Happy Gut Kitchen

Just in time for Valentine’s Day: Dark Chocolate Cherry Donuts

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to show major love to someone special! Yet for many people, this day means plenty of sweets and decadent dishes that can sabotage your weight and your gut health.

Let’s try something different this year. These tasty, healthy donuts eliminate highly processed additives like soy, dairy, and white sugar. These ingredients (found in most chocolate treats) can trigger gut inflammation, stall weight loss, and weaken your immune system.

Ditch the packaged options. Instead, nourish your gut and overall health with this Happy Gut recipe.

While I’m providing these donuts for Valentine’s Day, they can become staples any time of the year. Just make extras, because these will go fast!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Donuts

WF  DF  GF  SF VG

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1-½ cup almond flour

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

¼ cup raw cacao powder

¼ cup dried unsweetened cherries (free of preservatives)

2 tbs 100% Pascha dark chocolate chips

1 tbs coconut oil

1 egg

1 tbs pure vanilla extract

¼ cup grade A pure maple syrup

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp sea salt

Donut Pan

Step 1

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Step 2

In a medium-size bowl, mix together almond flour, cacao powder, baking soda, cherries and sea salt.

Step 3

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the remaining ingredients, except for the chocolate chips.

Step 4

Combine all ingredients, then add the chocolate chips.

Step 5

Grease donut pan with oil and pour batter to each mold.

Step 6

Bake for 7-10 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if the donuts are finished baking. Allow to cool before removing from the pan.

 

Do you have your own favorite gut-healing dessert recipe? I’d love to hear how you satisfy your gut and your sweet tooth below or on my fan page.

What You Need To Know About Candida + How To Heal It

Candida or yeast overgrowth seems to be one of the most misunderstood gut issues. It comes on sneakily, sometimes after a course of antibiotics, but often as a result of an unregulated diet rich in sweets and refined carbs. Once it establishes residence in your gut, it seems like it will never leave. I have seen cases of yeast overgrowth or Candida last for years.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been dealing with a host of symptoms that you think are due to candida or yeast overgrowth. I mention yeast overgrowth, because not every yeast problem in the gut is due to Candida. It is common, but it is not the only yeast that can make your gut its unwelcome home. However, let’s use candida as the general example for how to deal with this issue.

Candida can present with various symptoms that are significant enough to impact your day-to-day life. Check out this list of Candida symptoms that may be putting you into a state of distress:1  

  • Painful Cracks at the corners of your mouth
  • White Patches on the Tongue
  • Vaginal Itching
  • Nail Fungus
  • Brain Fog
  • Sugar Cravings
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Bloating or Gas
  • Poor Immunity
  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • “Fibromyalgia”

Harmless strains of yeast can be found in the intestinal tract, mouth and vagina. When it comes to the gut microbiome, diversity is the key as well as relative abundance. You want your good bacteria to outnumber and overpower any yeast growing in your gut. Your probiotic helpers keep yeast in check. When yeast has gotten out of hand, it’s because you’ve lost your resident helpers that kept the status quo.

The Candida Albicans strain of yeast is a particularly fastidious one. It can invade the lamina propria–the space between the gut lining and the interior of the body. It can protect itself by forming a biofilm, a gelatinous protein matrix that is used to share nutrients in a community of microorganisms, but also serves to protect it from antimicrobials. When Candida gets out of hand, it can lead to yeast infections in parts of the gastrointestinal tract beyond where it is normally found (like in the esophagus and mouth), or even within the body when an individual’s immune surveillance system is compromised.

Candida is one possible cause of leaky gut. A leaky gut happens when the intestinal wall becomes more permeable. Imagine holes getting wider in a cheese cloth, thus allowing the passage of bigger molecules, including incompletely digested food proteins your body creates an immune reaction to and results in a food sensitivities.

In many cases, candida is not looked at as a major issue, because you continue to act and function in your daily life, albeit not at your optimal capacity. However, this overgrowth can significantly impact how you feel. You live in a fog, not even fully aware of the impact it is having on your life.

Candida is no joke! It will wear you down, as you follow one internet trail after another trying this supplement and that recommendation. What I have found in my practice is that people with candida don’t understand how long it really takes to heal the body of candida, so they tend to give up too early.

This is a marathon. Are you tired of having a foggy brain? Annoyed that red, itchy rash keeps coming back? Want to curb your uncontrollable sugar and carbohydrate cravings? Do you want to have a clear head again? Well, then, first of all, don’t give up, and secondly, read on… I can help you free yourself of these imbalances!

First, let’s take a look at what may be causing this overgrowth. Once we understand that, we can make lifestyle changes or intervene with other methods to heal your body of this fungal overgrowth.

What Causes Candida? Take a look at the contributing factors in the list below.2  

  • Prescription Drug Use– Prescription drugs can alter the balance of healthy microbes. Beneficial bacteria serve as a counterbalance, keeping harmful strains from growing. Medications, like birth control pills, antibiotics and corticosteroids alter the gut environment, contributing to microbial imbalances (like dysbiosis) or creating a favorable milieu for Candida to grow in. These can result in an overgrowth of candida.
  • Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) – Studies show that individuals with Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis (IBD) have high colonization levels of candida. It may be that fungal overgrowth is at the root of these chronic, inflammatory diseases of the bowel.3  
  • Compromised Immune System– Individuals with a compromised immune system are at greater risk of fungal overgrowth.4
  • High Carbohydrate Diet– A diet high in refined carbohydrates will create a sugar-rich environment in the body that favors colonization with candida albicans.5 Candida will then alter your brain chemistry to want more sugar. For instance, you eat too much sugar, over time your develop candida overgrowth, then the candida makes you crave more sugar/refined carbs and you eat more of them! All forms of sugar (grains, processed snack foods and even high amounts of fruit) will act as fuel for the yeast and feed it. This creates a vicious cycle that allows Candida to thrive and overgrow!

Happy Gut Candida Diet Changes

Now that we understand what contributes to yeast overgrowth, I am going to give you the tools to heal candida and get rid of it for good!

Candida Diet– This is basically a very low sugar/ low refined starch diet. Better explained, this diet is free of processed sugar, low in natural sugars and overall carbohydrates (grains, starchy vegetables, legumes and fruit). Be sure to leave out any foods that contain yeast. This means reading labels closely! Often, gluten-free products and other “healthy” baked goods contain yeast. Beware that gluten-free packaged foods are often made out of refined gluten-free flours, which will also fuel yeast overgrowth. This also means eliminating alcohol, like wine and beer, for the time-being. Stick with grass fed, free-range, or wild-caught proteins, greens, low-starch vegetables, and healthy fats (like coconut oil, which has anti-yeast properties).

Happy Gut AlternativesEating a low sugar diet doesn’t have to mean your diet has just gone to hell. At first, it may feel like your options have been severely limited. However, there are so many delicious recipes, low in sugar and free of added ingredients to satiate you at every meal. Be sure to check out my Happy Gut recipes here. We even have tasty desserts if you want a healthy treat! But, not too much, especially when you’re in the first phase of the strict Candida Diet. Be sure to add plenty of non-starchy vegetables, protein and healthy fats to your meals. This will leave you feeling satisfied to reduce your cravings for carbs and sugar! And resist snacking between meals. Satiate your hunger with wholesome meals, and avoid the temptation of snacking that often leads you down the pat of refined carbs.

Quality CountsIt is also important to watch the quality of the food you eat. Many toxins, antibiotics and other processed ingredients sneak their way onto your dinner table, surreptitiously disrupting the delicate balance of your microbiome. For example, antibiotics are added to the water in feedlot chickens to keep them “healthy” and plump them up. Gross! Be sure to eliminate all Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) from your diet as well. Watch out for soy and corn, since most of it is genetically modified in the U.S. Look for organic, wild-caught and grass-fed protein options. In terms of fruit and vegetables, stick to organic or check out which ones to absolutely avoid buying non-organic with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List.

Additional Supplementation

When healing candida, you will want to consider a few other things. If you’ve had Candida for a while, it’s not going to heal alone without additional help. This includes proper supplementation, healing a leaky gut and even working with a functional medicine practitioner, because sometimes you may require more powerful antifungal prescriptions to defeat candida. If you’ve been fighting this fight on your own and not succeeding, it’s time to seek professional guidance.

Below are a few natural remedies for healing candida! These also support immunity, which is important when treating and preventing yeast overgrowth.2,6,7

Natural Remedies

  • Caprylic Acid: A fatty acid found in coconut that contains antifungal properties. It can be eaten in coconut oil, but also is found in many anti-candida supplements.
  • Pau D’Arco Tea: Contains antimicrobial properties to protect against bacteria, yeast and fungi.
  • Probiotics: Restore the gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria strains containing S. Boulardii, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Aim for a probiotic with at least 100 Billion CFU once or twice daily. If your symptoms are pretty strong, then you will likely need a stronger probiotic. I use a 225 Billion CFU probiotic nutraceutical with my patients in these cases. Saccharomyces boulardii is a special consideration, because it is a friendly yeast that helps restore normal gut permeability and prevents candida from binding to the gut lining.
  • Prebiotics: Probiotics help re-establish balance in the GI tract, but they at best only create a transient residence. In order to promote the growth of the good guys, you need prebiotics nutrients. A lot of these are found in the foods you eat, but they can also be taken as a supplement containing resistant starches, such as arabinogalactan, FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides), and inulin.
  • Oregano oil: One of my favorite plant-derived oils for combating yeast overgrowth. It can be ingested directly or taken in a capsule. The oil is very powerful, so normally only 2 – 3 drops per dose twice a day is all that’s needed.
  • Vitamin D: Keeps the immune system strong and reduces inflammation.
  • Omega-3’s: Help to reduce inflammation in the body.

Foods That Heal Candida

  • Cultured Drinks: The king of these is homemade kefir. You can make it with organic, grass fed cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or even coconut milk. The probiotic counts in this culture drink can number in the trillion CFU’s, so kefir packs a strong candida-defeating punch.
  • Fermented Veggies: The most well-known is sauerkraut, made from fermented cabbage, but you can pretty much ferment any vegetable. Be creative, and add flavors to your ferments, like turmeric, for an anti-inflammatory complement. Check out Kraut Source® for an easy fermentation kit.

There are many natural ways you can heal from candida to create a Happy Gut. Aside from this blog post, I’d love to help you get started on the road to recovery with my Quick Start to a Happy Gut. This is a complimentary guide to help you improve your overall gut health!

Citations:

1. Candidiasis. Candidiasis. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/candidiasis  

2. Candidiasis. Candidiasis | University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/candidiasis

3. Kumamoto CA.Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization.Curr Opin Microbiol. 2011 Aug; 14(4): 386–391.

4. Whibley N,  Gaffen SL. Beyond Candida albicans: Mechanisms of immunity to non-albicans Candida species. Cytokine. 2015 Nov; 76(1): 42–52.

5. Santana IL, Gonçalves LM, Vasconcellos AAd, da Silva WJ, Cury JA, et al. (2013) Dietary Carbohydrates Modulate Candida albicans Biofilm Development on the Denture Surface. PLOS ONE 8(5): e64645.

6. Omura Y, O’Young B, Jones M, Pallos A, Duvvi H, Shimotsuura Y. Caprylic acid in the effective treatment of intractable medical problems of frequent urination, incontinence, chronic upper respiratory infection, root canalled tooth infection, ALS, etc., caused by asbestos & mixed infections of Candida albicans, Helicobacter pylori & cytomegalovirus with or without other microorganisms & mercury. Acupunct Electrother Res. 2011;36(1-2):19-64.

7. Pau D’ Arco. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/pharmacy/currentstudents/OnCampusPharmDStudents/ExperientialProgram/Documents/nutr_monographs/Monograph-pau_darco.pdf

Fall Foods – Seasonal Eating For Your Microbiome

As autumn rolls around and the leaves start to change, it’s time to take advantage of those last trips to the farmer’s market and stock up on late summer vegetables that bring with them a lot of color and add diversity to your seasonal diet. If you’ve ever heard me speak in an interview, you’ve heard me talk about the importance of a varied plant-rich diet for supporting a diverse, health-promoting gut microbiome.

Have you considered the influence of seasonal eating patterns on your own health? What happens if you widen your palette of vegetable choices? In fact, seasonal eating contributes to gut microbial diversity by introducing new foods that are in season, while transitioning off foods that are past their season.

When Tania came to see me, she was exhausted. It was fall, and she was distressed about her ever-expanding waistline. “I don’t get it!” she sighed, “I do everything right: I eat vegetables, eat lots of fruit, protein, healthy fats, and I don’t add sugar to anything. Rarely will I even touch dessert.” Yet, she kept packing on the pounds.

Turns out she was still adding a lot of fructose-rich fruit to her diet, way past the summer season. While she didn’t realize how much of a sugar-load that was, it was also breeding yeast overgrowth in her gut. She was bloated, moody and unhappy.

As food has become ubiquitously available world-wide year-round way past its seasons, the lines are blurred as to when it is appropriate to eat foods that are not locally sources and in-season. It has allowed a monotony to a diet, that ages ago would have been broken by the lack of transportation or refrigeration to keep foods fresh that were not in-season or local. In essence, it permits you to fall into patterns of eating that reduce the range and diversity of the foods you choose.  

If you’ve been following me, you know that you are in primary control of your health and the health of your microbiome through the foods you eat. In short, when you think of it this way, who are you really eating for?  Yourself?  Or your microbiome?  

Did you know that a balanced microbiome is protective against chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease (IBD), obesity, type 2 diabetes and even cancer? Yes, that’s right! Specific foods can greatly affect an individual’s overall health in terms of immune and metabolic function.1 That’s a mouth full! In other words, you feed your microbiome, and in turn it regulates all sorts of body functions, from your immune system to how you metabolize sugar.

By introducing seasonality to the way you eat, you help promote and maintain diversity within your gut flora. Ultimately, that is the goal! And that is where we started with Tania, by first cutting out all the summer fruit in her diet.   

Seasonal Foods

As foods are the freshest and lowest in carbon footprint when they come from your local farm-stand to your doorstep, eating seasonally results in more nutritious foods, less toxic load on our environment and better flavor. It should really be a no-brainer to eat seasonally as best you can!

Fall can be a beautiful time of year and a great time to incorporate diversity-promoting root vegetables, pumpkins, and squashes into your diet. In fact, this is a great time to enjoy various foods that will directly improve the health of your gut.

Allow me to explain the wonderful ways you can eat seasonally to feed your microbiome.

The Facts

Studies show that diet plays a major role in altering the gut microbiome. To some, this may not be a surprise. However, what is alarming is that within as little as 24 hours your microbiome can shift greatly, based only on what you eat. However, as scary as it may seem that a weekend of indulgence in pizza, wings, beer and dessert could drastically shift your gut flora into some frightening “halloween” creatures, there is comfort in knowing this, because in the reverse we can manipulate your diet to induce favorable changes in your microbiome.1    

In a systematic review, researchers showed that certain foods determine the predominant bacterial species within the gut. When shifts are favorable, it allows for greater growth of beneficial flora. However, when individuals eat a highly processed diet in added sugar and fat, a negative shift in gut bacteria has been found. This leads to unfavorable changes in the microbiome, which can manifest as leaky gut, autoimmunity and other disease states.1  

Eating For Your Gut

Fortunately, as mentioned above, positive changes can be made by eating the right, seasonal foods. Many seasonal, fall foods are rich in non-digestible carbohydrates or fibers called resistant starches, which act as prebiotic nutrients for the gut microbiome. Prebiotic foods are not digested in the small intestine; instead, passing through intact to the large intestine (or colon) where they undergo digestion and fermentation by the microflora.

Be sure to remember these foods are rich in fiber — the reason they are so important for gut health! Common resistant starch foods include sunchokes, garlic, leeks and onions.1,2,3

Resistant starches are absorbed in the large intestines at a much different rate than traditional carbs. Due to this, they show positive changes in metabolism. Resistant starches are associated with a decrease in blood sugar levels and insulin responses after meals due to the difference in type of carbohydrates, as compared to other commonly eaten carb-rich foods (like bread, white rice, and pasta). This is beneficial in reducing risk of chronic diseases, along with improving the metabolism of an individual.2

Resistant starches are fermented in the gut, with the result being short chain fatty acids (SCFA) like butyrate, propionate, and acetate. SCFAs (specifically butyrate) have anti-inflammatory effects on the gut and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes, IBD and cardiovascular disease.3

Polyphenols

Among the many reasons fall eating is so satisfying to our senses is because of the warming spices used. Spices like star anise and cinnamon along with many other fall picks contain polyphenols. These phytochemicals are popular in the natural health world for their abundance in antioxidants. Studies also show that polyphenols promote favorable changes in beneficial probiotic bacteria within the microbiome, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.1

Change Your Diet Today!

We know that eating foods that feed favorable bacterial strains is imperative for total wellness. Start making changes today as we enter autumn, and enjoy the beautiful and delicious foods we have this season.

Seasonal Food List4

Check out a list of seasonal foods below. These foods are rich in phytonutrients and fiber, along with a pick of delicious resistant-starch options.

Acorn Squash

Artichokes

Arugula

Beets

Broccoli

Brussel Sprouts

Butternut Squash

Celeriac

Delicata Squash

Escarole

Garlic

Leeks

Onions

Pumpkins

Radishes

Rutabega

Spaghetti Squash

Sweet Potatoes

Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes

Turnips

How to Eat These Foods

To get the most bang for your bite, you want to prepare or eat these foods differently. For instance, try your best to consume onions, leeks and garlic as raw (or close to raw) as tolerated. However, avoid raw onions if you have a sensitivity to sulfur-rich foods. Eaten raw, they may provoke a headache or migraine. A great recipe to follow is my Scallion Vinaigrette, which uses raw, crushed scallions to give the salad dressing a distinct flavor, while promoting the growth of your probiotic flora.

In general, other resistant starch foods like sunchokes, squashes and sweet potatoes are digested best when cooked, then cooled before eating.

We had Tania incorporate more of these foods into her diet, while cutting out fruit and increasing the ratio of healthy fats. With this approach, we were able to stop the vicious cycle of insulin resistance and abdominal fat gain. We successfully reversed it by supporting her body’s ability to burn fat for energy. Incorporating seasonal eating into Tania’s diet plan helped improve her nutrient quality and resulted in the weight loss she was ultimately looking for.   

Creating A Happy Gut This Season

It is so important that you address your gut health from all aspects, including seasonal eating to promote a happy gut. If you’re looking to enhance your gut health, be sure to check out my Quick Start to a Happy Gut, your complimentary guide to total wellness through a healthy gut!

Happy Gut Recipes

Be sure try out the recipes at the Happy Gut Kitchen and stay tuned for upcoming new recipes we’ll be featuring this fall!