Low FODMAP Diet: My Six Week Update

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Hello all!

I hope 2017 is treating you well so far. As promised in my first low FODMAP blog post, I am going to go through my first six weeks on the diet and let you know how I got on.

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In this blog post I will share lots of the meals I ate over the course of the six weeks. This will hopefully provide inspiration for those of you who are about to undertake a low FODMAP diet or are already following one. Please remember that one should not commence a low FODMAP diet without prior consultation with a registered dietician. There are many causes of digestive distress that must be ruled out before a low FODMAP diet is advised, hence why I first had to undergo testing for coeliac disease.

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A low FODMAP breakfast

I started the diet two weeks prior to seeing a dietician. I couldn’t get an appointment  any sooner and wasn’t keen on delaying commencement. I decided to use the Monash and Kings College London apps to guide me until I could see my dietician. I was eager to find out if this diet would help my symptoms and was keen to get started.

I did make a few mistakes initially, mainly due to conflicting information on the two apps. I was eating cottage cheese and canned lentils, I also had too much of some of the FODMAP safe fruits. Portion control is so important on the low FODMAP diet, its not quite as simple as completely cutting out certain foods, rather many foods can be eaten, but only in a specific portion size. Once I saw the dietician and showed her my food diary she was able to advise me on where I was going wrong.

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Too much fruit! Even though banana and strawberry are FODMAP safe fruits, the portion needs to limited to a maximum of 80g in one sitting.

My dietician also advised me to include more chia and linseed in my diet. This was great because I always loved chia and linseed for digestion but I was afraid they weren’t allowed on the diet (particularly linseed). However she assured me that during her King’s College London training it was made clear that up to four dessert spoons of linseed were FODMAP safe.

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Low FODMAP lasagne – I came up with the one myself and will share it soon!

I have to say that I didn’t really find the diet too difficult to follow. It just meant cooking everything from scratch, which is I what I usually do anyway. However, the hardest part was eating out or visiting people. I tended to just eat before I visited friends and family so that I could be sure I was sticking to the diet. I rarely ate out during the six weeks because I didn’t want to risk breaking the diet.  Baring in mind that the low FODMAP diet is a short term diet which should last not much more than 2-6 weeks, it is important to keep to it strictly during that time.

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My birthday did fall during my six weeks on the low FODMAP diet and for it I took a trip to Pizza Express as they do a low FODMAP pizza that I could enjoy! Along with a glass of red ? (I love pizza!) I have to say that it tasted just as good as normal pizza and I definitely didn’t feel deprived!

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Low FODMAP: Six Weeks In

Over the six weeks, and in particular after seeing the dietician and taking her advice on board, my bloating improved drastically, completely disappearing for most of the time. However, through my food diary I had noted two things that seemed to keep causing symptoms to reappear; eggs and Genius gluten free bread. I had been relying more on eggs as so many other foods were reduced in my diet. Eggs are FODMAP safe, as is the Genius bread. I usually ate the eggs and the bread together so I couldn’t say for sure which was the culprit. I wondered whether low FODMAP held the complete answer for me. Indeed, until I took the dietician’s advice regarding the incorporation of more linseed and chia seed into my diet I hadn’t seen a very drastic change in my digestion.

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After six weeks on the diet I did feel like I was getting somewhere. I thought I could perhaps keep the diet up but try to avoid Genius bread and eggs. I felt like I was probably 85% of the way towards being symptom free. The dietician had also advised me that it may take as much as 8 weeks to really see the results.  However, by this stage Christmas was fast approaching and my commitment was fading.

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In order to complete the low FODMAP process one has to individually test or “challenge” one’s tolerance to each individual FODMAP. Whilst doing so, the diet must remain completely and strictly low FODMAP. Essentially this would mean remaining on the low FODMAP diet for another couple of months while I tested each food and noted whether symptoms returned. At any other time of year I probably would have done so, but I didn’t feel it was worth giving up my Christmas and I wanted to enjoy my time spent both visiting and entertaining family and friends. I wanted to make my traditional Christmas pudding and mince pies and be able enjoy them. I am lucky enough not to have IBS and so I knew that any symptoms that might return wouldn’t be that bad. In contrast, I know plenty of people on the low FODMAP diet for IBS who endeavoured to keep strictly to their diet over Christmas, because a return of their symptoms would have been debilitating.

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I decided that I would ease off the low FODMAP diet as Christmas approached. That said, I often made choices that would suit the diet. Overall I was surprised that my symptoms didn’t really deteriorate very much. I kept up my probiotics over Christmas and I assume they helped my body to cope with the richer foods I was eating. I was taking Symprove in the morning (I think I must be on my fifth course of it now!) and I was taking Alflorex too, which the dietician had also recommended. She explained that she would initially recommend Alflorex  because it is an Irish brand and is less expensive than Symprove. If Alflorex doesn’t work for her clients then Symprove would be her next port of call. She was happy for me to continue on Symprove as I was already taking it. In December I saw Alflorex on special in Boots and decided to pick it up and try it out too.

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What’s Next?

My plan had been to restart the low FODMAP diet in the new year and get stuck into the challenges. I’ll keep you updated on whether I go ahead with that or not. Please remember that the low FODMAP diet is a diet which restricts a lot of healthy and nourishing foods and therefore should not be undertake unless advised by a medical professional. It is also essential that one does not remain on a low FODMAP diet long term (i.e. beyond the recommended 6-8 weeks of strict low FODMAP) before commencing reintroductions. FODMAPs feed your microbiome and may play an important role in gut health too. Many people who follow a low FODMAP diet will find that they can vary their diet greatly after they go through the reintroduction phase as they may not react badly to all FODMAPs.

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When I look back on the elimination diet I followed in 2015 after food intolerance testing, I wonder if the elimination of certain FODMAPs along with the introduction of a good quality probiotic was the reason for my improvement in symptoms at that time. I don’t recommend food intolerance testing – unlike the low FODMAP diet it is not research or evidence based. However, at that time I had eliminated eggs, dairy, yeast and gluten. this meant cutting out a lot of foods that I now know to be high in FODMAPS. These included yoghurt, milk, whey, wheat, mushroom and dried fruit. I am therefore inclined to believe that some of the foods I restricted at time are the ones that I don’t tolerate well in larger portions.

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Eggs – even thought they are FODMAP safe, they seemed to be a problem for me when I analysed my food diary. I will test them out separately.

When I did the Vegan Challenge my digestion was better than ever despite the fact that I included a lot of foods that I now know to be high in FODMAPs. These included cauliflower, garlic, onion, sweet potato, avocado and beans/legumes. I assume that if I did go through the reintroductions properly, these foods would likely not be problematic for me.

It may also be the case that an overall high FODMAP load may be harder to handle than an overall reduced FODMAP load, rather than specific individual foods being a problem.

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At the moment I am still contemplating whether or not to go ahead with the reintroduction phase. I don’t particularly want to go back on the diet strictly! Especially when it means cutting out some foods that I don’t seem to react to. That said, I also don’t want to cut out more foods than I need to in the long run, so it may be worth testing foods out in the coming months. I will let you know what I decide to do going forward! Right now I am focusing on nourishing my body with lots of whole, fresh, plant-based foods as much as possible.

The Clean Coconut x

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Low FODMAP: Diet Commences on Doctor’s Orders

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Welcome back!

In my last blog post I talked about having to eat lots of gluten-filled foods for two months before being tested for Coeliac Disease. It wasn’t particularly pleasant but thankfully it turned out I didn’t have Coeliac Disease. Woohoo!

Upon this lack of diagnosis, I was advised to follow the Low FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym standing for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are the fermentable carbohydrates that must be removed or reduced in the diet when following the low FODMAP plan. Essentially, low FODMAP is a type of elimination diet. It is only temporary and is designed to allow one to pinpoint the trigger foods for their digestive discomfort. The low FODMAP diet is not meant to be followed long term without reintroducing foods.

The Low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University Australia. It has been used to treat IBS with a success rate of about  70%, when followed correctly under the direction of a trained dietician. A quick google search and I was able to book in with a local dietician who was fully FODMAP trained by Kings College London. Great!

I must confess I had heard of FODMAPs long before commencing the diet myself, and I always thought the idea of following such a strict elimination diet seemed pretty bleak. I knew of a few people using the probiotic Symprove alongside their low FODMAP diet and I really felt for them and thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to follow such a strict diet! The irony! At that time, the main thing I knew about the low FODMAP diet was that it was very complicated and garlic and onion were on the restricted list! (Even now I think those are the two most difficult things to cut out, simply because they are in everything, especially when eating out! But I found a way around it…)

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No peas and no onion on the low FODMAP diet!

Low FODMAP: What’s Out?

Let me explain a little more about what foods are restricted. Please do not take this to be an exhaustive list at all. As I said, the diet is very complicated and there are numerous foods that have to either be cut out completely or restricted to a specific small portion.

  1. Fructans: These are poorly absorbed in all people, but may only cause symptoms in some. They include the likes of wheat and rye.
  2. Galacto-oligosaccharides: Also poorly absorbed in all people. They include pulses and legumes.
  3. Polyols: Poorly absorbed in many people. These are sugar alcohols and can be found in sweet potato and avocado.
  4. Fructose: Malabsorbed only in some people. Glucose helps the absorption of fructose so it is mainly foods with fructose levels in excess of glucose that are restricted. However, overall fructose intake has to be limited regardless as glucose only helps absorption of fructose to a point. Foods that have to be avoided include honey, agave, mango and some other fruits.
  5. Lactose: Again this may only be malabsorbed in some people. Includes yogurt and milk, though lactose free versions are allowed. Mature cheddar and other low lactose dairy is FODMAP safe also.
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No more fruit overload! Fructose in excess of glucose is out.

Many of the foods that are restricted in the low FODMAP diet have been shown to contribute to symptoms of IBS in susceptible individuals. These symptoms include bloating, cramping, gas, constipation and diarrhoea. Whilst both the doctor and dietician agreed that I don’t have IBS (thankfully!) I have suffered with bloating and because I completely got rid of this issue before when I followed my original elimination diet and took Symprove, I figured that there might also be some trigger foods that I haven’t realised aren’t suiting me.

When I started to become bloated again I realised I had been eating a lot of sourdough bread – this connection to symptoms and bread was one of the reasons I was sent for Coeliac testing. In fact, it is not recommended by medical professionals that one commence a low FODMAP diet until Coeliac Disease has been completely ruled out.

It turns out that whilst gluten is not a FODMAP (it is a protein not a carbohydrate) wheat, barley and rye are high in FODMAPs. Therefore, it makes sense to me to try low FODMAP and see if I can work out exactly what my triggers are. Perhaps unbeknownst to me I had eliminated or reduced my intake of some high FODMAP trigger foods when I was symptom free? No doubt taking Symprove helped me immensely and I have to say I’ve never been as bad as I was before I found it – except perhaps when I did the pre-endoscopy gluten challenge and ate copious amounts of wheat/rye/barley and other high FODMAP foods daily for two months straight!

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Avocado brunch would be off the menu for me for a few weeks!

I hope I have given you a bit of an insight into the low FODMAP diet. If you have been advised by your doctor to trial this diet is important to follow the most up to date guidelines. Go straight to the  source of the research. To help me out with the elimination phase I downloaded both the Monash Low FODMAP diet app and the Kings College London FODMAP app onto my phone. I found them absolutely fantastic. I also had the help and guidance of a fantastic dietician. I wouldn’t advise anyone to begin the low FODMAP diet without being under the care of a registered dietician. It is important to note that this diet eliminates many healthy foods and thus it should only be undertaken in the short term until FODMAP challenges can begin and trigger foods can be identified.

In my next post I will take you through the six weeks I spent strictly following the low FODMAP diet and let you know how I got on. See you then!

The Clean Coconut x

P.S. Have you done the low FODMAP diet before? I’d love to hear about your experience and whether or not you found it helpful! Connect with me via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat! Let’s share the journey.

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Coeliac Disease: The Gluten Challenge

Welcome back! It has been a while and a lot has happened in the interim. It turns out that Halloween came earlier than expected for me this year in the form of a nightmarish challenge…

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Over the summer of 2016 I started a Fitness Diary Series on my blog. Prior to doing so I had felt a certain stagnancy in my training and fitness progress. I decided to take the bull by the horns and throw myself into training four-five days a week along with counting macros and eating healthy. I wrote four diary entries in total which tracked my progress along the way (click to read diary #1 here, diary #2 here, diary #3 here and diary #4 here).

Truth be told, after about six weeks of hard work, I wasn’t seeing the progress I had hoped for. Rather I was constantly feeling bloated and whilst I had certainly built up my strength through consistent training and even toned up a bit, I hadn’t achieved the flat stomach I was aiming for.

Feeling confused and frustrated, I began to think back to how I had succesfully ridded myself of that same dreaded bloating over a year ago, having followed an elimination diet and added lots of probiotics into my diet. What was I doing differently this time? Did I need to go back to cutting all dairy/eggs/yeast/gluten from my diet? If you’ve read about my food intolerance testing you will know that its not something I really believed to be helpful (nor do most doctors!). At that time I had felt that it was the probiotic I had taken that really made the difference for me. After a few weeks of taking that probiotic it seemed that I could go back to including all foods in my diet. The probiotic seemed to me to be the common denominator. Problem solved!

Yet suddenly, over a year later, I felt like I was back to square one.

Writing my blog meant that I had pictures of most of the food I had been eating coming into the summer, so, like a detective I began to look through them to see if there was something  in my diet that I had changed over the summer that may have triggered this response. I found my answer in the form of sourdough bread. It was one of the main things that I definitely hadn’t been eating much before but now I was buying it weekly from the local bakery. By the end of the summer I was even making my own sourdough bread at home. Could this be the cause of my issue?

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A big bowl of bubbling, week-long fermented sourdough

Up until that point I had pretty much kept gluten completely out of my diet. I was naturally gluten-free by eating whole foods that were not derived from wheat/barley/rye. Sourdough bread is fermented so is said to be easier to digest and to contain less gluten than normal bread. It is made from flour, water and a little salt. I never imagined it could be doing me harm. I was only having it a couple of times a week, mostly as a treat on the weekends.

However, I was sick of second guessing everything I was eating and fed up of cutting various things out without really getting to the root of the problem. I decided that the best thing to do was to go to the doctor and see what she thought. I explained that all my symptoms had returned and that I couldn’t understand why. One of the main things I seemed to have changed in my diet was the addition of sourdough bread.

Coeliac Testing

The doctor immediately referred me for coeliac testing. I would have to eat a diet full of gluten for a minimum for six to eight weeks prior to the test. This is known as a “Gluten Challenge” and I can tell you that it was absolutely horribly challenging. If I thought I was bloated before, it was nothing compared to what happened once I started my gluten challenge.

From the end of August until the beginning of October I had to consume a minimum of 4-6 slices of bread or equivalent amount of gluten every single day. My clean eating completely went out the window as I went out of my way to fill up on bread, pasta, pizza, cereal, cake, biscuits and all of the things that I never usually eat. Because my diet had been largely gluten-free for so long it was vital that I ate enough gluten daily to avoid a false-negative result. I never wanted to have to do this again, so I made sure I did it right the first time!

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My very first grocery shop on the challenge – gluten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea!

 

Apart from bloating I experienced a whole lot of other symptoms during those seven weeks – and for another week afterwards. I was completely and utterly fatigued throughout. In fact, after a few weeks on the gluten-filled diet I hardly had any energy at all for the gym and my blog definitely took a back seat. I never realised just how great my healthy diet made me feel until I was forced to come off it.

The Coeliac Results

Diagnosis for coeliac disease involves a blood test followed by an endoscopy. One must be on a gluten containing diet prior to the test in order for the results to be accurate. After seven weeks of daily “glutening” my endoscopy procedure was complete and the consultant ordered me to go straight onto a gluten-free diet. She didn’t have to say it twice!

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My first gluten-free meal after the endoscopy procedure

After a week of being back on my own diet I began to get some energy back and feel better. Two weeks after my endoscopy I got the results that I was not coeliac! I was absolutely thrilled. What a relief!

I had spent the seven weeks in the run up to my test learning a whole lot about coeliac disease and to be honest I never realised how truly restrictive and difficult it must be to live with. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease and those living with it can suffer a from a whole range of symptoms, many of which are not even gastrointestinal. As little as an eighth of a teaspoon of gluten can do six months worth of damage to the intestine of a person with coeliac disease and they can be ill for a long time after being exposed to these minute levels of gluten. This would make eating out quite a daunting experience, with all the risks of cross contamination in kitchens. Many restaurants can’t even guarantee that their gluten-free options are suitable for people with Coeliac Disease! Those who have the disease are forced to put their trust in staff who may not be well informed on the seriousness of the disease.

In fact, prior to receiving my results, I was in a popular local eatery and I asked if there was any gluten-free options on the menu. The lady assured me that the entire menu was in fact gluten-free. Having eaten there multiple times before I was pretty sure the entire menu was not gluten free. I asked if she was sure and she said yes. I then said “even the bread??” and asked if she could double check. The menu was largely made up of various sandwiches. As I suspected, the bread was not gluten free and they did not offer a gluten free bread alternative at all. If someone with coeliac disease had gone into that same restaurant and been assured that the entire menu was gluten free they would have become extremely ill and possibly suffered months of ill health as a result of that staff member’s misinformed understanding of the menu.

I’m so grateful not to have to worry about things like that and I have a great deal of admiration for those living with coeliac disease and the burden they bear. When food can do you so much harm and there is such a lack of understanding around the medical requirement for a gluten-free diet it cannot be an easy disease to manage.

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The most beautiful calm tide I came home to the day I got the all clear for Coeliac Disease – no filter necessary!

FODMAPs

So now that I have ruled out Coeliac Disease what is the next step? The consultant recommended that I see a dietician and begin the low FODMAP diet. This is a medically recognised and evidence-based (and extremely complicated!) diet for the management of IBS. I haven’t been diagnosed with IBS but the consultant felt that this diet would be helpful for treating my bloating. It is not a long-term diet but is a form of elimination diet. It may help me pin point exactly which foods are not agreeing with me. Ironically the spelt sourdough that I was making at home during the summer is actually FODMAP safe, however the bakery’s wheaten sourdough is not! The FODMAP diet itself is too complicated to get into now so I will write a separate blog post about FODMAPs and will be posting some low FODMAP recipes along the way too!

The Clean Coconut x

Read about the beginning of my Low FODMAP diet here! 

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Symprove: The Supplement that Changed Everything

A couple of months back, I was kindly sent a twelve week trial of Symprove. Symprove is a probiotic supplement which you may have heard me talking about before! I first tried the twelve week Symprove challenge when I was going through my elimination diet. Having experienced great success with it, I was absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to take another twelve week course. This would be my third twelve week course of Symprove, so its safe to say that I have great faith in this probiotic supplement! I jumped at the chance to complete another twelve weeks and I looked forward to experiencing all the health benefits that I already knew would come with it.

When I first received my bottles for my current course of Symprove I wrote an introductory post all about it. The post which now follows details how I got on over my latest twelve week maintenance course of Symprove.

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Probiotic: A Brief Recap

The main reason I took Symprove in the first place was for bloating and sluggish digestion. It was recommended to me by my dietician who supported me through my elimination diet. I was eliminating foods like gluten, dairy, eggs and yeast to try and find the cause of my constant bloating and digestive discomfort. Symprove is gluten and dairy free so it suited the diet I was following at the time.

The very first time I tried Symprove it took five solid weeks before I began to notice any changes or benefits. I almost didn’t even purchase the second four-week pack as I wasn’t noticing any difference. My dietician urged me to continue with it. She was right. Five weeks in, everything changed. It was as simple as this; one day I woke up and I no longer had any of the digestive discomfort or bloating that I had been experiencing daily for a number of years. It felt like a miracle. I had tried cleanses, elimination diets, until that point it seemed like I had tried everything! Nothing truly worked until I found Symprove. That is why I am so happy to be able to share my experience with you! I finished out my first twelve week course last June and continued to reap the benefits, experiencing absolutely no digestive discomfort or bloating. In October/November when I felt I would benefit from it, I decided to take another course of Symprove. This was a maintenance course.

Symprove: My Caveat

I have one important piece of advice with regard to Symprove; I experienced the greatest results when I took it in conjunction with a healthy diet. When I was being especially good with my diet; eating clean, nourishing, whole-foods, Symprove really shone. Let me be very clear; I had previously spent months eating such a diet without Symprove and while there is no doubt my symptoms were better on a clean-eating diet, I did not have real relief until I was five weeks into my first course of Symprove. This probiotic was the key to my realising my digestive health.

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Eating clean and including lots of plant-based fibre and nutrition in my diet helped Symprove to work best for me

This Time

Fast forward to Spring 2016 and I’m taking my third course of Symprove. This time the benefits began from day one. My system loves Symprove and reacts so well to it. My gut is now completely used to the daily probiotics I get from my Symprove supplement as well as all the probiotic foods I now eat and drink. Probiotics are an integral part of my diet now.

This time I took the original flavour of Symprove, the one I had been unsure of ordering because of all the bad reports I had heard about the taste. I have to say I really had no problem with the taste of the original flavour, it didn’t taste bad to me at all! I’m so glad because I really didn’t like taking the mango flavour due to the added artificial sweetener it contains.

From day one of the twelve week course I can feel it working. Let me list some of the benefits I experienced;

  • Greatly improved digestion
  • No more bloating and discomfort
  • My skin is clearer and brighter
  • I have increased energy
  • I have a general feeling of wellness; I feel my system is working at ease

Again I would remind you of my caveat; Symprove works best for me in conjunction with a clean-eating lifestyle. If I was to eat processed foods day-in-day-out I don’t know that I would get the full spectrum of benefits from it to the same extent. Don’t expect it to be a magic pill that will completely heal your gut unless you support it in doing so by eating well.

I also find it is important to remember to take your shot of Symprove every single morning without missing a dose. Sometimes I took a little more than the 60ml daily shot, this seemed to suit me best. I’ve heard of other people who halve the dose to begin with until they get used to it. Its important to find your own individual dose that your body best reacts to.

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Clean eating helped Symprove to work its magic best

 

I’d like to add here that my mother also took the twelve week Symprove challenge, twice. She knew how well I had done on it and thus was really keen to try it. She too experienced great results from it and has nothing but good things to say about it.

As soon as I began taking Symprove I felt lighter in my whole being, that was the most amazing thing. It made me feel so good I knew I had to ensure I took it every day. It really seems to me to eliminate bad bacteria and the good ones take over so you feel energised and definitely much lighter. I intend to begin another course of Symprove in August .

– Mother Coconut 🙂

I totally agree with her! Symprove really does seem to support and balance the gut bacteria, allowing for optimum digestion.

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What I love about Symprove is the very promising independent research that is behind it. Check out this quick video which Simon Gaisford PhD compares Symprove with some of the leading probiotic brands on the market now.

Symprove is not cheap, it is a big commitment and one that you would likely only pay for if you felt you really need it. For me the investment has been 100% worth it. It worked so well for me and I am beyond grateful to have found it.

Experiencing the benefits of Symprove opened me up to a world of powerful fermented and probiotic foods. To me they are like the lost food group. Fermentation is a tradition that has been replaced with quick and easy, processed, fast-food. Ancient fermented and probiotic foods like kefir, kombucha and fermented vegetables are all part of my daily diet now. Probiotics have absolutely changed my life and it all began with Symprove.

The Clean Coconut x

Read more about Symprove on their website.

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Kefir: Clever Cultures

Kefir is a probiotic, fermented milk drink which is made by fermenting milk with kefir ‘grains’. The ‘grains’ are not actually grains, rather they are a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). For the purposes of this article I will be referring to them as kefir grains. Also, this article deals with milk-kefir rather than water-kefir.

A jar of kefir grains with milk, ready to cover and ferment
A jar of kefir grains with milk, ready to cover and ferment

I’ve mentioned kefir a couple of times before. Probiotic foods like kefir have been a central part of my diet ever since I experienced amazing benefits from using the probiotic Symprove when I was experimenting with food intolerance testing. It turned out, for me, that the digestive issues I was experiencing were immeasurably improved by the use of probiotics.

After realising these benefits, I delved into lots of the research around probiotic foods. I read books such as The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg; who work at the Stanford University Department of Microbiology and Immunology and share much of their amazing research on the microbiome. As well as looking at the scientific research, I also came across countless anecdotal accounts from a whole host of people who had used probiotics to heal a number of ailments. I attended a course with The Cultured Club in Belfast to learn the basics of how to make kefir, kombucha and fermented vegetables and from there I taught myself how to make a plethora of fermented foods.

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A bowl of kefir with berries, bee pollen and cacao nibs

Probiotics supplements are expensive. I love including homemade fermented and cultured foods in my diet that are loaded with probiotics for a fraction of the cost. Kefir is probably the easiest of all the fermented foods to make and I have supplied the instructions within this post!

What does it Taste Like?

Kefir grains essentially live-off and eat the sugar (lactose) in the milk you pour on top of them. Whilst a cup of milk (250ml) will contain just over 13g of sugar, a cup of kefir will usually contain less than 1g sugar (the longer you ferment, the less sugar will be left). This of course changes the calories in the milk after it has become kefir – reducing them by about 50 calories per cup. It also means that kefir tastes different than milk. It is like a more tangy or sour tasting version of natural yogurt. Sometimes, it can even be a little effervescent.

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A glass of kefir with berries

Kefir is thicker than milk, but not as thick as yogurt – it could be described as a more pourable yogurt. Some people I have given it to have said it reminded them of the butter-milk they used to drink as a child. (I’ve never drank butter milk straight so I can’t comment!) Personally, I love the sourness of kefir – and often drink it on its own, but likewise I also add it to smoothies, salad dressings, make cream-cheese and dips with it – there are endless possibilities even if you don’t like the taste of it on its own!

Kefir also contains far more probiotic strains than yogurt, which you will see on the label typically contains between 2 and 7 strains of bacteria. Homemade kefir has been found to contain between 30 and 56 strains of bacteria and yeast when tested (Schwenk, 2015, p.10). Commercial kefir can often contain much less than this – always read the label!

Preliminary results from a University of Florida microbiology class showed kefir to have 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per millilitre – yes millilitre! Thats a lot of probiotic bang for your buck. Namely 150 billion CFUs per tablespoon! This study is still underway as they are now researching particular microbial strains present in the kefir so the final paper has not been published yet, but when it is I will link it here!

kefir, probiotics, gut health
Kefir-based salad dressing along with some lacto-fermented tomato ketchup.

I have begun to see ready-made Kefir drinks pop up in the fridges of health food shops, but it is often very highly priced – remember, once you have your own grains it will really only cost you the price of the milk you use to make kefir at home. When fed regularly with milk, your grains will last and continue to grow and multiply so you can share them with your friends and family!

How I discovered Kefir: 

The first time I tried kefir, back in 2014, it was a jar of ready-made kefir that I picked up in a health food shop. I used it to make a smoothie – in fact the photo of my very first kefir-smoothie was The Clean Coconut’s first profile picture for quite a while!

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It wasn’t until 2015 that I learned far more about kefir and decided to go looking for some grains. I went to various health-food shops asking where I could source the actual grains for making my own kefir, but to no avail. Little did I know the kefir grains were going to find me first!

Back at home I was tidying the kitchen when I found a bowl sitting on the table covered by a plate. I lifted the plate and saw some milky porridge which I assumed somebody must have been saving for later? Odd! I almost threw it out, but then I figured someone obviously left it there, covered up, on purpose.

A couple of days later and I saw that same bowl on the table, covered by the plate. God, I thought, that milk will be so sour by now! Yuck! When I lifted it to clear it though, it smelled fine. Must be a fresh bowl of porridge I thought. Why has somebody left a bowl of uneaten, cold porridge out on the table again?

Another couple of days passed and I had been talking to my mum about kefir and how I was dying to find some grains of my own – after everything I’d been telling her about it, she really wanted to try it too! In fact, she had just signed up to a series of podcasts from the Hay House World Summit and a couple of them were solely dedicated to probiotics, gut health and; kefir! What a coincidence! We listened to the amazing stories of Donna Schwenk and Chuckling Goat amongst others and were excited to locate some grains to start making our own kefir ASAP.

Back in the kitchen, my dad is at the sink with a sieve and that bowl of porridge. “Ew Dad! why have you left that porridge there all day – what are you doing with it – WAIT?? Is that… KEFIR??”

“Its a mushroom.” he replied.

“A what?”

“Its great stuff. I got it from someone at work, very good for your stomach” he added.

“Oh my God Dad – that is kefir! YOU have got kefir grains – how long have you had these?? This is exactly what we’ve been looking for!”

Turned out my Dad had been making kefir for about three weeks right under our noses! Its not exactly the most common thing to find so you can imagine how shocked I was to discover that, my Dad had some all along! I ran out of the kitchen to tell my mum and it was as if it dawned on both of us at the exact same time! Because Dad had been calling the kefir grains a “mushroom” she hadn’t clicked it until that moment either!

Following on from that my mother got to speak to Louise Hay on Hay House Radio after we had listened to all the wonderful podcasts from the World Summit. She told her how much we had learned from the wonderful probiotic podcasts and shared our little story about how those kefir grains were simply determined to find us 🙂

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Where to find the Grains

To get your hands on some kefir grains of your own, you will need to find somebody who makes their own kefir. Every time I make a batch of kefir my grains grow and multiply so I have been able to grow enough to give some to family and friends. If you really want your own kefir grains but don’t know of anywhere to source them, get in touch with me via my contact page.

 Ingredients and Tools:

  • Kefir “Grains” or SCOBY
  • Milk
  • A glass jar or ceramic bowl (not plastic or metal)
  • Elastic band
  • Tea towel
  • A plastic sieve
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Funnel (If storing your kefir in a glass bottle)

Method:

  1. Place your kefir grains into a clean ceramic dish or glass jar. I love the Kilner or Ikea storage jars for making kefir. You will need to make sure that the glass/dish is not hot – remember your grains are living, so both hot and cold extremes can kill them.
  2. Over the grains, pour some milk. I choose organic milk to make my kefir. Don’t worry too much about the ratio of milk-to-grains, the only time a problem will arise is if you don’t give them enough milk and they starve. A good rule of thumb is to use at least 250ml milk per tablespoon of grains, however you can use more  milk than this if you wish to make more kefir!
  3. If using a jar, leave the lid open. Once the grains and milk are inside, cover the jar or bowl with a tea-towel or muslin cloth and secure the edges with an elastic band so that the opening is sealed. (Beware that, especially in the summer, fruit flies may be attracted to kefir that is not properly covered and this could destroy your batch – so be vigilant about keeping it tightly covered!).
  4. After 24 hours, your kefir will be ready. You will need to use a plastic sieve (grains do not like metal – never use a metal spoon to handle them either) to separate the grains from the kefir-drink. Put the kefir drink in a glass bottle using your funnel, or into jug, and store it in the fridge. It will last for a very long time int the fridge – it won’t spoil like milk would. However, the longer you leave the kefir in the fridge the more tart it will become.
  5. Return your kefir grains to the original dish or jar you used to make your kefir. Pour more milk over them and leave for a further 24 hours before repeating the process.
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Kefir with blueberries and a Raw Rev vegan protein bar

Notes:

  • If you leave your grains fermenting for longer than 24 hours, the sourness of your kefir will increase significantly. Any longer than 48-72 hours and you risk killing or starving your kefir grains. You will know they have died because, whilst they might look okay, they will no longer ferment the milk for you. To prevent this, ensure that you feed the grains with fresh milk every 24 hours.
  • Never rinse or wash your grains with water (especially chlorinated tap water!). This can kill strains of bacteria and reduce the potency of your kefir. If you feel you need to rinse them between batches (you don’t!) then only use milk to rinse them.
  • If you don’t want to continue making kefir, or are going away on holidays, you can store the grains in the fridge, covered in milk. The coldness of the fridge will slow down the fermentation so that the grains will not eat through the lactose in the milk as quickly. You can store your grains in the fridge for up to a week on about 500ml of milk (Or at least a cup of milk per tablespoon of grains). The more milk you give them, the more food they will have so I tend to give them a bit extra when they are in the fridge. After a week has passed, you can change the milk and continue storing them in the fridge for a further week. If you are going to be away for more than a week you will need to add significantly more milk to ensure the grains will have enough to feed on.
  • When you decide to begin using your grains again they may likely take a little bit longer to ferment as they have been ‘sleeping’ in the fridge. The first time you try to make kefir with them after waking them up you may need to leave them for 48 hours rather than 24.
Kefir, probiotics, gut health, pancakes
My Protein Pancakes, served with banana, berries and a probiotic vanilla kefir-cream dip

There is SO much more that you can do with homemade kefir and I hope to share this with you in some upcoming posts. For example, you can flavour your kefir by doing a second ferment and you can separate the whey from your kefir and use it to ferment vegetables and make probiotic lemonade with it too!

You may well have heard about some of the health claims associated with fermented foods like kefir. I haven’t gone in to all the research around probiotics in this post as there just isn’t enough room! However I will discuss this in an upcoming post. Whenever I see some promising research I will be sure to share it on my Facebook and Twitter accounts!

I hope this post has made it a little bit clearer what I’m talking about when I mention kefir in my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts and pictures!

If you have any questions or if you’ve tried kefir before I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

The Clean Coconut x

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References:

  1. Schwenk, Donna. Cultured Food For Health. USA: Hay House, 2015.

Probiotic: My Favourite Daily Supplement

Symprove

I first discovered Symprove when I went for food intolerance testing in 2015. Symprove was recommended to me by my dietician who informed me that it was a gluten and dairy free probiotic which was not yeast based and thus would suit my elimination diet.

After I posted the above blog about food intolerance and shared my success using Symprove, many people began asking me more about it. The lovely people at Symprove have kindly sent me what will be my third maintenance course and I am really looking forward to starting it. This blog post is dedicated to giving you a little bit more detail about Symprove. It is a probiotic I have had great success with.

Where did I get Symprove?

On the recommendation of my dietician, I went in search of Symprove. First stop was their website to read a bit more about it and to look for stockists. At the time, it was going to cost quite a bit extra to have it shipped to me so I was hoping to find a local chemist who would have it. I was disappointed however after ringing a couple of chemists who were supposed to be stockists – they informed me that they had discontinued it due to the short expiration on the packaging (4 months).

Luckily however, I found a chemist very close by who told me that whilst they don’t keep a stock of Symprove in store, they do order it in for any customers who specifically request it – yay! They would order it in for me in four-week batches and said that when I was on my third week I should give them a call to place the order for the following four weeks. In fact, the particular chemist I order my Symprove from often asked me how I was getting on with it and relayed to me that they have heard huge positive feedback from their customers about it and are constantly ordering it in for people now! Perhaps others will follow!

How Much Did It Cost?

Symprove is ideally to be taken as a 12 week course. They offer a deal whereby you get the final 4 weeks free once you have purchased the initial 8 weeks. Because Symprove has a relatively short sell-by date (4 months) to ensure the bacteria are at their strongest, they send you only 4 weeks at a time. Each week’s supply consists of one 500ml bottle. The cost for me was 95 euro for four weeks. The second four week batch would also cost 95 euro but the final batch would be free so essentially it cost 190 euro for the 12 week course – just over 16 euro per week. I have to say that at the time I felt this was really expensive compared to most probiotic supplements but because I was putting so much effort into my strict elimination diet, I decided to go the extra mile and pay for the recommended probiotic supplement too.

When I rang the chemist to order my maintenance course of Symprove a few months after finishing the first 12-week course, the cost of Symprove had gone up slightly, to 105 euro per four-week batch. Again the final four weeks would be free after I had purchased the initial eight. The chemist informed me that the price had increased due to the acquisition of a new supplier. Whilst this was going to be even more expensive, I already knew the benefits Symprove had had for me, having taken it before, so I went ahead and ordered my maintenance dose. For up-to-date pricing contact your local pharmacy or Meaghers’ Online Pharmacy.

Symprove - the gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free probiotic recommended to me by my nutritionist
Symprove – the gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free probiotic recommended to me by my dietician.

Probiotic: Why Symprove?

Symprove is guaranteed gluten and dairy free which makes it ideal for people with Coeliac disease and lactose intolerance, as well as anyone with a food intolerance to gluten, wheat or dairy. It was initially recommended to me because I was trialling an elimination diet and could not have dairy, eggs or yeast. Symprove contains four unique strains of probiotic. Thankfully, there is some very promising research around Symprove. As stated on their website;

 

“In 2014, Dr Simon Gaisford, University College London, carried out an independent study on 8 leading probiotics. The study subjected the products to three challenge tests to assess if the bacteria arrived in a live state, survived stomach acid transit and thrived in the target area of the gut. Symprove was the ONLY product to pass all three tests.”

 

I figured that whilst it might be a bit more expensive than some of the other probiotics on the market – at least it had some solid research to back it up – unlike some other expensive probiotic supplements! Every millilitre of Symprove contains about 200 million live, active bacteria. Symprove’s Unique Delivery System (UDS™) ensures it doesn’t trigger digestion in the stomach. So the bacteria are able to “Arrive, Survive and Thrive” in the gut, as their slogan goes. Aside from scientific research, there are also numerous anecdotal accounts of the wonders Symprove has worked for a variety of people – myself included!

Symprove comes in 2 flavours, Original, and Mango and Passion Fruit. After reading about both flavours online from people who had tried them, it seemed the Original flavour wasn’t very palatable so I decided to go with the Mango and Passion Fruit flavour. Thankfully, Symprove is sugar-free and the Mango and Passion Fruit version utilises only natural flavours and a very small amount of sweetener. I would still be keen to try the original flavour in future to see how it compares, and thus avoid the sweetener entirely! I suppose because of the price I was always wary of ordering the original flavour incase I really didn’t like it!

How does one take Symprove?

I had to take Symprove first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. This was important because it meant that digestion wouldn’t be triggered and therefore more of the live bacteria could reach my gut. I also had to wait ten minutes after taking Symprove before I could eat or drink anything. Once a bottle was opened, it had to be kept in the fridge so I tended to go downstairs first thing in the morning when I woke up, take my shot of Symprove, go back upstairs and get ready for my day before coming downstairs again to have breakfast. I recieved two 60ml shot cups with each of my four-week batches of Symprove so I simply had to fill it to the top and swallow it in order to get my daily dose.

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My Experience

I hope this blog post has covered some of the basics around Symprove and has answered some of the questions you may have had about it. I intend to write another post going into more detail about my experience taking Symprove and how it effected me over the course of the 12 week programme. If you have any questions about Symprove which you would like me to address, please feel free to contact me either through my contact page here or on my social media accounts; Twitter @cleancoconut_ Instagram @cleancoconut_insta or Facebook The Clean Coconut, or simply leave a comment under this post. If you’ve used Symprove yourself I’d love to hear from you about your experience too!

In the meantime, you may wish to visit the Symprove website where they have a comprehensive FAQ section and lots of detail about how their product might help you.

Additionally, you can read more about my food intolerance journey and initial use of Symprove in my four-part series by clicking here. 

The Clean Coconut x

Read my twelve week Symprove update here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clean Cleanse Part 2: My Detox Experience

Below I have laid out my entire week of eating over the course of the Dr. Junger’s Clean Cleanse which I followed in November 2014. At the time this was a small experiment to figure out whether I had a food intolerance.

Check out my introduction to this cleanse and the full list of eliminated foods here.

cleanse, clean cleanse
Raw Hazelnut Chocolates

My meal-prep for the week involved a batch of green smoothies, a big pot of chicken soup and some raw chocolate chia puddings, all of which I froze in portions. I also made some raw dark chocolates (sugar-free of course) for when I wanted a treat. Having these few things prepped ahead of time made it a lot easier to stick to the plan.

cleanse, clean cleanse

My Detox Week – Daily Cleanse:

  • Day One:  Friday  
  • Upon waking:                   Pint of filtered water
  • Breakfast:                          Green Smoothie
  • Mid-Morning:                   Chocolate chia pudding with raspberries.
  • Lunch:                                Turkey burger with salad
  • Dinner:                               Homemade chicken soup
  • Treat:                                  Raw dark chocolate and almond bar
  • 2 pots of herbal tea:         Lavender, chamomile and rose blend, and Peppermint.

cleanse, clean cleanse

The soup had to be made without the addition of stock cubes (due to the gluten and soy etc that they contain) so I made my own stock from the chicken carcass. The green smoothies were something I was already drinking most mornings, but I usually included apple and pineapple to sweeten up my usual base of spinach/celery/cucumber/kale – of course on the cleanse this was not allowed. Without the fruit they were a little harder to swallow but not as bad as I expected – in fact, afterwards, I never went back to adding in the same amount of fruit as I had been before I completed the cleanse.

The dark chocolate Magic Mayan bar did contain some coconut sugar, a low GI sugar – which unfortunately was not allowed on the cleanse, but I felt it was ok to have this small bit of coconut sugar considering the main aim of the cleanse (for me) was to establish whether or not I had a food allergy or intolerance to the likes of dairy/eggs/soy/gluten etc. I had ordered the bars from Evergreen.ie before I realised I wasn’t allowed the coconut sugar! So that was my Friday night treat.

  • Day Two: Saturday
  • Upon Waking:             Pint of filtered water
  • Breakfast:                    Green Smoothie
  • Lunch:                          Chicken Soup
  • Dinner:                         Turkey Meatballs
  • Treat:                            Homemade raw Chocolates
  • Pot of Herbal Tea:      Pukka Love tea (Lavender, chamomile and rose)
cleanse, clean cleanse
Day two: Turkey Meatballs

I Had a small amount of organic, gluten-free, brown rice pasta with the Turkey meatballs – it was the weekend and I couldn’t resist! Again breaking the rules slightly for a very small amount of brown rice pasta didn’t bother me as I was really trying to rule out an intolerance to gluten/dairy/soy etc.

  • Day Three: Sunday
  • Upon Waking:           Pint of filtered water
  • Breakfast:                  Green Smoothie
  • Snack:                         Homemade Cinnamon Almond Butter and nuts
  • Dinner                        Grilled Salmon with cabbage and cauliflower.
  • Treat:                          Homemade Raw Chocolates
  • Herbal Tea:                Pot of Pukka Love Tea (Chamomile, lavender and rose)

The nuts I had were soaked from the night before to make them more digestible. The salmon was grilled with coconut oil and I flavoured the vegetables with chilli flakes.

cleanse, clean cleanse
Day three: Herbal tea with homemade raw chocolates
  • Day Four: Monday
  • Upon Waking:                 Pint of filtered water
  • Breakfast:                        Green Smoothie
  • Mid-morning:                 Chocolate Chia Pudding with raspberries and coconut.
  • Lunch:                              Turkey Meatballs (leftovers I had frozen on Saturday!)
  • Pre-Gym:                          Apple, cinnamon-almond butter and soaked nuts.
  • Post-Gym                         Sunwarrior Vegan Vanilla protein blend in almond milk
  • Dinner:                             Homemade Chicken Soup
  • Treat:                                Peppermint tea and homemade raw superfood chocolates
cleanse, clean cleanse
Superfood chocolates I made as treats

For the week, I replaced my usual dairy-based whey protein powder with vegan protein powder.

  • Day Five:  Tuesday
  • Upon Waking:             Pint of filtered water
  • Breakfast:                    Green Smoothie
  • Mid-Morning:             Chocolate Chia Pudding
  • Lunch:                          Chicken Soup
  • Pre-Gym:                      Almond butter, soaked nuts, banana and half an apple
  • Post Gym                      Sun warrior Vanilla protein blend
  • Dinner:                         Chicken, broccoli and carrots.
  • Treat:                            Magic Mayan dark chocolate bee pollen bar
  • Herbal Tea:                  Two cups of peppermint tea

I cooked the chicken in coconut oil and used a variety of herbs to add flavour to the dinner.

cleanse, clean cleanse

  • Day Six: Wednesday
  • Upon Waking:             Pint of filtered water
  • Breakfast:                     Green Smoothie
  • Mid-Morning Snack:  Almond butter and mixed nuts (soaked)
  • Lunch:                          Chicken Soup
  • Dinner:                         Steak and carrots

    cleanse, clean cleanse
    Chicken and Vegetable Soup
  • Day Seven: Thursday
  • Upon Waking:            Pint of water
  • Breakfast:                   Green Smoothie
  • Mid-Morning:            Chocolate Chia Pudding
  • Lunch:                         Chicken Soup
  • Dinner:                        Chicken and veg.

I drank lots of water throughout the day every day. I noticed as the week went on that my appetite lessened.

cleanse, clean cleanse

As I went to the gym and trained during the cleanse I felt it was necessary for me to have some carbohydrates; this was the only way I broke the cleanse. Twice I had a little coconut sugar (in the Magic Mayan bars), I had a banana and I had an apple. I also had brown rice pasta on the Saturday night (organic and gluten free). This worked for me at the time. I didn’t feel it was worth forsaking gains in the gym and I wanted to have the energy to train!

I did remain totally dairy, gluten, egg, soy, potato, alcohol, caffeine and refined-sugar free throughout the week and ate no processed food. I also took the recommended supplements as mentioned in part one of the Clean Cleanse. These were probiotics, digestive enzymes, B vitamins and magnesium.

I have to say that by Friday – day eight of the cleanse, I was feeling great, it seemed like my body was really beginning to respond to all the ‘clean’ eating. I felt like my results were cut short because the cleanse ended almost as soon as I was starting to see the great results!

cleanse, clean cleanse

My cleanse was followed by a weekend of birthday celebrations that included most of the things I wasn’t allowed on the detox! But completing this week gave me a deeper insight into the notion of food intolerance and certainly increased my curiosity about whether the diet I had been eating was not as good for me as I thought…

Its funny to look back at this week of eating now and see how simple it is, many foods are repeated over the week. This was because that way of eating was so new to me at the time. Many of the things I depended on daily were no longer allowed. Now, however, I could complete this cleanse with a much wider variety of meals, snacks and drinks, but I had to start somewhere!

The Clean Coconut x

P.S. I didn’t eat all of those raw chocolates pictured above in one week! They’re so rich that one or two or three at a time satisfied my cravings, so I had plenty to keep me going after the cleanse was complete!

cleanse, clean cleanse

P.P.S. For more info on Dr. Junger’s Clean Cleanse check out his website here.

 

 

Clean Cleanse Part 1: A Healthy Detox?

cleanse, clean cleanse

It was November 2014. I was a typical dairy, egg and meat eating girl, albeit in a reasonably ‘healthy’ and unprocessed fashion. (Gluten reared its head the odd time but only as an occasional lapse of judgement. I had cut it out a few months previous). I was eating a low carb, high protein diet filled with the likes of lean meat, greek yogurt, whey protein, omelettes, vegetables, salads and smoothies. I drank tonnes of water everyday and ate a diet full of whole foods. Yet, for some reason, despite all my efforts, I was feeling bloated and my skin was dull and prone to break outs.

cleanse, clean cleanse
An omelette with tomato, spinach, parma ham and cheese – a typical lunch
Quest protein bar with greek yogurt and almond flour
Quest protein bar with greek yogurt and almond flour and coconut sugar – a ‘healthy’ treat?

 

It seemed like, apart from the odd cheat meal here and there, I was doing everything right. I wondered if I had a mild food allergy or was intolerant of something in my diet. I happened to see Gwyneth Paltrow on The Dr. Oz Show and liked the look of her cookbook; Its All Good. I ordered it and began reading about how she underwent a ‘Clean Cleanse’ which she claimed totally changed her health. She cut out certain foods and felt much better for it. I began to wonder if a similar detox might be worth a try.

I did a little more research by reading Clean Gut by Dr. Alejandro Junger; the doctor who designed Gwyneth Paltrow’s cleanse. Initially, I intended to try his cleanse in January 2015 to start the new year with a detox, but after reading Dr. Junger’s book and Gwyneth’s testimonials, I was excited to get started sooner.

Dr. Junger advocated a three week cleanse, however, at the time I only had a week until my birthday and I knew I would be celebrating, so I decided that for me the cleanse could only last seven days (before the wine and cake commenced!).

I hoped that the cleanse would be a quick-fix to reduce bloating and clear up my skin – I didn’t know what sort of results to expect, particularly as it was only a seven day cleanse, but I had nothing to lose and looked forward to trying it out. I also looked at it as a sort of test run before possibly commencing the full three week cleanse the following January. I was particularly curious as to whether the cleanse would be indicative of some form of food intolerance.

What did the Cleanse Involve?

As part of the detox I had to eliminate all of the following from my diet:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Sugar (including most fruits – only berries were allowed)
  • Grains (Small amount of quinoa was allowed)
  • Potatoes
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Tap water (Water had to be free of chlorine and fluoride etc)

I was also supposed to eat only organic, grass-fed meat – mostly to be chicken or turkey, along with fish. Unfortunately I didn’t have access to an organic butcher. Whenever I’m in Belfast I get grass-fed meat from an organic farmer in St. George’s Market, but there aren’t any organic farmers/butchers local to me (as far as I’m aware!).

The Shopping List:

Below you can see the shopping list I made before starting the 7 Day Cleanse…This will give you an idea of what I actually COULD eat!

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Supplements:

There were also a number of supplements I had to take as part of Dr. Junger’s cleanse. I had all but two of the supplements during the week. (The other two – Monolaurin and Berberine, I had to wait to arrive in the post – so I didn’t have them in time for the initial seven days.)

The supplements which I did have for the week were:

  • A Probiotic (At least 50billion microorganisms)
  • Digestive Enzymes (to include protease, amylase and lipase)
  • Saccharomyces boulardi (at least 5 billion strength – this is a probiotic yeast)
  • A B vitamin complex
  • Magnesium (400mg at night)

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I will do a follow-up post detailing how I got on over the course of my Clean Cleanse week so stay tuned 🙂

The Clean Coconut x

(Find part two my Clean Cleanse here.)

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P.S. Check out Dr. Junger’s website here.

A Guide to Going Gluten-Free

glutenGluten is a mixture of two proteins, which, for some, can be difficult to digest. People with the autoimmune disease of Coeliac have an immune response to gluten, which causes their immune system to attack the villi of their small intestine. This in turn can cause a myriad of repurcusions for the person’s health which often stretch far beyond the gut. In order to avoid triggering this reaction they must avoid gluten entirely; even a breadcrumb could cause a severe response. Many people however, may have an intolerance or a sensitivity to gluten which can cause less threatening symptoms such as bloating, digestive discomfort, IBS, headaches, fatigue and skin rash among other things. These symptoms may disappear once gluten is removed from the diet.

It is important to be tested for Coeliac Disease if you or your doctor suspect you may have it. Symptoms stretch far beyond the gut and some people may not even have gastrointestinal symptoms at all. In order for Coeliac testing to be accurate, one must be on a gluten containing diet for a minimum of 6-8 weeks prior to testing. It is important that one does not go “gluten-free” before having the diagnostic blood test and endoscopy. Talk to a medical professional about testing as undiagnosed Coeliac Disease can have dire consequences for a person’s health and wellbeing. I have gone through the process of testing for Coeliac Disease and you can read more about that here. 

pzysk

Gluten is found in the following foods:

  1. Wheat (including spelt and other variations)
  2. Barley
  3. Rye
  4. Oats (Whilst oats do not naturally contain gluten, they are prone to cross-contamination, so look for specifically gluten-free variations).

gluten

Going gluten-free might seem daunting, but the best way to find out if you could benefit from a gluten-free diet is to put it to the test.

My Tips for Going Gluten-Free:

  1. Set aside a two or three weeks to go completely gluten-free, with absolutely zero exceptions or cheats. This will give your system enough time to get rid of all traces of gluten, thus allowing you to experience how your body feels without it.
  2. When shopping, check the ingredients of all foods; many processed foods contain gluten. The likes of sausages and burgers will also generally contain gluten so ask your butcher if you are unsure.
  3. Do NOT rely on processed, ‘gluten-free’ replacements. Firstly, they generally really don’t taste very good, and secondly, you are unlikely to experience the full health benefits of a gluten-free diet if you are essentially replacing one processed food with another gluten-free variation. A gluten-free label definitely does not always mean ‘healthy’.
  4. Look for whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally gluten free. Fruits, vegetables, brown rice, legumes, quinoa, lean-meat, fish, nuts, seeds, oils, and eggs, are all naturally gluten free. A naturally gluten-free diet tends to be naturally void of processed food.

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    Chickpeas, kidney beans and butter beans – all naturally gluten-free.
  5. When out in restaurants always mention that you are gluten-free. Nowadays most restaurants have plenty of gluten-free options and are used to accommodating those on a gluten-free diet. All dishes with pizza, croutons, breadcrumbs, stuffing, batter, and burger-buns as well as many sauces and soups may contain gluten, so be sure to ask.

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My Favourite Gluten-Free Swaps:

  • Pasta: Swap for wholegrain brown rice pasta (I like Doves Farm) or wholegrain quinoa or buckwheat pasta (I like Ogran) from your local health-food shop. Avoid overly-processed, white gluten-free pastas – they don’t taste as nice, have a rubbery texture, and are not very healthy.
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Wholegrain buckwheat pasta spirals with pesto, green beans and parmesan-chicken wrapped in parma ham.
  • Barley: Instead of adding barley to your soups, try quinoa or lentils. Beer, lager and stout usually contain gluten too although there are some gluten-free options available.
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Lentils
  • Crackers: Try oatcakes instead, I really like the Nairns gluten-free oat cakes and crackers as they only have a few ingredients.
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Oatcakes with hummus and smoked salmon
  • Bread: I avoid most gluten-free breads as they often contain yeast and usually many more processed ingredients. I like the Artisan Bread Organic‘s buckwheat bread, it is vegan and gluten-free, but I would only have it the odd time. You can get it in some health food shops. Whole-grain rice cakes are a good option too.
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Gluten-Free Bread
  • Porridge: Very easy to swap, simply pick up gluten-free oats from any supermarket. Porridge can also be made from quinoa or buckwheat flakes.
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‘Proats’ (Protein Oats) made with gluten-free porridge oats
  • Soy Sauce: Swap for gluten-free tamari, Braggs Liquid Aminos, or coconut aminos.
  • Baking: Gluten-free baking can be difficult; gluten is what binds baked goods together and creates that lovely ‘chewiness’ in breads, pizzas, cakes and buns. Don’t attempt to simply swap-out your normal wheat-flour for a gluten-free version of your favourite recipe – it won’t always work! Look for specifically gluten-free recipes and follow those instead – carefully! Don’t expect your gluten-free versions of baked goods to taste or turn out the exact same as their wheat-based counterparts. They will generally be somewhat heavier in texture and will rise less. But they can still taste really good!
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Gluten-Free Baking; Blueberry Muffins

If you want some inspiration for gluten-free cooking, have a look at my Instagram page here where I post lots of meals. I also have lots of recipes on this site, most of which are gluten-free.

Let me know if you’ve gone gluten-free and how you’ve found it in the comments below. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask 🙂

The Clean Coconut x

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