Friday, March 27, 2015

Quick Apple Cinnamon Porridge (AIP)

For breakfast I generally eat protein, fat, and veggies, with a little bit of fruit or maybe a bit of something starchy like fried plantain. Most mornings I like eating this sort of breakfast because it makes me feel good, but sometimes I miss hot cereal. I grew up eating a lot of hot cereal (Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, Ralston) and sometimes I miss the texture and comfort of it. In the olden days (pre-paleo, pre-AIP), I ate oatmeal for breakfast on a regular basis.

I'm really pleased with this AIP porridge because it has the look and texture of porridge, it's tasty and comforting, and, best of all, it only takes a few minutes to make and involves ingredients you probably have on hand. You don't have to have any squash or sweet potato already cooked for this. This recipe makes only one serving, mainly because my husband isn't into hot cereal, so I'm always making a single serving, but it can easily be multiplied.

Apple-Cinnamon Porridge

One serving

3/4 C. water
1/4 C. coconut milk
1/2 grated apple (I prefer Granny Smith)
2 TB coconut flour
2 TB arrowroot
2 TB gelatin or collagen hydrolysate
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
generous pinch of salt

Whisk dry ingredients into the water, stir in apple and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes until mixture thickens and apple softens. Add sweetener of your choice.

Happy breakfast!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

March Update + Handling Spring Allergies

Just thought I'd rattle off a little update while I'm being a lazybones on this gray Saturday. Last time I checked in, Nashville was in the midst of the (hopefully) last gasp of winter. It has warmed considerably since then and some trees are sprouting buds. I'm happy for the warmer weather and spring in Nashville is my absolutely favorite season- it's so beautiful once all the flowering trees burst into bloom. But, for me, there's a dark side to spring: allergies. Nashville is an allergy hotspot and they say that if you don't have allergies before you move here, you eventually will get them. I didn't believe it when I moved here in '97 but, true to the warning, I did develop them after a few years of living here. They've waxed and waned over the years depending on my state of health and whether I've done any acupuncture for them. I've even managed to give them the slip a few years.

When my spring tree pollen allergies hit, they usually hit me like a ton of bricks. I get somewhat atypical symptoms. Instead of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, or sinus infections, I end up with whole body fatigue which feels akin to being drugged, often a scratchy throat, headaches that extend way beyond my sinuses into my neck glands, and a vaguely wheezy in my lungs. Basically, I always think I must be coming down with something and then realize that it's just allergies.

Having had worked in supplement retail for 10+ years, I've had the opportunity to try many natural allergy remedies, but only one kind has worked well for me: Biollers homeopathic formulas. The formulas contain traces of the allergens that they're targeted toward and you can switch out formulas seasonally if you're unlucky enough to suffer from multiple types of allergies. The Tree Pollen formula is for spring, summer is Grass Pollen, late summer and autumn are weed pollen (Pollen/Hayfever formula is for this), and Mold can be any time. I've found that the best way to use it is once per hour until I feel relief when my symptoms first come on, and then first thing in the morning, before I have a chance to go outside and breathe any pollen. I usually only have to take one or maybe two more doses throughout the day if I dose first thing in the morning. A couple of helpful anti-inflammatory supplements to reduce sinus pressure are CurcuminRich and Serrapeptase.

Flare Update:

On to the update. In the post about my recent flare, I had detailed my blood work results. I had my D and CRP-hs retested recently and they were both back in good ranges, thank goodness. I've been quite fatigued lately, though- in fact, I mostly haven't been getting my usual second wind in the evening but feeling quite tired instead, so I suspected I might have some adrenal fatigue going on. I took the adrenal quiz in The Adrenal Reset Diet and scored "crashed." The book has some interesting recommendations for dealing with different stages of adrenal dysfunction, such as when to use light box exposure, how to reset sleep rhythms, herbs for each specific stage of adrenal dysfunction, etc. Because I'm still doing AIP, I'm not going to be eating according to the diet, but I have adopted the macronutrient timing outlined in it (basically, less carbs in the morning, a bit more at lunch, and the most with dinner). Incidentally, this is what I seem to do best with. Adrenal fatigue can definitely cause allergies to worsen, and I think that's the case with me right now, since I hardly had any last year (I think AIP helped a lot).

Why are my adrenals tanked right now? I suspect it has to do with sleep quality- i.e. excess dreaming and lack of slow wave deep sleep, and sometimes just waking up too early and not being able to fall back to sleep. I go through seasonal cycles of sleep issues; my spring sleep issues being liver energy related. I'm working on these with some herbs recommended to me by an L.Ac. who deals with Hashimoto's. I also have this weird thing where two of my bottom molars (same one on each side) have a sharp twinging pain when I chew, which comes and goes. I've had this symptom before from having some sort of pathogen hanging out in my parotid lymph nodes and causing inflammation in the tooth nerves. The twinges lessen or disappear when I do lymphatic drainage massage along my jaw and down my neck. So, maybe whatever it is is also putting a strain on my adrenals...

I had been taking melatonin for a few months because it was so helpful in aiding my night-owl self in falling asleep quickly, but I was recently informed that it can act as a TH1 immune stimulant, which is exactly what I don't need. So, it may have also been contributing to my flare.

In the midst of all of this, although I have my moments of resentment, I have to say that my mood has overall been really good. Usually low energy = low moods for me, but my neurotransmitters seem to be hanging in there (I credit TMG for that). Practicing mindfulness and gratitude also really help. I'm still in the midst of my 100-day qigong challenge and I find that if I'm feeling not so good, a qigong session usually helps me to feel at least a little better. Epsom salt baths with essential oils (geranium and vetiver are my favorite restorative EO's) also work wonders when I'm feeling really depleted.

So, that's how I'm doing right now. Hopefully I'll be able to report better news soon. In the meantime, I welcome Spring, even if it brings me allergies.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie (Autoimmune Paleo)

I don't know about where you live, but here in Nashville, it's still winter. STILL. WINTER. I don't remember ever having snow this late in the season. We have a few inches of snow at the moment, which is really quite pretty because we don't get much snow here (and often get no snow during the winter), but I'm feeling ready for more sun and warmer temps.

In the meantime, comfort food is just the thing to get me through the end of winter. When being on a restricted diet, I think the importance of "soul food"- foods that taste and feel comforting and satisfying as well as nourishing (to both body and soul)- is hugely helpful for maintaining an attitude of positivity toward food. I try to consciously cultivate good feelings toward my food, rather than focusing on what I don't tolerate or can't eat at the moment. How we frame things is not to be underestimated in the scheme of health, healing, and happiness.

I'm excited to share this recipe for chicken pot pie. It's not complicated and everyone I've served it to loved it and asked for the recipe, so I feel I can safely say it's a winner. The crust is yummy and flaky. I always joke that I'm a sucker for anything involving a pie crust and it's true. So, this recipe makes me very happy. The hubby and I often make it on Sunday evenings before we curl up and watch all our PBS shows and it's become a cozy weekly ritual. The crust is an adaptation of this fabulous AIP crust from The Paleo Partridge.

Chicken Pot Pie
(makes 6 servings)

1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced onions
1-1/2 cup diced mushrooms (I prefer cremini/baby bellas)
3/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. garlic granules
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 cup coconut milk
2 TB arrowroot
2-1/2 cups cooked, diced chicken
Cooking fat for sauteing (I prefer olive oil or organic palm shortening)

Add carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms to a large pan with the cooking fat of your choice and saute on low-medium heat until starting to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients, whisking the arrowroot into the coconut before adding to the pan and continue cooking over low until the sauce thickens up. Add to a 9 inch round or 11 inch oval casserole dish.

1/2 cup coconut flour
2 TB arrowroot
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic granules
1/2 cup melted organic palm shortening (this gives a flakier crust than other oils)
3 TB water

Combine the dry ingredients well and whisk in the melted shortening. It will have a liquid consistency at this point. Add the water and mix well (it will magically thicken and form a soft, but crumbly dough). Press out small pieces of dough in your hands and piece them together on top of the filling. It will be messy and rustic looking which works nicely for pot pie.

Bake at 330ยบ for 28-30 min. or until the crust is golden brown.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

New Year, New Flare

Hello 2015. How is the New Year finding you? It's finding me on the mend, after a slow and insidious autoimmune flare-up. The thing about autoimmunity and flare-ups is that you can be sailing along feeling fine and then suddenly, you're dashed against the rocks and everything falls to pieces. Or, alternately, you don't realize that your ship is sinking until it becomes very obvious. The second type of scenario is the one that has been more frequently my experience and that was my recent experience.

Sometime last fall, my hair started shedding. It wasn't a big deal and I waited a bit to see if it was merely seasonal shedding. But, it wasn't. It kept shedding and shedding (I counted 90 hairs after a shower one day!). And around Thanksgiving, some insomnia started happening- the kind where you wake up after 5 hours and can't fall back to sleep. My skin wasn't quite as clear as it had been. Even my cellulite seemed to make a slight comeback, despite not having gained any appreciable weight (why does THAT have to be on of my inflammatory symptoms? Not fair.) My typing deteriorated and my word recall was a little off.

Other than these symptoms, I didn't have the sort of intense fatigue I often get during flares. I had days here and there, but no large blocks of major fatigue. Or any very acute inflammation, save for a few days that my neck and shoulders were inexplicably sore. When I become noticeably inflamed, my shoulders seem to be the main target and sometimes my hips/thighs.

I finally had some blood work done right around Christmas and it came back showing functional anemia- my iron wasn't super low, but certainly low enough to affect my health. My red blood cells were enlarged (megaloblastic anemia, caused by low B12, folate, or both). The anemias are most likely due to inflammation affecting absorption, or gut damage, OR gastric autoimmunity flaring up (I make parietal cell antibodies, which produce hydrochloric acid and intrinsic factor). By the way, if you have any sort of anemia, it's a pretty big deal-breaker for healing, since you need healthy and abundant red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.

My C-reactive protein was very high, and my HDL was at the top of the range (yes, you can have too much "good" cholesterol). My doctor informed me that these two together indicated inflammation and an active autoimmune situation (as opposed to inflammation from an acute infection). My D levels had also climbed too high, but I'm positive that that was due to some mega-dosing I'd done in Nov. and Dec. fighting off some colds. Oops. Time to back off on the D3...

My thyroid numbers weren't too remarkable- I had hoped they might show something obvious, but they didn't. However, inflammation can cause thyroid hormone resistance at the cellular level, so that could certainly be at play. Finally, my kidneys weren't quite doing their job right, which was kind of alarming. My doctor assured me that it wasn't at the level of actual pathology, but that we still needed to do something about it, so she recommended I do a 5 day kidney detox, which she informed me had worked well for many of her patients.


As you can imagine, I wasn't too thrilled with these results, and they were a good nudge to get back on full Autoimmune Paleo again, which I did on New Year's Day. What do I think caused this frustrating flare? Honestly, I don't know for sure. My main guess is that something I re-introduced wasn't something I should've been eating. Potato is the main suspect, as I had tested positive for IgG antibodies to it last spring, but I hoped enough time and gut healing had passed to be able to tolerate it. Or maybe I encountered some gluten cross-contamination on vacation last Aug. but the symptoms took awhile to show up. I don't really get GI symptoms, so it can be hard to tell. I wish I knew the exact cause.

So, I immediately put myself back on methylcobalamin B12 lozenges (which I hadn't been taking), and added methylfolate to the mix to be on the safe side. My doc had me add a DHA fish oil supplement, as she was concerned that phospholipid antibodies, which can cause hair loss, could be acting up. Because they attack the cell membrane, DHA, which is found in the cell membrane is important and has a protective effect. Plus, it's also anti-inflammatory and important for the brain. I didn't want to supplement with iron, but I did start using a bit of organic blackstrap molasses, which so many people swear by for correcting anemia. I think it works so well due to all the other minerals/cofactors it contains. I also ramped up my gut health support.

My hair is still shedding somewhat, though not as severely, but I've actually been feeling pretty good this past week. My energy levels have been much more consistent and downright good, as opposed to just ok or off. My skin has cleared up a lot since being back on AIP. The best part is that my hubby decided to do it with me (he's THE. BEST.). He's even getting into some of the cooking! I've also lost the couple of pounds I gained from having Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas all in a row. Two pounds were no big deal, but it's still nice to have them gone. My sleep is still spotty, but I am having more good nights with 8 hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep.

I've used this flare as an opportunity to step up my self care and commit to a 100 day "gong." A gong is a discipline that you commit to for 100 days and if you miss a day, you have to start over from the beginning. I chose qigong as my daily discipline, because I know that the more I do it, the more the health benefits will accumulate, especially in areas like energy, hormone balance, and sleep quality. I'm annoyed with myself that I wasn't doing it consistently before, but I'm also proud of myself that I'm making it happen. I'm now over a third of the way through my challenge and it's become a true part of my routine.

To keep myself on track, I made a list of all the things I'm doing right- I think it helps to remind yourself that you ARE doing a lot right- and also a list of things I could stand to do more of because I know I benefit from them. I look at this list daily, and it really helps. So, I'm on the upswing. I hope I keep improving. I'm going to be watching my symptoms like a hawk.

I will keep you posted.