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.




Perfect Pumpkin

Now while pumpkins are plentiful is the time to start buying and baking–because pumpkin has so many health benefits not known to the general public.

About 10 years ago now my husband and I were in the middle of trying to adopt a greyhound. Our love and desire to have a greyhound become part of our family was huge. After most tracks in this country stopped racing greyhounds, local agencies formed to help people/families adopt the retired greyhounds. The one we were trying to get had really bad teeth (potential of hundreds of dollars of care) and she also had problems with her stomach also due to the poor diet given to racing dogs. Time and again at meetings we heard stories of how the foster families and forever families were always using pumpkin with their greyhounds. Pumpkin will bulk up their stool, settle their tummies, and boost nutrition. Unfortunately, because of where we were living at the time, which lacked the appropriate space for this particular greyhound, we did not adopt her.

I’ve never forgotten how much I learned about pumpkin–here’s what I know:

  • It’s rich in vitamin A
  • One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories
  • High in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic disease
  • It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C–boosts immunity
  • The nutrients in pumpkin are good for your eyesight
  • Nutrient dense, low calorie, may produce weight loss
  • Antioxidants lower risk of cancer
  • Is packed with fiber
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Versatile foodstuff that you can add to anything–wraps, salads(cooked) veggies, stews, soups and more

Some people may not know this but pumpkins are a type of squash. Pumpkins and squash belong to the same family called Cucurbitaceae.  Every year I bake up two dozen squash and pumpkin, then let cool, place in freezer bags and freeze. We then are able to eat squash every single month, almost, until the next year’s season. If one or both of us is feeling ill I will make up a pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin risotto does the trick every time. Here is the recipe–Pumpkin Risotto

I also roast all my pumpkin seeds for snacks and to add to bird food.

When you’re done with your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the garbage, where they’ll just clutter up a landfill, choose to break them up and set them out in a place where the birds and other small animals can get to them.

As we head into the season of sickness I would also like to add this article that has natural health remedies such as pumpkin, ginger, rice, and sweet potatoes that help manage diarrhea, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

Until next time– stay healthy and happy!

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 !


Eat like your grandparents did!


I was inspired to write this blog post mainly because this week I’ve witnessed dozens of epiphanies from people who’ve been dieting since January. Obviously, we all know several people who jump on the dieting bandwagon the first month of the new year. What some of us may not have known — is that it would seem come the new school year many of these same people begin questioning their diets. If I saw one, I must have seen a dozen people come to the following revelation >>> They’ve decided to try eating in moderation because some book told them to. So add moderation as a trend to the trendy diets for the people we know who are on diets 11 months out of the year.

I’m really not trying to be snarky about any of this. Dieting is serious stuff. Dieting, constant dieting and changes in your body, can and will do serious damage. Dieting is always temporary. Temporary until the dieter falls off the wagon temporarily, temporary until the next trend comes along, or temporary until the dieter quits for good. Quick weight loss plans are quick temporary diets. Unfortunately, the damage dieting can do may not be as temporary as the diet itself.

The plain fact of the matter is dieting leads to disaster–every single time. This is a fact that is backed up by doctors, therapists, dieters, and healthcare practitioners. Nowadays there are diets that eliminate food, bread, dairy, meat, grain, plants, supplements, air, etc. You get my drift. I know at least one person on each one of these “diets” and some that are on a different diet train month after month after month. Hey, do what’s best for you but know this– it’s been proven that trendy diets do more harm than good. It’s clear to see that naming which diet, diet plan, or supplemental drink you’re on via social media is trendy, but in the long-term none of it will do your body good.

Slowly but surely most people come around to the idea that if they eat in moderation, eat whole foods, and exercise they will lose weight and improve their health. Diet gurus, MLM’s, influencers, and bloggers have really done a number on people. I see people all the time throwing out big boxes of meal plans, diet books, shakes, supplements, kits, and so on. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars of stuff. Yes, they lost a couple of pounds, maybe even 20 or 30 pounds, but they starved something somewhere in their body to do it. It’s a fact that once they stop whatever they are doing they will put the pounds back on and probably continue to keep putting them on. Which will reaffirm to them they should be dieting or that said diet was working.

It’s your mind that you have to put on a diet, not your body. You need to learn about nutrition, food, and what each thing that you put into your mouth does or doesn’t do for you. You need to learn about portion size, about eating whole foods and what whole foods are, and how to buy, store, and prepare nutritious foods.

Fifty years ago common sense informed people that eating in moderation was the only way to diet. In the last thirty or so years people have written most common sense off as old wives tales(apparently) and instead have spent millions of dollars trying the latest fad. And now? The latest fad is to eat in moderation. Go figure.

It’s also sad that people have to buy dozens and dozens of books to teach or reteach themselves how to feed their bodies. Has society really and truly strayed that far away from the obvious answers?

If you need to buy books then at least buy books by licensed nutritionists and registered dieticians. Your family doctor is great for everything health related to your specific health needs, but if he’s like mine will be the first to tell you he didn’t study nutrition in med school. Again–I repeat, when it comes to nutrition seek out licensed nutritionists and registered dieticians. That means you don’t look for or take advice online from— commission based sales representatives, MLM distributors, motivational speakers, or doctors, med school students, or armchair doctors before consulting your physician.

Take what you can from any information you find whether online or at the doctor’s office–whatever directly and safely pertains to you. In every “fad” or “trendy” diet there is some good. For instance you will learn about portion size, or exercise, or how to cut out bad carbs, or to drink more water, and eat a variety of different fruits, veggies, and foods. All this is good information until the fad or trend tells you to stop doing this or stop doing that (which has nothing to do with moderation). Moderation works! Consult your physician so that he or she can give you the full picture on your health and then ask to speak with a licensed nutritionist or registered dietician before trying any of the popular diet fads or trends discussed online 24/7.

Though I may not have ever gone on a “diet” I have spent the last twenty years on a 1600 calorie a day meal plan.  This isn’t a fad or trend diet meal plan, but one that is set up for my age, weight, and health concerns. I limit sugar, I don’t drink anything with caffeine, and I keep my carbs at 800 calories of carbs a day. I walk briskly 3 x a week, and stretch and do yoga 3x a week. Every day I eat 3 fruits and try to eat 3-4 veggies. I don’t eat processed food. I do eat bread. I do eat meat approx. 3-4 times a month. I drink half my body weight in water every day. I’m by no means perfect and I haven’t always eaten this way.

Full disclosure– thanks to genetics I have the potential to balloon up to 250-300#– maybe more. I have many things in common with my paternal grandmother; including her body shape (pear) and ability to pack on the pounds.  I have never ever been on a diet. I am not skinny. I weigh 35# more than I should, but it’s not due to eating unhealthy. In fact, 99% of it is due to not being able to be as active as I need to be due to a back issue. I’ve been eating whole foods in moderation for over a decade and have never weighed more than 168#. I deal with arthritis in my feet and Fibromyalgia issues daily which also limit my ability to walk, hike, and ride a bike as much as I’d like to. I get a lot of advice on what foods and drinks to avoid based on my issues. Time and again I hear–don’t eat dairy. First, I am not allergic to dairy nor am I lactose intolerant. It is my strongest desire with the issues I deal with to have good strong bones. I drink 12 oz of organic milk every day. I also eat 2-3 slices of organic cheese a week, and during the summer months enjoy the heck out of a good ice cream cone 1-2 times a month. I experience zero inflammation from dairy. There is a link between lactose intolerance/milk allergy and inflammation–I found a great article on this which is below:

Inflammation and  dairy

Metabolism Basics

Why Dieting is Harmful by a Fitness Expert

Five Reasons Not to Diet in 2018

Diets Don’t Work–so why do we keep trying them?

If you take anything away from what I’ve just written I hope it is that I am very concerned about all this trendy dieting. I totally understand people want and need to lose weight. I totally understand all the emotions connected with people and their weight/body image, and health. I worked in healthcare for twenty years starting as a certified nursing assistant and retiring in healthcare management. I worked with certified nutritionists and registered dieticians all the time developing meal plans for clients throughout the twenty years I worked in healthcare. These are the people to go to, consult with, and work with for weight loss and better health.

I think there are a lot of well-intentioned people on the internet that try something and enjoy good results and then want to pass that information along to others. Whether by selling others shakes or powders or supplements. I certainly don’t begrudge them trying to help people, while also trying to support their family with extra income.

That said– it is wise to consult your physician, naturopath,  or nurse practitioner before trying any new diet or supplement being sold or shared online. As I stated before your doctor may not be able to advise you on nutrition based on what he/she learned in med school, but they will be able to tell you whether a new diet or supplement is a good idea based on your health, current meds, and any information they can glean about said new diet or supplement.

Until next time–give whole foods and some of these nutrition books a try–(Amazon links, but not affiliate links)

Basic Nutrition

Good Calories Bad Controversial Science

The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook-1000 recipes for choosing, cooking, and preserving whole foods.

Planning a Potager

You may be asking yourself when you read the title of this blog–what is a potager? Potager is french for kitchen garden. When I plant my garden I always include herbs and pretty flowers. In a sense that is the concept behind a potager. A kitchen garden is usually right outside your kitchen door where you can easily access it to pick flowers or vegetables. Your kitchen garden should contain, at the very least, ingredients from which you can put together a pot of soup or stew.  This link will teach you how to properly say potager. It took me a couple of tries but I finally pronounce it correctly. This year my potager, which will actually be grown in containers on my porch, will contain red geraniums on the outer edges,  a potato plant, 5 tomato plants (different heirloom varieties), a pepper plant,  beet root, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and lemon balm. I have one decorative pot I will be planting with a lime green leaf coleus and three dahlia plants.  Among all of my plants I plant companion plants like sugar snap peas, chives, and mint this year. I am going to try cucumbers and mini pumpkins as late crops in containers once one of my tomato plants or the pepper plant is done producing–I’ve never had luck growing mini pumpkins so fingers crossed this year. On my deck I can only have so much weight, and my space is limited to 10′ x 5′ so as soon as one plant is done producing another plant will take its place in a pot. All of my plants are bought from Bauer’s Market Place in La Crescent, Minnesota. I’ve tried a lot of other places throughout the years, and even though Bauer’s is over an hours drive from home–it’s worth the trip. The prices and quality of their plants cannot be beat.

The soil I will be using is Purple Cow Organic soil along with their bio-active fertilizer. I had such a wonderful container garden  last year thanks to their gardener’s product line.

It’s hard to believe that this is what it looked like 9 days ago here!

Here’s a gardening tip that has proven invaluable to me as a tomato lover and tomato plant grower- never ever let the leaves of your tomato plant get wet. I trim off all bottom leaves –the little suckers and leaves that grow on bottom. These leaves when wet can rot the plant and can deliver a fungus to your plant and cause blight. Also–never ever water tomato or potato plants from above. Always stick the hose or watering can by base of plant to water. Cucumbers and melons also don’t like to be watered from above, their leaves will develop a fungus on them that is a white powdery substance. To produce tomatoes keep the soil warm, and to produce potatoes keep the soil cool.

A reader prompted me to look into more information regarding bottom watering–because as we know Mother Nature doesn’t water from the bottom. I also pondered this when I began to water from the bottom. Garden documentary after garden doc I saw bottom watering, drip watering, and self-watering. Most urged gardeners not to get the plant or fruit wet before the sun hit because the water can then burn your plant and fruit. Why Mother Nature can water your plant and fruit and not cause burn? That may forever remain a mystery, but, if you water at dusk or dawn no worries. Watering and then letting the sun hit=worries. Many gardeners deal with blight. Just two years ago I was the only one among many gardeners in my area not hit with blight. Some asked me what I did different. I never let my leaves or fruit get wet, I watered from the bottom, and I pinched off all the suckers on my plant including the ones at the base. My tomato plants have nice clean stalks up to the main branches, and I use soil that drains well, and I cover the soil with an environmentally safe weed barrier (that helps to keep my soil warm). Here are two sources I gleaned information from regarding bottom watering.