Seasonal Allergies? Try Ditching This Food Group

Hay fever caused the pretty, fall days to be unbearable for me... and that's an understatement. My suffering was apparent to everyone I came in contact with. This lasted from my early years as a child, compounded by bronchitis, and well into my 40s! Too long! That just wasn't a good thing.

Then I began researching for my health. By removing this food group from my diet, I haven't experienced a "cold" symptom for over 7 years! That's amazing to me - especially considering my long history!

So what's the food group that will likely help most dealing with seasonal allergies and respiratory issues such as sore throats, swollen tonsils, colds, coughs, sneezing, puffy eyes, runny noses, etc?

We can take control of our health. There is an undeniably link between what we eat "to fuel our bodies" and how these food choices affect our health.

But isn't dairy healthy?  One would think so, but please read all the information contained in this article and the links below so that you can make a well-informed decision.

The milk of today isn't the same as milk which our grandparents and great-grandparents used to drink, prior to the early 1900's.  Wondering why the milk of today can cause problems? Here are a few things to consider.
  • rBST Growth Hormones added to milk and these hormones are affecting our bodies too. Some believe that they are causing early puberty in our children and there are even links which point to hormones as cancer causing agents, especially in females. 
  • CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) in place of healthy, pasture-raised and grass-fed cows lead to a lack of Omega-3 essential fatty acids in the milk supply and an increase in ingredients which lead to inflammation in the cows and us when we consume their milk. Milk produced from CAFOs also contribute to antibiotic resistance due to antibiotics fed to the cows.
  • Pasteurized and Ultra-Pasteurized milk no longer contain enzymes to help with the digestion of milk. This is the main reason people show signs of lactose intolerance because the enzyme that would naturally be present in the milk to digest the lactose has been destroyed through pasteurization. Hence, the development of lactose-free milk (milk with the lactase enzyme added) - to combat these problems.
One option might be to switch to drinking raw milk. Hey, before you turn up your nose to the thought, remember it's what our grandparents drank. If you love milk so much and you want the best food for your body, you should definitely switch to raw milk. Even though we have now switched to non-dairy alternatives, I can tell you this.
"My children only experienced runny noses and colds when they drank commercially produced milk (even organic) in place of the raw milk."
However, due to the current state of your body and the previous unhealthy choices that may have been made, milk may not be an ideal food for you at this point in time.

Remember, to clean up your body will require removing certain foods (milk is probably one) and adding other nutritious foods in order to support your body's natural healing system. Contact me if you are interested in learning how to improve your food choices and better support your health.

Carrageenan Free Ice Cream

So now that you have read a couple of articles on 'Deciphering Food Labels' Step 1 , Step 2 and Step 3, let's take a look at specific food item that you can apply all that you've discovered - Ice Cream! Yes, there is something more that you should probably consider when purchasing ice cream. Otherwise, it's best to make it at home using single, real food ingredients.

Ice cream is everyone's favorite, right? If not now,  I'm sure there once was a time that you loved ice cream anyway. So it's my daughter's favorite dessert. I think it's because her opportunities to eat it have been so limited because I discovered there was something in ice cream that was making her sick.

My daugther's reaction would begin with congestion that often led to asthma. At just barely three years old she was on inhalers, nebulizers and antibiotics much too frequently - and it always occurred just after a birthday or some type of celebration where sweets were plentiful.  It was her reaction to ice cream that I first noticed. I have photos taken just days after parties we attended the day before where she would be on the nebulizer and that's exactly how I put it all together. From that point on I avoided ice cream, frosting, cool whip and anything dairy that was in a can or carton.

So my thoughts went from first thinking that she was allergic to just one brand of ice cream to being allergic to all dairy, until I discovered the one common ingredient for many snack/dessert products that triggered her symptoms is a preservative called CARRAGEENAN that acts as a stabilizer for many packaged food products. 

For years I made ice cream (using single, real food ingredients) for her to eat at home and she even took her own ice cream and sometimes her own cake to friend's parties. It was a bit difficult for her emotionally, but she knew that she didn't want to be sick and that mommy could always make her "special" ice cream.

In the beginning we first noticed that Breyer's 'Natural Vanilla' flavor didn't contain that was our 'go to' ice cream. But recently my daughter, now 14, has been on a quest to find ice cream (on the grocery store shelves) with all the exciting flavors that she loves. In the photo below are all the ice cream brands and flavors she found at a Kroger store on just one visit. I'm happy to see that she has options now when she wants a special treat.

But note, just like some flavors of Breyer's ice cream contain carrageenan, so might other flavors of these brands. 

There are medical articles that show respiratory issues being linked to carrageenan. Finally, this information is being made known mainstream and it's being removed from many items that once contained it. Here again, we can dictate better foods by spending our money on foods that meet our nutrition goals and leaving the others on the shelf.

Eggs - So Many Options

Wondering what eggs to buy? Here are a few points for you to consider.

Just like in the previous 'Deciphering Food Labels Step 3 - How were the animals raised?' article that I wrote about recently, we should consider how the chickens were raised. So, likewise, the eggs from chickens that are given the best environment will produce healthier eggs.

Here are KEYWORDS which you might already be familiar with or are wondering about.

Cage-Free and Free-Roaming. These labels can be applied to chickens which are not confined by the use of cages. Unfortunately, they can be tightly crammed into their space. These chickens may or may not get any access to the outdoors. 

Pasture-Raised. When you see these words, the chickens had access to green grass and ideally grassy pasture.

Organic Chickens/Eggs.  The USDA National Organic Program regulations require that organic poultry have year-round access to the outdoors. Birds must have access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight (7 CFR 205.239(a)(1)). Poultry are allowed to be temporarily confined in some circumstances, such as inclement weather or conditions under which the birds’ health, safety, or well-being could be jeopardized (7 CFR 205.239(b)). However, continuous total confinement indoors is prohibited by USDA’s regulations (7 CFR 205.239(a)(1)).

Any questions, send them here.

Deciphering Food Labels - Step 2. Avoid rBST Growth Hormones

Ideally grow some fresh produce on your own. Reminder: Everyone must consider the benefit, or disadvantage, of eating from each of the food groups for themselves.  Read Step 1 and Step 3 here.

Step 2. Avoid rBST Growth Hormones

rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) also known as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is administered to dairy cattle to increase the production of milk. There are many different arguments for why this is and why this is not an ideal practice.  I want to touch on a couple those points and give a bit of input from my own point of view.

Point 1. After a brief internet search I found one argument which supports the safety of the hormone use. The article stated that since we don't have the same receptors as the cattle, ingesting this hormone would not affect us. I presume they are saying that this won't affect our hormones that produce lactation. OK, so perhaps it's true, but it doesn't change the fact that we would, in fact, be ingesting a substance that is foreign to our bodies. Exactly as they stated, the piece doesn't fit into the puzzle. More specifically, this means that our bodies would not have any idea of what to do with the hormone...or flat out cannot do anything with - therefore the hormone is seen as a toxin that our bodies try to get rid of. Then the next question is, "So how well is your body handling detox?" (That is actually a discussion for another article post.) Well, you can lessen the stress that detoxing takes on your body, by not consuming anything that you know to be toxic in the first place.

Point 2. These growth hormones cause increased milk production so this goes against the cows' natural tendencies. These hormones put more demands on their bodies, thus more stress and likewise this process results in animals that aren't as healthy as they could be. Who would knowingly choose milk from an unhealthy cow? The goal for sourcing real food is to stay inline with real, natural processes and to not go against nature as God created it to be. 

A list of products that usually contain milk:
  • Butter/Ghee
  • Milk/Cream
  • Ice cream
  • Cheese
  • Pudding
  • Yogurt/Whey
  • Any product with milk/cheese/cream as an ingredient

So how can you avoid rBSTs?  Buy products from company's that state they are rBST and hormone free. Choosing organic milk and organic meat products can help you avoid most rBST foods. As an alternative, choosing dairy alternatives such as nut milks and coconut milks (ideally made at home by you to avoid other additives and in order to make the better choices) can also help you to avoid hormones.

Some specialty food stores might manufacture their own line of these dairy products in order to provide dairy options that avoid rBST Growth Hormones. Specifically, Whole Foods Market sells dairy products with no rBSTs under their 365 Brand name.  I have also found the Sprouts has a brand that avoids rBSTs also. 

Let's make a statement with the our food choices by purchasing those that meet our real food goals. It appears that as we become more aware and our demand for better food choices increases the food industry has made shifts to accommodate our needs. So the more you purchase non-rBST foods the more the food industry will listen and respond. Let's make sure that we fight against hormones in our food supply.

Organic Milk Companies: Organic Valley, Stonyfield Organic, Horizon Organic

Key search terms to learn more: rBST, rBGH, Hormone-Free Milk, Monsanto, organic milk, hormones in our food supply

Links to other sources:

Deciphering Food Labels - Step 3. How were the animals raised?

Deciphering Food Labels Series - These posts will point out some of the most important things to look for when shopping for REAL food in varying food categories. Ideally, you want to stay on the outskirts of the grocery store and shopping mostly for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, eggs and dairy..all without additives and preservatives. In fact, I enjoy purchasing from local farms where I can get to know the farmer. Ideally grow some fresh produce on your own. Reminder: Everyone must consider the benefit, or disadvantage, of eating from each of the food groups for themselves.   Read Step 1 and Step 2 here.

Step 3. How were the animals raised? There is usually a bit of a price increase when the animals are better cared for, but there are many health benefits to consider for ourselves also.

Let's now consider how the animal which we are using for food was raised? It's likely that you have heard and seen the term 'Pastured' often enough. Food from pastured animals should be a normal part of our lives. But instead, most of our commercially processed meat comes from animals that do not have access to roam and eat the natural diets they were meant to eat. For example, cows should eat grass and chickens should have access to insects.

Psalm 104: 14 reads
"He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—  bringing forth food from the earth"
Did you know that most of our meat in the U.S. comes from animals that are fed corn and other by-products similar to cereal grains? Our animals are being fed processed foods that cause them to be full of inflammatory diseases and conditions. So, when we eat animals that are sick (i.e. we eat sick food) - how are we supposed to remain healthy if our food isn't?

Initially I thought that the term CAFO stood for 'commercial agriculture of farmed animals'. (Don't laugh at me if you have always known better.) But even though I didn't know what the acronym actually stood for, I did know that it meant that animal conditions were crowded and not ideal. So for those of you who are not yet aware, CAFO stands for 'confined animal feeding operations'. The purpose is to increase production of a large population of animals that are confined to small areas of land. No roaming for the CAFOs and unfortunately most of our foods on the grocery store shelves come from such operations. I don't know about you but I think these animals should have access to open airy places where they can freely exercise and breathe fresh air. It just makes sense.

Since most of our animals are not raised in ideal conditions, then the meats, milk and eggs that they supply to us aren't ideal either. Additionally, I shouldn't fail to mention that farmed fish aren't ideal either. Yes, just like farm animals, they too are often fed cereal grains in place of their normal diet! So, opt for the wild-caught meats for hopes of a better selection.

Better Nutrition for Us: Making better meat and animal products will provide our bodies with better nutrition.  If we eat sick animals our bodies become toxic and have to work harder at doing what it should be doing naturally (re-growing healthy cells and fighting environmental toxins instead of toxins we create). Pastured animals have a better balance of omega-3s and omega-6s. They usually aren't full of hormones and antibiotics because their natural way of eating and roaming causes them to be healthier.

So, how can we make better choices when buying these products*? 

  • Buy from your local farmers at Farmer's Markets
  • Join a co-op that sells meat products: Co-op Directory
  • Select products that are 'Pasture Raised' when shopping major grocery stores. Whole Foods has an animal welfare rating system.
  • Find a butcher that you know and trust
  • Order online: U.S. Wellness Meats (just one I'm aware of, surely there are more)
  • Raise your own cattle, chickens, etc.
*Although sometimes these animals are finished with grains...but, hopefully they had more time in the pasture (seriously).
If you think of anything else I can add to this article, please send me a note. Thanks.

FYI: There are still many farming practices of today that don't follow the original farming practices since man first began herding cattle. Once specific example is the way the animals are slaughtered. You can look up terms such as 'Kosher meats' to discover how animals should be properly treated and prepared for food.

In the next article, we are going to focus on more specifics regarding EGGS!

Deciphering Food Labels - Step 1. What are the ingredients?

Deciphering Food Labels Series - These posts will point out some of the most important things to look for when shopping for REAL food in varying food categories. Ideally, you want to stay on the outskirts of the grocery store and shopping mostly for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, eggs and dairy..all without additives and preservatives. In fact, I enjoy purchasing from local farms where I can get to know the farmer. Ideally grow some fresh produce on your own. Reminder: Everyone must consider the benefit, or disadvantage, of eating from each of the food groups for themselves. Read Step 2 and Step 3 here.

Step 1. What are the ingredients? Usually will not incur a cost increase, it's just a matter of making a better choice using your current grocery budget. 

Let's take a look at these cottage cheese labels. The one on the left is Daisy Brand that's readily available in most grocery stores. The ingredients are 'Cultured Skim Milk', 'Cream' and 'Salt'...only three ingredients!

Whereas the one on the right has many added ingredients, most of which CANNOT be found in even a real cook's kitchen.

So why the unnecessary additives? Well, most of the time, these are added to make up for what is missing...and what is usually missing are real food ingredients.

Healthy Foods Can Cause Digestive Troubles...and More?

Ever since I first began this health journey, I was convinced that foods would be by solution. I had been battling digestive issues for a long time and fourteen years ago, I began making changes to our diet. By 2011, I still was having some issues so I dedicated my energy to eating as much fresh and organic food that I could possibly get my hands on. I shopped at local farmer's markets, I purchased (at minimum) organic poultry, grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish.

YET, I had bladder issues...

In 2013 I noticed that I was having bladder trouble. Actually, everyone in my family really took notice while we were on a vacation. We were trying to take a mini road trip adventure. But I had to interrupt our activities much too frequently for restroom breaks. From that trip on, I was hesitant about taking road trips. Stopping every hour is quite annoying! I would try not to drink water but that didn't seem to help much. 

In 2015 I decided that I should have my bladder checked. The diagnosis was that I had bladder cystitis which is a diagnosis that doctors give when they cannot find anything else. Yet, the doctor did suggest that it must be something in my diet that was irritating my bladder. So I put further appointments with the urogynecologist on hold and decided to have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy.

...and chronic constipation

My main complaint was that I was experiencing chronic constipation. There just had to be something blocking my colon. At that point, it had been 3 years since I had stopped eating all grains, but I was still having reactions to, what I could only guess, were many foods.  (Yes, I did have a food allergy blood test, but it didn't reveal much.) I just could not figure out a pattern. The only thing I knew was that I felt more energy when I would eat/drink fresh "live" foods, so I consumed as much of these foods as possible. The GI doctor told me to eat more fiber. She had no idea (and didn't bother asking) of exactly how much fiber I was eating. I don't think the doctors believe us anyway. They don't think we know our own bodies.  I was practically on a raw food diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds with just a few cooked vegetables.

Allow me to back up just a bit and tell you about another issue!

A few months earlier in the same year (2015). I was still having trouble with my submandibular gland which have been ongoing intermittently since 2012, but by then the condition had become high FODMAP foods were causing the gland to work overtime. The diet allowed me to eat some foods with a reduction in pain. (More about the Low FODMAP Diet later.)

extremely painful. While researching anti-inflammatory herbal remedies, I came across an article that said that these glands are part of the endocrine systems which releases immune-regulating peptides to help control inflammation.  (Hmm.) I cannot remember all the full details but I do remember being on the phone with a friend praying and she said that I should do a Low FODMAP Diet. Immediately, I followed the Low FODMAP Diet and discovered that I did indeed receive some relief from the pain and swelling in my submandibular glands. Apparently,

My energy levels were on the way to being renewed.

After surgery to remove the stones that had formed in my submandibular gland, at exactly a week later, I experienced renewed energy. Energy I had been missing for many years! And actually from that point on I have had energy. Once pain is removed we feel so much better and I'm convinced that the fresh, live foods must have really been contributing too.

So the submandibular pain was gone. I had more energy. But, the colonoscopy didn't show anything. I had also undergone ultrasounds of major organs and an MRI - but none of them revealed anything. And the bladder tests didn't show anything, yet I continued to have bladder urgency...but just three days after my colonoscopy, this symptom seemed to disappear and during that time my chronic constipation seemed to be diminishing. At that point I had forgotten about the Low FODMAP Diet. Instead, I was following yet another diet. This time is was the RAW FOOD DIET. I was eating a total raw food diet and along with that I changed my drinking water. (See the link at the end of this article to find out about the drinking water change I made.) After all, I had always experienced good benefits by eating raw foods, so totally eating 100% raw should benefit me (was my thought at that time). My experience with solid, dense foods was that they made me feel tired and quickly zapped away all of my energy. I wanted to sustain my new found energy levels.

Yet, the bladder issue slowly returned and it seemed to worsen with the more fruit that I would consume. I was still experiencing great energy and stamina, but I had to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about the timing of my restroom breaks while away from home. This was just becoming too much. The only way that I could continue on this RAW FOOD diet was to consume large amounts of fruit to obtain the required calories that I needed daily. So, I decided to make minor adjustments. By this time I was consuming fruit like never before in huge quantities at many meals. So I backed off a bit from the 100% RAW FOOD DIET. I added cooked beans, cooked vegetables and quinoa to achieve my necessary caloric intake instead of increasing fruit.

Suddenly, another one of my on-going issues that had only been mild before became a MAJOR PAIN. I had stomach bloating/gas with pain that was still in the same spot as before but it seemed to be constant. I couldn't pick out any particular foods that might be causing such symptoms. It seemed that everything I ate would cause stomach upset. If I had pushed the issue with my GI doctor (or just returned for a follow-up visit), she probably would have just labeled me with IBS.

As a result of all my dietary changes I had undoubtedly experienced health benefits and improvements, but I felt like I could barely eat anything without some sort of reaction to my food. This time around I was no longer experiencing brain fog (more info in my health journey), but now I had major stomach distress! So it had all just moved from my brain to my stomach. Many scientific research shows that the stomach and the brain are very closely affected by each other, and I believe it! Yet, still I was holding on to my idea that food mattered. That no matter what my condition, I should continue to eat beneficial foods to prevent any condition from getting worse any quicker than it already might be progressing.

You see, my issues began when I was only 31 years old...or that's when I recognized that I had health issues. Now I know that they started way before then. (More info in my health journey.) So, I had to catch up on my nutritional needs after missing out on them for so long. 

I was just about to try the GAPS diet again because I recalled that everything seemed to feel better on that diet, especially in the beginning when I would only eat soft boiled meat, bone broth and softly stewed vegetables. But, it seemed I had lost all tolerance for meat. My experience was that after eating meat I would feel extremely fatigued and eggs (even organic eggs from pastured chickens) were causing headaches.

I had already removed gluten/wheat, sugar and dairy. What could possibly be causing these problems? But after only two days into the GAP Diet and with a desire not to consume so much meat, I recalled the Low FODMAP Diet. Hmm. So I investigated further.

FODMAPS stand for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. These are specific sugars (short-chain carbohydrates) that are either poorly absorbed or not absorbed by the intestines; and as a result, are fermented by bacteria in the large intestines. But people with digestive issues, such as IBS, have an even more difficult time digesting these foods.

FermentableThe process through which gut bacteria degrade undigested carbohydrate to produce gases (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide)
Oligo-saccharidesFructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) found in wheat, rye, onions and garlic
Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) found in legumes (beans)
Di-saccharidesLactose found in; milk, soft cheese, yogurt
Mono-saccharideFructose (in excess of glucose). Examples: honey, apples, high fructose corn syrups
PolyolsSugar polyols (eg. sorbitol, mannitol) found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners (Xylitol). Specific food examples are avocados, watermelon, cherries.

So I began evaluating my diet in comparison with the Low FODMAP Diet. The goal of the Low FODMAP Diet is to avoid high FODMAP foods.

Breakfast: Everyday I would have my "Go To Smoothie" which included large amounts of high FODMAP foods (cashew/almond butter, avocado, celery and sometimes honey). 

Lunch: Lunch would consist of a huge bed of salad leaves topped mostly with vegetables which were also high FODMAPs (more avocado, a clove of garlic, beets, mango, fresh corn & peas and usually beans for protein)

Dinner: I would eat cooked high FODMAP vegetables such as cauliflower, butternut squash soups made with broth containing onions, garlic and celery.

Fruits: My favorites were watermelon, mangos, apples, grapefruit, peaches, pears, and dried fruits - all high FODMAPS!
Then it hit me. Something I had never thought about. That my healthy eating could be causing stomach distress. Could I possibly be eating too many healthy foods?
Well, the most precise answer is that too many high FODMAP healthy foods can be problematic for some of us!
I had been eating way too many high FODMAP foods for my digestive system. My stomach just could not handle the load. These high FODMAP foods were making up 1/3 to 1/2 of my diet! Whew! Discovering this and applying the low FODMAP guidelines are a wonderful blessing for me. I finally have more answers and more remedies to add to my health journey so that I can continue to manage these symptoms through my diet. And I just had to share with you! The greatest thing about the Low FODMAP Diet is that it can be applied to any diet lifestyle which you choose! Read more on the Low FODMAP Diet Page.

But, just one more thing: Carrageenan is a poly-saccharide that is also indigestible and it can also cause many health issues in some individuals. To find out more about carrageenan, you can read this post concerning carrageenan in ice cream.

And as promised, here is the article I wrote when I changed my water