Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Diet (A Healthy Way of Living)

Green Smoothie (Kale, banana, apple, water)

Hope you are well! I wanted to update you on my new way of eating - more for overall health - with hopes that some of it helps specific conditions. I will be trying out this diet for a few months (and potentially for the rest of my life!), and I will report along the way with any changes I notice in my overall health.

I was vegetarian for many years, and in 2005, decided to go vegan for my health, for the animals, and for the planet. I don't want this site to be about veganism, but it is part of my lifestyle and will play a role in things I post. What is a vegan, exactly? Well, I embrace a lifestyle built solely on compassion and love. I don't use any animal products (like lotion made with lanolin which comes from sheep), eat any animal products (no pigs, chickens, cows, eggs, milk, butter, etc.), wear any animals (no fur or leather), support any forms of entertainment that use animals (like Sea World, the zoo, circuses, movies with apes, horse-racing, etc.), or support any forms of animal testing (for make-up, scientific research, food research, or anything else where vivisection is used. Animals feel pain and suffer just like humans do, and I will not take part in the suffering of an animal). I am not pushing anyone to go vegan, but I am an open book about kind choices, so email me if you have any questions or want more info! For those of you who aren't interested in the lifestyle, please just read on, as my focus is on all sorts of food allergens, not just animal products, and I think even the heaviest meat-eaters could stand some greens in their diet!

The great part about the vegan lifestyle, it cuts out a ton of potential food allergens - things that aggravate our GI systems, wreak havoc on our bodies, blood, colons, etc. When I cut out meat, I did notice a bit of a difference in the way I felt, but it was so long ago that I can't give specifics. When I cut out dairy, my life changed. With EDS, we have tons of digestive problems, gastro-intestinal problems, chronic constipation, IBS, etc. There was a drastic improvement with all of this. I felt like I could eat without feeling sick, more times than not. I was 'lactose intolerant' - and stopping the dairy helped with this, of course! But, being vegan doesn't mean that I was always a healthy eater. Chips, cookies, candy - those can all be animal-free and still horrible for our bodies. I have been focused on healthy eating for quite some time now, and when I decided to make these natural changes in my life recently, it seemed pertinent to reevaluate my dietary habits as well as my medicinal and physical habits. In doing so, I am making even more changes to my diet. (In addition, I have read many articles about meat and dairy aggravating symptoms of fybromyalgia, so I am glad those aren't in my diet and haven't been for some years now.)


As you know, I have done a lot of researching and reading lately, and it has come to my attention that nightshade vegetables are potentially toxic - causing inflammation and even possibly causing arthritis.
Solanaceae is also informally known as the nightshade family and includes peppers (bell peppers, paprika, chilies, etc. - black pepper is not in this family), potatoes (not sweet potatoes, but all others), tobacco, tomatoes, eggplants, Jimsonweed, mandrakes, deadly nightshade, and petunias. I have cut these out of my diet completely to see if this helps at all with some of the pain I have. There are a lot of great articles I came across, but I will just list a few below you can check out if interested (in addition to this topic being addressed in the Prescription for Nutritional Healing):

Can the Foods You Eat Make a Difference in Chronic Pain?
Article by Shereen Jegtvig,

"Another possible source of irritation comes from the nightshade family of plants. Whole fruits and vegetables are important to eat for their vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants, however some vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant may actually make pain from inflammation worse. These vegetables are part of the nightshade family of plants and contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine. Solanine can trigger pain in some people. While there isn't any formal research findings that back the claim about nightshade plants, some people believe they get relief from the symptoms of pain and inflammation. (Cont'd.)"

All About Nightshades: Explore the Hidden Hazards of Your Favorite Foods with Macrobiotic Nutritionist Lino Stanchich

"Used in shamanism, witchcraft, and even poisonous murder, nightshades have a history of both mystical danger and scientific caution. Some nightshade plants are ingredients in potent narcotic medicine and sleeping pills. It is reported that nightshades contain high levels of alkaloids which cause the bones to excrete calcium, other minerals, and trace elements from the body. Many enlightened doctors and nutritionists recommend that those suffering from arthritis symptoms eliminate nightshades. In this article, the focus will be on two of the most favorite "vegetables" in America. (Cont'd.)"

Popular Foods Source of Arthritis Pain and Inflammation
by Deborah Cooper

"According to a study conducted in 1993 by Childers, eating nightshade foods results in “a buildup of cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroids…and may cause inflammation, muscle spasms, pain, and stiffness.’ The less cholinesterase the body produces as it ages, the less agile the body will be. Therefore, anything that additionally inhibits cholinersterase will add to joint deterioration and stiffness. Cholinesterase inhibitors such as nightshade foods affect mostly rheumatoid-type arthritis. Additionally, the study also reported a link between osteoarthritis and vitamin D3, which is produced by the nightshade foods. The researchers concluded that “osteoarthritis appears to be a result of long-term consumption of the Solanaceae, which naturally contain the active metabolite vitamin D3, and in excess causes crippling and early disability (as seen in livestock.)” Other research suggests that these nightshade foods all contain a substance called solanine, a bitter poisonous alkaloid that inhibits nerve impulses."

In addition to cutting out nightshades to help with the symptoms of EDS and fybromyalgia, I am cutting gluten out of my diet to help with EDS and bipolar disorder. Celiac's Disease is an allergy to gluten that results in malabsorption of nutrients. People can just have gluten intolerances or actually have Celiac's - and sometimes people who have a negative test result for Celiac's still may actually be positive for Celiac's Disease. I have been tested, and my results are negative for Celiac's; however, I have many of the symptoms of Celiac's or gluten intolerance, and it seems like many of the symptoms of EDS are right in line with them as well:

From - Signs and Symptoms of Malabsorption, Malnutrition, Vitamin and/or Mineral Deficiencies Associated with Celiac Disease:

Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
Borborygmi (stomach rumbling)
Coetaneous bleeding
Easy bruising
Epitasis (nose bleeding)
Failure to thrive
Fatigue or general weakness
Fluid retention
Foul-smelling or grayish stools that are often fatty or oily
Gastrointestinal symptoms
Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
Hematuria (red urine)
Hypocalcaemia/ hypomagnesaemia
Iron deficiency anemia
Lymphocytic gastritis
Muscle weakness
Muscle wasting
No obvious physical symptoms (just fatigue, overall not feeling well)
Pallor (unhealthy pale appearance)
Panic Attacks
Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
Stunted growth in children
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin K deficiency
Voracious appetite
Weight loss

Experiencing a lot of these symptoms leads me to believe it would at least be worthwhile to cut gluten out of my diet and see if it makes a difference. Perhaps my vitamin D deficiency and osteopenia levels of bone-loss might not be caused by EDS alone, or by a gluten intolerance, but maybe both? Perhaps cutting out gluten will alleviate some of the gastric problems I still have, or at least alleviate some of the fatigue? I am willing to give it a shot.

In addition, gluten has been linked to mood imbalances with bipolar disorder. I had no idea!

From The Mood Cure by Julia Ross:

"Dozens of studies confirm that depression is a common symptom of gluten intolerance, one that usually disappears when wheat and the similar grains are withdrawn. People with gluten intolerance have low levels of the antidepressant, antianxiety brain chemical serotonin, and gluten has been implicated in mental illness since at least 1979, which is when I first noticed pychiatric journals reporting tremendous improvement in the symptoms of patients with depression and manic-depression in mental hospitals who had experimentally been taken off gluten-containing foods. More recently, anxiety, Tourette's, ADD, epilepsy and other neurological problems have been associated with these grains."

Natural Treatment for Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
by Natasha Turner, ND

"There is much controversy over certain foods and their effects on our mood. Food allergens such as gluten, wheat, dairy products, food additives, alcohol, caffeine and corn may negatively impact our mental state. Gluten and wheat seem to have the biggest connection to the brain and mood."

What You Should Know About Celiac Disease
by G.J. Gregory,

"There does seem to be a quantifiable link between celiac disease and certain mental conditions, primarily autism and schizophrenia, but bipolar disorder is also mentioned. Depending on the study you come away with a “chicken or egg” feeling. Is celiac disease caused by the mental condition, or is the mental condition caused by, or aggravated by, celiac disease? Or is it not a mental condition at all, but other problems caused by the intolerance of the body to the gluten? It is certainly true that celiac disease causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even neurologic problems. Because of the damage to the lining of the small intestine, the body may not able to absorb all it’s nutritional needs. This includes the absorption of certain medications, which for us can be a huge concern."

Per the Celiac Disease Foundation, "gluten is a common name for the offending proteins in specific cereal grains that are harmful to persons with [Celiac Disease]. These proteins are found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro), and related grains, rye, barley, and tritcale and must be eliminated."

Oats are also typically on the no-no list for people with CD, but there are gluten-free oats on the market (available at health food stores and online, or perhaps Whole Foods or stores like it). The controversy seems to stem from the whether or not the oats are problematic, or if it's contamination from other grains.

Gluten is in everything! From the obvious (breads, cereals, baked goods) to the not so obvious (soy sauce, soups, ketchup), it will be a label reading game at the store. Nightshades are in plenty as well! No more Thai and Indian food - or at least the usual. No red sauce. No potato anything. A lot of gluten-free products use potato starch (often listed as 'modified food starch') as a thickening/binding agent, so I won't be able to eat those.

What else?

According to
Prescription for Nutritional Healing's guide to treating fibromyalgia, they recommend the following: eating a well-balanced diet of 50% raw foods and fresh 'live' juices. The diet should consist mainly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains (primarily millet and brown rice), raw nuts and seeds, soy products - these quality foods supply nutrients that renew energy and build immunity. Also, eating 4-5 small meals a day will keep a steady supply of protein and carbs available for proper muscle function. If the body does not have enough fuel for energy, it will rob the muscles of essential nutrients, causing muscle pain and weakness. Drinking plently of liquids to flush out toxins, specifically drinking water and herbal teas, along with vegetable juices. Don't eat meat, dairy, or any other foods high in saturated fat, they raise cholesterol and interfere with circulation. They also promote inflammatory response and increase pain. Avoid fried foods, processed foods, shellfish, dairy foods, and white flour products (bread, pasta, etc. - no problem there - they have gluten!). NO caffeine, alcohol, sugar. Eating sugar in any form - including fructose and honey - promotes fatigue, increases pain, and disturbs sleep. In addition, recommendations for bipolar disorder also list no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, carbonated bevarages, and no foods with colorings, flavorings, preservatives, and other additives. Eating omega-3 fatty acids (flax!!) helps stabalize mood swings.

So, what does all these mean?

  • NO meat.
  • NO dairy.
  • NO nightshades. (No potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers)
  • NO gluten. (Wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, oats)
  • NO added sugars (I will only do a TINY amount of agave nectar here and there, but very minimally. And, I will still eat fruit. Nothing else.)
  • NO caffeine (Most days. I will probably occassionally have some yerba mate tea.)
  • NO alcohol (Haven't had a drop since March 14, 2008.)
  • NO artificial anything.
  • NO preservatives (I will do my best! So far, so good!)
  • NOthing else added.
  • NO soy*. (Well, this one is currently limited soy, with a possibility of going soy-free.)


*In addition to all of this, I have found the elimination diet to prove quite well at testing for food allergies. I have always thought I have a soy allergy, and after fasting, then going raw, I didn't eat soy. I tested it out by adding it into my diet on three different occassions. One time I had tofu I grilled up. Another time I had tofu a friend made. A third time I had TVP (textured vegetable protein). All three times I got si
ck to my stomach, had gas and bloating and felt naseuous for hours afterward, and still felt gross the next day. To me, that says my body doesn't like soy! I haven't had any since, and have been doing much better.

**Of course, you are wondering where I am getting my protein from. Americans, specifically, don't seem to understand that protein can come from grains, and you can get enough to be healthy. I would recommend, if you can eat soy, to add soybeans to your diet as well, but perhaps with as little processing as possible (Edamame or even tofu - rather than soymilk, or fake meats with all of their prese
rvatives and additives -and they normally contain gluten and nightshades. See below! :)

(Greens from my garden)

So, what AM I eating?!

  • Whole foods in their natural state!
  • Mostly, as much as possible, ORGANIC!
  • Tons of greens.
  • Salads, kale, spinach.
  • Lots of veggies. Fresh fruit.
  • For cooked??? (See the proteins below - flax, grains, beans, rices! Yes, they all provide protein)
  • Brown rice pasta, rices (not Uncle Ben's White Rice!), beans (I cook myself in a pressure cooker), millet or flax breads and pizza crusts, or tortillas (though I am limiting the things that are processed, so mostly just rices and grains). Gluten-free grains like millet & quinoa (a SUPER grain - a complete protein!).
  • Almond milk.
  • Nut butters.
  • Raw nuts and seeds.
  • Raisins, goji berries, dates, prunes.
  • More green leafy veggies.
  • More veggies in general. (Mostly raw)
  • Apple cider vinegar.
  • Bragg's Amino Acids.
  • All the supplements on my list.
  • Gluten-free oats.

Sound boring?!

Actually, I am finding that I crave these foods now, and my sweet tooth is being soothed by some cherries or a peach. I am feeling a bit more energetic (2 weeks in!). And, my digestive tract is LOVING me! Not really any IBS problems (minus the nights I ate soy). And, I am really enjoying these foods. I actually want to eat them - though, it wasn't that way at first! But, they say it gets easier, and I have to say - 'they' are right, as of right now! :) So, I am hoping that these new changes make me healthier in general, and will help alleviate some of the symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Bipolar Disorder, etc. I guess only time will tell!!

Thanks for reading - if you have any questions, please just comment below or email me!


(Pea Burgers, these were so good!)

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kandace knudson said...

You're inspirational! I've given up soy (migraines) and have added salmon back into my vegan diet but stay away from the nightshades, too, and gluten as much as possible.

How much time per day would you say that you spend preparing and cooking food? (that's what is hard for me, carving out the time it takes to make "stuff" like quinoa).

Vegan Danielle Davis said...

@kandace knudson:
thanks for posting -great to hear from you. glad to hear that you are using food to help yourself as well! yes, i have found that eliminating soy has been a wonder on my head and my GI tract! i won't go back to eating it. i haven't noticed yet whether or not the elimination of the nightshades or gluten have made a difference, but i am still steering clear of them. do you find that it has helped you, avoiding them?

i do spend a bit of time preparing food some days, but others i don't. it really depends. if i am up for it, i like to put a little work into my meals, but if i want something quick and easy, i turn to my fresh chopped veggies, fruits, salads, smoothies (they take like 30 seconds to make and are a cinch to clean up - just rinse the blender - throw in some hemp seeds or hemp powder for some protein).

i think quinoa is actually really easy to make. put h20 in a pot, let it boil, add quinoa, let simmer 20 minutes. i ignore it while it is cooking. sometimes i just eat it with some lemon juice and flax oil, and a salad on the side (which sometimes is as simple as baby spinach plain. other times with some dressing or other veggies). sometimes, i get more creative and mix in beans, veggies, etc.

i think the effort to eat a ton of raw foods, that are not processed and don't have additives, really has paid off. i even notice how crumby i feel if i eat something as processed now as a gluten-free bread - the yeast bothers me, my stomach ends up hurting, etc. so, for cooked foods, i literally keep it plain and simple. brown rice. beans (that i pressure cook). quinoa. millet. not many seasonings except salt, pepper, fresh garlic and onion. the only soy i eat is bragg's amino acids.

they key to quick, i find, is a pressure cooker. you can take dried beans to completely cooked in 20-30 mins, no work other than getting it started. also, a good blender and/or food processor.

the food i make, i like to make it fun. i like to make it colorful. and, my rule is that i have to have something green at every meal (except sometimes i skip this at breakfast - unless i make a green smoothie).

did that help at all?

for protein, and amino acids (even if you keep your fish), you should try adding some hemp! i love hemp seed and it is a great kick of crunchy nutty on top of a salad, in a smoothie, etc. shelled hemp seed. great source of EFAs and protein! for DHA - you can do blue-green algae too! :) at least, it might give you some room for more variety! i get bored pretty easily with food, so i am always changing up the meals, even if just slightly.

keep in touch - let me know if you come up with anything you find easy and healthy. i am going to try and get some good recipes up here soon, too.


Vegan Danielle Davis said...

@kandace knudson:
feel free to comment on here so others can be helped as well!! :D

have a great weekend!

Zingiber said...

Very interesting blog you have. I'm trying to help out a friend of mine with EDS and it's interesting to see what works for you, especially the nutrition and supplements. When it comes to the nightshades family vegetables and inflammations, I can't say I agree with your arguments. Inflammations are a result of an over-active immunsystem caused by another treath or even more treaths in the body. Allergy is the same. The immunsystem starts to attack itself. It is not the food that causes it, it is our own bodies. But it could be that nightshade family vegetables have some kind of effect that irritates the immunesystem?

Lizby said...

The more I read the information on your blog page the more I am saying - yes I have that - those are my symptoms -yes I suffer from that! I am going to go vegan because I had already suspected and started to eliminate danger foods that upset my IBS or caused more pain and fatigue. I really had noticed that meat was key but wasn't sure about fish. Anyway will try to eat as fresh and natural as I can. I told my doctor about tomatoes and he was sceptical but interested = I was right! Wheat and gluten is a big problem - I have to totally eliminate this. Same with dairy. Thanks Danielle - here's to loosing weight, a reduction in pain and fatigue - I hope! Oh and I just noticed about soya. I've used soya milk on and off for years to elimate the cattarah and mucus symptoms dairy gives me and I do suffer from headaches and migraines. So you think the soya maybe helping to cause these? What would you recommend instead?
Lizby Jane Chappell

Vegan Danielle Davis said...

@Zingiber - Thanks for your comment. yes, from the things I had read, th body immune system reacts to the alkanoids that are only found in nightshades. I did cut them out for four months. As a vegan, this was not an easy thing to do. After the trial run though, I did not notice any difference, and when I slowly added them back to my diet, I didn't notice any difference either. So, I am now eating them again. :)

Vegan Danielle Davis said...

@Lizby - Hi sweetie! So excited for all of your new goals with regard to your health! I ended up adding back nightshades like tomatoes into my diet, but I am still really strict with all of my other things. I feel so much better, body wise. Of course, I still have EDS and POTS! LOL! I don't like soy at all. If you need a milk alternative, almond milk or hemp milk are my favorites. I have to say though, with as natural as I eat, I don't really do either very often, but in my opinion they are much healthier than soy. I will be posting more info about the 'dangers of soy' soon, so keep a look out. I would love to stay updated on your progress! Please post more comments as you have time! Best of luck!

stretchylesley said...

Do you have any problems with gastroparesis? I used to eat much like you do, and really know what you mean about that indescribably good feeling... except my stomach and intestines hated me. I was vomiting all the time, having to go to the ER every few weeks with unstoppable vomiting even with nothing left to come up. With the diagnosis of EDS about two years ago, gastroparesis diagnosis soon followed.

I can no longer eat salad, uncooked verges, whole grains. It's very difficult. Please keep up blogging about the correlation between food and pain. It's great just to see what you've tried and if it helps. said...

Quite worthwhile information, thank you for the article.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is so interesting, i´m sure i´m not celiac but i do have an intolerance to gluten, i´m not vegan...yet, i cannot tolerate any kind of bean, lentils and soy also gives me problems, i was wondering if it would be enough to eat eggs and cheese since i can tolerate cheese but not milk, sounds weird i know, would i be getting enough proteins?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for validating what I already knew!!!! My family of 5 is on a similar diet. We've also eliminated corn and we really limit fruit because my husband and kids have fructose mal-absorption. We are undergoing screening for Ehlers-Danlos and the pure diet helps keep us healthy for sure. Congratulations to you!

Bee said...

Can u post what a typical days meals and snacks are? My eds gives me horrible gastroparesis, constipation and other horrible gi issues. I also react to tons of foods and I can't figure it out. I'm vegan too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your posts! Funny to always crave watermelon/salt/lime when I'm feeling bad and low and behold it helps with POTS!

Wanted to share what I've been learning to see what you think. Please know that I fully respect all of your decisions and am offering w/ curiosity and compassion: I was a lifelong vegetarian until a few months ago after my EDS diagnoses. I've been seeing a naturopath who told me that I absolutely need to start consuming gamey meat (venison, bison, lamb, etc) at least 3 times/week & drinking bone broth daily to help strengthen my body. I was also put on a low oxalate diet to help with pain. As hard as it's been to start consuming meat (though sustainably raised/organic), I have to say that I have been feeling way better! Every body is different, but I thought I'd share as we are all exploring these weird bodies of ours and trying to find relief. Thanks again for posting all of your amazing recipes, insights and support!

Wheelchair India said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
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Keep Posting:)