Friday, January 24, 2014

35 Unexpected Lesons I Learned From Late Stage Lyme

When the beautiful Amy Scher offered me the opportunity to be a part of her new collaborative book, "Lessons From Lyme Disease", she asked me to speak about the greatest lesson that I've learned from living life with a chronic illness. My first instinct was to say "embrace smelly supplements and messy hair." But after contemplating the question, I realized that my journey to health has graced me with an innumerable amount of lessons, all unique in nature and most learned the hard way. But sometimes the most important lessons in life come from the toughest experiences, experiences that end up shaping who we are and how we see the world. I like to say that living with chronic illness "builds character", but more than that, I think it's an invitation to experience life on a different level. Amy's question brought to light a few of the things I've learned while "getting there."

Unexpected Lessons I Learned from Life with Late Stage Lyme

1. Never leave the house without dye-free benadryl. Oh, and snacks.

2. When someone says "Hi, how are you?", 98% of the time they are expecting a one word answer. Unless it's your mom or your grandmother who's asking. Then your answer requires no less than 125 words.

4. Don't chew your Chlorella tablets. Even if the bottle says that you can. And if your doctor tells you that they taste like M&Ms, he's a liar.

5. Moccasin slippers are a wise investment. When you accidentally forget to put on real shoes, people will be less likely to notice.

6. You can't juice a banana (just trust me).

7. If you consume carrot juice, quercetin, turmeric and vitamin C all in one day, you'll wake up looking like you've had a bad spray tan. Don't worry, it'll fade. 

8. It is indeed humanly possible to consume more than 6 servings of vegetables, without it completely ruining your day. A vegetable rule of thumb- if you hate it, then roast it.

9. Laughing is really important. It brings us back to the moment and reminds us to exhale, and to use up less of our moments worrying about the future or grieving over the past. But it's okay to cry sometimes. That's important too. 

10. Just make sure you have non-toxic tissues. That lotion-infused stuff is bad news.

11. Sign up for Amazon Prime. When there's only two pills left of your favorite supplement and you've forgotten to order more, 2-day shipping will be free (and you can avoid visiting that health food store that smells like eucalyptus and goat food).

12. Then you'll probably want to make friends with the mailman. It doesn't hurt to get friendly with the UPS guy either.

13. If you want something to work, the first thing that you have to do is believe in it. The second step is to trust it, and the third is to commit to it until what you believed would happen becomes a truth. 

14. A doctor, a teacher, a mentor or a healer can show you how to do it, but they can't do it for you. You have to meet your guide halfway. It's up to you to do the work.  

15. If you're going to sit in an infrared sauna, drink a lot of water before you get in, even if your bladder tells you otherwise. Don't wear mascara.

16. You are not The Hulk. Don't start at full dose.

17. Invest in a pill cutter. For a while, decide whether or not it's going to be a "little half" day or a "big half" day. Feel like a rock star when you pick the bigger half.

18. That inexplicable funny feeling that you sometimes get about things? It's your intuition. Trust it. It's smarter than your heart and less biased than your brain.

19. Don't steam okra. Unless you're into eating green banana slugs, then go for it.

20.  Study ingredient labels like it's your college major. And if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it.

21. If your shampoo or perfume would be toxic if you ate it, then you shouldn't wear it.

22. Bring fruit and a baggy of sea salt with you to your blood draws- it's one of the quickest ways to get your blood sugar and blood pressure back up. You never know when they're going to go vampire on you and take a quarter of what's in your veins.

23. Sometimes, when you feel impossibly sick, it's best to go back to the basics. Your body might just need some breathing room. 

24. Stop looking for the "right answer". Pause for a moment, breathe, and let it come to you. The further you go searching for what may not be yours, the farther you get from what's actually meant for you.

25. Make peace with your sweatpants. The world is lucky you got dressed.

26. You can never have too many blankets, pairs of pajama pants, bottles of quercetin or extra rolls of toilet paper.

27. Hearts don't actually break. They crack sometimes, but eventually you find your glue and that painful broken feeling subsides.

28. It's a good idea to check your blood pressure before you attempt yoga...unless you feel like tasting your yoga mat.

29. Your body loves your gluten free diet. Just give it some time to prove it to you. 

30. The dishes will still be there in the morning.

31. When all else fails, call someone that loves you.

32. Try not to underestimate yourself. Your body may be somewhat unreliable, but your spirit isn't.  

33. Asking the question "Why me?" just proves to the Universe that you haven't learned the answer yet, and nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.

34. Even when you lose what you perceived to be "everything", you're still you.  

35. You're not just in the process of healing your body; you're likely healing your life. Trust the evolution, and love the person that comes out on the other side.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Gluten Free and Clean Eating Christmas Spread

 'Twas 2 days before Christmas 
and all through my home, 
not a crumb of gluten was present, 
not even in the scones.
 A Gluten Free and Clean Eating Christmas Spread
Gluten free, soy free, xanthan/guar gum free, corn free, nightshade free, egg free, peanut free, refined sugar free, unprocessed holiday dishes with grain free and vegan options. Holiday noshing for everyone.

Christmas Brunch 

Christmas Brunch Sides

 Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner Sides

Christmas Cookies 

Christmas Dessert

Merry Christmas to all, 
and to all a good (gluten free) night!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2013 Food Allergy Friendly and Clean Eating Thanksgiving

Thick and creamy mashed potatoes, crisp deep-fried turkey, fluffy and moist stuffing, rich gravy, sweet pumpkin pie...

To most, that sounds like a heavenly Thanksgiving spread. But to some, it sounds like a table full of garnished land mines. To me, maintaining a gluten free diet during the holidays sort of feels like trying to avoid sugar in a doughnut shop. In an effort to make the endeavor a little easier for others last year, I put together a gluten free, food allergy-friendly, "clean eating" Thanksgiving spread. The recipe round-up provided some great feedback. It's great to know that many of you could eat more than the green leafy garnish on your family's Thanksgiving table last year.

This year, I've put together a Thanksgiving recipe collection that incorporates new emerging diets and nutritional healing trends. These include The Autoimmune Paleo Diet, Paleo principles and Body Ecology Diet principles. All recipes are gluten free and many of the recipes below are AIP-friendly, Body Ecology-friendly, Paleo-friendly, and many are suitable for vegetarians and vegan eaters. Check out my additional ingredient substitution recommendations for those of you who have additional sensitivities, or more allergies than you can count on all of your fingers and toes. This is when things can get pretty complicated, but I've learned some tricks to keep the sketchy ingredients out of your dishes. Here's to hoping that no one is stuck with green beans and celery sticks this year. Enjoy!

Allergy-friendly ingredient substitutions:

  • Instead of Caramelized Onions: for lower sulfur, try roasted or caramelized fennel.
  • Instead of Garlic: for lower sulfur, try seasoning holiday dishes with rosemary, thyme, sweet basil, parsley or oregano.
  • Instead of White Potatoes: for nightshade-free, try turnips, rhutabaga, mashed cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
  • Instead of Pumpkin: for lower lower histamine, try butternut squash or yam
  • Instead of (Candied) Nuts: for tree-nut free, try roasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Instead of Eggs: to replace eggs in baked goods, try 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed and 3 tbsp of warm water for every egg. 
  • Instead of Corn: for corn-free, millet is a great substitute for cornmeal. Millet flour is great for making faux "cornbread". 
  • Instead of Butter: to make vegan-friendly use grapeseed oil in a savory dish or coconut butter for a sweet and creamy flavor.
All recipes are gluten free, nightshade free, corn free, soy free, egg free and refined sugar free.

An Allergy-Friendly and Clean-Eating Thanksgiving

Uncandied Yams:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Q&A Monday: Gluten Free and Rotation Diet FAQ

Two weeks ago, I wrote an updated Rotation Diet Roadmap. It was long overdue. Since my initial rotation diet post two years ago, my inbox continued to brim with questions from patients new to the world of special diets, allergies, autoimmunity and food rotation. It was time to revisit the rotation diet, to answer frequently asked questions and include the new insight and research that has emerged over the past few years.

Yet, there is one frequently posed statement that I have yet to address. It appears in my inbox at least once per week:

"I can't."

I hear the word "can't" a lot. Whether it's a frustrated Mom whose hasn't figured out how to feed her allergy-ridden family yet, a busy business woman struggling to maintain her diet while on the run, or a patient fighting chronic illness who hasn't found a way to cook without exacerbating symptoms and fatigue...the statement is usually the same. "I can't do what the doctor is suggesting. I can't maintain a diet like this." Believe me, I empathize.

My response usually surprises emailers at first. I tell them, "Of course you can't."

You can't maintain a diet map that wasn't quite meant for you. But, that doesn't mean that you should give up on trying to formulate one that is. It also doesn't mean you should give up on the diet principles that your doctor has recommended you implement. Most times, it's not the diet that isn't working for your lifestyle or your body, it's the way you've tried to fit yourself into it. Diets are merely guidelines for how to eat healthfully. They don't acknowledge that we're all unique in our lifestyle choices, preferences, sensitivities and physical needs. Instead of trying to painstakingly change yourself and your life to fit into those guidelines, adapt them to fit you. So, change the word "can't" to "haven't". You haven't mastered the art of a gluten free diet, paleo diet, body ecology diet or rotation diet. But, that doesn't mean that you won't. I believe that you will, once you discover some tactics and master some alterations that allow one of these diets to suit you.

Your diet will eventually become second nature, a part of you and a part of your life that not only helps you feel better, but just feels right. Your diet will no longer feel like a daily battle, but will begin to feel like the very thing that provides you with the fuel to help you get through the day. Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions that might help get you started on that path.

Last Week's Gluten Free & Rotation Diet FAQ

My daughter's intestinal issues almost entirely clear up when we use the proper food combining principles in her gluten free rotation diet. But what do I pack in her lunchbox? I'm stuck without gluten free sandwiches! 

Sandwiches likely became a school lunch staple because they're quick and easy to put together on hectic school mornings. This is why venturing away from the trusty sandwich can be time consuming and a little overwhelming. So, I typically suggest utilizing leftovers from your previous night's dinner to send along for lunch.

Leftovers don't sound rotation diet friendly, but they can be. Instead of designating each day in your rotation as midnight to midnight, try noon to noon instead. That way, what you eat for dinner can safely be eaten again for lunch the following day. For example, "Day One" would be noon on Sunday to noon on Monday. "Day Two" would be noon on Monday to noon on Tuesday. Thus, if your body accepts eating the same food twice in one "day", Sunday night's dinner can also be Monday's lunch. Monday's dinner can be Tuesday's lunch. Whether you make a little extra quinoa or millet that you can send along in your child's lunchbox, or you utilize some leftover meat and veggies for a wrap, dinner's "extras" can make figuring out lunch a whole lot easier. If your child isn't into repeating meals or their allergies are too severe for same-day repitition, nut and seed butters are also a great staple for sending along as dips or spreads in a healthy gluten free lunchbox.

Day One: Sweet potato tots are a great kid-friendly side dish for dinner, but also make great leftovers for a gluten free lunchbox. You can stick to your food combining principles by pairing them with an egg free "mayonnaise" dip.

Day Two: Egg and grain free Chicken Strips are often a staple in households that are gluten free and abiding by food combining and Body Ecology Diet tactics. They're a great main course for both kids and adults, and make a great school lunch paired with a dip like "no tomato" ketchup.

Day Three: Almond butter is often a lunchbox staple. You can utilize it as a spread on grain-free crackers, or as a dip for celery or granny smith apples. It's portable and if you use a brand like Massa Organics, it doesn't get dry or cakey. Recreate a nostalgic favorite by spreading it on Paleo Graham Crackers.

Day Four: Grain-based gluten free sandwich bread may not be a proper food combination with nut or seed butter, but grain-free baked goods are! Utilize almond flour or coconut flour in gluten and egg free baked goods like muffins, biscuits or bread.

I'm trying to stick to a grain free diet and rotate as much as I can, but it's hard because I work and I'm never home. I need quick and portable ideas for lunch!

In the latest Rotation Diet Roadmap article, there are a few great recipes that are easy to throw together and travel well, such as the Avocado and Artichoke Heart Dip with Veggies, the Cabbage Wrapped Sandwich, and the Collard Wrap with Sweet Pea Hummus. Another travel-friendly option is salad, but you don't have to stick to lettuce. To add some variety and accommodate a rotation diet, try shredding kale, cabbage, beets, fennel or jicama to spruce things up. For travel friendly meals and snacks, you also may want to consider nut and seed butters that come in travel pouches; Artisana and Justin's Nut Butters are a few of the many companies that are now making their spreads portable.

Day One: Utilize vegetables as your "sandwich bread". Use zucchini as a "bun" for a burger, cucumber slices as "bread" for tea sandwiches, or greens and cabbage for wraps.

Day Two: Salads are easy to toss in tupperware and typically travel well, but salad dressing can get tough when you have extensive food allergies and a need for ingredient rotation. In addition to standard salad dressing ingredients like olive oil, flax oil, grapeseed oil and lemon, try getting creative and testing out a Coconut Ginger Dressing on a salad with Asian influences. 

Paleo Japanese Salad (for poultry allergies, use beef)

Day Three: A number of nut and seed butter companies are now making portable pouches and travel cups for those on the go. Chop up some celery or a granny smith apple to dip in your pouch, or squeeze the contents on your favorite grain-free cracker.

Justin's Nut Butter Pouches with Celery, Granny Smith Apples or Paleo Crackers

Day Four: Yogurt and granola is a fast and easy meal that travels well and can be eaten as breakfast, snack or lunch. Most yogurts found in the grocery store are loaded with sugar and food allergens, but for a food allergy-friendly and "clean" yogurt try Tula's Cocoyo.

Stumped with how to map out your "special diet"? Write in, and perhaps we'll be able to work it out.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

5 Lessons Illness Has Taught Me

I'm an unexpected student of the school of life. When illness is your teacher and healing is your homework, you have innumerable opportunities to feel things you never imagined you'd feel, see things you hadn't noticed, discover worlds others haven't acknowledged and learn lessons that most may never get to learn.

Sometimes it feels unfair, as the sting of these painful yet poignant lessons shake your perception and shift your reality in irrevocable ways. But, that's how you grow. When illness challenges your personal truths and physical plight reroutes your chosen path, you get the chance to meet who you truly are. Instead of holding onto the ideas of where you thought you were supposed to go, you have the opportunity to find and accept the place that you were always meant to be. Rather than living for tomorrow, you learn to live day by day or often minute by minute. You learn to value moments, because in the end, it isn't your dreams, your achievements or your awards that define your life- it's the moments that comprise it. The moments that make your heart happy, the ones that you share with others, where you meet, connect, experience, laugh, comfort, love, and allow your authentic self to just be.

These life-altering lessons have been difficult, but to have learned them leaves me grateful. They've lead me to discover that life isn't about searching for your purpose, it's about living in each moment's intent. When you do, your purpose finds you.

5 Lessons Illness Has Taught Me

1. Falling in love with the life that you dreamt for yourself prevents you from knowing who you are

2. You don't have to love every aspect of your life, and it's okay to hope for a better tomorrow. But appreciate who you're with, what you do have, and who you are now. What's meant for you won't pass you.

3. Difficulty often provides opportunity, but it isn't handed to you on a silver platter. Once the door opens, you have to be ready and willing to walk yourself through it.

4. Fearing what tomorrow may bring doesn't make it any easier to face in the morning. It merely tarnishes the moments you were given today.

5. Sometimes healing isn't a matter of hanging on; it's often a matter of letting go.

This is post is part of the weekly Sunshine Sundays series. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Revisiting the Rotation Diet: Incorporating Emerging Diet Tactics and Trends

"Gluten Free...Primal...Paleo...Autoimmune Paleo...GAPS...Body Ecology...Specific Carbohydrate! I have no idea what to feed my kid!"

I get a lot of emails from frustrated moms. They've typically put the kids to bed after a long day at the doctor's office, and have just begun the notorious "what do I feed my allergic child" google search. Both my befuddled immune system and I whole-heartedly empathize. But, I'll spare you the headache and let you in on a secret; Google doesn't know what to feed your family either.

That's where gluten free, allergy-friendly and diet-specific food bloggers come in. After you've left the doctor's office with an allergen list in hand and medical advice on the mind, you have some decisions to make. Reading the experiences, rounded up research and invaluable advice of those who have paved the way before you can be your saving grace. That's likely why my initial post on Restrictions, Rules and Diet Rotation has been the most visited article I've written thus far. It's given me the opportunity to connect with a number of individuals striving to heal and utilize food as medicine, and over the past two years since the article was written I've had the chance to connect with other writers and health educators to learn more about healing through lifestyle change.

Thus, in two years time I've adapted my own allergen-free diet to incorporate all that I've learned, and I've witnessed the forward strides in both myself and in others as we utilize emerging information and dietary tools. It's time to revisit Rules, Restrictions and Rotation, answer your questions, and bring you up to speed.

Where to Begin

As I noted in my initial post on Food Allergies and Rotation Diets, because our bodies are all so unique, we each come with our own unique set of sensitivities and symptom triggers. Food sensitivities span far beyond the allergies detected by conventional allergen blood tests. There are components to different food groups, such as gluten in grains, casein in dairy, sulphates, oxalates, glutamate, salicylate, lectins, nightshades (enough to make your head spin) that have the potential to trigger inflammation or exacerbate issues that the body may be contending with. The resulting reactions have less to do with a histamine response and more to do with an inflammatory cascade. Thus, it's useful to be seek out a practitioner who utilizes alternative means of testing, such as Autonomic Response Testing, ZYTO testing, Bioresonance Testing, or the like. They can test what you're body is sensitive to and what you're triggers are, and you can utilize the results to start mapping out your plan to heal.

Once you have your results in hand, starting with some wisdom from the experts is also a great idea. Nutritionist Donna Gates, Doctor Mark Hyman, Doctor Tom O'Bryan, and Doctor Datis Kharrazian are all fantastic resources that will arm you with information that will provide the insight and inspiration you'll need to continue to move forward.

New Insights to Incorporate - Looking Beyond Allergen-Free

In my initial post, I wrote about why eliminating gluten and allergens and facilitating food rotation helps heal a "leaky gut" as well as prevent the development of additional allergies. Yet over the years, I've discovered some research and associated tactics that have helped eliminate some stubborn symptoms and chronic issues that allergen-free rotation couldn't tackle alone.

Eliminating Beans/Legumes: Legumes are one of the highest dietary source of the anti-nutrient lectin. Lectin has the ability to degrade the intestinal lining, desensitize insulin receptors, and act as a toxin in the body, resulting in inflammation, pain and the development of disease. Grains such as rice and wheat are also significant sources of lectin, but some grains contain more than others, and lower lectin grains such as millet, quinoa and teff, can be soaked or sprouted to mitigate the issue. For more information on why you might want to avoid beans, check out J.D. Moyer's debate, Wellness Mama's informative article or the Body Ecology stance on the issue.

Remaining Nightshade Free: I remain nightshade free, which is now a tactic utilized in the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol to heal Leaky Gut Syndrome, ease arthritic pain and calm down autoimmunity. Recent research reveals that tomatoes are especially triggering, given that tomato lectin has the ability to rapidly permeate the lining of the intestines and enter the bloodstream far more quickly than other foods, therefore potentially exacerbating Leaky Gut Syndrome. For more information on nightshade avoidance, visit The Paleo Mom's article.

Eliminating Rice, the "Gluten Free Staple": Aside from rice (both brown and white) being quite difficult for the body to break down, it's also a known cross-reactor with gluten. This means that in addition to the body being unable to process the grain, it may also recognize it as gluten, and it may trigger the same inflammatory and autoimmune response that gluten would. This is why rice is not a grain included on the Body Ecology Diet. Much like wheat, it is also one of the grains with the highest lectin content. Unlike other more digestable gluten free grains included on The Body Ecology Diet, rice doesn't become much easier for the body to process after it has been sprouted or soaked. Many individuals who have gone gluten free and have continued on to eliminate rice experience a drastic improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms. Check out the Body Ecology website for more information.

Avoiding Onions and Garlic: Continuing to avoid onions and garlic has proven to be beneficial, as they have been identified as a personal symptom trigger, likely due to their high sulfite content. Sulfites have been known to trigger symptoms in those with asthma, "IBS", Interstitial Cystitis, and most importantly those with methylation cycle defects. For more information and a list of high sulfite foods, check out this link.

Food Combining: The benefits of utilizing food combining principles are profound. In fact, patients (including myself) have reported that after maintaining a diet with proper food combining, testing reveals an improvement in pacreatic function and levels of pancreatic enzymes, and patients often report a measurable decrease in pancreatic insufficiency, distress and related pain. The foundation of the philosophy is that protein and carbohydrates should never be eaten in the same meal, because the enzyme required to digest protein and the enzyme required to digest carbs cancel each other out and inhibit proper digestion. For more information on food combining guidelines, check out my initial article on Rules, Restrictions and Diet Rotation.

Five Days of Rotation: After 2 years of maintaining an allergen-free rotation diet (with no "cheating"!) and adjusting things based on emerging information, I've healed enough to no longer be sensitive to a handful of foods that I once was, and have therefore gained enough "safe" foods to rotate 5 days instead of 4. This is recommended for individuals with delayed gastric emptying or a lack of intestinal motility, because often times foods from "day one" have not been entirely eliminated from the body by day 4.

Two "Paleo Days" Per Week: I've found it to be beneficial to allow the body a break from sources of lectins by establishing two out of five days in the rotation as entirely grain free, "paleo days". One of these days follows traditional paleo guidelines, the other the Autoimmune Protocol. All other days contain gluten free grains, are properly food combined and utilize some of the Body Ecology principles. Since our bodies and our needs are varied and unique, sometimes healing doesn't happen until you blend the best of both worlds and figure out what's best for you. Working with a skilled practitioner who utilizes Autonomic Response Testing, ZYTO, or bioresonance testing can help in the process.

For more guidance and great recipes from knowledgeable food bloggers, check out The Paleo Mom for information on the Autoimmune Protocol (grain free, nut free, egg free, nightshade free, etc), The Detoxinista for information on food combining and a "detoxed" diet, The Food Lover's Kitchen for a recipe database that's searchable by allergen or special diet, The Daily Dietribe for recipes with minimal ingredients and many concoctions free of the Top 8 allergens, and Real Sustenance for easily adaptable recipes.

But...What's Left to Rotate? What Can I Eat?

Aside from symptom relief, improved bloodwork and gained strength, one of the best things about an allergen-free rotation diet has been the discovery of new foods and the establishment of new favorites. Here are some ideas on foods to explore and how to rotate them:

Healthy Fats

Day One: olive oil, almonds/almond butter
Day Two: grapeseed oil, pumpkin seeds/pumpkin seed butter
Day Three: coconut oil, sunflower seeds/sunbutter
Day Four: butter/ghee, avocado, flaxseeds, chia seeds

Animal Protein

Day One: turkey and chicken [if you are allergic to poultry, split up buffalo and beef]
Day Two: pork
Day Three:  buffalo and beef
Day Four: lamb

Carbohydrates and Starchy Vegetables

Day One: teff, amaranth
Day Two: quinoa, millet
Day Three: sweet potatoes, yams
Day Four: turnips, parsnips, sweet peas, lentils


Day One: cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, radishes, asparagus,
Day Two: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, okra
Day Three: zucchini, butternut squash, carrots, beets, jicama
Day Four: snow peas, green beans, artichoke, celery, celeriac, fennel 


Day One: granny smith apples, fuji apples
Day Two: pears, apricots, plums
Day Three: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
Day Four: bananas, figs

Okay, But...What's for Breakfast?!

One of the most popular issues that those on special diets or individuals with food allergies run into is the infamous morning meal. In an effort to address your morning woes, I've collected a few suggestions that may inspire you to get a little more creative with your breakfast dining. I've incorporated them into a mapped out rotation diet complete with recipes to get you started on your path to wellness.

All recipes listed are gluten free, soy free, yeast free, additive free, corn free, refined sugar free, nightshade free, legume free, nut free (aside from almonds), poultry free, citrus free, fish and shellfish free.



Day One: Pumpkin Pie Amaranth Porridge [for pumpkin allergies, use winter squash. omit maple syrup]

Day Two (a Paleo Day): Homemade "Grape Nuts" Cereal with Coconut Milk
Day Three: Chai Spiced Quinoa Porridge [also great with teff instead] 
Day Four (an Autoimmune Paleo Day): Create Your Own Breakfast Skillet [favorite: coconut oil, ginger, carrot, cauliflower beef "hash"] 
Day Five: Sprouted Quinoa Millet Waffles or Buckwheat Quinoa Pancakes [if quinoa is used on day 5, use teff on day 3]

Mid-Morning Snack 

Day Two (a Paleo Day): Sweet Green Detox Smoothie
Day Four (an Autoimmune Paleo Day): Homemade Berry Jello


Day Two (a Paleo Day): Cabbage Wrapped Sandwich with Radish and Jicama Tabbouli [great with ground meat of the day in "cabbage cups"]
Day Three: Allergy Friendly Kitchari [minus the cayenne]
Day Four (an Autoimmune Paleo Day): Spaghetti Squash and Chicken [for poultry allergies, use pork]

Mid-Afternoon Snack

Day Two (a Paleo Day): Homemade Young Thai Coconut Yogurt
Day Three: Beet Chips and Kale Chips
Day Four (An Autoimmune Paleo Day): Roasted Acorn Squash Applesauce Cups
Day Five: Carrot, Parsnip, Turnip, Celeriac and/or Sweet Potato Fries 


Day Four (An Autoimmune Paleo Day): Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops & Roasted Green Beans
Bedtime Snack

Day Two (a Paleo Day): Soothing Bedtime Crock Pot "Noatmeal" topped with Almond Butter
Day Three: Homemade Flaxseed Crackers with Pumpkin Seed Butter [omit garlic and onions if sensitive]
Day Four (An Autoimmune Paleo Day): Comforting Sweet Potato Bone Broth Soup
Day Five: Granny Smith Apple dipped in Sunbutter


Happy Healing! And remember, we're all unique, so what works for one individual may not be right for another. Work with your practitioner, their tools and testing, and your own intuition to dictate what you or your family utilizes to nourish and heal.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Opportunity for Awareness: Infectiously Optimistic Lyme Disease Interview on BreakThru Radio

DJ Margaret of BreakThru Radio aired an interview with me this morning, March 28th, on optimism, Lyme Disease and finding hope in alternative medicine.

This would be a great opportunity to share your own stories. While I love being a voice for the Lyme community, I think it's important for the public to hear others' perspectives and unique experiences with this harrowing, complicated and controversial disease. The current statistics are staggering, and it has become undeniable that Lyme Disease is a rising epidemic. But it's opportunities like this that offer us a chance to put faces to the numbers, and remind the public that each addition to the growing Lyme Disease count is a valuable life that's been compromised. Awareness is currently our greatest hope for slowing down the growth and spread of this infectious disease.

So please, take a few minutes this morning to share your story through the comment section of DJ Margaret's post. But please don't forget to share how Lyme Disease has changed your life for the better- while this illness has the potential to turn a life entirely upside down, debilitate a body and shut innumerable doors, it also has the ability to reveal a whole new world, spark new relationships, and provide for unique and meaningful opportunities. Sometimes pain can be our greatest teacher, and it's darkest circumstances that encourage us to discover the light that we possess within.

Biology of the Blog: Infectiously Optimistic Interview on Lyme Disease, Alternative Medicine & Hope

Click here to listen to the interview. To bypass what's currently on air and listen to DJ Margaret's segment, click the triangular "play" button next to DJ Margaret's name. The interview begins around the 10 minute mark. To skip to 10 minutes, wait until the interview loads and drag the cursor in the right hand corner of the screen to 10:00.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to leave a comment.

Thank you DJ Margaret and BreakThru Radio, for helping us raise awareness, and for giving me the opportunity to share some optimism. I hope that this morning, this interview touched a few individuals and perhaps ignited a light inside of a few dark tunnels.

Remember, wherever you go, no matter the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

3 New Favorite Food Allergy-Friendly and Additive-Free Finds

This post is part of IO's new Top Three Thursday weekly series. 

These days, even gluten free, "allergy friendly" products possess ingredient lists that look more like a laundry list of things found in a chemistry lab.

Xanthan gum...guar gum...Carrageenan...

Where exactly do these ingredients come from? I can't recall ever seeing a xanthan tree, and I'm quite certain that I've never heard of anyone needing to go home and water their carrageenan bush. When committing to an unprocessed, allergen-free diet, it's stealthy additives like these that hide amidst other ingredients on "all natural" labels that can sabotage our efforts to feel better and maintain a clean diet and lifestyle.

After a little digging and a whole lot of reading, it becomes clear that xanthan gum, guar gum, carrageenan and their mysterious relatives are anything but "natural". Typically used as thickening agents, they're crafted in a lab, most often extracted from ingredients that are either fermented, genetically modified, or take up a spot on the notorious "top 8" allergen list. Xanthan gum, arguably the most concerning of gluten free food additives, is derived from a combination of the fermentation process of the bacteria Xanthomonas Campestris and corn sugar (1,2). Combining the bacteria responsible for the black rot that occurs on cruciferous vegetables with the food that is most often genetically modified in our country sounds like a recipe for unpleasant side effects (2, 3). For many, it's just that. Xanthan gum has been associated with a variety of symptoms such as intestinal upset, bloating, dizziness, and intense head pain. If that isn't concerning enough, xanthan gum is processed using isopropanol, a neurotoxin, and has also been linked to a number of infant deaths (4,5). Needless to say, it won't be making its way into my mid-afternoon snack any time soon.

Neither will Guar gum or Carrageenan. Guar gum is derived from a legume, unsuitable for those with allergies to peanuts and other foods associated with the legume family. It comes from a plant that is a "cousin" to soy, and is often genetically modified as much of our country's soy is suspected to be. Moreover, Guar Gum has historically been used as a laxative, and has a history of triggering digestive upset, allergic rhinitis, breathing issues and asthmatic episodes (6). Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum and Carrageenan, all highly processed ingredients, develop a high glutamic acid content during production. Glutamic acid is likely responsible for the many adverse reactions to these additives, given that glutamic acid in excess is an excitotoxin, which not only cause a vast array of neurological symptoms, but cause systemic inflammation and dysfunction triggered by the glutamate receptors in organs and tissue throughout the body(7). In Carrageenan's case, a derivative of processed seaweed, documented gastrointestinal inflammatory responses have raised legitimate concern. In addition to being high in glutamic acid, in medical studies Carrageenan has also proven to depress macrophage activity and increase histamine, and has also alarmingly acted as a potent carcinogen in studies on rats(8,9). This isn't unlike the infamous additive MSG; Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum and Carrageenan have actually been suspected to contain MSG and are often produced in the same laboratory as the detrimental and highly toxic ingredient.

What is safe to eat?!

I like to focus on what is safe to eat rather than what isn't. Years ago I transitioned to an allergen-free and minimally processed diet, and when I did, I saw symptom improvement that made the commitment more than worth the effort. My rules of thumb for the few gluten free packaged items that I eat:

-If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it.
-If it's got more than 5 ingredients, be suspicious.
-If any of its contents spent any time in a laboratory, ditch it.

So, I'd like to celebrate 3 new gluten free, food allergy friendly, minimally processed finds:

Massa Organics Almond Butter

Almond butter has always been my hopeless addiction. On bad days, I often grab a spoon and look for happiness at the bottom of my almond butter jar. I almost always find it there.
This is why when well-known brand Artisana discontinued their additive and sugar-free roasted almond butter, I panicked. I had searched high and low for an alternative, but none of the local grocery or health food stores had one without added sugar, and most were processed on shared equipment with gluten and peanuts. That's when Massa Organics saved my day. I discovered them through an online search, and after emailing to inquire if they produced their almond butter in a peanut and gluten free facility (which they do!), I made my first order. Upon trying it, I fell in love. The jar's only ingredient is almonds, and they happen to be the creamiest almonds I've ever had.

 Tula's CoCoYo
 Before discovering Tula's CocoYo and CocoKefir, I had been disappointed by the coconut milk products offered in the grocery stores. Almost all canned and cartoned coconut milk contain guar or xanthan gum, coconut yogurts are loaded with sugar, and clean coconut kefir is a rarity. That's why it was refreshing to find CoCoYo, which isn't sweetened with sugar and only contains coconut meat, coconut water, alcohol-free vanilla probiotics cultures and stevia. It's raw and minimally processed, and even comes with a warning sticker that says "I'm alive!". It proved its point when I unscrewed the lid, and it greeted me with a small coconut explosion. After cleaning the coconut out of my hair, I tried some. It has a great flavor, and once you get used to its lively effervescence, it makes a nice and satisfying snack. 

Flax USA's Organic Golden Flax Seed  
Courtesy of Flax USA, I've recently discovered the versatility of flax. I initially decided to order from the admirable company because they only produce flax in their facility, so allergen cross contamination is non-existent. That's difficult to come by with most manufactured seeds and nuts. I first tested flax in a smoothie (after grinding it in my "magic bullet", which is necessary for the absorption of the seeds), and was surprised by the rich, nutty flavor. I then did a bit of googling (and pinterest-ing!) and found that flax is likely going to be my new favorite breakfast staple. Check out Raia's recipe for Creamy Pumpkin Flax Hot Cereal, Running on Vegan's Almond Flax Pancakes, and Make With Your Hand's Homemade Cold FlaxChia Cereal. Instead of adding xanthan, guar gum or carrageenan to your recipes...add flax! I'm convinced that flax can do anything.   

So, if you've gone gluten free and you're still plagued with unpleasant chronic symptoms, take a look at the ingredient list on your gluten free packaged foods. It might surprise you. But what may be even more pleasantly surprising is how you feel when you clean up your diet, ditch the additives, and consume real, whole, organic food.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Top Three Thursday: Organic Products for Curly Hair

Confession: When I wake up in the morning, my hair resembles a full grown chia pet.

It's like magic. I go to bed with the curls tightly contained in a top knot, then...bam. I wake up with some serious hair.

Living an organic, chemical-free lifestyle whilst simultaneously trying to tame an afro can be quite the feat. When I initially parted ways with my chemical filled and fragranced hair products, I physically felt measurably better. But, my toxin-related symptoms were replaced with a fear that I would be forced to resort to walking around with a head of frizz, Hermione Granger style. I heavily doubted my hair's natural ability to hold its curl, especially without a load of salon and drug store product. I was convinced that my hair's natural tendency was to "fluff" rather than spiral.

But after a whole lot of trial and error (heavy on the error), I struck gold and found natural products that not only tamed my hair, but repaired the damage that years of gel, mousse and synthetic shampoo inflicted. The texture of my hair actually changed, and as my hair continued to detox, repair and remoisturize what conventional products had stripped, my curls softened. With my new organic products' help, it became quick and easy to remedy my morning "chia head", something that even with salon product used to feel like battling a beast. 

My Top Three Organic Products For (unruly) Curly Hair

Desert Essence Organics Fragrance Free Shampoo and Conditioner

When I first purchased shampoo from Desert Essence's fragrance free line, my intention was to buy a shampoo that was suitable for patients with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.  I had no idea that it would be a perfect match for my curly hair as well. Before switching over, years of conventional and synthetic shampoo use had left my curls frizzy and pretty lackluster. Without product, they had a mind of their own. I began trying various organic shampoos that I thought might tame the tumbleweed-like mass of hair that occurred after air drying, but none of them helped. They either weighed down my curls and left them stringy and greasy, or they contributed to the fluff. That is, until I discovered Desert Essence. After just one or two uses, my hair actually started to curl without the use of any additional products. I could get out of the shower and let my hair air dry, and it would curl perfectly all on its own. But, sleeping on my head of curls and managing it without a shower in the morning was a whole different story. I was going to need some hefty product for that.

Innersence Organic Curl Control Cream and Finishing Spray

Innersence Organic is an incredible line. I didn't discover it until later in the game, when I found an organic hair dresser who solely uses and sells their products in her salon. Before I was introduced to Innersence Organic, I had resorted to using natural oils in my hair before bed to keep my curls under control. I hadn't found an "organic" mousse, gel or cream that was truly free of fragrance and chemicals. Unfortunately, there isn't set guidelines or aptly enforced and regulated standards for beauty products so we have to take it upon ourselves to be sure that our products that are labeled "organic" and "natural" actually are. You can use Skin Deep's Cosmetic Safety Database to check to see if your products truly are chemical free. Innersence Organic has a flawless, "toxin free" rating on the website, and actually produces great results. To wake up with curls instead of frizz, I wash my hair at night and let it partially dry, and before I wrap it in a bun I scrunch in some "curl control" and spray it with a few squirts of finishing spray. Depending on the weather, I wake up with socially appropriate hair. If climate isn't on my side, it just takes a little more water and finishing spray and my curls are good to go.
 Heritage Products Sweet Almond & Grapeseed Oil

Natural and organic beauty products can be pricy, so I like to break things up and preserve my products by occasionally using natural oils from Heritage instead. They double as a moisturizing hair treatment, and help repair damage from the sun, chlorine, hard water, hair dye and chemical-based synthetic products. Before trying sweet almond oil, I used olive oil or coconut oil in my damp hair before bed. Olive oil provided  a great moisturizing effect, but I found it to be too heavy and it weighed down my curls. Coconut oil was lighter and smelled great, but after sleeping on it the tropical smell morphed into a strange aroma and it made my curls oddly crunchy. Then, sweet almond oil entered the scene. Its high vitamin e content helps nourish the hair and prevent dryness and breakage, and can also treat a dry scalp. A little bit goes a long way, so if I run a dab of it through my hair at night, I wake up with shinier, more controlled curls in the morning that aren't weighed down by heavy product or oil. Once a month or so, I switch to grapeseed oil, which offers a heavy moisturizing effect and a deeper conditioning treatment, which can be especially useful if you're using heat on your hair.

Be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group's website for more information on organic products and cosmetic safety. Always check your products in EWG's cosmetic safety database before using them. Please also consider signing EWG's petition to reform cosmetic regulations. What's lurking in your shampoo bottle may surprise you- don't allow toxins to hide in your hair.