Sticking to AIP during the holidays

Hello everyone! I am still eating a very clean diet called the autoimmune paleo diet to help heal my hashimoto’s thyroidis. Generally I have been loving the diet because I feel so much better. The only hard part is eating out or at other’s homes and the holidays are so full of celebrations and traditional foods that are not AIP compliant. The way I am countering this is by hosting Christmas dinner at my house with a completely AIP menu and for dinner at others, I always let them know about my restrictions and bring a couple of compliant dishes myself in case there is nothing else I can have. I have found family and friends are usually very accommodating and understanding and although I certainly don’t expect them to create all dishes around my diet, they are usually more than happy to make sure at least a couple dishes will work for me.

I have been reintroducing some foods although I have to admit I feel best on strict AIP, but with chocolate and white rice. A few other things I’ve tried give various reactions such as a stuffed nose, sore throat, constipation, upset stomach, etc. I was at a holiday party at a restaurant recently and did tell them about my restrictions which they were very accommodating about for the main courses. However I had some appetizers including some tapanade, pate, and capers that I didn’t ask about. I felt fine during the meal but once I got home after a long cab ride I felt sick and knew I must have ate something that was contaminated. I didn’t sleep well and had to wake up a couple times during the night to use the restroom. The next morning I felt congested and used the bathroom a few more times. That was a good lesson that a strict diet is necessary for me and I should never eat anything without checking the ingredients first. It feels burdensome to always be asking about ingredients but I have to put myself and my health first.

For Christmas, I have complied a number of recipes I have found online to make a delicious and nutritious AIP feast. I will be making a turkey, roasted ham, brussel sprouts, baked sweet potato mash, riced parsnips, cranberry sauce, and gravy. Truly all of the traditional staples you would expect but with no nasty ingredients. Some people might miss potato but I think the parsnips will trick then. I haven’t decided what to do for dessert yet but I think I will look for a pumpkin pie recipe or maybe even attempt a coconut ice cream. I am actually looking forward to cooking all of these these delicious foods and seeing what my family thinks! I know some think my diet is too intense but I hope to show them how easy it can be!

Walking for My Health

Hello everyone! I am having the most lovely summer in this amazing city enjoying many walks with my dog Keiko. I’ve recently discovered that I needed to cut back on running and other high intensity cardio and training while I heal my thyroid and Hashimoto’s. I’ve always been a bit of a gym rat, but I’ve felt so exhausted in recent months I just haven’t had the energy for the gym.

Instead I starting talking longer walks with Keiko and noticed I felt noticeably better. I’m no longer dragging myself out of bed – in fact I really look forward to my morning walks before work! I generally try to walk for about 40-60 minutes everyday after breakfast. Walking after a meal helps with digestion and the morning sunlight helps regulate circadian rhythms. Keiko keeps me going at a good pace so I know I’m still getting a workout, even if its not the sweat drenched workout I once enjoyed!

I’ve learned self care is so important to my health journey and that includes noticing when a previous healthy habit no longer serves you. Once I am better to I hope to incorporate some more high intensity cardio into my day, but even then I don’t think I’ll ever push myself as hard as I once did. It’s so important to listen to your body and recognize when you’ve reached your edge. Before I was constantly pushing myself to do better but now I am feeling more content with already being enough.

I’ll keep you all posted on my exercise regime as I start feeling better! I’m hoping to incorporate yoga and weights next!

New Favorite Recipe: AIP Risotto

I must apologize for my absence of the past couple of months. I have been so focused on my health after my recent diagnosis that I haven’t had the time or energy to blog as much I would like to. But I’m back to share a new recipe I have been enjoying as I test out a new diet that will hopefully help manage the symptoms of my autoimmune disease.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am no longer eating any grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshades. At first the restrictions felt so daunting as I was used to enjoying at least one if not all of the those foods in a day. But I’ve learned to embrace this new regime as I am feeling better. ūüôā

There are so many amazing online resources and recipes for the autoimmune protocol – I encourage you to do a simple search for AIP in Google and you will see what I mean! Below is a favorite recipe from the Paleo Mom I’ve had on repeat the last few months. It’s nutrient dense AND satisfying which are not always synonymous! It almost reminds me of a traditional risotto I used to make many years ago but this version is much healthier for me. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Beef and Mushroom Parsnip Risotto (AIP-friendly!)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 3

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp evoo
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 lb groud beef
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups (1 box) Kettle & Fire Beef Broth, divided
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or 1/4 cup wine (red or white)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 lbs parsnips (6-7 cups riced)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon (1 tsp dried tarragon)
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

Directions:

  1. To rice parsnips: Peel parsnips and chop into big chunks.  Place in a food processor and pulse until pieces are fairly uniform in size and about the size of a large grain of rice. Two pounds of parsnips (about 5-6 medium parsnips) should yield 6-7 cups once riced.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil, onion and carrot.  Saute until veggies are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef to skillet and cook, stirring to break up the beef, until browned, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms, 1 cup of broth, wine (or vinegar) and salt.  Increase heat to high and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated, 5-8 minutes.
  5. Add parsnips and remaining 1 cup of broth to pan and stir just to mix.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook 8-10 minutes until parsnips are tender and mushy, stirring once or twice during that cooking time.  If veggies start to stick because the pan is running dry, add another few tablespoons of broth or water to the pan.  If you’re largest skillet isn’t big enough for all of these ingredients, you can remove the beef mixture before adding the parsnips and then mix the beef mixture back in right before serving.
  6. Add coconut milk and tarragon and stir to incorporate.  Turn off the heat and let sit on the stovetop covered for 2-3 minutes more. Taste and add additional salt, if needed.
  7. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired. Serve!

Book Review – “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness”

I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune condition where your thyroid attacks your immune system. The thyroid is small butterfly shaped gland at the base of your neck below your Adam’s apple. This disease often leads to an underactive thyroid in most patients (myself included) which is known as hypothyroidism.

I received all of this news quite unexpectedly at the doctor recently. I had been feeling very tired lately and was experiencing some hormonal irregularities but I had no idea what the culprit was. My naturopath ran a million tests and this was the diagnosis. I have to admit, the information was overwhelming. I have a friend with hypothyroidism who is treating it with a prescription so I knew a little about it, but I had never heard of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In terms of treating Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, most doctors would be inclined to prescribe you a pill and let you go. I would prefer to get to the root of the cause (my naturopath would too) so she suggested some lifestyle changes to manage the autoimmune disease.

She recommended removing gluten from my diet as gluten has a very similar molecular structure as the thyroid gland. Your body then begins to attack both and totally exasperates the problem. It has been hard eliminating gluten from my diet as I’ve never noticed a sensitivity to it and consume it often, but I am working on completely eliminating it from my diet. Being a holistic nutritionist I treat many clients with a gluten intolerance but it has been so interesting to be the patient!

After doing more research on my own, I came across what is called the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) which is diet for autoimmune disease sufferers such as myself. The idea behind this diet is to heal your body and gut through food alone. I am a huge advocate for good nutrition and consider myself to eat very healthy (it is my job after all, lol!), but this diet and the book “The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness” opened my eyes to the types of foods that, while “healthy”, might actually be worsening my condition. This book does a great job at walking a person through the initial diagnosis, the importance of being your own heath advocate, lifestyle changes to support your health, and delicious AIP recipes to nourish the body.

I’ve only read the first 20 pages of the book but I love the message. I’ve been relying on my naturopath for a lot of information interspersed with my own online research and some of my holistic knowledge, but I now feel empowered to learn everything I can to make the most informed decisions for my health. The diet itself can be a bit restrictive as I can’t eat any grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, and nightshades, but I am learning to embrace this new diet if it helps me feel my best. I’ve just started on this journey but I will be posting more in the future in hopes of helping anyone else suffering with this disease!

Best date shake recipe

If it isn’t already obvious, I’m obsessed with Palm Springs! It’s a short flight from where I live and has the best weather. One treat Palm Springs is known for is their dates that grow abundantly in the area. There are so many cafes around town advertising the best date shake, but I often find them too sugary as they are traditionally made with ice cream, milk and fresh dates. Below is the recipe I prefer that’s much healthier and refreshing in my opinion. ūüôā

Healthy, 3 Ingredient Date Shake
 
Ingredients
  • 2-3 soft Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1 C unsweetened almond milk, plus more to blend if necessary
  • 1 large frozen banana, chopped
  • dash vanilla(optional)
Instructions
  1. If using harder dates, roughly chop, cover with almond milk and let sit 20-30 minutes before blending.
  2. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until as smooth as possible (there will still be some small date pieces left).
  3. Serve immediately.

 

Excellent Natural Sunscreen – Cut Out the Toxins!

I just picked up some great natural sunscreen that works like a charm and has none of the nasty attributes of ordinary sun screen!

One of my girlfriends recently told me about the risks of ordinary sunscreen and suggested that I start using natural sunscreen. Well, I conducted some research and was surprised to learn that most sunscreens are toxic and¬†can promote the creation¬†of free radicals in the body. Incredibly, many recent reports show that sunscreens can actually raise skin cancer risk. That’s the case even with natural, commercially available sunscreens! So, all the more reason to be careful about what you’re buying.

In general, I try to avoid using sunscreen where it is possible to do so. For example, if I know I won’t be outside for very long, it’s easy enough to use a hat or shirt to shield my skin. I have always been a bit sceptical about excessive sunscreen use, especially considering that many people are vitamin D deficient, which has been linked to many other health problems. Accordingly, my approach to¬†sun exposure is to be sure I get adequate daily exposure, without going overboard and creating a nasty sunburn that might have health consequences.

If I know I’m going to¬†stay outdoors in the sun for lengthy period of time and that a hat and shirt will not be¬†sufficient protection, then I will consider using a natural sunscreen. There are various interesting natural sunscreen recipes available online. However, for those of us who don’t have the time and inclination to make our own since there are some decent options available for purchase.

The brand that I am quite fond of is called Badger Organic. You can learn more about it here. Enjoy the sun and remember to stay safe!

Citrus on the BBQ!

Hello! I hope you’re all having a lovely week!¬†I recently experimented with fruit on the barbeque and loved it! I know that may sound quite strange, since barbeques are usually the domain of meat and other such things, but apparently your barbecue can also be used to make delicious and healthy sweets.

In particular, I picked up a couple grapefruits, sliced them down the middle, and put them on the grill for about 20 minutes while other items were cooking. Frankly, I took this¬†step mostly out of curiosity, thinking it wouldn’t have much of an effect.

But as it turns out, the heat from the barbeque seems to evaporate¬†a fair amount of the water inside the grapefruit, leading to a much sweeter and flavourful grapefruit than usual! It’s sort of like ice wine ‚Äď the reduction of water content leads to a sweeter wine.

However, unlike ice wine, the heating process also caramelizes sugar, or, I should say, fructose, inside of the grapefruits. You can appreciate the delicious aroma in your nose the moment the grapefruit lands on the grill, and your tongue will definitely appreciate it with the finished result.

Here are a couple pictures of me with my grapefruits at the barbecue. After about 20 or 30 minutes, I remove the grapefruit from the¬†barbecue with tongs. As you can see they are a little charred, which is completely to be expected. At this point, I take a knife and gently scrape away the charring, leaving the succulent flesh¬†of the grapefruit below. Then you can either use a spoon to scoop out the yummy bits, or use a knife to remove the rind. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it!

That’s all for me for now! Happy barbecuing, and don’t be afraid to be creative and try something new! Who knows what you’ll discover? ūüôā

Book Review – “Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide”

I have become¬†very interested in Ayurvedic medicine over¬†the last few years. I recently read a great book written by Deepak Chopra about Ayurvedic medicine, and I wanted to tell you about it. I found this book to be a wealth of interesting information and definitely an excellent resource for me to consult in the future. If you’re interested in Ayurvedic medicine, then¬†this is definitely a great place to start.

This book has a great treatment of the history of Ayurvedic¬†medicine, which is essentially preventative medicine dating back several thousand years ago to practises in ancient India. Interestingly, the word Ayurveda¬†comes from two Sanskrit words meaning life and knowledge, or the science of life. Chopra comments that an even¬†more accurate interpretation of the word, and a¬†more precise reading, would be “the knowledge of lifespan”.

The book describes the guiding principle of Ayurvedic medicine, which is the principle that the mind exerts the greatest influence on the body. Arising from this principle is the concept that eliminating illness from the body requires bringing our mind and awareness into balance, which then extends to putting our body into balance. According to Ayurvedic medicine, this state of greater balance of the mind and awareness can create a greater state of overall health in the body.

I also learned that the principles of¬†Ayurvedic medicine have different implications¬†depending on a person’s “doha”. There are three kinds of doshas: kappa, pitta, and vatta. Each of these three doshas¬†are described in detail throughout this excellent book. I learned that I am a pitta¬†type, which has important implications for my ideal diet and lifestyle. All of this information is very well described, which makes this a great resource for someone wanting to learn about Ayurvedic medicine, identify their dosha¬†type, and plan out a diet and lifestyle that best suits that type.

That’s all from me for now! Happy reading… ūüôā

Joshua Tree Park – Such a Special Place!

The other day I went to Joshua Tree National Park. For those of you who don’t know, this¬†is an amazing national park about a 1 hour drive from Palm Springs. The park is famous for its joshua trees, as well as its incredible rock formations. The rock formations almost appear to be piles of stacked rocks, which have led many people to wonder how they came to be stacked! In actuality, the rock formations are the product of volcanic eruptions¬†thousands of years ago. Overtime, parts of the formations wore¬†away making it appear that the formations are a combination of many smaller rocks. Pretty incredible, huh?

The weather at the park was great!¬†In the summer, the temperatures can be so high that it’s unpleasant to step outside your air-conditioned vehicle! On the other hand, during the winter months, the weather is much more moderate making it much more pleasant to get out of your car and experience the park the way it was meant to be experienced. Luckily, the weather was very moderate the day that I went.

If you visit the park during the winter months, make sure to prepare yourself for weather¬†that will be a little bit colder than what you experience in Palm Springs. Due to the location of the park, the weather tends to be a few degrees lower, and becomes dramatically colder at night. Once the sun sets, temperatures can fall below zero. In fact, during one of my hikes through the park a few months ago, I saw plenty of snow in places where the sun was unlikely to shine directly during the day. That’s pretty good evidence of how cold it can get during the night!

Also make sure you stay well hydrated throughout your stay in the park. It can be tempting to think that you don’t need much water, but the sunshine and dry conditions will keep you parched unless you’re taking swigs of water every now and then. I took my trusty copper bottle (which I’ve become¬†obsessed with – see my blog post on the subject of alkaline water) to the park and carried it in my hand whenever I was outside so that I had easy access. There aren’t many freshwater sources in the park, so consider bringing a few large bottles of water with you to the park so that you can refill your handheld bottle every now and then.

An interesting feature of the park is the way it’s laid out. Unlike other parks with a¬†central parking lot, Joshua tree park has a variety of different parking lots connected by miles and miles of roads. As a result, you need to park your car for an hour or two, take advantage of the hiking and sites in the area, and then load back in the car and go to your next destination. Rinse and repeat. I actually very much enjoyed this, as the time in the car provides an opportunity to rest your¬†legs, drink some more water, and have a little snack.

That also aren’t any restaurants or stores in Joshua tree park, so make sure you stop at a supermarket before you go to the park and load up on snacks that will keep you well energized throughout the day. There’s so much to do in the park, and so little time, so it’s a good idea to buy some smaller snacks that you can stuff in your pockets and have on the go. Granola bars and peeled eggs are a great idea, and certainly a healthy option to keep you energized.

If you visit the park make sure to go to Keys’¬†viewpoint, which offers incredible views of the surrounding area, as well as the San Andreas Fault! Here is a great picture of the view on a clear day. Apparently the view is far less clear on a hot day, mostly as a result of air pollution. So we were very lucky to get such a clear shot this time!

I’m not much of a driver, and prefer to get around by way of bicycle or public transit. Unfortunately, however, Joshua tree park is not a place that is easily accessible by any method other than car. In particular, there is no public transit access, and no convenient road for biking. As a result, your best option is to carpool or rent a car.¬†Depending on the time of year, you may be able to get a fairly good rate for your car. Make sure to get the economy size, which will be more cost-effective, and also more likely to keep you in mother nature’s good books!

Another great place to visit is the dam. Interestingly, Joshua tree park used to be home to many more springs and streams them it is now. Today, pretty much the only source of water remaining is a place called breaker dam, which is a largely man-made reservoir which gathers rainwater. As a result, the spot attracts plenty of wildlife, including some lovely birds. The area is also very peaceful, and the water and rock formations create some incredible reflections.

If you are¬†a fan of rock climbing or bouldering, then¬†Joshua tree park is definitely for you. While we were in the park, we saw plenty of people scaling huge rock formations. Rock climbing has always fascinated me, but unfortunately I suffer from an ailment that makes it very difficult for me to take it on: I’m afraid of heights! Oh well, can’t win them all!

All in all, Joshua tree park is an incredible place, and, if it isn’t already, ought to be named one of the wonders of the world. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there and I’m sure you will too! Until next time!