Say Hello to My Little Friend – Probiotics and Gut Health

Probiotics. A popular word for sure right now. Looking around in the grocery store it seems like the healthy bacteria are being added to everything from yogurt to cottage cheese to coffee. (Kidding about that last one. Although given how much I love coffee, I’m not opposed to the idea.)

Probiotics by definition

Probiotic: A microbe that protects its host and prevents disease. (Per

Probiotics are found naturally in the gut (stomach/intestines.) With antibiotic use, and sometimes with dysfunction of the gut (such as celiac disease) the balance of this “good bacteria” can be disrupted, and cause intestinal distress such as diarrhea. These little suckers can be a bit fragile, and not all of them can be ingested orally (eaten/swallowed) and survive into the digestive tract.

There are many different strains of probiotics. If you think about antibiotics-there are lots of different prescriptions that we have seen or heard of over the years, right? Similarly, there are a number of different probiotics. Thousands, in fact.

However-there are only a handful of these thousand that have been researched upon and shown to be effective. Within the handful of effective ones, they may only be effective for certain conditions. So just ingesting a product with “probiotics” doesn’t necessarily give you any benefit. It depends on why you are taking them, and the strain of bacteria that is in the product. Unfortunately, the labeling for these products is often unclear.

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a common probiotic. According to

Lactobacillus acidophilus is generally considered to be beneficial because it produces vitamin K, lactase, and anti-microbial substances such as acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin. Multiple human trials report benefits of L. acidophilus for bacterial vaginosis. Other medicinal uses of L. acidophilus are not sufficiently studied to form clear conclusions. .”

It’s normally found in yogurt, and the lactose reduced milk. (Lactaid brand ’round these parts.) A strain of Lactobacillus is also found in the supplement Cuturelle.

Another probiotic group known as Bifidobacteria (one of these strains is the one in the Activia yogurt-long live Jamie Curtis and her healthy bowels.) One of the methods of action is to slow the transit time of material through the intestines-again, reducing diarrhea.

The strain in Activia was produced specifically by Dannon and is known as Bifidus Regularis. As an aside, Dannon settled a class action lawsuit late in 2009 and has since altered the label claims.

Another strain of Bifidobacterium is bifidus infantis. This is the probiotic found in the product Align. Align is gluten free.

The Bifidobacterium probiotic strain appears to have real promise for those with intestinal disorders, including celiac disease and IBS.

  • Bifidobacterium appears to reduce the permeability of the intestinal walls in response to gliadin. This is especially of interest to those of us with celiac disease as the probiotic can help reduce gliadin’s (protein in gluten) damage to the intestines.
  • Recommendations were made at the Yale University Workshop in 2008 by a panel of 12 regarding the use of probiotics. Unfortunately, this paper is not available for free access (like so many I want to see,) but a summary from the NY Times stated “a panel of 12 experts concluded that there was strong evidence that several probiotic strains could reduce diarrhea, including that associated with antibiotic use. Several studies have also suggested that certain probiotics may be useful for irritable bowel syndrome, with the strongest recommendation for Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, the probiotic in the Procter & Gamble supplement Align. (Two members of the panel had ties to Procter & Gamble; three others had ties to other companies that sell probiotics.)” Important to note that there is financial benefit there. That doesn’t mean their opinion should be discounted, it’s just something to be aware of.

Of course, if you have any questions, please contact your physician before starting probiotic use. They are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA, but individuals with immunodeficiency or active bowel infection are not recommended to use probiotics.

Align was kind enough to send me samples to try, and a month’s supply for one lucky reader! I used Align for a month, and can say I did not notice a difference. However, I am not a fair subject as I was already taking another brand of probiotic. Align also offers a money back guarantee if you are dissatisfied after trying it. That’s pretty impressive.

Align can be found pretty much anywhere-I saw it at Target and Publix.

If you’d like to win a free month supply of Align, leave a comment below and tell me what your biggest obstacle is to eating healthfully (if you have one), and/or your experience with probiotics. Winner will be randomly selected.

You can get another chance in the virtual hat if you re-tweet this post for my Twitter buddies.

For my free nutrition guideline, click here, or if you missed Gluten Free and Fit 101 check it out here.

Good luck!

Looking at the Big Picture – Easy, Healthy Gluten Free Eating

I read too much.  I study this stuff too much, I listen to every bit of information I can find on celiac disease, gluten intolerance, nutrition, exercise, and all of it.

Sometimes I think my head may explode.  One thing I am unflinching on is my right and ability to change my mind.  I have ideas and positions on things, but if I learn something that makes me change my mind, I willI reserve my right to flip-flop should the evidence point me in that direction.  I reserve the right to be wrong, and to change my position.

There are always new ideas being explored, new bits of information being discovered, and with each one of those things there are individuals to put their own spin on them.

Let the confusion commence.

My friend Kim at Gluten Free is Life posted up about her distress on hearing news outlets reporting that calcium supplementation caused heart attack.

Isn’t it confusing enough without the news outlets adding to and feeding on the confusion?

For every hypothesis or idea that is put forth, there is almost certainly a bit of research somewhere that can support it.  Almost as certainly, there is also a bit of research that will refute it.

It’s all about the spin.

I’m not implying a huge conspiracy theory, but I am saying that data can be twisted and skewed to support almost anything.  It doesn’t always happen, but it can.  Simply keep your eyes open and take everything with a grain of salt.

One of the confusing issues I’ve been learning more about lately is lectins.  More specifically, the role of lectins in autoimmune disorders, specifically celiac disease. There is some evidence that it could be beneficial for those with autoimmune disorders to avoid all lectins.  Lectins may be implicated in dysfunction with the hormones that make us feel full.  There are some who feel very strongly that the evidence points in this direction, and there are others who think it’s a load of hooey.

So I continue to learn in an attempt to make an informed decision.

This particular branch of my own personal nutritional education came from some of the research I was doing when I posted the original “Paleo Diet for Celiac Disease” post.  Lectins are in many carbohydrate sources, both gluten and non gluten containing.  They generally found in tubers, grains, and legumes.  The argument is that lectins can cause or exacerbate autoimmune disorders (and possibly contribute to leptin resistance, which deals with weight regulation.)  This paper was fairly neutral on the subject, but did raise the idea that lectins could affect the intestinal flora (gut bacteria,) which as we’ve learned recently could have a significant impact on celiac disease and gluten intolerance, along with other gut disorders.

It’s really interesting stuff, and as far as I’m concerned it needs more study.   Am I going to give up my rice?  Not yet, although I am reserving my right to flip flop.

I was in the car, listening to a podcast (because satellite radio was only free for 6 months, and I’m pleased as punch to have a jack I can plug my Ipod into) with Matt Stone of 180 Degree Health.  I dig Matt’s perspective, because he is always learning and questioning things.  He said one thing that really hit home with me, to the point where I pulled out my Post It pad from my purse (I’m a nerd, what can I tell you) and jotted it down.  The discussion was about the Paleo way of eating, and the thing that Matt said that struck me so strongly was this:  (paraphrasing, I didn’t pull over so I only wrote the highlights)

-They’re focusing on the wrong bad guy.  Instead of worrying so much about Neolithic foods, we should be more concerned about the food that has come about in the 20th century.

Well hell yes.

Now that makes sense.

It’s less about the corn, and more about the Corn Pops.

I’m all for maximizing our nutrition, for making it healthy and tasty and awesome.  But maybe it’s just baby steps we need to take for now.  It’s not Paleo, or Atkins, or South Beach, or calling Jenny today.

Just eat real food.

Start there.  Eat real food.  Food that will rot if it’s left too long, that doesn’t necessarily come in a package.

This is what I’ve said all along, but sometimes it’s easy to start getting caught up in the minutiae of lectins.

It’s easy to start looking at the differences in eating methods and approaches to food, but it’s much more effective to look at the similarities, and incorporate those into your life.

There will always be differences, but focus on the commonalities.

The biggest one-eat real food.  Eat naturally gluten free real food.  Meats, fish, poultry, veggies, fruits, dairy (if you can tolerate it, another can of worms for another day,) nuts/seeds, oils, nut butters, rice, potato, etc.  There is a BOUNTY of naturally gluten free foods.  Here’s my top 5 favorite gluten free carbohydrates sources too.  (Again, yes, quinoa has saponins, which are anti-nutrients, and again-another day.)

For some inspiration, you can check out the 30 Days to a Food Revolution over at the Whole Gang

Or Carrie’s 30 Days of Easy Gluten Free Dinners

And you can always check out Gluten Free and Fit 101.  Which I think I need to add to again at this point.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! What’s the easiest way for you to live gluten free and well?

Easy Protein Source: Cottage Cheese

Growing up, I never enjoyed cottage cheese, and that’s the kind way of putting it. I didn’t understand how anyone could take pleasure in a white, chunky, oddly salty, mystery clump kind of thing.

Despite years of cottage cheese abstinence, however, I finally decided to give it a chance after hearing about its muscle-friendly nutrient content. Besides, every able bodybuilder was eating it.

You couldn’t be cool unless you tried it. You know the deal. So now, here I am, advocating cottage cheese on site. Who could’ve guessed?
Why You Should Eat it

Cottage cheese is an ideal nighttime or between-meals protein source because it is rich in casein. Unlike whey protein, casein sits in the stomach for a much longer period of time (some report up to 7, even 8 hours at night), consequently making for significantly slower digestion and a steady release of amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which, in turn, are the building blocks for muscle mass. In addition, calcium, the primary basis for dairy’s significant fat-burning potential, is also found in reasonable amounts. Although you can definitely purchase casein protein powder as an alternative, cottage cheese is an excellent whole-food source to add to your diet.

cottage cheese

When You Should Eat it

As briefly mentioned, cottage cheese is a great choice of food before going to bed. It facilitates an environment where precious muscle and additional muscle growth is not hindered at night, this usually due to a lack of protein and other necessary nutrients. You may have heard that sleep is one of the most overlooked precursors to packing on muscle mass; take advantage of this time with cottage cheese. You can also eat cottage as a snack between meals for the same reason. Don’t stop flooding those needy muscles with amino acids.

How You Should Eat it

There’s no “correct” way to eat cottage cheese as long as you’re eating it, but if you’re like me and can’t stand it alone, here are some simple ways to enjoy this muscle fuel:

1) Take a tablespoon of all-natural protein and mix it in. This not only adds additional protein, but healthy unsaturated fats to promote more fat loss as well.

2) Sprinkle cottage cheese with pepper. I always viewed this as the most disgusting way to eat cottage cheese, until I tried it! It’s now one of my favorite ways to cottage cheese.

3) Cut up fruit to dip or mix fruit in. If you’re going to eat cottage cheese with fruit, I recommend eating it sometime in the morning to make sure that the dextrose (sugar) in the fruits is expended for energy. My personal favorites are blueberries or peach slices.

eat cottage cheese

Concluding Remarks

If you’re looking for more whole foods to aid in your quest of putting on strength and muscle mass, cottage cheese is for you. If you’re trying to lose weight or get leaner by way of a high-protein diet, cottage cheese is also for you. If you just want another healthy snack, guess what, cottage cheese is for you too. One thing to note is that cottage cheese is usually high in sodium. If you’ve got the extra cash, go for an organic, low-sodium tub for more healthy fats and less sodium!

How to Get Your Husband to Eat More Veggies (also, the story of the Blendtec)

I have waxed philosophic about how awesome my husband is on multiple occasions.

He is truly an incredible individual and the perfect partner for me.  Now, neither of us are perfect, but we are perfect partners.

Having said that, he does not eat nearly enough vegetables.  Recently, a colleague of his was telling him that he started juicing.  He offered Jeff a glass of juice, which he actually drank.  When I heard about this, I jumped on it.

“You mean you’ll actually drink that?!?!”  Never in a million years had I thought he would consider drinking a green smoothie or juice.  Bingo, I thought.  I can fit a whole day’s worth of veggies in a smoothie.  Plus, I’d been itching for an excuse to buy a Blendtec for a year.

I had been looking over the high powered blenders, the Vitamixes, the Blendtec, OmniBlend etc, and had decided a while back that I wanted a Blendtec.  (Lexie’s Kitchen has posted a great overview and comparison, if you need a place to start.)  The online shopping fest began, and I was actually very fortunate to find a new one for a very reasonable price on ebay.

We’re doing a green smoothie every weekday now.  Sometimes on weekends, but not nearly as consistently.  I’ve also used the Blendtec to make cookie, muffin, and quick bread batters, protein shakes, all kinds of stuff.  It really is versatile and super easy to clean.  I’m happy with the purchase for sure.  More happy, though, that I am finally able to get the nutrition from veggies into my husband on a regular basis.  I like him and I’d like to keep him around for a while.

Can you see all the nutrients in there?

I could have tried to make the smoothie look all nice, in a glass, with a garnish or something but let’s be honest.  You’re not here for the food photography.  This is how we roll in the GFF household.  BlenderBottle for the win. Those things are genius.

This is not a revolutionary green smoothie recipe, it’s pretty basic.  However, it packs in a lot of nutrition, a lot of greens, and it’s tasty. It’s a winner in our house.  I’ve pinned a bunch of green smoothie recipes on my cleverly named “Green Smoothie/Juice stuff” board on Pinterest, so feel free to take a look and see what tickles your fancy.  There are a ton of great ideas out there.

The players:
  • 8 oz cold filtered water
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach (maybe 3)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • one apple, cored
  • half a medium cucumber
  • 2 medium carrots (peels on)
  • if needed, 3-5 drops of Now Foods Liquid Stevia
  • ice
The game:
  • Chop your apple and veg into big chunks.  Add to blender.  Blend. Serve (this is 2 servings for us-one for each of us).  Drink.  Feel virtuous and healthy.  Be happy that there’s several servings of veggies in that one glass (or shaker bottle.)
All in all, I’m really happy with the Blendtec.  It fits well under my cabinets on the countertop, is super easy to clean, is no louder than my cheap blender was, and gets my husband to ingest vegetable matter.  Truly a win.

Health & Wellness

I have always been a strong advocate of health and wellbeing but I believe that it is
fundamentally wrong to bash people over the head because they’re slightly over-weight
or even obese. Like many people I have watched a fair number of these so-called health
experts on TV – the most notorious in the UK being Gillian McKeith.
McKeith believed that giving herself the title of “Dr”, despite never having attended
medical school in her life, gave her qualification enough to dispense advice to people

with weight issues.

I am writing this to give some helpful advice and words of encouragement – whether you
take it or not is completely up to you. One method may not work for everyone.

1. If you are looking to lose weight the worst thing you could do is diet – it is my
belief that this does not work. You simply need to alter the way in which you eat
and the portions you give yourself. Healthy eating is the key to losing weight – I have
found that having a high fibre cereal for breakfast, a balance of carbs and protein at
lunch time, and a high protein but low carb meal for dinner is the best way forward.

e.g. Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Pasta Salad
Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry (no rice)
Snack: Bannana / Carrot sticks.fruits

Using this method of healthy eating is ideal by itself but if you want to effectively lose
weight then I recommend an exercise plan alongside it.

2. Without exercise it is very difficult to lose weight. Ladies take note – I am not saying
this to be sexist but it is well known that many of you assume that you can lose weight
simply through following ridiculous, unfeasible diets.

There are many ways to exercise to aid weight-loss and this does not mean restricting yourself
to a gym schedule – again this does not work for everyone. I myself am not an advocate of gyms
as I prefer to exercise in the fresh air. Please see below for examples of excellent methods
to aid weightloss:

* Running (you might want to consider integrating this with your commute to work)
* Swimming
* Aqua Aerobics
* Exercise Classes (e.g. Step Aerobics, Boxercise, etc)
* Join a gym
* Cycling (you might want to consider integrating this with your commute to work)
* Walk to work
* Take up Golf
* Take up squash
* Join your company or your local football (soccer) team
* Look for a local club and take up a water-sport such as kayaking or canoeing (my personal sports)
Many clubs are very welcoming to beginners and it is a fun and exciting sport to get involved in.

Join a gym

I recommend attempting to do some form of exercise at least 3 times a week or more.

3. Self-belief and determination. These can be difficult attributes to achieve if you are not a naturally
confident person. However, help is always at hand. If you have a partner, friend or colleague looking to
lose weight why not join forces to help encourage each other? Alternatively you could consider a Personal
Trainer – these guys can prove expensive but they will push you to your limits and help encourage you to
fulfill whatever you’re attempting to do – whether losing weight, getting fitter or training for a marathon.

I know how daunting it can seem when trying to lose weight but with the right balance of all the elements mentioned above you can achieve your goals.

The Weight Watchers Points System

Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 by Brooklyn homemaker Jean Nidetch. Today, it operates in nearly 30 countries and is one of the most successful weight loss companies in the world.

Why is it so successful? There are many reasons but primarily it’s a plan which takes all the worry, fuss and obsessing out of dieting. People who use Weight Watchers can choose from a variety of foods and eat the things they like (in moderation of course).

It is practical for the busy person and works well in everyday life. It is not a fad diet in which you must refrain from certain types of foods, fast or do anything else that is extreme and unlikely to succeed.

When I started Weight Watchers in 2003, I was desperate to lose 15 pounds that had stuck around for about 4 years. I was in my early 40’s and finding that weight was almost impossible to remove no matter what I did.

I had tried every diet except Weight Watchers; in fact, I kind of avoided turning to Weight Watchers because I knew I had to possibly change my lifestyle of eating healthier, etc. I just didn’t want to let go of junk food, comfort food, and overindulgence.

Normally, these small transgressions of gluttony melted away with a week or two of exercise. Now I had to admit I was aging and youth was no longer on my side when dieting.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers Points System

However, what I discovered (even within the first week) was that I was overeating at a tremendous level. The first thing I learned by using Weight Watchers Points System was that I had to record in a food diary how much and how often I was eating.

I could no longer pretend that a few peppermints didn’t count. They did. After a week of recording my food intake I found that while I really didn’t think I was big eater, I was indeed. I would put 3 creamers and 2 sugar-free packets in my six cups of coffees a day.

My total number of points for the condiments were almost 6 and that was too many considering my daily allotment was only 20. Suddenly I started to look at the enemies lurking everywhere: the candy I consumed at work on co-worker’s desks, vending machines, a handful of chips when I felt my blood sugar dropping, etc.

My starting weight was 152 so according to the material provided by Weight Watchers, I was allowed 20 points a day with an additional 35 “flex” points a week. Flex points were for those days where I just needed more food, or a party was coming up and I wanted to “let go”.

I could use five points a day (for a total of 25) or I could use the 35 in one day. There was no set restriction on how or when I used those 35 points; the only limitation was that I could not surpass 35 in a week. Mentally, just knowing I had these extra points took some pressure off me as well.


In addition to the many helpful materials I was provided by joining Weight Watchers and the weekly support meetings, I was also provided with a neat little “slide rule” gadget that helped me calculate the number of points I could deduct from my daily intake by exercising.

By looking at intensity level, number of minutes of exercise and my body weight I was able to slide a card inside another outside card and line the numbers up. What resulted is how many points of value I could deduct from my daily intake of food.

For example, if I walked 3 miles in 45 minutes at a moderate intensity level, I could deduct 2 points from my daily points. Thus, if I ate 22 points worth of food, but exercised as just stated, my daily number of points was 20. This additional tool also removed the pressure of following a strict regimen and guidelines. It also makes the Weight Watchers Points System an even more practical method of losing weight.

losing weight.


I did not lose 15 pounds as I had set out to. After two months, I lost eight pounds and allowed a few events in my life to “rule out” following Weight Watchers, i.e., vacation, graduation for daughter, several big parties, etc.

The bottom line though was that the Weight Watchers Points Program worked and it was worth it! In being forced to look at my level of food intake and recording the intake, I became so much more aware of what I was actually putting into my body.

I learned through this program to find foods I could consume a lot of but not add too many points. I learned that I was eating when I wasn’t hungry and by saving points, I could still indulge from time to time.

Now it’s six years later and I have found that in the past few years when I need to lose weight, the first (and the only) diet program that comes to mind is Weight Watchers. That’s because it works.

The Best Natural Weight Loss Drinks

The best drinks you can use to lose weight are the natural ones. Some people are consuming energy drinks to be able to burn the extra body fat. Even if these can be effective they also can harm your health.

The great thing about the natural weight loss drinks is that we can find them anywhere and everybody can afford to buy them.

Some of the best natural weight loss drinks are: milk, ice cold water, green tea, vegetable juice and whey protein.

1. Add milk to your diet!

You shouldn’t exaggerate and drink bottles of milk daily but you must add milk to your diet. Milk is rich in calcium and this helps the organism get rid of the extra fat. Try to drink 3 or 4 cans of milk every day!

Add milk

2. Ice cold water

We all have in the house ice cold water and very few people know that by drinking it we can lose weight. All you have to do is drink 8 glasses of water every day. This way you will help your body burn 200 calories. The explanation for this is that the ice cold water will force the body to bring the water temperature lower. By doing this calories will be burned.

3. Drink Green Tea!

If you drink 3 cups of green tea every day you can burn the body fat during the day. You can prepare the drink yourself at home!

4. Drink Vegetable Juice before each meal!

To lose weight you should drink one glass of vegetable juice before each meal. This drink is very healthy for your body and it will also force you to eat less. The vegetable juice helps you get to satiety quicker.

Vegetable Juice

5. Reduce your appetite with whey protein!

If you drink whey protein you will lose weight in a very short time. The whey protein can reduce your appetite and there for you will be eating fewer calories.

When you want to lose weight you must think first of all at your health. Chose just the natural drinks and try to avoid any other products that might have a lot of side effects.