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What are the best and worst foods for spring allergies?

Are you starting to sneeze, wheeze or fight off watery eyes? St. Louis pollens haven’t popped quite yet, but some of the tree pollens are blowing up from the south and doing their thing. Do you know you can help minimize symptoms by choosing foods for the season? Read on to get familiar with the best and worst foods for spring allergies.

How are foods related to spring allergies?

Foods can impact spring allergies in 2 ways.

First, some foods are high in histamines. Histamines occur naturally in your body and trigger it to defend itself. But if you have allergies, your body is over reacting, trying to defend itself against pollens, dust, pet dander or other environworst foods for spring allergiesmental elements. So when you eat foods high in histamines on top of that, you are literally adding fuel to a fire. And this is no sing-around-the-fire-eating-s’mores campfire.

Second, some of the proteins in certain fruits and vegetables are related to those found in pollens. And if the pollens bother you, the related fruits and vegetables (especially raw) may too. When you experience “Oral Allergy Syndrome”, you typically feel itchiness in or around your mouth or throat, immediately up to a half hour later. Instincts are to avoid that food in the future, but you may need to address an allergy to the pollen it’s associated with instead.

In fact, according to this article on Mother Nature Network, up to 70% of people with pollen allergies have reactions after eating certain foods. This may include Oral Allergy Syndrome symptoms, or less obvious ones such as congestion, constipation, mood swings and more. (For a more complete list, see the “Common reaction-causing foods and symptoms” chart in my book.)

So what are the worst foods for spring allergies?

If you start sneezing, get water eyes, feel more congested or even feel more depressed this time of year as it warms up, try limiting or avoiding the worst foods for spring allergies due to high histamine content.

  • bleu cheese or other aged cheeses
  • smoked meats
  • walnuts, cashews
  • hot peppers
  • picked or fermented foods such as sauerkraut
  • wine (because of fermented grapes and sulfites) and alcohol

Really, you should lay off these foods whenever your allergies flare up.

Plus, this may surprise you because these are otherwise healthy foods. But limit or avoid these cross-reactors to tree pollens, that is, the foods related to the proteins in tree pollens.

  • parsley
  • almonds
  • celery
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • apples
  • pears
  • cherries

At the very least, be mindful of these foods as we head into spring. Ideally, use a food journal to track your responses and hopefully determine whether the food or pollen is to blame for your havoc.

Then stock up on the best foods for spring allergies

Put these foods to work to help tame your allergy symptoms:

  • fresh, wild-caught fish
  • onions
  • pineapple

You may want to eat local honey early in the season as another defense strategy. This produces a similar effect to getting allergy shots. You expose your body to the coming pollens in small doses daily, trying to build a healthy immune response to them. However, if you are super reactive to tree pollens, check with your doctor first.

Also, add ginger, turmeric or cinnamon to your tea or food for their anti-inflammatory effects.

Later as summer and fall approach, check back for foods that cross-react with grass and ragweed. You may want to push that chamomile tea to the back of your cabinet!

With a better understanding of how foods can cross-react with pollens and add histamine to your system, you can embrace the best foods and avoid the worst foods for spring allergies.

 

*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. 

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10 reasons to eat healthier that may surprise you!

reasons to eat healthier plate of foodYou’ve heard a thousand reasons to eat healthier by now, surely. It’s almost become a social or fad thing.

Well, I consider myself a bit of a rebel. Not a conformist. Not a fad follower. And not a lover of those things mainstream.

But, I do eat quite healthily. Mostly because I am tired of all the allergy and sinus struggles for so many years. After tons of money spent looking for easier answers and then probably several near punches in my face from my holistic doctor, I caved and decided to follow her “orders” to change my diet. (She has never even rolled her eyes at my ridiculous arguments, never mind ordered something.)

I eat 95% gluten and dairy free, with limited grains, and still take some natural supplements and products. But I’m not taking any over-the-counter or prescription meds. And the past couple of years, I have been much less congested with fewer migraines.

So now I have to keep from rolling my eyes as I hear stories from friends and family members who suffer chronic symptoms, or have constant doctors’ visits, but still won’t try changing their diets to see if that helps.

A’hem. I know where you all are coming from. I do. But please learn from my stupid rebellious mistakes before your health gets worse. Or before you become a cancer or other statistic. Or so your kids will have a chance at better health.

These good reasons aside, I’ve learned, the hard way, 10 reasons to eat healthier that may surprise you. Which can you relate to? “I should eat healthier:

10. to save money. What, you say? Organic, healthy stuff costs way more than other stuff. Try Trader Joe’s, Lucky’s Market, some local markets or vitacost.com, for a few. Even if you do pay more, you may buy less and therefore eat less, which may not be a bad thing. You may eat out less often. And imagine the oodles of money saved with fewer doctors’ appointments and medicines.

9. to increase fertility. Many factors besides diet play into fertility. But your body could be sensitive to gluten or gluten cross-reactors without obvious symptoms. Sensitivity to these foods can mess with your hormones, which can include thyroid function and fertility.

8. to sleep better. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Not 6. And children need even more. Check out National Sleep Foundation’s latest recommendations broken down into age brackets. Sleep helps your body repair itself and prevent stress and anxiety. So healthy diet >> better sleep >> better health all around. Sleep is key.

7. to reduce arguments with your kids. Sound crazy? First, MSG has been linked to temper tantrums. Food dyes (e.g. Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 1, etc.) can cause aggressive behavior especially in kids. Remove the junk. Bonus, if you enforce healthier eating over time, you surely won’t hear “but do I have to eat this?” or “I’m not eating this” so much because you have changed your lifestyles, period.

6. to improve concentration. Upset stomachs, irregular bowels, anxiety and so many more symptoms can distract you or cause “brain fog”. These same symptoms can mess up your sleep, which will make you less focused during the day. It’s a vicious cycle!

5. for better gut health. Aren’t the effects from electromagnetic fields, pollution and daily stress hard enough on your body? Eat healthy, anti-inflammatory foods that let your body digest foods without working so hard. Good gut health can help prevent heart disease, cancer and you name it. Plus, it can help you maintain a healthy weight.

4. so I can breather easier. Friends in St. Louis, we live in one of the worst cities for pollen and mold allergies. Wherever you are though, eat less inflammatory foods and your sinuses may be less inflamed! Breathe easier. Maybe even watch your asthma disappear!

3. so my skin will clear up. Hives, rashes, fungus, acne. All things skin.

2. to help correct behavior problems. Medical expenses, infertility issues, brain fog, gut issues, chronic sinus problems or lack of sleep? Of course these could cause depression, anxiety or anger. But some foods can physically cause aggression, depression, irritability, fatigue or non-stop talking. Find more about foods (even healthy ones) and the symptoms they can cause on page 47 of my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

1. because I can. When I asked my then 3-year old boy why he asked so many questions, his smile-filled response was “because I can”. He could. He should. And he still does. Likewise, the #1 reason to eat healthier is because you can.

If you need help getting started, read my book, visit my Facebook page, check out some other articles in my blog or sign up for my free monthly newsletter.

Refuse to be the rebel here. Just eat healthier. Because you can.

 

*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. 

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Eating dairy free with a busy lifestyle

Work. School. Practices. Games. Meetings. Dates. And more. Life is busy. Which makes eating healthier seem challenging. Eating dairy free – now that takes eating to another level. But it can be done. And you can still live a normal life.

Eating dairy free at home

Of course, you’ll find it easier to eat dairy free at home. It’s much easier to avoid foods when you don’t buy them! This is why I keep less junk food around.

But what if part of your family eats dairy and the other part has to avoid it? Or what if you’re soooo craving some of the dairy you used to eat?

Here are some ways to satisfy your dairy dilemmas at home.eating dairy free

  1. Buy milk made from almond, cashew, hemp, coconut or rice.
  2. Stock up with yogurt made from coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.
  3. Replace butter with olive oil or another oil in many recipes. Or you may be able to tolerate clarified ghee, but it is technically dairy.
  4. Choose sorbet. Or opt for coconut milk ice cream or rice milk ice cream.
  5. Make your own cheese from non-dairy milk or zucchini – yes, who would guess?! You can find paleo recipes for anything!
  6. If you need a candy fix, choose organic dairy-free dark chocolate or fruit-flavored candy that doesn’t contain food dyes (it must exist?!).

Notice I didn’t suggest soy as an alternative to dairy. Despite it having some health benefits, research has led me to believe that soy may do more harm than good, especially if it’s not organic. Read more about the “soy situation” in chapter 4 of my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

Make sure any of your alternatives say “dairy-free” on the labels because even if something is “made with” coconut milk, for example, it could have cow’s milk in it, too. Read labels carefully!

Rotate your milk alternatives. Don’t buy all products made with rice, or all made with coconut. It’s important to rotate what you eat so your body does not develop new sensitivities. Note that because almond milk has high omega-6 content, you should use it more as a condiment than a drink.

Next, you may wonder. Does paleo cheese taste like “normal” cheese? Well, I’ve made a couple of recipes and found that no… it doesn’t. But it doesn’t taste bad and it can satisfy your craving. Some versions of paleo cheese may not be meltable, so be specific while searching online for recipes.

Eating dairy free while on the go

Eating dairy free at home should be easier once you’ve cleaned house or dedicated a dairy-free section in your refrigerator. But when out and about or socializing with friends, dairy-free options may not be as convenient.

Fortunately, many restaurants recognize the seriousness of food allergies now and offer alternatives. Don’t be afraid to ask if menu items are dairy-free. The reason restaurants have become more accommodating to food allergies is because people have spoken!

If you know you’re going to be running around for the day or evening, remember these tips to make eating dairy free easier:

  • Opt for water instead of milk to drink. Even your kids will learn to like water if you keep reinforcing the importance of it!
  • Instead of yogurt squeezers, grab some pre-cut raw veggies to eat in the car. This is a great way to get your veggie intake up to 50% of your diet for the day, too.
  • Eat something at home before you go, in case you end up somewhere without dairy-free options. You can always eat a little more while out with the rest of your crew. This will minimize any stress about eating out.
  • Keep a cooler in the car and stash it with your non-dairy favorites. I grab raw veggies, sweet potato chips or nut/seed bars as my go- tos. Yes, I’m that gal driving down the road with a whole washed but unpeeled carrot hanging out of my mouth. It can’t look any goofier than a cigarette. And nobody wants to see me hangry.

Concerned about your kids getting enough calcium? Make sure they eat plenty of healthy fish, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, bok choy and broccoli. If that seems like an impossible task, read my blog “10 ways to get your kids to eat vegetables”.

If you’re thinking of going dairy free but aren’t outright allergic to it, you may find that different dairy products affect you more severely. Milk may make you feel worse than cheese because it contains more lactose. Soft and fresh cheeses typically contain more lactose than hard or aged cheeses. Check out this nifty infographic about lactose intolerance. Using a food journal can help pinpoint the exact foods you need to avoid. Remember though, if it’s casein your body does not like, you should avoid all cheese and dairy.

Have faith. Eating dairy free gets easier with time, just like everything else. Plus it may urge you to experiment with more recipes and foods!

*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. 

For a limited time, sign up to win 1 of 10 free signed, first edition copies of Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways here!

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5 keys to allergy relief and feeling better naturally

Are you looking for allergy relief that comes more naturally? Or maybe just feeling better in general is your goal?

You can begin to achieve both with these 5 action items. I know from experience.

I love being outdoors – it’s like that morning coffee for coffee lovers. Ironically perhaps, my body is sensitive to pollens and mold.

natural allergy reliefI long to be outdoors without fearing the severe stuffiness, headaches and nausea I sometimes get, and without taking prescription meds that wreck my body even more over the long-term.

I hate being sick. But I’ve desperately wanted to get a cold that actually ends in the normal 7 to 10 days, without a trip to the doctor.

I crave waking up without a blocked nose or phlegmy throat and with energy and well, a pulse!

That’s not asking too much, is it?

What does allergy relief look like to a chronic sufferer?

For more than 20 years, I’ve wrestled with chronic allergies and fatigue, and an immune system that is not up to snuff. I’ve been through many tests, doctors and treatments.

Now for more than 10 years, I haven’t taken prescription allergy medicines. Just 2 times over the past 16 years, I have had to take antibiotics.

Finally this winter, I did have a “normal” cold. And I did wake up 4 or 5 days being able to inhale and exhale freely through my nose and feeling truly rested. Hallelujah!

So I’m still a work in progress. But I have taken huge steps forward. And I’m hoping to help you do the same by sharing my top 5 keys to allergy relief and better health.

How can you start down the road to relief?

Seek care from a holistic care provider in addition to your traditional doctor. Without my holistic doctors, I would have never found the other key factors to healing my body with fewer drugs.

4 Avoid antibiotics, and take more natural remedies as needed. Even studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have revealed that antibiotics in the U.S. are over-prescribed. I used to take antibiotics 3 to 5 times a year for sinus infections before realizing they also kill the good bacteria in my guts, too.

This article by expert Chris Kresser says that 1 course of antibiotics may permanently change your gut flora. And many doctors today keep prescribing more when the first round doesn’t work!

I can’t stress enough how damaging antibiotics can be. They have a place in medicine, but they should be our last resort. A holistic care provider will help you find a homeopathic remedy, herbal supplement, essential oil or other treatment to help heal your body more naturally instead. My doc even does kid-friendly chiropractic adjustments that help alleviate ear infections and other sinus-related issues. The non-Rx possibilities are many!

Use sinus rinse daily with distilled, filtered or previously boiled water and packets of salt mixture designed for this purpose. I use the NeilMed bottle to blast out my nose twice a day – in the morning and before bedtime – because I’ve never been able to get the Neti pot to work.

Get good, restorative sleep. If you need allergy relief, ditch the pillow-top mattress that’s likely holding lots of allergens captive and get something comfortable and hypoallergenic.

I’ve written lots of article and ebooks about mattresses and sleep, and now know just how critical 7 to 9 hours of sleep (more for kids) is to good health. I finally decided on an organic Dunlop latex mattress despite hating the smell of everyday latex. We love it and have invested in the same mattresses for our growing kids.

Now I also notice if I get just 6 hours of sleep a couple of nights in a row, I will pay for it, usually by feeling super congested, lethargic and prone to migraine headaches. You just can’t put a price on quality sleep.

Eat a healthier diet. Even if you think you already eat healthy, assume you have room for improvement. Aim to make 50% of your diet vegetables, ideally organic.

I could write a book about the reasons and ways to eat healthier, even if you have a million excuses. And about how even healthy foods could be countering your efforts for allergy relief and better health.

Well actually, I did write this book. It’s called Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways. It’s a simple and quick read aimed to help you gain allergy relief, feel healthier all around and likely even lose weight.

I wrote this book because changing my diet has produced the most results. Now I have more manageable allergies with a better quality of life – even outdoors and without traditional medicines.

Without changing my diet, my inflamed nostrils would not have allowed the NeilMed to do its job.

Without changing my diet, inflammation in my guts would not have allowed L-glutamine and other natural supplements to repair as needed.

Without changing my diet, even the most pure, luxurious mattress would not give me the quality sleep I need. Now instead of wasting energy constantly battling the foods it sees as enemies while asleep, my body can use that energy to truly restore itself, like it’s supposed to.

To sum it up, without changing my approach from eating reactively to eating proactively, I’d still be rotating through many prescription allergy medicines, wrecking an already over worked body, hiding from the amazingly beautiful outdoors and simply surviving through all my kids’ outdoor adventures and games.

I’m not looking to survive or get by. I’m on a mission to live.

Come along for the ride, but please take the shortcut!

 

 

*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. 

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How are inflammation and digestion linked?

Inflammation and digestion are earning more mentions in scientific studies as well as personal stories. How are they linked and what can we do to manage them?

Inflammation and digestion – understand the basics

By digging into the details of our digestive systems without getting overly scientific, you can better visualize and appreciate how it works and its significance in our overall health.

  1. inflammation and digestionYour nutrient-absorbing small intestine contains digestive flora, which can become unbalanced due to use of antibiotics, birth control pills, hormones (including steroids) and alcohol. Stress and diet can also disrupt the balance.
  2. Mucous membranes are key to protecting you from harmful microbes and parasites that can cause infection. They are found throughout your body — in your nose, mouth, lungs and urinary digestive tract. Many infections and diseases can begin as, or can be related to, inflammation in your mucous membranes — allergies, asthma and sinusitis, angioedema, arthritis, bronchitis, influenza, lymphoma and the list goes on.
  3. Intestinal villi are projections in your digestive mucous membranes that allow the absorption of nutrients. For example, when a person with celiac disease, a digestive intolerance to gluten, eats gluten, her body will react allergically, possibly for several days. Her body may also damage the villi, hindering their ability to absorb nutrients properly.

So, eating even a little bit of a “culprit food,” one that causes a visible or invisible bodily reaction, can seem to cause only an annoying but tolerable reaction, like minor itching or stuffiness. In reality, each time you eat it, you can damage your body’s digestive system. Damage to your intestinal flora, mucous membranes or villi can serve as a root to other problems.

And the more damage that’s done, the harder it can be and longer it can take to repair it.

What can you do to control inflammation and digestion?

Fortunately, you can take steps to help minimize inflammation in your body with hopes of nurturing your digestive system. Get enough sleep — 7 to 9 hours for adults and more for kids, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Minimizing stress as well as consumption of alcohol, antibiotics, steroids and hormones is also helpful in controlling inflammation and digestion. Some people are also more sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), and should limit exposure to them.

And of course, one of the most important things you can do to manage inflammation and digestion is to eat foods that help your mucous membranes do their job.

So consider:

  • eating more nutritious foods (aim for 50% of your diet to be veggies).
  • eating fewer foods that cause inflammation. Some main instigators of inflammation are gluten, dairy, sugar and corn syrup, food additives, fried foods and processed foods. Even nuts and a group of foods called nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, more) can cause inflammation for some people.
  • paying more attention to how your body reacts to various foods, and then avoiding or minimizing the ones that bother you.
  • rotating the foods you eat, instead of eating the same thing every day.
  • keeping a food journal for a few weeks to help pinpoint foods that bother you, because symptoms like congestion or changes in your bowel movements may not show up for a day or two.

Feed your body mostly nourishing foods. Get plenty of sleep. Choose wisely what else goes into your body.

Take care of your body and it will be better equipped to take care of those things outside of your control!

 

*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. 

 

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Dealing with leaky gut syndrome

Is leaky gut syndrome a real thing or just a catch phrase for all those intestinal issues doctors can’t seem to explain?

leaky gut syndromeAccording to the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, gastrointestinal dysfunctions are the most overlooked and common disorders today, affecting about 70 million Americans and accounting for billions of dollars in annual sales of over-the-counter digestive aids. That total doesn’t even include prescription medicines.

That’s a lot of people with GI problems and it’s hard to say how many antacids and prescription meds – enough to fill a large lake or five? That’s just digestive aids, never mind the ibuprofen and other drugs we take to alleviate the ambiguous symptoms that could be related to leaky gut syndrome. And all these drugs may be contributing to the problem!

What is leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut syndrome has been accepted as a real condition, but is still a mystery to healthcare professionals. Put in simple terms, leaky gut syndrome is when your intestines develop tiny holes in them.

The holes allow food particles to enter your blood stream, which is no place for food to be! Your body sees the food particles in your blood stream as “enemies”, putting your immune system into constant overdrive and possibly wearing your body down.

Symptoms may include gas, bloating, cramps, food sensitivities and others that can be mistaken for other conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid issues, autoimmune disorders, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and even autism could be symptomatic of a leaky gut.

Traditional medical tests often fail to reveal a definite cause of these symptoms, which can leave people without a diagnosis and, therefore, untreated, according to this webMD.com article.

However, Dr. Axe presents a more sophisticated explanation of leaky gut, as well as alternative tests for it in this article.

Though traditional and holistic doctors may not all agree yet, we can heed these factors thought to contribute to leaky gut and make lifestyle changes accordingly.

  • eating poorly
  • taking medications (especially antibiotics) that can cause an imbalance in your digestive flora
  • stress

Note that when doctors used to blame my allergies and chronic sinus issues on “stress”, I thought it was a cop-out and got angry. But now it makes more sense knowing that in traditional Chinese medicine, worry and anxiety (and overanalyzing) are emotions connected to your stomach and spleen. So yes, we all experience stress, but we don’t all handle it the same.

How can you help leaky gut syndrome?

Though it’s not well researched and documented throughout the medical industry as a whole just yet, many naturopaths have successfully treated enough patients with leaky gut syndrome that they have adopted programs for diagnosing and treating it.

Many of the treatment programs include:

  1. Adjusting your diet (for several months or longer). Avoid foods such as dairy, gluten and nightshades, known to commonly cause inflammation. Consider the GAPs diet, a paleo diet or another diet designed to reduce inflammation.
  2. Taking natural supplements to help heal your digestive system while avoiding the foods that irritate it. This could involve products with L-glutamine, probiotics or other natural products.
  3. Doing both with advice from your doctor. If your doctor is unfamiliar with leaky gut, visit one who is.

Everything starts in your intestines. If they are irritated and inflamed, you are likely to experience inflammation elsewhere in your body (sinuses for me). That’s why digestive health is so important. And that’s why you should have a healthcare professional help you troubleshoot rather than do it alone.

For more information on the subtle symptoms foods can cause, other foods that can cause inflammation and how to eat healthier, read Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

 

*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. 

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How trying new foods can change your life

Trying new foods never seemed that important or intentional to me. I’m not shy about trying new foods. I’m very crafty when it comes to making something out of not-much-of-anything leftovers. But since becoming sensitive to so many foods, trying new foods has taken on a new meaning – and has changed my life.

Exactly what do I mean by trying new foods?

Trying new foods has become a necessity for me – so I can find replacements for some of my favorites and new ways of getting healthier fats into my rotation. It has meant researching, shopping for and cooking foods I’ve never heard of. It’s been lots of trial and error. And it has involved eating finished products I wasn’t crazy about. But I knew they were good for me and in some way, they satisfied a craving (saltiness, crunch or about-to-become-a-bitch hunger pain).

As I reference in my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, researchers say it can take 10-12 times of seeing a food before a child will try it. Then add however many times your child must try a food before liking it! I think we are all kids at heart when it comes to eating, so the only edge we have as grown-ups is possibly more wisdom about the foods we’re eating!

What are some of these healthier, new foods I rave about?

In the past few years, my over-reactive immune system has prodded me to try new foods, which are quickly becoming staples in my home.

Sweet potatoes. Call me stubborn. Or picky. It only took me 30+ years and many samplings to like them. Now I eat them 4-5 times a week, usually sliced and grilled for dinner, but also with eggs or sausage for breakfast. Grilled is my favorite way, because they aren’t too soft or sweet. Love sweet potato chips, but not the healthiest! And I have acquired a taste for eating them baked or mashed now, too.

Nut butters. Now that I know how bad peanuts can be for you, I buy only organic peanut butter and more often use organic almond butter and sunflower butter (a seed butter) to make healthier “PB&Js” for the kids. Try cashew butter, walnut butter or tahini (sesame) paste. They make fantastic spreads and dips. Plus, they can be used to make grain-free and even paleo cookies and pancakes!

Kohlrabi. Available in spring and fall, kohlrabi leaves replace bread at lunchtime. The bulbs can be peeled, chopped and roasted, sautéed or more, and make a nice substitute for starchy white potatoes. Try them for breakfast “potatoes”, “potato” pancakes and soup!

trying new foods caulk soupCauliflower. True, it’s not really new. But I’ve typically eaten it raw, which is OK, or cooked and smothered in brown butter, which is tasty but not so good for you. After finally investing in a good food processor and immersion blender, I’ve been experimenting with cauliflower mash (instead of mashed potatoes) and cauliflower bacon soup, which was delicious and heartier than broth soups. Next, I have to try cauliflower rice!

Grain-free flours. Take away the things you love (like pizza, Mexican food, desserts) and you will find a way to get them back! Thanks to all the bloggers who are way ahead of me in this paleo-like lifestyle, I have been using flour from coconut, tapioca, almonds, sesame seeds, flax seeds and sunflower seeds to satisfy my cravings with healthier versions of tortilla chips, tortilla shells, pizza crusts, cookies and carrot cake (this was nut-free too)!

Today, with stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Lucky’s Market, trying new foods has never been easier. Using the internet, we can find recipes with the new food we want to try. And we can find substitutes for other ingredients if we are missing one when innovation strikes! We have no excuses.

Trying new foods has helped me add vegetables and healthy fats to my diet. It has allowed me to eat my favorites in a new way. It’s helped me expand the variety of foods in my family’s diet. And it’s made cooking and baking more adventurous again! It’s changed my life and it can change yours.

Here are a few of my new (to me), favorite recipes:

http://www.nutfreepaleo.com/2015/03/24/nut-free-paleo-carrot-cake/

http://brittanyangell.com/paleo-flax-tortillas/

http://paleogrubs.com/homemade-tortilla-chips-recipe

 

*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. 

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Elimination diet – to eat or not to eat for better health

Elimination diet or not? That is my latest personal dilemma. Should I strip my diet down even further to re-find out exactly what foods I’m allergic to? Put my sanity on the line? And my family on the fringe of this temporary hell?

Lots of people do an elimination diet to help identify food allergies. I think this technique is particularly helpful in pinpointing foods we may not test positive to in a blood allergy test. Blood allergy tests may not be that accurate, depending on the type of test (IgE v IgG) and whether the food is in your system at the time.

The elimination diet dilemma

Done right, an elimination diet takes a lot of self-discipline and constant monitoring. And I’m the type of gal who likes to keep life simple.

sliced veggies elimination dietI could think of the elimination diet as being real simple, especially if I eat the same few meals for 3 weeks before adding back in foods. And I could just plan to eat all my meals at home during this time – no going out or snacking thoughtlessly while on the run.

But we do have family birthdays and spring break coming up. Whoever celebrated those without cake and with a strict diet in place? My doc did say I need to take care of my own energy first, even if that means forgoing the cake. Ugh!

Plus, after 3 weeks, the diet is far from over. Then I would add back 1 new food every 3-4 days, so it may take 6 months or longer to do it right.

I could starve during this process. And morph into an intolerable bitch. I hate feeling hungry and having to be high-maintenance. And I hate not having a glass of wine when it’s my turn to cook, or a beverage for happy hour on my deck, especially with spring in the air.

On the other hand, I’ve already been doing a sort of elimination diet for about 4 weeks. No gluten, nuts, corn or barley – which includes beer and wine (sigh). Very minimal sugar and dairy. Still, I’ve had a stuffy nose, headaches on several days and irregular, um, irregularity all around. Except for the rather regular migraines!

Could it be due to my poor attempt at beginning yoga? The new GF crackers I ate about 10 of? The spinach? Avocado oil on my tuna? I could make myself crazy trying to pinpoint my food culprits – and healthy ones to boot!

My theory, based on several girlfriends’ and my own experiences, is that in our 40s, hormones mess us up in ways we will never understand!

The elimination diet verdict

Even my trusted doctor isn’t sure an elimination diet is the best idea right now, with spring airborne allergens likely to complicate my results.

However, I’m already 4 weeks into eating a bare bones diet of mostly lean proteins and veggies. If I stick to it, I could reboot my body before spring allergies strike.

Yet if I don’t get to feeling consistently uncongested, there’s not much point in adding foods back in 1 nut at a time, 1 cheese at a time, etc.

See my dilemma? So is doing an elimination diet worth it or not?

Only God really knows. And sometimes I think all this ambiguity is just another way God’s telling me he’s in control. That no matter how much I control what I eat, he’s in charge of how or if that works out for me.

What I’ve realized is that this is one area of life I’m still trying to fix on my own. Maybe I should go pray about it instead.

Stay tuned to my Facebook page for my verdict. Please feel free to post and share updates about your own elimination diet woes and successes. We can muddle through together.

 

*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. 

veggies with blog title

Are food allergies and behaviors linked?

Could food allergies be the culprit behind your kid’s undesirable behavior? Is she acting aggressively, having trouble concentrating or talking non-stop? Sometimes these symptoms can be justified by age, stress or disorders such as autism. But have you considered the link between food allergies and behavior – and that the foods she’s eating could be making her worse?

Signs your kids may have food allergies

First, let’s clarify a couple of things as they are discussed in this post. Food allergy refers to a more noticeable physical reaction typically, such as sneezing. However, it’s important to note that less obvious food sensitivities can also affect behavior. For example, a food intolerance occurs in the digestive system, and a toxicity is like a temporary overdose of a food. Food intolerances or toxicities can cause symptoms easily dismissed as an upset stomach or nerves, for instance. In this post, I’m using the term food allergies to cover all levels of food sensitivities.

food allergies and behavior - girls gossipingSecond, aggressive behavior can include but is not limited to kicking, screaming, biting, pulling hair, excluding others, calling names, taunting or embarrassing someone in front of others.

So let’s explore food allergies and behavior.

We can split symptoms of food allergies into two categories as I see it.

  • The obvious symptoms, such as a runny or stuff nose, itchiness, rashes, sneezing or in serious cases, anaphylactic shock. We typically stop eating the food!
  • Ambiguous symptoms such as slight congestion, digestive discomfort, difficulty concentrating, aggressive behavior or non-stop talking could also indicate a food allergy. But we often mistakenly blame these on the weather, nerves, personalities or medical issues, to name a few. Meanwhile we keep on eating the food!

Think about how you might get after not feeling well or being able to concentrate for a couple of weeks. I tend to get a little irritable and bitchy!

Your kid could be going through the same thing but without 1) realizing his behavior is different, 2) associating ambiguous symptoms with the foods he eats, 3) being able to communicate his discomfort especially if he’s very young and 4) being slowed down much from his normal busy activity. My son is still busy as ever even when he has a cold and is breathing like Darth Vader!

Here are just a few examples of food allergies and behaviors you might see yet not naturally link together:

  • amines > aggressive behavior
  • food dyes (red 1, yellow 5, etc. which can be listed by a slew of other names) >     attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, difficulty concentrating
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)  >  feelings of detachment, temper tantrums
  • pork  >  aggression
  • wheat > non-stop talking

For a more complete list, check out page 47 of my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

Help identify food allergies and behaviors that are disrupting your kids

If your kid either suddenly shows a change in behavior, or constantly displays behavior that seems off beat compared to her normal, start reviewing her diet as of late. Do your best to pinpoint her symptoms and the culprit food(s). Remove that food from her diet for 3 weeks ideally, to see if the behavior disappears. In many cases, you may see improvement in even less time.

I recently heard about a family in which a young girl around age 3 was throwing major tantrums. Well, this is the perfect age for tantrums, but these were apparently doozies. Come to find out, both parents were lactose intolerant yet the entire family was eating dairy. They removed dairy from her diet after visiting a naturopath and the tantrums magically disappeared! But…

The grandparents did not see this first hand and did not want to follow the parents’ instructions to avoid dairy. The parents warned the grandparents that if they did give her dairy, then they would keep her overnight, too. So, the grandparents fed her dairy, witnessed the horrific tantrum and are now on board with no dairy for that little girl. The little girl praised her mom for taking her to that doctor so she could feel better.

Removing gluten and other foods has even helped reduce behaviors associated with autism and other neuro-developmental disorders, as discussed by Brain Balance Centers. That doesn’t mean that a change in diet will cure autism. But maybe you could minimize unwanted behavior and maximize concentration by eliminating certain foods.

As parents, grandparents or caretakers, we want to help our kids feel better, focus better and behave better. In fact, we would do whatever it takes!

So, the next time your kids seem to be acting up, don’t let food allergies and behavior that’s undesirable set in. Take a good look at their diets. Are the foods they eat fueling frustration and possibly even failure? Or are they fueling positive growth and experiences?

 

*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.