Why do doctors think an apple a day is bad for us?

woman with apple on her head on apples and adiposity tutus and tiny hatsIn a world where correlation seems to equal causation, medical professionals like promoting the idea of abdominal fat distribution having something to do with overall health and risk for heart disease. And while it may seem fairly specific, doesn’t it seem weird that this is a one-size-fits-all answer to cardiac health?

Why are all women considered to be in a good range if their waist size is under 35″ while the measurement for men is 40″? Is this as true for a woman who is five feet tall as it is for a woman who is six feet tall? Doesn’t seem like a fair comparison, apple to apple, does it?

As part of my work as a health coach, I am required to review people’s measured waist circumference. Most participants comment before I get to it, saying “I know, it’s bad,” or “I know, I’m fat,” and that stuff just breaks my heart.

When I actually go over their waist circumference, I let them know, if they ask, health can be found in many sizes, and fitness is more important than body shape. If they ask me for more information, I recommend they look into the Health At Every Size® (HAES®) movement to find support and answers for their concerns.

What do you think – does it really matter, from a scientific point of view, if we are “apples” or “pears”?

Make sure you read the post “On apples and abdominal adiposity” from the blog: Tutus and Tiny Hats. Laura is awesome!



Need some gluten-free coconut flour cookies? How about 30? Paleo-friendly!

30 Gluten Free Paleo Coconut Flour Cookie RecipesTo me, coconut flour is almost perfect. It has a great flavor, excellent fiber, and bakes into goods very smoothly.

Try my White Chocolate Chip Almond Coconut Flour Cookies – recipe.

So I am excited to pass along this list of 30 Gluten Free Coconut Flour Cookie Recipes, in time for the holidays. Or any time of the year.

Mmmmm… coconut shortbread cookies….

Because, who doesn’t love cookies?

You won’t believe who tried to give me gluten

Or maybe you will.

IV hand hospital gown blondeLast month, I had an endoscopy done to take biopsies of my esophagus, stomach, and small intestine to check my digestive health. Though celiac disease had been ruled out in the past, I had tested positive for eosinophilic esophagitis, through another endoscopy collecting biopsies from my esophagus.

EE or EoE as it’s known, because eosinophilic esophagitis is a real mouthful, is a body’s allergic reaction to a suspected allergen, and results in inflammatory cells building up in the esophagus which can make swallowing difficult and cause structural changes as well. The current ways of treating it include avoiding what you have an allergy to, taking steroids to reduce inflammation in the esophagus, or reverting to an elemental diet to avoid allergens.

If you have this disease, you may not know what you’re allergic to. When I had my positive test, I was in the middle of a “eat everything” food challenge, including all of the items I had previously left off my list, including wheat and other gluten grains, rye and barley, plus oats for good measure. However, by the time of my recent endoscopy, I was no longer eating those foods, indicating that I was allergic to wheat before the procedure occurred. I even got a nifty red bracelet from the care facility to indicate in black block letters that I was allergic to WHEAT.

And yet, when I woke from the anesthesia, I was greeted back to consciousness by a nurse asking if I’d like some water and soda crackers. REALLY?

I understand that people who work in healthcare are busy people. However, I am pretty sure if I was wearing a red bracelet with PENICILLIN written on it, people would pay attention. I know nurses receive education on this topic as well: many of the classes I took to obtain my degree in Dietetics were attended by nursing students. Cross-contamination is discussed at length, as is celiac disease and the importance of recognizing allergies and what happens during an allergic reaction.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, but when it did ten years ago, I figured that while healthcare professionals should know better, some actions are automatic. But is this okay in the world of health? And by now, haven’t wheat and gluten both become pretty high profile in the area of allergies/intolerances?

Pumpkin pie without the eggs? It can be done, and is super easy, as well!

eggless pumpkin pie recipeI honestly didn’t think this was going to work, but this recipe is simple and delicious. It is nearly identical to its egg-containing cousin. You may wonder if the filling is too runny when you pour it into the crust, but it sets up beautifully.

Eggless Pumpkin Pie (not vegan)
2 cups pumpkin (16 oz. can)
2 cups milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
3 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450ºF
In a small bowl, combine salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and cornstarch.
Scoop pumpkin into a large bowl and blend with the spices.
Add sugar, and once incorporated, add milk.
Bake in unbaked pie shell and serve with whipped cream.
Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes. Lower to 350ºF for 1 hour.

Variation: Replace 1 cup of milk and the 3/4 cup brown sugar with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated).

Happy Thanksgiving!

The FDA is introducing food labeling new rules as part of Obamacare – is this a good thing?

FDA logoPeople have been pushing for years now to know the calorie counts in their food, from fast food and vending machine items to traditional restaurants. Oversized portions have become a way of life for those dining in these establishments, often chock full of fats and sugars, and not enough fiber or quality ingredients.

According to the article, “U.S. introduces menu calorie labeling to fight obesity,” on Reuters, the new rules address total calorie content of the food items and are intended to address the remaining food suppliers who are not currently required to list this information. With a third of meals being consumed from these types of sources, it’s not a bad idea to let the public know what they are eating.

However, it doesn’t include upfront representation of other nutritional information, such as calories from fat, cholesterol, sugars and protein, though these are available in writing by request.

While caloric count of items may be useful for those on very restricted diets, it doesn’t tell much about the quality of the actual food unless you take the time to scan a company website first. Transparency is helpful when it comes to food.

But this reinforces the need to focus on a number rather than helping people to listen to their bodies and learn to eat intuitively. And the latter is actually much more beneficial for overall health and well-being. Finding a way to be knowledgable about diet is a journey each of us would do best without being fixed on numbers. It also helps to keep guilt and “shoulds” from making choices for us.


Time to start hoarding cocoa?

dark chocolate shavings
This should strike fear in the heart of comfort eaters everywhere: we are running out of chocolate.

Apparently, peak chocolate occurred in 2012, and since then, we have been happily gobbling up every bit of the sweet stuff we can find. And why not? Cocoa contains many antioxidants and minerals, as well as the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) that most efficiently fuel our bodies.

You’ll want to get chocolate that has 65% or greater cocoa content to enjoy the delicious benefits — that milk chocolate junk ain’t gonna cut it.

It’s probably wouldn’t hurt to start stocking up now, before it becomes unreasonable to buy regularly.

One of my favorites is more nuts than chocolate, but works deliciously in a pinch when I don’t have time for a full meal: KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt.

What’s your favorite dark chocolate?

The world’s biggest chocolate-maker says we’re running out of chocolate

Lindt Excellence Supreme Dark Chocolate 90% Cocoa, 3.5-Ounce Packages (Pack of 12)

Recipe: Gluten Free on a Shoestring

better than bouillon chicken
This is a quick post to list some of the recipes I plan on checking out this year. I have fallen into the Gluten Free on a Shoestring blog and I’m in love with the recipes I’ve been seeing (as well as the pictures! Oh, the pictures!) Please check it out. I’ve included some of my recent favorites:

In my family, I am the gravy maker – even though I make it gluten-free. I think this year, I might try this recipe, if I can contain myself.

GF Turkey Gravy – Gluten Free On A Shoestring

My grandfather always got us “Pull-Apart” bread from the neighborhood bakery. This looks like the next best thing:

Super Easy Gluten Free Monkey Bread

My husband and I have been living on these lately – we’ve used Better Than Bouillon chicken flavor, but I’m looking forward to making the vegetable bouillon in the recipe.

Gluten Free Instant Noodle Cups

Introducing: Stephanie Bird, Nutrition & Food Science, Gut Thinker, and Mission Statement

stephanie bird santa cruz municipal wharfI thought I’d update some info about myself, in case you’ve stumbled across this blog on a random journey through the internet. I contribute information infrequently, and also post on Facebook on the Gut Thinking group. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Science, Dietetics emphasis and taking the exam to be a Registered Nutrition and Dietetic Technician. Please find my career portfolio online at 

My mission: To compassionately help people with a variety of health concerns find better living through diet changes and supportive strategies including recipes and sharing of knowledge, with a dash of humor if it helps. 

Gut is my co-pilot. Most people know what it’s like to have a “gut feeling.” We work on instinct to make decisions based on what we know to be true

I have spent my life trying to get my diet right because I discovered along the way that what I eat definitely impacts how I feel that day, up to several days after. Sure, I’d heard the whole “you are what you eat” bit growing up, but I hadn’t realized until my late 20s how literal that message is.

For me, that meant the things I was eating weren’t adding up to a healthy-feeling me. In order to change that, I have been on a quest since 1999 to figure out what types of food make me feel good without feeling bored or punished.

This also meant I had to do a lot of research on my own, as I discovered that even most of the health professionals I talked with weren’t aware of the various problems people suffered as a result of eating foods not suited for their best health. Sure, doctors and dietitians knew that if you were diagnosed with celiac disease, you needed to avoid gluten. If they knew about interstitial cystitis, they may have found some of their patients/clients respond well to a low-acid diet. And to those “fortunate” enough to have a cut-and-dry positive result to a food allergy, as opposed to a vague food intolerance or other adverse food reaction, then they knew to recommend a diet without that food in it, and could prescribe antihistamines or other treatments to ease symptoms.

However, functional conditions such as dysphasia (difficulty swallowing) or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) aren’t as cut and dried. Dysphasia could be related to eosinophilic esophagitis which is related to allergy (back to not knowing again!) and IBS could be triggered by food such as the group known as FODMAPs, or just be the way the gastrointestinal tract misfires.

I focused my studies on Nutrition and Food Science, with emphasis in Dietetics, so I ultimately will be able to work with media, researchers, and food companies to help develop and provide information to others who have health issues they may not realize are related to their diets. The didactic program I completed was through California State University at Chico, and I have also taken science courses at Huntington College of Health Sciences of Knoxville, TN; California State University at Sacramento; and University of California at Santa Cruz. I am currently certified in ServSafe and HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points).

See my LinkedIn profile for more information.

Eggs is Enough – a pseudoallergy

vintage birds custard advertisement
Since this last summer’s food challenge, I have been able to reincorporate a few foods but have discovered that I likely have an aversion to eggs. Since eggs seem to trigger symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) in me, the reaction I’m having is likely an allergy.

But I am intrigued by a bit I read on Wikipedia about eggs and allergy, stating that some people have pseudoallergy to eggs. Since they are histamine-containing foods, they can trigger an allergy-like reaction in sensitive people without actually firing up the IgE allergy immune reaction. As a result, some people who are sensitive to eggs can still eat them in baked goods as they are distributed enough that they don’t trigger the reaction.

I also read that many EoE triggers are from IgG or so-called “slow allergies” which makes it harder for people to determine the trigger. I’m not sure why this would necessarily be the case, but eosinophils are the result of an immune reaction and once triggered in tissue (as opposed to flowing in the blood) they are “active” for some 8-12 days. This could explain why food reactions in some people last a couple of weeks.

I am still trying to learn more about this disease and how it is related to other conditions. I recently joined APFED’s online community so I could learn more from other people with eosinophilic disorders. Hoping to meet more people with practical experience with this condition that I have likely had for my entire adult life.

Interesting detail I learned from the Wikipedia page: Bird’s Custard was invented by Alfred Bird, as his wife, Elizabeth, was allergic to eggs. As my family name is Bird, we’ve always joked about this treat. Maybe it’s a “Bird” thing!

Learning more about eosinophilic esophagitis

APFED logo
I’ve been having throat issues this fall, not sure if it’s something I’m eating or if it’s some kind of airborne allergies. Either way, it feels like someone has tied a drawstring in my throat and is pulling the strings. It’s tight in my throat and my shoulders and travels up to my ears. I’ve also been having some heartburn.

I started budesonide therapy, mixing one .5mg vial in with about four teaspoons of stevia that I get from Trader Joe’s. But it’s inconsistent and a pain to make, so I was looking around for another idea and got to reading the (American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders) site. They have a support board which I’ve only dipped a toe in, but already learned that some people take budesonide with applesauce. I’m psyched! I need to try it like that – I’ll bet it is much more tolerable that way.

Looking forward to learning more!