This week we have a timely and helpful guest post from one of my longtime readers, Angela Privin – who is also a digestive health coach:
The best thing I ever did for my digestive health was quit my sugar habit. It enabled me to rebalance my biome 16 years ago and to cure my irritable bowel syndrome.
Sugar addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome through social pressure. Sugar is a celebrated part of the Western diet and an essential part of gatherings.
Social and cultural influences aren’t the only reasons it’s hard to tame the Sugar Dragon. A diet high in sugar nourishes yeast and pathogenic bacteria in the intestines. These microbes need sugar to survive. If their primary food source is cut off, they excrete endotoxins as they die. This can be experienced as flu-like symptoms, increased sugar cravings, and moodiness / irritability.
To reduce bacterial or fungal overgrowth, moderate carbohydrate intake is key. Low carbohydrate intake can damage hormones, reduce energy, and starve beneficial bacteria. Too much sugar and carbohydrates can promote infection, promote inflammation, and destabilize blood sugar and mood. The “goldilocks” approach of moderation with sugar and carbohydrates is a smart and balanced approach.
Social pressures, cravings, and physical withdrawal are reasons why people with a “cold turkey” approach don’t skip sugar. But there is another way.
As a digestive health coach, I suggest weaning slowly off sugar, processed carbohydrates, and inflammatory foods / treats. The slow path is less shocking for the system and more sustainable in the long run.
You can have your cake and eat it too without feeling awful
While many people with digestive problems are prone to extremists, the all-or-nothing approach is too difficult, especially during the holidays or on special occasions when the treats are solemn and traditional.
Exercise your taste buds to like less sweet treats. Do this slowly by rebalancing your microbiome to reduce sugar cravings. First, remove inflammatory foods like gluten, all processed / junk foods, dairy products, and in some cases, grains. Then slowly increase the fiber in the diet. The slower you go, the easier it gets. They are not going to put your body in a retreat state.
Your biome is shaped by what you eat and also determines your cravings. If you feed them healthier foods, they will have healthier cravings. In my experience, regular treats started to taste overly sweet.
Feeling successful in taking small steps in reducing sugar builds the motivation and persistence that are key to achieving difficult goals. Healthy substitution is more important than discipline, so swap out your regular goodies for healthier ones so you don’t feel deprived and tempted.
What are healthy goodies? I’ve written a cookbook with more than 60 of them. In the following I explain my criteria.
What is a healthy indulgence?
Healthy treats avoid white sugar, wheat, and other intestinal irritating grains to help calm the intestines. Swap out grain-based flours for flours made from cassava, nuts, seeds, or coconut. I add bowel support ingredients like prebiotic fiber, secret vegetables, and colon soothing collagen to make my treats even healthier.
Making your own goodies will allow you to slowly reduce the sweetener each time. Go as fast or as slow as you like. Remember, slower is better. No pressure.
Standard recipes for treats call for 1 cup to ½ cup of sweetener. I suggest starting no more than ¼ cup.
The goal is to ultimately reduce the sweetener to a few tablespoons of maple syrup or honey per recipe. That way, you can enjoy and indulge yourself with no guilt when you eat that extra muffin.
Here are some examples of ingredients you can add to your treats to help stabilize blood sugar, rebalance the biome, tame inflammation, and repair the lining of the gut.
Hydrolyzed collagen – adds protein and helps repair the intestinal lining
cinnamon – helps balance blood sugar
Coconut flour / butter / oil / water or flakes – antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
Green tea – kills bacteria and feeds beneficial bacteria
turmeric – tames inflammation
Cranberries – nourishes Akkermansia, an important strain of bacteria in the intestine
Cassava flour – Nut-free, grain-free, resistant starch nourishes anti-inflammatory bacteria
Flaxseed flour – Nourishes beneficial bacteria and is a great detox binder
Tigernuts – a nut and coconut free alternative to milk production
Eating isn’t everything, but it is a foundation for the healing of the intestines. Turn this “Restrict and Binge” cycle into the joy of baking your own low-sugar treats.
The way you think about your food matters. Feelings like guilt, fear, and shame negatively affect digestion. The opposite is true for joy and gratitude.
Remember to always listen to your body and do yourself some good with recipes like these pumpkin bread pudding bars below.
Pumpkin bread pudding bar
The seasonal aromas of pumpkin meet creamy bread pudding. Pumpkin is easy to digest and full of safe fiber. Start with 2 tablespoons of sweetener and work slowly down to 1 teaspoon, even if it takes months.
- 2/3 cup pumpkin seeds ground in a food processor to release the oils. Grind for 2 minutes, scrape off the sides and repeat about 4 times.
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
- 2 sliced bananas
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of pumpkin puree
- 1/2 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and all spices)
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1/2 cup tapioca flour
- 3 tablespoons of apple butter or applesauce
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 3 tablespoons butter or ghee or coconut oil or shortening (of your choice)
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)
- 1.5 apples, cut into small cubes
- Optional: 1 tablespoon coconut butter (powdered and sprinkled on the dough)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Grind the pumpkin seeds in the food processor for 8 minutes, stopping every 2 minutes to scrape the side (or just use store-bought nut butters). If you want the pumpkin seed butter to be creamier, process it longer, but this still works well if the texture is still a little crumbly / grainy.
- Melt the oil of your choice (I used butter)
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a hand mixer or spatula / fork
- Bake for an hour. I used a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex to bake mine. Using a smaller container will make the batter thicker and take longer to bake.
- Let cool, cut into bars and enjoy!
Note from Jini: I tried this recipe myself and while it is certainly delicious, I found that since my bananas were already very sweet, the maple syrup just made the whole thing too sweet. In the future I would use 1 tbsp. Maple syrup (if you have it) and if you use honey use even less. Remember, it’s always easy to add sweetness by sprinkling coconut sugar on top or drizzling honey / maple syrup on the bars – but you can’t remove the sweetness. If this is your first time trying this recipe, you might want to be mistaken on the low side.
Author biography: Angela Privin suffered from irritable bowel syndrome for 6 years and could not get good help from her doctors.
She reversed her symptoms and healed her gut 16 years ago with diet, supplements, detox, and lifestyle changes. Her experience inspired her to become a holistic health trainer. It helps people with digestive problems and IBS.
IBS taught Angela how to cook and in her spare time she recently wrote a book of treat recipes and nutrition tips for people with digestive problems. Part nutrition bible and part permission to enjoy what you eat, Treats That Heal shows how to make simple treats that relieve inflammation rather than trigger it. The variety of recipes offers some low-FODMAP, nut-free, egg-free, sugar-free, and coconut-free options.
Jini Patel Thompson is an internationally recognized expert in natural digestive disease healing. She healed herself from the widespread Crohn’s disease and has been drug and surgery free for over 20 years. Appeared on numerous podcast, television and radio shows in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, Jini gives people hope and visions on how to cure colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in all natural methods. Her books on natural digestive disease cures have been sold in over 80 countries around the world.