IBS Flares and other gut issues

First– what is IBS? IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The main symptoms are–gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation (sometimes all in the same day). IBS should not be confused with IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease). IBS affects the large intestine. The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water from the remaining undigestible food and moving it along out of the body in the form of waste material.

2nd –is there a cure? No. But there are many different therapies/strategies to help you manage it. #1, in my opinion, is learning how to manage stress, changing your diet, and managing your symptoms with OTC remedies and dietary supplements.

My first experience with what I now know as IBS was in high school during puberty. My symptoms in one day would range from bad stomach cramps to gas, to diarrhea, and end with constipation. My diet growing up was a combination of bland, low nutrition food, food I wouldn’t eat, or food not purchased due to extreme poverty. I was diagnosed with malnutrition at age 8.  In the 1970s with a garden, the only vegetables we had on the table were— green beans, carrots, and corn regularly. Most suppers consisted of rice mush–rice, milk, and cinnamon, or 1/2 c casserole plopped on our plate, soup or/and sandwich. I was always too tired for breakfast so maybe I ate a few bites of oatmeal? School lunch was way too many things that we’d never eaten at home and I was too scared to try–like tuna salad, grilled cheese, noodle dishes, Salisbury steak and so much more. I was diagnosed with malnutrition again at 18. I weighed 100# and was suffering from several vitamin deficiencies.  By the time I was 21 I had developed very bad eating habits, and most days survived on caffeine and cigarettes.  Truthfully, because good food wasn’t introduced when I was growing up, I really didn’t miss good food. I had absolutely no idea what good food looked like. Nevermind knowing how to prepare it had I been able to afford it. I started working in healthcare and when I got hungry I would just order a cafeteria meal which was usually pretty low in nutrition and call it a day. Things stayed that way until I was in my thirties. In between those years, I also developed a relationship with beer and had a steady diet of that for about four years.  When I was 31 I was diagnosed with malnutrition and an iron deficiency.

All this while I suffered from IBS and I also began to notice there were a lot of foods I couldn’t eat. I wasn’t able to tolerate onions, garlic, beets, dried milk, milk, whey, soy, certain proteins, and other things. By 2004, now 40, I had quit drinking and smoking and was ready to take care of myself. I started by looking into the world of organic. I read a lot of books about the food revolution starting with The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. I also started traveling to Farmer’s Markets and eliminating things in my diet that were not healthy.  I started with processed food–so everything in boxes was out except the occasional cookie or chip. I moved on to frozen food and eliminated frozen dinners, pizzas, vegetables, even ice cream.  For a number of years, I had gone on and off fast food because MOST fast food really increased my IBS symptoms.  I then started buying organic milk, butter, eggs, and meat. Our veggies came from local farmers and our fruit in season from the supermarket/ orchards–local when possible.

Sometime around 2011, I began to have serious problems with wheat. Wheat bran, gluten, germ, and flour. Many people have issues with wheat and many many people do not. There are those that will say it’s all in our heads, but I assure you that it is not. Actually, it is all in our guts.  For simplicity sake,  I will discuss types of wheat–hybridized and unhybridized. Wheat started being hybridized between 1940 and 1960 to increase production and also for pest resistance. It would take me days to properly include all the information there is about wheat hybridization and what it is, what has been done, and how it affects all of us–instead I will include some of the information and provide some very interesting and helpful links.

There were many techniques used to hybridize wheat- from repetitive backcrossing to crossing with other grass species to using proprietary herbicide Beyond, to using toxic chemicals, gamma, and x-ray radiation. In the end, the wheat that was left was no longer the wheat that had always been a part of our food chain for many many years. What we now eat is essentially radiated, chemically toxic wheat– known as Clearfield wheat. Not every wheat available for commercial use is Clearfield, but unfortunately more and more become available every day. Today’s wheat is milled to remove the outer layers of wheat bran and wheat germ leaving us with the white colored “wheat flour” we are familiar with.  Source

What is then left in what we know as wheat is chock full of gluten? Now can some people tolerate this–yes I think they do. Though,  I’m not sure how well? Nevertheless, they continue to eat today’s wheat and their life goes on. For me, it wasn’t that easy. First I started getting rashes and then after a year or two bloating–very obvious bloating not just bloat, and excruciating stomach pains, and then diarrhea. Almost everything in my diet to some extent had wheat in it. I love sandwiches, but even white bread contains wheat. I love pizza—pizza is my favorite food, but the crusts are made from wheat flours and on and on–cookies, crackers, chips, buns, rolls, donuts, wraps, fried foods–everything!

I tried to deny my intolerance and limited how much in a day or a week I would eat. But it was never a small enough amount and eventually, I couldn’t eat any of it.  The first doctor I went to basically said it was a fluke aka all in my head. The second doctor said it was likely my body and that it could not process the wheat in today’s food products, otherwise known as hybridized wheat, and to avoid it altogether. I should note I was tested for Celiac disease and the test was negative. I was not diagnosed with gluten sensitivity because technically there are no tests that can test for that as far as I know.  So I started buying all the products that were labeled gluten-free and in 2012 there were very few things that were gluten-free. Maybe none in 2012?

Eventually, items here and there were produced and soon grocery stores had entire aisles devoted to it. My only problem was they were expensive and lacked in the taste good department. I spent probably another year researching gluten intolerance and decided to try and heal my gut with a probiotic. I tried different ones but none of them seemed to help and most of them gave me stomach cramps and diarrhea. Until I found Accuflora that is–. After being on Accuflora for one entire year I was able to eat bread again. Soon into my 2nd year, I was eating cereals, cookies, pizza’s, and crackers. So it is my firmest belief that the reason I cannot tolerate wheat is that my gut is not healthy. Granted, I don’t think hybridized wheat is healthy for anyone–period. I have since become a regular user of Einkorn flour–trying it only because I stopped Accuflora about 18 months ago to try Activia because yogurt became a regular staple in my diet and I couldn’t take both probiotics. I felt Accuflora had done its job and I was healed. I was wrong. After 16-18 months on Activia, which by the way you are not supposed to eat that regularly, I am back to rashes and stomach cramps when I eat anything with wheat in it. So now I have tried Einkorn–an ancient grain and the only one–so I am told that actually meets the scientific definition for not being hybridized (can contain only 2 sets of 7 chromosomes) I can make & eat pizza dough, pie crusts, and bread again and experience no issues whatsoever from using Einkorn.

Below are the strains of bacteria found in Accuflora and Activia. Activia has far less than Accuflora by 3 and now Accuflora has released an upgrade that has 8 strains in it. Notice the patented bifidobacterium in Activia which I think can help a person short-term as they suggest, but maybe not so much long-term as I decided to do all on my own.

Accuflora-Lactobacillus salivarius; Lactobacillus rhamnosus; Streptococcus thermophilus; Bifidobacterium bifidum; Lactobacillus acidopihilus, which is found in yogurt.

Activia- Cultured Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Cane Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Food Starch, Contains Less Than 1% Of Milk Protein Concentrate, Kosher Gelatin, Fruit Juice and Vegetable Juice ( For Color ), Natural Flavors, Agar Agar, Carrageenan, Calcium Lactate, Lactic Acid, Milk Calcium, Vitamin D3. Cultures in Activia with fruit– L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus. The third, Bifidobacterium animalis, has been trademarked by Activia maker Dannon as “bifidus regularis.

Because I have been sensitive to beets, vinegar, fermented foods, onions, garlic, and pickles and so much more for such a long time, I now follow a FODMAP diet. Do I think my gut issues have everything to do with malnutrition at 3 different stages in my life-YES, I do. I think the reason I’ve had IBS all my life is from malnutrition. I also believe the reason I have fibromyalgia–diagnosed when I was 28, but I’d had it for many years before that, is from malnutrition. I don’t think my poor diet as an adult helped, nor did my drinking.   One thing is for sure my gut has created a lot of chaos in my life and my #1 mission is to fix it. So I have stopped Activia and I’m going to start taking Accuflora again. This time if all goes well I will continue taking it forever because I think at this point it is going to take me that long to heal things again.

Some of the things that I use for gas, cramping, and pain associated with IBS are–GASX, RMO essential oil Tummy Time for bloat & stomach pain–I apply topically, Greek yogurt (settles my stomach) and magnesium tablets to keep me regular. As far as supplements I take Vitamin D in a spray form (Amazon, Dr. Mercola), NOW P5P Vit B6 (Amazon–because of absorption/enzyme issues), and Gaia Herb Plant-based iron (Amazon).

Some people may just go along with allowing, for whatever reason, their symptoms to continue and feeling like they can’t control it or help themselves. But you can and you should do everything you can to lessen inflammation in your gut/intestines/bowel because you do not want to harm those organs any more than they have been hurt/upset. I make sure I have variety in my diet but I don’t overdo fiber or caffeine, or things that are not safe foods on my FODMAP diet, and for now no gluten, or wheat germ, or wheat protein of any kind. I’ve dealt with IBS for over forty years now and though it hasn’t been easy, and there have been times I’ve felt helpless at what to do, I am learning to get a handle on how to live with it–finally. Here is the FODMAP list of foods I follow if you’re interested.

I’ve included some very interesting links I read and used for the information concerning wheat. Until next time I hope everyone is enjoying spring where it’s springtime, and fall where it’s fall.




Seasons of Change

Just one more day and fall is here. Where we live we can tell when the season is changing by the changes in our local traffic. Also the upper edges of the bluffs in our area start to show their fall colors and the produce at the market changes from tender sweet fruit and vegetables to the kind better stored in root cellars and processed into canning jars. While there are still green beans at Farmer’s Markets, they’re not as tender as they were in June. Our last haul included half a dozen acorn squash and several zucchini with the last of summers cucumbers. This growing season marks the second year of our seasonal only eating. What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating means purchasing and eating food around the time the food was harvested. Which for us means, we eat asparagus in the spring and then will not eat it again until next spring. Same for tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet corn. I have processed and frozen green beans, zucchini, beets, and squash to eat this winter. The reason we do this is two-fold: for one we want to eat food that is freshly harvested and preferably very local to us (grown within 50-60 miles of us), secondly we find this is a wonderful way to support our local farmers. Essentially they grow it and we are there come harvest to buy it and eat it. And we buy a lot of it. We eat as much sweet corn as we can handle. This year that mean approximately 100 ears were eaten by two people in this household. I ate over 11 pints of strawberries (each time picked fresh that morning) and about the same amount in raspberries plus I had 35 ripe peaches and 15 ripened pears. Together my husband and I ate 5 bunches of asparagus, 10 bunches of fresh carrots, 2.5# of green beans, 15# new potatoes, 10# of fingerlings,10# of fresh beets, 12 bunches of fresh spinach, 12 bunches of fresh lettuce, lost count on the cucumbers, and 20 peppers of various color. I alone have eaten 50 tomatoes since July. Now as the season changes we’ve begun consuming apples, squash, and zucchini.

All total from the first week of June until the first week of September we spent approximately $25.00 a week (roughly $350.00) on local produce in two different Farmer’s Markets. Prices are never lower for produce then when they are being harvested. During the summer months our meals consist of lots of fruits and vegetables and very little meat (1 maybe 2 meals a week with meat), and almost no unhealthy snacking. So we save a lot of money throughout the summer.

Prior to eating seasonally we would purchase substandard tasteless produce that was not local to us all winter long. Now–we store some of summers bounty up for winter eating and then come fall we’re buying squash, apples, and zucchini that we will also enjoy all winter. Through out the winter months we will not buy any produce in the store except lettuce and bananas. No matter how bad I might want a tomato in my winter salad, I will not buy any tasteless ones out of season.

Pictured is our favorite tree on the south shore of Devil’s Lake right behind the snack shack. One or the other of us has been photographing this tree since 2005.

Like the seasons of growing and harvesting food each one of us is in a season of our life. I am currently in mid- fall where a lot of my foliage has changed color and some of it may now be lying on the forest floor. There are still bits of rare green here and there but for the most part fall has been declared.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and that perhaps you and your family might consider seasonal eating. Thank you for stopping. Below are two informative sites that discuss seasonal eating, why it’s better for you and your local community, and lastly how eating seasonally can save you a lot of $.

Eating Seasonally Food Guide

Why eating seasonally is better !


The Month of September means–

Baking several loaves of banana bread (and freezing them), visiting the apple orchard for the first time and trying Paula Reds, and surprises like my new guinea impatiens blooming again. This pretty sherbet colored impatiens has been blooming off and on all season. It has outperformed EVERYTHING I planted this year. In the last 8 days, we’ve had between 20-30 inches of rain (depending on where you are located in this county). Everything is wet, saturated, and in most cases ruined. Luckily because of where we are located– second-floor apartment on a hill, we were not flooded. Summer is almost gone and then we will settle into fall with more apple picking and squash baking and then eventually await the spring seed catalogs. Where does time go? It’s lost somewhere between intent and actual doing–never to be held, never to slow down, never to be captured. Always lost.

Meet Me at the Farmers Market–a book review

Here’s what I had to say about this incredible book–

A very well thought out children’s book that is full of sweet and delightful illustrations that are both entertaining as well as informative for children and adults alike. I especially enjoyed the fun references to food and the friendly characters that seem to come to life in this children’s storybook. I highly recommend this book for both children and adults.

I requested this book from the publisher because of the subject matter. Along with what I wrote above I found this book to be entertaining and a perfect way to get your kids to engage with farmers markets, local food or food of any kind. I enjoyed this book so much and I felt that the children in my area would also enjoy it –so I went ahead and donated two copies to our local library and purchased one for the children’s lounge at the church I belong to.

10 Book Reviews Reviews Published Professional Reader

Happy Reading!!

2018 Container Gardening–Week 14

My garden is blooming this week–the petunias are going crazy and my pepper plant has grown another foot. The big question is, will it produce fruit? At week 14 I’ve made a very big decision regarding my container garden. I’ve been growing patio tomatoes on my deck for a decade now. Each year I drive to my favorite garden and plant nursery and I spend anywhere from $10.00-20.00 on each patio tomato plant, and then go buy dirt ($20.00), and fertilizer (12.00), and then end up with an average of 5 tomatoes from each plant all season. Some years have been more and others way less. Truthfully they don’t even have much of a taste to them. I spend about 30 minutes getting them planted and then for around four months I water them and care for them every day for an average of 5 tomatoes the size of golf balls, sometimes a tad bigger, every year. So, if we are still living in this apartment next spring I will be ordering two Pink Brandywine Heirloom plants and caring for them all season. Because life is way too short to spend the amount of time I do on growing tomatoes and then they’re not even my favorite kind of tomatoes. Pictured is one I had today because ya–my plants are done producing this year–I paid $3.99# for this beauty. My yield for my patio tomato plants this year was– 5 grape-sized heirloom pear-shaped tomatoes and 3 patio tomatoes the size of golf balls. Total cost for less than 1# of fruit–$65.00 (my time not included). You’ll notice in the photo of my pepper plants some plants popping up–those are my pumpkins. This year instead of planting pumpkins in their own pot and spending countless hours for nothing (seems like a resounding theme at times when container gardening) I decided to throw a few seeds in dirt and see what comes up. Also, you may notice my New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia are still in their nursery containers vs. being replanted in pots of mine. This is the first year I’ve done that and been able to keep New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia’s alive. I bought a pretty container to put them in and voila! They’ve done great. Until next time–Happy August!

P.S. my patio tomato plants must have heard I was blogging about them and that what I was typing wasn’t very nice. Yesterday, out of the blue,  a softball-sized tomato on one of the plants began to ripen after being green for nearly a month. In defense of these plants, I never really looked into what kind of tomatoes I would be getting growing them. They were suggested to me for their hardiness (which they are) disease resistance (which they are) and most importantly they are perfect for container gardens (which I have). One of the biggest reasons my yield is so low is that I don’t get a lot of bees on my deck. Some years I have had a lot of sweat bees, which usually pollinate both my tomatoes and my plants. But this year–almost none. I highly recommend patio tomato plants for patios, but would think twice about recommending them to people like me who are living in upper apartments and container gardening on their deck.


2018 Container Gardening- Week Nine

So this week things have stayed pretty much the same in my container garden. Missing are both Walmart non-smelling
geraniums. Not only did they not smell like geraniums, they basically bloomed once and died. I have since visited a nursery and purchased a new geranium plant along with a new petunia plant plus more Purple Cow composting soil. My husband and I live in an apartment complex for now. We are hoping by this time next year to be moving. A few years ago maintenance came around and planted shrubs etc. near everyone’s front door. I am assuming they felt that the tenant should thereafter be responsible for all care and maintenance of said shrubs and plants. Well, the soil these plants were planted in was all wrong, not to mention the kinds of plants planted, and the fact they were hastily put in and during one of the hottest days of the year. For over a year I watered an entire courtyard near our door and four plants right next to our front door. I also fertilized all the plants that were around our unit. Unfortunately, most could not be saved–mostly due to the fact of the soil they were planted in, they were planted shallow, they were planted late fall during a heat wave, and then come spring the area was sprayed by them with a toxic weedeater. This spring nearly everything was dead so we decided to go out and buy hostas at our own expense. I thought hostas would do well near our front door and they still might. However, the spot near our front door gets extreme heat in the afternoon and shade in the am. Hostas need warm sun in the am and shade in the afternoon. This information did not deter us, instead, we went ahead and dug holes, filled them with Purple Cow composting soil, and planted the hostas. Today I made a sunshade for both plants and will cover with said sun shade for part of every afternoon. Keeping fingers crossed. My lavender is doing well since being cut back, and so is my rosemary. Our tree is still recovering, the lime coleus continues to flower and is about 2.5 ft tall, and I have a total of 14 green tomatoes waiting to ripen. How’s your garden doing?

2018 Container Gardening- Week Eight

This week I have teeny tiny pepper buds on my plants. It is so neat to see the flowers become fruit! As reported I am down one geranium,soon to be two, so I went out and bought a red geranium and red petunia to replace them. I learned my lesson at long last–no more plants no matter what from big box stores. I cannot believe I bought not one but two geraniums for $11.00 a piece and they didn’t smell like anything. For most of my life I couldn’t stand the smell of geraniums or petunias, but now my garden would not be complete without their unique smells. It sounds weird but it is true, and I can’t describe what they smell like–so next time you’re planting a garden buy some and see for yourself. They grow on you, I promise. Everything has doubled even tripled in size since plant. See for yourself–Happy Gardening All!

2018 Container Gardening–Week Seven

I’m thrilled to say my nasturtium flowered this week, just as I’d basically given up. One thing that I know I did wrong with it was that I fertilized it, and I’ve now read fertilizing it probably made the plant want to produce more leaves vs. flowers. I had an abundance of leaves so this pearl of wisdom made sense to me.

Temperatures this week were in the mid-eighties and I was able to harvest two more pear tomatoes. One of my non-smelling geraniums bit the dust so I replaced it with a lovely pot of petunias I found on clearance. Next up I am anticipating the ripening of half a dozen tomatoes on my two patio tomato plants.

Rosemary–growing my own herbs

I’d always wanted to grow my own herbs, but having cats in my home for all my adult life made that impossible. Every year I would walk through the herb section at local nurseries dreaming about harvesting rosemary, sage, and thyme. I was always under the impression, silly me, that herbs had to be grown inside. I’m not sure where I got that ill-informed information. Ten years later I’ve grown many herbs–thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, lemon balm and so many more. Some I’ve had great success with– while others continue to challenge me. This year the only herb I’m growing is rosemary (Blue Spires for culinary use) and to date, this is the healthiest rosemary plant I’ve ever grown. I feel so rewarded for my ten years of learning how to pick the right starter plant, to learning how much or little to water, and finally how much light or how little light to provide it in my container garden. Today was the first harvest, and judging by how beautiful and healthy this plant looks there will be several more. All the rosemary I harvest is put in freezer bags and every week several pieces are used for my Sunday dinner of roast chicken. By spring all of my harvested rosemary is gone. I’ve tried to overwinter rosemary with zero success, but I think this year, with this plant, I may try again. Here’s a great article about choosing the perfect rosemary plant based on your location, weather, and taste.
What’s your favorite herb?

My love affair with heirloom tomatoes

To be truly honest with you when I was growing up I’m not sure what kind of tomato we were growing. I suppose they could have been heirloom? Maybe they were started from seeds grandma saved? There was no Walmart’s or Home Depot’s back in those days, so our only source besides seed saving was purchasing plants from local greenhouses.

I’ve loved tomatoes since I was eight years old and never throughout the last forty-five years has my appetite for them waned. Up until a few years ago, I’d never had a home garden. Which meant any tomatoes I would be eating would either come from a grocery store or a Farmer’s Market. I never enjoyed grocery store tomatoes, but I ate them nonetheless. Because (ahem) I love tomatoes.

In the last three years, I started seeing Heirloom tomatoes pop up at the farm stand and a time or two at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. When I say pop up I mean scarce and rare, but it happened. I remember buying one for $4.00 about three years ago and thinking “boy that was worth every penny I spent.” But that’s a lot of money. The last two years I’ve waited patiently for the farm stand we visit every week to have them. Usually, right at the end of the season, they’ll have a half dozen heirlooms sitting at check out waiting just for me. I pay about a $1.00 a pound for these. This year the farmer saved just one big red one–the nicest one he could find just for me. I’ll take them bruised, soft, and overripe. It doesn’t matter to me. While eating the heirloom this year I vowed never to eat another tomato for the rest of my life unless it was homegrown and an heirloom tomato. No more store bought ever again.

Until you’ve tasted an heirloom tomato you have no idea what you are missing. Their taste is more than just sun-kissed, or warm and fleshy. Heirloom’s taste like the very best homemade pasta sauce you’ve ever tasted –authentic and flavorful. Nothing sold in grocery stores for the last thirty years can compare.  There are also taste differences between the different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I prefer the red ones which are quite acidic, whereas the yellow ones are very mild.

For tomatoes to qualify as Heirloom tomatoes there seed must be at least 50 years old.  I found out a lot of information here about heirloom tomatoes.

I’ve found a place online that I am going to order heirloom plants and seeds from and I am going to try to grow my own. If successful I will be delighted, and if not well–I’ll wait for the farm stand to save me a few precious tomatoes at the end of their growing season. It’s a small price to pay to be able to eat a real tomato.

Here’s an almost current picture of my container garden all wrapped up for winter!

We bungee strapped a couple more blankets around the middle of each tree hoping to keep the roots from getting cold. I read that keeping the roots from freezing is the secret to over-wintering container shrubs and trees. Fingers crossed. I brought both the rosemary bush and the last geranium inside to overwinter because both plants performed better than any flowers or herbs I’ve grown yet and I’d like them to have another chance next spring.

I’ll be sharing this post over at the lovely blog A Stroll Thru Life for Marty’s 398th Inspire Me Tuesday!