Category Archives: Autumn

IgG Food Sensitivity Testing and Reducing Inflammation

Food Antibody testing is one of my favorite tools for helping patients take charge of their own health, especially if there is a chronic inflammatory concern such as eczema, joint pain, digestive upset, or even mental agitation. Virtually all chronic disease has an underlying inflammatory component–that is, any long-term health issue, regardless of what system of the body it effects, is the result of ongoing inflammation.

So what is inflammation?  

It is the natural process the body uses to repair damage to the system and get rid of organisms that make us sick.  When an infectious agent such as a virus or bacteria enter the body, our immune system will recognize that foreign agent and attack it.  White blood cells are our immune cells that mount this attack. Specialized white blood cells will make a “flag”, called an antibody, that recognize certain proteins as foreign.  When they recognize a protein, those antibodies will attach themselves to those proteins (that often are part of a virus or bacteria) and signal the rest of the immune system to eradicate it.  Other white blood cells will engulf the protein, digest it, and then spit out the remains of that protein to be eliminated by the lymph system. This process produces inflammation, which we experience as redness, swelling, heat, and the production of mucus.  

How does this relate to foods?  

Well, in some cases, the body will recognize other proteins that come into the system as foreign.  This can include things like pollen, cat dander, mold spores, or proteins in foods. The body will mount a similar type of attack as described above on these proteins in the body even though they aren’t necessarily pathogens (bugs that will make us sick).  Instead, we call them allergens. If we are continually exposed to these allergens, the body will chronically produce inflammation. While a food may not be the agent that initially triggered the inflammatory response, the body may continue to have an inflammatory response if the food is eaten regularly.  Although foods may not be the only cause of chronic inflammation, they are one factor that can easily be changed without medication that can make a great impact on reducing the inflammatory response.

So what is IgG testing?  

IgG is a type of antibody–the “flags” the body uses to tell the immune system to make inflammation in a specific place.  Our body makes a range of types of antibodies that all do something slightly different. For instance, IgE antibodies are associated with immediate sensitivity reactions–if you know anyone allergic to peanuts or shellfish, for example, you may have seen that type of immediate reaction where the body reacts right away. IgG is a delayed antibody that may take several hours or even a couple of days to react, so it can be quite difficult to pick it out which food is causing the inflammatory response.  For this reason, a delayed food sensitivity can manifest as some of the more ongoing types of reactions, such as joint pain, IBS, eczema, chronic sinus issues, asthma, autoimmune thyroid disease, and even chronic mental agitation. Of course, we can eliminate and reintroduce foods to our diet without any testing, but elimination diets can be laborious and confusing. When we test first, it gives us an idea of the best foods to eliminate first instead of choosing blindly.  Several clinical trials in recent years have found that using IgG testing to guide food elimination can have a positive impact on many chronic issues, including inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, and migraine headaches.

Once I find out which foods I’m reacting to, what do I do?  

This is my favorite part, because it allows us to be scientists with our own bodies.  In a nutshell, the scientific method involves taking a system, changing something within the system, and observing the changes. When we actively change the diet, and pay attention to what happens, we do a little scientific experiment on ourselves that gives us the power to decide how we are going to feel each day based on the decisions we make.  When we do a food elimination, I like for you to eliminate all the potential offending foods that may be causing inflammation in your body. We give your body a few weeks–usually 4 to 6 weeks–to help the system come to a more neutral state. At this point, you note how you feel without all of those foods.

How Do I Reintroduce Foods? 

Once you have eliminated foods for an appropriate amount of time, we will  start to reintroduce foods one at a time. You will find that one of three things happens: 1. You take away a food, feel no different, then add it back, and feel no different.  2. You take a away a food, feel better, then add it back and feel obviously worse. Or 3. Somewhere in the middle–you take away a food, feel better, then you can add it back in a dose-dependent fashion and feel ok. (for example–you can tolerate eggs in baked goods but don’t feel well when you eat scrambled eggs for breakfast). When you reintroduce a food and find it bothers you, I recommend continuing to stay off of that food for at least 6 months.  For some people, a food intolerance will last for life, but for some, if the body becomes healthier and more robust overall they will be able to successfully reintroduce foods.

The knowledge you gain from eliminating and reintroducing foods helps develop what I view as the most powerful tool you have to maintain your health:  self awareness. The more aware we are, the more powerfully we can act. When we understand how our actions influence our overall state of health, we gain the ability to work as our own doctors.

Thank you for letting me be a part of your health journey!

 

Zar S1, Mincher L, Benson MJ, Kumar D. Food-specific IgG4 antibody-guided exclusion diet improves symptoms and rectal compliance in irritable bowel syndrome.Scand J Gastroenterol. 2005 Jul;40(7):800-7.

Aydinlar EI1, Dikmen PY, Tiftikci A, et al.  IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache. 2013 Mar;53(3):514-25.

Alpay K1, Ertas M, Orhan EK, et al. Diet restriction in migraine, based on IgG against foods: a clinical double-blind, randomised, cross-over trial. Cephalalgia. 2010 Jul;30(7):829-37.

Mitchell N1, Hewitt CE, Jayakody S, et al.  Randomised controlled trial of food elimination diet based on IgG antibodies for the prevention of migraine like headaches. Nutr J. 2011 Aug 11

Liu Y1, Yan H2, Shao F3,et al. Correlation between childhood eczema and specific IgG antibody level. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2018 Mar-Apr;32(2):341-344.

 

The Medicinal Uses of Honey

Over the past two years, our family has embarked on an adventure into the world of beekeeping–and an adventure it has been! We have all enjoyed suiting up and walking out to the field to tend the hives. Between observing their behavior, learning how to care for bees and beehives,, collecting swarms, and processing honey we have learned and enjoyed so much about having these amazing and beneficial creatures in our backyard.

While honey has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties, there are many scientific studies that have recently established its utility for a number of issues. It is anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, antimicrobial, and promotes healing. In my mind, honey is best used to heal the skin and membranes of the mouth and nasal cavity from wounds and infections. Honey promotes wound healing by killing bacteria, reducing the size of the wound, improving the growth of healthy new cells, and decreasing scarring. It is postulated that antioxidant properties of honey improve wound healing by decreasing free radical damage.

There have been many studies that have shown the ability of honey to kill infectious bacteria, primarily because of the presence of hydrogen peroxide in the honey. When tested against mupirocin (a common topical antibacterial), honey worked equally well to kill meticillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) that was growing in the nasal cavity. Some types of honey, such as manuka honey, also contain a chemical called methylglyoxyl, which is not as easily deactivated by enzymes in human blood. This gives these types of honey even greater antibacterial activity.

My favorite use of honey is for assisting in the healing from upper respiratory infections. It soothes the mouth and throat, decreases the cough response, and decreases any bacteria that could be aggravating the infection. Most people are familiar with the old time remedy of honey and lemon in water to soothe a sore throat and decrease a cough. Multiple studies have shown the ability of honey to decrease coughing, particularly at night. When tested against dextromethorphan (robitussin), diphenhydramine (benadryl), levidroproprazine (an antitussive more common in Europe) salbutamol (albuterol) and placebo, honey worked as well or better than all of these except dextromethorphan for decreasing cough and helping to sleep without being woken by that cough. Given the potential for side effects of all of the above medications and the efficacy of honey, it a no-brainer to try this first for treating that cough that’s keeping you up at night.

With this in mind, I use honey as the base for my cough and cold syrup that I make for my patients and my family during the cold and flu season. I make an herbal extract with a combination of herbs, including licorice root and yerba mansa to assist in healing the lining of the mouth, throat, and nose, osha to clear out mucus, wild cherry bark to decrease the compulsion to cough, and elderberry to stimulate the immune system. This mixture is combined with local honey and turned into a tasty and effective syrup that I call “Dr. Kaycie’s Slime Buster”. It is safe and effective for kids over the age of 12 months as well as adults. Feel free to let me know if you want to know more about it!

Molan P1, Rhodes T2.Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing.Wounds. 2015 Jun;27(6):141-51.
Morroni G1, Alvarez-Suarez JM2,3, Brenciani A1 et al. Comparison of the Antimicrobial Activities of Four Honeys From Three Countries (New Zealand, Cuba, and Kenya).Front Microbiol. 2018 Jun 25;9:1378.
Willix DJ1, Molan PC, Harfoot CG. A comparison of the sensitivity of wound-infecting species of bacteria to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey and other honey.J Appl Bacteriol. 1992 Nov;73(5):388-94.

Abd Jalil MA1, Kasmuri AR, Hadi H. Stingless Bee Honey, the Natural Wound Healer: A Review.Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(2):66-75.
Oryan A1, Alemzadeh E2, Moshiri A3.Biological properties and therapeutic activities of honey in wound healing: A narrative review and meta-analysis.J Tissue Viability. 2016 May;25(2):98-118.
Poovelikunnel TT1, Gethin G2, Solanki D3, et al. Randomized controlled trial of honey versus mupirocin to decolonize patients with nasal colonization of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Hosp Infect. 2018 Feb;98(2):141-148.
Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;(3):
Miceli Sopo S1, Greco M2, Monaco S2 et al. Effect of multiple honey doses on non-specific acute cough in children. An open randomised study and literature review.Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2015 Sep-Oct;43(5):449-55.
Oduwole O1, Meremikwu MM, Oyo-Ita A, Udoh EE. Honey for acute cough in children. Evid Based Child Health. 2014 Jun;9(2):401-44.

Oduwole O1, Udoh EE, Oyo-Ita A, Meremikwu MM.:Honey for acute cough in children.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Apr 10;4

Homemade Sauerkraut: Improve Digestion, Prevent Cancer

There is a farm at my children’s school, and every Thursday afternoon they host a farm stand where parents and students can buy fresh veggies, goat milk products, and homemade goodies. A few weeks ago, I stopped by the stand and encountered some truly amazing produce–a head of cabbage so giant I thought I was back in Alaska. I passed on buying it, not knowing what I’d actually do with the beast, but I went home and thought about it all night, came up with a plan, and the next day headed back to the farm to see if there were more. The farmer generously took me out to the field and found me this beauty. I brought this leafy 15-pounder home and started shredding.IMG_1105

Making Sauerkraut:
It turns out making sauerkraut is a relatively simple process: it requires cabbage, salt, and a good vessel for storage. I bought a large crock for making vinegar a few years ago so I decided to use this. I would recommend using something nonreactive and not plastic, so crockery or glass are good options. According to Alton Brown, my go-to resource for all cooking projects that seem a bit more like chemistry, for every 5lbs of cabbage, use 3Tbsp pickling salt (I used kosher salt and doubled the amount). He also uses 1 Tbsp of juniper berries and 2 tsp caraway, but that is optional. After shredding and mixing the cabbage with salt, pack it firmly into your sanitized fermentation vessel of choice. Place a plate on top of the cabbage, then lay a quart-sized glass jar full of water over the plate (sanitize these too).
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After a couple days, a liquid brine should form to cover the top of the cabbage, if not, add enough water to cover the cabbage. Check it every couple of days and skim the scum off the top if necessary. The sauerkraut should be ready in 10 days to 4 weeks-just take a bit out and taste it! When it is finished, pack it into sanitized quart jars and cover with brine (the spigot at the bottom of my vinegar crock was handy for this). It should keep in the refrigerator for a few months.IMG_1177

Why Sauerkraut?

In addition to being a good source of Vitamin C, B6, and iron, there are two primary health benefits to eating sauerkraut: improved digestion and cancer prevention. The digestive benefits are twofold: there are many strains of probiotic bacteria (including lactobacillus) that work together to eat the sugars in the cabbage and produce this fermented food. Eating raw sauerkraut will help to repopulate the large intestine with beneficial bacteria, which can improve digestion, relieve inflammation, and increase the strength of the immune system overall. Green cabbage is also a good source of glutamine, which is an amino acid that is the preferred food for the lining of the digestive tract. This can also help to repair damaged cells and improve the integrity of the large intestine. One word of caution; the process of fermentation can create a trisaccharide that, when consumed by the bacteria that live in the digestive tract, can cause gas for some people. The addition of caraway and juniper (as advised by Alton Brown’s recipe) can help to dispel that gas and maximize the digestive benefit of the sauerkraut.

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is the primary chemical present in sauerkraut that has been associated with cancer prevention. I3C can be found in all members of the cabbage (brassica) family, but particularly high levels have been found in cabbage that has been fermented for 7-9 days. After this length of time, I3C levels continue to remain elevated but will taper off over time. I3C has been shown to reduce proliferation (growth) of several types of cancer, including colon, prostate, breast, and leukemia. I3C has been discussed particularly in reference to prevention of breast and cervical cancers because it helps to metabolize and remove estrogens from the system. These types of cancer are frequently (though not always) dependent upon estrogen as a growth promoter. However, I3C also can help to initiate natural cell death (called apoptosis) and protect the liver against cancer-causing chemicals which is why benefit has been found for non-estrogen dependent cancers as well.

Making sauerkraut is a little adventure that yields a delicious, health promoting, and cost-saving product with flavor unrivaled by the canned store-bought types. You can purchase raw sauerkraut at many health food stores, but the cost can be upwards of $20/quart. Making it at home requires only the cost of the cabbage–mine cost about $1.30/quart, plus the glory of figuring out what to do with a cabbage the size of my torso.

Enjoy and be well!

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In honor of Food Day, Chef Lilly Steirer and I have been talking about some of the great ways to incorporate more nourishing foods into our diets. One of the things she asked me was to comment on some strategies for helping our kids to eat well. Kids, mine included, can be very picky eaters, so here are some of my strategies for helping them to make nutritious choices:

Repetition–Often, just having a healthy option on the table, and asking the kids to eat just a little of it, will pay off over time as they become accustomed to it.

“Deconstructed” meals–One thing that has been helpful for getting my kids to eat well is recognizing that, while the whole meal may not look appealing, the individual components of the meal often are. I often serve “deconstructed” meals. For instance, if you make a chicken curry, you can reserve some of the plain cooked chicken, veggies, and rice and allow the kids to use the sauce as they please.

Healthy alternatives–Have fruits, veggies, nuts, and healthy crackers available when they reach for a snack. At dinner time, make sure there is a protein, a healthy starch such as brown rice, quinoa, or whole grain pasta, and a vegetable available.

Ownership–letting your kids choose from an array of healthy options helps them be more excited about eating. My kids always eat more of their lunches when they make their own or we talk about what they want to eat when I pack it.

Gardening– Gardening has also been a great way to get my kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables because they have seen them from seed to table and they feel a sense of ownership and pride with the produce we have produced.

Good Attitude–If your kids see you being picky about food, they are more likely to be less adventurous.

Moderation–Treat treats like treats, not habits. A small bite of good quality dark chocolate is not the same as an entire Hershey bar. Instead of soaking pancakes in syrup, my kids love a small pool to dip in. Life and eating should be fun, just keep things in check.

Making the Most of the Garden: Pickled and Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

So, as Lilly mentioned in her last post, we had our first real freeze a couple of weeks ago which means just about everything from the garden had to come in. (In case you’re wondering, I keep the carrots and parsnips in the ground until it freezes hard because they keep better out there than in my fridge). Along with all the greens, indian corn for grinding, popcorn for popping, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, tomatillos and ripe tomatoes, I also ended up with about 15 pounds of green tomatoes.

What to do?  If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I am a tomato obsessive:  these overly nurtured babies started out as seeds last February, so even if they’ve not ripened they will not go to waste.  In past years I’ve stuck them in a paper sack and allowed them to ripen, but this year I decided to celebrate them for who they are.  Green tomatoes have their own nutritional benefits:  They are very high in Vitamins A, C, and pantothenic acid, plus are a great source of potassium.  But let’s be honest, I’m not eating them for their nutritional value, I’m loving them for their own unique deliciousness.

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So, the first ten pounds went into jars.  PIckled tomatoes will have all the same health benefits I mentioned in my post about pickles if you prepare them in a similar way.  My folks have found that they need about twice the salt though so I followed their lead.  Sadly, the season for big, overgrown dillweed with large seed heads has passed here so I had to go with the more demurely plastic packaged baby dill from the grocery store. Otherwise, I stuck with the formula.

Next, fried green tomatoes.  I have always heard about this mystical dish and have tried them from time to time but haven’t ever quite gotten the wow I was imagining, so I decided to improvise a bit. I may have mentioned in the past that my husband is a bit of a breaded food obsessive:  chicken fingers, pork cutlets, fish sticks, mozzarella sticks, zucchini fritters–they are all well loved, so I’ve become fairly well practiced at making gluten free, healthy versions of these crispy delights.  These turned out good enough to share the recipe, with a crispy, flavorful crust and a tangy middle.  mmm.  Can’t wait for next year.

GF Fried Green Tomatoes:

2 large green tomatoes, sliced ⅜ inch thick

2 Tbsp high heat oil, such as safflower

1 egg

½ cup grated parmesan

½ cup almond meal

¼ cup arrowroot starch (potato or even corn would also probably work fine)

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

sea salt

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the pan generously.  Scramble the egg in a bowl.  Mix the remaining ingredients except salt into another bowl.  Dip tomato slice into egg, allow to drip, then using your other hand, coat with the parmesan/almond mixture.  Place in pan.  Repeat with all the tomato slices.  Salt the upper side.  When the bottom in nicely browned, flip tomato slices, salt, and brown the other side.  You may need to turn heat down to medium if the pan starts to get too hot.  Eat when hot and crispy out of the pan.

Garlic to Prevent and Treat Colds and Flu

This Year’s Harvest

It’s garlic planting season again.  It catches me by surprise every year because I’m just simply not in planting mode in mid-October.  Which means that every year in February I’m out there trying to hack a hole in the frozen ground to plant some garlic, realize that’s a dumb idea, and then go back to it in late March.  This year I added to the dumbness by trying to mulch my garlic (embedded in half frozen ground) with hay rather than straw (in case you don’t know the difference, hay has seeds in it, straw does not) which meant I spent the entire spring and summer pulling grass out of my garlic patch.  And then when I pull the garlic up in October as I did last week it’s very nice but not as large as I was hoping for.  So this year I’m making a Halloween resolution to plant garlic this month, and perhaps scare away some vampires for good measure.

Why do we love garlic? Let me count the ways.  Garlic has been researched for its health promoting properties to regulate blood sugar, blood lipids, and even treat cancer, in addition to being an indispensable addition to almost everything I cook.  Today, however, I am going to focus on its role in preventing and treating infections.

As I’ve mentioned before, a primary health focus for the autumn months is immunity, and this year colds, flus, tonsillitis and all their buddies all seem to be starting up earlier than ever.  When fighting viruses such as cold and flu, garlic has been shown to help prevent these illnesses.  When taken internally (aka eaten), garlic activates immune cells called T cells and NK cells to help the body fight off viruses before we get sick.  The primary active constituents that help garlic be such a powerful immune booster are called alliin and allicin; these are also the source of garlic’s pungent and wonderful scent.  Alliin is enzymatically converted to allicin when garlic is crushed or chopped so swallowing whole cloves won’t do you as much good.

Garlic has also been shown to kill bacteria and fungi, which can be useful for strep and other forms of tonsillitis.  In open wounds, garlic helps to prevent the formation of what are called biofilms.  Biofilms are a handy little trick that bacteria have of banding together to make a wall around themselves and prevent our immune cells or antimicrobial agents from getting in–sort of like bacterial armor. Because it can prevent this, garlic applied topically can prevent a wound from getting infected.

In Chinese medicine, garlic is seen as a very hot herb; it gets your circulation moving and boosts your temperature to more effectively fight and get rid of bugs.  Generally in this tradition garlic is not recommended for kids to eat every day because they are so warm to begin with.  However, garlic is seen as a wonderful medicine for children with colds and flu.  In his book Healing with Whole Foods Paul Pitchford recommends making a sandwich out of thin slices of apple with a slice of garlic between to help prevent and treat colds for kids.

Because of this quality of heating the body and helping to move illness out of the system, garlic can also be used to treat coughs, particularly those that have settled in and been hanging around for too long.  One of my mentors Bill Mitchell, ND specifically used it for  “excessive, irritating, and persistant coughs.” His prescription in this case is to chop 2 cloves and swallow them in a slug of water four times per day for an adult.  This would be sure to exorcise any cough, demon, or vampire without fail.

With this in mind, get out there and celebrate at your local garlic festival, make a batch of pesto, or roast a head to spread on some crackers with brie.  Your immune system will thank you for it.  As for me, I will be in the garden digging and planning for next year’s harvest.

Health Benefits of Pickles

PIckle Night!

Pickle NIght!

Pickling is one of my family’s favorite yearly traditions.  It has been going on since my family came to Denver in the early 1900’s and I suspect long before they immigrated from Eastern Europe.  I can’t recall a meal growing up where meat was served without a pickle to accompany it.  I know it was much more commonplace in the past: there is a famous story of a family friend who used to hold a contest to see who was making the best pickles in the neighborhood.  He, of course, was the judge, and in the end I don’t know if he ever awarded any prizes, he mostly just ate everyone’s pickles.  The point is, at that time just about everyone on the block was making their family’s brand of homemade pickle.

Today, we still get together with my folks once a year and make enough pickles to supply our own pantries, give as gifts to friends, and serve as a favorite side dish at celebrations with the extended family.  Although this is a bit of a novelty in our contemporary culture, pickles have played an important role in many culinary traditions.  From German sauerkraut to Korean kimchee, pickled foods have added an extra zip to food and have historically been a handy way to bring a bit of summer into the winter months.  What we are also finding today is that pickled foods are also important for health reasons.

The health promoting aspect of pickled foods lies in the pickling process itself.  Today, much of what we find in the store that is labeled a “pickle” is actually preserved in vinegar.  A natural pickle, however, is generally placed in a salt brine and allowed to ferment.  This process is called lactic acid fermentation.  What happens during this process is lactic acid producing bacteria (generally in the lactobacillus family, which included our good friend l. acidophilus) “eat” the sugars in the cucumbers and turn them into energy and lactate.  We know this is happening properly when we go to open the jar (always over the sink!) and it starts bubbling–this is the moment when my dad shouts “It’s working mom! It’s working!”  From a chemistry standpoint, this process increases the acidity of the brine and kills any pathogenic bacteria that may be present.  From a culinary standpoint, this results is a tangy, probiotic-infused vessel of crunchy deliciousness.

In our family, there are several other important ingredients in pickle making, all of which play a role in making a delicious and healthy food.  Fresh dill is what is called a carminative, which means it helps to dispel intestinal gas.  The spices in pickling spice, including allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper, are also digestive aids.  Garlic is antimicrobial which helps to insure that the “bad” bacteria don’t get a chance to culture.  The result is a product that helps to break down heavy foods, dispel gas, and provide probiotic cultures to insure healthy elimination.

In today’s grocery stores, particularly those geared towards natural foods, there are more and more natural pickle options.  They will provide the benefits listed above and will probably taste pretty darn good.  However, they tend to be rather expensive; I’ve seen as high as $15 per jar, which makes them a bit cost prohibitive.  My recommendation is to pull out that ancient copy of The Joy of Cooking (or do a little internet search) and make your own! Start a new family tradition in your kitchen today!