Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

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The humble potato

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If you’re a low-carber, you probably think potatoes are the devil’s food. Actually, Dr Jan Kwasniewski, author of the high-fat Optimal Diet, quite happily promotes potatoes as a carbohydrate source. He would much prefer his patients eat potatoes as their carbohydrate allowance than fruit or vegetables. I agree; I’d rather people eat root tubers than follow pseudo-paeleo principles and get their carbs from inedible IBS-causing leafy greens and nasty, urticaria-inducing berries. As far as I’m concerned, fruits and vegetables have little nutritive value and less calorific value. Why not go without them – even failsafe ones – for a week, and see how much better you feel?

Potatoes are one of the few plant foods tolerated well by failsafers. Most super-responders tolerate them. The ultra-safe super-responder diet is usually sushi rice and well-peeled large white potatoes.

Solanine can be a problem for failsafers and for the general public. Solanine levels tend to rise in potatoes that have started to sprout or go green, though the green colour itself is chlorophyll. Different varieties of potatoes seem to have different levels of solanine. Solanine symptoms are usually gastrointestinal – consisting of hiccups, acid, nausea, and stomach upset including cramps. Solanine can also give you heart palpitations. For the first couple of years or so that I was on the failsafe diet I thought I didn’t tolerate potatoes. I thought that perhaps baking potatoes formed glutamates because of the strange symptoms I was having. Actually, I eventually figured out it was the solanine content. Now I am more careful, I tolerate jacket potatoes very well. I have experimented with a few varieties of potatoes. I definitely don’t do well on generic potatoes packaged as ‘baking potatoes’ – particularly ones with that peculiar creamy flavour – I get heart palpitations and hiccups. Potatoes with too much solanine seem to be the only food on earth that can give me hiccups. However, I do very well on Maris Piper potatoes. I think my Autumn carb staples are going to be potatoes and sweet chestnuts.

One interesting thing you should know about solanine is that it is implicated quite strongly as a cause of colon cancer. I remember reading a critique of another deeply flawed epidemiological study into red meat and colon cancer on Barry Groves’ site. One of the most interesting anomalies in the study was that whilst in most of Europe there was a tiny, tiny correlation between colon cancer and red meat (probably spurious), in Italy, eating red meat appeared to protect against colon cancer. I remember thinking at the time, what do Italians do differently from other Europeans? The difference as I see it is, whilst most of Europe eat main meals of meat and potatoes, in Italy, main meals are of meat and pasta. I suspect the correlation is truly to solanine.

You should always throw out sprouting or green potatoes, and you should always peel your potatoes. Don’t believe any of that nonsense that potato skins “are good for you.” Natives who ate potatoes as a staple in the Andes used to peel their potatoes too. Whenever I’ve come across anyone who’s had a problem with potatoes, it has turned out to be caused by eating the wrong variety, eating the skins, or being lax about solanine formation.

Potatoes are also a significant source of natural nitrates and nitrites. A serving of potato contains as much nitrate as one slice of bacon. Nitrates can also upset some failsafer’s stomachs, so be wary if you know you respond badly to nitrates.

Some (crazy) paeleo people think you shouldn’t eat potatoes because “we haven’t evolved to eat them.” Wrong! We evolved eating meat and tuberous roots. You don’t evolve to eat specific foods, you evolve to eat specific food chemicals, micronutrients, and macronutrients. Potatoes, when handled and prepared properly, contain very little in the way of harmful food chemicals. You do not need to challenge the human race to evolve to eat a food when the food contains no challenges.

This is another thought-provoking article from the New Scientist magazine (go out and get a subscription today!).

FOR some reason, it’s always called the “humble” potato. But the tasty tuber from the Andes is poised to take over the world. As the food crisis bites, the land area planted with potatoes is increasing faster than for any other staple crop. Developing countries now grow and eat more of them than the traditional potato-eaters of the rich countries: today, the world’s biggest potato producer is China, and India produces twice as much by weight each year as the US.

Yet behind this success story lies a problem. The blight that wiped out Ireland’s potato crop in the 1840s is becoming more virulent and is increasingly resistant to the fungicides used to control it. Without a new weapon against blight, we could be setting ourselves up for a replay of the famine wherever the disease strikes. And this time even more people could suffer.

There are good reasons why the world is turning to potatoes. Much of the world’s food comes either from grain or animals fed on grain, but rising populations and increasing demand for meat, dairy products and biofuel means that global demand for grain is outstripping supply. Grain yields must ultimately increase to meet this demand but cranking up the global food system will take time, and yields won’t increase overnight. In many places potatoes can plug the gap, providing food and income for the people who need them most. “Worldwide we see an overlap between where the poorest live and where people grow potatoes,” says Pamela Anderson, head of the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru, part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which works on crop improvement for poor countries.

Potatoes can squeeze in between grain crops, which means a field yields three harvests a year instead of two. Since there is little international trade in potatoes, their prices tend to be more stable than those of grain. All these things have led the UN to dub 2008 the International Year of the Potato and to hail it as the “food of the future”.

In fact, listen to a potato enthusiast, and you may wonder why people bother with grain at all. Potatoes are more nutritious, faster growing, need less land and water and can thrive in worse growing conditions than any other major crop. They provide up to four times as much complex carbohydrate per hectare as grain, better quality protein and several vitamins – a medium-size potato boiled in its skin has half an adult’s daily dose of vitamin C, for example. They also contain B vitamins, plus many of the trace elements poor people, and grain, lack. And, unless you douse them with it, potatoes have almost no fat (see table).

Potatoes do have their downsides, of course. They are more perishable than grain and because they are heavier and bulkier, they are more expensive to transport – one reason why there is little international trade. Their main weakness, though, is disease.

Potatoes are rolling in genetic diversity – there are some 150 species in the potato family and countless varieties. The problem is, almost all potatoes grown outside the Andes are of a single subspecies, Solanum tuberosum tuberosum, first cultivated 8000 years ago in the highlands around Lake Titicaca. Keeping all our potatoes in one basket leaves the world’s crop vulnerable to being wiped out.

The most likely candidate to do this is late blight, which is what destroyed the potato crops in Ireland and other parts of Europe in the mid-19th century. It is caused by Phytophthora infestans, a fungus-like organism called an oomycete, which spreads by producing spores. The disease originated in Mexico, where it infects wild potatoes, and spread north as American agriculture expanded in the 19th century. In 1845, it arrived in Belgium on seed potatoes imported from the US.

The blight quickly spread across Europe, wiping out crops and causing catastrophe in Ireland, where the damp, cool soils and climate, plus the fact that the colonial landowners took the best land to grow grain for export to England, made the Irish poor more reliant on potatoes than other Europeans. Breeders eventually found potatoes that partially resisted the blight, but the crop’s future was only secured when fungicides were invented in the 1880s. Now potatoes are more dependent on chemical treatment than any other crop. The potato industry in the European Union is worth ¬6 billion a year; farmers spend a sixth of that on fungicide.

Farmers in developing countries can rarely afford to buy fungicide, a big reason, along with the pervasive lack of fertiliser and water, why average potato yields in African countries are half those in China or Peru, which are in turn half those of rich countries.

Giving farmers in the developing world access to fungicides would certainly increase yields, but it may not be enough to protect them from blight, as the disease is becoming ever more resistant to fungicides. “Last year I had to spray 12 times, the most ever,” says Jim Godfrey, a potato farmer and former head of the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Invergowrie. In the tropics, where both potato and pathogen grow faster, farmers may need to spray every few days.

What’s more, the blight is becoming more aggressive – P. infestans has two “genders”, only one of which came over in 1845, so it was only able to reproduce asexually. Though it has spread in this way through Europe and much of the world, the asexual spores can persist only on susceptible plants. Then, in the drought of 1976, Europe’s crop failed and it imported tonnes of potatoes from Mexico. With them came the other “gender” of the blight. Now it can breed sexually, which means it can adapt more quickly to both fungicides and resistant potatoes. Sexually produced spores can also survive in soil, making the disease even more difficult to control.

Sexually reproducing blight and increasing fungicide resistance mean more, and worse, outbreaks of the disease around the world. It may not cause starvation on the same scale as the Irish famine – food aid exists now, and few places are as exclusively reliant on potatoes as the Irish were in 1845 – but even so, the potato’s potential for disaster is worrying.

That, says Anderson, is why we need to develop new varieties of blight-resistant potatoes. This won’t be easy. Potatoes are a notoriously difficult crop to breed, thanks to their unusually complex genetics. The common spud carries four copies of each of its chromosomes where most organisms carry two. That means the potato plant carries a possible four variations for each gene, so when two plants are crossed, thousands of different combinations emerge. That makes it an enormous task to select the best ones.

In other crops that have more than two pairs of chromosomes breeders have found ways around the problem. Most wheat has six copies, but wheat breeders start with plants that are already inbred so that for most genes, all six copies are identical. That way they can predict the outcome of crosses. Attempts to do this with potatoes, and also to engineer potato plants with only two-copy genomes, have been disappointing, says Shelley Jansky of the US Department of Agriculture’s potato lab in Madison, Wisconsin. The genetically impoverished potatoes are spindly and weak. “Potatoes just need all that internal genetic diversity to thrive,” she says.

That means potato breeders are forced to take a broad approach when looking for useful new varieties. First, they cross genetically diverse parent plants to create up to 100,000 genetically different progeny. Then, they “walk across the field and choose the potatoes they think look promising, and get it down to a manageable number, say a thousand”, says Jansky, and examine those plants for the qualities they want.

This kind of classical breeding has given us all the potato varieties we have today, but it is very difficult to use this method to breed a single desired trait into an existing commercial potato variety. Recent efforts to cross commercial varieties with Solanum bulbocastanum, a wild Mexican potato which has two genes for resistance to all known strains of blight, did indeed result in blight-resistant potatoes – but they had other, unwanted wild genes as well, and lower yields.

Breeding these hybrids back with the original commercial potato will produce tubers more similar to the original, but they will never be quite the same. This is a problem for the potato industry, says Jansky. Processing companies take a third of the crop in rich countries, and the machines and processes are designed for potatoes of particular shapes, sizes and chemical properties. They know their King Edwards and their Russet Burbanks and they want nothing else – and because potatoes are propagated vegetatively by tuber, they can have exactly the same potato again and again, says Jansky.

Genetic engineering could be the answer to this problem, says Anton Haverkort of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He is running a 10-year programme to find more genes for resistance to late blight in several wild potato species – and then put them, and nothing else, into three popular varieties of eating potato. Haverkort uses a relatively new method of genetic engineering that doesn’t require an antibiotic resistance marker gene – a common tool in creating engineered plants – to be introduced along with the desired genes. So far he has isolated eight genes and the first of his genetically modified plants are now in field trials.

“We call them cisgenic, instead of transgenic,” he says. “They contain no genes except what they could have acquired naturally by breeding with other potatoes – except it hasn’t taken decades.” He hopes EU law will take account of the development and lighten restrictions on such plants, and that Europe’s anti-GM public will accept them. “The only genes in there are from potatoes,” he says.

Whether consumers accept cisgenic potatoes remains to be seen. Meanwhile, genetically engineered blight-resistant potatoes created by the German chemical giant BASF are already in their third year of field trials. The company has put the two resistance genes from Solanum bulbocastanum into commercial potato varieties along with an antibiotic resistance marker. BASF says the plants seem to have durable resistance to blight strains circulating in Europe, and it is hoping to start selling them by the middle of next decade.

The antibiotic resistance gene could be a problem, however. Its presence is central to objections to GM food; opponents say the gene could be taken up by bacteria in the environment, creating superbugs. BASF has another genetically engineered potato that yields more uniform starch for the paper and fabrics industries, which the European Commission declared safe last year, but as countries such as Austria harden their resistance to GM crops, it is holding back on the go-ahead for release. The same fate may await the company’s GM food potatoes.

Developing countries, having had the potato for less time, seem to be more open to non-traditional varieties, and in some places GM food is less unpopular. China, for example, is rumoured to have developed varieties similar to BASF’s.

In Peru, CIP plans to keep studying how potatoes resist blight, and using its potato gene bank – the world’s largest – to find genes that confer resistance. CIP is using GM to develop late-blight-resistant strains for Asia and is also breeding potatoes conventionally. This is partly because CIP has imposed a moratorium on releasing GM potatoes in South America, where most governments are opposed to GM and where most of the potato’s wild relatives exist, until more is known about whether introduced genes might escape into wild potatoes. But it is also, she says, because “GM is one tool, it doesn’t do everything.” Resistance to blight, for instance, might be achievable by implanting one or two genes at a time, but eventually, the blight will adapt to those few genes. And other, more complex traits like nutritional quality and yield depend on many genes, few of which are known, and can only be bred into farmed varieties the old-fashioned way, says Anderson.

However we come by new varieties, as the humble potato spreads around the world, and more and more people depend on it for sustenance, the need to win the battle against disease becomes more urgent. Blight is a disaster waiting to happen, and this time we have no alternative but to fight back.


The plant that changed the world

The Spanish brought the potato from South America to Europe in 1536. Most histories say it was then ignored for 200 years, but according to University of Chicago historian William McNeil, peasants knew all about it, and quietly took to growing potatoes as insurance against the frequent loss of their grain stores to marauding armies.

When Prussia then other European governments realised in the mid-1700s that potatoes could slash the cost of warfare, they made peasants grow them. Potato-pushers such as nutritionist Antoine Parmentier, whose name still graces French potato dishes, and Austrian empress Maria Theresa, were in fact pushing civil defence. The empress’s daughter, French queen Marie Antoinette, is best known for suggesting peasants eat cake, but she wore potato flowers to promote another alternative to bread.

In the 1800s potatoes moved into the mainstream. Before then, half of Europe’s farmland lay fallow between grain crops. As the population rose, people planted potatoes on this ground instead. The crop needed weeding, but produced more than enough to feed the labour-force.

Then, in 1845, late blight hit Europe. It is remembered as the Irish potato famine, but hundreds of thousands died in the rest of Europe too. In the early 1850s, yields recovered, and Europe’s potato fields continued to feed the population explosion and booming cities of the 19th century. By fuelling the industrial revolution and the economic and military rise of Europeans, says McNeil, potatoes changed the world.

Now history is repeating itself. Asian farmers are feeding a growing population with scarce land and abundant labour by squeezing potatoes between crops of grain. If suitable varieties allow Africans to do the same, the potato may once again be a lifeline for growing, urbanising and war-torn populations. But only if – this time – we can keep blight at bay. How the humble potato could feed the world, 01 August 2008, New Scientist


Written by alienrobotgirl

17 August, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Posted in Failsafe Foods

Sweet Chestnuts

with 11 comments

Unlike some of the pseudo-foods we eat today, chestnuts are a food that has been eaten widely as a staple for a number of centuries. Though they first appear officially in the food timeline in the 1st Century, broken chestnuts shells have been found in large quantities at palaeolithic sites.

In the mountainous areas of the Mediterranean where cereals would not grow well, if at all, the chestnut (Castanea sativa) has been a staple food for thousands of years (Jalut 1976). Ancient Greeks and Romans, such as Dioscorides and Galen, wrote of the flatulence produced by a diet that centered too closely on chestnuts and commented on the nuts’ medicinal properties, which supposedly protected against such health hazards as poisons, the bite of a mad dog, and dysentery.

Moving forward in time to the sixteenth century, we discover that “an infinity of people live on nothing else but this fruit [the chestnut]” (Estienne and Liébault 1583), and in the nineteenth century an Italian agronomist, describing Tuscany, wrote that “the fruit of the chestnut tree is practically the sole subsistence of our highlanders” (TargioniTozzetti 1802, Vol. 3: 154). A bit later on, Frédéric Le Play (1879, Vol. 1: 310) noted that “chestnuts almost exclusively nourish entire populations for half a year; in the European system they alone are a temporary but complete substitution for cereals.” The Cambridge World History of Food

There are many different cultivars of chestnuts and distinctions are made in France between the common châtaigne and the better marron – known as the Spanish chestnut in English. There are American, Japanese, Chinese, and European varieties. They are not the same as horse chestnuts (conkers), which are poisonous without considerable processing to remove the tannins. Castanea sativa.

Despite having some medicinal properties, chestnuts have not been studied in great detail by science. I am sure that chestnuts help me to relax, ease my back pain, and make my skin look better than normal. During a brief spell of recovery prior to discovering the failsafe diet, I had reduced my vegetable consumption and I was eating a lot of chestnuts. I do not know whether they are merely failsafe, or whether they contain a beneficial polyphenol (like milk thistle), or whether they contain essential sugars, or some other substance.

At this time of year you can find roast chestnuts for sale from small carts in most city centres in the UK and Europe. I have always adored chestnuts and can never get enough of them! They can be bought from farm shops and farmer’s markets and some supermarkets. I do not know how commonly they are seen in the US and Canada but I would be interested to know.

I have a very good tolerance level for chestnuts, I am sure that I tolerate them better than I tolerate the equivalent quantity of Brussels sprouts. Chestnuts have not been tested for salicylate content and do not appear on any lists of safe/unsafe foods. I had hoped to donate some money in order that they and some untested seeds/grains would get tested as I believe they may be failsafe or near-failsafe, but instead the Food Intolerance Network selected some strange non-calorific amine/glutamate containing foods that included seaweed, persimmon wine, and yellow tomatoes… a list of foods I refused to pay for! Perhaps I will approach them again and request to ‘buy’ the tests once my house sale goes through and I have some money.

I am currently eating about 100 grams of chestnuts most days and getting on with them relatively well for me – better than I would be with lentils, Brussels sprouts, beans or garlic – all allowed on the elimination diet. I also seem to tolerate the châtaigne variety better than the marron, which seems ever so slightly aromatic.

Does anyone on failsafe want to trial sweet chestnuts and give me some feedback on how well you get on with them?

Written by alienrobotgirl

14 November, 2007 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Failsafe Foods

What I eat these days

with 6 comments


I’ve got out of the habit of eating breakfast. I used to eat boiled or scrambled eggs, but recently I haven’t had much of an appetite. Instead of having a tea or coffee, I drink a tablespoon of double cream in hot water. I’ll drink this throughout the day if ever I feel peckish.


Eggs in their many glorious forms!

Sometimes I make a homemade quiche with a fat-heavy Elizabeth David recipe. The pastry has more butter in it than flour, and the filling is five egg yolks, one whole egg, and a pint of double cream. Mmm. I put bacon and cheese on my partner’s half. I leave my half plain and it tastes like a custard tart, or I sprinkle some mild cheddar on top as I can tolerate a bit.

Sometimes I make very fat pancakes – two eggs, a couple of fluid ounces of double cream, a slightly heaped tablespoon of flour and a pinch of bicarb, fried in an ounce of butter. You can eat them with savory extras, or add sugar. Pancakes like this are fragile and don’t flip. You need to slide them onto a plate and turn them over by hand.

Or I’ll have a couple of eggs plain – boiled, poached or scrambled – sometimes with a slice of bread slathered in butter, sometimes with sushi rice (egg fried rice), sometimes I’ll have a bowl of porridge or wheatgerm, or rarely a small portion of well buttered pasta. I’m trying to get used to the taste of goat’s milk.

Sometimes we’ll roast a fresh chicken and eat half the chicken for lunch and the other half for tea.

I oscillate with carbs at lunch time. Sometimes they make me want to snack during the afternoon or they make me feel fat or sick (anything with white flour in it can make me feel sick). If I’m dieting I’ll just have eggs and a creamy drink with a spoon of sugar and that tides me through. I’m lucky: I could eat eggs forever and not get bored of them.


Tea usually consists of one portion of meat and one portion of carbs.

I usually eat a 4 ounce portion of beef mince. Though mince is supposed to decay faster, I actually tolerate it better than beef steaks. I’m convinced the farm shop where I buy it mince offcuts of meat that haven’t been hung. Alternately, lamb chops or chicken. We split down whole chickens. We freeze meat in meal sized portions, then defrost in hot water ten minutes before we cook. I fry in a tablespoon of beef tallow. About once a week I’ll get some white fish and shellfish in. Clams, mussels, oysters, and squid are all really nutritious.

If I haven’t had a bowl of porridge or wheatgerm earlier in the day, I might eat one after eating some meat, or have some rice, pasta, bread, or potatoes. I have problems with jacket potatoes – they give me glutamatey symptoms, but I seem to be okay with fried potatoes. I prefer wheatgerm and milk because it’s more nutritious than the other options, though it’s easy to get addicted. The size of this portion is quite small – one ounce of oats or one and a half ounces of wheatgerm with a cup of milk, two ounces of rice, a couple of slices of bread, one hand-sized potato.

I tend to go on and off wheat/oats/milk – two weeks on and two weeks off is my usual pattern. When I diet instead of having carbs I’ll have mince with a couple more eggs. Mince and eggs scramble together really nicely, I don’t know why people don’t eat it! I try to diet a little bit for a week or two then stop dieting for a week or two. I’m anxious not to upset my metabolism too much. The weight seems to stay off better if I take it really easy and stop pressurising myself. Since I started doing this I’ve lost my need to snack all the time and I’m not bothered nearly as much by bread, glutamate and salicylate-related weight gain. I’m the lightest I’ve been since the Christmas before last.

I am currently trying to get used to goat’s milk (yeuch). It does seem to be less addictive/analgesic than Jersey milk. I’ll probably do an isolated trial some time and use it to make rice puddings or just drink a cup plain as my teatime carb portion.

A one or two times a week I might have a portion of mixed beans and pulses instead of the regular carbs. I boil up and cook several different types in separate pans as they all have different cooking times, then split them down and freeze them in different portions. I cook them straight from frozen. For some reason they taste better and are easier to digest after being frozen and cooked again. They’re great for soaking up vast quantities of butter. I can’t eat them every day or I get aminey/glutamatey symptoms like tinnitus.

A one or two times a week I’ll cut up a ripe conference pear and either cook it and eat it with cream, or eat it raw with some big dollops of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream instead of the regular carbs. I can’t eat this every day or I’ll have salicylate symptoms and wake up groggy.

Sometimes at the weekend if my partner is eating lettuce or cabbage I’ll have some with him. When it’s Brussels sprout season in the autumn and winter I might eat those a couple of times a week. One of the biggest psychological barriers I’ve had to get over is not eating fruit and vegetables every day. I feel better without them. Sometimes when I pass the kitchen cupboard I’ll dip my finger in my tub of powdered ascorbic acid and that’s my RDA.

That’s it. It probably sounds like I don’t get a lot of variety, but I actually really enjoy having the choice taken away from me. I never really liked strongly flavoured foods, and I used to be very indecisive and anxious about what to cook all the time. A lot of tribes people live on equally limited diets – just whatever meat they kill and the same local carbohydrate source every day, whether it be potatoes, yams, gourds or whatever.

It probably also sounds like I don’t eat much. I actually average 1,800 calories a day, appropriate for my height and weight, and much less when I’m dieting. I’m actually shocked when I hear the vast quantities other people eat. I could never even imagine eating half a kilo of meat or four or five servings of grains in a day.

A lot of my calories come from butter and cream. I actually feel really good since I started drinking so much cream. My teeth feel smooth and clean all the time in spite of eating carbs and sugar, even when I wake up in the morning. It must be the vitamin K.

I’m not worried about my nutrition at all. I’ve had people from WAPF patronise me about what I eat, but I’m not actually low on anything and I achieve the RDAs of several vitamins that many other people are really deficient in, like vitamins D, E, K, B6 and folate. When I see the way other WAPF members eat, I know in spite of all the talk that they’re not getting those RDAs! My diet is probably more nutritionally balanced and nutritionally dense than ninety five percent of the population, and none of it’s from vitamin supplements or fortified foods.

Written by alienrobotgirl

30 August, 2007 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Failsafe Foods

The decorator's diet

with one comment

I went through a bit of a low just after Christmas. One of those times when you just can’t seem to get “clean” in spite of being totally failsafe. My skin was breaking out, and I seemed to be gaining weight for no reason and was struggling to control snacking. I also had an awful lot of packing and decorating to do and couldn’t afford to feel tired, ill, and demotivated.

I was:
Eating about 10 Brussels sprouts every day
Eating red split lentils every now and then
Eating a bowl of wheatgerm and Jersey milk every day
Eating 10 cashew nuts a day
Drinking decaf instant coffee, and cheating with fresh filter coffee
Cheating maybe once a week at restaurants (I never cheat badly, just sauces on meat n’ potatoes dishes, and eating dubious desserts)

I decided I’d had enough and cut right down to an ultra low chemical, low calorie, low-ish carb diet. This is what I ate:

1 tbsp fresh additive free double cream in hot water

Two eggs scrambled in 1oz butter

4oz ultra fresh minced beef cooked from frozen in 1tbsp beef tallow
2oz sushi rice, freshly boiled

1 tbsp of double cream in hot water, up to a total of 2floz of double cream per day – or up to an extra 1floz if unusually hungry
Plenty of sparkling water

Sometimes I would swap the rice for the equivalent weight of pasta, but not more than once a week as I soon found that wheat is a devil for both impeding weight loss and demotivating me and making me feel tired. That’s why I was convinced for a long time that weight loss is impossible on a moderate carbohydate diet.

There is method in this madness.

I was eating roughly 1,200 calories per day, and about 45 grams of carbs per day, the same in protein, and about twice as much fat. Apart from the salt in the butter, I salted my food exclusively with lo-salt, and was careful not to go overboard.

The double cream in hot water I chose because I know full well I cannot tolerate even decaf instant coffee for any period without starting to feel off. I would have a cup of this in the middle of the morning, another couple of cups during the afternoon, and another cup or two during the evening. A problem I have a lot is getting anxious and feeling peckish and having cravings for things all the time. There are about 100 calories in a tablespoon of cream, and I found it really staved off hunger if I just kept rationing it out over the day.

The reason I kept my meat down to such a small portion is because I’m very sensitive to glutamates and I find that more than this amount triggers sugar cravings. I can pinpoint six months of my life when I was low carbing but eating older meat than usual (online organic vac-packed delivery, sat in the freezer for weeks/months on end) when I gained a stone back from my initial low carb diet. I have no such problem with eggs. The rice with the meat also helped and the combination left me feeling fuller and more satisified than I would do with meat alone. If I really desperately needed sugar, I’d have a teaspoon in with my cream and hot water.

I chose not to very-low-carb or zero-carb for the same reasons – my sensitivity to glutamates somewhat precludes it due to meat leaving me with cravings. I just can’t get meat any fresher than I have got it at the moment, and I don’t know how much difference it would make if I did. Also I didn’t want to go through that weird energy rush patch followed by exhaustion followed by normalising that you have to do on a very low carb diet, then all the hassle of going in and out of ketosis when you are compelled to eat carbohydrates by circumstance.

I cut out all plant matter except sushi rice because I simply don’t trust any plant matter to be entirely salicylate/polyphenol free and it seems to affect me. Even sushi rice acts like a bit of a stimulant and keeps me awake the first night I eat it (oats too). Cabbage family plants also have an anti-thyroid effect that isn’t really good for weight loss.

I lost over a pound a week and lost six pounds before I decided to stop. I think it’s important to take breaks from weight loss so you don’t screw your metabolism up. That may sound like quite ordinary weight loss for most people, but I have a pretty darn resistant metabolism so I was really pleased with how it went. The way that sushi rice is so different from wheat with its effects on metabolism makes me think about how Japanese and Chinese people are slim, yet Germans, Italians, British and Americans are overweight.

I haven’t gained it back. I’ve found that anything that isn’t on this limited selection of food does actually propel me gain weight if I eat it every day, but I know my limits and how much I can get away with. Bread and amines/glutamates for example lead to frighteningly rapid weight gain.

After I finished the diet and reintroduced wheat and milk, I’ve found that I seem to tolerate oats better than wheatgerm. It has a stimulant, metabolism-boosting effect which can be quite scary and leads to initial weight loss before my body gets used to it. Reminds me of someone on a messageboard who was eating nothing but oat bran and freaking out because she was underweight and losing rapidly. Oats make me pretty irritable the first time I eat them, but after that I seem to get used to them, and I’ve had no return of the eczema I was experiencing last year. Some brands affect me much worse than others though, inducing headaches, so I think that there is something going on in the processing.

Anyways, I’m dieting again at the moment but this time I’ve substituted a couple of eggs for the sushi rice and I’m really trying to low-carb it. I happen to think low carb diets work a lot better for weight loss of you take proper breaks between them and allow yourself to eat a decent amount of carbohydrate – your body adapts back again to the carbs so the weight loss is a lot faster. That seems to have held true for the first week or two. But now I seem to keep getting stuck, having sugar cravings, cheating, ‘accidentally’ eating small amounts of pastry which is stopping my weight from moving, but every three or four days I have a good day, eat under 1000 calories of pure eggs, meat and cream, and suddenly lose another half a pound. I’m the lowest weight I’ve been in well over a year. Something I’ve noticed is I’m not getting any headaches at all anymore, not even if I eat amines/glutamates. The first year I was on Atkins I experienced just this, in spite of eating cheese all the time. It’s just these darn cravings are a pain!

Written by alienrobotgirl

9 August, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Failsafe Foods

Really, really fresh meat

with 5 comments

On the subject of really, really fresh meat, I recently figured out that the age of the meat from my local farm shop is quite variable. I had a good patch in the autumn that I couldn’t attribute to anything, but I remember thinking at the time that the meat I was eating was really tasteless, i.e. fresh. I remember the next time I went to the farm shop for another batch of meat, it was “tastier”, and I didn’t feel as great, but since this is the best I can do for meat, I simply accepted it.

I’ve been avoiding buying things like mince because I’m pretty scared of getting sulphited, and well, with all of that open surface, it looks like it should have formed plenty of amines. But the farm shop I use has a good reputation, and I realised that they don’t use sulphites. It turns out that their mince is loads fresher than their meat! I bought some a couple of weeks ago and realised it was much more tasteless than the steaks, and that I didn’t react to it at all. I think perhaps they must part-butcher their meat into smaller chunks before they hang it, and the mince must largely be the leftovers of that process. This is great!

A couple of months ago I had got to thinking that I simply wouldn’t be able to lose any of the random weight I gain when I react without some sort of chemical help – like the old “mito cocktail” which includes carnitine, coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid, and a few others. I felt so awful on it that I gave up altogether, since my motivation for going on a diet remains at about zero for most of the time. I enjoy food too much, and I look pretty good, and I really couldn’t care less.

But I’ve cut out anything and everything I find remotely reactive from my diet: no more fruit or veg, no more lentils or beans, no more wheat, no more milk. It’s totally killed my appetite and cleared up my skin, which is currently perfect. I’ve been eating eggs, butter, double cream, this really, really fresh beef mince, and sushi rice. I’m on roughly Optimal Diet proportions: about 50 grams of protein and carbohydrate and 100 grams of fat, about 1,200-1,300 calories a day. I’m losing weight! I can’t believe I can eat so many carbohydrates and lose weight! I just hope it’s sustainable.

It just goes to show that other factors sometimes count more than calories.

Written by alienrobotgirl

23 February, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Failsafe Foods

Glutamated by gelatine and UHT milk

with 3 comments

I’ve been going through a pretty awful reaction for the last week or so and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I’ve been doing wrong.

It’s been a glutamate reaction. It started about a week ago when I tried testing commercial gelatine by making some soups instead of having wheat germ. When I have home made stock, I react almost straight away with an aminey reaction. Commercial gelatine is supposed to be allowed, but it does contain some glutamates. It took about three days for me to figure out I had a problem, by which time I was very sleepy (glutamates, it seems, make me sleepy). I was also obsessed. I woke up on the third morning and I couldn’t think about anything except eating more gelatinous soup. I wanted it for breakfast. I was groggy, I couldn’t seem to get up, so I must have spent 45 minutes in bed, thinking about how I must have some more soup! So I called a halt to that experiment.

I decided to swap back to having wheat germ porridge instead again. Since I haven’t been feeling great and have had some skin problems since I came down with a cold over Christmas, I decided to give my liver a total rest and to cut out ALL vegetables except potatoes for a while, and stop my milk thistle. This really is the worst time of the year for failsafers for reactions. Vitamin D supplies are at their lowest, and there’s still a while ahead until we get some UVB sunshine. So I substituted with even more wheat germ – two bowls a day instead of one. I don’t normally eat potatoes either, so I started having them every day.

My body felt like it was relaxing. I haven’t felt so relaxed and calm in months. I felt really bright and awake too, though I still felt a bit wobbly like I couldn’t quite get over the glutamate reaction. Then I went downhill again at the end of this week and started having the same reaction again. I started to really crave wheat germ porridge. I didn’t know whether it was a carb craving or something more sinister. I just couldn’t figure it out. I’ve had heart palpatations, insomnia till about 2AM, some hangover and brain fog problems, and I’ve been totally knocked out – so tired I just want to fall asleep in the afternoon. Something I have noticed particularly with glutamates is that I start to get some pain in my old DVT leg. Which is interesting because when I got my DVT, I happened to be eating Pot Noodles for lunch every day, which are full of MSG. Glutamate is an essential part of the clotting process.

I’ve tried taking B6 and vitamin C to ease the reaction a little bit, because these two vitamins help you turn glutamate into GABA. It seems to have a little bit of an effect, but not much at all.

Then I noticed last night when I decided to have a small cup of milk before bed that I started getting a scary skipping/racing heart beat. I woke up groggy this morning. My other half made some Yorkshire puddings for lunch, made with milk. This afternoon I was so tired I fell asleep for most of the afternoon. Something horrible started to happen to me when I woke up. I realised I had skipping/pounding heart beat. It’s so frightening when it happens. I feel like I’m going to die. I get an impending sense of doom just like a heart attack. I feel weak as a kitten. I was still so sleepy I kept drifting off to sleep and waking up again and having this horrible pounding heart beat, and not being able to get out of the sleep state. This is what they used to call “night terrors” in the olden days.

I finally figured out the source of the problem. I bought a different source of milk. I normally buy one specific brand of non-organic Jersey cow milk (“Gold Top”), and I seem to tolerate that fairly well. The milk I’ve drunk in the last few days has been an organic whole milk from M&S. You would think that organic milk would be safer. I don’t know whether they are allowed to add dried milk powder to organic milk without declaring it, but I thought not. But on the label the milk says “pasteurised for longer“.

Milk has some natural glutamates in it. Potatoes have some too. Apparently pasteurising milk for longer hydrolyses the proteins and creates more glutamates. There are several sites dedicated to people who are sensitive to MSG. All of the people there seem to be in agreement that they cannot drink UHT or long-pasteurised milk.

Is it possible that some milk intolerance reactions are just MSG reactions to over-processed, denatured milk?

Written by alienrobotgirl

4 February, 2007 at 7:03 pm

Posted in Failsafe Foods

Basmati rice

with 5 comments

Who knew basmati rice wasn’t allowed? I knew that wild and black rice contained something awful, since I learned long ago that wild and black rice keep me awake all night. When you rinse black rice the water turns purple. But I thought all brown and white rices were equal.

I was looking through my copy of the RPAH elimination diet booklet the other day in order to publish a more comprehensive version of the elimination diet online. Basmati rice, jasmine rice, and wild rice are not allowed because they contain salicylates.

No wonder I have been having “idiosyncratic” reactions to rice. I was curious as to why I got on better with wheat but not with rice. There’s the answer. I’ve been using basmati rice. I wonder how many other people have fallen foul of this little quirk? How many people thought the elimination diet wasn’t working?

If in doubt, use sushi rice!

Written by alienrobotgirl

4 December, 2006 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Failsafe Foods