Coming Soon: “Recipe Remedies”

Have you ever wanted to “fix” gluten, grain, sugar, or starch recipes, but didn’t have the time to experiment? Never fear! I can do it for you. Within the next couple of weeks, I will be starting a new series called “Recipe Remedies.” From the simple to the complex, I will be taking recipes from my ample collection and fixing them for your gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and starch-free needs!

Tell me what you think! Your feedback is very much appreciated as I begin this new project.

Don’t miss a single recipe. Subscribe for e-mail or RSS updates.

Happy cooking, everybody!


Of Food and Travel

As I’ve said before, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet has worked wonders on my system. Praise God! Knowing that I can control my symptoms with the kind of food I eat has certainly been a blessing.

However, you may be thinking, “The SCD is fine and good in the home, but what happens when I go out? Or when I travel? How can I stay on the diet when others don’t know what I can and can’t eat?”

Here are some easy tips that will make social gatherings easy and stress-free:

  1. Always go prepared. I never go anywhere without a snackbar, cheese, or other SCD-legal goodies. I eat constantly, so even on short car trips, I need something to nibble.
  2. Ask what is being served. I know this may be embarrassing sometimes, but you just need to get over that. If you are going over a friend’s house for dinner, ask what they’re cooking, what seasonings and spices they’re using, and what ingredients are in those spices. Don’t be shy about asking for details. Your health depends on a complete openness between you and the cook. The same goes for public gatherings. Either ask, or just bring something along.
  3. Save leftovers. My family’s church has a fellowship lunch every Sunday afternoon. On the preceding Friday or Saturday, I try to make sure I set aside enough food for Sunday, so I don’t have to rush to make something before church. I’ve found that leftover veggies don’t always re-heat very well, so I just toss in some frozen green beans Sunday morning.
  4. If you are dining out, emphasize to your waiter that you either must know exactly what’s in something, or that whatever you order must not be seasoned at all. I usually ask my meat to be seasoned with salt and pepper and my veggies to be steamed.

Road trips are a little more difficult, because of the need to keep things cool. I attend a church retreat six hours away in the Piney Woods of East Texas. It’s in the middle of nowhere, so I have to prepare my food ahead of time and pack an entire cooler. The food provided at the retreat is delicious, but “illegal.” Fortunately, there is a refrigerator available in which to store my food.

Plane trips are the hardest. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to take certain foodstuffs, such as homemade yogurt, along on the plane. When my family and I went up to New York last year, I was able to board the plane in San Antonio with homemade yogurt, but I wasn’t able to leave New York with it. Airports are more tolerant of storebought goods, since they are sealed and have labels and ingredient lists.

So that takes care of the plane. But what about when you get where you’re going? It depends, really, on where you go. If you’re visiting friends or family, ask them for help. My aunt bought a yogurt maker and prepared some yogurt to be ready upon my arrival. She also bought some cheese, one of my favorite snacks. After we’d arrived, we went shopping and stocked my relatives’ refrigerators with fruit and other legal foodstuffs. My extended family took very good care of me the entire time we visited.

If you’re flying somewhere new, find a hotel room with a refrigerator, at least, if not a kitchenette, depending on what you can afford.

For any road or plane trip, don’t overdo any one thing. Portioning is very important in any situation, but especially when you are away from home. I went to Idaho for a festival back in 2007 and ate nothing but fruit and steak. Needless to say, I was terribly sick after I came back home. Balancing your fruits, vegetables, and meat will keep your digestive tract in good condition.

Sometimes it will be impossible to make yogurt. For these situations, take probiotics along.

Lastly, don’t forget to drink water. As important as it is at home, to cleanse your body away from home is even more important. Your system may already be a little affected by the change in the atmosphere, your different surroundings, the difference in temperature, etc.

To summarize, be cautious. Ask questions, portion your food. But above all, relax and remember to enjoy yourself.

Do you have any travel tips for SCDieters? Feel free to comment below! I’m always open to new suggestions.

Happy travelling!

“Udder” Perfection

Making homemade yogurt isn’t as hard as it seems. What’s heating some milk, cooling it down, tossing in some yogurt starter, and letting it sit in a machine for 24 hours?

But at first, my mom and I weren’t getting the results we wanted. The yogurt was too thin–so thin you could drink it. When I tried to sweeten it, the honey wouldn’t mix in properly, leaving globs for me to skillfully avoid with my spoon.


And then, all of a sudden, that changed. I tried a batch of yogurt and found it thick, creamy, and tasty. Wow! We didn’t know what we’d done to this particular batch, but whatever it was, we hoped we’d do it again.

No such luck.

What had made the difference in that batch? After thinking about it for a long while, and experimenting with different brands of milk, we finally realized that it was Promised Land Dairy‘s whole milk that had made our yogurt “udderly” perfect.

Promised Land Dairy uses Jersey cows, whose milk has higher protein, nonfat milk solids, calcium, and butterfat content than other breeds. These factors are most likely what gives the homemade yogurt a thicker, creamier consistency. These cows are grass-fed and, if you are on the “no-artificial-hormones” bandwagon, Promised Land Dairy fits the bill.

If you can’t get Promised Land where you live, just check out the brands that are available and see if they come from Jersey cows.

Happy yogurt-making, y’all!

(Yogurt starters and makers can be found at GI Pro Health—My yogurt maker is from Lucy’s Kitchen Shop)

Exercise: Not Just For a Good-Lookin’ You

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Yes, yes, we know that. I exercise because I want to be healthy.” Good for you! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.

Because exercise is especially important for those with gastrointestinal disorders. Whether you run on a treadmill or take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, keeping in motion keeps the digestive tract awake, so to speak. As tough as it is sometimes—maybe you’re feeling sick, or too tired, or whatever—you need to do something. Many times my mother forced me outdoors, and I came back in refreshed and energized. And feeling GOOD!

Exercising—to put it as delicately as possible—gets everything moving in that area of your body. And keeping your intestines empty means less disease issues, at least for me. My symptoms have always been rather abnormal: constipation instead of diarrhea. Knowing that my food was “passing through” gave me confidence that I wasn’t going to have inflammation and pain. And having that confidence relieves stress.

If you like taking walks, try praying the whole time. Talking with God while I’m on my walks helps me to relax my whole body. Think about it. God is all around you. He’s walking right beside you. Do you ignore a walking companion? Hopefully not. Why not talk to Him, thank Him for His beautiful creation, marvel at the wonderful blessings in your life, and ask Him for wisdom as you take every day one step at a time? Your heart will feel happier when you’re done. And being happy will make your gut happy.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

When I first discovered that I had Crohn’s Disease, a friend from church and a relative 1900 miles away suggested the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), almost simultaneously. My family and I stepped out in faith to try it out, believing that God was pointing me in that direction. I have not regretted our decision, though the struggle has been hard.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed to heal the afflicted intestines and control symptoms. The reasons why food is not digested properly are laid out in Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. It is necessary for any person suffering gastrointestinal disorders or maladies such as Autism to read this book thoroughly before embarking upon the diet. I didn’t, and I suffered the consequences later on.

To summarize briefly what the book details: Because many people with disorders like Crohn’s and Celiac Disease have lost the ability to digest disaccharides, a mucus layer develops in the intestine, blocking digestive enzymes from the disaccharides. There is an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines, which results in the malabsorption of nutrients.

Carbohydrates give energy to the intestinal microbes in a person’s system, continually feeding them so they grow. Thus, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet eliminates all the detrimental carbohydrates. These  include wheat (corn, as well), starches, and sugar.

So, what can you eat? Simple. Meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Bacon is an occasional treat, if fried crisply. Of course, you may be more sensitive to it than others. I can’t eat more than two slices once a week. Honey can be used in place of sugar. There are certain restrictions on fruits and vegetables as well (like potatoes), but it will be worth it cutting them out of your diet (see Breaking the Vicious Cycle for a list of “legal” and “illegal” foods). Some dairy is allowed; some cheeses and yogurt, if it is homemade, but NO milk. Instructions for homemade yogurt can also be found in Elaine Gottschall’s book. At some point, you will be able to introduce nut flours into your diet. The flour recommended is blanched almond flour (so far, we found that Lucy’s Kitchen Shop has the best deal), though I cannot handle that as well. I am on the verge of trying coconut flour, which is a little less expensive. When I’ve experimented with it, I will post my results.

This is a diet that must claim your careful attention and diligence. I realized after two years that I would never be able to completely go back to normal eating. My advice is that you don’t think ahead to the day where you can be “free” to eat whatever you please. Since you may not be able to do that, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Pray for peace. The Lord has put you in this situation. He wants to see you grow through it.

And don’t think that this diet is a burden! Sure, it’s hard at first, but once you get used to cooking in this way and reading labels, it won’t be so bad. Nowadays, I forget that I’m even on this diet, and my friends are always surprised at the wide variety of food I can make.

The Beginner’s Diet

That’s what my mom and I call the first stage of the SCD. For the first five days, the diet is extremely strict, allowing only those foods which will be easy on the system. The point of the Beginner’s Diet is to give your intestines a break. It’s a rest period for things to settle down. When I first started, my insides were so inflamed I stayed on this diet for even longer than they told me to. It’ll be different for everyone.

For a list of the SCD stages, go here. My mom found this later on, after I’d been on the diet for several months. It would’ve helped me so much more to have this at the very beginning.

I also suggest that, at any stage of the diet, if you have a relapse, go back to this beginner’s diet for a few days. I personally go on all liquids for the first two days, then I implement one solid meal on the third day, two on the fourth, and then all three on the fifth.

Above all, don’t give up. It is likely that, even if you are pain/reaction-free for months, you could have a sudden relapse here and there. Don’t be discouraged. The future results will far outweigh any relapses in between.

If you decide to embark upon this journey, I pray for your continued success. God bless!

Faithful Climbs

   A man is climbing a mountain. He stumbles, regains his footing, takes a deep breath, and tries again. Sometimes it looks as if he will never make it to the heights to which he aspires. In spite of the odds, he keeps going—he keeps climbing. Faith is the same way. As we climb to loftier heights of sanctification, God drops pebbles in our paths. Will we trip and fall? Or will we pick ourselves up and keep climbing? Over the past three years, I have come to realize that my struggle with Crohn’s Disease has not been in vain, but that it instead has encouraged me to reach for the pinnacle of faith and peace.

   December 7, 2006—that date marks the night I experienced my personal “Pearl Harbor,” as I later referred to it. Although I had been experiencing escalating abdominal pain over a period of several months, it reached a climax that December afternoon. My parents hurried me off to the hospital, and soon I was being rolled away toward the operating room. The anesthetics had begun to wear off sometime in the middle of the night when I finally asked the question my mother, who was staying with me in the hospital room, was probably waiting for: “Is everything all right now?”

   She hesitated, but answered at last, “Everything is going to be all right.” It was not her words, but her tone that struck me as odd, for she sounded sad and grieved rather than relieved that all was over and done. I asked her if the surgeons had removed whatever had been causing the pain. She told me that they hadn’t.

  Then what was it? To hear the lonely silence in the room was more than I could bear. I asked her, and she told me. I had Crohn’s Disease. Well, what was that? I had never heard of it, but it didn’t sound good, all the same. It was an auto-immune disease that could not just go away. I was “stuck with it.”

  Accepting the fact was not hard that first night. I was still groggy from the anesthesia, too tired to react. I woke when the sunlight leaked through the hospital blinds and tried not to think about it. The days passed at a snail’s pace, and neither my family nor I had any answers to my problem. I was given steroids and medications, one of which I would most likely have to take daily for the rest of my life. I never questioned God that first time in the hospital, even though my attitude was not always a good one.

  After consulting hospital nutritionists and various doctors, all with discouraging results, my father and sister visited me with new hope. My father’s exact words were, “We’re going to get you better.” We all looked at one another, willing to try anything. Friends in our church had amazing success putting two of their daughters on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We purchased a book which detailed how to proceed, and almost as soon as I returned home, we began.

  I was—and am—extremely restricted. The SCD excludes all grains, gluten, all refined sugars, and starches. Needless to say, it was difficult. There were many times where I wished I could give up or give in to my cravings, but I forced myself to persevere. My health improved immediately, and for seven months I had no pain attacks. I was confident in the diet and myself. I suppose that was when God decided to give my family and me a dose of humbling. In late July of 2007, I became ill. It only lasted three days and I was able to care for myself at home, but about a month later, I returned to the hospital.

  A change had come over me. I was confused and angry. For the first time since my ill-fated discovery, I questioned God. “Why?” I couldn’t understand why God was afflicting me like this. I wanted to be free of my medications and my condition. I feared for the plans I had desired for my future, marriage and children. It all seemed so impossible to attain with a condition as terrible as mine stamped on my forehead, so to speak. It didn’t help that my friends knew a play-by-play of what went on, even though, at the time, I had wanted everyone to pray. I realized later that I wish I had kept it quiet as much as possible.

  My parents took me home after a week in the hospital, and we continued with the diet. This time, we saw everything differently. Not only did we have to be even more careful, but we also had to trust in God. Our trust in the diet had taken priority. Even with the question “why” still nagging in the back of mind, I prayed daily for healing and grace. I came to realize that God had been knocking at my door, and I had been too busy to realize that I had neglected Him. I needed faith not only at the foot of the mountain, where everything was smooth and easygoing, but also when the path became hazardous on the journey upwards. There was a greater purpose at work behind my condition, and all that had happened would “work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

  In October of 2007, I was admitted once more into the hospital, this time for only four days. I remained faithful, although new pebbles were thrown in my path. The doctors wished to control the disease with stronger medications, medications I had heard could possibly be dangerous. I floundered in my faith, frightened and rebellious. I did not want to go on medications that could make me sick—or worse. Even now I sometimes fear the possibility. When I was hospitalized in September 2008, the question became an issue. I didn’t even want to think about it. The doctors did not push, but I felt the pressure all the same. My parents agreed with me, but also encouraged me to accept God’s will whatever it was. My doctor understood my concern, and stronger medications have not been pushed since.

  Now, a little over three years since that first hospitalization in 2006, I still struggle. There are still times when my future as a wife and mother seem unattainable, or that I will never be able to stop worrying about what I eat. Even so, I have been mostly diligent with the diet, and I intend to keep at it for many years to come, if not always. I have not had a need for the hospital for over a year and a half. I am thankful for where I am at.

  Although my faith is not perfect, I have reached for the top of the mountain. I have slipped; I have fallen. Every day, I pick myself up and keep climbing. God gives us tests to try our faith and love for Him. If He did not, what would that say about us? If I had no struggles, if my life was easy and uncomplicated, I might fear for my salvation. The book of James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4). Those verses always give me the peace I need to endure Crohn’s Disease and all other trials that make my path rough. Do not lose faith. Have that inner peace that surpasses all understanding. Keep climbing.

  My intent for this blog is to share my knowledge of Crohn’s, the many different facets of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and its effect on various digestive diseases (including maladies such as Autism), and any tips or shortcuts within the diet that I have discovered over the past three years. If I can help even a little, I know it will be worth it. So stay tuned!

  Above all, I wish to make clear that, without the Lord on my side, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has taught me many things about taking care of the body God has given me, and while it has worked wonders in my life, I recognize that it was the Lord working through my diet that made the real difference.

  I will post at least once weekly, on Fridays or Saturdays. However, if inspiration strikes me mid-week, I will most likely let you know. So check back often, or sign up for e-mail updates!

   God be with you on your journey to better health.