Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cure for My Insulin Resistance & Diabetes?

This past week has been one of high emotion for me because I may have found the root cause of my insulin resistance and diabetes!  I discovered that I have probably lived my entire life with undiagnosed Celiacs disease, which is an allergy to gluten.  Gluten is found in bread products, cereal, crackers, bagels, any wheat-based baked good, and even found in sauces, some canned goods and salad dressing.  This has nothing to do with carbs!  The culprit is wheat, rye and barley in all their various forms, and oats (although to a lesser degree).  This discovery was not made by my doctor; it was made by me because I became determined to find the root cause of my diabetes after my last doctor visit in April where I learned from my blood test results that my A1C barely improved after months of eating almost entirely a plant-based, vegan diet and even after losing 10 pounds!  My doctor was puzzled and had to sit a while before he attempted to explain why there might be no noticeable improvement.  His solution? Increase my meds or restart insulin.  I said no, asked for 3 more months and then went home and cried, feeling confused and frustrated.

How did I make this discovery?  The story is a round-about one.  My daughter broke out with a serious case of hives.  As a result of my online research to help her explore the possibility of a food allergy and treatment options, I came across a book called The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD.  Although this book sounds like it only refers to diabetes and blood sugar control, it actually is a guide to helping anyone with a chronic illness, from allergies, high blood pressure or high cholesterol to autoimmune disorders, such as diabetes, lupus or fibromyalgia. 

About the book: In the book, he challenges his readers to not just treat the symptoms of their condition, but to discover the root cause and correct it.  I read the book from cover-to-cover, took the questionnaire-style quizzes to discover any vitamin deficiencies or body imbalances I might have and discovered I scored quite high on the digestive system quiz, although I don't have any uncomfortable gastrointestinal problems.  As suggested, I began following the advanced diet plan outlined in the book.  This is a total elimination diet of no sugar, no gluten or grains of any kind, no dairy, no starchy vegetables or other starchy foods (like rice, corn, peas or potatoes) and even no fruit (except for 1/2 cup of berries per day) for a minimum of six weeks.  The point of this strict diet is meant to "reboot" my body chemistry.  I was intrigued and willing to give it a try.  To my amazement, within 3 days, my blood sugar readings fell dramatically into the normal range!  No matter when I take it, morning, noon, night, before or after meals -- my BG is perfectly normal!  When this dramatic and welcomed side effect occurred, I began to suspect a food allergy and was prompted to learn more.

My "Ahh-Ha!" Moment:  In my research about food sensitivities and especially celiacs disease, I came across the statement that untreated celiacs in young children can interfere with growth hormone.  Interesting!  I am an extremely short-statured person, but come from normal-sized parents and a family of normal-sized siblings.  (This is a curiosity that has baffled my doctors my entire life, but they either contributed it to my low birth weight or walked away scratching their heads.) This bit of information led me to recent studies in the Middle East and Italy that have found celiacs disease is the #1 cause of unexplained short-stature in children (even when no other symptoms are present), not a growth hormone deficiency!  For me, this was the last piece of my complicated puzzle and explained just about every chronic problem I have had from late onset of puberty, high blood pressure and reduced bone density at an early age to infertility problems and miscarriages...not to mention inflammation, early onset of arthritis and insulin resistance!  You might be saying, "I'm not short, so what does this have to do with me?"

About Celiacs disease:  Celiacs is an allergy to gluten that causes inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining.  This results in what is called "leaky gut syndrome."  When that happens, tiny digested food particles and waste products pass through the intestinal lining and into the blood stream.  These foreign particles are attacked by the body's immune system as toxic invaders, which in turn causes inflammation.  Chronic inflammation causes all kinds of problems, including insulin resistance (and everyone knows that insulin resistance is what starts the ball rolling downhill that can eventually lead to Type 2 diabetes). 

Celiacs is condition that often runs in families and can manifest itself at any time in a person's life.  You can be tall or short, skinny or overweight, young or old.  The most common symptoms are bloating (even mildly), gas after eating or the feeling that a war is going on in your gut.  These symptoms make it easy to detect but, unfortunately, most people with a sensitivity to gluten don't have gastrointestinal problems. Their symptoms are most often misdiagnosed as other illnesses or syndromes.  There are a myriad of symptoms that can be as a result of celiacs, but follow this link to read about the most common:

Why am I telling you this?  I felt compelled to share my discovery and experience, just in case you may never have thought of a food allergy being the cause of your condition before.  If you're at a loss to why your diabetes treatment isn't working, even with meds, diet and exercise, going gluten free (and possibly dairy free, as well) for a couple of weeks or months may be something to try.  Read the book The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD and learn about how our body systems are all connected and what happens when just one goes south!  It won't hurt and it might help, so what do you have to lose?  For me, only a few days on the elimination diet resulted in normal blood sugars!  My aches and pains have subsided and I have more energy.  I no longer have the spikes and crashes in my blood sugar that can be so uncomfortable and difficult to manage.  After one week, I lost 4 pounds (after being on a plateau for weeks) and, most importantly, nearly 4" melted away from around my waist.  The reduction of belly fat will definitely improve my insulin resistance.

Stay tuned!  My blog will be taking a turn from this day forward.  I'm in the kitchen reworking my favorite recipes right now to make them gluten free and even more healing for my body and yours.  I'm delighted to continue sharing my journey of discovery with you.  Blessings to all!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Beef & Vegetable Cottage Pie with Veggie Mash

I adore mashed potatoes!  Ever since I was a little girl, if you asked me to name my top ten favorite foods, mashed potatoes would be high on the list.  So, it's only natural that I would love Cottage Pie, a savory ground beef mixture topped with mashed potatoes.  Sadly, since my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, potatoes are rarely on the menu at my house.  In this wonderful recipe, the veggie mash that tops this healthy Cottage Pie can go solo as a side dish, too.  This recipe is an excellent make-ahead meal because it can be assembled and refrigerated the night before, then served the next day.  When I served this dish tonight, it got rave reviews from my family.  As my husband said, "This one is a keeper!"

Beef and Vegetable Cottage Pie with Veggie Mash
Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
8 oz. baby bella or button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 lb. lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
8 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 cloves garlic, chopped and divided
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup hot water
8 oz. yellow Yukon potatoes, large diced
8 oz. carrots, peeled and diced
8 oz. cauliflower florets
2 cups beef or chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil on medium heat and add the chopped onion.  Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped mushrooms and a little salt.  Continue to saute until the moisture is released from the mushrooms and evaporates.  Move the onion mixture to one side and add the beef to the pan.  Break onto small pieces and cook until no longer pink.  Mix together the ground beef and onion mixture, add the chopped spinach and continue cooking until most of the moisture is evaporated from the pan and beef is very well browned.  Add one clove of garlic to the pan and mix together.  Add the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and water to the pan and stir to deglaze the brown bits.  Continue cooking and stirring until liquid thickens into a gravy.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Place the potatoes, carrots and cauliflower into a large pot.  Add the broth and remaining garlic.  Add water until vegetables are covered.  Boil vegetables until soft and fork-tender, about 15 minutes.  Strain the cooked vegetables in a colander and allow them to sit and release steam for 5 minutes until all the excess liquid has evaporated.  Meanwhile, add the butter to the hot pot to melt.  Return the vegetables to the pot and mash well. (I suggest using a handheld mixer for a smoother mash.)  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3.  To assemble the cottage pie, first spread the beef mixture evenly into a 9" square baking pan that has been sprayed with canola oil spray.  Top beef mixture with the veggie mash and spread evenly to cover beef mixture completely. (If desired, you can refrigerate the assembled casserole for up to one day before cooking.)

4.  To cook, bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving: 294 calories, 30.4 g carbohydrates (7 g dietary fiber, 10.1 g sugars), 10.9 g total fat (5.3 g saturated fat, less than 0.1 g trans fat), 50 mg cholesterol, 817 mg sodium, 126.1 mg calcium, 1180 mg potassium, 18.4 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2013.

How does this recipe compare with traditional Cottage Pie?  This recipe is considerably less in calories, carbs and fat, plus it contains two servings of vegetables!  For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size serving of traditional Cottage Pie is an astonishing 546 calories, 36 g carbohydrate, 34.5 g total fat, 16.5 g sat. fat, 6 g fiber and 27 g protein.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Light & Easy Mini Cherry Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, but even if you substitute reduced fat cream cheese for the full fat in a recipe, the calorie and fat count can be staggering!  In this makeover recipe, I used one block of lower fat Neufchatel cream cheese and combined it with 1 cup of fat-free cottage cheese, which reduced the fat and calories from a traditional cheesecake recipe considerably.  Also, by using Splenda instead of white sugar, the carb count dropped by over 50%.  I am so pleased with the result.  Topped with "no sugar added" cherry pie filling, I can have my cheesecake and eat it, too!

Light & Easy Mini Cherry Cheesecake
Makes 10 servings

8 ounces Neufchatel cheese (or reduced fat cream cheese in a block, not whipped)
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
2/3 cup Splenda granular (or other sugar subtitute of your choice)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 eggs
10 chocolate wafer or Nilla wafer cookies (I used Nabisco Famous Chocolate wafers)
1-1/4 cups no sugar added cherry pie filling (I used Lucky Leaf brand)

1. Preheat the oven to 325-degrees F. Place a paper cupcake liner into 10 muffin cups of a baking tin.  Place one wafer cookie into each lined cup; set aside.

2. In a blender, blend together the first six ingredients (cream cheese through eggs) and blend until smooth.  Pour into prepared muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake for 22-24 minutes or until set. 

3. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack until room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight.  Top each with 2 tablespoons of the no sugar added pie filling & serve.  (You may substitute fresh fruit as topping, if desired.)

Nutritional Information per serving: 137 calories, 10.3 g carbohydrate (0.2 g dietary fiber, 4.8 g sugars), 7.2 g total fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 55 mg cholesterol, 236 mg sodium, 42.7 mg calcium, 41 mg potassium, 6.5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2013