Digestive problems are a common reason that people seek out a Nutritional Therapist. One particular lady who springs to mind is Gina, a 19 year old who had just been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. In her second year at University, Gina’s symptoms were debilitating, her energy levels were rock bottom and she was losing weight even when eating normally. Her medications included steroids, mesalamine and pain relief. Unsurprisingly, given her age and lifestyle, her diet was fairly high in processed carbohydrates including sweet and savoury treats like crisps and chocolate.
From a nutritional point of view we addressed two key factors. The first was to remove all wheat products and the second was to focus on fresh, natural unprocessed foods.
Grain intolerance, particularly to wheat, is a significant issue to many and can be an underlying cause of digestive issues, obesity and ill health. William Davis MD has written extensively on this topic.[i] His book Wheat Belly talks about the issues with the development of the wheat grain in production today. This has been hybridised to increase yields but also, he believes, now has a significant allergenic potential for many people.
In susceptible people, wheat and other grains may contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation by increasing intestinal permeability (aka ‘leaky gut’) and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response.[ii]This is particularly relevant for people with IBD[iii], where increased inflammation is a hallmark of the disease.
But how to eliminate gluten with a University student? Her main staple was pasta, and this had to go. Rather than focus on denial, we reframed it and introduced her to an alternative of courgetti. Using a spiraliser (available here: http://www.ukjuicers.com/spiralizers) this quickly and easily makes ‘spaghetti’ out of courgettes. They don’t even need to be cooked which makes preparation a breeze. I took some courgette with a sate (peanut based) sauce into the consultation for her to try and she was blown away. They taste so good! And importantly, it enabled Gina to shift her focus and even be a trendsetter amongst her friends.
Now for the processed foods. We are inundated with pre-prepared meal solutions and for a young girl living with friends these may seem like a really good idea. But they are usually loaded with processed carbohydrates and contain additives which may antagonise symptoms. A simple mantra of eating real food encourages a switch to nutrient dense eating which has an enormous pay off for health. The recipe below for chocolate brownies is highly nutritious and delicious too.
So how did Gina fair? Well, 4 years on she is largely able to control her disease with medication and diet. She can now tolerate small amounts of good quality wheat but faces an immediate flare up if she ventures to more processed products such as pizza bases. She still avoids high sugar and processed foods. Quinoa is a reliable staple, and she can also tolerate some oats occasionally. Her energy is now greatly improved and she can easily work a 10 hour day and go out afterwards, which was a real problem in her earlier years.
Chocolate Brownies – Serves 16
This delicious recipe is easy to make, gluten free and packed with protein from ground almonds, walnuts and eggs. And because it is so satisfying, you’ll be less likely to over indulge too. A little bit of what you fancy can indeed do you good!
150g coconut oil or butter
125g 70% chocolate
2 ripe bananas
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
30g cocoa powder
150g ground almonds
200g walnuts, chopped
Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Cream the oil or butter and sugar using a wooden spoon or mixer. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water or in a steamer. Mash the bananas with the vanilla extract. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl – almonds, baking powder, cocoa and walnuts. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stir to combine well. Pour into the lined cake tin and bake for 20- 25 minutes.
Jenny Phillips is a Qualified Nutritional Therapist who helps people to achieve their best health ever. Her website is www.InspiredNutrition.co.uk
Davis W (2014 ) Wheat Belly: lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health. Harper Collins.
de Punder K, Pruimboom L. (2013) The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation. Nutrients. Mar 12;5(3):771-87.
Herfarth HH, Martin CF, Sandler RS, Kappelman MD, Long MD Prevalence of a gluten-free diet and improvement of clinical symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases.. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2014 Jul;20(7):1194-7.