Archive | December, 2012

Merry Christmas! I got you a blog post…

25 Dec

For the (final!) guinea pig month of December, I have been following a tyramine restricted diet.

Like histamine, tyramine is a product of certain amino acids that make up specific proteins.  Small amounts are present in most foods, but higher amounts result from rotting and fermentation.  Large quantities cause symptoms of food poisoning in those who have an intolerance.  Tyramine sensitivity is most common in those taking (monoamine oxidase) MAO inhibiting drugs, people who suffer from migraines, and folks with chronic urticaria (hives).  A suppression or deficiency of the monoamine oxidase enzyme system means that undegraded tyramine is allowed to rise to high levels, resulting in symptoms.  Excessive tyramine can cause: high blood pressure, increased pulse, itchiness, clamminess, migraines/severe headaches, hot feeling, skin flushing, light-headedness, sweating, hives, chills, and even cardiac failure.  Similar to histamine (and most, if not all, intolerances for that matter), tyramine sensitivity is dose-dependent and unique to the individual.

Off the Menu:

Dairy: all cheeses other than ricotta or cream cheese, yogurt/kefir

Breads & Cereal: large amounts of yeast-risen breads

Vegetables: any over-ripe/pickled vegetables, avocado, broad beans, green peas, potato, sauerkraut, spinach, sweet potato, tomato

Fruit: any over-ripe fruit, banana, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries

Meats, Poultry, Fish: any leftover meat, poultry, or fish; dry fermented sausages: bologna, pepperoni, salami; smoked/pickled fish, fish eggs (shouldn’t be a problem!), oysters

Legumes: soy beans & other soy products (tofu, soy sauce, miso, etc.)

Nuts & Seeds: walnuts & pecans

Fun stuff: chocolate/cocoa 😦 , flavored gelatin, cola drinks, cider, beer/wine

Condiments/other: nutritional/brewer’s yeast

Just to warn you: I have done a lot of dietary sinning this month.  My willpower tank is barely surviving on vapors.  I will wait until the end of the project to confess them all.  Most of them have to do with being careless (not reading ingredient lists or failing to consult my “no” list) rather than intending to cheat.  I still haven’t had any chocolate, so that’s an enormous feat (for me!) to be proud of.  Although as a side effect, I’ve been shoveling in a bunch of other sugary garbage as a non-satisfying replacement. :-/ Sugar cookies and divinity have become more appealing with chocolate out of the equation.

For the last week of this month, I will add a few more restrictions in the form of a mini experiment: nightshade removal.

Nightshades are a class of plants that contain alkaloids or natural insecticides.  These alkaloids have been associated with inflammation, particularly of the joints, in sensitive individuals.  Some commonly eaten nightshades include: tomatoes, peppers (sweet & hot), eggplant, potatoes, paprika, & cayenne pepper.  Tobacco and belladonna are also nightshades.  In the holistic community, a common practice among practitioners is to recommend a nightshade elimination diet in the treatment of arthritis.  While no foods have been scientifically proven to cause or contribute to arthritis, some sufferers swear by the removal of these plants.  Even if only a small percentage finds relief through this method, you know I’m always on board with the concept of healing through dietary means.


Vickerstaff Joneja, J. (2003) Dealing with Food Allergies. pgs 233, 245-250.

Way-to-Go Pal-e-o!

1 Dec

Hey!  November 14th was World Diabetes Day.  Ironic, eh?  Anywho…

Since November 24th, I ditched the carb counting & started eating like a caveman.  Well, a modern caveman.  I doubt they were frying up bacon in the Paleolithic era. 😉 I’ll admit that I first approached the Paleo diet with resistance and skepticism.  How could ditching whole grains in lieu of animal protein be healthy?  I found that the Paleo approach to eating actually makes a lot of sense when you shove preconceived stereotypes aside (see picture below)

There is a lot of research pointing towards a plant-based diet for chronic disease prevention, so I was drawn to the vegan diet in the beginning of my guinea pig dieting endeavors.  Once you make up your mind to shun an eating style you’ve grown accustomed to, you need as much convincing as you can get to stay on track.  I watched horrific documentaries and tormented myself with guilt.  The vegan premise is enticing for the health obsessed (check!) and ethical martyrs (check!).  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  Some people really struggle to nourish themselves on a 100% vegan diet.  I have read online accounts and heard personal testimonials of folks who really wanted to donate themselves to the cause, until that donation became literal and their health suffered terribly.  Some vegans look toward these people as weak-willed or accuse them of doing the vegan diet wrong.  Being vegan often becomes an identity to those who undertake its eating restrictions.  Even though agriculture destroys habitats and drains water supplies, the black and white thinking of save the animals often becomes their steadfast mantra.  I’m not here to attack anyone’s personal lifestyles.  If you are vegan and happy about it, kudos to you for doing something that you believe in.  Perhaps you even feel better on a vegan diet.  Great!  However, there’s no need to bully someone who gave the vegan lifestyle a try and had their body fall apart as a result.

Humans evolved to be omnivores, and the fact of the matter is that nutrition is a young science.   This means that there may be other necessary nutrients in animal foods that we are currently unaware of.  We already know that vegans MUST supplement with vitamin B12 and that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA found in fatty cold-water fish) are hard to come by when following a strict vegetarian diet.  Veganism is a new phenomenon, just gaining ground over the past 100 years.  Prior to this, there had been NO VEGAN SOCIETIES IN HISTORY.  Just think about that for a moment.  NONE!  In addition, H. Leon Abrams, Jr., an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Georgia states that animal research suggests that “…all primates have a basic & fundamental physiological need for at least a minimum amount of animal protein.”  I know that humans sometimes like to put themselves up on a pedestal of sorts, but we are in fact animals.  Veganism is a new health experiment certain sects of modern societies are willingly embarking on.

The premise of the Paleo diet is based on the concerns I stated above.  Man has evolved to thrive on an omnivorous diet.  According to Dr. Loren Cordain, often considered the leading expert on the Paleolithic diet,  research indicates that in hunter-gatherer societies, animal foods compose about 60% of total caloric intake.

And now for a short hilarity break.  This cracks me up!:—backstage-with-john-durant

What’s Paleo?

The Paleolithic Era was a period that lasted about 2.5 million years, ending with the development of agriculture.    Scientists generally agree that our Paleo ancestors likely subsisted on foods that could be hunted or gathered, including lean meats, seafood,  fruits, plants, nuts, eggs, insects, mushrooms, herbs, and spices.  To mirror our ancestors, we should eat a diet that has a lower glycemic load with more protein, less carbohydrate, significantly more plant matter, and a better omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) to omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) ratio.

Primal vs Paleo:

While Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf lead the Paleo movement, Mark Sisson created an alternate approach known as “The Primal Diet”.  Both diets have similar core ideas with a few variations.  High quality animal protein, fats, & produce are the backbone of each.  Grains, beans, legumes (including peanuts/peanut butter), sugar, & most processed oils are shunned by both schools of thought.  The main differences between the 2 concern the inclusion of dairy & the attitude towards saturated fat.  The Primal Diet condones saturated fats and encourages the consumption of full-fat dairy products.  Proponents of the Paleo diet tend to be more leery of excessive saturated fat in the diet & often recommend a dairy abstinence trial or total elimination of dairy products.  It’s important to note that “high quality” meats and seafood refer to grass-fed animals, wild-caught seafood, and raw non-homogenized dairy (in the case of Primal eating).  Consuming conventional factory raised animal products, fed species inappropriate diets consisting of corn and soy, is not going to help us straighten out our omega-3: omega-6 ratios.

Why Paleo/Primal?

Major alterations in a species’ evolution generally take place over hundreds of thousands of years.  Agriculture has only been around for 10,000 years, a mere blink in the eye of progression.  Not to mention the Industrial Age (beginning just 200 years ago), when refined grains and sugar became new staples in the food supply.  Paleo proponents argue that we have not sufficiently adapted to the consumption of agriculturally based foods, least of all those that have been refined such as sugar, flour, and vegetable/seed oils.

The Leaky Gut/Autoimmune Connection:

I’m going to cheat here and refer you to another blog for wonderful explanations behind why a Paleo diet may be ideal, particularly if you have an autoimmune disorder:

Then Why Not Paleo/Primal?  Examining silly objections:


Silly objection #1: Whole grains are necessary for good health:

This is just plain false.  There are absolutely no nutrients available in grains that are not available through eating fruits and vegetables.  If you think you need to eat Fiber One bars to get enough daily fiber, you’re being shortchanged.  Grains are not as nutrient dense as fruits and vegetables to begin with AND they contain potent anti-nutrients that can interfere with the utilization of those nutrients.  The only reason grains are on the bottom of the food guide pyramid is because the United States Department of AGRICULTURE (USDA) created it!

Silly objection #2: Saturated fats are the devil!:

The fear mongering behind the “dangers” of saturated fats is all based on junk science.  To put your minds at ease, consider this.  The Journal of Clinical Nutrition compiled a 2010 meta-analysis that tracked over 300,000 participants for over 20 years.  The conclusions?: “There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardivascular disease.”  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

Silly objection #3: High total cholesterol = danger!:

High total cholesterol may be associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease, but the cholesterol is not to blame.  When inflammation and oxidation cause damage within the blood vessels, cholesterol rushes in to try and remedy the problem.  So the wind knocks over a vase and Timmy rushes in to clean up the mess.  The way we demonize cholesterol could be likened to Timmy’s mom accusing Timmy of causing the mess in the first place.  It’s kind of a silly metaphor, but you catch my drift.  Cholesterol is meant to be our friend.  In fact, low cholesterol levels have been associated with cancer, depression, stroke, anxiety, violent behaviors, and suicide.  If you have low levels of triglycerides and high levels of HDL-C, you probably don’t need to worry how high your total cholesterol is.  Instead, divide your triglycerides by your HDL cholesterol and focus on maintaining a ratio of < 2.  The lower your ratio, the lower your risk of a having a heart attack.

Triglycerides?  I knew those damned fats were bad for me! NOT SO FAST!!!

Triglycerides are formulated out of EXCESS CARBS:


It turns out that systemic inflammation (from our piss poor SAD [Standard American Diet] or sometimes even a “healthy” vegetarian diet) is what’s actually at the root of most modern diseases.   In fact statin drugs, which are often prescribed as  cholesterol-lowering agents, work by reducing systemic inflammation!

Got Inflammation?


(Chart from It Starts with Food – see sources for more info)

If you are lucky enough to be free from any of above health ailments, congratulations!  Survival of the fittest is working in your favor.  For the rest of us, a Paleo approach may help us find some relief.

The bad news?  For some of you, it’s that you still have to eat your fruits and vegetables.  You can’t just chow down on meat and pretend that makes you healthy, because you shun grains.  Also, eating quality meats and vegetables is far more expensive than a box of Macaroni and Cheese.  I dream of a government that stops subsidizing the production of corn and soy and instead sends its dollars toward the veggie growers, but I don’t expect to see this any time soon. 😦 Finally, in the food allergy and intolerant world, having to cut out entire food groups when you are already avoiding specific foods for health reasons can cause more problems than it solves.  You are what you absorb, not what you eat.  You must use your best judgment to decide what type of diet is best for you, no matter what the cavemen ate or the scientists say.

The good news?  For many, you can have your steak and eat it too! 🙂

I chose a Paleo/Primal approach.  I didn’t eat any dairy products, but I didn’t worry about my saturated fat intake either.

Here’s what I ate my first day of the Paleo/Primal diet:

Brunch: 2 bananas with too much coconut butter (oh great I’ve discovered a new binge food :-/) + 2 eggs (sunny-side up) with tomato slices and a small amount of avocado, 2 strips of bacon, bowl of mixed fruit (watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe), handful of strawberries

Lupper: Beef stew with tomato sauce, radishes, carrots, spinach, & spices

Here’s what I ate my last day on the Paleo/Primal diet:

Breakfast: pumpkin protein bars + smoothy (Swiss chard, spinach, blueberries, apple juice, & coconut butter)

Lunch: turkey scramble (ground white turkey meat with grated broccoli, spinach, & spices mixed in) + a kiwi, a clementine, & prunes [Intestinal death wish?  Perhaps, but I’ve discovered that eating more animal protein allows me to get away with eating more fruit.]

Supper: turkey scramble leftovers + another kiwi & roasted sunflower seeds

*My favorite meal during this short experiment was cauliflower “rice” with mixed vegetables.  I shredded a head of cauliflower in my food processor.  Then I added coconut oil to a cast iron pan, dumped the “rice” in along with homemade zucchini hummus, mushrooms, black olives, fresh-squeezed lemon & lime juice, and spices, and cooked it all together.  It was so delicious that I ate an entire head of cauliflower in one sitting!  There was a time when eating a stalk of cauliflower would have been an achievement for me.  How far I’ve come!

Case study:

One head of cauliflower vs equivalent amount (~3 cups) of “healthy” brown rice

First, the cauliflower…

Calories: 210; Sodium: 252mg; Potassium: 2545mg; Net carbs: 24g or ~1.5 carb choices; Dietary Fiber: 21g; Protein: 17g; Vitamin A: 2% of RDA, Vitamin C: 650% of RDA, Calcium: 18% of RDA; Iron: 21% of RDA

And now the brown rice…

Calories: 654; Sodium: 6mg; Potassium: 252mg; Net carbs: 124g or 8 carb choices!; Dietary Fiber: 10.5g; Protein: 13.5g; Vitamin A: 0% of RDA, Vitamin C: 0% of RDA, Calcium: 6% of RDA; Iron: 18% of RDA

Um, I win? 🙂


Hartwig, D. & M. (2012) It Starts with Food. Pgs. 82, 110, 148-151, 167-170

Schenck, S. (2011). Beyond Broccoli: Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work. Pgs. 11, 12.

Please leave comments or ask questions if you need clarifications.  Even though it took me forever to write this, I feel as though I rushed through a lot of information.  Also, ignore this dumb box.  I was experiencing some technical difficulties. 😉