The Clean Gut Saga

19 Aug 2013 11:08 AM |Alison Buehler

I believe taking charge of you own health and the health of your family is central to Modern Homesteading. Preventative medicine is financially and practically better for families and entire communities. It makes sense to learn how to care for our bodies so that we do not always have to pay someone to take care of us.

At a friend's prompting I am blogging my way through 21 days to a Clean Gut. 
I have philosophical problems with this for several reasons. First, I think both blogging and cleansing are very self-centered endeavors. I was raised a Presbyterian. We work hard and put others before ourselves. Blogging and cleansing are very unnatural to me.

Second, I am skeptical of holistic medicine. Mostly because my husband is a physician, but also because I have met a lot of folks that are just plain "out there." I have listened patiently to information that is simply wrong, contradictory, or ridiculous, trying to keep an open mind. The latest fad, or fashion in health is always the answer!

And I am about to embark on a completely holistic approach to healing. I suppose I am blogging to keep a document of my journey (I am supposed to keep a food journal) and to keep myself honest and humble. If I know other people are reading this journey, or even if that possibility is out there, I think I have a little accountability built into this experiment.

So what is the Clean Gut and why am I willing to try it? It is a book about healing the gut to heal yourself. I think it is important to mention that it is probably the fifth book I have read on this subject, and that I attended a Gluten Free Living Workshop at the Homestead last weekend. I was not convinced easily. But over time, and by hearing a continuous string of science that all points to a similar notion, I have decided to try.

I also have one very compelling experience in healing my body with food to encourage me.  Since the age of 16, I had at least one yeast infection a month (sorry guys). I was routinely miserable, constantly on antifungals, diflucan, and rarely free of symptoms. I tried EIGHT different doctors over a decade and a half. I was diagnosed with Vulvadinia, Chronic Yeast, and Vulvitis. No relief. About four years ago I met Nancy Woodruff who introduced me to probiotic foods. I had taken the capsules, eaten gallons of yogurt - and nothing. She taught me to make my own foods that had dozens of different strains of probiotics. She taught me that the way people used to preserve food routinely introduced these to our bodies. I have not had a yeast infection in 3 and a half years. I have not had a dose of "medicine," only probiotic rich food.

This success story got me interested in probiotics. If food could free me from yeast, what else might it fix? You have to be at the end of your rope to find out. After my third child, my periods become so debilitating, I only had about two weeks a month free from insanity or heavy bleeding. I tried the pill - loony-toons. I got a procedure done called an ablation, which basically burned the inside of my uterine lining off so I no longer have heavy periods. It did nothing for the physical cramping, mood swings, and general two week yuck I was experiencing every month.

I have also been on antidepressants since my early 20s. I have tried to get off at several points during my life and crashed and burned each time. I have no reason to be depressed. I have an incredible family, a loving husband, great kids, a nice community, meaningful work, and no money problems. While the drugs do keep me out of the gutter, I still fight my mental status more often than not. I could take a nap every single day. I am always tired even if I sleep 10 hours a night. Basically, although I am healthy, I don't feel "WELL" most of the time. I simply don't feel well most days and I am tired of it. My goal is to feel well before I turn 40 so that I don't miss it all!
And so I begin to heal my gut. We shall see!


20 Aug 2013 8:38 AM |Alison Buehler

Day 2 Clean Gut

Smoothie: Frozen blueberries, ½ avocado, handful of spinach greens, 2 cups almond milk, tablespoon almond butter, tablespoon cocoa chips.

Dandy Blend – substitute for coffee with almond milk

Lunch – Pork chop, large salad. We get our pork from Beaverdam Farms – grassfed, all natural

Snack – carrot stick, handful of almonds

Dinner – Lentil soup w/ roasted vegetables

Confessional: I want ice cream…

I went off of coffee last week to start this program and cut down on Gluten. I am not a cold-turkey kind of gal. The thought of cold turkey kicks in my teenaged oppositional defiant self, so I thought I better ease into this.

Getting off coffee:

(I drank at least one cup of coffee a day for the past 20 years – I don’t believe I ever missed a day.)

Day 1: Make weak cup of coffee and drink as usual

Day 2: Drink half cup of weak coffee

Day 3: Wait until headache starts to kick in and have a few sips of coffee

Day 4: same as day 3

Day 5: same as day 4

Day 6: Go fort it! Try to be nice to family – I gave in in the late afternoon and had a few sips as my head was pounding,

Day 7: No coffee. Not happy, but not Momzilla either.

Day 10: First day I feel ok in the morning!

*Husband is reading Clean Gut and so far he has not said, “This is crazy!”


22 Aug 2013 11:53 AM

Clean Gut Day 3 and 4

Here is a breakdown of my Clean Gut Diet during Phase 1 – the first 21 Days:

Borrowed from:

Clean Gut diet plan – food list

There are general Clean Gut diet guidelines for phases 1 and 2, and specific guidelines for each:

Phase 1 – 21 days – drink a liquid breakfast and eat meals from the Clean Gut diet, as well as taking recommended supplements and practicing specific activities to enhance the process of gut repair

Phase 2 – 7 days – reintroduce foods into your diet over the course of a week, which will allow you to identify the foods that do not promote long-term gut health

Also guidelines for testing triggers and for a lifetime diet

Clean Gut general guidelines

Clean Gut foods to eat during the program – general

Fill 80% of your plate with greens and vegetables (raw, steamed, baked, cooked) and 20% with protein and good fats (meat, fish, avocado, etc.)

  • Stop eating when you are 80% full – this will help your body digest more easily

  • Eat foods from the groups listed in Clean Gut diet foods to eat

Clean Gut phase 1 foods to avoid

Clean Gut Weekend Realities

26 Aug 2013 12:08 PM 

Ok, well it is reality time. Apparently staying in one's home for the 21 day cleanse might be a requirement for success.

Friday Night - I know quite clearly that beer has hops and so that is off my list. Wine has sugar and grapes which are both off my list. Yet somehow, in my reptilian brain I decided Honeysuckle Vodka was OK. First of all, it was Cathead, which is local and I am all about supporting local foods and businesses. Second, it is made of potatoes which I reasoned was better than wheat or grains. Third, Honeysuckle has got to be as natural a sweetener as it comes. And I only had one drink, ok maybe two, ok THREE!

Saturday - Woke up in good shape despite my Cathead experience with new determination to get back on track. Enjoyed a really fun day with a group of people learning food preservation at The Homestead. This event was designed to be healthy. We made fresh salsa from local veggies and I thought, perfect lunch! I grabbed some corn chips and started digging in - yes, I said corn chips. Without even meaning to - off the cleanse.

Sunday -Didn't feel great. Not bad, just not great. I hadn't realized how good I had been feeling until today. My church had a potluck and I really did try to eat things that looked like they were on my list, but casseroles are just about impossible. I took a nap when I got home. My first in a week. Then we went to a presentation at MSU on the Homestead and I was starving when I got there. Only food available was Papa Johns and dessert. I picked the Supreme and started picking out the veggies and meat to eat.

Monday - Day 1 clean gut diet...Here we go again.


28 Aug 2013 1:29 PM 

I think I got through the day yesterday without anything that isn’t on my list. Leaving out dairy, gluten, sugar, nuts, and fruits except for berries pretty much wipes out my diet. I think psychologically it might be easier if I just said – Soup broth for the first 3 days, smoothies for the next three, etc. Then my brain wouldn’t start on all its delusional thinking, like gluten-free Oreos, yes or no?

In fact I may try this for the next few days. Shorter increments with more restrictions might actually make things easier.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Part of this cleanse is about healing the gut (see leaky gut syndrome for more info.) I’ll talk about the supplements I’m taking to help this process in the next blog, but I can’t help but worry about my kids as I go through this. The last two mornings I tried to sneak powdered probiotics into eggs and “strawberry milk” – it’s what we call strawberry kefir.  Ben said, “Mom, please quit sticking stuff in our food!”
Max said, “I’ve got a solid in my milk!” Cecelia never eats anything anyway.

Overall, I think I am feeling pretty good.  I give today a 7.


29 Aug 2013 2:39 PM 

I’d give today an 8. Maybe because it was a fun day with my kids picking pears and muscadines at Reese Orchard and making awesome smelling things with them, but I am dangerously close to my period to be experiencing an 8. Cutting out the possible food irritants is part of the Clean Gut Diet. Fixing leaky gut syndrome is another. Here is a summary from an article from Body Ecology a friend sent me today (thanks Nancy!)

Several years ago, scientists found a protein calledzonulin. Zonulin regulates the bond between cells that make up the lining of the gut. This bond otherwise known as atight junctionneeds to be strong. Without a strong bond between cells, the gut becomes leaky. In other words, if you want to get rid of leaky gut, you need to regulate the release of zonulin. A healthy gut is sealed and will support the absorption of basic nutrients. When the gut becomes leaky, it can leave you vulnerable to infection and more serious disease.

 I don’t know that I have a leaky gut. But, I do know I have allergies, that I was not breastfed, and that I was on untold rounds of antibiotics as a kid, which kill good bacteria along with the bad. I’m guessing there is a pretty good chance my gut leaks. And if not, it can’t hurt. Here are the recommended supplements to take. I had to order mine online. I went to a couple of places locally, but no luck. I find dumping the powdered ones into smoothies makes it easier. I hate taking all those pills.

Clean Gut Supplements


03 Sep 2013 2:01 PM 

I keep telling myself it is very simple. I can eat meat and vegetables for 21 days. How hard is that? Most folks in the world would be overjoyed! I may be a hopeless case.

I started feeling pretty low last Friday: PMS, cramping, moody, tired, and cranky. Saturday I took the kids to see my family in Hattiesburg. I love sharing food and diet talk with my Dad who has been on a perpetual diet since 1985 and lost a total of probably 350lbs over the years and put them back on again. Recently he thinks he’s figured it out! He is cutting sugar, eating lots of veggies, and not many carbs. He is looking great and has a lot of energy.

Let me be clear, I do not need to lose weight. I am at a good weight for my height. I am happy with the outside of my body, stretched out tummy from three kids and all. What I am tired of is the inside.

Being with my family Saturday cheered me up and by Sunday I was feeling pretty good again. My mom always lets me take a huge nap while she watches the kids, which helps. Sunday night we celebrated Max’s 9th birthday dinner and I decided, “Well, he’ll only be nine once!” I really enjoyed that cake and ice cream. I mean REALLY enjoyed it.

And then, of course, we had to take the rest of the cake home with us and I had another piece last night. I’m like a crack head!

Overall, I guess my diet has shifted pretty significantly. I think I snacked all day long on carbs and sugar. I ate a ton of All Natural energy bars. Every time I started craving something I grabbed a piece of fruit. I always ate a handful of chocolate covered almonds after dinner. I mean, I really thought I was doing well in the food department! What I did not eat a lot of was meat and vegetables. Potatoes, bread, pasta, and rice made up the core of my meals. Carbs = sugar.

I can eat vegetables and meat until the cows come home and I will still crave something else. What I want is sugar. What I want is bread. What I want is chocolate birthday cake! I am not having the same problems with dairy. I’m not craving cheese or milk. I am not even craving eggs, which I normally eat almost daily.

Today so far so good. Blueberry, almond butter, kale, and avocado smoothie, and vegetable/lentil soup for lunch. Max is eating some Fig Newtons that look heavenly, even though I normally do not like them. I mean they look absolutely delicious… I am going to work in the garden.


06 Sep 2013 8:12 AM 

I am focusing on the positive. My gut is probably cleaner now than when I started. The reality of 3 kids, running a busy educational center, and having a full life are not compatible with a 21 day cleanse. I don’t mean to discourage any of you. I am reporting my reality.

I cannot isolate foods long enough to know what exactly impacts me physically or mentally. I do have some better ideas though. My buzzy, fog-brain doesn’t usually happen until late afternoon now. If I have a smoothie for breakfast (almond milk, avocado, almond butter, kale, blueberries) and a salad with salmon or bacon for lunch, I feel pretty good!

Mid-afternoon snacks are a problem. This is when the kids come home and want to eat something. I cannot find a suitable snack. I usually end up eating something I am not supposed to at this point. Dinner is ok if we have time and we eat in. After dinner, I always want something sweet.

I do feel a difference in the mornings. If I cheat, I feel foggy, fuzzy, cloudy. I am also ending my cycle and usually feel this way anyway. I do know I can function without coffee. I do know I feel pretty good later into the day. My change is not dramatic, but then neither has my cleanse been dramatic.

Am I sold on it? So far, I am not willing to abandon it. I am less idealistic on how it works into my lifestyle. How my body processes food is not simple. So much of our food is mixed, multi-ingredient, and complex. Also, I think it might be more than food-related. More on that next week… Have a great weekend!


11 Sep 2013 1:36 PM

Last weekend at ate a piece of pizza and had an ice cream Sunday. I told you I am hopeless. The next day I had the first migraine I have had in over a year. I am not sure this caused it, I was also beginning to slack on some of the hormone support supplements I had been taking.
Sunday I took all my supplements and ate on my plan and felt pretty good. Monday I did the same and I was tired in the afternoon, kind of foggy too. Today I have eaten what I am supposed to all day so far and I'm doing well.
I don't know if I can ever stay clean of certain foods long enough to figure out what foods make me feel bad. I do know, I crave my morning smoothies and a salad for lunch. I don't crave as much sugar as I did in the beginning. I don't have a ton of energy, but maybe that was overly optimistic?
I have a good friend who is also doing this with her boyfriend, a little more successfully than I am. They have no kids which I suspect helps. She said her eczema is clearing up!
I have heard great success from some ladies who just completed 21 Days to Bliss with two teachers from the Homestead Center.
I can see how working with a group and having support from teachers would be helpful.
The truth is I am busy with the Homestead and 3 kids and a husband who gets occasional attention. Maybe I should be tired?

17 Sep 2013 7:58 AM

Clean Gut Conclusions –

We took our kids to their very first rock concert last night in Tuscaloosa and didn’t get home until midnight. Mike and I are sure we are now the coolest parents around despite the fact that we refuse to get cable or a video game system. The best part is, I am up at 6:30 and feeling good!

Morning after a concert and feeling good shows me how far I’ve come! I don’t need my immediate cup of coffee. I have no residual headache from cheap beer at the concert. Instead I have memories with my family and Mike wakes me up singing songs from last night.

I guess what I am trying to convey is that I may have failed miserably at a strict cleanse. But I am pretty sure clean living is a good start to a clean gut. Instead of grabbing a burger on the way over, we took our time, went early, and found a Farm to Fork slow food restaurant called Epiphany.

After going to the grocery for over a month of attempting Clean Gut, I have changed patterns in shopping that would not have been altered otherwise. After ordering at restaurants for a month, I have changed more patterns.

I don’t feel overwhelmingly different, or better, but I feel like I want to keep eating my kale, blueberry, avocado smoothie for breakfast. I feel like a salad for lunch sounds really good. I am more focused on healthy meats and vegetables and less on carbs and sugars. My cravings for sugary foods are down.

My kids keep asking, “Are you giving up on that Clean Gut yet?” I think my answer is no! I think I will incorporate lots of it into my life from now on.

My battles with mental health are not resolved, but I have a good idea that my blood sugar levels have a lot to do with it. If I can keep them level instead of up and down I feel better. I have also learned that people with depression have some tools to use aside from SSRIs. On this journey I found Food for the Brain and am starting their recommendations.

I am hopeful. I am also convinced that you have to pay close attention to what your body tells you. Not everyone is sensitive to gluten or dairy or sugar, but you might be. I had a blood test done and the things I came up sensitive to were not on any fad-cleanse or diet list: Garlic? Honey? Goat milk? Caffine (ok, not so surprising). Coconut – now this one blew me away as I have been reading about the incredible benefits of coconut and even smearing on my body instead of lotion for six months! What I am saying is that even foods that are healthy for most people may not be for you. I told everyone that garlic and honey were two of the best foods you could get into your diet. For me, my body needed a break!

I will continue to take probiotics and eat cultured foods. I think sealing the gut is probably a life-time process, not a one shot deal. I will continue to focus on foods that keep my sugar level stable and avoid ones that send me up and down. I am adding chromium, B vitamins, 5HTP, and fish oils for a while. But I am adding dairy back in, and am considering getting a cow so I know where the milk comes from! Just kidding. Mike says "No Way!"

21 Days to Bliss

18 Nov 2013 9:58 AM |Alison Buehler

I am participating in a program at the Homestead by three of our teachers called 21 Days to Bliss. Some of you may have followed my Clean Gut failure. This time, I enlisted the support of a group and experts to try and healthify myself. Let me tell you, it is working! 

I have so much energy these last few weeks I am about to drive myself crazy with new projects. In the past two weeks Max and I have learned how to Render Fat from leftover fat from our hog we get from Beaverdam Farms.

I took a knitting class from LeeAnn Wilson at the Homestead and have not been able to put it down since! Everyone is getting something handmade from me this year. This was the skill I always wished I learned from my Grandmother Mary Beth before her hands became too stiff.

I also took a class on Felted Wool Ornaments by Luanne Blankenship. This has been a great one to work on with my kids. They love being able to sew. There is something so satisfying about being able to look at something, gather the raw materials, and make it real. 

None of us seem to be concerned with the quality of our work yet. It is more important that the possibility of quality now exists! Once we got over the mental hump of making something real, the rest is a matter of time and practice.

What is laughable about the whole thing is how utterly uncrafty I am. Cleaning out my system seems to have enabled me to find pleasure in things I usually find boring, mundane, frustrating, even stupid. 

Cleaning out my system makes knitting seem more appealing than napping. That is what I call success!