hash4

Sweet and Savory Comfort Hash

23rd August 2016

hash4
It’s no secret I’m obsessed with hash. My favorite meals are those where you can mix each item together, so why not put an assortment of food in one bowl to begin with, right? Hash makes things like Paleo, AIP, and Whole 30 a bit easier to swallow (see what I did there..) since conventional breakfast options are not always an option.

This mouthwatering combination includes a bit of maple goodness, a touch of onion and garlic, and greens to pack a nutritional punch. It’s the perfect recipe for any morning (or afternoon, or evening..) and will guarantee your tastebuds are not left wanting. The flavor combination is everything you want in a comforting, hearty breakfast with sacrificing benefit to your body. I will be eating it every day for forever – don’t mind me.

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Ingredients Needed:

  • 1 lb of ground beef, preferably grass-fed
  • 2-2&1/2 cups  (or 2-3 oz) of aragula (can sub spinach)
  • 1 small to medium white or yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup of chopped pecans (exclude for AIP option)
  • 1/2 cup of dried, additive and sugar free raisins (or cranberries)
  • 1&1/2 tsps of garlic powder, divided
  • 1 tsps of onion powder
  • 2 tsps of salt, divided, ideally Himalayan pink or Celtic Sea Salt
  • 1&1/2 tbsps of pure maple syrup

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Instructions:

  1. Brown meat, seasoning with 1 tsp of garlic powder, onion powder, and salt
  2. While meat is cooking, dice onion and saute in olive oil (can also use coconut or avocado oil) in a separate pan until almost translucent. Season with remaining 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, and remaining tsp of salt
  3. Once onions are nearly cooked through, add aragula and stir until wilted.
  4. Combine ground beef with onions and greens and add the maple syrup, stir until combined
  5. Remove from heat and add chopped pecans (nix for AIP) and raisins.
  6. Enjoy!

hash

 

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Confident

What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

8th August 2016

ConfidentYou may have heard this popular Demi Lovato song at some point – I remember the first time I did, I bumped along a little bit and then thought, “actually, I think there is something wrong with it.”

I know, you’re probably shocked and slightly mad at me, so let’s keep talking.

There’s been a love-yourself movement lately, which I don’t want to totally discount, but self-love and self-worth looks a lot different for the Christian. One of my favorite hymns says, “I will not boast in anything – no gifts, no power, no wisdom, but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.” Similarly, 1 Corinthians 1:31 says, “Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” While we’d like to think that arrogant boasting and simple confidence are different – with only one being socially acceptable – I think Scripture would say otherwise.

Let’s look at what the Bible would say about the human condition – there’s the ever popular Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,”  and there’s Luke 18:19, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” These, I feel like we can wrap our minds around and still feel decent about ourselves (at least everyone sucks, right?), but it gets worse. Check out these verses:

  • Mark 7:21-23 – “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within.”
  • Psalm 5:9 – “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.”
  • Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Trust me, this could go on. Scripture is chock-full of verses that point to our miserable lacking apart from Jesus. Personally, this Biblical description of my heart gives me nothing in which to be confident. Apart from the grace of Christ, I’m an enemy of God who always chooses my own desires over the good of others, plain and simple. This pride-hiding-behind-confidence movement we see today is culture trying to convince us that we’re really not that bad, because in all honesty, we’d like to believe deep down that humans are naturally good and not evil, but if you are a Christian, you know this logic is highly flawed (if you are a parent, you probably know this logic is the worst logic ever of all time..).

Here’s the other big issues with being confident in yourself and your own abilities: they don’t actually belong to us, we didn’t create them ourselves, and we change. The person you are finally comfortable being is most likely going to be gone in a few years, leaving you once again struggling to find pride in a flawed person – who now looks different, whose clothes fit differently, who has a new job and different friends. Not to mention the fact that most self-love supporting commercials, ads, products, etc. I see are based on outward beauty (which oddly enough, seems to be the thing they are fighting against finding identity in). I see story after story of companies promoting women of all shapes and sizes to love themselves, while blasting pictures of these different women wearing nothing but underwear. Does anyone else find this totally self-defeating? The media has shoved the need for confidence down our throats and left us feeling even worse when we can’t get on board. It is impossible for us live a life free from coveting what others have, which means that self-confidence will never be long-lasting, genuine, or sustainable. There will always be a better-looking person to remind us of that feature we don’t like. There will always be the more talented artist, speaker, writer, parent. There will always be the richer, more likable, more successful, funnier person, and we will never get away from wanting what others have. We are ridden with lust and covetousness and friends, that will never change. This is why the confidence found only in Jesus is so beautiful – we can have full confidence in a God who never changes, who is always the most powerful, who is always all-knowing, who is always the most tenderhearted, the most brilliant, the greatest Savior. I love that Scripture counter-culturally shows us we can go so far as to “boast in our weaknesses,” because God is magnified even more through our lacking. This is the confidence that sustains, dear reader. Not confidence in your face that will wrinkle, your personality that will change, your clothes that will tear, your family that will grow old, your job you could lose any moment.

So, what’s wrong with being confident? It leaves us empty, because we are truly not worth bragging about, but you know what is worth boasting over? How Jesus can claim a filthy sinner for His own and call her worthyredeemed, beautiful, and loved, not because of her own doing, but because of His sacrifice. This message goes completely against everything our culture teaches us, and I know some of you will walk away bothered by this. I urge you to evaluate what you’re confident in and how satisfying that is to your life.

I love these words from Jen Wilkin:
“Retreats, conferences, and topical Bible studies rush to assure us that we are redeemed and treasured, that our lives have purpose, that our actions carry eternal significance. If we just understood who we are — the message goes — we would turn from our sin patterns and our spiritual low self-esteem and experience the abundant life of which Jesus spoke…I believe it is because we have misdiagnosed our primary problem. As long as we keep the emphasis on us instead of on a higher vision, we will take small comfort from discussions of identity — and we will see little lasting change. Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance or purpose. It’s that we lack awe.”

Women, men – your body shape will fail you, your social skills will fail you, your ability to do the right thing will constantly fail you, but the confidence found in the work of Christ Jesus will never be obsolete. I urge you to search the Scriptures, to become so deeply wowed by the Creator that you have no room to think about whether you “feel good” in your own body, because you are so taken with the body that was broken for you. Be confident in the Lord today, friends, and be at peace knowing boasting over His work is all-satisfying.

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image

Dreamy Drinks to Help You Forget About Coffee

18th July 2016

imageWhether you want to cut back on caffeine, are starting something like the Autoimmune Protocol, or have found you have a coffee intolerance, giving up coffee can be rough. As someone who has been a coffee addict since the age of 16, worked as a barista for 2 years in college where I functioned solely off my {several} cups of joe, and is now a mom of two boys 18 months apart who have often been known to not sleep, coffee has been a total staple. Sadly, that changed recently, when I discovered my body was actually sensitive to it. For me, coffee causes stomach issues, light-headedness, headaches, joint paint, insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems. It varies from person to person, but a food sensitivity, to coffee or any other item, can manifest itself in many ways – including mood swings, depression, acne, eczema, migraines, asthma, autoimmune diseases, sinus issues, body aches, weight issues, and sleep problems, to name a few (if you have any of the symptoms and are more interested in food sensitivities, see these signs and this article).

Needless to say, coffee had to go. When it came down to choosing between feeling terrible every day or sacrificing my coffee, the answer was obvious. I’ve been coffee-free for about 4 months now, and finally feel less attached to coffee emotionally (which is a very surprising connection!). Giving up coffee made it necessary to find other drinks I could enjoy, and I’ve had great luck with incredibly nutrient-dense options! I believe it’s extremely helpful to have other go-to hot drinks to keep from succumbing to the Java temptation, so here are my favorites!

Green Tea

The beauty of green tea is that you can get a slight caffeine fix without also getting the nasty coffee side effects. It has antioxidants, fat burning properties, amino acids, and boasts of several other health benefits as well. You can steep it in hot water alone, or add a combination of honey, coconut milk, or coconut oil to give it a sweet and creamy taste. If you love green tea and want to take your drink to the next level, I recommend:

Matcha

Matcha is the powdered form of green tea and has a less bitter taste, but with the same wonderful benefits – aiding in weight loss, heart function, skin health, and more. Instead of steeping, the powder dissolves in your liquid. I use this brand of matcha from Thrive Market, and blend it with hot water, a bit of AIP sweetener (honey, molasses, or maple syrup), coconut oil, and collagen peptides, which makes it extra frothy. You can also add a dash of turmeric and ginger to amp up the flavor and add extra health benefits. This is a fun one – you can play with the combinations until you find one that suits you, or try something different every day! If you’d like something closer to a latte, use canned coconut milk instead of water (although I recommend a 1:1 ratio at least, as coconut milk can be very heavy on the stomach in large quantities).

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Dandelion Root Tea

Dandelion root tea is also chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and health benefits. It “improves digestion and aids weight loss,” “contains calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins B and C,” and helps your liver detox (from mindbodygreen.com). This tea is available at most health food chains and online at Thrive market. Just like green tea, you can either steep this and drink it plain or blend the steeped water with coconut milk, honey, and even a bit of carob for a mocha flavor.

Chicory Root

This is my most recent discovery and by far the closest to coffee, and especially when you steep a dandelion root tea bag in the brewed chicory, it turns out very similar in taste. You can buy it in granule form and brew it just like you would coffee. You can prepare this drink just as you would your morning joe – my favorite is blended with a tablespoon of coconut oil – and it can be enjoyed any time of day, as it and dandelion root are caffeine free! Like the other drinks, chicory is loaded with antioxidants and can aid in digestive and liver health. I purchased mine here.

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Thanks for reading, friends! Good luck in your getting–rid-of–coffee journey!

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Look at these cute babies! Oh crap...I should have brought my kids hats, too..

Is Mom Guilt Ever Justified?

5th July 2016

Oh, mom guilt. I’m so thankful for the bloggers, writers, and speakers who call attention to it’s ridiculousness. I’ve been mulling over the silly situations that bring me mom guilt, which include but are not limited to, forgetting to brush the toddler’s teeth, feeling bad leaving the boys alone so I can brush my own teeth, not doing enough scholastic things with my 2 year old (a 2 year for goodness’ sake), taking either of my kids in public with a dirty shirt, having to do anything remotely productive while the boys are awake, driving around in the car when we can’t take another moment at-home, nursing my baby to sleep instead of trying harder to sleep train him, having a toddler/baby who doesn’t do (insert whatever stupid milestone that they will eventually pick up here), not getting dressed every day, not waking up before the kids..it doesn’t stop.
Look at these cute babies! Oh crap...I should have brought my kids hats, too..

Look at these cute babies! Oh crap…I should have brought my kids hats, too..

Now, does any of this sound even remotely important to you? Okay, so I’d like for all of our teeth to be brushed, but none of this is of much significance or eternal value. I’m not sure about you, momma friend, but I’d like to stop worrying about the nonsense that I guilt myself over and focus on the grace and redemption of Jesus. This is not a new concept, and I’m so thankful, but I’d like to propose a new question: is mom guilt ever justified?
If you’ve been a Christian longer than say, .2 seconds, you’ve probably heard that guilt is from the enemy and conviction is from the Holy Spirit, so let’s start by working off that basis. This means all guilt is useless, but I think conviction, on the other hand, often gets overlooked as mere guilt and ignored. Listen, momma, you’re not perfect, and neither am I, but there are things I catch myself doing that do not fall into mom guilt. They fall into selfish desires that I write off because I feel I “deserve” this, that or the other. Here’s some of my own examples: spending most of the day scrolling Instagram, forgetting to intentionally play with my kids, and getting irritated when they want something from me. Trying to take too many pictures throughout the day so I have some idealized portrait to blast on social media, even though our day was not as fun or exciting as it might look,especially since I watched the day behind a phone camera. Spending the day focused on the shows, errands, and tasks that I enjoy, instead of being sensitive to my children’s needs and wants. Using the internet as a break from my kids, which inevitably goes from a 2 minute distraction into a dangerously captivating idol. Getting angry at the boys when their needs interfere with my schedule. Consistently putting “good” things like housework, mom dates, and free play above my time with my children. Letting my physical and digital appearance take precedent over my babies.
Here’s the fun thing – I don’t feel guilt over these things. I feel motivated to love my children better because I serve a God who is the ultimate Father, but I would be blind to my own sinful and selfish nature if I wrote these off as “mom guilt” and never gave them a second thought. Be encouraged, momma, that you are both imperfect and completely capable, through the mercy and power of Jesus. Let’s throw away the useless guilt and let the Spirit move to convict and sanctify us, so that we may tend to the important and neglect the empty.
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brownie3

Healthy AIP Brownie Batter Fudge

29th June 2016

Let me preface by saying that I literally never read the written content accompanying a food post. So, if you are starting to read this, I commend you. I’d also like to cover my behind for any future readers by saying this is my first ever food post – so be easy on the picture quality and overall flow..

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I have always been a sweet queen. Sure, I am sweet and queenly (ha…ha), but I mean more in the can-eat-all-of-the-sweets-without-getting-sick type of way. In a former life, there was always room for dessert, especially chocolate-based dessert, even if I was already stuffed to the brim. Baking became a hobby of mine in college where my kitchen frequently served as a culinary laboratory of sorts (my roommate can attest that these attempts were not always successful), but since transitioning to the autoimmune protocol diet, baking is a much more difficult process (and let’s be honest… egg-free, sugar-free, frosting-free, funfetti- free, chocolate-free baked goods are just not nearly as fun to create, but my food-intolerance ridden body certainly thanks me for not using these ingredients). I’ve been working my tush off trying to re-create some of these flavors and textures as best I can!

Now, if you are a sugar freak who also happens to be a health freak, like me, you have got to check out The Big Man’s World. He has the absolute best no-fuss, Paleo, vegan, gluten-free, you-name-it desserts and sweet recipes. Being an AIP’er however, has led me to tweak some of these treats into something I can enjoy, which is the short birth story behind these no-bake, totally autoimmune friendly brownie batter fudge bites. Or bars, if you wish, because we both know probably neither of us will be eating them in bite form.brownie2

Behold, the majesty.

The rich majesty that is also loaded with gut-healing ingredients like collagen peptides and coconut products, with no guilt-inducing artificial or processed… well, crap. Not only did I want to make these AIP compliant, but also good for you! This is the first time I’ve tasted a carob dessert and thought it actually tasted like chocolate! And my husband, who despises most of my desserts, said, “hey, that’s pretty good!” A big win. Really.

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Ingredients:

For the brownie batter fudge:
-1/2 cup coconut flour
-1/2 cup carob powder (I use Bob’s Red Mill toasted version and it is amazing)
-1/2 cup honey or pure, grade B maple syrup
-1/2 cup coconut butter, heaping, for totally AIP, OR, 1/2 cup seed or nut butter as tolerated; I use 1/4 cup unsweetened sunflower seed butter and 1/4 heaping cup of coconut butter and it is DIVINE
-1/2 cup pumpkin
-Two scoops of Vital Proteins collagen peptides

For the “frosting”
-1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
-1/2 cup of carob powder
-1 to 2 tablespoons of honey or pure, grade B maple syrup
-One scoop of Vital Proteins collagen peptides

Step 1) Line an 8×8 (or smaller for thicker fudge) deep dish tray with parchment paper and set aside.
Step 2) Make the fudge – Mix together the coconut flour, carob powder, and collagen peptides. In a separate bowl, melt the nut, coconut, or seed butter and mix in the honey and pumpkin. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
Step 3) Pour mixture into prepared dish and flatten. It should be very thick.
Step 4) Make the frosting – melt the coconut oil, then stir in the carob powder, honey, and peptides. Throw the mixture in a small blender (carob is a bit finicky and can clump easily if it is not blended)
Step 5) Scoop the frosting on top of the brownie batter fudge – it should be fairly thick – and spread evenly.
Step 6) Refrigerate for a couple of hours or freeze for 10 to 20 minutes. (There is a right and a wrong decision here, friends. Let’s just say I will never refrigerate my desserts)
Step 7) Slice into bites or bars, and try not to consume the entire pan in three days like I did the first time.

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Hope you enjoy, friends! I’d love feedback from other sweet teeth!

This recipe is adapted from these Healthy No-Bake Breakfast Brownies from The Big Man’s World – go check him out! 

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anxiety

What You Might Not Know About Anxiety, Depression, and Autoimmune Disease

21st June 2016

TMULMQLOPW

I’ve felt like (and been called) a hypochondriac for as long as I can remember. It seems like I was always the one who felt crummy, whose illnesses were worse than other’s, whose chest pain and anxiety always convinced me I had something very seriously wrong. I have taken more CareNow visits for tingling in my face or head, thrown back more tylenol for joint pain, and complained of more head and stomach aches than a “healthy” twenty-something should. I have been plagued by deep and paralyzing anxiety since I was a teenager, which is why I always convinced myself that it was my fear getting the best of my physical state, and that nothing was actually wrong. I always secretly thought one day I would find out I in fact did have something going on underneath the surface, and partially hoped for it, so I could finally justify all the times I drove myself crazy feeling like something was askew.

Heart palpitations, chest pain, tingling. Frequent stomach aches, recurring headaches, insomnia. Crippling anxiety and crazy mood swings, inflamed knees, elbows, and fingers. Inability to breathe. Memory loss, foggy brain, endless tears. Times where I thought I was on the verge of insanity.

I think back to my college years, that I now realize were so much more complex than a girl who simply “worried too much”or didn’t “trust the Lord enough”. I think back to sleepless nights where I was convinced somebody or something from this world or another was going to creep into my apartment at night. I think back to the nights spent shaking uncontrollably because I could not manage the anxiety in my soul. I think back to the hours passed listening to worship music, reading scripture, breathing deeply – doing everything in my power to calm my nervousness that would not vanish and feeling defeated that I could not rest in the promises of Jesus enough to overcome my fear. Turns out, He was going to use more than just spiritual healing to bring peace to my soul. He would bring physical healing, too.

And now, years later, I am being freed. I am free. 

I am so thankful for the way the medical community has begun approaching psychological issues like anxiety and depression. It’s not just worry. It’s not just sadness. There’s something deeper going on. But I think the naturopath-minded sector of the autoimmune community has something to offer than even the supportive psychological disorder realm cannot.

Did you know that anxiety and depression can often be linked to an autoimmune disease, but that most doctors will not actually pair the two? Did you know that my disease in particular, Hashimoto’s, is often misdiagnosed as a mental disorder and that most other autoimmune diseases are often written off as hypochondria?

Read this staggering statistic: “The Thyroid Federation International estimates there are up to 300 million thyroid sufferers worldwide, but over HALF are presumed to be unaware of their condition. That means over 150 million thyroid sufferers worldwide have no idea they suffer from a thyroid condition.” (from hypothyroidmom.com)

150 million people likely struggling with mental issues, fatigue, pain, exhaustion, inability to concentrate, weight fluctuations, migraines, and any number of other symptoms who don’t know what’s going on under the surface. And a very good chunk of diagnosed sufferers whose doctors have never done anything for them besides prescribe medication and left them to wrestle with their symptoms forever. Chances are, a handful of people in each of those categories are going to stumble across this post. I was one of those people until this year.

I am convinced the Lord is going to use autoimmune disease healing and awareness in my life, and I have already seen that start to unfold. If you’re reading this, and my story or symptoms sound familiar, please, don’t sit idly by. If you’re tired of seeing doctor after doctor who can’t diagnose or treat you and you know there is more going on, if you have suffered from anxiety and depression, feel handicapped by it and are willing to try something new, or if you resonate with any of the chronic symptoms I’ve discussed, I can’t encourage you enough to find a functional medicine practitioner and to fight for your health. Frequent headaches, recurring stomach issues, anxiety, joint pain, sleeplessness, the list goes on – these things are not normal, friends. They don’t just happen because you got unlucky, and I truly believe you can be healed from them. I am a walking testimony to the power of healing through food and natural medicine, and I am continually astounded at the number of people who can say the same. I have not had any anxiety since I began the Autoimmune Protocol several months ago. I sleep at night. I can enjoy my surroundings without fear. Don’t you want this, dear friend? If you’re reading this and know it’s for you, I pray you find healing. I ask that you go seek healing. While it may be too early in autoimmune research and potentially ignorant to argue that all cases of anxiety and depression are linked to autoimmunity, the naturopath community knows that a lot of it is. And I can promise you that a few diet and lifestyle changes are more than worth being able to live life.

If you’d like to find a functional medicine doctor who can help you, there are plenty of resources available. Here’s a great site to start with. Please reach out to me with questions; I will do my best to answer or direct you somewhere. In the meantime, please consider beginning the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (how-to here and my experience here), a Whole 30, a Paleo diet or simply cutting out gluten and dairy and start diving into the world of healing autoimmunity. Check out blogs like the Paleo Mom and Autoimmune-Paleo and arm yourself with resources that promote restoration. You don’t have to suffer! Praise Jesus for this science and for those paving the way for disease remission; it is my deep passion to see many added to that number, to see my friends, family, and readers freed from anxiety, depression, and other chronic health issues, and to promote the glory of Jesus through this holistic healing.

 

 

 

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fallondanae

May 13, 2016

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“There are few things more damning to the Christian life than wanting to be perceived as more than we are.”

This is from my pastor several months ago now, but it hasn’t left my mind. I could probably dedicate an entire post on the ways we try to appear “better” and more put together than we truly are, but one my pastor dove into is having no deep friendships. Think about it – if you have surface-level relationships with enough people, you can allow them to see your pretty, all-in-order top layer while still making yourself feel as if you’re fulfilling your need for community, even though no one is allowed to see your messy, struggling soul.

I’m bad about this. Ok, really bad. I’m often guilty of wanting to search for new friendships instead of investing in the people I already know. I think we often trick ourselves into believing every relationship will magically, immediately bloom, and that the only friendships worth pursuing are when you basically meet yourself in another form. Or, we’ve somehow convinced ourselves we don’t really need friendships that go any deeper than small talk, so we’re not forced to expose our ugly to the world. It’s leaving us pitifully lonely.

The biggest common denominator for an amazing friendship is simply this: you both LOVE JESUS. And it helps to live close to each other. That’s really it. Would I love for every friendship of mine to be a young mom with two kids close in age who has all the same interests and hobbies as I do? In all honesty, kinda! But, I think the Lord knows that would not grow me the same way as having a diverse group of friends. I believe the Lord has given me people to confide in who have a lot to offer, regardless of their life stage. It is undoubtedly beneficial to have the counsel of those who relate to what you’re walking through, but be careful about disregarding a friendship just because someone’s life doesn’t look exactly like yours.

Few people know the depth of my loneliness the past couple of years, but Jesus has finally pulled me out of that pit, so I want to share it in more detail. For the first year and a half to two years of being an at-home mom, I felt completely isolated and alone. I would often cry to my husband about not feeling truly loved or known by anyone but him, and I was genuinely convinced every other mom or woman my age had her friend group lined up and set in stone, with no room for me. I would meet women I admired, but never really go out of my way to hang out with them, OR, I would meet someone who wasn’t my spitting image, so I wouldn’t pursue that relationship very fervently. I was digging myself further into my lonely hole. We were not consistent or intentional with community, and I was not pouring my sins, my victories, or my convictions out to anyone other than my husband, and it was not a good place to be. While stay-at-home-moms have a tendency to be a bit more isolated, I don’t want to rule out the rest of you. Human interaction at work, etc. can be fulfilling, but that’s not always a given. Being around people is not the same as being known by those around you, and we finally came to terms with that. A little over a year ago, we joined a new community group through our church. My husband and I have always had trouble being consistent in groups like these, but the Lord was good to give us a deep desire and connection to this one. That group has morphed into one of my absolute favorite things. I love to be around these people. Do I know every detail of their lives? No… (I’m not a stalker…well, maybe on Facebook just a little bit..). Do we sit around and paint each other’s nails every weekend while we have pillow talk? Maybe someday..? (I apologize if you don’t know my personality. Please don’t take me seriously very often.) The thing that draws me to this community is their love for Jesus. People who are genuinely, deeply in love with Jesus are my favorite to be around, and it’s made me sad to realize the fullness that I missed out on in years passed. Internet community – there is nothing like having real-life community. It’s so easy to slip into an online-only mentality when our culture is so centered around it. Connecting with people on social media can be great, but don’t let that be the end of your relationships. It can’t fill your deep need for loving people like a friend up the road can. It took me too long to learn that.

It seems painfully obvious in retrospect, but our pastor made a great point during the sermon the above quote is from – Jesus had 3 men he was extremely close with, and 12 he was pretty close with. That’s not very many. Fewer and deeper. If Christ did it, shouldn’t Christians probably consider it? We are so busy trying to make everyone know and love us that we often don’t have anyone that knows or loves us. Sure, people may like a skin-deep misconception of you, but loving someone is when you’ve seen their dirt and their shame and you still seek to know them. Loving someone is sharing hard truths, asking difficult questions, and knowing your own sin is not less than theirs; I would trade that for lackluster friendships any day! I spent too much time seeking social media approval and blasting every moment of my waking life onto Instagram instead of praying for the women that I know.

This is a challenge to myself. To pursue and love people better. To never wallow in loneliness and assume that nobody else is right there, too. To stop trying to be a one-woman-faith-act and love my community. Jesus never intended for this life to be lived alone! Let me blunty say, if you are only going to a church service on the weekends and don’t have a community that truly knows you, that is not enough. Jesus has so much more in store for you! If you sometimes feel an odd emptiness in the midst of an otherwise full and beautiful life, you probably need deeper relationships. Contrary to what we might hope and think, they don’t just happen. You have to intentionally find them (and by the way, your spouse is wonderful if you have one, but they should not be the only person that knows your struggles).

To myself, and to my readers: Pour your heart out to someone. Stop avoiding the people you already know in hopes that someone more like you will come along. Be bold enough to initiate a conversation that actually matters. Stop making excuses for not pursuing people – they may need a friendship more than you think.

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archerlifejacket

Our Full Eczema Journey: Healing my Son’s Body Inside and Out

26th April 2016

In case you’re stumbling across this post without knowing me or my son, welcome! We have been battling extremely severe eczema for about 5 months now, and my baby is SO close to being eczema-free. For a while, I was really disheartened and didn’t understanding people saying you couldn’t “cure” eczema, you could just “treat” it, but now I get it. While my son may never lose his tendency to have dry, itchy skin, we’ve (mostly) learned, and removed, his triggers. That, for us as least, is curing eczema. His skin is almost completely clear! I wholeheartedly believe (along with a giant portion of the medical community) that eczema is always caused by something. Whether that be food allergies/intolerances, infection, gut imbalance, environmental factors, there is always something to blame. That gives me so much hope, because it means those factors CAN be found and removed! That’s been the overarching theme through my son’s eczema journey – finding the cause and stopping it. We still have some healing left to do, but I wanted to share what has worked and hasn’t worked for us while dealing with our infant’s eczema. I am obviously not a medical professional nor do I claim to be, and we quickly learned that every case is different, but we’ve tried quite a bit.

It has been an excruciatingly long and hard road, and I’m thankful for the insight I’ve received from other momma’s who have walked it before me. We saved a lot of time and energy by learning from others, and I only hope I can pass on the favor! We knew absolutely nothing about eczema before it hit our baby – I’m not even sure I could have spelled it for you (in fact, I spelled it wrong on several google searched as an “exzema…exema…eczxerma?… newb”). For a lot of people, you may be able to heal your own or your child’s eczema by natural means alone (i.e. sans steroids)- since our baby had a pretty severe case,  we needed some extra *oomph* (to be shared at the end!). SO, here goes!

When our baby was 2 months old, we noticed an “off” diaper – our pediatrician told me to nix dairy from my diet right away, as I was breastfeeding, and we noticed an immediate improvement in sleep and temperament (removing dairy, by the way, is one of the most important and smartest first steps for fighting eczema!). Since going dairy-free is STINKIN’ hard (here’s a how-to guide if you’re interested), it took a while to completely eliminate it, so we dealt with on and off cheek rashes that we were prescribed topical steroids for. We used them whenever we saw a flair and they helped almost immediately, but as soon as we’d reached the maximum usage, the rashes would come back.

Around 4 months of age, our baby started getting bad rashes all over his trunk. After consulting a couple of doctor’s at our pediatrician’s office, he was prescribed 2 rounds of oral antibiotics (after the first didn’t work), and temporarily switched to a hypo-allergenic formula per our doctor’s orders, in order to help Archer’s body heal. We suspected that dairy was not his only intolerance, and as much as I hated to temporarily stop breastfeeding, I wanted to see my baby get better. A lot of people have great experience with these formulas – ours landed us in the hospital about 5 days after we started. We didn’t realize he was actually reacting to the formula (we went through Elecare, Neocate, and Puramino all without luck), and continued to feed it to him for the next two weeks. Luckily, we got a better perspective of what we were really dealing with once we spent a night in the hospital. Before and during our stay, we were instructed to:

-use either Aveeno Eczema Therapy products, Cetaphil Restoraderm, Vanicream, Cerave, Aquafor, or Vaseline, and use soap (preferably Dove) in the bath sparingly and occasionally
-give baby a daily bath and slather him in lotion within 3 minutes of bathing and without drying him off first; apply lotion in the morning as well
-use a humidifier in his room
-wear only 100% cotton clothing (still important, by the way! We have even had to cover his stroller and carseat with cotton)
-wet wrap at night
-and countless other tips I’m sure I’m forgetting, that didn’t seem to do a lick of good

Archer in the hospital - such a champ!

Archer in the hospital – such a champ!

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The pictures don’t do him justice. His entire body was weeping and he was pretty miserable. He’s a fighter!

We saw 3 pediatric dermatologists within a week who all said, “Uh, yeah..you’re doing everything exactly right..” but who also wouldn’t entertain my discussion of eczema being internally related, even though I knew for certain my baby reacted to certain foods. The last dermatologist we saw prescribed us steroids and antibiotics, and I did not even pick them up. That’s when I decided I was done with the methods we’d been using and moving on to something else. Since then, here’s what we’ve done:

  • I started the Autoimmune Paleo diet. This was big. You can eat high-quality meats, fruits, and most veggies. That means no grains, nuts and seeds (including chocolate/cocoa and coffee), dairy, wheat, soy, legumes/beans, corn, nightshades (like tomatoes, white potatoes, and peppers), sugar (including artificial) , processed food, eggs, or NSAID’s – all of these items are either very common allergens OR have inflammatory properties. I would recommend this diet to anyone trying to eliminate eczema – it’s NOT a forever diet (read my getting starting guide here and how I completely erased my own autoimmune disease symptoms with this diet here). The goal is to reintroduce foods one by one until you figure out what is triggering your eczema. Here’s the caveat, this diet is still a good decision, but if you don’t see improvements within a month or so, you may have allergies or sensitivities within the foods you’re eating. Our baby still had reactions to avocados, bananas, peaches, apples, berries, melons, some coconut products, fish, shellfish, and several other things that are allowed on the diet (more later on how we discovered this).
  • We’ve gone (mostly) chemical free. The eczema industry likes to market fragrances as the enemy – we’re finding that chemicals are. When we tested whether our baby was reacting to the “free and clear” and “hypoallergenic” products we had or the non-toxic products with essential oils and natural fragrances, the non-toxic products won every time. My favorites are these Pure Haven products and plain ol’ coconut oil, shea butter, lavender, frankincense, and tea tree oil mixed together as a salve. Now, fragrances can still be an enemy, since most of them ARE loaded with chemicals. The key is finding labels that say “chemical-free” or “non-toxic” (not just “all-natural”). We’ve stopped wearing perfume and cologne, and I’ve switched all my makeup products to chemical-free versions (especially important if you are the eczema sufferer yourself). We currently use soap nuts for our laundry detergent and love them – highly cost-effective and very efficient (I use them on my cloth diapers, too!). Beware of disposable diapers and wipes, too – they are packed with chemicals. Try brands like Honest or Earth’s Best if you’re sticking with throw-aways.
  • We only let filtered water touch our baby’s skin. It is very common for eczema-prone skin to react to tap waterWe purchased this filter for the bath and have one on the kitchen sink, too. Ideally, we’d have a whole-home filtration system, but that wasn’t in the cards right now.
  • We started probiotics. Archer takes these mixed into solids. I take these. They’re both allergen-free! Probiotics are essential for restoring gut-health and good bacteria during and after taking antibiotics. We both also take a Vitamin D supplement since we’re not getting it much through diet. Archer recently started on a Briar Rose supplement, too, for immune support (doctor’s orders – check with yours first).
  • We got allergy testing. This had good and bad outcomes. The blood work did give us a better picture of what we were dealing with, as it came back with allergies to milk, egg, soy, peanut, dog, tomatoes, wheat, and oats (way more full-blown allergies than we thought we were dealing with) BUT, it does not test for food sensitivities. This is super important. According to the test (and to the allergist I saw concerning the test), my son shouldn’t react to fish, shellfish, and a handful of other things that came back negative, but he does. Finding food sensitivities, and not just allergies, is extremely important when trying to conquer eczema. We found Archer’s through NAET treatment, which leads me to…
  • NAET allergy treatments. It has done wonders for us. This treatment is usually done by an acupuncturist or chiropractor and is designed to both determine allergies/food sensitivities/vitamin deficiencies and also heal them. We have seen our son lose several of his food intolerances through this treatment! Even without the healing, we have been able to pinpoint several food sensitivities, as well as several “safe” foods, through the muscle-strength test used in this method. You can read more or find a practitioner here. (If you’re in the Allen/McKinney area, send me a message for our practitioner and more details!)
before starting NAET and a few treatments in

Before starting NAET and a few treatments in

NAET was working very well, but a common cold, teething, etc. for an eczema sufferer can flair into something much worse, and before long we were right back where we started. So,

  • We started the Aron Regime. This was our hail-mary. Dr. Aron’s medication, along with the NAET treatment, has been what brought immense healing. Dr. Aron is a highly experienced dermatologist who has patients worldwide. He approaches eczema a bit differently than others, and instead of giving extremely potent steroids and antibiotics for a short period of time, prescribes very diluted medication for longer-term use (which also helps avoid Topical Steroid Withdrawal). We have been on his treatment for almost two months and have gone from 5 applications per day to 1-2 per day, with the end goal (for us) being to wean completely from the medication. It has given us and our baby life again and made it exponentially easier to determine triggers. It has also helped attacked the nasty staph residing on our child’s body, which is a major component of eczema for a lot of cases. You can view Dr. Aron’s website here. (Please know the only benefit I receive from passing this information on is knowing that someone else may use him!)

beforeafter1 beforeafter2

 

The left-hand pictures are the day I decided enough was enough and, in tears, emailed Dr. Aron. The right-hand pictures are from a little under two months into treatment. If we didn’t have budding teeth, I’m convinced the face rash would be gone as well! Know this – Dr. Aron’s medicine is and isn’t a magic cure – it has totally changed our lives, but we have also removed countless other food triggers (that we found through NAET and trial and error) and worked toward healing his gut lining; the combination is what has put us over the hump. We’re still dealing with a bit of a teething rash and some stubborn spots that have yet to heal, but we have a completely different child from when we started. Here’s the beauty of Dr. Aron’s medication: it’s the only thing we use (as opposed to the 25 different lotion brands we’ve tried in the past), we don’t wet-wrap anymore, we don’t rush to cover Archer in lotion after his bath, we don’t freak out about putting him in the church nursery, we don’t use scratch sleeves or swaddles, we don’t worry about Archer going through TSW, I don’t spend most of my nights crying over my baby’s terrible skin. It is SO freeing. We fought long and hard against eczema and I finally felt peace from the Lord about beginning this medication. We absolutely did not want to use steroids. I was bound and determined to see my son healed “naturally,” but this was part of our answer and has been for so many others whose story is eerily similar. All of our other treatment has been very holistic; we are continuing to pursue full-body, inside-out healing for our little baby, and I finally realized it was okay for that to include a topical, medicinal approach, and I’m so glad I did.

UPDATED

With that said, we still do not want to use a topical steroid long-term, although many are comfortable doing so using Dr. Aron’s method. We have recently started working with a naturopath pediatrician who is helping us piece the last of the puzzle together. So to add,

  • We see a holistic pediatrician. As helpful as Western medicine is for acute issues, we’re had a difficult time seeing healing through Western approaches for chronic issues, like eczema. Again, eczema is always, always caused by something, and holistic doctors will be diligent about finding that something. So far for Archer, we have had blood work and a stool test done to reveal low zinc levels and high levels of a few strains of bacteria, which we are now taking doctor-given supplements for. The goal for Archer now is to regulate these levels and pursue over-all gut and immune system healing. We are finding more and more (as is the rest of the medical community) that allergies and sensitivities are often caused by poor gut-health. The more he heals, the more foods he can tolerate. To propitiate this, we use the next step:
  • We include gut-healing, inflammation-fighting foods. This is equally as important as avoiding foods (like dairy, grains, corn, tomatoes, etc) that can be detrimental to eczema sufferers. Archer eats bone broth (which is offal, yay! – read about the benefits of offal here) mixed or cooked into foods several times a week, turmeric and ginger, coconut oil, collagen peptides/gelatin, high quality meat like grass-fed beef, and lots of leafy greens.

If you’re an eczema sufferer, or a parent of one, I hope that you can take away even a small piece from our story. Please know that most people do not have to go through all that we did, and that one of these methods alone can often bring healing. I desperately hope to see this terrible disease alleviated! Please reach out to me with any questions, and know you are not alone.

Thanks for reading!

archerlifejacket

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STARTINGAIP

Starting the Autoimmune Protocol

18th April 2016

 

AIPfaves1If you’ve done any research on the Autoimmune Protocol since my last post (read it here), you may be a bit overwhelmed. Don’t worry – it’s easier than it seems. Before you know it, bone broth will be second nature to you and grains will seem like a distant memory. My last post centered heavily on the dont’s of AIP, but now I want to dive into the do’s. 

As a reminder, here’s what not to eat (bear in mind that peanuts are on there, but under legumes!):

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from autoimmune-paleo.com

Here are the wonderful things you will be nourishing your body with!

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from autoimmune-paleo.com

You may be wincing at the Offal and Ferments, don’t worry – you can ease into it (bone broth mixed into recipes and drinking Kombucha are safer choices for the dietary faint of heart). Your next thought may be, “where the heck do I buy this stuff? What in the world is ume plum? Am I going to turn into a crunchy freak?” Yes friend, you will. Now let’s get to the helpful stuff:

Where to Shop: While you’re welcome to hand your entire paycheck to Whole Foods, there are more economical ways. You will most likely be able to buy your produce and meat at whatever grocery store you currently frequent, as long as they offer organic and quality meat options (which means Walmart is out). When you can’t afford to buy all-organic, grass-fed everything, buy it where it counts. Get the dirty dozen organic and aim to get hormone free meat at the minimum (here’s a great post on ranking meat quality). I do most of my shopping at Aldi (who even has grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon!), and I buy pantry staples I’m unable to find at Aldi online at Thrive Market. Kroger and Sprouts also have great health food options (my nitrate-free, uncured, love-of-my-life bacon comes from Sprouts).

Rethinking breakfast: Weep over your brunch days for a moment – conventional breakfast is going to be a thing of the past, since it’s built on eggs, dairy, and grains. At first, it may seem incredibly weird to eat dinner leftovers, lots of veggies, or anything not drenched in syrup or milk for breakfast, but I promise you’ll get used to it. There are loads of wonderful AIP-compliant breakfast recipes that will leave you feeling full and wonderful! My personal favorite is a sweet potato hash with greens and onions, paired with bacon and fruit (breakfast veggie hashes may be your new love affair…grated parsnips also make for a wonderful knockoff of traditional hash browns). If you’re a coffee lover embarking on this adventure, I recommend stocking up on green tea and dandelion root tea (a great coffee dupe).

Broccoli, chicken, and baby feet for breakfast. Totally normal.

Broccoli, chicken, and baby feet for breakfast. Totally normal!

Update your kitchen: You are going to be spending copious amounts of time cooking. One – batch cook when you can, and two – be sure you have the necessary tools and ingredients. You don’t need anything fancy, but you’ll need proper knives, cutting boards, baking sheets, and pots and pans handy. I also frequently use a food processor, a veggie spiralizer, and a crock pot. Because your go-to baking ingredients are no longer on the menu, your cabinet will need a complete makeover once you start AIP. Here is an extremely comprehensive list of autoimmune-friendly pantry items; don’t think you need everything listed. Find what works best for you. My must haves are:

  • coconut oil, butter, flour, flakes, aminos, and milk (here are BPA-free options – look for one without added gums or stabilizers – I use Natural Value brand)
  • olive and avocado oil
  • nutritional yeast
  • carob powder
  • tapioca flour and arrowroot starch
  • honey and pure maple syrup
  • Celtic sea-salt, onion powder, and garlic powder
  • basil, oregano, and rosemary
  • grass-fed gelatin
  • collagen peptides
  • pumpkin (I buy mine boxed and organic from Thrive)
  • bone broth
  • dates (some stores keep these in the product section, they are sweet and caramel-y and my saving grace)
  • dandelion root tea, green tea
My hand-towel is crooked. Do I care enough to take another picture? Nope. I DID care enough to give my kitchen a quick "re-new" by moving around items that need easier access, reducing clutter, and deep cleaning.

This is where most of my life currently takes place. My hand-towel is crooked. Do I care enough to take another picture? Nope. I DID care enough to give my kitchen a quick “re-new” by moving around items that need easier access, reducing clutter, and deep cleaning. Clean kitchen = happy Fallon.

Recipes: Have fun experimenting in this new food world! I cannot give enough praise to “He Won’t Know It’s Paleo” (although my veggie-hating husband likes to joke and say he-won’t-know-it’s-Paleo-my-rear-end… whatever husband, whatev). It has all the comfort recipes you knew in a former life. You can access most of the recipes on Pinterest, but I love having a tangible cookbook to work from. Find a few go-to recipes you can whip up in a pinch, but don’t be afraid to try new things. You can browse my Pinterest board here for my favorite autoimmune- compliant recipes! If you don’t feel like following a strict recipe, most veggies go together pretty well (garlic powder and sea salt can make just about any combo taste wonderful). My dinners typically include meat and a bunch of sautéed or baked veggies. Sweet potatoes + onions + brussels sprouts, zucchini + parsnips + mushrooms + spinach, cauliflower + broccoli + carrots are some of my most-loved variations.

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The cookbook that will change your AIP life. Fuzzy socks are also nice if you have Hashi’s and your feet are always FREEZING.

"Noatmeal creme pies" from "He Wont Know Its Paleo"

“Noatmeal creme pies” from “He Won’t Know It’s Paleo” were my first AIP dessert. I was NOT disappointed.

Plan, plan. plan. Confession: I don’t really meal plan anymore. I buy one meat package for every day of the week (which gives us enough for leftovers typically), 2-3 fruit variations, and a ton of veggies, and I haven’t had to throw away any bad produce since I started the AIP. I always keep a few bags of frozen fruits and veggies for when my fresh supply is gone. The food GETS eaten. If you think you may go hog-wild and need more structure, though, the autoimmune-paleo website is here to rescue you. Again. (You will soon fall in love with Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt, too).  My biggest planning has to come when we are traveling or will be out of the house for a while – I always plan as if our destination will not have what I need (assuming I can’t do research beforehand) and go prepared (if anyone thinks it would be helpful, I may do a future post on AIP travel tips. Yes? No? You’re never going anywhere ever again? Cool.) Since lunches, coffee dates, etc are so common, it’s easy to forget that you can’t go just anywhere on AIP. Until you get into a strong-willed rhythm, know for certain a restaurant serves AIP-friendly food or is extremely allergy-kind, or don’t mind not being able to eat, try to make plans that don’t revolve around food. When you do start researching local eats, call ahead to see if they cook with olive oil and are willing to make allergy modifications – a lot of places will, you just have to ask!

Find a friend. There are SO many people with autoimmune issues. Try to find someone who will tackle the autoimmune protocol with you. If you can’t, I’d love to be your accountability buddy! Sometimes you need advice, or to vent, or to ask if coffee should be haunting your dreams. No big deal.

Be patient. The first week may seem like an eternity, and you might not notice an immediate improvement. Give it at least a month, if not two; people heal at different rates. As tempting as it is to cheat from time to time, know that you will likely upset your progress – sadly a “cheat meal” on an autoimmune diet is not like a cheat meal for most people.

Stop stressing. Relax. Get enough sleep. Drink some water. Rely on the Lord. A great John Piper quote has been circulating recently: “Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” While this may seem a bit extreme for an autoimmune disease at first glance, if you do have one, you know it’s not. Take time to be frustrated if you need to. Talk to the Lord. Confess your sadness over ice cream dates, pizza parties, and convenient food and then press forward in healing your body. Ask Jesus why He called Himself the bread of life and then allowed your body to react to bread (kidding. sort of?) It’s all too easy to wallow in self-pity over your body that hates itself (as in, it’s literally attacking itself. Cool!). Instead, focus on being grateful for access to the resources to take care of your body and rejoicing over the opportunity to draw closer to Jesus. Autoimmunity is rough, friends, but it gets better. Some of your sensitivities may lessen, but others will be lifelong, and you will have to figure out how to adjust with a good attitude. Having an autoimmune disease doesn’t have to leave you debilitated, but it CAN leave you in awe of the Savior who sacrificed everything to be with you.

Good luck, friends, and reach out to me if you need anything!

 

 

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