Elimination Diet Part 3: What’s Next?

Posted: 2284 days ago in Health Wellness


So far we’ve talked about what an elimination diet is, and how to go about doing one.

If you’ve successfully made it through the 3-4 weeks to the final re-introduction phase, congratulations! The hard part is over.

Yayyyyyy! You get to eat some forbidden foods again!

The only catch is that you must exercise patience, Grasshopper. You’ve come so far, please don’t blow it now!

Pick foods from ONE and ONLY ONE of the eliminated categories (I can tell you that I fell face first into bagels and pasta!).

After consuming the food, note any change in your health, sleep and energy for the next TWO DAYS. If you feel no negative change, that food group is likely fine for you. If you do notice a negative response, do not incorporate that food group back into your diet for the remainder of this program.

Let me give you an example of what your calendar may end up looking like:

  • Day 1-7: Start diet, may notice an increase in health issues.
  • Day 8-15: Should start to notice improvements in health.
  • Days 16-30: You crave forbidden items, but feel so good, you stick with it.
  • Day 31: Re-introduce gluten into your diet.
  • Day 32-33: Notice constipation, bloating and fatigue? Eliminate gluten again.
  • Day 34: Re-introduce dairy.
  • Day 35-36: No noticeable change in health? Dairy can remain in diet.

And so forth.

You can see by the example timeline above that when gluten was re-introduced it didn’t go well, while the dairy wasn’t so bad. As a girl who is gluten-sensitive, I can tell you that I feel MUCH healthier and more energetic when I avoid gluten. However, I do occasionally choose to indulge — and suffer the consequences later.

Knowing that you have a food sensitivity or intolerance is truly half the battle.

Hopefully, you’ll uncover just one or two groups that makes your body react, and you can quite easily plan your diet around it. It doesn’t mean that you can never have it — it just means that you should be aware of how it impacts your body. Symptoms outside means there is damage being done on the inside as well.

Some tips for the biggies:

Gluten: There is a plethora of gluten-free alternatives for you bread and pasta lovers. I save those for the times when I am really craving something carb-y. My favorites? Pamela’s Baking products (best pancakes, bar none!), and brown rice pasta. You truly won’t miss a thing if you substitute these out.

Dairy: Goat dairy is much more digestible than cow’s dairy, so look for that when you are craving some cheese. For some reason, cow’s milk yogurt doesn’t bother me as much as cow’s milk, so experiment a little to find what works for you.

But seriously, give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve completed this process. Isn’t it crazy to see what certain foods are really doing to your health when they simply don’t mesh with your physiology?  I don’t love that gluten makes me tired, puffy and constipated, but it does, so I (mostly) choose my foods accordingly now.

And you know what they say — knowledge is power, my friend. Use it and refer back to my series on Elimination Diets (What, How, and this article) when needed.

Elimination Diets Part 2: How?

Posted: 2289 days ago in Health Wellness


Ok, so if you haven’t already read part 1 on elimination diets, then I suggest you begin there. For those of you already up to speed — in part 2, we’re going to discuss how to go about doing an elimination diet.

To start, I suggest setting yourself up for success. Rather than focus on what I can’t eat during an elimination diet, I’ll focus on what I can eat. For example:

  • All the fruits and veggies my heart desires (except for those listed in Part 1), fresh or frozen. I usually make a huge pot of veggie soup to get me started.
  • High-quality animal proteins like wild fish, free-range chicken, organic eggs
  • Beans and legumes
  • Grains like quinoa and brown rice
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Smoothies made with almond milk and the fruit of your choice
  • Water, green tea, vegetable juices

A big “don’t” that is not on the elimination list: Sugar. It’s not on the list because people typically don’t have intolerances or allergies toward it, but it will kill you. Don’t hate me. But it really doesn’t make sense, does it, to be eating so cleanly, and then wash it down with a Pepsi?? Or to eat a ton of candy?? So lay off the sugar as well. Sorry.

Your first assignment? Implement the above guidelines for no less than three, and optimally, 4 weeks.

Keep a daily diary of how you feel on a scale of 1-10, specifically addressing any complaints you have on a regular basis. Note also quality of sleep and energy levels. Please know it is not unusual to feel a little crappy during your first week or so.You may be dealing with hunger issues, or just plain crankiness from missing your favorite foods. Hang in there.

Dr. Oz has a great little elimination diet cheat-sheet which I highly recommend.

This is a lot to digest (pun intended). Wrap your head around it. Make a shopping list. Try some new recipes. And mostly try to embrace it — you’re making strides for your own personal well-being.

Stay tuned for Part 3, when we’ll talk about when and how to reintroduce forbidden foods.

Elimination Diets Part 1: Why

Posted: 2291 days ago in Health Wellness


There’s a LOT of brou-ha-ha about elimination diets out there.

Do you even know what I am talking about?!  Elimination diets are a way of testing to see if a symptom or condition might be caused by a particular food, or food group. By taking most of the common culprits out of your diet for a short period, and then reintroducing them, you can get a really good idea of whether or not certain foods disagree with you.

Here’s my take on where to start, how to navigate one and what to do once you know what you are sensitive or allergic to.

First of all – why should you consider an elimination diet?

If you are experiencing a chronic health issue, gastrointestinal upsets or just don’t feel like your best self, then you MUST try this! So many of my patients will initially report that they have great health, but upon prodding, will admit to things like allergies, headaches, digestive issues and the like. Be honest with yourself; are you really healthy, or just healthy “enough”?

The goal of a true elimination diet is to challenge how your body responds to most of the major food groups that cause sensitivities in individuals.

They include:

  1. Gluten (found in Wheat, Rye and Barley)
  2. Dairy
  3. Soy
  4. Eggs
  5. Fast/Processed Foods
  6. Alcohol
  7. Corn & Nightshade Vegetables (Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplant)
  8. Citrus

The most common foods of those above that cause intolerance are dairy and gluten. If you just can’t imagine a few weeks without all of the above foods, you may want to start with eliminating those two groups. If you’re mostly committed, I recommend eliminating foods 1-6. However, if you truly are not well (or just love a big challenge), I would recommend going for the whole shebang.

I just got done with a gluten elimination diet, and let me tell you, my energy is through the roof! Or… at least it was until I caved yesterday and ate a slice of pizza. It was so delicious in the moment, but I slept poorly last night and have been sluggish all day.   Shame on me, I know better, and soon you will, too.

Stay tuned for how to get started!  

Does Your Baby Have Good Posture?

Posted: 2311 days ago in Parenting Pregnancy


Wait. What?

How does a baby have good posture? They barely sit or stand yet!

Well guess what – if your baby doesn’t start out with good posture from the get-go, he or she will surely NOT have good posture when it comes time to sit and stand! Here’s what I mean…

Does your baby’s head always end up in the same position while they sleep, even if you turn it a different way?

Does it flop or turn to one side?

Do they cry when you attempt to put them in a certain position, over and over?

Do they refuse to nurse on one side?

These are all signs that your baby may have structural misalignments, or what we call “poor posture” in adults.

How does that happen???

467588149Believe it or not, poor posture can start in-utero! If a baby is in a breech or transverse position, his or her head does not enjoy the “key-in-lock” relationship that happens when the head is vertex (head down). If baby is in a less than ideal position long enough, this can result in minor postural deviations at the least, and torticollis (‘wryneck’) if it’s really bad.

Even if baby is in a perfect position in-utero, the birth process can be incredibly traumatic for him or her, especially if interventions like Pitocin, epidural, vacuum extraction or C-sections are utilized. Their tiny joints and ligaments can be sprained and strained just like an adults can. Ultimately, if left uncorrected, this can often lead to postural changes, pain, and even health issues like ear infections and colic.

The ability to move freely is really important for development of normal spinal curves and muscle formation. “Tummy time” develops the very important “C” curves of the neck and back. However, spending too much time in an infant carrier can also force baby’s spine into unnatural positions, so you’ll want to watch for that.

Pediatric chiropractors do a great job of treating obvious spinal issues like head tilt and torticollis. More importantly, they can detect subtle shifts before they become even bigger problems. It’s a great idea to get your kids checked preventatively, much like you have a dentist check their teeth as soon as they get them.

After all, ‘An ounce of prevention…’ and all that.

“Pre-You, Post-Baby”

Posted: 2316 days ago in Parenting Pregnancy


All women gain weight during pregnancy; it’s a fact of life.

Whether it’s 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, or 100 lbs heavier than before you were pregnant; now is the time for acceptance and understanding. You’ve just delivered a baby into this world!

If you’re lucky, you might lose all of that ‘extra stuff’ immediately, or as a cruel joke, you may leave the hospital weighing as much as you did when you came in.

This post is meant for those women who want to get back to their pre-baby body and I’m here to tell you… let your body be your guide and balance be your goal.

I always suggest that women attempt to go back to pre-baby weight, if it was healthy weight for you to begin with. I’m not talking about how much you weighed after starving yourself for your wedding. I’m saying, look back over the years when you weren’t fanatically dieting and/or gorging yourself; what did you look and feel like? The emphasis here is on finding your natural balance.

For those of you who look at my pictures, and go, “oh yeah, whatever,” I want you to know that I’ve been everything from a size 2 to a size 16 as an adult. I have lived all the issues that surround food, weight, and body image, and it has taken me 45 years to find my balance point. I hope you get the lesson sooner.

First of all, let’s talk about what “baby weight” actually consists of:

  • the baby – average of 7.5 lbs.
  • placenta – around 1.5 lbs.
  • amniotic fluid – around 2 lbs.
  • uterine enlargement – around 2 lbs.
  • increased breast tissue – around 2 lbs.
  • increased blood volume – around 4 lbs.
  • fluid retention – around 4 lbs.
(source: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting“)

Add all of that up and you’re looking at 20+ lbs. of “baby weight”, which means a lot of what you’re looking at isn’t even fat. So be kind to yourself.

My philosophy is nine months on, nine months off.

I don’t think there should be any significant attempts to truly lose weight until after the “4th trimester” (I know, I know. There are only three trimesters of pregnancy, but I like to count the 3-4 months after baby comes as the fourth). Without this buffer zone of continued self-care, mama’s well-being can fall by the wayside, with all attention focused on baby only. During those very early months, your body will naturally find it’s new balance point as you shed all the extra fluids your body has held onto. Not to mention, nursing will burn many of those additional pounds away as you settle into a new routine, feeding yourself and your baby.

After the 4th trimester, reassess.

If you’ve made reasonable choices regarding food during pregnancy and in the 4th trimester, you will likely find that you’re pretty close to where you started, pre-baby. At this point, I recommend stepping up your exercise, making more significantly wise food choices, and setting a goal for weight loss (or gain, for those lucky few of you who are too skinny to begin. I say “lucky” because I know it’s just as much of a problem for those of you who are too thin, but it’s just more socially acceptable to be thin).

Ultimately, the one-year mark is pivotal. If you don’t lose your extra baby weight by the first year, or before you get pregnant again, those extra lbs. tend to become permanent and/or extremely hard to lose.

Full Disclosure: Even if and when you get back to pre-baby weight, your body will likely be very different. I got back to my pre-baby size, but none of my pants fit! Your hips may be wider or narrower, your butt flatter or rounder. You get the point? Your body will be different. Your life will be different.

Embrace the change!

Gluten Free Me (Part II)

Posted: 2325 days ago in Health Lifestyle

gluten-free-me-p2Gluten is not my friend. 

I am grateful that I don’t have Celiac disease, but I do have a wicked intolerance for the stuff. What does that look like? Well to start, if you haven’t already read Part 1 of ‘Gluten Free Me’, please do.

When I eat gluten, I feel like I have a big ball of dough in my belly – which, I guess is true. I feel poofy and gassy, topped off with a dose of sluggishness and dopiness.

Snow White’s dwarves have nothing on me! 

Worse, since gluten is found in so many products, I end up feeling like that most of the time, and not just after eating pizza or Italian bread. A lot of people complain of feeling like I do after eating gluten, so I thought I was, ya know, ‘normal’. Then a nutritionist friend suggested I do a gluten elimination diet, and so I rose to the challenge.

Holy gluten free transformation, Batgirl! I felt like a new woman!

I committed to eliminating all sources of gluten for one full month. In addition to the obvious sources such as breads, crackers, cereals, cookies and pasta made with wheat, barley or rye — I was careful to avoid the hidden sources as well. Can you believe that there can be gluten in:

  • Deli meats
  • Sausage
  • Dressings and sauces
  • Beer. Sigh, beer
  • Flavored coffee and tea

It was tough for the first few days, but I started feeling great fairly quickly, which motivated me to keep it up. I had much more energy, less brain fog, more regular bathroom habits and a tummy that was no longer feeling like the Michelin man’s twin sister.

The kicker at the end of an elimination diet is to do a ‘challenge’ – eat some gluten and see how you feel. Well, it was like someone stuck an air hose in me with sleepy gas. The bloat and fatigue came back with a vengeance.

My take on eating gluten-free is fairly simple. Instead of focusing on what I can’t eat, I make a list of what I can eat, and find, easily.

Here’s what I had to eat for the last 2 days of living gluten free:

Day 1:

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt, blueberries, gluten-free (GF)d granola.
  • Cashews and an apple
  • Kale salad with chicken, oil and vinegar
  • Clementines
  • Peanut butter and a banana
  • Grilled fish and asparagus
  • Ice cream…oh yes you can, but only the good stuff!

Day 2:

  • Omelet with spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes
  • Almonds
  • Salad with walnuts and feta
  • GF protein bar
  • Clementines
  • GF sausage with cauliflower and potatoes
  • More ice cream

For a more comprehensive list of foods containing gluten, check out this article by WebMD.

I do try to make the best of available food choices always, but I also try to balance that with living a full life – and for me that sometimes includes an amazing loaf of Italian bread slathered in butter, a big slice of pizza from a New York City street corner, or ice cream two nights in a row (it’s summertime people!).

Life is so damn short, and I want to eat it all up, literally!

To keep that balance in check, I try to go gluten-free for a month a couple of times a year, and that really works for me. But remember, if you have Celiac disease, you MUST avoid gluten at all times.  

Best of luck, let me know how it goes!

The Benefits of Swimming

Posted: 2345 days ago in Lifestyle Wellness


One of my goals this summer was to start swimming again.  

Prior to 2008, my relationship with pools and oceans could best be described as “drown-proof”. I liked being in the water, but had never done a lap, or swam for exercise. Then I had the bright idea to become the most Unlikely Triathlete. It was time to learn how to really swim, instead of just splashing around.

And guess what? I loved it!

For a few years I incorporated swimming into my fitness regime, alternating it with running, biking and weight lifting. Since then, my body has let me know that it needs more gentle exercise, so I learned to lean more heavily on yoga. But somewhere along the way, swimming fell to the wayside. And boy have I missed it.

And I didn’t know how much, until I got in the pool again a few weeks ago. Something about being in the water is so liberating! Part of me feels like a mermaid; the other part has such clarity of thought it’s almost frightening.

swimming-quoteOnce I get into the rhythm of my strokes, the laps are like moving meditation and stress management. All I can hear are the sounds of my breathing, regular and deep. I start by counting my strokes between each breath – 1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe. The water sluicing over my skin feels surprisingly sensuous and therapeutic. I can feel my abs tighten with every long stroke.

Who knew you could get great abs from swimming? You can!

kickboard-swimmingThe benefits of swimming include the fact that it is an incredible full-body workout, while putting near zero stress on joints (read: fewer injuries!) in the process.

Even if you can’t swim, use a kick board to help with flotation or even just walk in the water as an effective way to exercise that’s so gentle to your body. In fact, I go r-e-a-l-l-y slowly, and still get a great workout.

What are you waiting for?! Jump in; the water’s great!

Ice, Ice Baby

Posted: 2346 days ago in Health


Of the patients who come into our office suffering with back pain, 9 out of 10 will report that they have been using hot packs to feel better.

STOP with the heat already!!!

Here’s why: If you had a big, fat, swollen, purple sprained ankle, the vast majority of you would put ice on it, wouldn’t you? Ice controls the swelling and helps to manage the pain. What do you think would happen if you put heat on that ankle? It would get more swollen and more painful, wouldn’t it? So why do most of you put heat on your back instead of ice?? I think it’s because the joints in your back are small, deep and behind you.

I’m here to tell you, ice is where it’s at.

If you use ice inappropriately, there will be no untoward side effects. However, if you use heat inappropriately, you can actually lengthen healing time significantly. One emergency room study demonstrated that the use of heat after whiplash injuries doubled healing time! Average healing time for whiplash is 10-12 weeks, minimum, and that’s if you had no pre-existing conditions to begin with. Could you imagine recovering for up to 6 months? I couldn’t.

Keep a few ice packs on hand for the bumps, bruises, sprains and strains that are inevitable in most households. Gel-packs work really well and are inexpensive, but a bag of frozen peas works just as well. For those knobby wrists and ankles, I like to use an ice bath – submerse the limb in a pitcher or bucket of cold water, then add a bunch of ice cubes. icepack

The only risk is that of frostbite, but a few packs of ice will warm up long before that can happen – so please use common sense.

Happy healing!

Fed Up – The Movie

Posted: 2347 days ago in Health Lifestyle Wellness

fed-up-the-moviedivider2Bless you, Katie Couric, for doing the work and having the guts to say out loud what needs to be said:  Sugar sucks.

But really, did anyone honestly think that it didn’t?!!

Even I, being the self-proclaimed president of the SHCA, aka the ‘Sugar Haters Club of America’, learned a thing or three while watching her new documentary entitled, ‘Fed Up’.  If you haven’t heard about it, watch the trailer below.

sugar-rda-labelSome of the things that this movie uncovers are straight mind-boggling. For instance, did you know that there were major lobbying dollars spent to eliminate the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) on food labels for sugar? Take a look at the label shown here.

Not that having a number there would prompt consumers to step away from the High Fructose Corn Syrup, but if a certain food or drink provided, say 300% of the RDA for sugar in one serving, I would like to think that most of you would at least go, “Hmmmmm.”  

Would YOU? If not, why not? Do you need more reasons to stay away from sugar? I’m happy to serve them up:

  1. Sugar raises insulin levels: Unless you are ‘Delusional About Diabetes‘, this is not a good thing.
  1. Sugar promotes inflammation: Did you know that the ‘itis’ in arthritis, colitis, and other diseases literally means, “forming names of inflammatory diseases”? Which means, for many diseases, the ‘itis’ signifies the inflammatory component. Ingestion of sugar and sugar-like compounds makes inflammation worse for all of the itis’ and more.
  1. Your immune system takes a beating from sugar. Want to have less resistance to disease? Then have at the sweets. But, if you want to be less prone to colds, the flu and much worse, cut it out.

Katie and Company – bravo!

fedupFed Up the movie was nicely done. Even our teenage daughter learned a thing or 25; she was overheard recapping the whole movie to a bunch of friends soon afterwards, and passed on the soda at our next dinner out.

The one message I did not agree with, however, was the argument that weight gain is due to “calories in” exceeding “calories burned”. There are many factors that contribute to obesity – the number of calories and the types of foods being consumed are just two. But that’s a topic for another day. If you have an interest in making healthier choices, check out Fed Up. It’s out for rent and DVD on September 9th, so mark your calendars and invite your families.

Pass the popcorn! But, please – skip the soda!

The Dirty Dozen

Posted: 2351 days ago in Wellness

dirtydozendivider2Every time I’m in the grocery store, my hand wavers between the organic strawberries and conventionally grown (a.k.a. full of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers = poison).

I know we’ve all been reminded a million+one times that organic is better, but all this talk about organic can stress a frugal girl out! I’ll try to make it easy for you. If your budget only allows for certain things, try to buy these “dirty dozen” foods organically, and then do the best that you can with the rest. These “dirty dozen” produce items are found to have the highest levels of harmful chemicals and should be avoided if not purchased organically.

These “dirty dozen” produce items are found to have the highest levels of harmful chemicals and should be avoided if not purchased organically.First and foremost – in my house, the happy medium for produce not purchased organically, is what I grow in my garden. Growing your own produce is by far the cheapest source of organic dirty dozen foods. If you’re in an apartment or don’t have land, there’s always container-gardening. You typically won’t have as big of a garden as if you planted one in your back yard, but it will do the trick. My advice is to choose a few things you will eat a lot of, i.e. tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers – and focus on those. This will help keep your back deck from turning into an Amazonia.

Second, there are co-ops where you can “rent” land for a small fee to plant your own garden. These can be difficult to locate, so search online and ask around in your local community.

Third, you can stake out local farmers markets. These usually happen once or twice a week, so stock up on your favorites, clean, and freeze if need be.

Fourth, there is something called Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA). With a CSA, individuals can invest upfront in local farms and farmers, and in return, they get a box of fruits/veggies every week. It’s a great way to try produce that you wouldn’t normally try because it shows up on your doorstep (and most of the time, it comes with recipes!). Depending on the CSA you join, there are ¼ share, ½ share, or whole share options (each varying by investment cost).

Lastly, but certainly not least, there are good frozen options out there. Certain brands are better than others, but typically, the produce is ‘fresh frozen’. This option is great in the non-growing season so you don’t have to go without your favorite foods if you don’t want to. Plus, frozen organic is really reasonably priced.

Good luck to you all in your journey to stay ‘clean’!