Get to Know Kohlrabi

kohlrabi

A great way to regain your digestive and overall health is to continually add new gut-healing foods into your diet. One of my recent picks for a previously unknown food was kohlrabi, a root vegetable. Let me tell you, it was a hit with the non-adventurous carnivores that I live with. I roasted the kohlrabi up with some chopped garlic and olive oil. My son described it as “a cross between a marshmallow and a potato.” Since neither marshmallows or potatoes have great nutrition, it’s kohlrabi for the win!

But the gift of the kohlrabi did not just end with it being a delicious, family-friendly side dish. I was also able to enjoy the greens. Their flavor is quite mild and so I added them to both my green juices and my green smoothies. These delicious, nutritious drinks keep my skin glowing, my nails growing and my head pain-free! Always great to have another variety of greens to add to my repertoire.

Why eat kohlrabi? Besides being delicious, the root and the greens offer you a whole host of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Remember the wider the variety of plant foods that you eat, the more nourishment you are giving to every cell of your body.

Because I am a digestive health guru, I was of course curious about whether kohlrabi has been found to be low-FODMAP. Several lists on the web say “yes”, but as far as I can tell, the ultimate authority, Monash University, has not yet tested kohlrabi. However, sometimes we need to guess. Since other root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, are considered low in FODMAPs, there is a good possibility that kohlrabi would also be. However, every body is different, so give kohlrabi a try and see how it agrees with your system. I roasted mine with garlic because my family can tolerate garlic. If you want to keep the dish low-FODMAP you could use a garlic-infused oil. 

What To Do With Garlic Scapes

I must share a bit of a back story before I get into discussing why you should be interested in garlic scapes. Back in 2012  Hurricane Sandy destroyed my backyard. Many people lost their homes, so I couldn’t really complain. But, my beautiful, shady, tree-filled backyard was now a sunny wasteland. For a long time, it looked like an abandoned lot on the side of the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.

2014-04-18 18.12.23 (1)

Once my husband and sons finished chopping up our beloved oak tree for firewood, it was time to come to grips with my now-very-suburban-looking backyard. Fortunately, my friend Dylan, who owns a home organic gardening business, had just come back from Costa Rica with all sorts of ideas about creating an individual biosphere in regular backyards. He saw my yard as a blank canvas and the creative juices started flowing.

Dylan filled one side of the yard with berries – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. In the back of the yard, he planted two peach trees, two plum trees and a fig tree. He built boxes for potatoes, asparagus, squash and garlic. On one slope, he planted a bunch of pollinating flowers. I now have one of the world’s most interesting backyards.

One morning as I looked out, I said, “Do the garlic plants have flowers?” When I finally got back there to look, I saw these beautiful swan-like fronds. I thought, “Ooohh, these must be garlic scapes”, and immediately felt like a fool because I had just ordered some from my local Farmigo distributor. Newbie gardener mistake, as I was able to harvest about 50 of my own scapes. I cannot describe to you the giddy joy I experienced with this unexpected, gorgeous gift from my own backyard.

garlic scapes

What to do with garlic scapes? Apparently the best thing is to make pesto! I pulled up a recipe from my friend Kerry Michaels,:

Don’t tell Kerry, but I skipped the basil because I didn’t have any around! The pesto was super-easy to make and my freezer is now stocked. Scapes can also be sauteed or added to soups.

garlic scape pesto

Now for the best part. garlic scapes might just be low-FODMAP! I don’t think they have been tested by Monash, but the greens of scallions are low in FODMAPs and a quick Google search indicated that some FODMAP bloggers have been able to tolerate garlic scapes even if they cannot tolerate garlic. This means that you should be able to enjoy the garlicky taste that comes from the scapes without worrying that it will set off your IBS.

Why should you eat garlic scapes? Because they contain the same wonderful nutrients that you get from eating garlic – manganese, selenium and some key vitamins. Garlic consumption is thought to be good for your cardiovascular system and may help to protect you from cancer.

Where to get garlic scapes if you are not growing garlic in your backyard? They can be found in your local Farmer’s Market. Ask the farmers when they will be in season in your area.

Health & the Dead Guy In the Envelope

envelopeGot your attention, didn’t I? I recently made the wacky connection between health and a game I used to listen to on morning radio, “Dead Guy in the Envelope.” In this game, the DJs would pick a male celebrity who had passed away and award a prize to the caller who correctly ID-ed the dead guy. Each caller was allowed to ask one question and then make their guess. The game was much harder than you would think because the human brain seems to be programmed to come up with ONLY ONE solution to a problem. So, if the answer to the question asked was a “no,” callers would be stumped to come up with an alternative to their original guess.

What does this have to do with health? I think there is the temptation to do the same thing – to think that there is only one solution – the right doctor, the right medication, the right diet, the right supplement. But when we are talking about something as complex as IBS, best results are achieved when multiple things are tried all at once.

That is the beauty of holistic health. And that is the beauty of working with a health coach. Someone to prompt you to think of, and attempt, multiple solutions to your health problem. And to make sure that you don’t just try things for a short while, but that they become what you do all the time, without even having to think about it. To make it fun, easy and do-able.

And to make sure it is a long time before you find yourself in any kind of envelope…

Getting Free of IBS Without Drugs

I am writing to share with you an extremely well-written article by Chris Kresser that completely echoes and validates my own approach for helping my clients to free their lives up from IBS.

I am a huge fan of Chris’s work – and have a bit of a science geek crush on him. I may have deep knowledge of IBS, but he takes the science to a whole other level. And as he digs into the science, he takes it beyond the party of line of the conventional medical establishment.

As you read his article on ways to treat IBS without drugs, you will notice SO many similarities to my free workshop “Freedom From IBS 101.” And if you haven’t listened to that, shame on you! (Just kidding, but seriously, click here and you can listen today.)

I hope that between my workshop and Chris’s article, you walk away today knowing that there is hope – that IBS is treatable – and that there are things that you can do – beyond what your doctor offers you – to enjoy a life that is free from IBS. And that is what I am here for.
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Because “just live with it” is not an option.

Low FODMAP Bone Broth

Bone broth is an old-fashioned dietary staple that is enjoying new-fangled popularity as a way to promote gut health. For my medically reviewed article on the science behind bone broth and gut health see:

If bone broth sounds like something you would like to try for your IBS, I think you will find that this recipe will surprise you as to how easy it is to prepare. If your system is super-sensitive, you could prepare your broth using just the bones and water. But if you think you would enjoy some extra flavoring, you can have confidence that all of the ingredients in the recipe are low in FODMAPs and therefore should not set off unwanted symptoms.

Please note that this recipe has been designed with FODMAP information available at the time of its publication through the use of the Monash University Low-FODMAP app, but the broth itself has not been tested for its FODMAP content. Once your broth has been prepared, please start with sipping a small amount to make sure that it sits well with your system.

Low FODMAP Bone Broth

Low FODMAP Bone Broth

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs bones - your choice: grass-fed beef, pastured pork, free range turkey or chicken
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 8 chopped carrots
  • I bunch of green onions or leeks - LEAVES only!
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Small bunch of fresh rosemary or thyme
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 and line a baking pan with foil
  2. Place the bones on the lined baking pan and roast for 40 minutes, flipping the bones over at the 20 minute mark
  3. After roasting, place the bones in your slow cooker and cover with water.
  4. Add all of the rest of the ingredients
  5. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer beef/pork bones for 48 hours; chicken/turkey for 24 hours
  6. Strain the cooked broth into airtight mason jars and refrigerate overnight
  7. Scrape the congealed fat off of the top and discard
  8. Refrigerate or freeze your broth in airtight mason jars
  9. When ready to enjoy your broth, heat it slightly to bring it to a liquid consistency
https://www.drbolenaboutibs.com/2017/04/24/low-fodmap-bone-broth/

Adapted from: “Gut-Healing Bone Broth Recipe

Interested in Oil Pulling?

Brave oil pulling selfie

When you become a happy health nut you find yourself trying things that in the past would have made you shake your head with total disbelief. For me, the wackiest thing I am now doing is “oil pulling.” Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice for oral health. It involves putting a small amount of oil (typically sesame or coconut) in your mouth and swishing it around for 10 to 15 minutes a day. The practice is thought to “pull” bacteria and other microorganisms out of your mouth. Proponents rave about a wide variety of benefits, ranging from the more believable healthier gums with whiter and stronger teeth, to the less believable claims that it treats almost every kind of human ailment.

Given the buzz about oil pulling and my long-standing lack of confidence in my flossing ability, I decided to give it a try. I chose coconut oil and was surprised by the pleasant, mild taste, as I generally dislike anything that has coconut in it. Although you are supposed to oil pull first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, I didn’t see how that 10 to 15 minutes of not being able to talk was going to work in my household. Instead, I chose to oil pull during my shower, which has proven to work really well. The most important thing to remember about oil pulling is that you must never spit the oil down your drain as the oil will firm up again when cooled and clog your pipes.  The other thing to remember is if your jaw is getting tired, you are doing it too hard.  Just gently swish the oil around.

Although the scientist in me squirms at the lack of research on the subject, in my own “clinical study of one”, I cannot deny the results. Within days, my gums looked healthier. By the end of the first week, my green tea-stained teeth were noticeably whiter. Most dramatically, a tooth that was causing me such pain that I figured I was looking at a root canal has grown very quiet. If that last one due to the oil pulling I cannot say for sure, but my checkbook is very happy to not have to find the money for significant dental work.

I recently met a dental hygienist who stated that she wanted to do a clinical trial on the subject. She took one look at my mouth and said that she never would have known I was a mouth-breather as my gums no longer had the tell-tale signs. That’s a pretty good endorsement right there.

If you think that oil-pulling is for you, the following article is a good place to start:

 

What’s New with IBS

Have you noticed how times of great life changes often trigger some reflection on the past? For me, my leaving my position at About.com has brought to mind how much has changed on the IBS scene since I wrote my first book, “Breaking the Bonds of Irritable Bowel Syndrome” in 2000. I thought you might find this interesting…

When I was doing research for “Breaking the Bonds,” info on IBS was SO limited. Here is where things were at:

  1. IBS was still seen as something “all in your head”
  2. The only treatments were psychological – CBT and hypnotherapy
  3. Celiac disease was called “celiac sprue” and was considered very, very rare
  4. Food was considered to have no relevance in IBS

Where things are at now:

  1. IBS is now recognized as a complex disorder, involving dysfunction in many body symptoms
  2. Pharmaceutical companies are pouring money into developing IBS medications with a few already on the market
  3. Celiac disease affects a large part of the population and is under-diagnosed in people who have IBS
  4. The low-FODMAP diet not only recognizes that certain foods are IBS triggers, but offers an effective non-medication treatment for IBS

What is new:

  1. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) long dismissed by medical practitioners as being related to IBS, is now recognized as the underlying cause for a surprisingly high number of IBS patients. Even better, it is treatable! If you have a lot of bloating, or your IBS developed after a bad stomach bug, you may want to ask to be tested for SIBO.
  2. Bile Acid Diarrhea (BAD), once just a theory developed by small-town physicians is now also being recognized as being behind IBS in approximately 1/3 of people diagnosed with IBS. If you experience diarrhea right after eating or no longer have a gallbladder, you may want to talk to your doctor about BAD. Like SIBO, it is treatable!
  3. Health Coaching! When I first started to write about IBS, the only tool in my bag for supporting my IBS clients was CBT. Luckily, health coaching is a booming area of growth and has become an effective way to show people how to care for themselves so as to heal from chronic illnesses like IBS. If you are interested in working with me as your coach, click here for an initial consultation.

 

How to Make Homemade Kefir

Straining kefir grainsIf you have been reading my digestive health articles, you will certainly have heard me recommend fermented foods. Fermented foods are filled with a wide variety of strains of probiotics – so, so good for your digestive and overall health.

After I read Chris Kresser’s article on the health benefits of kefir, a fermented milk product, I have been a fan. I was particularly interested in the vitamin K2 of kefir – because it appears to be important for vitamin D to do its thing – and I always test low on vitamin D. I started buying store-bought brands of kefir, but didn’t always love the ingredients label. However, I read in so many places that it is simple to make your own kefir – so I thought I would give it a try.

I ordered my grains from a company called Cultures for Health as they got good reviews on Amazon. I followed their directions exactly. The first few days, nothing happened  and I poured a lot of milk down the drain. This is apparently normal as the freeze-dried grains need to become activated.

But on day three, the milk thickened up – I was ridiculously happy about this – I am not sure why – but it gave me such a thrill. Don’t laugh at me – but it felt like I had created life! Here is what it looked like:

kefir in mason jar

Then I ran into a snag. The grains no longer seemed to be thickening up the kefir and I was afraid to drink the milk, fearful that I was drinking milk that had gone bad instead of kefir itself! I wrote the company – their customer service was fantastic! They helped me to understand that part of the problem may have been that my house is too cold (It is cold! I once had a goldfish that lived nine years!) Once I moved the jar into the warmest room of the house, it has been consistently giving me delicious kefir each morning! My green smoothies have never tasted better:

kefir green smoothie

As you know, I am a pretty busy person. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it only takes me about two minutes each morning to strain the grains out of the kefir and place them into some fresh milk to create tomorrow’s kefir. It feels a bit like taking care of a pet – and it makes me ridiculously happy to see the grains growing and thriving.

But as a digestive health expert, I know health is all about bacteria. One of the reasons that I love composting is because I know that my kitchen scraps create bacteria for my garden soil that then nurture the plants that nurture my body.  When I say making kefir makes me ridiculously happy, it is because my feeding these pet-like grains gets rewarded with them feeding me health-enhancing bacteria. Circle of life…

Hopefully, I have inspired you to start making your own kefir. Learn from my mistakes!

  1. Kefir cannot be cultivated from ultra-pasteurized milk. I had to search high and low to find pasteurized milk. I eventually found some at Trader Joe’s.
  2. Kefir needs a warm, stable temperature, somewhere in the range of 68°- 85°F. You can click here to buy the heating strip that works wonders for me in my cold house.
  3. As soon as it smells sweet, it is kefir and not rotten milk!
  4. I like the taste better after it has been chilled. So each morning I put the new batch in the refrigerator and drink yesterday’s batch.

NOTE:  The wonderful researchers at Monash University tested milk kefir and found that in spite of the fermentation process, it still tests high for lactose. So if you have lactose intolerance, you may want to try making kefir with water,  coconut milk or coconut water. Cultures for Health offers starter kits for all of these.

The BEST Thing You Can Do for Your IBS

Last week, a woman on the mat next to me in yoga class said “The current recommendations are to eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Is that even possible?”

My answer, “It is not only possible, it is essential!!!!”

Getting in all those servings when you have IBS is challenging, but it is the BEST thing you could be doing for your IBS. Why? Because all that plant food will nourish the bacteria within your gut and help to put your belly on a path for healing.

I am not saying to go out today and eat ten servings if yesterday you only ate one or two servings. Fruits and vegetables may be what is needed for healing, but in the short-run they can set off symptoms. Many healthy plant foods are high in FODMAPs and some IBS bellies don’t do well with raw vegetables.

So what can you do? You can start by counting up how many different types of fruits and vegetables you ate yesterday. And then today try to get that number up by one. Start with low-FODMAP options (the Monash Low-FODMAP app can be SO helpful with this process). Then next Monday try to increase the number by one more. And do this weekly until you are getting in your daily ten.

How to get those ten servings in? Green smoothies and vegetables soups are both WONDERFUL for getting in all those health-promoting veggies and fruits.

How much is a serving? You can look up the government guidelines, look on the Monash app, or listen to your body!! When you eat clean – meaning no processed, chemical-filled, sugar-filled, food – you enhance your ability to tap into your body’s own wisdom as to how much food is just right for your unique body.