Too Clean? Dealing With Our New Dietary Diseases.

Over the last few years, my family’s pantry has transformed from looking like the cereal and dinner-in-a-box aisle to looking more like the lentils, grains and nuts in-a-bin aisle. While we have scraped the high-fructose syrup residue from our tongue and weaned ourselves from most highly processed foods, we admit to an occasional craving for comfort foods from our past. Pizza is on the top of the, “I know I really shouldn’t have it, but I really want it!” cravings list.
Lately, ordering out always falls short in delivering the food craving desired. First, we don’t eat pork, so we are always in search for a decent specialty meat to top the pizza, which often has a sub-par taste and texture. We opt for the “real cheese” versus the cheese-like substance plus add on two or three vegetables to that pie and you’re ringing up at $25-30. More problematic than settling for mediocre toppings and doling out extra cash for a craving, is the price our bodies pay.
I suffer from ulcerative colitis (UC), which is an autoimmune and inflammatory bowel disease which can cause debilitating intestinal cramping and bleeding. UC is a relatively “new” disease and not much is known of it’s origins nor the cause of the painful flare-ups. A majority of autoimmune diseases and allergic reactions--such as Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and eczema--are most commonly diagnosed from within the US and other developed nations. So how did we get so lucky to inherit this bevy of diseases?
The Hygiene Hypothesis suspects that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents (i.e., gut flora or probiotics) increases one’s susceptibility to allergic reactions and auto-suppression issues/diseases. In short,it is suspected that UC and others are born from diets characteristic of being protein and nutrition deficient and abundant with man-made foods created in large manufacturing plants (I, like many other 80’s kids of divorced parents, can attest that my diet was largely influenced by General Mills and Kraft).
Preliminary research suggests that our bodies have become “too clean” from lack of exposure to infections and infectious agents such as bacteria and flora found naturally in foods within their most holistic and natural states. Studies supporting the theory state that a  diet devoid of greens, fungus, aged-cheeses, lentils, and whole grains and rich with refined sugars and uber-sterilized (think white bread, mac and cheese from the box, and ultra-pasteurized milk) creates an unnatural environment within the intestines. The intestines are then “dis-armed” and the immune system malfunctions and attacks some part of the body.
I have suffered with UC for a little over two years and and have pledged that I will not idly accept a lifetime of steroids as my sole solution. Based on research and common sense, I have decided to “re-train” my body and alter my diet; this course contradicts my doctor’s belief that diet won’t alter the course of my UC flare-ups. Whether there is a direct correlation between my diet and the fact that I have been in near 100% remission from UC the last six months is still disputable. What is certain is that I am eating and feeling better than ever. My diet from the last 30+ years consisted mostly of some variation of corn embedded in many processed foods, refined sugars, meat, and cheese-like substances. Now, I am eating more “whole foods”, I have lost weight, strengthened my immune system and feel healthier now than ever before in my life.
The most major changes I made and am now attributing to my healthy gut are:

  • eliminating “fast food” whether drive through restaurants or meals from a box;
  • eating a minimum of five daily servings of fruit and vegetables;
  • eliminating white bread and eating whole-grain bread only on occasion;
  • cutting down consumption of pasta to once a week and rice no more than four times a week;
  • eating vegetarian and eating fish each at least once a week; and
  • drinking whole, non-homogenized milk from Cedar Summit or Autumnwood farms.

Despite vows recited, the urge to kick back and enjoy a hot, greasy, cheesy pizza continues to taunt me and the family as a whole. Each time we caved and ordered, we were left disappointed with mediocre quality of ingredients and I without fail, would end up sick from the ordeal. Forced to adapt, we began experimentation with homemade pizzas. What resulted was a yummy, affordable, and fun family tradition involving the whole family and a healthy gut for me. Along the way we collected some gemstone lessons.
Next up-  The Tao of Pizza with lessons learned from homemade pizza night.




Leigh Ann Ahmad was dragged kicking and screaming to the Cities by her husband; having been born and bred in Cleveland, Ohio, she just could not fathom how colder could be better. Now, five years and two kids later, she cannot imagine a better place to play and thrive. She’s a reformed carb-aholic, wannabe writer, social justice advocate, book- club geek, veggie grower and local foods connoisseur. Her last article for SGT was, When life gives you chestnuts...make soup.