For Your Reading Pleasure
For Your Reading Pleasure

1. Is your lipstick bad for your health?

2. A study finds that China faces a surge in cardiovascular disease. How the Western lifestyle is playing a role in this rise?

3. When allergies make you afraid of food.

4. Prepping for a colonoscopy: Tips for the FODMAPer.

5. Want to start a health revolution? Begin in your kitchen.

6. The top ten health documentaries of all time.

7. Follow us on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

Photo taken by Vishang Soni on Unsplash

Vegetarian Lasagna: Low FODMAP & Gluten-Free
Vegetarian Lasagna: Low FODMAP & Gluten-Free

About a month ago I was checking out Twitter and I saw this amazing low FODMAP and gluten free lasagna created by not from a packet mix. It looked so good that it inspired me to make lasagna last weekend when we had some friends over for dinner. However, since the recipe from not from a packet mix was meat based and I cook vegetarian, I came up with a vegetarian lasagna that was really yummy. Below is the recipe and as in the case of most of my recipes, you can add, omit, or adjust amounts of the vegetables, herbs, and spices to fit your taste buds.

Serving size: 12 squares

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp of garlic infused oil
  • ½ – tbsp. of butter
  • green portion of 3 scallions
  • ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes (more or less based on how hot you like it)
  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 medium yellow squash
  • 3 small to medium carrots
  • 2 – 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of dried basil
  • 2 tbsp of fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp of fresh basil
  • 1 box of gluten-free lasagna noodles
  • 16 oz ball of fresh mozzarella
  • 8 oz of shredded mozzarella

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Add oil and butter to a saucepan on medium to high heat until butter is melted.
  • Add red pepper flakes and green portion of scallions until scallions are softened, about a minute or two.
  • Add vegetables, salt, pepper, and dried herbs and let cook for 5-10 minutes until softened, making sure to mix every so often.
  • Add in crushed tomatoes and bring sauce to a strong simmer and then lower to a slow simmer for about 30 minutes, making sure to mix every so often.
  • Before removing the sauce from the stove, add the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  • While the sauce is cooking, cook the lasagna noodles per the instructions of the box. Once cooked, rinse the noodles so they stop cooking.
  • Slice the fresh mozzarella ball into ¼ inch slices and shred mozzarella if the cheese you bought was not already shredded.

ASSEMBLE LASAGNA:

  • In a 3 quart pyrex dish, add a thin layer of sauce.
  • Add a layer of lasagna noodles.
  • Add a layer of sliced fresh mozzarella cheese.
  • Repeat two times for a total of three layers.
  • Add a layer of sauce.
  • Top with shredded mozzarella. I ended up using the whole 8 oz bag but this can be adjusted based on preference.
  • Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  • When done it should be bubbling and the cheese should be a little browned.
  • Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Notes:

  • An option is to assemble the lasagna a day ahead and cook it the following day. If you do this, you will need to cook the lasagna for about 50 minutes.
  • If you have extra lasagna noodles like I did, you can make lasagna rolls.
    • For this, I added a thin layer of sauce in a 8 inch baking dish. I then laid out the extra noodles and added sautéed eggplant. I then rolled up the lasagna noodles and added it to the dish. I topped it with a couple of spoons of sauce until it was all covered, sprinkled on cheese and cooked it at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

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7. Follow us on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

Related Symptoms of Digestive Disorders & Stomach Cancer
Related Symptoms of Digestive Disorders & Stomach Cancer

I do not know of many people, actually any, who like to go to the doctor. It is easier to go if you have a specific issue like a cold, but it is harder when you are having symptoms like fatigue, headaches, weight gain/loss, and abdominal pain that can be caused by so many things (for example, stress, working too hard and sleep deprivation). How many people today are not stressed, tired, and/or overworked? And if that’s not enough of a deterrent, add in having to discuss your gas, constipation, diarrhea, or other features of your bowel movements, and going to the doctor becomes even less appealing. Then when you finally get to the doctor, it can be difficult for your doctor to diagnose a digestive disorder. One, because in the case of many digestive issues, there is still a lot we do not understand; and two, many digestive disorders have the same symptoms. It took about six years from my initial complaint to my doctor about gas and bloating until I was diagnosed with fructose malabsorption. Year after year during my annual checkup, I mentioned my bloating, gas, and additional symptoms that were developing to no avail. It was not until after one painful night in the emergency room that doctors started diagnostic tests. At the end of months of testing, my doctor said the good news was that I did not have cancer, but the bad news was that I have fructose malabsorption. My two thoughts to hearing this news were, “What is fructose malabsorption?” and, “Wait, I could have had cancer?!”. Maybe that was naïve of me, especially because I am a biologist, but that thought never even entered my mind.

The fact that cancer was a possibility and that I had to wait six years to get tested made me realize the importance of advocating for one’s health. We need to work with our doctors and not solely rely on our doctors for our medical care. If I did not end up in the emergency room, how much longer would it have taken for me to be diagnosed?

One of the things I was tested for was the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. According to the Center of Disease Control, two-thirds of the world population has H. pylori, which lives in the lining of the stomach and can tolerate the stomach’s acidic environment. It can lead to an infection in the stomach and has been shown to cause ulcers. It also happens to be a carcinogen and one of the main causes of stomach cancer (gastric cancer). Although stomach cancer is not as prevalent in the United States as it used to be, 26,000 patients are currently diagnosed with stomach cancer and around 10,000 people die from it per year. However, worldwide it is ranked the fourth most common type of cancer with about one million people being diagnosed and 700,000 people dying from it per year. This is partly because it can be difficult to detect and diagnose until it is in a late stage. Early on, stomach cancer does not have specific symptoms. Further on, people might not think of going to the doctor right away and doctors might not test for it because symptoms include indigestion, heartburn, bloating after meals, slight nausea, and loss of appetite. Later on, more severe symptoms can develop, such as, dark red or black, tarry stools called melena, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal pain, and difficulty swallowing.

H. pylori is only one of the risk factors for developing stomach cancer. Other factors can be chronic gastritis or inflammation of the stomach, gastric polyps, pernicious anemia, previous stomach surgery, family history, obesity, heavy drinking, and smoking. People who consume diets high in red meat, cured meats, salty foods, and processed foods and or diets low in fruits and vegetables are also at greater risk. Additionally, African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic males over the age of 55 are more likely to develop stomach cancer. Geographically, stomach cancer is most common in Japan, China, Southern and Eastern Europe, and South and Central America.

The good news is that there are ways to limit your risks for stomach cancer. Defenses include staying physically active, reducing your consumption of alcohol cigarettes, and eating a well balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables and limits processed and salty foods and cured and red meats. Another strong defense is to be aware of your body and symptoms. If you feel bloated, tired, and have acid reflux with any regularity, don’t simply pop an antacid and ignore it; rather, go to the doctor and advocate for yourself. There are easy breath tests to determine if one has H. pylori early on before stomach cancer has developed and antibiotics can eliminate the bacteria. If you have more severe symptoms, ask for an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a biopsy, X-rays, and/or CT scans, which can assay for cancer. The earlier doctors can diagnose cancer, the better the chances of fighting the cancer.

My goal is not to worry people into thinking that because they are bloated and have nausea that they may have stomach cancer. Most people who have H. pylori will not develop stomach cancer. However, my hope is that for those who have been ignoring their symptoms, they might instead call their doctor to set up an appointment and learn more about what their symptoms can be so they can be the happiest and healthiest they can be. I relied on my doctor’s advice for six years until I became frustrated enough to start asking for tests to be done. Those were six years of feeling sick and worried. I now know how to better take care of myself and although I still have bad days, a couple of bad days with mostly good days is much better place to be.

1. http://www.healthline.com/health/gastric-cancer#RiskFactors3
2. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-07-29/stomach-cancer-awareness-and-advances-needed
3. http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/stomach-cancer/symptoms-and-signs
4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stomach-cancer/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202328
5. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/stomach-gastric-cancer
6. http://www.cancer.gov/types/stomach/patient/stomach-treatment-pdq
7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952980/
8. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/h-pylori-fact-sheet

Photo taken by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

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7. Follow us on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

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1. Celiac’s evolution: The mind-boggling rise of non-gut symptoms.

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Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

Why Our Digestive Systems Digest Sourdough Bread
Why Our Digestive Systems Digest Sourdough Bread

In January, I went to a low FODMAP cooking class hosted by Foodicine Health and registered dietician, Kate Scarlata. In addition to learning helpful cooking tips and eating the wonderful food prepared by Chef Tim Maslow, Kate spoke about the low FODMAP diet and facilitated a Q & A session. During the session, Kate mentioned that sourdough bread made without added commercial yeast has been shown to be low FODMAP. This information was a life changer for me. If your choice of bread has been limited to the typical gluten-free bread from the grocery store then you probably understand how glorious it is to be able to have real sourdough bread. If you have not, then try one slice and you will probably get it very quickly. Sourdough bread has in general been found to be easier on the digestive system and people find that they do not get bloated after eating it. I know I haven’t. Additionally, there are research studies demonstrating that sourdough bread may be a good choice for people with irritable bowel syndrome, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and diabetes and that it can help improve gut healing in celiac patients. Also, sourdough bread is filled with vitamins and minerals and in my opinion, tastes great.

What makes sourdough the wonder bread for our digestive systems? Let’s start with what  sourdough is made of and a brief history. Sourdough culture is a mixture of flour and water, which uses the wild yeast and lactobacillus bacteria present in the flour and air to leaven the dough and produce a sour and tangy flavored bread. More flour and water is periodically added to maintain the culture until a portion of it is used to create the dough.

Although the first loaf of sourdough bread was found in Switzerland from about 3500 BC, sourdough bread most likely began in Egypt much earlier. Egyptians made flat bread and the theory for how sourdough bread began is that some dough may have been left out for too long and started bubbling and rising from the wild yeast present in the air or from the brewery, which usually shared space with the bakery. When that dough was baked, the baker discovered a light, puffy, and crusty bread. This method of baking later spread to Greece, Rome, other parts of Europe, and then to California, Alaska, and Western Canada during the 19th century gold rush. The Boudin family came from France and started the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco during this time. The bakery, which still exists today, uses the same sourdough starter that they used to feed miners in 1849. When traveling, prospectors and explorers would wear a pouch of starter culture around their necks to ensure they would always have something to eat. Eventually, with the discovery of commercial yeast and food manufacturing processes, such as the Chorleywood bread process in the 20th century, the slow rising technique used to make sourdough bread with wild yeast and time, sped up.

In a factory, bread can go from flour to finished bread in three hours. Instead of bread just being made from flour, water, and salt, this quick process requires the addition of more yeast and gluten, fat for softer crust, reducing agents for stretchy dough, soya flour for more volume and softness, emulsifiers for larger, softer, and less stale bread, and preservatives, enzymes, and processing aids to keep the bread on the shelf longer. This is drastically different from sourdough bread, which goes from starter culture to risen dough in 24 hours, and then it needs to be baked. The advantage of allowing a long fermentation process is that the sourdough bread is given time for the flavors to develop and vitamins to be made. It also makes bread that is easier on our digestive system. Below are some of the reasons why.

  • The bacteria and acidic pH level found in the sourdough culture can weaken the gliadin and glutenin proteins (which make up gluten) so it is easier to digest.
  • The yeast will consume the fructans (a polymer of fructose molecules) present, resulting in lower FODMAP levels.
  • Phytic acid is found in wheat and sequesters calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc and inhibits enzymes that help us digest by metabolizing the proteins and starch in our stomach. The yeast and bacteria are able to pre-digest the phytic acid, making the necessary minerals available for us to absorb and for the enzymes to be able to break down the proteins and starch so we can better digest the sourdough bread.
  • The bacteria forms lactic acid, which helps create the characteristic flavor of the bread and is known to reduce the rate that glucose enters the bloodstream. Sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index, preventing a spike in insulin release.
  • The bacteria make antioxidants, lunasin (a cancer prevention protein), and anti-allergenic compounds, helpful in autoimmune diseases.
  • The amino acid, asparagine is a precursor for the carcinogen acrylamide found in some bread crusts. Asparagine is reduced during the time it takes for the sourdough to rise.

Some of the studies including the ones involving celiac patients are still in the early stages but there is both research and anecdotal evidence that sourdough bread made the traditional way is generally better for our digestion. Also, whether we know for sure if the chemicals and preservatives we are adding to our foods is leading to an increase in food intolerances and/or chronic diseases, I would rather just eat real food.

1. http://www.sourdough.co.uk/the-history-of-sourdough-bread/
2. http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/sourdough.htm
3. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/23/sourdough-bread-gluten-intolerance-food-health-celiac-disease
4. http://blog.katescarlata.com/2015/11/10/lets-talk-about-sourdough-bread-fodmaps/
5. http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/low-fodmap.html#5
6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20975578
7. http://www.sourdough.co.uk/why-is-it-that-i-can-digest-sourdough-bread-and-not-commercial-bread/
8. http://www.breadmatters.com/index.phproute=information/information&information_id=34
9. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/12/rise-sourdough-bread-slow-fermented-health-benefits

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash