Paul Schmid is an award winning artist, and internationally published author and illustrator of children’s books.
In 1993, Paul discovered he has Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). AS is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, although other joints can be involved. It causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort.
He struggled with it for several years until he discovered a no-starch diet (NSD) that successfully eliminated the pain and inflammation caused by this form of arthritis. A no-starch diet eliminates all grains, potatoes, and beans.
Paul took some time out of his book schedule to answer some questions and share his coconut muffin recipe.
How did you discover you have AS?
I had been waking up at night with difficulty breathing from my ribs being unable to move, seemingly frozen in place. My doctor diagnosed me with Ankylosing Spondylitis, and said there was no cure.
My pain and stiffness increased over the years from a mild annoyance to a disturbing level of daily pain. I was working up to being on pain suppressants constantly. By 2001 there was a growing list of things I could not or simply did not want to do. I looked gaunt and sickly.
In October 2001 I started a no-starch diet (NSD). I didn’t make significant progress reducing pain and inflammation until I took a course of antibiotics to fight off pneumonia in February of 2002. By this time I was on a NSD and began to experience reduced pain and inflammation. I was able to stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by March of 2002. My diet became full NSD as of June 2002.
How did you end up trying a no-starch diet (NSD)?
I was researching AS cures on the internet in 2001 and found a forum that included research done by Dr. Alan Ebringer, then Professor of Immunology at King’s College London. (http://www.kickas.org) He discovered that if his patients with AS reduced their starch intake, their pain and inflammation was also reduced.
Taking antibiotics for pneumonia seems unusual. Was it identified as a bacterial pneumonia? Why did it help?
Yes, it was bacterial pneumonia. The connection between starch and AS is a strange and complex one. We all have a bacteria in our gut called Klebsiella pneumoniae. They feed primarily on starch in the gut. My immune system does not like this bacteria, and responds by triggering inflammation in the spine. Over a period of years, constant inflammation can actually fuse the spine together into one solid, unmoving bone. Antibiotics helped to reduce the population of this bacteria in my gut, and the no-starch diet keep the population unfed and the population down to such a degree that my immune system does not need to react. After a few years of eating no starch, I had regained all of my former spinal mobility, and now live a pain free life. (Except for that which my teenage daughter gives me.)
It sounds like you have a good handle on managing your energy and food throughout the day and on trips. Do you have any favorite snack recipes?
I found in the beginning that the energy got from starch needed to be replaced by adding fats and proteins to my diet. As my system became used to a low or no starch diet, my body adjusted and I could reduce my fat intake. I still believe fats are essential to robust health. Paradoxically, on a low starch, high fat diet, I initially lost a lot of weight. But since fats are absorbed by the digestive system slowly, they don’t provide the flush of calories to the system that flour does, and the body does not kick into energy storage mode.
For snacks I make a form of Boy Scout GORP: a mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. I put everything I can into it, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dates, prunes, dried cherries, (excellent for reducing inflammation,) flaked coconut, candied ginger, (also good for inflammation) etc. etc.
I am grateful that my diet limitations do not include chocolate or alcohol!
Do you have a favorite recipe or food that you’d like to share?
For years I gave up baked goodies, but recently began to experiment with almond flour and coconut flour. Now I make coconut flour muffins about once a week for my daughter and I. I like to change the recipe slightly each time I make it, adding spices and various dried fruits to add new flavors, moisture, and texture. Your book Erica, is a treasure house of treats!
Apple Cinnamon Muffins
This is Paul’s go-to coconut muffin recipe, which he changes up a bit each time he makes it. He also tops off the 2/3 cup of coconut flour with unsweetened shredded coconut to get bigger muffins, and varies the spices each time.
Sometimes he swaps the maple syrup with a bit of molasses and honey, and adds up to a cup of chopped, walnuts, raisins, dates, or whatever else he has on hand. He also doesn’t need to grease the muffin tin, but that’s totally up to you. I like to use muffin liners so I can store them easily. The muffins are a bit denser than my usual muffin recipes, so you may want to add another egg if you like lighter muffins, but totally up to you.
For SCD, use honey.
- 2/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 medium apple, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup of chopped walnuts, raisins, and other dried fruits or nuts
- Preheat your oven to 375° (190° C, or gas mark 5). Prepare a muffin pan with liners, or rub with coconut oil.
- In a large bowl or mixer, combine the coconut flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and mix until well blended.
- Add the eggs, honey, oil, and vanilla to the flour mixture and blend well. Let the batter stand for a few minutes to allow the flour to absorb the moisture.
- Fold in the diced apples, walnuts, raisins, and any other additions.
- Fill the muffin liners with batter and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.
- Cool and serve.
- Store at room temperature, for a few days, or in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
Makes 12 muffins