Day 96: The most amazing 100% SCD burgers!

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My 100% SCD legal plate on the left; K’s 75% SCD legal plate on the right ūüôā

Just look at these babies! I made them tonight out of a recipe I concocted in my head, and the results were far, far better than I expected for a first attempt.

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I ate¬†the patty with home-made guacamole and steamed veg on the side, and K – oh she of healthy¬†gut – had hers drenched in cheese, topped with red onion and gherkin, and served¬†on a bun with chips on the side (neither of which are SCD legal of course). Cheese – dairy – is legal on SCD but I haven’t covered it much on this blog because I’m lactose intolerant and hence avoid it at all costs.

I haven’t introduced any new foods in a while, so tonight I experimented with spices (which I finally feel¬†comfortable to do¬†now), and I also ate a few slices of gherkin, which I’ve always loved. I need to keep introducing foods but I’m making such amazing meals from my existing options that I keep forgetting!

It’s really late and my internet connection is a little cranky so I’ll post the recipe tomorrow.

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Day 95: When can you introduce salad on SCD?

Oh the NOMILICIOUSNESS!

Oh the NOMILICIOUSNESS!

The short answer is: on phase 5. The longer answer is… it really depends on how well your gut is able to handle raw food.

I recently wrote a bit about raw vs cooked fruit and vegetables, the conclusion being that raw is generally ill-advised during flares, and also for those with severely damaged guts.

Before my UC diagnosis, I worked desperately with a nutrionalist in the hope of healing my ‘runny tummy’ without having to go back to hospital, where I’d have more of those horrible tests, more blood drawn, more inconclusive diagnoses, more frustration and fear.

Selfie circa 2012

Selfie circa May 2012

While I eventually found¬†myself back in a hospital ward after all (and thank goodness for that, because without my highly trained physician, I’d probably still be in the dark about my disease), my nutritionalist helped me very much, and one of the things she advised me against was eating raw vegetables. A favourite snack of mine, for example, was raw carrots laced with salt. Oh no, she said when she spied it in my food diary, that’s got to stop.

I love(d)¬†salad. LOVE(D). I use the past tense because I haven’t had it in three months, and I’m not sure I’ll eat it in large quantities in the future. How do you feel after you eat a bowl of salad? I feel bloated, tight in the belly, uncomfortable, gassy and ‘stabby’. Now, knowing the state that my GI system has recently been in, I realise that every mouthful of salad was an assault on my belly, especially given my tendency to eat too fast and chew too little.

This is a pity, because salad is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Plus, it’s an easy option (no cooking!), it’s extremely versatile and it’s just plain yummy. Are there specific ingredients that agree with me more than others? I’m not sure, but I’ll have to test to find out. Perhaps protein-heavy salads with veg I’ve already tested safely, like spinach, is a potential solution.

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I think this could possibly be the most perfect salad on Earth. Yummoliciousness.

If you’re doing SCD, raw foods may only be introduced on phase 5 – and phase 5 comes around at a different time for everyone. Some people breeze through the phases in about 2 weeks each, while for others, it takes longer.

I’ve spent roughly three weeks on each phase (some shorter, some longer), but I’ve also erred on the side of caution, especially when it comes to raw fruits and veg. As you know, I only introduced seeds and thin skins – cautiously! – a few weeks ago.

If you’re coming out of a flare or some serious GI damage, be patient. I know there are so many wonderful foods you want to reincorporate into your diet, and you will in time. Right now, just stop, think about the healing you’re doing, and take it slow. It’s not worth rushing through the phases or cheating just to set yourself back – not after all the hard work you’ve put in. Trust me, the rewards are worth far, far more in the long term than a regrettable moment on the tongue.

Day 94: Simplifying food prep

Preparing food for any kind of special diet can be extremely time consuming – and, for those of us who avoid processed foods, there’s never the ¬†option of just ‘grabbing a takeaway’ or buying a ready-made meal. I think that the amount of effort (or perceived effort) that goes into preparing¬†clean, healthy food every day can put people off this kind of diet, but it really needn’t – there are so many ways around it.

Chop and freeze bags of veg for quick weekday cooking

Chop and freeze bags of veg for quick weekday cooking

Admittedly, I can spend 3 to 4 hours in the kitchen on a Sunday, prepping for the week. But for the rest of the week, I can rustle up an entire dinner in 30 minutes or less, because all my veg is already cooked and I only have to worry about the meat.

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Having been a slave to my kitchen for the past three months, here are some of my favourite tips for making food prep go a lot faster:

  • Make batches of boiled eggs for a simple¬†and filling breakfast or snack. Bonus: they’re super easy to transport. I boil six at a time to last me three mornings.
  • Buy pre-chopped veg.¬†Yes, it costs more (so I don’t often buy¬†it), but it’s¬†such a lifesaver when you’re short on time. Plus, I can’t lie – I¬†love ‘spoiling’ myself with a bag of butternut chunks and saving myself the 10-minute slog of peeling, chopping and de-seeding. Same goes for green beans and that¬†endless topping-and-tailing!
  • When possible, cook different veg together. Instead of separate pots for broccoli, cauliflower, beans and carrots, toss them all into one large pot and cook them in one go¬†(if you’re doing SCD, obviously you won’t be able to do this right at the start). Bonus: Fewer dishes!
  • Choose thinner cuts of meat. Not only are they healthier, but they are much quicker to defrost and cook.
  • Always make extra quantities of coconut milk¬†and freeze the leftovers. When I need coconut milk for a meal, I often just pop the frozen chunk into the pot and it melts in minutes. Oh, and if you’re low on coconut milk, just add a bit of water to stretch it out.
  • Cook as many vegetables as you can manage over the weekend. Refrigerate about three days’ worth, and then freeze the rest in batches for when you need them.
  • Not in the mood to cook a big meal? Mash up two small bananas with two eggs and a sprinkling of cinnamon, and fry up some SCD pancakes in a pan coated with coconut oil. Mine always turn into a scramble but it’s just as delicious.
  • Not in the mood to cook at all? Put together a plate of veg from the fridge, plus a couple of boiled eggs and some avo if you have it, and boom – a perfectly balanced meal of protein, carbs and healthy fat with zero prep. Win.
  • Always cook big batches of food and freeze the leftovers.¬†This works especially well with curries, mince, soups, etc. There’s nothing better¬†than pulling out a pre-cooked,¬†home-cooked meal when you don’t feel like cooking (but you do feel like a proper home-made meal).
  • Use your¬†microwave.¬†Put your veg into a microwave-safe dish (not Tuppaware!), add a dash of water and microwave, covered, until cooked. Much easier and quicker than using the stove top – but watch out for the steam!
  • Invest in good knives and vegetable peelers. This makes the world of difference when you’re preparing loads of veg. I recently bought a vegetable peeler that cost the same as a small house, but WOW¬†has it made peeling butternuts a dream!
  • When it comes to wine, choose screw caps over corks!

Please share any food prepping tips you have – I’m always looking for shortcuts.

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Day 93: Meat vs veg – my lightbulb moment

These days, you tell people that you eat meat and you may as well have said that you skin kittens in your spare time. In a world of vegan hipsters, meat is murder and using animal products is about the worst thing you can do after using plastic or¬†not having a beard. Don’t get me wrong: I grew up in a house that was 50% vegetarian – neither my mom nor sister eat meat – and I have the utmost respect for the fact that they don’t eat meat – as they do for the fact that my dad and I do.

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Anyway, the¬†point is that SCD had shown me that my body tolerates protein far better than it does simple carbs/veg, and while I could live on veg quite happily… Well I realise that I actually can’t.

If you’ve followed this blog for¬†a while, you’ll have seen me post photos of my food. Most of my meals consist of a little protein and A LOT of veg. Some meals often don’t contain any protein. And now, having tested my food and my reactions for three months, I know one thing for sure: veg is knocking me for a six, and¬†I need to completely change how I’m eating. It’s a huge mental shift because for so many years, I’ve built my meals around vegetables, and eaten much less meat. It’s not that I don’t like it… it’s just that I preferred veg. But I realise that, if I want to avoid excessive bloating, loose stools, cramps and gas, can’t keep loading up on veg and adding a dash of protein as¬†an¬†afterthought.

I’m not going to radically change anything while I’m still on SCD. I’m going to finish off this last week properly, and then as I mentioned last week, I’m going to transition to paleo, and to a more high-protein, low carb way of eating. It irritates me that this is a ‘fad’ now (have you heard of banting?) – just as it annoys me that it’s a fad to be ‘gluten intolerant’, making all our foods so much more expensive! But at least it might make my belly happier, which is the ultimate goal.

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Parties, booze and little steps forward

The past four days have been interesting in terms of diet. I’ve eaten lots of meat and much less veg, and I feel far¬†less bloated. I’ve also been eating almonds (blanched and slivered this time) and that seems to be a little more tolerable. That said, I know I need to take it easy with them.

Last night, after a long day of celebrating birthdays and family visits¬†(read: drinking), I dove into a packet of vegetable chips at home. They didn’t contain any illegal additives BUT they did contain veg that I shouldn’t have eaten, like sweet potato, so again, I’ve proven to myself (not that I didn’t know this already – doh!) that after hours of champers, I need to be kept away from temptation.¬†That said, I didn’t eat ANYTHING bad or illegal at any of the dinners or parties we went to, which made me so proud of myself. Like several times before, while on this diet, I showed myself that i can have a great time¬†despite not stuffing my face. It’s really been a revelation for me.

NOT yesterday's selfie

NOT yesterday’s selfie

I’m entering my last week of my personal SCD challenge and I’m so excited that I’ve finally had my lightbulb moment (I can’t believe it took me this long). It’s going to be quite a challenge to switch up my diet so radically (for me), but I think after SCD, I can handle anything ūüôā

Day 92: Aaaaahhhh-monds!

Yesterday I introduced whole roasted almonds to my diet, and I think it may have been a bit of a mistake for a few reasons:

  • They weren’t blanched (skins can be hard to digest)
  • They were whole nuts, rather than pieces (but that’s what my teeth are for, right?)
  • I didn’t chew them¬†very well¬†(I eat way too fast)
  • I ate too many (okay seriously, show me the hero who can stop after three?)
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Today’s selfie

Over the course of an hour I devoured about 100g (yes, I’m feeling suitably sheepish), and I started feeling a bit off almost right away. The next thing, I developed this bizarre burning sensation in my stomach – it felt like someone had taken a burning log and shoved it through¬†my belly and into my back. It was the most uncomfortable, unpleasant sensation and I didn’t know¬†what to do about it.

I curled up in a foetal position, which didn’t help, and then I tried the child’s pose (yoga), hoping that would offer relief. It didn’t. Eventually I¬†dragged¬†myself to the shower hoping the hot water would ease the pain. I crouched down on my haunches, then I tried stretching out, but nothing alleviated the painful burning sensation in my gut and back.

Eventually, I popped one¬†anti-inflammatory and a gut-pain pill. I don’t usually like to take drugs, but were about an hour from leaving the house for dinner with K’s mom, who had arrived in Cape Town only the day before¬†from Kuala Lampur,¬†and we had yet to see her. The pain finally eased and¬†I had no further problems, but it was just such a bizarre experience. I’ve had little to no pain during my entire three months on SCD, and actually since starting on the Asacol last year, so it¬†was completely out of character. Also (ever the martyr),¬†I’m testing the almonds again tonight¬†to be sure.

I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s experienced something like this? Could it have been the almonds? I’ve been doing a little research and today I learnt that almonds are high oxalate foods, which can cause digestive distress for those of us with compromised colons.

I haven’t yet delved too deeply into the subject of oxalates, but I found this great article on Lovingourguts.com that explains oxalates and their effects on the body so well. Thanks Patty for this very informative, easy-to-understand piece.

Almonds: The good and the bad

Almonds are extremely¬†healthy and they’re also one of the nuts with the lowest kilojoule content. They’re high in healthy fats, low in trans fats and cholesterol free. They contain healthy doses of vitamin E, phosphorus, calcium and antioxidants, and they’re loaded with fibre (watch out for that one, IBD’ers).

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But almonds – like other nuts –¬†can cause a lot of trouble for people with digestive issues, not least of all because of that powerful fibre punch. They’re¬†hard to digest and can irritate an already-inflamed gut, so be careful with them, test them well and treat them with respect. Not everyone responds well to nuts.

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A serving size of almonds (is that a serving size for ANTS?)

If you suspect you may be intolerant, try switching to nut butters instead, as they’re much easier to break down. Alternatively, try cutting them out (sorry!) and see if your symptoms improve. Sadly, they’re n(u)t for everybody ūüė¶

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Day 91: Crispy butternut chips (step by step) & almond nuts

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I found a recipe for butternut chips ages ago, but I’ve had to wait until I was at the right phase of the diet before trying them. Today was the day!

Although they’ll require some perfecting, they were pretty good. Next time, I think I’ll use a lower heat setting on the oven and cook them for longer – I think that might help them to get even crispier without charring.

Here’s what to do:

Peel a long, thin butternut and cut into very thin half-moon slices (2mm or so). I didn't use the 'bulb' part, but if you do, remove the seeds.

Peel a long, thin butternut and cut into very thin half-moon slices (2mm or so). I didn’t use the ‘bulb’ part, but if you do, remove the seeds.

Boil the butternut in batches for a minute or two, until just softened. Remove from pot with slotted spoon

Boil the butternut in batches for a minute or two, until just softened. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.

Place the butternut pieces onto a clean dishcloth in a single layer and allow to dry completely. I patted mine dry with paper towels.

Place the butternut pieces onto a clean dishcloth in a single layer and allow to dry completely. I patted mine dry with paper towels.

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Place in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and brush with oil of your choice. I used coconut.

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Season with coarse salt and anything else you fancy, like cracked black pepper, garlic or onion seasoning, or fresh herbs like rosemary.

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Bake at 180C for 10 minutes, then check on the chips and remove any that are already cooked. I left the remainder in the oven for another 10 minutes.

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Serve! I made one batch with salt and the other (the first pic at the top of this post) without salt. I think salt wins ūüôā

Introducing almonds

On phase 4, you can introduce blanched almond pieces. This afternoon, desperate for some sort of ‘fun’ snack, I decided that today was the day. I didn’t have blanched… or pieces… so it ended up being whole almonds in their skins. However, I introduced almond pieces months ago when I used unstrained almond milk to make yogurt. I have also been symptom-free for about 5 months now, so technically long enough to reintroduce nuts to my diet.

I of course couldn’t limit myself to a handful or two so I may have overdone it. However, due to my lack of self-restraint when it comes to nuts and nut butters, I’ve decided never to buy nuts for myself, but only to eat them if someone else buys them for me (that’s not a hint, guys!!). My dad bought me this bag but nuts are something I’m seldom given as a gift so I think this is a good strategy.

Today’s BMs

I am actually okay today after last night’s restaurant meal, but my tummy had a bit of a wobbly after the butternut chips, sending me to the loo with very runny stools. I tolerate butternut well so perhaps it was the coconut oil that I used.

To be honest I’m not feeling amazing now so perhaps today has just been too much fat, too fast. In my typical style! I have a weird burning sensation in my abdomen. Does anyone else ever experience this?

 

Day 90: SCD challenge complete – a review of the past 90 days (but it’s only the start!)

Today marks 90 days on SCD Рthe goal I set out to achieve based on the challenge in Surviving to Thriving. Jordan Reasoner and Steve Wright Рthe authors of the book and founders of SCDLifestyle.com Рused the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) to help heal their guts after being ravaged by IBD, and continue to survive Рand thrive Рon the diet today.

I came across this diet last year, after researching alternative ways to fight my ulcerative colitis. I was newly diagnosed and my symptoms were under control thanks to steroids and chronic medication, but I knew I wanted to take a more active role in healing myself, and I knew that diet was integral to that. Most importantly, I knew I didn’t want to be on meds for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to January 2014, and after reading the book, I finally made the commitment to do its 90-day challenge. And here I am, 90 days later, having followed it to the T (albeit cheating once!).

Why I decided to document my 90 days

I started this blog for others who may have wanted to take up the challenge but who, like me, were unable to find any resources that explained, on¬†a¬†day-by-day¬†basis, what it¬†would be like to be on this diet. After all,¬†the idea of the diet is terrifying! It’s extremely difficult, it takes a TON of patience, willpower, perseverance and commitment, and it’s definitely not easy – at least at first.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I went for it. And what I can tell you is that:

  • It is difficult
  • It is doable
  • It is absolutely worth it
  • YOU can do it

Apart from anything else, knowing¬†that you are taking an active role in your own health, and discovering that you have the stamina to stick with something¬†really hard, even in the face of daily –¬†hourly – temptation – gives you a sense of accomplishment that is hard to beat.

Many of us fighting IBD got here due to poor¬†diet – at least in part. I don’t know about you guys, but prior to SCD, I never met a sweet treat I said ‘no’ to. In fact, I discovered on this diet that saying ‘no’ is the best yes you can give your body (read about that here).

I realised that I needed to take responsibility for my health, so that if I ever end up facing surgery one day, at least I’ll know I did everything in my power to prevent it. How could I allow myself to continue on my unhealthy path knowing that I might be throwing myself under the bus? Moreover, I really hope to get off the meds one day – who wants to spend their life on Asacol and steroids?

After researching SCD for several months, I decided it would be worth a try – thousands of people swear by it. I finally took the leap and I’m so glad I did.

Did SCD work for me?

SCD¬†has definitely helped to reduce some of the discomfort I experience, but more to the point, it’s helped me to pinpoint¬†what¬†is causing it (veg, mainly. Sob).

It’s also helped me to look more closely at some of my ‘less ideal’¬†eating habits, like binge eating, over-eating at meals, eating too fast and not paying careful attention to everything that I put into my body.

It’s allowed¬†me to overcome my fear of flares. As you’ll know if you have IBD, the thought of flares is terrifying: you never really know when they’ll hit, but you may know that certain foods can trigger them. On SCD, I’m not eating ANY foods that are known to cause my flares (this is different for everyone). It’s great to not live in fear of the next flare striking.

It’s also taught me (out of necessity rather than choice!) how to make the most amazing foods at home – like nut milks, 100% natural meals and YOGURT! I make my own yogurt, guys (recipe here). I mean, that’s insane! It’s taught me how to pay even closer attention than I did before to food labels; it’s taught me how much crap can be found in foods that we’re tricked into believing are good for us. And it’s opened up a whole new world of fresh, natural, organic foods (including desserts!) that actually help to heal my body as¬†I’m eating them.

Has SCD ‘healed’ me? Well I can’t say at this stage. I’m still taking my meds, as it would be silly for me to come off them without the green light from my doctor. However, at my last check up in February, there was ZERO sign of inflammation – something that I’ve had since 2012!

Also, I was really hoping that SCD would help me overcome bloating, but that’s still a work in progress – as is the quality and consistency of my BMs. But again, this is okay – there’s no blanket cure that works for everyone, which is why any diet such as this must¬†be tweaked over time to meet your body’s needs.

What next?

I’m going to do another 10 days on SCD, and then I’m rewarding myself with a well-deserved holiday to Malaysia and Bali (actually, the timing is purely coincidental, but I like the way it worked out).

I plan to transition to a paleo diet, as I feel that my body copes better with meat and protein than with veg and carbs, and also, I like the idea of paleo – I’m hoping it’ll work for me. It’s also grain, dairy and refined sugar free – items I intend to avoid indefinitely (plus I’m lactose intolerant) – and I love that it’s so clean. When I get back from Bali, I’m hoping to turn out whole apartment into a paleo zone! It’s going to be so much easier if we’re both following the diet.

Today’s meal

Did I cheat today, on day 90? Nope! Although I did do something naughty that I warned you guys about waaaaaaaay back in the early days: I ate at a restaurant (probably only the third or fourth time I’ve done this on SCD), and I didn’t ask them to cook my food without seasoning (here’s what not to do at a restaurant if you’re on SCD).

I ordered steak and veg, and luckily all the vegetables had already been added (successfully) to my diet: zucchini, green beans, broccoli and spinach. The steak, too, was fantastic, though it all came with seasoning and I suspect the veg had butter on it Рeek! Bear in mind that dairy is totally fine on SCD after about 30 days, IF you can tolerate it. Butter is SCD legal, as are certain cheeses.

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This photo was very hurried as we were in a trendy restaurant and I didn’t want people thinking me a hipster

And of course, you’ll see the stem of my wine glass – we had the most delicious merlot to accompany our meal, and I toasted to the final 10 days on the diet. So cheers to that!