An Exclusion Diet

Please note, when I wrote this I knew nothing about managing autoimmune diseases with diet. It was an interesting experiment from which I learned, but I don't recommend anyone else follow this particular example. If you are interested in elimination diets the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) would be a much better place to start.

I've always known that psoriasis runs in my family but until a few years ago I thought that I'd been fortunate enough to have dodged that gene. I'm lucky in that I have a very mild case, yet it's annoying and it would be lovely if it went away.

Over the years I've done a bit of reading and am hearing more and more stories from friends and in online forums about people who have managed to make dramatic changes in their health simply by changing their diet.

I didn't pay this much attention until I was reading Andrew Weil's "Spontaneous Healing", he talks about how skin conditions are almost always a sign of something being wrong inside your body. He went on to say that any sort of topical treatment is at best treating a symptom and at worst pushing the problem back into your body. Say what you will about hippy doctors, this made too much sense for me to ignore.

As I started reading online I wasn't surprised to discover the mass of conflicting information (and straight up scam sites) about diet and psoriasis. The only thing which everybody (except western medicine) agrees about is that changing your diet can make things better, and in some cases “cure”, psoriasis. In general the four big baddies seem to be:

  • Alcohol (especially for men)
  • Sugar
  • Red meat
  • Caffeine

Which left me a little depressed, it doesn't leave many harmless vices! However after much reading, discussion and support from friends, my sister has agreed to join me in an experiment with an exclusion diet. The idea is that you remove basically “everything” from your diet for up to three weeks. During that time, and often much faster, your symptoms should completely disappear. Once you are symptom free you slowly add things back into your diet and figure out what was causing the problem.

In this case removing “everything” means being left with brown rice and water. Fortunately I quite like brown rice, I only hope I still like it when this is over!

Before I get lectured, I understand that exclusion diets are typically used for allergies, intolerances and skin conditions like eczema. I understand that psoriasis is actually an autoimmune disorder, but I figure I don't have a lot to lose. At the end of three weeks I either discover that diet doesn't make a bit of difference, in which case I can stop wondering and get on with my life. Or it “cures” me and I can get down to the business of figuring out what the actual problem foods are. Either way I win, so long as three weeks of brown rice doesn't break me!

Greg Bear: "Blood Music"

I love this idea from Greg Bear's "Blood Music". Hopefully it's intelligible without the proper context, if not I recommend you read the book:

Information processing—more strictly, observation—has an effect on events occurring within space-time. Conscious beings play an integral role in the universe; we fix its boundaries, to a great extent determine its nature, just as it determines our nature. I have reason to believe—just an hypothesis so far—that we don't so much discover physical laws as collaborate on them. Our theories are tested against past observations both by ourselves—and by the universe. If the universe agrees that past events are not contradicted by a theory, the theory becomes a template. The universe goes along with it. The better the theory fits the facts, the longer it lasts—if it lasts at all. We then break the universe down into territories—our particular territory, as human beings, being thus far quite distinct. No extraterrestrial contact, you know. If there are other intelligent beings beyond the Earth, the wold occupy yet other territories of theory. We wouldn't expect major differences between the theories of different territories—the universe does, after all, play a major role—but minor differences might be expected.
The theories can't be effective forever. The universe is always changing; we can imagine regions of reality evolving until new theories are necessary. The far, the human race hasn't generated nearly the density or amount of information processing—computer, thinking, what have you—to manifest any truly obvious effects on space-time. We haven't created theories so complete that they pin down reality's evolution. But that has all changed, and quite recently.

Catherine Carswell on D. H. Lawrence

I can't think of a more perfect way to be remembered. Now I need to read some of his writing! Thanks to Geoff Dyer for the introduction.

The obituaries shortly after Lawrence's death were, with the notable exception of E. M. Forster, unsympathetic or hostile. However, there were those who articulated a more favourable recognition of the significance of this author's life and works. For example, his longtime friend Catherine Carswell summed up his life in a letter to the periodical Time and Tide published on 16 March 1930. In response to his critics, she claimed:

In the face of formidable initial disadvantages and life-long delicacy, poverty that lasted for three quarters of his life and hostility that survives his death, he did nothing that he did not really want to do, and all that he most wanted to do he did. He went all over the world, he owned a ranch, he lived in the most beautiful corners of Europe, and met whom he wanted to meet and told them that they were wrong and he was right. He painted and made things, and sang, and rode. He wrote something like three dozen books, of which even the worst page dances with life that could be mistaken for no other man's, while the best are admitted, even by those who hate him, to be unsurpassed. Without vices, with most human virtues, the husband of one wife, scrupulously honest, this estimable citizen yet managed to keep free from the shackles of civilization and the cant of literary cliques. He would have laughed lightly and cursed venomously in passing at the solemn owls—each one secretly chained by the leg—who now conduct his inquest. To do his work and lead his life in spite of them took some doing, but he did it, and long after they are forgotten, sensitive and innocent people—if any are left—will turn Lawrence's pages and will know from them what sort of a rare man Lawrence was.

All About Rice Tea

I'm currently in the middle of an elimination diet which means that for the next two weeks I'm eating and drinking nothing but rice and water (more on that in a future post, I'm keeping a journal). It's been just over a week since I started the diet, and one thing I really miss is a hot drink in the morning. While hot water is way more satisfactory then you would ever guess, it still doesn't cut it. Last weekend a few people mentioned rice tea so I decided to do some research.

What most people refer to as rice tea is a Japanese drink called Genmaicha which is a mixture of green tea and roasted rice. The rice was added as a filler because it was cheaper then tea. Originally it was drunk by the poor but more recently it has become a popular drink on it's own. Sadly green tea isn't on the approved list.

There are also two Korean recipes for rice tea. Sungnyung is made by boiling the left over scorched rice from the bottom of the cooking pot. Hyeonmi cha is made by roasting rice in a pot and then boiling water on top of it. Technically these are both actually tisanes since they aren't made with tea.

Though the author calls it sung nyung I found what appears to be a less traditional recipe for Hyeonmi cha. The nice thing about this recipe is that you roast the rice first and then steep it in your cup. Now I can take my roasted rice to work for my morning cuppa!

I've just finished my first cup and it's really nice (yum!). The water doesn't change colour but gets a rich nutty flavour and as it steeps longer it gets a sweetness to it. A very pleasant addition to my rather boring diet at the moment!

I've put a recipe for Brown Rice Tea into the cookbook if you want to try it out. It's really easy!

Experimenting With Fasting

Please note, when I wrote this I knew nothing about managing autoimmune diseases with diet. It was an interesting experiment from which I learned, but I would no longer use a juice fast as a way to manage autoimmune disease. If you are interested getting experimenting with food as medicine, the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) would be a much better place to start.

Recently I've been experimenting with juice fasting for one or two days at a time. Mostly it's been driven by curiosity on my part about what it's like to go for an extended period of time without eating anything (though of course juice does have calories). There is also a lot of research, and vast quantities of anecdotal evidence, which support the health benefits of fasting.

The benefits you hear about the most are:

  • Detoxification - Every day your body uses your colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands and skin to eliminate or neutralise toxins from your body. By fasting you give these organs a break from processing incoming food and allow them time and energy to deal with any backlog of toxins which need to be processed. The fasting also means that your body turns to its fat reserves for energy which can cause any toxins stored there to be processed and eliminated.
  • Healing - During a fast your body diverts energy from your digestive system and towards your metabolism and immune system. This is one reason why we often lose our appetite when we are sick.
  • Extended Life Expectancy - While fasting your body has a slower metabolic rate, more efficient protein production and improved immune system. In addition Human Growth Hormone and an anti-aging hormone are supposed to be released more efficiently into your body. So long as you don't malnourish yourself, restricting caloric intake is one of the only things which has scientifically proved to extend the life span of mammals.

So far it's been an interesting process, my first fast was about 36 hours and I was surprised to discover that I didn't suffer from any physical discomfort at all. I did get hungry but it was pretty simple to manage the urge to eat, in fact I found it easier to eat nothing then I normally find it to control my sweet tooth.

The book I read about fasting had some general guidelines about how to come off of a fast. Most of it is common sense (eg. don't make your first meal a steak, instead start slowly with easily digestible food), but one thing that I stuck to was to eat my first couple of meals slowly and to make a point of chewing food very well. As somebody who normally wolfs their food it was an interesting experience and I enjoyed the increased attention I paid my meals.

The most interesting thing is obvious in hindsight. It's that the biggest challenge with regular fasting isn't that it gets difficult to endure the “hardship” but rather that it gets repetitive. Fasting is surprising easy, the struggle is with the discipline to do it regularly, because not eating is more boring then eating!

2014 by adam shand. sharing is an act of love, please share.