Category Archives: For the Body

How I Got Rid of My Anxiety (and You Can, Too!)

14th March 2017

Did you know it’s Autoimmune Disease Awareness month? As tribute to this event and my own struggles, I want to highlight a few key facts and subjects over the remainder of the month.
We’re going to start with a whopper: ANXIETY.
I’m not talking general worry or fear. I’m talking panic attack-inducing, extremity-tingling, chest-tightening, crazy-feeling, irrational thought-provoking anxiety. Let me give you a picture of my own: all throughout college, I laid awake almost every night thinking someone was going to break into my apartment (in Waco, so maybe not totally unjustified =P) and/or there were demons in my room. No joke. I thought every dog I passed was going to attack me, every car ride would end in a life-ending crash, every tingle in my arm and pang in my chest was a heart attack, every unanswered phone call meant a death, and every girl my (now) husband even knew existed was going to take him from me. Those all may sound like silly things, because they are! That’s the catch with anxiety – everything is completely irrational. Couple that with panic attacks where you can’t breath, you can’t control your thoughts, you can’t get ahold of your shaking, and no amount of breathing, meditating, exercising, praying, etc can help you, and you have true anxiety. Anxiety is more than constant worry, but it does often include it. I was always pegged as a hypochondriac and as lacking faith; turns out, my body was screaming at me to fix something. If you have anxiety, your body is doing the same, and it’s probably a bigger deal than you think. Anxiety is almost always either a pre-cursor to Autoimmune disease or a sign of one, so it’s not something to leave unchecked.
Here’s what you need to know if you have anxiety, most of which you may have not heard before:
1) If you are a follower of Christ, you are NOT experiencing anxiety because of your lack of faith. This is not a spiritual issue at this level; it is a physical one. I let myself believe I wasn’t a “strong enough” Christian because of my anxiety issues and I want to save you from that burden. It is not because you are “just a worrier” by nature. It is deeper. Can faith play into it? Absolutely. I still “worry” about things, but I am not anxious anymore. There is a very big difference.
2) It CAN go away. Easily, if you’ll let it.
3) You do not have to rely on medication for the rest of your life.
4) You DO need to have your thyroid checked (more details later).
I’m so glad anxiety (and depression) are becoming more mainstream to discuss. What breaks my heart though, is that most of the medical community is ignoring the root cause. Here’s what I have done to keep myself anxiety and panic attack-free for almost a year. The recommendations will get stricter as you continue reading, so start with one and work your way down when you feel comfortable.
1) Have your doctor run a FULL thyroid panelEspecially if you have other unexplained or chronic symptoms. Most doctors only check TSH and that is not enough. You need Free T3 and T4, reverse T3, TSH, TPO Antibodies, and Thyroglobulin Antibodies. Vitamin deficiencies (Vitamin D3 being the most common) are helpful to check for, too.
2) Manage your stress levels. Stress is one of the major contributors to autoimmune disease. Every person I know with an AI disorder has had a string of stressful events leading up to their illness. Take up yoga. Start saying “no” to unnecessary things. Get away from technology. Learn how to balance work and family better. Whatever it takes, do not let stress overtake you.
3) Start a whole foods diet. This is absolutely crucial. Avoiding this step will most likely eventually cause you to be sick even if you are not currently. If it is not a single ingredient item, do not buy it. If you get it at a drive-through window, don’t eat it. If there are ingredients you cannot pronounce and have never heard of, do not put it in your body. I try to put this gently, but every time you consume things like food dye, processed food, GMO foods, etc, you are literally killing yourself. Slowly, but surely. It is time to stop the madness that is contributing to our society’s chronic illnesses. Shop the outside edge of the grocery store and try to eat at least the dirty dozen organic.
4) Cut out gluten, dairy, and soy, but without heavily relying on packaged products that are simply labelled “gluten-free.” These can be just as harmful and are a big reason why most people don’t get better on a gluten-free diet. You need to stick with the whole foods approach from before, just with a few more cuts. For more info on the detrimental effects of glutendairy, and soy, click their respective names.
5) If you’re still experiencing anxiety issues, start the Paleo diet. This is where many people’s anxiety break-through finally happens. You’re already halfway there from the previous steps anyway!
6) If you still haven’t found relief, start the Autoimmune Paleo diet and/or consider food sensitivity testing. I’ve had things as weird (and healthy) as blueberries or celery give me anxious feelings. Your body is unique and so is the way you handle foods. Your anxiety could solely be from your food sensitivities.
With all this said, I do recommend working alongside a qualified, holistic practitioner. If all your current doctor has done is offer you medicine, you need a new one. You can begin making headway without one, however! I eliminated all of my anxiety before I ever saw a holistic doctor, just by the diet changes alone. I am not a practitioner, but I am thankful for the wealth of knowledge offered by the holistic healing community through blogs, books, cookbooks, etc.
I pray someone finds freedom from this post. I pray anxiety will soon be approached, by all doctors, as it should be. I pray that you, anxious reader, are free from the burden of thinking you caused your anxiety in any way. You didn’t, but you can heal it, and I pray deeply these words help.



10 Tips for a Healthier 2017

31st December 2016

There’s nothing like a fresh new year to inspire healthier habits, amiright? If you’re hoping to achieve better physical, mental, and spiritual health in 2017, I’ve rounded up some great tips for you. None of these are difficult and are entirely achievable for even a brand-new health lover. Happy new year and good luck!

1. Cut back on grains (that includes corn and corn products, my friends). Health experts provide varying opinions on the role of grains in our diet, but the bottom line is that grains do not provide as many nutrients as fresh veggies, fruit, or quality protein sources. With the growing number of people who, often unknowingly, possess intolerances to gluten, wheat, or grains in general, ditching the (even 100% whole) grains for more nutrient-dense options is always a good idea. Grains contain many “anti-nutrients” including phytic acid, lectins, and gluten, that can actually prevent your body from absorbing the minerals and vitamins it needs, and all of which can cause digestive issues. While a healthy person with no chronic issues (which is sadly becoming rare these days) can probably tolerate occasional grain consumption, there is always a better option to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirement of micronutrients. For cooking inspiration, check out Pinterest, a cookbook like Against All Grain, or any Paleo cookbook or website.

2. Nix the sugar – both processed and artificial. Which is the lesser evil? (this question seems familiar for some reason…) Do you choose white sugar, which we know contributes to weight gain and a myriad of other health issues, or do we go with artificial sweeteners like Splenda that are touted by some health “experts” as a good weight-loss option, even though research is beginning to show it can cause the exact opposite, as well as many other scary symptoms. So which do you choose? Neither! Non-nutritive sweeteners are just that, and you can use equally delicious flavoring like pure maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar that not only pose zero health risks (unless you go hog-wild), but also nourish your body. As someone who is a MAJOR sweets-lover and has also given up all refined, processed, and artificial sweetener, I can confidently say I don’t miss them.

3. Monitor your dairy and soy intake. Dairy is another controversial food staple, but especially if you have chronic issues, it needs to go asap. While grass-fed dairy can be beneficial to a person without a dairy intolerance, upwards of 65% of the world possesses one, and if you have symptoms like bloating, gas, autoimmune disease, migraines, anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue, acne, eczema, brain fog, attention difficulties, etc, that percentage probably includes you. Conventional dairy, on the other hand, has virtually no redeeming qualities and includes digestive enzyme inhibitors that can produce anything from gastrointestinal issues to mental health issues. Soy (and peanuts) sit in a similar place and include both digestive enzyme inhibitors and that pesky phytic acid referenced above. The bottom line? There are better and more nutritive options. Even if you decide not to go cold turkey and drop all of these from your diet, be aware of how much you are consuming (primarily by reading labels and keeping a food diary); you will probably be surprised! Click here for my own personal guide to going dairy-free and here for a list of soy-containing foods. 

4. Check your Vitamin D intake. The majority of the western world is deficient in a handful of vitamins, with Vitamin D3 being one of the most common. I’m not saying you should run and buy a multivitamin, but you might consider having your doctor run a panel to check things like your Vitamin D, Iron, or Zinc levels. If you do opt to take a supplement, it’s very important to take D3 and make sure it is gluten, dairy, and soy free. If you want to get really serious about your nutrient intake, snag a copy of The Healing Kitchen it provides an amazing guide to getting in your micronutrients!

5. Start a probiotic. Everyone can benefit from a probiotic, especially if you’re on that chronic disease spectrum I’ve so lovingly referenced a million times. My favorite brand is LactoPrime Plus. Now, why take a probiotic? It helps balance the “good” bacteria in your gut, helps heal “leaky gut” (or intestinal permeability – the root cause of most to all chronic and autoimmune diseases), strengthens your immune system, and can help reverse the negative effects of environmental toxins and antibiotics, both of which contribute to chronic conditions.

6. Find exercise you enjoy. As someone who used to run, zumba, kickbox, and weight train religiously, I hardly ever do an “organized” workout anymore and still feel amazing. Do I enjoy these things? Yes! But as a mother of two young kids, it stresses me out to fit them in my schedule. Instead, I try to incorporate several weekly walks, dance parties, outside time, etc with my kids so that I’m moving. If you have time for things like running, CrossFit, etc and enjoy those things, DO them! Just be mindful of over-exercise or any unnecessary stress caused by a strict workout regime – if those aren’t factors for you, great, but if they are, try something new! I think we try to force ourselves into ridiculous activities for the sake of “health”, but I believe it’s much more important and substantial to enjoy what you’re doing. It’ll give you more motivation to persevere!

7. Ease up on the chicken. I know, Chick-fil-a is your favorite and all you’ve ever heard from the health world is that boneless, skinless chicken breast is the best meat to consume for optimal health. Sorry friends, think again! Conventional chicken has an insanely high ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. While Omegas are good for you, there has to be the right balance, and most Americans eat way too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3, which can cause a vast array of health problems. Here’s a great article on this issue. Surprisingly enough, red meat is the best option if you’re not able to buy anything organic. Check out this article for a ranking of meat quality – I was highly shocked when I first read it!

8. Increase (and possibly change) your veggie intake. You guys had to see this one coming, right? It’s nothing new, but I do want to draw attention to the “vegetables” most people are consuming. The most common in the SAD (Standard American Diet) would include corn, green beans, and white potatoes. Here are the issues: first off, corn is again, NOT a veggie, neither are green beans (legumes! – not some that are outlawed on a Paleo diet, however), and white potatoes offer little nutritive value. Instead, opt for copious amounts of green leafy veggies and a variety of color. Consider investing in some fun cookbooks to inspire new recipes!

9. Implement de-stressing activities into your routine. Stress is one of the biggest contributing factors to autoimmune disease, and it’s no secret that Americans are plagued with it. Try to incorporate something small into every day; I like to have a set bedtime routine – I read, put my phone away, and maybe journal or color. Midday yoga, walking, a quiet time or Bible study, or an activity or hobby you enjoy are all great options – find what works for you! For me, de-stressing often looks like decluttering. One of my personal goals for 2017 is to continue shifting toward a more minimal lifestyle. It’s SO freeing! Capsule style wardrobes, less clutter in the home, fewer but more meaningful purchases – these are all wonderful choices to minimize stress (and possessions)!

10. Find a good community. I truly believe I saved the best for last. My family has been through a lot this past year, but I would not have had the same attitude, endurance, hope, or joy if it weren’t for the Godly community I’m surrounded by. I’m so thankful that most churches have moved toward a small group model – it makes it easier to participate in one! It takes diligence, time, and patience to form friendships and accountability-based relationships, but they are like glue for our tired, broken souls. I encourage you to work toward finding people you can relate to spiritually, people who push, challenge, and convict you to live like Jesus.

I hope you all have a happy new year and a wonderful 2017. Thanks for reading!

 


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How to Make Perfect Bone Broth (and Why You Should!)

14th December 2016

It’s no secret that bone broth and offal should play a crucial part in any healing diet, but it’s a bit harder to actually include them in your daily routine. I’m an avid bone broth drinker nowadays, but the first few times I tried it, it was completely disgusting. Why? I was buying store-bought or I was making it wrong.

First things first – why bone broth? It’s touted as a sort of cure-all because of its nutrient-density, and for good reason. It contains collagen and gelatin, essential components for joint and bone health, can help heal leaky gut (also called intestinal permeability – the root cause behind most to all autoimmune and chronic conditions), can lessen and heal food sensitivities, and aids your body in detox (read more here). It is also high in Glycine, an amino acid that can help you sleep better, has “anti-aging effects,” and improves memory (from The Healing Kitchen, page 32). Do you know why chicken soup is always recommended for sickness? It’s because chicken stock was originally all bone broth (that Campbell’s can is probably not doing you much good); sadly, our society got away from utilizing the whole animal and cooking the bones, which led to missing out on vital nutrients our bodies need.

The good news is, bone broth is extremely cheap and easy to make, and after much trial and error, I’m loving mine! One of my biggest initial questions in my bone broth-consuming journey was, “Where in the world do I get bones?” There are several answers, but the most convenient (and cost-effective) one I’ve found is to simply buy meat that has the bone-in. When we shop, we buy 1-2 whole chickens per week and the bones are plenty to make bone stock to last until our next trip. We also occasionally buy pork chops bone-in (pork makes great broth!). Not only are we saving money by buying a whole chicken (it’s several dollars less per pound than breasts or tenders – not to mention the nutritional value from the giblets that are included!), but we are cutting costs by making our bone broth at home. Almost every ingredient is something we would have otherwise discarded – we hardly spend anything out of pocket to make it! If you can afford to buy bone broth by chance, I highly recommend Kettle and Fire – it is the ONLY tolerable brand to drink I’ve found so far.

Now, onto the goods! Here are the supplies you will need for your bone broth:

  • 3+ quart pot + lid
  • Bones from 1-2 well-seasoned chickens (if using another animal’s bones, just ensure the bones are a couple inches from the top of your pot). I’ve found the seasoning on the previously prepared meat to be very important, since it inevitably makes it onto the bones as well!
  • Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth 
  • 1/2-1 onion, any color will do
  • Carrots (we save the tops after cutting them and use them for our stock; typically 10-15 tops)
  • Celery (we save the bottom and tops) from one stalk
  • Himalayan pink salt 
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Steps:

  • Before cooking your whole chicken (if using chicken) set aside giblets for use in the broth (I keep mine in a bag in the fridge and make the broth the same day as cooking the chicken). After you’ve cooked your chicken, pork, etc, remove as much of the meat as possible. Throw all bones AND raw giblets into a 3+ quart pot.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Throw in rough chopped veggies – onions, celery, and carrots
  • Add seasoning – we use 1-2 tablespoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of garlic and onion powder. You can use pepper, parsley, etc. as tolerated!
  • Fill pot with just enough water to cover the bones
  • Turn stove on low heat and let the pot sit, covered, for 48 hours. It is imperative the lid covering the pot fits perfectly – a too-large lid will cause the liquid to evaporate and burn your bones. Wah, wah.
  • Once the stock has set for 48 hours, drain the liquid over a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. The cheesecloth can be a bit messy – I secure mine over a mason jar with a rubber band (real fancy-like – see below)

  • Store in glass jars in fridge for immediate consumption or freezer for later use.
  • Enjoy! If you find your stock is not quite as flavorful as you hoped, you can always add a dash of salt to your cup as you’re drinking.

 


Tired

10th December 2016

As I sit here, I’m lost for where to begin. But I know the words need to come – for myself, for others who are going through something similar, for anyone who cares for our family.

I’m so tired.

A year ago kicked off the most horrific, painful, tiresome months of my life – of watching my 5 month old son, covered in weeping, red, itching eczema, fluctuate from not being able to move from the pain to writhing in agony. There wasn’t a day I didn’t cry. I couldn’t even kiss his face he was so covered with open skin. We didn’t sleep. We had no answers and listened to doctor after doctor swear that it wasn’t related to food, strip our pocketbooks even barer as we filled prescription after prescription that didn’t help, and fought the instinct that the issue was much deeper than anyone let on. Finally, after a friend led me to the Autoimmune Paleo diet, we dove into holistic healing, quickly seeing that it was the only thing that would work. My son’s food sensitivities are too many to list. As a breastfeeding mother, he and I were both eating about 15 foods total. I, a 5’5″ woman, got down to 104 pounds, I cried all the time, I was hungry. But I knew without a doubt this was the road we needed to take. Out of naivety, even though I had been diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease that year (although I now know every single AI disease and chronic illness has several food sensitivities that contribute greatly to symptoms) thought I would not have to take the hard path we took with my son. I counted down the breastfeeding-days until I could eat whatever I wanted again, and then slowly started realizing this change was going to be life-long for me.

Truly, I started feeling SO much better. No more migraines, no more anxiety, no more insomnia. No more unexplained shakiness, tingling, stomach-aches, depression, hypochondria. I lead a completely different life than I used to. But things can get worse before they better. When your body is chronically inflamed, you may not notice every little response your body has – there may be no clear pattern between food and symptoms – but when you start to heal your body, it calms down enough to notice every little thing. It’s a good thing, really. But as I sit here, able to eat 20 foods that I’m so sick of I could die, I have to wonder if it was worth it. What would it have been like to ignore my food issues like so many people do? And I have to be confident that I did the right thing. That I’m trying to take care of the temple the Lord gave me. Ignorance is not an excuse for me anymore and I’m too far in to go back. But it’s hard. It’s frustrating to not be able to eat at a single function, to have to overly coordinate every meal prepared by someone else and then be ready for it to go wrongly and physically suffer, to have people constantly question what you’re doing because they can’t begin to understand the pain that a mere bite of the wrong food can cause.

Here’s where we’re at, just to give you a picture. We can’t eat gluten, dairy, grains, soy, eggs, legumes, processed food, refined sugar, corn, alcohol, peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes, nuts, seeds, most green vegetables, most fruits, pork, most starches, food additives, and I’m sure more that I’m leaving out.

Do you know what that leaves? Not very much. We still eat about 20-30 foods. And as I creep into borderline complaining here, both of my sons are in this same, crappy boat. My youngest, we knew for a while, but my oldest has been having ongoing stomach issues (among others that we probably didn’t realize) for a long time. After further testing, he is also restricted to this same diet. Forced into the same life of inconvenience, pain, and uncertainty. The same life of being afraid of eating because of what it could do. I watched the other day as patches of eczema began to pop op on his face and I’m terrified of the potential suffering we’ve already experienced too much of.

And I’m so tired.

I’m so tired of explaining myself to people and feeling like they don’t understand why we chose this route. Tired of not being able to eat out on a hard day. Tired of every meeting, gathering, function, and party being centered around food that we can’t have. Tired of being so limited in my diet that I can’t even take most of the supplements I’m prescribed because my body is so in shambles that I can’t process basic vitamins and minerals. Tired of pouring money into new tests and appointments to get more answers that I desperately need. Tired of seeing my children suffer. Tired of thinking about all the ways my kids are currently deprived and will be deprived, made fun of, or left out in the future. Tired of hearing another story of someone who was healed easily through the steps we’ve already taken, as most people are. Tired of the things we’ve been doing for so long working quickly for everyone else.

Even as I sit and type, I know that it all seems so silly. But it’s not just food. The symptoms can be killer. The lack of control is debilitating. The feelings of hopelessness and confusion are hard to fight off. And with that said, I still know we’re doing the right thing. I truly do. And the Lord has been so generous to show that to me. Most of the women in my current circle have some sort of autoimmune disfunction, without seeking that out. My doctor has now started implementing the Autoimmune Paleo diet in her practice because of my dedication to it. Some of my health posts have taken off completely without my trying. And most importantly, the Lord is drawing us to himself through this – reminding me that I am never in control, and that I don’t want to be, because he is gracious, loving, and merciful in his sovereignty.

I get frustrated sometimes, that I’m pouring so much energy into my own health and my own family that I’m missing out on greater kingdom work. I want energy to serve others more. I want the time and physical capability to be more present in my community. I want to be able to go to a camp or on a mission trip without having to somehow coordinate food for the whole trip. I want to have an excess in my bank account to give to others, instead of pouring it into our health expenses. But that’s not where the Lord has put us, and I have to trust that this is the best thing. That he will be faithful to let us see the fruit of our labors, even when the labor seems so irrelevant. I pray that more than leading people to healing, our story draws people to Jesus. I don’t know how that plays out, but I have to trust that the Lord will not waste the energy, time, and resources we’ve put into getting better.

And I ask you, dear reader, to pray for that on our behalf. Pray for healing, yes, but pray that the Lord’s glory would spread – that we would be gracious for the suffering God allows in order to make us more like Him. I don’t have all the answers, but the author of my story does. My final prayer is that if you’re reading this and have any inkling of pre-autoimmunity or full blown AI disease, please, do not wait to tackle it. This road less travelled is fruitful, even if it’s winding and long. If you know us, you know that our son’s eczema is nothing like it was a year ago, that he is almost completely clear most days. You know that my symptoms are nothing like what they used to be. It’s tiring, but it is rewarding. My family is an extreme – most people do not have to go to the lengths we have to see healing, but I’m confident the Lord is using it. So I will push forward in my weariness, cling to the promises of Jesus, and proclaim truth however I know how.

 

Jeremiah 31:25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

Romans 8:26-28  “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”

Paleo at Aldi

7th October 2016

Guys, this post is way overdue. I have been an Aldi fanatic for too long to not have sung their praises on the interwebs by now. A lot of people think if you eat Paleo, AIP, Whole 30, etc, that Aldi can’t accommodate, but I’m here to tell you it absolutely can! And for cheap. You are not stuck with Whole Foods alone! If you’re not familiar with Aldi, do a quick online search to see if there’s one in your area! They are a low-cost, minimal-employee chain store who dispense their carts with quarters (you get it back when you return the cart – don’t worry!), do not use plastic bags (you can buy your own reusable at the checkout line), and have minimized options to make your choices easier and their prices lower. It’s a frugal minimalist’s dream!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Our monthly grocery bill, for a family of 4 (with two toddlers who possibly eat more than any other children their age ever in the existence of time) who all eat Paleo is about $800-$900. If you’re not in the Paleo world, that might sound a bit steep, but if you are you know that’s toward the low end. It’s expensive to eat well! Aldi helps alleviate some of that stress, though. While my husband gets a few things that aren’t Paleo-friendly, the rest of us are required to follow a primal diet from AI disease and food sensitivities. I know this isn’t uncommon, so I hope to help some of you who also have no option but to follow a paleolithic diet!

the boys are obviously very excited about the whole process

the boys are obviously very excited about the whole process. also, GO ON FRIDAY right at opening. It looks like this.

Here’s what we DO buy at Aldi:

  1. All of our meat and protein. They have grass-fed beef at $5.89/lb (the best price I’ve seen); we tend to get 2-3 packages of grass-fed and one package of conventional 90% lean (if you can’t always buy grass-fed, go for the leaner cuts and try to drain the excess fat after cooking). We also buy whole chickens at $1.49/lb (we only purchase chicken from their hormone and antibiotic-free line – it’s in green packaging) and use the bones for bone broth. They have pork and ground turkey, neither of which are organic, but can fit the bill if you need. Their egg prices take the cake though (the paleo cake you make with the eggs you buy..ya know). They’re usually 89 cents and will often get down to 59 cents a carton, in which case we buy them all. *UPDATE* – Aldi now carries Nitrate-free bacon! It’s not sugar-free, but most experts claim evaporated cane sugar to be okay while following a Paleo and even an AIP diet.
  2. Most of our produce. While not everything at Aldi is available organic, the selection is pretty good for the price. We buy apples, kale, and spinach organic and the rest conventionally. We haven’t had an issue with it – you’ve got to make your budget work, and we’re not a family that buys 100% organic (if you can afford that, awesome!). On a typical week, we get:
    -romaine, spinach, kale, and artisan lettuce
    -broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, onions, squash, garlic, and lime
    -apples, bananas, and seasonal produce (their seedless watermelon is the BEST); they have a great variety of squashes in the winter and fruits in the summer.Their produce is all usually great (the avocados are outstanding) – you can’t really go wrong here!Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
  3. Some pantry items. This is the only area in which Aldi lacks for a fully-stocked Paleo kitchen. Luckily, they have several items available without additives. We are able to buy our olive oil, coconut oil (although I prefer Dr. Bronner’s and order that online), dried fruit, nuts, and some seasonings in their organic line. Since we can tolerate some gluten-free grains (not paleo), you can also get great deals on organic quinoa and rice. We usually buy:
    -Raisins (literally the only ingredient!) and bagged dates
    -Bagged pecans (most of their nuts contain additives or non-paleo oils, be sure to check the label)
    -Olive oil (I’ve had great success with all of their olive oils, but when the California-sourced option is available, I stock up!)
    -Kalamata olives (hard to find olives with all paleo-friendly ingredients!)
    -Sweet potato chips (cooked in sunflower oil)
    -Vinegar, pure maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar
    -Green tea and honey
    -Baking chocolateProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset
  4. Frozen foods. No lack here for Aldi! Weekly, we buy:
    -Wild-caught salmon
    -Field-to-frozen veggies including green beans, broccoli, asparagus, and peas
    -Frozen fruit (mostly berries and occasional peaches)

With that said, Aldi doesn’t have every item we need. What we can’t purchase at Aldi we buy online at Thrive market or in-store at Kroger or Sprouts. Here’s what we get elsewhere/don’t buy:

Nut butters. No Paleo-friendly options at Aldi at this point, sadly. They just added a sunflower butter, but the allergen label says “may contain soy and tree nuts”. Wah, wah.
Coconut products (oil, milk, butter, flour, flakes, etc). While Aldi has coconut oil, the consistency is a bit weird and I much prefer Dr. Bronner’s. We get all of this at Thrive, typically.
Some produce. Guys, I have a parsnip obsession. Aldi has no parsnips. It’s my one beef with them. Occasionally Aldi runs out of or doesn’t stock certain produce, so we pick that up at Kroger.
Spices. While Aldi released an organic spice line not long ago, we don’t usually buy organic for our seasonings. Their other spices may contain milk, soy, and tree nuts, so we stay far away due to our own sensitivities.
Non-toxic products. Aldi has great deals for some household essentials, like TP and paper towels, but their cleaning supplies and personal care products are traditional and chemical-laden. We turn to either Thrive Market, Sprouts, or good ol’ DIY for ours.
Canned itemsWe’ve become a no-can family because of our own intolerance to canned foods, but Aldi also doesn’t offer the best selection of additive or sugar-free canned goods. They do have green beans with nothing but water and salt, but everything else seems to have sugar or additives.
Broth. Aldi offers lots of broth, but if you want the real stuff (bone broth!), order the Pacific brand at Thrive or make it at home – homemade is by far the best! We use the bones from the whole chickens we buy.
All other pantry items. We usually keep nutritional yeast, palm oil shortening, collagen peptides, gelatin, and a few other non-perishables on hand and Aldi doesn’t have much in the line of Paleo pantry staples. Again, we turn to Thrive, Kroger, or Sprouts for those needs.

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me after shopping in my full nerd uniform (glasses, hat, no make-up, jeans and tennis shoes. nailed it) in the pouring rain with both boys. fun times.

Arguably, you could get away with only shopping at even Aldi if you’re full Paleo. Their meats and produce will get you a long way! We choose to purchase our other products for diet variety, but most of them are not absolutely necessary for a nutrient-dense, exciting diet. Let me know if I missed anything or if you have any other questions! Happy shopping, eating, and nourishing!

You’ve Got an Autoimmune Disease, Now What?

29th August 2016

lonely

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disorder, or if you’ve experienced chronic issues with no answers or relief, you may wonder what in the world to do next. It can feel extremely overwhelming to embark on a complete diet and lifestyle change when you have no idea where to start. I felt the same way when my journey began, and luckily I had great resources passed onto me, otherwise my healing process would have taken much longer. I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re sick. And you’re fed up with feeling bad all the time, with no assistance from the Western medical community. You’re tired of wasted doctors appointment, cancelled plans, sick days, unexplained, weird symptoms, and not feeling one hundred percent.

First, let me say there is healing available. Second, you are not alone in your struggles. There are people who have gone before you and found incredible relief. It’s not an easy change, but it is absolutely worth it. Don’t be afraid to pursue your body’s best – food, stress, and disease do not have to define you and you can live a full life. Without any more fluff, here is my step-by-step guide to getting started putting autoimmune disease into remission. I am not a doctor. As recommended in the steps below, please find a capable physician to assist you in your journey.

  1. Before you do anything else, it is imperative to eliminate gluten and dairy from your diet. (Why? Click here for gluten and here for dairy). If you feel the need to ease in and do one at a time, start with gluten. This post and this post are both amazing guides to getting started cutting gluten. Gluten and dairy issues have become so prevalent that most products will contain a certified gluten- or dairy-free stamp, but you should definitely educate yourself on where it is typically found. Here is my personal comprehensive guide to going dairy-free. At the end of the day, gluten and dairy are very easy to avoid and a much-needed start to your healing experience. It may seem overwhelming if you’re used to the SAD (Standard American Diet), but it is probably easier than you think to adjust to these dietary changes.
  2. Start a probiotic. If you’re not already taking a daily probiotic, you need to be! I use this brand and currently take one with every meal. Just be sure to find a brand without any potential allergens. Before you are able to consult with your physician on dosage, one per day is probably a good place to start. Probiotics help put good bacteria back in your stomach, contribute to leaky-gut healing (a phenomenon found in all AI disease), and aid in recovering from antibiotics (the over-use of which can be a huge factor in causing and flaring autoimmune disease). Read more about probiotics here.
    pexels-photo-109277
  3. Look for a functional medicine (or naturopath/holistic) doctor. While you can make great strides by mere diet and lifestyle changes, it’s beneficial to have a professional walking with you. Unfortunately, conventional medicine does not offer much help for chronic issues, and working with a holistic doctor is absolutely crucial. With that said, they are certainly more expensive, but the long-term benefits prove well worth it. Most people’s disease(s) require seeing several specialists, but the beauty of a holistic doctor is they’re just that- holistic. I went from having a PCP, a neurologist, and endocrinologist to just having one doctor; this definitely helps save money and limits the amount of time I spend in a doctor’s office. If you need to save cash and/or wait for an appointment, there is quite a bit you can do to get started in the meantime (starting with the above steps and working your way through the other tips!). Here is a great website to search for a certified functional medicine practitioner; here is another for a naturopath; here is one more for holistic doctors. If all else fails, take to googling your area for some variation of these medical titles. There are also countless doctors who offer Skype or phone consultations if you have difficulty finding someone local – Dr. Justin and The Paleo Mom are two well-known figures in the autoimmune world that offer online services.
  4. Arm yourself with the best resources. My favorite books are:
    • The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott – provides the what, why, and how of the AIP diet along with delicious, healing recipes to get started.
    • The Healing Kitchen by Sarah Ballantyne – gives an amazingly detailed breakdown of micronutrients and how they play into your body’s function and healing, as well as 150+ drool-worthy recipes, combined into easy meal plans to suit individual needs (batch-cooking, minimal ingredients, busy lifestyle, etc).
    • The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne – this is a must-have. It is a detailed scientific look into autoimmunity, and while thorough, it can be a lifesaver. This book is actually how I discovered some hinderances to my own healing, as it provides a great troubleshooting section, checklists for optimal recovery, and an explanation of why a multi-faceted approach is crucial (getting enough sleep, reducing stress, eliminating triggers, etc). Especially if you’re somewhat skeptical to why all of these puzzle pieces are important, this is the book for you.
    • He Won’t Know It’s Paleo by Breanna Emmitt – this cookbook provides all your favorite recipes in autoimmune form and is the first AIP cookbook I recommend. Well worth the money to help you comfortably transition.
    •  My favorite blogs and podcasts are:
    • The Paleo Mom
    • Autoimmune-Paleo
    • Pheonix Helix (blog and podcast)
    • Beyond Wellness (podcast)
    • Grazed and Enthused
  5. Learn the common lies of the health industry. This was a big stumbling block for me at first. I grew up believing Splenda was comparatively good for you, red meat was typically bad, boneless and skinless chicken was the best meat to consume, fat was a no-no, and that whole grains and dairy were necessary for a balanced diet. None of this is true, and it takes some adjusting (read this article for a ranking of meat quality, this article on why good fats are your friend, and this one for an argument against grains for Autoimmuners). Whole foods need to be your focus, and the rest will fall into place. Avoid anything with additives or non-nutritive/refined sweeteners (for example, honey, molasses, and pure maple syrup are okay in moderation; artificial sweeteners and brown sugar are not). If you’re ready for the next dietary step, take out soy, all grains (including corn) and sugar.
    fruits-market-colors
  6.  When you feel ready, dive into a Paleo diet, and eventually (or even immediately) into an Autoimmune Paleo diet. The Paleo diet eliminates grains (including corn), dairy, soy, legumes (including peanuts), refined and artificial sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and seed and vegetable oils. The AIP also cuts out eggs, nightshades, seeds, nuts, coffee, and chocolate (there is a lot of science behind the reasoning, here, which I won’t go into detail on. The gist is these foods can all contribute to inflammation and are the most common autoimmune triggers. Here’s one article on why you should cut out nuts and seeds in particular). The AIP diet is not meant to last forever – it is an elimination diet to help you discover what foods are bothering you; I, for example, have successfully reintroduced some coffee, chocolate, eggs, and some nuts and seeds, but with that said, you have to follow the diet to a tee in order to reap the benefits. Here is my guide to getting started with AIP. Pinterest is also a great resource for Paleo and AIP recipes and how-tos. You can find my profile here, if you’d like to check out the pins I’ve saved under my AIP and AIP Reintros/Paleo boards. Alternatively (or better yet, additionally), start keeping a food and symptom diary. It is very important to track what you eat and what sort of reactions you have to eventually piece together your trigger foods, especially if you’re not diving into full AIP to begin with. Whatever you decide, ensure that your diet is very nutrient-dense. This means focusing primarily on quality seafood, meats, and vegetables (with specific attention to fatty fish, bone broth and other offal sources, and leafy greens), supplemented with good fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, etc and fruits. Personally, I have found adding 1-2 scoop of collegen peptides to a drink every day, eating a green veggie with every meal, and consuming bone broth 3+ times per week to be very beneficial. You can reference the above-mentioned blogs for more detailed info regarding the AIP.
  7. Consider working with an acupuncturist who practices NAET allergy treatment. This is hands-down the most efficient way to find your food sensitivities. Your practitioner can very quickly test for food intolerances and help you heal them as well. You can read more about the practice and process on their website; I can’t recommend it enough. I have watched my son lose several food sensitivities through this treatment, and while I am only about 4 treatments in, I have already been treated for and healed of my intolerance to eggs, as well as lost several other food sensitivities. There are several articles discussing the inefficiency of food sensitivity testing via bloodwork, which is another reason why NAET is a great option. If this option doesn’t suit you, stick to a food dairy and listen to your body. I’ve found I have deep intuition on foods that are harming me. Even if you do not wish to do NAET, acupuncture and chiropractic care can provide great pain relief.
  8. Address healing holistically. Diet is a fundamental starting point, but it is not the only area needing attention. Prioritizing sleep and adequate exercise (as well as avoiding over-exercising), along with actively working to reduce stressors are all essential for healing. I highly recommend implementing a pre-bedtime routine, if you do not already have one, that completely excludes technology and involves peaceful things like reading, having a quiet time, doing light yoga, coloring, journaling, praying, etc. A consistent and early bedtime has also made a huge difference in my personal healing. I find that even if I can sleep in, going to bed later than 10:30pm leaves me feeling miserable the next day. Make sure you’re also regularly working out and performing exercises you enjoy. Yoga has shown great benefits, especially to the AI community, but participate in what makes you feel good – if you like it, you’ll keep doing it. Sometimes, my workouts simply involve a 30 minute walk 4-5 times a week, while I learn my body’s physical limitations. As far as reducing stressors, find practical ways to ease your mind. If you’re over-committed, drop some obligations and don’t be afraid to say “no.” If you’re overwhelmed with housework, start a daily cleaning schedule to keep up with cleanliness without doing too much at one time. Obviously, stress can manifest itself in a myriad of ways – address your own causes and find ways to fix them. I also love Stress Away, Lavender, and Joy essential oils to add with epsom salt to a hot bath, diffuse, massage on, or simply smell. Getting outside every day is an ideal goal to have, as well – Vitamin D is a big component for healing!
    mountainyoga
  9. Find support. Unfortunately, autoimmune disease is prevalent enough that you most likely know several other sufferers. If you can, find someone who can embark on this journey with you; if you can’t find anyone who is participating in an AIP or Paleo lifestyle, dive into what community you can find, in order to have friends to discuss your victories and defeats with. I cannot explain how joyful, challenged, and uplifted I have been by amazing, Godly community (you can read about my journey from loneliness to friendship here). We have been blessed with a wonderful community group through our church, and they fill my heart with endless joy. This healing is as much spiritual and emotional as it is physical.

Thank you so much for reading, friends. I pray this helps you on your journey to healing and wellness. I am not a medical practitioner and I urge you to find one who can sincerely help and listen, but I do hope this provides a starting point. These are the measures that have helped me become 100% symptom free, as long as I stay away from trigger foods and manage sleep and stress well. Please feel free to reach out to me with questions!

 

 

 

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

21st June 2016

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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.

 

 

 

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!

hospitol

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

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 (even Walmart does!). 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!

 

 

My Experience with the Autoimmune Paleo Diet

13th April 2016

I have somewhat of an obligation to preface this post by saying I’m not a medical professional, although with the amount of research I’ve done on eczema, leaky gut, and autoimmunity, I feel like I could be. Plus, I majored in Anthropology, which is a science..so basically call me Dr. Scientist Fallon and take all my words as truth.

Until several months ago, I had never heard of the Autoimmune Protocol (or Autoimmune Paleo) Diet. I couldn’t have even told you what the Paleo diet consisted of and never in a million years would have thought “healthy” foods could wreak havoc on your body. Then, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, my breastfed baby had eczema and food sensitivities that continued to spiral out of control (without much help from the medical community), and I knew something drastic needed to be done. A friend loaned me an Autoimmune Paleo cookbook, and I began exploring the world of healing through food. I’ve always been a big fan of holistic health, but I had never delved this deep into it. I read story after story of people virtually cured of their autoimmune disorders, their skin issues, their chronic health issues, and I knew I had to give it a shot.

So, what is the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)? In function, it is an elimination diet designed to remove foods that can trigger reactions and inflammation, in order to allow your gut and body to heal. You follow a strict elimination diet until your symptoms subside, and then can begin experimenting with reintroducing certain foods. The details? No grains, wheat, gluten, dairy, legumes, seeds and nuts (including chocolate and coffee and all things good and lovely), eggs, alcohol, nightshades (like tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, etc), soy, NSAIDs, or artificial or processed sweetener.

What I felt like I'd be eating at first

What I felt like I’d be eating at first

Overwhelmed yet?

It seems like a lot. I know. But what if you could lose every one of your chronic symptoms? Would it be worth it?

After just 1-2 months of following the Autoimmune protocol diet, I did. I went from having joint pain, back pain and numbness, headaches and migraines, aching feet, memory loss, foggy brain, vision issues, numbness and tingling in my face, extreme fatigue, insomnia, nausea, wild mood swings, acne, heart palpitations, anxiety and bouts of depression, to nothing.

Isn’t that amazing? Do I sound like an infomercial yet? I had no idea food was so powerful. Unfortunately, the AIP diet is an all-or-nothing gig if you truly have autoimmune or gut issues, but it is well worth it. Trust me, it’s not for the weak-spirited, but it could change your life. It could give you your life back.

For a while, I sadly accepted that my life would simply be filled with episodes of pain, anxiety, migraines, stomach issues, and trouble thinking clearly. Although I wasn’t diagnosed with an autoimmune disease until relatively recently, a lot of these symptoms have plagued me for several years – I can’t tell you how freeing it is to see them gone.

Trust me when I say that the driving force behind starting this diet was for my son – it would have been much harder if it was only for myself. I LOVE pizza. I love cheesecake. I love coffee. But you know what? I love the food I’m eating now even more. I’m excited for the day I may be able to reintroduce things like eggs, chocolate, and Java, but I only get one body. There’s no excuse for continuing to pour junk into it!

If you’re curiously reading this, you have to decide for yourself – is it more worth it to live in misery or to give up a few foods that are not only not benefiting your body, but actively harming it? God gave us wonderfully delicious, healing foods – don’t be scared to eat them! Eating whole, real food is incredibly fun and satisfying. I have never appreciated the common grace God provides through food as much as I currently do. The autoimmune protocol is not meant to last forever, although it can take time, and it will hopefully leave you with a much different diet once you discover your trigger foods.

So, what are the benefits of the AIP? Do they outweigh having to give up a few foods?

1. To start, there’s the whole healing-your-body thing. Ever heard Hippocrates’ quote, “all disease begins in the gut?” It’s no wonder that autoimmunity is depressingly widespread, given the amount of processed, artificial, and chemical-laden foods consumed in the Standard American Diet (whose initials are “SAD” for a reason, y’all). Here’s a great thought from Mickey Trescott, an AIP’er I’ve learned lots from via the handy dandy inter web:

“It has been shown recently in studies that all autoimmune diseases have one thing in common – intestinal permeability, otherwise known as leaky gut. When the gut lining becomes permeable, undigested particles of food, toxins, and pathogens are let into the bloodstream, thereby triggering the immune system. All of the foods avoided on the autoimmune protocol are those that have been shown to exacerbate leaky gut, and strict avoidance gives it a chance to heal.”

2. You will probably lose weight. I don’t want to push this as a “reason” to do AIP, but it can certainly be a benefit if you’re overweight.

This is before starting the diet as compared to a few months in. Granted, I had just had a baby in the first pic, but it helped knocked off those old first-baby pounds I never expected to lose, as well as the second-baby weight. I’d been stubbornly hiding some college clothes I never thought I’d fit into, but we are finally hanging out again.

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3. You get to eat a LOT. Since the AIP has a big emphasis on veggies, which are obviously very low calorie, you should be eating a ton. And you won’t experience that sickly full feeling like you would with grains and processed food.

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Be warned: small, sticky hands may fight for your meals.

4. The food is wonderful. Seriously. Did you know bacon is included? While it’s gotta be sugar and hormone-free, bacon is included. That’s really all you need to know. You may now begin.

In all seriousness, I am amazed at how good real food tastes. I have never felt deprived of flavor on the autoimmune protocol.

5. You get to be friends with fat. The food industry has tried to convince the past few generations that all fat is bad, but it’s a very necessary nutrient and even helps aid in weight loss. Good fats like avocados, coconut and olive oil, and coconut butter are AIP staples.

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Can you say, “NOM?”

Friends, I can not say enough about this diet if you have an autoimmune disease or even suspect that you might. I dove in after a friend referred me to it, and I’m hoping I can do the same for someone else. My next post will give you tips and tricks to get started without losing your sanity, as well as talk about all the wonderful things you can eat. Please feel free to leave me any questions in the meantime!

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