Saturday, April 1, 2017

Paleo Week 4

This week's breakfast is egg sandwiches made with Paleo English muffins.
This week's dessert is Paleo strawberry rhubarb crisp.

Wow, Week 4! I'm halfway to my goal of eating strictly Paleo for 60 days. I read a book written by a natural endocrine doctor, who has Graves Disease himself, and has successfully managed it using a natural treatment protocol. He writes that many people are successfully able to reintroduce some high quality dairy and gluten-free grains, and that is definitely my goal. I know that the way I eat is definitely going to change forever if I truly want to manage this disease without pharmaceutical drugs, but I'd be lying if I said I was ok with never eating cheese again ;-) 

So this week brought some interesting new finds. I made a Paleo "cheese" out of cashew nuts, gelatin, and some spices. It is NOT anything like dairy cheese, but it works in a pinch when I'm craving something creamy on scrambled eggs or a salad. I tried zucchini noodles ("zoodles"), for the first time in a shrimp and cashew stir fry and they were fantastic! Thanks to my mom for letting me borrow her spiralizer! I definitely want one of my own down the road. I also made Paleo brownies out of pumpkin, cocoa, eggs, vanilla and coconut flour. They were dense and fudgy - a very convincing replacement to flour brownies. I made the smoked salmon dish you see above last night and it was I really had to restrain myself from eating the entire portion and not leaving any for Brian! I was very happy and satisfied this week, and grateful for all the new recipes I got to try out. Speaking of recipes: check out that meal plan! NO Paleo modifications! Everyone's eating the same thing this week (with the exception of regular spaghetti noodles for my kids on Tuesday). I feel kinda proud of that.

Now that I've got the cooking part mostly under my belt, I'm moving on to researching supplements that would benefit me and the dozens of ways I can kick the toxins in my home out to the curb. I've done a lot of this already in the last few years, but there is still more work to be done. Autoimmune disorders are particularly susceptible to the endocrine disruptors and toxic ingredients in everyday household items, but I personally believe that all homes can benefit from removing these things. I'm also examining ways to reduce the stress in my life. This is NOT an easy one for me, as it's in my nature to react strongly to sometimes even minorly stressful situations. That will surely require some self-examination, daily reminders, and new routines, but I'm up for the challenge. I had bloodwork done yesterday, and I can't wait to get the results and see where I'm at! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Paleo Week 3

This week's breakfast: Sausage and broccoli crustless quiche. 
Dessert: Paleo brownies with strawberry coconut milk ice cream.

I am entering Week 3 of the Paleo diet (this is meal plan #2 though...the first week I just bought a bunch of meat and vegetables and figured I would wing it), and I'm starting to really miss some things. The first few weeks I was so wrapped up just learning how to cook for myself that I didn't really perseverate on all the things I couldn't have. This week though...I would literally sell my right arm for a piece of pizza. Gooey cheese....yeasty soft crust...omg I have to stop thinking about it. I also hit a breakfast roadblock for a couple of days when I didn't have a breakfast plan and ended up having a smoothie and a hard boiled egg, when what I really wanted was rye toast with butter and an iced coffee. I am learning that I definitely have some emotional attachments to food, and I really just can't even envision life long-term without cheese. And my food true love, bread. 

Anyway, before I cry about all the things I can't have, let's talk about what's going well. I was 99% compliant this week...I had to subtract a point for the dab of butter I put on the Paleo pancakes my parents made me this morning. If I were at home, I would have had a couple options for butter replacements, but I didn't think to bring them with me and in a weak moment, I caved a teeny bit. I made a Trader Joe's stock-up run and came home with some great finds: plantain chips, coconut cream, bacon jam, cacao nibs, frozen fish, and some new tea, among other things. I have also found some favorite things in these first few weeks:

Hey speaking of Trader Joe's! So I would not have considered myself a sauerkraut kind of girl, but to my surprise, this is delicious! Even my kids tried it and liked it. Conventional sauerkraut is actually cooked at high temps to force the fermentation process, resulting in a mushy, stinky mess. This raw version is crunchy and pickle-y - a great way to get more probiotics into my diet. 

Boy was I sad to say goodbye to coffee when I started this journey. Eventually I'm hoping I might be able to reintroduce it, but I'm trying hard to stay totally compliant for the first 60 days. This product is made of ground, roasted cocoa beans and it is definitely the closest and tastiest alternative I've tried. It has a flavor that is part coffee, part hot chocolate, but it's not sweet on it's own. I add a couple teaspoons of coconut oil and some coconut milk to make a latte, and to really amp up the healing properties, I also throw in...

This product is never leaving my life. I am grateful that the Paleo experience lead me to jump on the collagen bandwagon, because it truly is a superfood. Now if I stop to consider the fact that it's made of ground up cow hide, it freaks me out a little, so I choose not to think too hard about that. It's amazing for so many things - hair, skin, nails, joint health, healing injuries and chronic pain, but most importantly for me: healing the gut. It is completely odorless and tasteless, and dissolves instantly in hot or cold liquid. I can add it to a smoothie or a hot drink and know that I'm supporting my healing. 

Ah, the humble plantain. Before going Paleo, I had never tried one, or given any thought to doing so. But, it turns out they are a great safe starch, and they are SUPER versatile. So far, I've made waffles and fritters out of them, made plantain chips, and pan-fried them with some coconut oil and sea salt for a side dish. I've enjoyed everything I've done with plantains so far, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what else I can whip up (plantain curly fries anyone?). 

So that's where I'm at so far! Thank you so much to everyone who has offered their support and kind words along the way!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Paleo Meal Plan #1

It's Thursday and that means it's grocery shopping day! I shop on Thursday nights for a few reasons:
1. It's a day of the week where we don't typically have anything else going on.
2. I HATE grocery shopping on the weekend. The stores are more crowded and it eats up a huge chunk of my day.
3. My husband is home in the evening, so I can leave my kids behind. Don't get me wrong, I love them with ALL my heart, but grocery shopping is one of those things I will always choose to do without them (why? Imagine your 3 year old yelling "HORSE HORSE POOOOOOOP! at the top of his lungs because his brother thinks it's hilarious. Then there was the time Jake loudly asked "WHY IS THAT LADY BUYING SO MUCH JUNK FOOD?" I've taught you well son, but for the love of God, SHHHH.)

I also have a strategy to my meal planning, and I'm keeping to it even through this Paleo transition. It goes like this:
Thursdays - we eat up any dinner leftovers in the fridge to make room for the incoming groceries.
Fridays - I'm always fried on Fridays so I like to keep dinner super simple.
Saturdays - when I was growing up, Saturdays were for simple, casual food like pizza and tacos, and I've kept to that my entire life.
Sundays - this is always my day to cook a really nice Sunday dinner that's more complicated and time consuming than I have time for during the week. My husband and I always look forward to Sunday dinner! Wish I could say the same for my kids.

Am I right?

Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays - these are for pretty typical weeknight dinners that can be made around our activities, sports for Jake, MOPS for me, extended hours for my husband, etc. 

Meal planning has always been something I've done and enjoyed, even back when I was single and living in a studio apartment, only cooking for me. There's just something about knowing what you're going to make every night that makes life so much easier. If I don't have a meal planned, I get stressed about it. Going Paleo has really given me a new challenge when it comes to writing my weekly menu. On one hand, I don't want to cook completely separately for me and my family. Making two meals every night when I barely have time to make one? Nope. On the other, it would be very expensive and frustrating to cook Paleo for everyone, and I don't need any more comments from my little peanut gallery about how disgusting the meal I made is. I get that often enough (Thanks kids! Love you! You're welcome for cooking healthy food from scratch every night!).

So, the end result is a kind of hybrid, where I'm cooking something we all can eat some nights, and on others, I'm just modifying my food so it's Paleo friendly. For example, on Saturday, I'll make homemade pizza for the guys, and the Paleo modification for me will be pizza stir fry, If you've never had it, it's delish! I liked to make it long before I went Paleo. You take all your fave pizza toppings - I like olives, green pepper, sausage, mushrooms, zucchini and red onion, and you saute them all up together in a pan. Top it off with some marinara and crushed red pepper - YUM. Breakfast for dinner is another super easy one that I think we'll be eating a lot more often. The kids love scrambled eggs, breakfast meat and homemade pancakes or waffles, and it's simple for me to swap in grain free recipes. 

This week's dessert is going to be Paleo apple crisp, which I am super excited about. And what's apple crisp without vanilla ice cream? I'll also be trying my hand at homemade vanilla coconut milk ice cream.

I am always up for a culinary challenge, and that's definitely the way I'm approaching the Paleo Diet. Feeling hungry and deprived makes me VERY VERY CRANKY (ask my husband), so my goal is to ensure that I am neither!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Well hello there, Thyroid

It's been awhile since I've heard from you. And I can't say I'm all that upset about that. You are the thorn in my side, the little (except not little) thing I like to forget about when you're behaving yourself. But for whatever reason, you've chosen now to remind me that you're really the one running the show. Well, technically, you're just my immune system's puppet. Let's back up a minute.

If you haven't heard the story, it's been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes my immune system to attack my own thyroid gland. The thyroid, in response, goes into overdrive and starts pumping out way more thyroid hormones than my body needs. The results of this - weight loss, difficulty sleeping, tremors, heat intolerance, heart palpitations, rapid pulse, and fluctuations in mood, are due to the major disruption of such a critical organ of the endocrine system. I was diagnosed after a routine physical at my doctor's office, when I mentioned to my doctor that I thought I was having heart palpitations. She did an EKG in her office that day, which didn't return much info. After a round of blood work, a radioactive uptake scan, and a thyroid ultrasound, the diagnosis came back: Graves Disease. It was a bitter pill to swallow at 27 years old, knowing that this disease would never go away, and the best I could hope for was remission. Remission, of course, was what I was hoping for. My new endocrinologist, Dr. Boring (not his real name ;), wanted to destroy my thyroid right off the bat using radioactive iodine. Baring that, he wanted to cut it out. No thanks. I'd like to keep that important little gland, thankyouverymuch.

Over the years, I've been on and off different drugs to depress the function of my overactive thyroid. Interestingly, pregnancy put me solidly into remission, as the hormone cocktail resulting from growing a person worked in my favor. But each time, the postpartum period, and the stress of breastfeeding, being awake all night, and going back to work all combined to mess up that peaceful state of equilibrium. After getting tired of fending off Dr. Boring's attempts to convince me to part with my thyroid and take synthetic hormone replacement for the rest of my life, I found a new endocrinologist who was comfortable with long-term medication therapy to keep it in check. This worked out well for several years, especially as I was able to go off my meds a year and a half ago as my disease went into remission on its own. But alas, it seems all good things must come to an end, and even my new doctor now feels like it would be in my best interest to destroy or remove my thyroid.

Here's the thing though. Getting rid of the thyroid isn't getting rid of the problem. The problem is my immune system. By removing the thyroid, you're removing the cause of the SYMPTOMS, not the root of the problem. My doctor acknowledges this, yet remains firm that there isn't a way to address the immune system component. I've known for a long time that there is a way to reset the immune system and calm its inflammatory response. I just haven't wanted to do it, because it requires sacrifice. A lot of it. And as a working mom of two, I just don't feel like I often have that much more to give. But I think we've reached the point where I have to try.

Enter the Paleo Diet. If you haven't heard of it, eating Paleo means eating a diet free of inflammatory foods such as grains, dairy, and refined sugar and focusing on whole, healing foods like fresh produce, meat (OMG so much meat), nuts, seeds and spices. I've been avoiding it for years because the very idea of giving up grains and dairy terrifies me. No fresh homemade bread? No hot bowl of steel cut oats, or air-popped popcorn with the kids? No fresh yogurt, cheese (CHEESE?), or cream in my coffee? I'm still wrapping my head around all of these losses. But, I've come to the point where healing just has to take priority over bread. Sorry, bread :( I still love you. The healing will happen, hopefully, from healing my gut, which is the source of everyone's immunity. Many people with autoimmune disorders have a "leaky gut," which allows toxins to pass into the bloodstream, which in turn, sends the immune system over the edge and it does wonky things like attacking the body's own organs. Some people are lucky enough to be able to reintroduce grains and dairy after a time on the Paleo Plan. Some aren't. Only time will tell for me. So I figured in the meantime, I'd blog the journey, and I hope you'll follow along. I need all the support I can get!