Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gut Flora, Brain Health, and My Decision to Go Grain-Free

First of all, I should probably mention (for the sake of my new readers) that I got into the health and wellness industry after a long battle with my own health. After years of different ailments and western medicine, a series of surgeries and diagnosis, and a chemo-treatment that acted as my "rock-bottom", I found holistic nutrition and chinese medicine as my savior. After more years of personal research, I decided to get my holistic nutrition certification so I could help others going through similar battles.

Since then, I've been a success story. I found good health, a hopeful spirit, restored my fertility and had a super-healthy pregnancy, and perfectly-healthy baby girl. Plus, I found love. Cherry on top? Building my nutrition business and helping people every day, which is what I set out to do.

That said, wouldn't you find it hard to believe that I endured yet another health battle? Me too.
You'd think that someone who devoted their whole life to health research and a holistic lifestyle would be some kind of unicorn-like picture of health. Well, shit happens. And unfortunately, residual post-chemo shit happens.

I gave birth to my beautiful, healthy baby girl last November. She's 10 months old now. My postpartum health and recovery was amazing. I left the hospital with a flat stomach, I felt fantastic, healed quickly, and was back to "normal" within weeks. Mama and baby were healthy and happy. About 1-2 months postpartum, I began having some questionable symptoms.

Warning- It's about to get gross. 

Diarrhea, every day. Followed by stomach cramps. Then, bloating and distention. My stomach began to blow up larger than the size of my 9-month baby bump. This happened off and on, no matter what I ate. Then, weakened immune system, days when I couldn't get out of bed, joint pain, and just everything going haywire! Naturally (for me), I changed my diet about a million times and dove into research trying to diagnose this new issue. Reluctant but desperate, I started going to Doctor's appointment after Doctor's appointment. Referral here, referral there, tests here, tests there. I had 6 visits to the emergency room, 9 pelvic exams (at first they thought it was related to my labor), 7 different ultrasounds, 8 separate blood panels, a colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, small bowel follow through.... You name it, I did it.

9 months later... A diagnosis. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. 

I'd like to mention that I came up with this diagnosis on my own about 4 months in. I could check off every symptom on the list. I was sure it was a SIBO long before any professional told me so. Needless to say, the waiting and delayed diagnosis didn't restore my faith in the American healthcare system.

Once I knew what the problem was, I had pre-existing knowledge on the subject and began to treat it on my own naturally. Diet, herbs, etc. I also dove into more research, going deeper into the subject, and found some amazing facts.

Interestingly enough, around the same time I received my official diagnosis I was researching the link between nutrition and Autism for a client. I had pre-existing knowledge on this subject also, but I always like to freshen-up, look into current medical research, etc. As a lot of us know, Autism affects the intestinal lining as well as the brain. A lot of us also know that a certain diet is believed to "cure" Autism. Reading these basic factual (I believe) statements about Autism and looking at the foods that nourish the lining of the intestines, a light bulb went off. I started seeing the connection between the foods I was eating to cure my bacterial overgrowth and the foods that reduce the physical and mental affects of Autism.

Then, another light-bulb.

Without going too much into detail, I fought another battle these last 9 months. I'm sure my Husband can vouch for this, but my emotions were out of control! Uncharacteristically, I was suddenly negative, sad, a roller-coaster of emotions, angry, irritable, almost aggressive, and anxiety-ridden. I noticed the change and tried to use meditation, yoga, and positive affirmations to get my brain back on track. When I began putting together the pieces of this intestinal-brain health puzzle, it clicked. This was the answer to my intestinal health, my brain health, and everything in between!

My conclusion, and I'm not the first one to declare this, is that "gut flora" is directly related to brain health. The two go hand-in-hand and they communicate via the nervous system. They're both also also related to the immune system. I decided that to restore my intestinal health also meant to restore my mental health. As you might imagine, I was thrilled at this revelation!

Now that I've explained, let me break it down for you.... The foods that are GOOD for intestinal and brain health vs. The foods that are BAD.


  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Lactose-free Yogurt
  • Ghee
  • Bananas
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Cod-liver Oil 


  • Gluten
  • Wheat
  • Any grains
  • Dairy
  • Soy Protein 
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Vinegar
  • Aged meats
  • Potatoes 
  • Food additives
  • Pesticides 

Upon putting this list together, I realized how much of the "BAD" foods my 10-month old Daughter is eating every day. On top of that, she has been "hyperactive" since she began eating grains (cereals) and these different fruits. I also realized that the nights she consumed organic multi-grain cereal or brown rice cereal, applesauce, or baby food I made with potatoes or plums, she didn't sleep well. She was constantly waking up crying (I couldn't figure out why) with what seemed like tummy aches or gas.

On top of that, I've had several clients interested in helping their young children with nutrition, who complain of frequent tummy aches and have related emotional or aggression issues.

It all fit together like a puzzle.

This information could benefit anyone and everyone. Obviously, I have chosen to restrict all grains (and the other foods on the list) from my diet. I have also made the very difficult decision to raise my Daughter grain, dairy, and soy free. I've also restricted the other items on the "BAD" list that she ate previously. I've tried to re-introduce apples and potatoes to her diet, only to find that they do in fact give her stomach troubles, whether it be constipation or gas. I personally believe that restricting these foods from my diet will prevent future intestinal issues, improve my mental health, and help me maintain a positive outlook and physical life. I also personally believe restricting these foods from my Daughters diet will prevent possible ADHD (which her biological Father has been diagnosed with), promote healthy brain development, nourish the lining of her intestines, and strengthen her immune system.

I'm happy to report that I have been grain-free (I have been dairy and soy free for years) for just 3 weeks and I am already feeling AMAZING! Considering my disappearing symptoms, positive outlook, and diminished "foggy" brain, I totally believe this new lifestyle has helped me. Also, my Daughter has been grain-free for just 2 weeks and has already showed improvements. She seems to be a happier baby overall and has slept through the night (doesn't usually) several times! Hallelujah!

So, what do we eat?
I plan to write more posts on this subject. In the future I'll provide more detail on our daily diets and give you more recipes to match. So, keep checking back!

In short, here's the foods I have been eating most of lately:

  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Grain-free baguettes and rolls
  • Avocados
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Smoothies
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Peas
  • Dairy-free yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Organic meat with no hormones added
  • Sardines
  • Ghee
  • Bananas
  • Almond butter
  • Almond milk ice cream 

Here's some baby food combo's I've been putting together for my Daughter:
(Please note- all babies are on their own eating schedule and it is best to consult your pediatrician before following my advice for your child)

  • Sweet potatoes, broccoli
  • Peas, avocados
  • Bananas, avocados
  • Pineapple, mango, chia 
  • Peas, carrots
  • Spinach, mango, pineapple
  • Coconut milk, bananas, strawberries
  • Spinach, parsnip
  • Broccoli, parsnip
  • Peas, carrots, parsnip
  • Butternut squash, peas 
  • Egg yolks, avocados
  • Egg yolks, spinach 
  • Lentils, spinach, carrots
  • Lentils, coconut milk, carrots, peas 
  • Lentils, avocados
  • Strawberries, avocados, pumpkin 
Here's some great information on a study that confirms gut flora affects your brain health:

1 Cup almond flour
1/4 Cup almond butter
1/4 Cup pasture butter, melted
1 Egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/4 Cup honey or maple syrup 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 Tablespoons chia seeds
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseeds 
3/4 Cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips 

  • Preheat your oven to 350. 
  • In a medium-sized bowl, melt the butter and whisk in the almond butter and honey or maple until smooth. 
  • Add the chia seeds, egg and vanilla extract. 
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture. 
  • Fold in the chocolate chips. 
  • Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a two cookie sheets, about 1-2 inches apart. 
  • Bake for 10 minutes. 
  • Let cool for 2 minutes, then use a spatula to place cookies onto the cool counter or a wire rack. 
  • Enjoy! 

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