Monthly Archives: April 2013

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A Bit of Randomness (Stomach Update + An Award!)

Thanks so much for everyone’s comments on my last WIAW: What You Need to Know About Your Produce. There was some great discussion and questions going on. Lots of learning all around!

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So today was supposed to be a good day (Thursday). Both of my classes were cancelled for tomorrow due to final exams next week, and I had the highly ambitious plan to pack up after my last class today and drive home for a three day weekend.

Then I had lunch.

Hold up. Let’s rewind a bit. So, I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping you all updated with how GAPS is going for me and what the status is on my stomach healing protocol. The main reason is that not much has changed. I am still only eating meat and a very minimal selection of vegetables. Soup is still on the menu for every meal of the day.

wiaw-chicken-veggie-soup-edited

Like I said last time though, I am better. My stomach is not always as bloated as it once was.

But that is about as far as the results have gone.

The biggest problem is that I just can’t tolerate probiotics. Not the pill form nor the naturally occurring probiotics that you find in food like sauerkraut. For awhile I thought that I might be able to, but then when I kept on getting worse I had to cut them out again. Recently I’ve been taking small amounts of beet kvass along with ox bile for fat digestion because that’s not going so well either.

A lot of words and not much to report. In past posts though I’ve held back a little bit with what my symptoms are. The main reason is because I don’t want to complain. I still don’t want to complain and I’m trying to keep this post as sarcastic-free as possible. However, I did say awhile back that I was going to be more honest and right now with my stomach feeling terrible (from the aformentioned quote of “And then I ate lunch.”), I guess there isn’t any better time than now.

I don’t know a good way to go about this so I am just going to ramble on a bit more. Here it goes, my symptoms for the breakdown: bloating caused by anything from no identifiable causes to perhaps eating too many vegetables or “too large” of meals (think of a full soup bowl as “too large”… 🙁 ), stomach pain if my meals are “too large” or again from hidden causes, alternating extreme bowel issues (severe pain from either side of the spectrum that may last a few days on end and wake me up in the middle of the night), acid reflux/burning feeling, the feeling of a heavy stomach, nausea, trouble staying asleep occasionally, irregular periods now persisting for about 15 months (I think I’ve had maybe four since then with one induced by artificial hormones from an OBGYN…. never again!), brain fog and trouble concentrating (<< these have both decreased significantly though since eliminating my allergies), mood swings, stomach cramps….

I’m probably forgetting a few but these are the only ones that I can remember right now. On a good day I only experience a few of these things. However on an extremely bad day all of these symptoms may plague me.

That does not mean that I am giving up GAPS. I still believe that it is the only thing that is helping me right now stay away from everyday being an “extremely bad day.”

It was 15 months ago that all of my problems started. I’ve seen 2 GI doctors, an allergist, a pediatrician,  a chiropractor (my GAPS practitioner right now), a holistic nurse, and an OBGYN. I was prescribed multiple medicines by the first GI doctor, none of which worked. I had several blood tests run along with other common procedures like two ultrasounds and a colonoscopy/endoscopy (with mild gastritis diagnosis). I’ve taken dozens of supplements. I’ve eliminated about 90% of the food I used to eat including all of my allergens (wheat, rye, peanut, egg, dairy, tomato, celery).

I feel like I’ve done everything under the sun with still no answers. I feel like no one understands.

But that isn’t true, is it? There are many out there that have it worse off than me. They truly have no one around that understands or cares.

And that’s why I know that I’m not giving up. Not even close.

Actually, I have another possible test coming up soon and I’m going to schedule another GI appointment if nothing shows up with that.

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With that done I don’t really have anything left to say as far as my stomach goes. If you read through all of that above, I’m sorry because I think I failed at my attempt to not complain. I’m also sorry because more than once I probably provided you with too much information (And despite what some people may say, there is totally a thing such as TMI!).

I digress though, and not so subtly I will move onto another topic entirely.

Because that’s what I do. I randomize the heck out of my blog posts.

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I think the first half of my Friday post was a teensy bit depressing. Okay, maybe a lot. So to balance it all out, I’m going to share something super fun!

A survey! 

This actually came at the perfect time in my opinion because nothing can brighten a dreary day like a good old-fashioned survey. This survey comes from Holly at Eat Great Be Great who nominated me for the Liebster Award. I’ve already been nominated for this before; however, that’s not going to stop me from doing it again 😉 You can read more about the origins of this highly prestigious award on one of my previous posts.

In case you don’t click over though, these are the rules:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers (as best as you can tell based on the info provided!). They should be bloggers that you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers that you nominated to answer.
  6. Let all of the bloggers know that they’ve been nominated.  You cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you.

#1 Completed above, but in case you haven’t already, go check out Holly’s blog! I dug around on her blog a bit today and discovered two awesome posts explaining the health benefits of avocado and ginger. Very informative.

#2 I would say that I shared way more than 11 random facts about me above so I will save myself from overstaying my welcome and just count those 🙂

#3- My favorite part- The Questions!

1. Are you a city girl or a country girl? I think I may have mentioned this on the blog before, but I am a total country girl. I live down a long gravel driveway surrounded by acres of cornfields, my backyard is comprised of a nice thick woods complete with creek, and in high school I was involved with FFA (Future Farmers of America). Also, my high school had drive your tractor to school day which is quite the sight to see and as a member of FFA we got to vote on the best ones!

liebster-country-girl

2. What’s your favorite movie? I really dislike this question as it is SO hard to pick a favorite. So instead I am going to just go with the last movie I watched- Olympus Has Fallen starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman. Loved it!

liebster-olympus-has-fallen

3. What’s your favorite color? Pink.

liebster-pink

4. If you’re stranded on a desert island, what are your 3 MUST have items?

  • A flint striker to start a fire.
  • A knife to crack open all of those coconuts and dig into the gourmet fish that I would cook over the fire every night…
  • And a water filter. You may laugh, but try drinking sea water for days straight and see how you feel then!

liebster-island

5. What’s your favorite food? Heh. I feel like because I haven’t had real food in so long I can cheat on this and list a few things: peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (bet you didn’t see that one coming…), bananas, baked sweet potatoes, and shrimp.

liebster-ice-cream

(Source)

6. What’s your favorite destination vacation? Just in the United States I would love to go to California again. Globally though I think it would be so much fun to visit China- the fresh food, the culture, just everything about China fascinates me.

liebster-china

7. Do you have any siblings? Yes. A younger brother.

liebster-brother

8. Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla, especially if we are talking cake and ice cream.

liebster-vanilla

(Source)

9. Who is the most important person in your life? Of course I would say my parents and brother. But I would also have to include my best friend who I just got off the phone with. A nice long phone call is just what I needed.

liebster-phone

10. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Morning person as in a perfect world I would be able to go to sleep at 9:00 every night.

liebster-early

11. What’s your favorite day of the week and why? Fridays. There is just so much promise for the weekend. I was always one of those people who preferred the long car rides before and after vacations more than the vacation itself. Weird. I know.

liebster-friday

#4: 11 Blogs That I Love (Yes I have already tagged most of you. However, this doesn’t make me feel guilty in the slighetst because I think you totally deserved this award AGAIN)-

  1. Meghan @ Clean Eats Fast Feets
  2. Meghan @ After the Ivy League
  3. Caitlin @ Chasing Chels
  4. Jessie @ Jessie Bear What Will You Wear
  5. Sarah @ Picky Runner
  6. Alex @ The Run Within
  7. Hannah @ Clean Eating Veggie Girl
  8. Olivia @ Liv Lives Life
  9. Claire @ Flake and Cake
  10. Anna @ Anna the Apple
  11. Rebecca @ Half-Baked Bec
  12. Edited to add Taylor…How could I forget this awesome new blogger @ Moves and Movies?
  13. If I didn’t nominate you, please do this anyways because you all deserve it!

#5: Now my list of questions… Muahaha!

  1. What time zone do you live in? Eastern Standard Time.
  2. Who is your favorite superhero? Batman.
  3. Is is hot or cold where you live now? Getting warmer!
  4. What is your favorite kind of chip? Sour Cream and Onion or Sour Cream and Cheddar.
  5. If you could invent a new kind of jelly bean flavor, what would it be? Peanut butter and jelly.
  6. Do you prefer swimming in the ocean or swimming in lakes? Ocean!
  7. What book have you reread the most times? The last Harry Potter installation.
  8. What is your dream car? A VW Bug.
  9. If you were given 1 million dollars right now, what kind of business would you start? An allergy-free bakery.
  10. If you could have a miniature version of any animal for a pet, what would you pick? I would want a mini elephant!
  11. What is your least favorite color? Red.

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Comment on anything you like! Answer one of the multiple questions above, or share a little bit of randomness!

What You Need to Know About Your Produce

Originally I had a much more fun post planned for today, but then I got an e-mail in my inbox and changed my direction completely. Needless to say I’m already ahead of the game for next week’s WIAW! Usually I would be a little annoyed at the thought of writing an entirely new post, but I think this topic is much more important for you all to hear today.

So, who was it that caused this drastic change in plans?

Actually the proper question would not be who, but what, and the what would be the Environmental Working Group (otherwise known as EWG). As stated on the EWG’s website, they are “the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization.”  Their mission “is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment.”

ewg-logo

(Source)

At first that seems like a pretty big undertaking for an organization that many have probably never even heard of, but EWG is funded by many supporters which you most definitely are familiar with such as The Walton Family Foundation (as in the Waltons of Wal-Mart!), The David and Lucille Packard Foundation (ever heard of Hewlett-Packard, aka HP, one of the leading technology companies in the world?) and many others.

ewg-funding-donations

(Source)

EWG concerns itself with six key issues including consumer products, energy, farming, food, water, and toxics. The issue that the e-mail I received addressed an issue that everyone should be concerned with— Food!

Every year for the past nine years now, EWG has released what it calls its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. As the title suggests, this guide ranks the pesticide contamination levels in popular produce and shares it with consumers to so that we can make healthier decisions about which fruits and vegetables are safest for us to consume.

ewg-shoppers-guide

(Source)

In addition to their Shopper’s Guide (and more importantly in my opinion), is EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Both the Shopper’s Guide and Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists are based on the pesticide residue tests completed by the USDA and FDA and according to their website, this year included more than 28,000 samples on 48 fruits and vegetables to ensure the most accurate results.

Here are the links to some of the invaluable information that EWG released this year regarding to pesticides:

Apples Top EWG’s Dirty Dozen (sort of like a newspaper article describing their findings)

Executive Summary (very concise and helpful!)

Methodology (again, a very clear and easy understand description of how they obtained their information)

FAQ’s (common questions people ask about pesticides)

Full List (ranks all 48 fruits and vegetables by level of pesticides)

As I stated before though, I think one of the most helpful things that the EWG creates for consumers is their Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists:

EWG-2013

This is great to print out and store in your wallet, purse, pocket, etc. when you go to the grocery store. You can click here to get your own free downloadable copy so that you always have the list with you. I also printed out a list and taped it to my fridge at home for easy reference when I or my parents go to make a grocery list. All you need to do is look over at the list when you write down your groceries and if a produce item is on the Clean Fifteen write C (for Conventional) and if it’s on the Dirty Dozen write O (for Organic). That way you won’t forget while you are shopping. So easy!

It’s important to note though, that these lists don’t guarantee that if you buy something conventionally grown on the Clean Fifteen it’s pesticide-free or on the Dirty Dozen it’s pesticide-laden. These lists are based on test data and can only predict the likelihood of pesticides on the produce.

Also, some of you particularly observant readers may have noticed that the number of produce on the Dirty Dozen don’t add up to 12 but 14! As noted by the asterisks (*) beside the bottom produce of collards/kale and summer squash/zucchini, these vegetables did not make it into the official Dirty Dozen list, but when tested they showed evidence of organophosphate pesticides which is why they were added as “Pluses” to the list. Organophosphate pesticides are “potent neurotoxins that can affect children’s IQ and brain development, even at low doses.” I think it’s safe to speak for the masses, but I’m not even bothered in the slightest that EWG broke their 12 rule and included this produce on the list.

ewg-pesticides

(Source)

There are many still that believe there is no benefit to consuming organic over non-organic vegetables, but as you can see, I have a very strong standpoint on the matter. With severe gastrointestinal issues, I can really tell the difference when I consume conventionally grown versus organic produce both in taste and in the way I feel overall. I still skin most of my vegetables, but that doesn’t mean I’m safe. While it’s true that pesticides are more concentrated in the skin of produce, we now know that pesticides can actually be found inside produce as well, making none of our previous methods of preparation entirely full-proof.

My questions for you today are: Do you follow the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists when you shop? Do you try to buy organic produce whenever possible? 

If you haven’t already, I urge you to click on my link above, print out your own copy of the EWG’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists, and go put it in your wallet so that you can reference it whenever needed. Even further, why don’t you print out a few additional copies and give them to your friends and family so we can all be a little safer in what we put in our bodies!

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A huge thanks to Jenn for allowing me to participate in WIAW week in and week out (even though I always break the rules 😉 )

Shared at Fat Tuesday as well.

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Edited to add: I received a comment that you can read below from a website that claims that organic and conventional produce are equally safe and that the EWG is trying to make people fearful of eating fruits and vegetables.

Addressing the first part, you can read about the USDA’s National Organic Program, as well as their Organic 101 Blog which answers a lot of questions that consumers might have about organic regulations. The most interesting for me was that “the USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used” (Source). Also, while studies show that organic produce may not necessarily be higher in vitamins or minerals compared to their conventional counterparts, organic produce is less likely to contain dangerous toxins that can impact your health (Source).

For the second part of their comment, I would like to repeat a quote that I shared in my response to them below from EWG’s FAQ page: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Eating conventionally grown produce is far better than skipping fruits and vegetables. And with EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™, consumers don’t have to choose between pesticides and healthy diets (Source). Also on the FAQ page the organization was asked if we should stop eating produce that is on the dirty dozen list. They responded that that is not their intent in creating the list as chemical-laden produce is still healthier than the much more popular snacks of candy and junk food (Source).

Finally, the EWG provides many studies on their FAQ page and website that support their claims. I am not trying to convince people to only buy organic; I am just providing the most convincing evidence that I have seen so far in the debate of organic vs. conventional. If you have any objections, questions, concerns, opinions, research, etc. that you would like to share, feel free to leave links in the comments below! Thanks for making this a great discussion!