following a certain pattern (like carb cycling).

The third option I was considering was Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet. It is similar to the Ketogenic diet, in that it works mainly by stabilizing blood sugar and reducing inflammation, but it includes more carbs and does not aim at maintaining a ketogenic state. Basically, all grains and legumes are eliminated as well as all forms of sugar. Bone broth is consumed daily for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. An other cornerstone of the Diet are its fast days. Have you heard of fasting mimicking? It offers all the benefits of fasting, but still allows for some food intake (this post is particularly informative). Fast days offer tremendous healing and detoxing benefits on top of aiding weight loss by reducing caloric intake. During these days, one should consume 5 cups of bone broth and a light meal or 6 cups of bone broth. I am leaning towards trying this one, as it seems more attainable and sustainable. Plus, I have read that ketosis might not be appropriate for nursing mothers. My plan would be to keep it safe by following the Bone Broth Diet without fasting days. Nursing mothers are always advised to steer clear of helpful supplements, herbs and diets. I know this is to ensure they produce enough milk and that their milk is safe for the baby (as free of toxins as possible), but I suspect part of it might be a liability issue. I might decide to try fasting, I will simply listen to my body. Also, my baby is approaching one year of age, so maintaining milk supply is not as much of a concern. I am giving myself another week to decide what the next step is, since I have to wait till next Friday to go grocery shopping. More on that next week.