Monday, March 30, 2015

Recipe: Spinach Chips {DHwRF, AIP}

While on the DHwRF elimination diet, I've had some intense cravings for something snacky that is also crispy and salty.  Fortunately, I've found that spinach chips help fill fulfill this craving, and they're both DHwRF- and AIP (Autoimmune Protocol)-compliant.  Yay!  Here's my recipe below for anyone else looking for a healthy snack.

Step 1: Place spinach leaves in a large bowl. No need to remove the stems - they’ll crisp up in the oven as well.

Step 2: Pour on a healthy dose of olive oil and mix with your hands until all the leaves have a coating of oil on them. If you’d like to add a garlicky taste, you can use garlic-infused olive oil instead. This is the brand I use:

Step 3: Spread the leaves out on parchment-covered baking sheets. I used to take the time to lay out each leaf individually so they weren’t touching one another, but this was waaaaaaaay too time-consuming. Now I just dump on the leaves, spread them around, and call it a day.

Step 4: Place in the oven at 325 degrees and bake until they are crisp. This typically takes 20-25 minutes in my oven.

I checked mine after about 15 minutes, and they weren't quite done. There were still some soggy places. You want to make sure they're completely crisp. The leaves will shrink dramatically, and any leaves that are touching one another will just fuse together to form larger “chips.”

Step 5: Discover that an oven mitt was attached to the bottom of one of your baking sheets when you put it in the oven, and thank the Lord that it didn’t catch on fire.

Step 6: Season with sea salt (preferably pink Himalayan). You can technically salt the leaves prior to baking (and this may be preferred), but I often forget. So feel free to salt them either before or after the oven.

Step 7: Enjoy! If you want to store them, you’ll need to put them in a container that doesn’t crush them, because they crumble very easily.

My whole family loves these - even both of my children, surprisingly - so this is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies!!


Spinach Chips
DHwRF- and AIP-compliant

Olive oil (I prefer it to be garlic-infused)
Sea salt (I prefer pink Himalayan)

Place spinach in bowl and mix with olive oil until leaves are coated.
Spread spinach leaves out on parchment-covered baking sheet.
Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until crisp.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

One Week In - DHwRF Update

Well I've completed one full week of the Digestive Health with REAL Food elimination diet, with a few personal modifications for my own health and sanity.  Here's what I've been eating:

uncured bacon, ideally sugar-free (not DHwRF-approved, but included in my personal diet because it was fine last time I did the diet and reintroduced it)
uncured lunchmeats, salami, and pepperoni (not DHwRF-approved, only included because we were traveling in the car all day many days, now removing them from my diet)

green beans
kale (not DHwRF-approved, but included because it's healthy and I really like it)
raspberries (not DHwRF-approved, but included to help fight possible h. pylori infection)
broccoli sprouts (not DHwRF-approved, but included to help fight possible h. pylori infection)
lemon juice, fresh
lime juice, fresh

coconut oil
MCT oil
olive oil
garlic-infused olive oil
Himalayan pink sea salt


kombucha (both store-bought and homemade)
unsweetened hot tea (mostly rooibos, green, and chamomile; not all DHwRF-approved, but included for sanity and soothing of digestive system)

gelatin (Great Lakes grass-fed)
Monuka honey (not DHwRF-approved, but included to help fight possible h. pylori infection)

Things I am NOT eating that I miss oh-so-much:
  • any fruit besides raspberries
  • chewy granola-bar-type foods
  • chocolate
  • almond milk
  • Did I mention coffee??
I sure hope that I don't find out coffee gives me issues when I reintroduce it.  If it does, one of my dear friends (or my poor husband) is going to have to come drag me out from under my covers because I'm going to go into long-term mourning.

So one week into the diet, have I experienced any improvements??   Yessiree!!  And thank goodness. Because I've experienced worsening of many symptoms, also.  Which is supposedly what happens when your body goes through a "detox" like this.

Digestive symptoms:  My jabbing abdominal pains and nausea have completely disappeared. Bloating has decreased significantly but is still a daily occurrence.  Alternating diarrhea/constipation has leveled out and disappeared.  So overall, minus the daily bloating, my digestive system is acting like a somewhat healthy digestive system.  Hurray!!

Reflux symptoms:  I know this is a subset of the digestive system, but it's somewhat a separate issue for me.  Prior to doing the DHwRF diet the first time, I had never noticed reflux issues much.  But now they are becoming more noticeable, I don't know why.  In case you're curious, here's a little side story about my worst experience ever with reflux:  The other night, after taking my nightly supplements and climbing into bed, I was awoken to severe pain in my esophagus.  I sat up immediately, and it felt like all my pills were climbing their way up my esophagus, jabbing themselves into the walls of my esophagus as they went.  There was some burning, but more than anything, pain and the feeling that all my stomach contents were now residing in my chest and making their way to my throat.  I quickly made my way into the bathroom in case I threw up, and ran through my head the possible causes of this.  I know that I have slow stomach transit and that my sphincter between my stomach and my esophagus hangs open, thanks to my recent endoscopy, so clearly reflux is going to be a potential issue.  But it didn't seem that there should be enough food in my stomach to cause such severe reflux so late after dinner. Then I wondered if perhaps there was gas buildup, and the gas was forcing the supplements upward.  So I started chugging water to make myself burp.  I'd drink a gulp, then try to burp.  Drink a gulp, then try to burp.  Sure enough, within a couple minutes and quite a few burps, the pain had resided and it felt like everything was back down in my stomach.  Whew.  But now, three days later, I am STILL experiencing pain in my lower esophagus when I eat and drink.  Like seriously, something got really messed up in there.  All I can imagine is that the stomach acid and pills eroded away my esophageal wall and now I have to wait for it to heal.  It was crazy and so, so painful!!

Autoimmune symptoms:  Much, much worse.  I had this occur the first time I did the diet, and so it's not shocking that it's happening again.  At first it was just super-intense sugar cravings and tiredness. The tiredness has gotten gradually worse, and now I'd call it full-blown fatigue.  I get body aches, chills, and feel so drained of energy that it's hard to walk across the room.  These symptoms will hit me and last anywhere from a couple hours to a day.  Then suddenly they'll vanish for a bit and I'll feel like a normal person.  To help with these issues I'm taking hot Epsom salt baths, sleeping as much as I can, and today I picked up some activated charcoal and castor oil to do castor oil packs.  Sleeping has proven to be very necessary.  I slept 12.5 hours two nights ago and 10 hours last night.  And this wasn't just laying in bed because I felt lazy.  I was OUT COLD.  So my body is definitely craving rest.  Thank goodness Dave is fully supportive of this and does all he can to make sure I sleep as long as needed.  In terms of brain fog, it still feels as it did prior to starting the diet.  Not incredibly severe, but I'm still having a few issues with focus, anxiety, and word recall.

Cravings:  Oh goodness.  Give me sugar.  Or coffee.  Please, please, please, sugar or coffee. (And just for the record, I drink decaf coffee.  So I'm definitely missing the coffee, not the caffeine.)  And actually, if you would put the sugar and the coffee together, um, I would be so absolutely giddy. Those are my main cravings.

An extra perk I've noticed:  I can sing better.  There's much less phlegm in my throat and I can sing more clearly and easily.  It's pretty exciting. :)

I'm so grateful for my friend Misti who is doing the diet with me.  Almost daily, one of us texts the other to say, "I really want Starbucks."  It's comforting to have someone else experiencing the same self-denial and cravings, yet staying strong through it with me.  And there's that accountability there, where I don't want to cheat because then I'll have to tell her.

So all in all, it's been a hard week.  I've had a lot of cravings for things I'm not allowed to have.  I've lashed out at my husband for eating certain foods in front of me.  I've been fatigued and cranky. BUT.  I do see improvement, and I know that things have to get worse before they get better.  So I just keep my eye on the prize and continue marching forward.

To anyone else going through any type of elimination diet, kudos to you.  It's rough, but we've got this. :)

You can read about why I'm doing the Digestive Health with REAL Food diet here:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Digestive Health with REAL Food - Take 2

On October 1, 2014, I began Day 1 of my first attempt at the Digestive Health with REAL Food elimination diet.

Let me tell you people. It was intense. INTENSE.

Like seriously, I started hating meal time. I hated that I had to eat. I was eating plenty of healthy foods and getting plenty of nutrition, but it wasn’t the food my body had grown accustomed to. I was used to snack bars, lattes, potatoes, rice, chips, and diet soda. And suddenly I found myself eating countless numbers of chicken breasts and pot roasts and green beans, but no conventional starches allowed on the side. And seriously, I thought I was going to lose my mind. These crazy intense cravings would attack my body. I’d sit at a friend’s house and look at her little bowl of M&M’s and want to pull my hair out or just pour the whole bowl down my throat. I would have killed someone for a chewy gluten-free cookie. At night, I would have to leave the kitchen after dinner time and not return, or the anger and cravings that would fill me as the night progressed would turn me into a crazy woman.

I didn’t know if I could make it through.

But guess what. I did. And the diet worked. Aglaée Jacob knows her stuff.

It took six weeks, but my digestive symptoms disappeared. Bloating, jabbing pains, nausea, gas, abnormal bowel movements - GONE. And, to my shock, my symptoms from my undiagnosed autoimmune condition also vanished. Brain fog, hair loss, dry eyes, dry mouth, severe fatigue, anxiety - GONE. Within 2 ½ weeks on the diet, my blood ANA (indicator of autoimmune disease), which had been fairly high just prior to starting the diet, DISAPPEARED. It seemed almost miraculous. The doctors had no clear answers as to how it could have happened. I was elated. The doctor at my rheumatologist follow-up appointment, when I received the news that my ANA was gone, told me that the only thing abnormal in my blood work was some ketones. She shrugged off the ketones, saying she didn’t know why they were there. But I did. I knew it was because I’d cut the sugar and carbs, I’d put my body into ketosis, and I was healing. The diet was working. Even though I wouldn't experience relief from my symptoms for a couple more weeks, I had hope.

Fast forward five months. I’m now about to start the diet over.

Yes, I’m for real. And no, I can’t believe it either.

See, at first I did awesome at reintroducing foods slowly, at documenting my response to them. But it seemed that everything that I tried to reintroduce made me sick. After a month or so of struggling with failed reintroductions, I saw a GI doctor and got diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO, to be explained in a later blog post) and fructose malabsorption. Everything in my diet went haywire after that. I (mistakenly) thought that since the doctor gave me antibiotics for my SIBO, maybe I could eat more foods. I started reintroducing too many foods too quickly. I researched what types of diets I needed to eat for SIBO and fructose malabsorption, and focused on eating within their realms, hoping that I could bypass all the slow reintroductions of foods one at a time. Meanwhile, we were dealing with a ton of health and food allergy issues with my son, and I found more and more of my energy going into his diet instead of my own. Before I knew it, I’d lost total control of what I was eating. I’d quit journaling my food intake and symptoms, I’d quit focusing on nutrient dense foods, and in the chaos of everything I was even sneaking in frozen fish sticks and packaged gluten-free cookies again.

And boy, did I pay for it. I am now almost back to square one. Not as sick as I was the beginning of October, but getting close. All of the symptoms I used to have returned. The only difference is that they aren’t as severe yet. But if I keep eating the way I’m eating, they’ll get there. It’s time to do a rewind.

Fortunately this time, I have a new friend through a friend who is going to do the diet with me. (Yay Misti!) And I’m really excited about that. :) She also has tons of digestive issues and autoimmune symptoms (yay for her!). I can tell already that she’s going to be a great accountability partner and help me push through when I feel like giving up. I hope that we can support each other through this and come out victorious on the other side.

For anyone reading this who is struggling with digestive issues, I can’t recommend Aglaée’s book enough. She shares valuable information on almost every possible digestive issue and explains all the ways that food, diet, and lifestyle can impact your digestive health. And then she lays out for you her suggested elimination diet. The idea is that you reduce the foods that you’re consuming to only those that she has researched and recommends. You stay on those foods until you notice that your symptoms have mostly subsided. Then you add foods back one at a time, in the order you prefer, watching for any immediate or delayed reactions you might have. Over time, you are able to pinpoint exactly which foods are causing you issues and which foods are safe, and then you end up with a varied, healthy diet that is right for you.

I’m not going to give all the details of the very basic diet, but it essentially boils down to meats, poultry, fish, green beans, zucchini, spinach, carrots, and some healthy fats and seasonings. Algaée also gives a lot of suggestions for how to eat these foods and provides many recipes in the back of her book. She’s also written a companion cookbook, Digestive Health with REAL Food: The Cookbook, which I also own and use quite often.

I’m planning on starting the diet tomorrow, I think. I am not looking forward to it. However, I am super excited to feel healthy and have energy again, and also to not have abdominal pain and bloating every day. So I know it’s totally worth it.

Make sure to keep checking in here, and I’ll be filling you all in on how it goes. And if you’re having any struggles of your own, maybe you should check out Aglaée’s book. :) [And no, she did not give me any compensation for writing this. I’m truly just this big of a fan.]

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Where to Start?

Since October 2014, my life has been a whirlwind.

Health issues for me, my husband, and one of our sons. Struggles with doctors, results, diets, searching for answers and help. To say I’ve been overwhelmed at times would be an understatement. And unfortunately, although the worst of the fears have been bypassed and we now know we’re not dealing with anything life-threatening for any of us, the struggles continue. We still don’t have answers. We’re still trying to heal our son. My health is going in circles. Much of my life revolves around researching and reading, grocery shopping, and preparing foods that will heal my son and I. Gone are the days of meeting a girlfriend out for a quick dinner at Panera or having lunch with friends after church. Greyden will likely never again be able to join in eating the cupcakes at a friend’s birthday party or giddily dig through a Halloween bag, dreaming about indulging in all the treats. When I think about the loss of those things, my heart aches and tears sting my eyes. I so wish that my son could grow up experiencing all those fun things as I did. Our world revolves so much around food it seems, and it’s hard to be counter-cultural and find workarounds for all the traditions that bring expectations of indulging in certain foods.

As I’ve shared our journey with friends, one thing has come up time and time again. “You need to blog about this,” or, surprisingly even more often, “You need to write a book.” These words have been said to me so many times by now that I’m having a hard time ignoring them.

I recently was listening to a podcast and heard one last thing that sealed the deal for me. The speaker in the podcast said that when we are going through struggles like this and finding hope and answers, we need to share with others. Not share as a way to vent to the world or for personal healing (although that is a benefit of it I believe), but to let others know that they are not alone in their pain and frustrations. To give others the hope that we now have. Because there is hope.

As I write these words, there is a lump in my throat. It’s a very emotional topic for me. But now I believe that I do need to share. I will probably start with sharing through this blog, and if I feel there is enough material to write an eBook, then I will. So that decision has been made. But then I wonder...where do I start? So much has happened, so much has changed, I’ve learned so much and really I’m a different person than I was 6 months ago. How do I begin?

So I’m beginning with this post. This wonderful, rambling post entitled, “Where to Start?” Because really, that’s where I’m at. I’m mid-journey, not exactly sure where the beginning was, fully aware that there will never be an end. I couldn’t come up with some profound post about “The Day It All Began,” because really that day never happened. Yes, everything culminated last October, but it had begun long before that. Some of it began in my childhood. Some of our son’s health issues may have been rearing their ugly heads long before we realized. And so there is no pinpoint moment. It’s all a blur, and so as a result I’m going to have to just jump right in and start with no beginning.

So there you have it. The start of my sharing. I’m not sure what’s coming. There may be some emotional posts. There will likely be many recipes. There may be some guidelines on dealing with a child with food allergies. There will be discussion of elimination diets, the paleo autoimmune protocol, and living with an autoimmune disease. There will likely be a lot of health information, and I’ll share the changes I’ve made in my family’s diet and lifestyle to better our health (which I would do whether we had diseases and health issues or not). There’s so much to share that I…(wait for it)...don’t know where to start. (Wow I named this post appropriately!)

Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me so much over the last six months. Don’t know where I’d be without you. And of course I raise up my heart in thanks to God for giving me the grace, strength, wisdom, and resources to manage all that I’ve experienced so far. And to all who are going through struggles similar to ours, welcome. I pray that I can be a source of understanding, help, and hope through this blog and whatever else may come.

Talk to you soon. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Krewson Lee: 5-Year-Old Interview

Krew turned 5 years old two weeks ago on March 5th.   5 years old! What!

I've taken some 5-year photos of him that I'll be posting sometime in the hopefully-near-future, and with those I'll give some details and tidbits on his current little 5-year-old self. But for now I'll share an interview I did with him a couple days ago. I did the same interview a year ago when he turned 4. It's fun to see the differences. :)

You can watch the 4-year-old interview here: