Friday, January 16, 2009

Gluten Free Fridays: Kale & White Bean Soup

If you have "unexplained infertility", you may consider getting tested for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. One of my favorite websites for a compendium of gluten related diseases is The Gluten File. A couple of years ago when I was trying to get to the bottom of my intestinal and uterine problems, I got to know the author of this website through a forum on neurological diseases related to gluten. When that forum crashed, Cara, the author, lost a lot of her data that she had compiled through many posts. She then decided it was time to create this website, which is a wealth of information.

The Gluten File
Interested in the effects of gluten on fertility? Go to the right menu on the home page of The Gluten File and click on Infertility and Miscarriage. Cara painstakenly searches the PubMed abstracts regularly and links them on her website. Most of her links are from abstracts of published medical literature.

If you think about it, bowel health and reproductive health go hand-in-hand. If you are familiar with your anatomy, the female reproductive organs are sandwiched between the rectum and the bladder. I don't know who thought to put the baby making organs between two septic areas in the body. I think it's a bad design, personally. Take my anatomy for instance. Normally, the uterus lies over the bladder. I'm special in that I have a retroverted uterus, which means it's tipped back more near my rectum. I used to have leaky-gut syndrome, so I can't help but think that all that poo was leaking next to my uterus. This also happens to be the area I tend to get the fibroids, on the back side of my uterus where it's close to my rectum. I know, eww! You can also find information on Leaky Gut Syndrome on The Gluten File.

What's the big deal about Leaky Gut Syndrome? I'm glad you asked. Leaky gut syndrome can lead to gluten sensitivity, as in my case, as well as lots of other food sensitivity issues. Taking lots of antibiotics and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen, can cause leaky gut syndrome. After my laproscopic myomectomy in 2006 to remove uterine fibroids, my intestines were a wreak. I took a lot of ibuprofen, which I thought was safer than the other heavy duty pain killers I was prescribed, but they destroyed my small intestines. I did not know this at the time, and I did stool test after test with my GP to figure out what I had. All the tests came back negative. I think my doctor was beginning to question my sanity. At one point, my doctor had me tested for HIV. I was a bit insulted, but I did the test to humor her. I knew it wasn't all in my head. I just had to find the right doctor to work with.

I finally figured out by doing my own research that my local hospital did not test for all possible intestinal pathogens. I got fed up and went to an acupuncturist who specializes in gastrointestinal disorders. I got the proper testing, and was diagnosed with bacterial dysbiosis, which means I had an imbalance of bad bacteria in my gut. He treated me with Chinese herbs, and the problem was solved. We also did a lot of work on my food sensitivities, and now I have it down to two food groups I can not eat, gluten and most dairy. At one point, I also could not eat corn, soy, and nuts, which made for a very limited diet. I still avoid corn and soy, but eat them occasionally. Most corn and soy in the US is genetically modified anyways, so I don't want to be eating it.

So what does all this have to do with fertility? You are what you eat. When I could not eat gluten or corn, I discovered that these two items are in EVERYTHING, at least all processed foods. I had to start cooking all my own food from whole ingredients, which in the long run was the best thing for my health. Crap in, crap out, I say. If you want to have good egg quality, look at what you are eating. How many times do you eat out a week? Even places like Whole Paycheck Foods do not use their top quality ingredients in their deli. You don't know what crap they are cooking with to save money. Plus, I know many people who are celiac or gluten sensitive who end up getting sick eating from there. If you don't have time to cook for yourself, then ask yourself why? You probably have too much going on in your life and are stressed out. Stress is the fertility killer.

A lot of women freak out when they find out they have high FSH or are told they have bad egg quality. The average lifestyle of a US woman is not conducive to reproductive health. We work too much, we do too much, we don't sleep enough, and we don't take time to relax or cook a good meal for ourselves. Exercise? Who has time for that? Or we do too much of it to fit into some image of a coat hanger skinny model that the media too often pushes off as desirable. Plus, we live in a toxic world. If we took care of ourselves and identified and eliminated the toxins in our lives, our egg quality would be a lot better.

I was one of those women I'm describing here. My uterine fibroids were a wake up call for me. I had an FSH of almost 18 and was told my eggs were toast two months shy of 39. I changed my lifestyle, cleaned up my diet, and did a lot of Chinese medicine and acupuncture. My FSH dropped and my RE couldn't figure it out. He chalked it up to a faulty lab test. My embryos at age 41 looked like those of a woman 10 years younger than me. One of the key things to turning my health around was getting to the bottom of my intestinal problems and healing my gut. It wasn't easy, and I had to work with a whole team of health care professionals to figure it all out. I'm hoping I can make at least one aspect easy for you by providing recipes for healthy meals. I'm notoriously bad at eating the same things over and over again, which is really bad for leaky gut syndrome. Luckily, I also get bored with what I eat and am constantly looking for new and interesting recipes. Enough talking, let's eat!

Kale and White Bean Soup


This soup became a staple in my house this year. We had an abundance of kale in our garden, and I was looking for new recipes to cook with it. This can be made with sausage or without. I make it both ways, depending on my mood. I will start with the version with sausage. It can be served with rice pasta or spaghetti squash, as pictured above.

1/2 lb. bulk sweet Italian sausage or buy links and take off the casings
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5-8 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups chicken broth
one 15oz can of cannellini, white kidney beans, or great white northern beans, drained & rinsed
4 cups packed chopped kale (stems removed)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice OR one 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 cube of frozen basil or 2 tsp of dried Italian herbs (can be a mixture of basil, marjoram, thyme, & oregano)

Toppings:
minced fresh parsley (optional)
grated romano cheese

1. If serving with spaghetti squash, bake spaghetti squash by cutting in half, scooping out the middle with the seeds, and placing in a baking dish cut side down with about 1/4" of hot water. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.
2. Start the soup by browning the sausage first. In a skillet, break the sausage up into bite size pieces and brown. Set aside when done.
3. In a soup pan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
4. Add browned sausage, 3 cups of chicken broth (reserving 1 cup), kale, salt, pepper, Italian herbs, and half the rinsed beans (reserving the other half).
5. With the other 1 cup of chicken broth, put in a blender with the other half of the rinsed beans. Puree until smooth, and add to the soup.
6. Add tomatoes, if desired. Otherwise, add lemon juice at the end.
7. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
8. If you are not serving with spaghetti squash, cook pasta while you are waiting for the soup to finish.
9. Add lemon juice to the soup at the end if you did not add tomatoes earlier.

Vegetarian version:
Substitute chicken broth with vegetable broth or water.
Instead of sausage, use another can of cannellini beans. Blend one can of beans with 1 cup of water or broth, and put the other can of beans in the soup unblended.

Serve with grated romano cheese and minced parsley. Yum!

6 comments:

chicklet said...

My husband's gluten intolerant, and only in the last 2 years or so did we figure it out. I wonder if he's got a leaky gut too...

DAVs said...

That recipe looks delish--minus the sausage (you couldn't pay me to eat sausage in one trillion years). It is all very interesting what you've written about environment/lifestyle/egg quality. Did you get my email?
Thanks for posting all of this!
PS I have the dreaded retroverted uterus too. Whenever someone goes to do my pap smear, even if they've done mine before, I always have to say "look high" because they're always like "whoa, where's your cervix." Geez.

Mo and Will said...

Thanks for sharing the kale recipe. looks great! would love if you would post in detail your diet recommendations for best egg quality. not sure exactly what is in and what is out (beyond the basics...)

Mo

Melanie said...

sounds delish. I admire your discipline in committing to a healthy lifestyle. Alas, I have no drugs to send. I siphoned off every last drop this last time because of my fun "superstim" protocol. What's the schedule for your FET?

Duck said...

YUM! That sounds great, I've never been tested but my body is happier when I avoid foods that have a lot of wheat, but spelt's okay, and I totally get it with the endo my uterus is attached to all those other organs, nice :) . Will try the soup it sounds yummy!

niobe said...

I have to try this recipe! Thanks for posting it.