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Traveling gluten free and dairy free – stress free!

travel gluten free dairy free

Traveling gluten free and dairy free for vacation or work does not have to be daunting or stressful. It takes a little extra time and thought, yes. But, so does planning your ideal trip! 

Think about it. If you wing it on your trip, you may not get to do the things you want WHEN you want, if at all. You might miss tour times, a need to buy in advance or ticket availability, right?

So when you want to do what’s ideal for your body, it will take some extra thought. But this is your body we’re talking about – that temple God created – that’s got to get you through your busy life here on earth!

How to mentally prepare for gluten-free and dairy-free travel

Eating gluten free, dairy free while traveling has gotten easier for me with trial and error – just like everything else in life. Here are some steps to help shorten your trial and error phase!

1. Adjust your mindset.

Before: “I won’t be missing out on anything except the discomfort or misery and possibly guilt that I could feel from eating these foods.”

“I won’t be missing out on anything except the discomfort or misery and possibly guilt that I could feel from eating these foods.”

“Instead, I will be experiencing more life, vibrancy and satisfaction during my travel when I feel less groggy, foggy, bloated, constipated, congested, headachy, hungover (or fill in however gluten and dairy resonate in you).”

2. Research.

Research gluten-free, dairy-free or paleo restaurants in the city to which you’re traveling, ahead of time. Vegan restaurants might be more accommodating too, though you need to ask if they have gluten-free options given that wheat is vegan. Bookmark your findings so they are handy as you travel. 

3. Ask.

3. Ask the host or server for gluten-free and dairy-free menus or options when eating out, because many sauces and even seasonings contain gluten or dairy. Also be mindful of how informed your server seems about this topic and how sensitive you are to the food. 

  • If the server asks if you have an allergy, he or she may be concerned about a liability and act nervous about your eating there. It’s up to you to say either A. “Yes, I am allergic. Thank you for your diligence” and go elsewhere or B. “I’m not allergic but have an intolerance and need to minimize my exposure to it. It looks like you have some options that could work (with some simple modifications), thanks!”
  • Many servers or managers consider a food to be gluten free if it doesn’t have gluten in it. However, cross-contamination can occur when foods are cooked in the same pan or oil (fries cooked in oil used for chicken fingers). Cross-contamination can also occur in the manufacturing of products (rice noodles or oats that are processed where wheat noodles are also processed). This is key to know if you have celiac disease.
  • If you don’t have an outright allergy to the food, and can be more lenient, some go-to options could include burgers without the bun, salads with vinegar-based dressing and no cheese or croutons), grilled chicken or rice noodle dishes with gluten-free sauce. 

How to pack for gluten-free and dairy-free travel

Traveling gluten free and dairy free always feels less stressful when you pack some food. You can take this to the extreme – pre-planning, preparing and cooking all of your snacks and meals. This might be more appropriate for a week of camping or when you have access to a small kitchen or warming devices. This solution also frees you from cooking during vacation (more time to chill!) and saves you money versus eating out. 

If this isn’t practical though, then at least pack some foods with you. Here are some suggestions – that can be warmed as needed, or not! 

Snacks: nuts, paleo snack bars or energy balls, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, fruits, veggies, chips (plantain, apple, kale, sweet potato or root veggies), hummus, guacamole, rice rollers

travel gluten free dairy free salad

Salads: Get creative by switching up berries, pears, apples, broccoli, cucumber, peppers, carrots, onions, nuts and seeds. Also consider recipes for kale and quinoa salad or Brussels sprouts salads – so much more than just lettuce salad! 

Simple cooked foods (no matter whether breakfast, lunch or dinner!): paleo beef or chicken sausages, paleo pumpkin pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, egg muffins, rice or chickpea pasta with steamed veggies, paleo meatloaf muffins, cold soups 

Treats (paleo or at least GF/DF versions): pumpkin oatmeal cookies, pumpkin bars or bread, banana blueberry bread, zucchini bread or muffins, organic dark chocolate bar (72% or higher cacao, check for DF)

Take a virtual trip – traveling gluten free and dairy free with me

We recently took a delightful trip north – of all places – for spring break. Though we did find a beach in Milwaukee, the weather was NOT beachy!

But we enjoyed watching our St. Louis Cardinals beat the Brewers during one game in the retractable-roofed dome, as well as some other sights. Then we headed back south to an indoor water park complete with access to Dippin’ Dots, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, other over-priced restaurants and a candy store. 

Remember, I’m not celiac or allergic to dairy, but have definite sensitivities and eat 95% organic, gluten free and dairy free with limited grains. Plus, I have sensitivities to almonds, bananas, avocados and tomatoes (in SO many things!), so if I can do it while traveling, you can, too! 


1. I packed food, always keeping some with me, even in between meals, so I didn’t cave in a moment of hangriness and eat something I shouldn’t. My packed goods included paleo snack bars, paleo pumpkin pancakes (brought frozen but they thawed slowly in the cooler), sweet potato and plantain chips, paleo sausage links cooked ahead, carrots, cucumber, apples and Trader Joe’s organic dark chocolate bar. Next time, I’ll take some pictures to share!

travel gluten free dairy free coconut milk

Note that when flying, once I’m at my destination, I will make a grocery run to buy some of my go-tos for the rest of the trip. If you need it, this would be a good time to buy almond, rice or coconut milk. Though, if you buy the organic boxed version off the shelf, it only needs to be refrigerated once opened.

If you are new to gluten-free eating, check out “Eating gluten free made easy – what to avoid and what to eat” for more details to get your started. For more suggestions on going dairy free, read “Eating dairy free with a busy lifestyle“.

On the road

2. I drank lots of water. What we so often deem as hunger pains might actually be thirst pains – so I always drink a tall glass of water first. Then if I still have the hunger pains 10 minutes later, I grab a healthy bite to eat. This will also help keep you hydrated, give you more energy and help prevent you from overeating. 

3. In fast food drive-thrus, I ordered a burger with iceberg lettuce and onion instead of a bun. The grilled chicken breast didn’t work so well this way. It was too slippery and messy. Sometimes when I wasn’t driving, I ordered a salad with vinegar-based dressing but without cheese or croutons. (Note that some of the candied nuts contain gluten and many dressings do also, though gluten-free options are more common now.) When these options weren’t filling or fueling enough, I’d supplement with my packed cucumbers, carrots and sweet potato chips. Ditto for the kids.

At our destination

4. The free breakfast at the hotel only included overcooked hard-boiled eggs, Cheerios and a couple other cold cereals with almond milk as GF/DF options. Their bulk scrambled eggs, potatoes and meat contained gluten and dairy. This is when my packed food made me feel empowered. I took my paleo sausage and pumpkin pancakes in a small container and warmed them in the microwave and toaster oven. If anyone did notice, I didn’t mind because I knew I was getting a nutrition-packed breakfast instead of a processed one! 

5. Before the game and for my dinner, I ordered and ate a quinoa and kale salad from a neighboring restaurant. Then we packed snacks and waters for the baseball game, saving about $25-$30. (Generally, we allow the kids to buy one snack or treat at the ball game, so you could save even more.) 

6. For treats, I ate a couple of squares of my dark chocolate bar “as needed”. I tried a bite of the kids’ occasional desserts, but since I’m still trying to heal my body, I won’t eat a whole serving of gluten or dairy. You can find gluten-free, dairy-free ice cream now, too, but I don’t go out of my way for it unless my dairy-intolerant son is craving it, too. Ultimately, when we travel, we try to focus more on active experiences than on food. 

7. On scene at the water park, we took breaks at meal times and ate outside the resort – to save money and manage our junk food/treat intake – successfully avoiding the pool concessions. Amazingly, we did not spend any money on treats or candy at the resort either! In fact, I don’t even think the kids asked. 

8. When eating out, we had our share of standard American diet fare, like Portillo’s – modified for my GF/DF self. But we also enjoyed healthier, delicious seafood street tacos and flash fried Brussels sprouts at the Blue Bat. When the boys lacked in veggies from restaurant meals, I asked them to eat some of the veggies we packed, which helped me feel good about their nutrition while traveling, too. 

Traveling gluten-free and dairy-free takes practice – because we are rewiring our mindsets and changing old habits. But it’s definitely do-able and actually quite rewarding.

You see, you have a choice. You can let it overwhelm you. Or you can let it liberate and empower you, because there’s something about being intentional and self-caring that trumps all the “food fun” you think you’re going to miss. As a bonus, you get to help your family focus more on quality time and experiences together – which make for more powerful and lasting memories!

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Are so-called cancer-causing foods a real source of our casualties?

cancer-causing foods blogWhich cancer-causing foods still lurk in your fridge or pantry? Cancer of all types seems to be taking over. In just 10 seconds, I can name 5 people I know who’ve had cancer. If I put effort and a few more minutes into it, I’m sure I could name 20 or more. While ultimately our fates are in God’s hands, we have the power to – and responsibility of – influencing our fates.

You see, our bodies were created as temples, right? So if we keep treating them like garbage disposals or some other mechanical but nonliving device, they will become exactly that. It may seem like you’re getting by and healthy enough for now, but it could be just a matter of time before your device begins to break down.

Is cancer potentially a matter of choices?

The following information comes from an article on thetruthaboutcancer.com.

According to the article:

  • In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported more than 14 million new cases of cancer, which resulted in more than 8.2 million deaths worldwide.
  • WHO expects these numbers to skyrocket over the next twenty years by 70% globally.
  • Experts estimate that more than half of cancer cases are preventable with lifestyle changes.

That means the 8.2 million deaths in 2012 could have been 1.2 million instead, given some changes in lifestyles.

When asked what causes cancer in cells, Bob Wright from the American Anti-Cancer Institute replied, “Cancer is caused by chemicals and radiation. You can explode that out to many different types of chemicals whether it’s what you put in your body, what you breath, what you eat, radiation from all sources − women from mammograms, from CT scans, from your cell phones, your cell towers, your Wi-Fi. Cancer is caused by chemicals and radiation, period.”

What we can take away from this is yes, cancer could be a matter of our lifestyle choices, and we should consider the following lifestyle changes:

  • getting more access to cleaner air.
  • eating cleaner food while avoiding cancer-causing foods.
  • less exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radiation through less use of cell phones, Wi-Fi devices, x-rays and CT scans.

It’s also critical to our health to get ample sleep – good, restorative sleep – because that’s when our bodies do the most healing.

Granted, making the healthier lifestyle choices will not guarantee you won’t get cancer. But if we keep layering on the toxins through less healthy choices, we are surely setting our bodies up to fail.

Call it quits with these cancer-causing foods

Doctors and experts who work closely with cancer patients advise us to avoid certain foods in an attempt to prevent the onset (or assumedly) return of cancer.

Rankings of these cancer-causing foods may vary slightly from one list to another. But these ingredients top many lists:

  1. genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – living things that have had their DNA altered using genetic engineering
  2. soda, because of the corn syrup, which is usually a GMO, and aspartame, which is equated to rat poison, as well as other artificial sweeteners
  3. artificial sweeteners – aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste Blue), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (ACE K, Sunette, Equal Spoonful), Sweet One, Sweet ‘n Safe, saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin), galactose, sorbitol, xylitol
  4. trans fats, which often come from hydrogenated oils
  5. microwave popcorn, due to the GMOs, chemicals in the bag linings and toxic fumes emitted when the artificial butter flavoring is heated

In addition, we should also avoid these cancer-causing foods:

  • artificial food dyes – Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, FD&C Lakes, Citrus Red 2
  • grilled red meat, because the longer it’s cooked, the more it releases a carcinogen
  • refined sugar, with high fructose corn syrup being the worst for you (I say regular corn syrup too, because it is also typically a GMO)
  • farmed fish (particularly salmon) due to the antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals used
  • hydrogenated oils because chemicals are used for both extraction and treatment of them, and they are a main source of trans fats
  • canned goods that contain BPA in the lining
  • white flour because cancer cells thrive off of simple sugars
  • processed meats – which are of course highly processed, but also often contain nitrates and other additives
  • Too much alcohol

*For more information including other names for some of these ingredients, read my blog “How to recognize the 5 worst ingredients in food and avoid them”.

This list may not be that surprising, as we are all getting more health-conscious. What may be surprising though, is how much you don’t miss these foods when you’ve avoided them for a while. We have so many other, more nurturing and delicious options.

A world of whole, organically grown food choices surround us. We can grill red meat for less time or cook it another way. We can opt for fresh, wild-caught fish. We can choose healthier versions of sodas, drink less alcohol and pop our organic popcorn in an air popper.

We have the solutions. We have the products and produce. We just need to embrace and pass along the right attitudes! Let’s control the one thing we are meant to control – the food we put in our bodies – in hopes of building them up as temples and not running them ragged like rusting machines.

So what are you waiting for?! My book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, will help get you on the right path in no time!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Pig to plate: The lowdown on pork, including do healthy hot dogs or bacon exist?

unhealthy hot dogsWith barbecue season in full force and organics cropping up everywhere, one question remains to be answered: is there really such thing as healthy hot dogs or bacon? In the U.S., many of us eat pork more than other red meat. We eat a lot of it – bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, chops, pork steaks, ribs, roasts and more. But should we really be putting all this pig on our plates?

If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or animal activist, the answer is clear. But if you’re a meat eater, the answer may not be so black and white.

Pigs 101

Despite the advertising campaign, pork is actually a red meat. Due to its light color after cooking, some consider it a white meat. But because pork contains more myoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) than chicken or fish, is a livestock product and has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and cancer, it is actually classified as a red meat.

Now that we’ve cleared that mystery up, let’s look at the benefits of eating pork.

Well, pork tastes delicious – so, not a benefit. It does give us some healthy fat and protein, if it’s not overpowered with additives, sugar and other junk.

But consider what we know about pigs. They eat just about anything, including their own feces, their own young and other dead animals.

Besides not sweating much, pigs digest their tantalizing menu of goodies more quickly than other livestock animals, resulting in less removal of toxins. Those toxins then get stored in the pig’s fatty tissues until we consume them. Still sound delicious?

What worse? According to onegreenplanet.org, more than 80% of factory-farmed pigs have pneumonia when they go to the slaughterhouse. If you aren’t exposing yourself to the pneumonia when eating the pork, you sure are taking in some of the antibiotics it was given.

Though sometimes warranted, antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in our digestive tracts. Without the healthy (good) bacteria, poor gut health can lead to many other health issues.

Plus, if you follow Old Testament scripture in the Bible, God considered the pig an unclean animal (See Leviticus 11).

So even with all this information, I have to admit that I still love the taste of pork. And you might, too.

So can processing the pork take away some of the health risks. And finally, is there a healthy hot dog out there?

Pigs to plate: does processing the pork make it healthier?

Processing pork is meant to kill harmful bacteria or parasites in the meat. But due to the pig’s makeup and lifestyle, eating processed pork can increase our risk for swine flu, trichinosis, other viruses or parasites and cancer.

Plus, whether uncured or cured, sausage, bacon and hot dogs will contain nitrites and nitrates. At least with uncured versions, the nitrates and nitrites come from more natural sources such as celery powder, instead of added, man-made sources. Nitrates and nitrites are thought to be cancer causing, so we should consume only natural sources of them, in moderation.

Finally, what’s worse is that the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) concluded that no amount of processed meat is safe, so they recommend avoiding all of it, all the time (mercola.com).

So, we can conclude that processingthis already unhealthy meat does not make it healthier. Sad, I know. I love my bacon, too.

Roping in the processed meats prognosis

What does the WCRF’s recommendation mean to us meat lovers?

Most processed meats are pork-based, but any deli meat or packaged meat and even meat from a local farm may be processed. Processedmeans that the meat has been preserved by curing, salting or smoking it, or by adding chemical preservatives to it.

Processed meats include many of our go-tos: ham, salami, pastrami, pepperoni, hot dogs and bacon, as well as some sausages and hamburgers.

So the prognosis is that we should all stop eating processed meats!

That said, I’m a realist and a meat lover. So what other choices do we have? We can:

  1. choose to eat the unhealthier, conventional processed meats, but much less often.
  2. healthy hot dogresearch and find a trustworthy local source of the cleanest, most organic meat possible.
  3. learn to make our own paleo bacon.
  4. purchase more organic versions of pork products from brands such as The Piggery, Pederson’s Natural Farmsand Wellshire Farms.
  5. find store brands that offer uncured, organic versions made from beef instead of pork, such as Applegate 100% organic, grass-fed beef hot dogs (not their “natural” version). Note that they are still processed, but more organically and they are made from beef instead of pork.

As a society, we love bacon, ham and pork and many of us eat it daily. But to sum up the answer to ‘do healthy hot dogs or bacon truly exist’, I am sad to say, no.

However, we can choose healthierversions of them. If we eat those much less often and enjoy fresher, unprocessed meats or plant-based foods (even better) instead, our bodies will become healthier, too.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Wine and sulfites: are they causing your headaches, allergies or asthma symptoms?

wines and sulfitesWill wine and sulfites be the new food thing to avoid, next to gluten or nuts? Some say the sulfites in wine are what causes that dreaded wine hangover headache. Others disagree, saying it’s just the alcohol. What’s the truth about wine and sulfites, and what does that mean especially if you have allergies, asthma or chronic symptoms?

Defining sulfites

“Sulfites” refers to a group of sulfur compounds that are produced during fermentation and used to help reduce bacteria and other microbes (draxe.com). Makers in the food industry often use a sulfite called sulfur dioxide (SO2) as a preservative and for its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. SO2 helps prevent oxidization while maintaining the freshness of our so-loved wine.

Other commonly used sulfites you’ll see in product ingredients include potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite or sodium sulfite.

But sulfites also occur naturally. Grapes and other plants, including onions and garlic, naturally contain sulfites in their skins, and fermented foods contain low levels of sulfites.

The legal limit of sulfites is 300ppm (parts per million), and most conventional wines contain levels between 50 and 100mg/L, well within the legal limits.

In order for wine or any food to be labeled “sulfite-free”, a product must have 10mg/L or less sulfite composition, but it may still contain the very low levels of sulfites – like in the case of wines, due to fermentation.

How wine and sulfites might trigger your headaches, asthma and allergy woes

First, let’s note that with any allergy, symptoms may vary from one individual to another. Symptoms such as skin irritations, sudden stomach pain, vomiting, difficulty swallowing or breathing and dizziness are more obvious. But if you have a sensitivity (not full-blown allergy), you might have less severe skin irritations, gradual congestion, drowsiness, or just about any other symptom on this food journal.

Food and Drug Administration research suggests that only about 1% of people are sensitive to sulfites. Other studies show that 3 to 10% of people with asthma have a sensitivity to sulfites. Still other research supports the notion that the tyramine, histamine and of course, alcohol, in wine contribute to your headaches rather than the sulfites.

That said, it took years to develop research that backs up allergies to gluten and nuts, and even now, not everyone acknowledges those possibilities. What’s more reliable than research though, is how sulfites or any ingredient or food make you feel. Track and record any reactions to drinks and food in a food journal. If you see a negative pattern from sulfite-containing foods, consider yourself sensitive to sulfites and adjust accordingly!

Avoiding sulfites

If you do detect a sulfite sensitivity or allergy and need to make adjustments, look further than your wine stash.

Because sulfites lengthen the shelf-life of foods and drinks, you will also find them in lots of drinks, including beer and juices, as well as in processed foods, such as crackers, potato chips, dried fruit, deli or cured meats, jams, jellies and even coconut flakes.

In fact, many of these foods contain 10 times more sulfites than the average wine! Buy organic. Shop for fresh produce. Stay on the perimeter of your grocery store, away from the packaged foods.

In addition to foods, you’ll find sulfites in many asthma and injectable medications, as well as eye drops. Review this article for a list of the sulfite-containing products.

But back to wine. If you really hate to part with your long-loved wines (and sulfites):

  • Try adding a product that will remove the sulfites and allow the wine to oxidize before you drink it.
  • Choose sulfite-free wines, understanding that while this means no sulfites were added, they will still naturally contain low levels of sulfites due to fermentation.
  • Also scour labels of non-organic wines for other harmful ingredients such as pesticide-laden yeast, added sugar, mold, food dyes and Velcorin (Dimethyldicarbonate), a chemical added to some wines and many fruit juices.

Lastly, remember these facts if you want to enjoy wine more wisely.

  • All wines have sulfites but sweet white wines have the most. White wine tends to have higher sulfites because red wine is preserved partially by natural tannins.
  • However, red wines are high in histamine and can cause allergy/sinus headaches. Try sauvignon blanc instead, if histamine is your trigger.
  • If bananas and avocados bother you, tyramine might be your trigger. Try chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, which are lower in tyramine.
  • If migraines tend to be an issue, try a white pinot gris or red pinot noir, which are lower in tannins (also a trigger found in chocolate; read more).

Cheers to eating and drinking – with or without wine and sulfites – for better health!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 



healthier eaters blog

Food allergy vs food intolerance: why allergy free doesn’t equal ‘eat what you want’

According to foodallergy.org, up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. Food allergies have greatly changed celebrations and lunches at schools as well as food handling in other public places over the past few years. This may make you extra thankful that you don’t have food allergies. But just because you haven’t had an allergic reaction doesn’t mean you should eat whatever you want. In fact, considering food allergy vs food intolerance, you may need to be more mindful of what you eat.

Defining food allergy vs food intolerance

When you experience a food allergy, your immune system sees the food as an enemy and launches an attack on it with an antibody. This can result in hives, an itchy throat, difficulty breathing or in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

A food intolerance occurs in your digestive system when you can’t properly digested the food, due either to lack of enzymes or a sensitivity to additives and chemicals in the food. Symptoms can take longer to surface and can be more subtle, such as congestion, headaches, stomach pain, joint pain or irritability, just to name a few.

Understanding why food tolerance could be more dangerous than a food allergy

Because your body reacts to a food allergen immediately, it’s difficult to ignore or mistake the symptoms as something else.

But your symptoms can be subtle or ambiguous with a food intolerance, which means:

  • you could suffer from a food tolerance for years before realizing it, overworking and weakening your body, slowly but steadily.
  • if damage has set in over many years, that damage is harder to undo.
  • your damaged immune system can make you more vulnerable to other sicknesses, and it can cause loads of other issues – even asthma, hyperactivity or skin issues – to be more extreme.

So with a food intolerance, you could generally be feeling OK, with a little nagging chronic symptom – like outdoor allergies or headaches – and simply chalking it up to allergies or weather patterns. But if you linked those outdoor allergy symptoms or headaches to a food, you could find relief from those symptoms and give your body time to heal by avoiding that food for a while, or permanently if needed.

How can you diagnose a potential food intolerance?

Of course, you can get the typical IgE test for food allergies. Or if you request, the physician might do the IgG test, which is more accurate for determining food intolerances, in addition to allergies. But these tests are not as reliable as it is to simply listen to your body.

If you suspect a food intolerance, don’t be discouraged or afraid you’ll lose the foodie love of your life forever. Instead:

  1. Eliminate the suspect food(s) for 3 weeks.
  2. Add one food back in to your diet at a time, eating a reasonable amount of it in small doses over 1-2 days. Wait 3 days before reintroducing another new food. Record any symptoms in a food journal.
  3. If you don’t notice any symptoms, try adding the food back into your rotation moderately. If you do have symptoms, avoid that food and find a replacement for it if needed. Just search online for recipes or foods without your culprit. Also research alternate names for that culprit and make sure it’s not in any of your other cosmetic products (like yellow 5 = tartrazine).

Below is a list of common symptom-causing foods I compiled from various resources for my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways. Some of the symptoms may surprise you!

food allergy vs food tolerance

In food allergy vs food intolerance, the allergy is actually easier to detect. But if you have chronic symptoms of any sort, take a closer look at the foods you’re eating. You could potentially reverse your symptoms – get relief for now – and give your body a break so that you may feel even more amazing after it’s had time to heal.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Foods and headaches: eating for, and proactively against, the headache pain

Start managing that nagging, or sometimes debilitating, pain now by combining your knowledge about foods and headaches. What better time to be more mindful than during the holidays – when you are more likely to sleep less, drink more alcohol and coffee and less water and eat less healthy – together a recipe for headaches or worse?

The worst foods – the ones that welcome headaches

foods and headaches1 Not surprising, alcohol is one of the biggest headache-causing culprit. Alcohol dehydrates our bodies and inhibits our reactions. But it also contains various headache triggers:

  • Wine contains sulfites, tannins and histamines.
  • Beer contains grains and sulfites.
  • Spirits contain grains.

Many alcoholic beverages may also contain preservatives or added artificial colors, which could be a trigger for you. Stick to beverages and quantities that do not induce symptoms for you.

2 The artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, particularly aspartame, are known to trigger migraines, too.

3 Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can cause headaches. MSG lurks in many food places – chips, dressings, sauces and other proceeds foods, including cured deli meats.

4 The nitrates found in deli meats, bacon, ham and sausage can cause headaches.

5 Foods with an amine called tyramine can trigger headaches. You may be tyramine-intolerant if bananas, avocados, fermented foods, aged cheeses or cured or smoked meats trigger headaches.

Foods and headaches combined – pain relief naturally

Once a headache starts to take over, enlist foods, instead of medicines, for pain relief because many prescription and over-the-counter medicines can damage your body over the long term.

You won’t always know what’s triggering your headache, but if you look for patterns and experiment with these foods, you may find a common thread leading to your culprit – as well as its counterpart.


For headaches from lack of: try eating:
hydration spinach*, lettuce, watermelon, cucumber
tryptophan turkey, almonds*
B2 (riboflavin) spinach*, mushrooms, broccoli, eggs
B3 (niacin) beef liver, beets, salmon, sunflower seeds
magnesium Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, quinoa, bananas*, almonds*
omega-3s salmon, olive oils, avocado*
gut stability (you have nausea) fresh ginger
endurance (time of day pattern) cherries, beetroot

*Only eat these foods if you are not sensitive to them as they can be headache triggers, too, due to the amines.

If your headaches seem hormone-related, incorporating enough magnesium in your diet may help prevent headaches.

Headaches present another great reason to make leafy greens a major part of your diet. Greens help hydrate while providing magnesium and other minerals and vitamins that are essential to your health. So, during the holidays, when temptations are, well, tempting you, add healthy, headache-preventing foods to help balance out your spontaneous, not-so-healthy eating.

For a deeper look at foods and headaches, read “Migraine detail – how to manage those unbearable headaches and find true migraine relief”.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Hashimoto’s disease: could it be the underlying cause for your unexplained misery or fatigue?

Could Hashimoto’s disease secretly be causing hypothyroidism for you? And what does your thyroid do anyhow?

Let me tell you. It does a whole lot. And you need it to be healthy.

Understanding Hashimoto’s disease

The autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called lymphocytic thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease, occurs when antibodies working against your thyroid gland lead to inflammation.

The inflammation inhibits your thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones and can cause slow, chronic cell damage.

The damage then surfaces as an enlarged thyroid gland or hypothyroidism (an under-performing thyroid).

Detecting Hashimoto’s disease

What’s the big deal about your thyroid health?

depressed hashimoto's disease hypothyroidYour thyroid is like the motherboard of your body. Your pituitary gland controls your thyroid. And your thyroid controls just about everything else – your metabolic rate, energy, heart, digestion, muscles, brain development, bone maintenance and reproduction.

No symptoms are necessarily unique to Hashimoto’s disease. However, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. (http://thyroidbook.com), yet often goes undiagnosed. If you have hypothyroidism, you may suffer from:

  • anxiety
  • cold hands and feet
  • constipation
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • irregular or heavy periods
  • low sex drive
  • muscle aches and lowered tolerance for exercise

Doctors will use a blood test to determine if you have hypothyroidism. Be sure he or she orders the full panel, and not just the basic test. The basic thyroid test provides 1 overall level or number, which is more likely to fall in the normal range, leaving you undiagnosed.

The full panel provides your levels of all 4 thyroid components – free T3 (triiodothyronine), free T4 (thyroxine), TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and reverse T3. If you have elevated TSH and low free T4 levels, these are indicators of Hashimoto’s.

Treating Hashimoto’s disease

Traditional doctors will start you on a thyroid medicine such as Synthroid, Armour or Cytomel to help normalize your TSH. You will probably be on the medication for life, having to adjust it occasionally. The medication may help you feel better, but it doesn’t address your immune system’s imbalance.

Read a more scientific explanation of this shortfall here. Basically, the medication increases the T4 in your body, but doesn’t help you convert T4 to T3 and doesn’t address the ongoing inflammation.

So guess what holistic doctors will tell you if you have Hashimoto’s disease?

Yes – change your diet!

In Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book, he explains in detail about why he advises thyroid patients to immediately remove gluten from their diets. Or you can read a briefer explanation in my blog post “Getting to the root of your thyroid problem and how your diet can help”.

Some doctors will ask you to eliminate dairy and soy, too. Still others will suggest the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, or another diet, to give your body a break from all potentially inflammatory foods.

You may resent the idea of having to give up some of your favorite foods, and simply want to take the medicine and move on. But then you are not really giving your body a chance to heal. In fact, if you’re eating foods your body doesn’t tolerate, you are keeping it in overdrive on an empty oil tank!

If you think you have Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism, ask your doctor to order the full thyroid panel and give all thyroid components full attention. Cut gluten and dairy from your diet, and use an elimination diet to identify any other foods you should avoid.

It may be a temporary tweak, or a permanent lifestyle change. But your body has to last your entire lifetime, right? Feed it accordingly!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Tame your grass allergy with a seasonal change in your diet

If you have a grass allergy, you may tear through a box of tissues due to itchy, eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. Weekends may leave you feeling worse since more people cut their lawns then. But did you know that some of your favorite foods might be adding to your grass allergy symptoms, too?

What are grass allergy cross-reactors?

During an allergic reaction, your body sees the pollen or allergen as an enemy and releases histamines as a defense mechanism.

Certain proteins in fruits and vegetables cross-react with the proteins in grass, causing your body to release additional histamine. So if you’re sensitive to grass, you might also be sensitive to the foods that cross-react with it.

Because cooking fruits and vegetables breaks down the proteins in them, you may be able to tolerate them better cooked than in raw form. But that doesn’t mean you should eat them as part of your daily diet during prime grass allergy time.

Foods to avoid if you have a grass allergy

If you know you have a grass allergy or sensitivity, avoid these foods when grass pollens are high:

  • tomatograss allergy foods avoid
  • celery
  • potato
  • pea
  • peanut
  • melon
  • orange
  • peach

Raw apples or the pesticides on lettuce may intensify your grass allergy symptoms, too. And though you may instinctively reach for the wasabi or hot salsa to “open up” your sinuses, know that spicy foods tend to release loads of histamines – not a good thing if your body is already in overdrive. 

Which foods will help combat your grass allergy?

When there are foods to avoid, there are always foods to latch onto for the healing effects you need.

Green tea contains natural antihistamines, but remember it contains caffeine. And avoid purchasing orange or peach flavors.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish help reduce inflammation caused by the histamines in your body. Eat more salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel or albacore tuna during grass season. Fresh, wild-caught fish is best.

Add turmeric and ginger to your fish or chicken. Or combine these powerful anti-inflammatory spices with cinnamon and hot water to make a tasty tea.

Finally, probiotics, specifically with lactobacillus or bifidobacterium help balance your gut flora. If you’re not taking probiotics daily yet, you need to read “What you should know about probiotics for women, men and kids”.

Of course, you can also tackle your grass allergy symptoms with these non-food tactics, too. Though I strongly advise against medications, including steroid nasal sprays, because they are likely to cause more damage to your digestion and body in the long-term.

There’s a reason foods grow in seasons. Pay attention to how your body responds to foods during each season. Then choose to eat what your body needs, not necessarily your taste buds want!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.

healthier eaters blog

Healing PANDAS syndrome: traditionally or holistically, diet becomes key

PANDAS hardly brings about a warm or cuddly feeling when you’re talking about the syndrome, which causes an overnight onset of “what demon took over my normal, healthy child?” This rare condition demands serious attention from the parent to both diagnose and treat a child.

Understanding PANDAS

In simple terms, pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) results when a strep bacteria causes inflammation on the brain which leads to neurological problems.

According to the PANDAS Network, it affects 1 of every 200 children. But doctors have only recognized and diagnosed PANDAS since the 1990s, so it is relatively new and often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

PANDAS syndromeIf your child suddenly (as in overnight) shows intense, debilitating anxiety or mood changes and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder behavior or tics, he may be suffering from PANDAS.

He may also regress in math or handwriting skills, have less desire to eat or suffer greater sensory sensitivity.

PANDAS typically surfaces in children between ages 3 and the puberty years. But it can take as long as 4 to 6 months after a strep infection, whether treated or not, for symptoms to show.

If your child takes a very sudden and drastic turn for the worse, showing these symptoms, ask your pediatrician to rule out PANDAS, because if let unaddressed or misaddressed (as behavior or ADHD issues), he may continue to get worse.

Healing PANDAS

If your pediatrician seems unfamiliar with PANDAS, find another one who is. His or her first line of treatment will likely be antibiotics, for as long as up to 1 year. Though you want to treat the PANDAS, that would mean serious damage to your kid’s digestive system!

Your pediatrician may also refer your child to a psychiatrist for cognitive behavior therapy and/or prescription medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

But you might consider using a holistic approach instead, like Camden’s mom did in this story. Once Camden was diagnosed, she immediately put him on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet to decrease inflammation in his body. This in turn, helped his body respond positively to her next steps.

After giving Camden a regimen including primarily diatomaceous earth (DE), oregano leaf tincture and an intestinal tract defense tincture over a period of time, he became his ol’ self again.

It’s amazing how the products of nature can heal, from food to dirt to herbs and much more.

This doesn’t mean all cases of PANDAS can be treated without prescription medicines.

But it does reinforce that your first line of treatment should involve the foods you eat, to eliminate inflammation so your body can heal.

And whether you treat PANDAS with antibiotics or not, you need to heal the gut, which means probiotics are a must.

To summarize, think of it like this. Getting rid of the inflammation gives your immune system a rest from fighting off your triggers (the inflammatory foods). Once not inflamed, your guts can better absorb nutrients and let your entire body heal as it’s supposed to.

This is why so many people have begun eating paleo, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet or other anti-inflammatory diets – to eat preventatively!

If PANDAS is affecting your child, consider starting her on the GAPS diet right away.

If you’d like to consider eating a diet that’s anti-inflammatory for better health in general, read an overview of several options in this article from paleotreats.com. Then talk to your doctor or health practitioner to choose the one that’s best for you.



*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.

healthier eaters blog

Eating grain free: is it really good for you and how do you do it?

Eating grain free takes eating gluten free to another level. You might want to eat grain free if you need to heal inflammation in your guts or other parts of your body. You might need to do it if you have thyroid or autoimmune issues. Or you may want to do it short term as a cleanse.

Good news. It’s not as hard as it may sound! The key is to change your mindset and to do a little prep work.

eating grain freeFor you carb fiends, changing your mindset is crucial. Admit, you may miss the grains at first – otherwise you’re not much of a fiend. It may take a few months are even longer, but you may grow to not even like them so much (yes, it’s often the case!). And you will need to add other healthy whole foods to fill the void, at least until your stomach adjusts to feeling less full or bloated. Amen to that.

And if you’re trying to lose weight, this is bound, although not guaranteed, to help.

Eating grain free vs gluten free

First of all, become friends with the term “paleo”. “Paleo” refers to a caveman style of eating, or eating the foods that naturally exist on our planet rather than those that are made or processed using chemicals or synthetic ingredients.

More specifically, the paleo diet excludes grains, dairy and alcohol. Hold tight. Don’t panic. Read on.

If there is anything you truly miss when eating grain free, just Google “paleo xyz” and you will find a recipe for it. Paleo pizza, spaghetti, cheesecake, you name it.

And say you want to still eat dairy? Just modify the paleo recipes to include your dairy ingredients.

Dabbling with paleo recipes will expose you to lots of new ways to make old favorites.

Second, plan out some meals. (Sigh, I know. But planning prevents stress and choosing whatever’s convenient ,which is usually not so good for you.) Sometimes even on the typical American diet, it’s hard to figure out what’s for dinner every night. Planning and cooking ahead can take lots of stress out of your unpredictable nights.

Planning doesn’t have to be too time-consuming. Cheat off of a paleo meal plan, like this one from my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, to spare yourself some of the mental work.

Lastly, identify the grains you rely on most and how you intend to replace those. That way, when you’re in a crunch, about to reach for your ol’ grainy friend, you can stop and reach for your replacement before you die of hunger!

Your new grain-free go-tos

Here are some common grains and suggested new go-tos while you’re eating grain free.

  • crackers, chips, bars                > raw veggies (oh so many to choose from!),                                                          kale or root veggie chips
  • bread                                          > lettuce leaves, put it in a bowl or make your                                                         own grain-free bread or paleo tortillas
  • buns                                            > slices of zucchini or sweet potato
  • cereal                                          > make your own grain-free cereal
  • pancakes                                    > paleo pumpkin pancakes (love these!)

You’ll get more results from eating grain free if you add in healthy foods, especially those high in fiber. You still need fiber, just not via the grains. Your best option? Learn to love the leafy greens! You’ll find many of them, and many ways to prepare them. And they offer loads of minerals and nutrients you may not have been getting before. Here are just a few:

  • kale (raw in salad or smoothie, sautéed, chips)
  • Swiss chard (raw, sautéed, roasted)
  • romaine lettuce (raw in salad or as a wrap, in smoothie)
  • collard greens (sautéed, blanched, roasted)

Also get fiber from these foods:

  • nuts and seeds
  • quinoa (a seed, but not deemed paleo because of it’s potential harm to your guts)
  • figs
  • berries
  • avocados
  • coconut (FYI – a fruit and not a tree nut)
  • beans and peas (legumes are not technically paleo)

Note that white potatoes are not a grain, but they have similar qualities and effects as grains (see the link above about quinoa). So if you’re eating grain free to heal your guts, you should also avoid using potatoes as a substitute.

Curious about going totally paleo? Read “Eating healthier: Is paleo the way to go?”.

In the meantime, if you’re eating grain free, just do a little prep work first. It will make your mission more relaxing and fun. It may be an eye-opening, gut-healing and life-changing experience!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.