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Hydrating Iced Cocoa

iced cocoa

Last year I shared my “secret” recipe for hot chocolate that I drink daily. It tastes great and keeps me  going all day.

This past week we went from chilly to hot! Though now it’s back to chilly again. That’s Michigan for you.

As much as I love my hot chocolate, when I’m dripping with sweat from playing outside with the kids it just doesn’t sound that appealing.

So now it’s time for an iced version! When I tried it I was pleasantly surprised that the iced cocoa kept me just as hydrated as the hot version. It was also just as easy to drink without feeling like I had a belly full of liquid.

I don’t know the science behind it, but just a small amount of cocoa helps my body absorb liquids and stay hydrated. Cocoa is also full of minerals like potassium and magnesium. It even has quite a bit of iron and fiber.

I’ve talked before about the importance of not drinking tons of plain water throughout the day. It will actually flush the vitamins and minerals out of your body and leave you dehydrated…and feeling even thirstier! It will also lower your metabolism (you can read more about that in Eat for Heat and The Nourished Metabolism).

I stick to my mug of hot chocolate in the morning and now my mug of iced cocoa in the afternoon. My thirst is quenched for the whole day. As an added bonus I no longer have the overactive bladder I had from childhood on. I’m not running to the bathroom all day long.

Do you play sports? Skip the neon-colored sports drinks and fill your water bottle with iced cocoa.

My kids often ask me to make hot chocolate for them. But it’s tough to get it just the right temperature so that it’s still warm but not too hot. They are going to love this new treat.

If you’re looking for a delicious, refreshing and hydrating drink this summer try some iced cocoa. It only takes a few minutes to make and tastes great! 

iced cocoa collage

Hydrating Iced Cocoa
Serves 1
A delicious, hydrating drink to keep you going all summer long.
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Prep Time
2 min
Prep Time
2 min
  1. 1 - 2 tsp. organic cocoa powder (you can substitute carob powder)
  2. 1 Tbsp. honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and/or cane sugar
  3. 1/8 - 1/4 tsp. unrefined sea salt
  4. 1-2 tsp. gelatin or collagen (optional)
  5. 1/4 cup milk or milk substitute (optional)
  6. ice cubs
  7. hot water
  8. cold water
  1. Add cocoa powder, sweetener, salt and gelatin to a heat-safe cup (I like to use a pint jar/mug).
  2. If using gelatin, add 1/8 cup of water, stir and let sit for about 30 seconds to dissolve.
  3. Add 1/4 cup boiling water to the cup. Stir to dissolve the cocoa/sweetener/salt mixture.
  4. Add 4-6 ice cubes to cool the cocoa.
  5. Add milk for richness.
  6. Fill the rest of the glass with cold water.
  7. Stir and serve immediately.
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Health Lessons I Learned Through Infertility


Every time I think about writing what I learned in 2013 my mind goes in a million directions. I learned so much. I learned it all the hard way – through first hand experience.

I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one struggling with these problems. So I want to share my journey with others in the hopes that someone else doesn’t have to go through the struggles like I did.

So here is my attempt at sharing some of these lessons. I hope to go into more detail on some of the topics in separate posts later. For now, here is some of what I learned in 2013 (and over the last ten years).


1. Eat enough food.

I fell into this trap for many years. And I see it in so many well-meaning sites and books. Time and time again it is suggested that women should eat 1200 – 1500 calories a day to loose weight and be healthy. This is far too little to sustain your health.

Unless you are on complete bedrest and can barely move your body most women should eat a minimum of 2,000 calories a day. You should consume even more than that if you are active and exercise. If you starve your body it will not function well. If you feed your body you’ll feel great. Combining enough quality food with moderate exercise is a great way to maintain your health in the long term.

2. Eat what works for your body.

Don’t follow a prescribed diet (GAPS, Paleo, low carb, etc.) just because someone else says it’s great.

This is another lesson I had to learn the (very) hard way. I’ve been on every diet you can think of to try to feel good. For me it was never about losing weight. I just wanted to feel good and heal my body. So I tried the IBS diet, low fat, high fiber, dairy free, egg free, wheat free, red meat free, grain free, GAPS, low carb,…I’ve tried them all.

Where did that get me? Feeling worse than when I started. Over the last 10 years I have learned to eat what works for my body. And that is what makes me feel good.

Just because your friend tried eating paleo and feels great doesn’t mean it’s the perfect diet for you. Just because someone says grains are evil doesn’t mean they don’t work for you.

I have read over and over about how things like potatoes, bananas and root vegetables are “safe” starches and much better for you than grains. I am living proof that this is not true for everyone. If I eat potatoes and bananas I will be in so much pain. But I MUST eat gluten free grains daily to feel good.

All this boils down to – don’t restrict your diet just because someone else says it’s good. Eat a variety of real food that makes you feel good and gives you the energy you need. Don’t cut foods (real food) out of your diet if they aren’t causing you problems. You won’t find your “perfect” diet in any book. You have to figure out what works for you.

3. Real food is great! But sometimes it can be beneficial to stray away from it.

I know this sounds contradictory to what my site is all about. But it’s true. I still firmly believe in fueling your body with healthy, homemade real food…most of the time.

But depending on the state of your health, there are times when you can benefit from some less than ideal foods. For someone that has been on a strict diet (like paleo or GAPS) and is underfed and unhealthy, processed foods can be a great jumpstart to getting back to full health. Processed foods are easy to digest (yes, frozen pizza is often easier to digest than a big plate of vegetables). It is also easy to quickly increase your calorie intake with processed foods.

I am not recommending this as a permanent solution to health by any means. But it can be beneficial if you are recovering from undereating or a condition called orthorexia. Once your body is not starving anymore you can go back to eating real, quality food. You just have to be sure to eat plenty of it.

Having bad morning sickness was a good way to break me of my orthorexia. I do love to fuel my body properly with quality food. But sometimes I can be too strict about it…and it fuels my OCD and anxiety. I had to just learn to eat whatever I could manage for the last couple months. I am really looking forward to getting back to eating mostly healthy food. My body is ready for it. But it was nice to have a break and just eat whatever I wanted. It was a great way to change my mindset and figure out how to find balance.

4. Don’t drink too much water.

One of the best things I did for my health in 2013 was to stop drinking so much water. There really is no science behind the 8 glasses a day rule. And if you really think about it, it doesn’t make sense to force yourself to drink water. If your body needs fluids it will let you know.

Drinking too much water is a great way to slow down your metabolism, lower your body temperature and feel cold all the time. It will also flush the vitamins and minerals out of your body.


5. Get plenty of sleep.

This sounds like common sense. But there are probably very few people that actually get enough sleep. For a healthy individual seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is the minimum needed. Most people need at last eight. And for someone that has been sleep-deprived for a while nine or ten hours is ideal.

Quality sleep with no problems falling or staying asleep is a sign of good health. While you sleep is also the time when your body repairs itself. So if you’re trying to heal and you’re not getting enough sleep you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I went for years and years getting very poor sleep. I had too much to get done in a day to spend my time sleeping. But at some point I just had no energy and could barely function. It has been great over the last couple months to get nine or ten hours of sleep a day (night time + a nap). My body really needed it. Hopefully soon I can stop taking a nap every day and just stick with my eight hours a night and have it be sufficient.

Even if every other part of your lifestyle is ideal, if you’re not getting enough sleep you won’t feel your best.

6. Exercise is great…if you are eating and sleeping enough.

If you are not eating or sleeping enough, it can be beneficial to take a break from exercise. When you do exercise it’s good to do a variety of things like weight lifting, yoga and walking. You don’t have to push yourself to extremes to be healthy and fit. Too much aerobic exercise may be harmful.

I used to run every single day. And do nothing else. Now I still enjoy running. But I don’t do it every day. Actually I haven’t done any running in a long time because my body was not healthy enough. When I was healing I stuck to short walks and bikes. I also did gentle yoga. I got new weights for Christmas…but haven’t been able to use them. Maybe by next Christmas I’ll be able to start lifting weights 🙂

Move your body doing what you enjoy. Make sure to do a variety of things to work all parts of your body. And combine it with enough food and enough sleep. That is the way to stay healthy.

7. Basal body temperature can tell you a lot about your health.

Basal body temperature is your temperature when you first wake up in the morning. Another great thing I did for my health in 2013 was to check my temperature every single morning and keep a spreadsheet of it.

Your bbt can tell you if your metabolism is working well or not. For women it can also tell you when you ovulate/how your hormones are functioning. So it is a good indicator of health (since metabolism is a key factor in health). It is also great for understanding fertility and either getting pregnant or preventing pregnancy.

A healthy individual with a well-functioning metabolism should have a bbt of at least 97.8 F in the morning. Higher is even better. You can also check your temperature throughout the day to get an idea of how your food and activity level impacts your body temperature. It will help you see what keeps you warm (boosting metabolism) or makes you cold (suppressing metabolism). Then you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

For women, bbt is lower (but still usually around the 97.8 range for a healthy individual) in the first half of your cycle when estrogen is dominant and progesterone is low. When you ovulate there is often a temperature drop for one day. Then after ovulation progesterone increases, raising your temperature.

It will take a few months of charting your temperature to get an idea of how your body works and to see if there are any patterns. For example, as I was healing and charting my bbt there wasn’t really a pattern that I noticed at first. My cycles were not regular. But after a while I noticed that if my bbt dropped into the 96’s (or below) even for one day my body was way off and was struggling to get my hormone levels up. And it would be at least two weeks before ovulation. A bbt below 97 meant a restart for me. If my bbt stayed in the 97’s for two weeks I knew ovulation was coming. And after ovulation my bbt was always at least in the 98’s and sometimes 99’s. Once my bbt started dropping that meant the start of a new cycle.

Charting my bbt was the easiest change I made the whole year. But it told me more about my health than just about anything else I did.

8. Focus on health, not looks.

I think I’ve been saying this for years. So it’s not completely new. But deep down I don’t think I fully believed it. I did shift my mindset to focus on health a long time ago. But I didn’t ever drop the focus on looks and size. I still wanted to be thin.

In 2013 my control over my size was taken away. With my thyroid totally out of whack my weight kept going up and up. There was nothing I could do about it. For the first time I truly had to focus 100% on my health.

Did I always like how I looked? No. Did I want to loose some weight? Yes. But that was completely secondary. My health was front and center. And it always will be now, no matter what size I am.

When I look to the future I think about how I want to impact my children. I would much rather teach them to take care of themselves and be healthy. I don’t want to teach them to be obsessed with looks and size. So I am done with that.

Don’t try to be a certain size or weight. Treat your body well. And give your body what it needs to be healthy. You’ll be so much happier. Love yourself and take care of yourself.

9. Change is a very gradual process.

Change does not happen over night. No matter what the next fad diet or workout video tells you. If you want to make changes that are sustainable long term it will be a very gradual process.

Do you want to loose weight? That’s fine. But know that it will take a while. Do you want to eat healthier? That’s a wonderful thing to do. But don’t go crazy trying to do everything at once.

Small, consistent steps each day will get you where you want to be. Don’t get upset because two weeks into making changes you haven’t noticed any big improvements. Give it time.

Healing takes time. Weight gain or loss takes time. A healthy diet takes time. Don’t rush it and set yourself up for failure. I’ve been working on getting healthy for about 15 years now. And I’m finally getting there. One step at a time.

10. Your thyroid can have a big impact on your health.

I was diagnosed as hypothyroid in 2006. I was put on a synthetic thyroid hormone and had my TSH checked about once a year. I really knew nothing about thyroid. I figured the doctor knew what he was doing. I didn’t have any hypothyroid symptoms that I knew of. So I didn’t bother to learn about it. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

Seven years later I finally had to learn more about it. I wish I would have researched it sooner. I didn’t realize just how much your thyroid could impact your health. I think there are about 200 symptoms that can be attributed to thyroid dysfunction.

Last year I learned so much about the thyroid. I learned what blood work you need to get done and how to interpret the results. Just because your levels are in the “normal” range does not mean you are on the right dose of medication. You have to look at the symptoms more than the numbers.

I learned about the different kinds of medications, how to take them and how to get correct dosage.

I learned how other hormones can impact your thyroid and vice versa.

I learned that iron levels and adrenal problems can mimic thyroid problems. And they need to be addressed first.

I can’t say that I have my thyroid problem 100% figured out yet. It is the last piece of the puzzle that I’m still working on. And I will be writing more on this topic in the future. I will be getting my thyroid hormones levels rechecked in a week and go from there to see if adjustments need to be made.

11. Manage stress.

Stress can be as bad for your health as lack of sleep, a poor diet and lack of exercise. Stress can suppress your metabolism. It can alter your hormones. It can come in many forms too.

Find a way to manage your stress to stay healthy. Take time to do things you enjoy – reading, writing, visiting with friends. It’s also important to find techniques to relax such as walking, yoga or reading the Bible. Figure out what works for you and make it a priority.

12. Adrenal health is very important.

Your adrenal glands play a huge role in your health. If you are not getting enough sleep, aren’t eating enough, are exercising too much or are too stressed, your adrenal glands have to work overtime to compensate.

This works for a while. That is what they are for. They raise your cortisol levels to compensate. But if you do it for too long you stress the adrenals and eventually it leads to adrenal fatigue. Then your cortisol bottoms out and it takes a lot of work to get it back up.

If you think you are suffering from adrenal problems it’s great to do a 24-hour saliva test to check your cortisol levels. I had it done early last year. I’m thankful that my levels were just slightly raised. Which means I was doing ok, but starting to make them work a little too hard. By altering my sleep, diet and exercise I was able to get my cortisol levels back to normal.

13. Birth control is not for everyone…and probably not good for most women.

This is another less I had to learn the very hard way. But it wasn’t until years after I stopped birth control that I realized how much it had harmed me.

A few months before I got married I started birth control. That’s what you do, right? I knew nothing about what it was or what it actually does to your body. But had I not made that one decision I probably never would have struggled with infertility for so many years.

When I was in college I got my health under control. Things weren’t perfect, but I was eating enough, sleeping enough and exercising regularly. I had found a good balance. And for the first time in my life I had regular cycles every single month. This lasted a few years…until I started birth control.

Once on birth control things started to change. The changes were gradual. And I never attributed them to the birth control. But now that I have done a lot of research I can see the big picture. I started to gain weight. Five pounds or so. Nothing major. My anxiety started to get worse. My OCD started to get worse. Eventually I started having panic attacks. My gut got so messed up that I started restrictive diets to try to help. My weight went way down from restriction. I was a big mess. I even had to switch to a new form of birth control because I was starting to puke every month from the hormones. In case you haven’t noticed by now my body is extremely sensitive to any hormone fluctuations.

After stopping birth control three years later it was too late. My hormones were non-existent. I was underweight. I was hypothyroid. My OCD was so out of control that I could barely function. My anxiety was so bad. I had to start seeing a psychologist. My digestive system was so messed up that I had to have major colon surgery. Eventually we started fertility treatments.

I think almost all of this could have been avoided had I not taken birth control. It messed up both my mind and my body.

I know not everyone reacts the same way to hormones. And I’m sure there are cases where it can be helpful. But please do your research before considering any type of birth control. I know that it is something I will never take again. It has taken me many years to get my life back. I’m not going down that road ever again.

14. Be your own advocate.

One big lesson I have learned over the last ten years is that you have to stand up for yourself. Don’t let doctors brush you off or tell you you’re fine when you know you’re not. If something doesn’t feel right, find a doctor that will help.

I had GI problems for years. I finally was brave enough to talk to my doctor about it. He referred me to a gastroenterologist. Great. I thought I’d finally get the help I needed. He asked a few questions, felt my stomach and told me I was healthy and fine. Eventually I got him to run a few tests. But he still said I was fine. I knew I was not. I had to research and research and finally diagnose myself. Even then when I told the nurse at my doctor’s office what I thought was the problem she said “you don’t have that. You’re too young” without missing a beat…over the phone…without asking me a single question. I’m so thankful I was persistent and didn’t just say ok. I finally got referred to a colon surgeon who confirmed my diagnosis and immediately scheduled surgery.

This has happened time and time again to me. I go to a doctor, even specialists, trying to get help. And they tell me I’m fine. Even though I know I’m not. I have had to figure out all of my problems on my own…and just use doctors to get medications and treatments.

15. PCOS is a confusing topic.

When I had my first appointment with an endocrinologist he asked some questions and made an assumption about my health. He assumed I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). He ran some tests and did an ultrasound. His conclusion? I had what he called polyfollicular ovaries.

Great. What does that mean? I never really did find out from him or anyone. I tried to research it for years. Nobody else used that term. I have come to some of my own conclusions (as usual). But it’s still confusing.

Many women with PCOS are overweight or have trouble maintaining their weight. Many women with PCOS have irregular cycles and heavy, painful periods. Many women with PCOS struggle with facial hair. Did that sound like me? Not really. I just had no periods.

The common solutions for PCOS are losing weight, eating low carb and taking Metformin to help with insulin resistance. Did I need any of that. No. In fact, eating low carb made my situation worse.

Where did that leave me? Basically my body would try to grow some follicles/eggs each month. But my hormone levels weren’t high enough to mature the eggs. So instead of having one dominant follicle that released an egg (ovulation) I’d have lots of small follicles that did nothing but sit there. Which on ultrasound looks like little cysts. They are really just lots of follicles…polyfollicular.

Even when doing IVF I would have tons of follicles start growing. But very few actually matured enough for the egg to be good (hence our seven rounds of IVF and two good eggs out of almost forty that were retrieved and fertilized). That is also why I would have a condition called hyperstimulation every time. There were too many follicles.

I still don’t have a full answer about what this means. One endo said it’s from bad communication between the brain and the ovaries. Could I technically be classified as having PCOS? I don’t know. I don’t really have the symptoms. My condition is helped by being a healthy weight and taking care of myself. Finding balance with sleep, exercise and food. I also think it is related to my thyroid problem.

All this to say that if you have been diagnosed with PCOS please do your research to figure out where you fit into the criteria and what treatment is best for you.

15 weeks

16. Let God have control.

I’ve known my whole life that ultimately God is in control. But I also know I can make choices. For most of my life I’ve tried to be in control. I ask God for things I want. I ask for things to go my way. If things are good I say it’s God’s plan. But when things aren’t going so well it’s hard to believe it’s still true.

I have such a strong desire to be in control that I could not let go on my own. In 2013 God took the control out of my hands. And it was wonderful. It doesn’t mean that my life was great. Actually it was very hard. But it gave me such freedom to not have to hold every little detail of my life in perfect balance. It was terrifying and wonderful at the same time.

It is so good to know and have proof that God really does have things in his control. He knows what I need. His plans may be different than mine. His timing may be different than mine. But I don’t have to worry about it.

On my own, trying to keep control, I probably would not have had any more children. I would not have made the necessary changes on my own. But with God in control we are expecting baby #3. And the door is open for more. That is something we can decide as a couple down the road. But just to know the door is open, even if we decide not to have more kids, is amazing.

17. OCD does not have to control my life.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with pretty severe obsessive compulsive disorder for many years now. I was finally diagnosed/finally realized that I had it about five years ago. And I’ve been working on treating it ever since.

It has been a long and difficult journey. No matter how much I told myself my compulsions were silly and illogical I couldn’t stop. I went through a lot of exposure therapy and have made progress over the years.

Over the last seven months once again God has allowed me to change. When He takes the control, my OCD does not have to control me.

Especially during the first trimester of this pregnancy I had to just let everything go. I just had to do what I could to get through each day. If that meant laying on the couch most of the day, then that’s what I did. If that meant eating less than ideal food, then that’s what I did. If that meant my digestion was so messed up that I was in pain, I didn’t let it bother me or make me anxious. I just kept on going.

I’m so happy to be able to continue this process of eliminating my OCD. My fear does not have to take control. I can give it to God. And I’m never going back to where I was.

It’s hard to think back to when I was first married. It’s hard to think about all the time I wasted being consumed by my thoughts and compulsions. I am very blessed to have such a loving husband that never judged or got upset with me. He helped me through it. And with each child I’ve let more of it go. I’m a type A person. So I will never be 100% cured from OCD. It’s part of my nature. But it will no longer control my life. It will only be an asset and be used for good things. It is what fuels the drive and determination I’ve always had. But if it hinders my relationships or my life it has to go.


Final Thoughts

It feels so good to share all of this information in hopes of helping even one other person. But even more than that it feels good to write it out and be done with the things that have burdened me for so many years. I know how to be healthy and happy. I’m ready to move on to 2014 now.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I’ll be digging deeper into some of these topics later. For now if you’d like to do some research on your own, here are some great resources I’ve come across.

The Nourished Metabolism (20% off 6/10/16 – 6/30/16 with coupon code SUMMER20)

Eat for Heat

Diet Recovery 2

The Nourished Metabolism (20% off 6/10/16 – 6/30/16 with coupon code SUMMER20)

Go Kaleo

Your Eatopia

Stop The Thyroid Madness

Natural Fertility and Wellness

What have you learned over the years about your health and how to really live?

The Nourished Metabolism

I’ve been meaning to get to this post for a while. Last month I got a copy of The Nourished Metabolism, an e-book by Elizabeth Walling. And I immediately wanted to tell everyone about it. But I’ve been busy reading it, re-reading it and doing my own health updates (Part 1, Part 2) that were spurred on by the book.

I’m finally getting around to it…with only a few days to spare to get a copy for 35% off!! Sorry about the late review. But even if you miss the May 31 deadline I think it’s worth every penny at full price.

Here are the topics Elizabeth covers:

You’ll learn why sleep is so, so, so important…a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.

You’ll learn why you might need to add salt to your diet and drink less water. More salt and less water alone made a huge difference for me in raising my body temperature and even helping with digestion.

You’ll learn why sugar is not evil…in fact you need some.

You’ll learn about listening to your body instead of a diet or routine that someone else prescribes. No vegetarian. No paleo. No low carb. No high fat. Just do what works for your body.


The first time I opened the book I went through the whole thing…in one sitting. I could not put it down.

I could go on and on and on about how great this book is. But I will let it speak for itself. Do yourself a favor and order a copy today.

Until May 31 you can get it at 35% off and get a FREE copy of Elizabeth’s e-booklet: Emotional Eating Myths and Solutions.

Do you struggle with:

  • Low body temperature
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Dry skin, dandruff, brittle nails, psoriasis, eczema
  • Poor digestion, constipation, diarrhea, allergies
  • Erratic sleep patterns, insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Exhausting, alternating between wired and tired
  • Blood sugar crashes, 
  • PMS, irregular menstrual cycles, low sex drive and other signs of hormonal imbalance
You probably have a stressed metabolism. Start nourishing yours today to start feeling great!! Order a copy of The Nourished Metabolism today.
I know this review is kind of short, but hopefully it’s to the point. And I wanted to be sure I got this up before the sale ends.

Finding the "Perfect" Diet

Are you searching for the perfect diet? The one that will help you lose weight and have tons of energy? The one that will let you eat whatever you want? The one that says you don’t have to exercise? The one that will give you glowing skin? The one that will make you look 10 years younger? The one that is so easy to follow?

I’m not.

I don’t have to look a certain way. I don’t have to meet some standard of beauty. I just want to feel good. I want to enjoy life and be available to care for my family and spend time with friends. I want a diet that will heal my mind and my body and allow me to use the gifts God has given me.

If you’re searching for the perfect diet, STOP. A one-size-fits-all “perfect” diet does not exist. You can’t just read a book and follow the rules. Everybody is different. But that does not mean there aren’t a lot of good diets with useful principles.

Through years of trial and error and testing and research I’ve found several diets that have helped me in various ways. By combining them I create MY perfect diet.

Most of the principles focus on healing. Which is what I need. Which is what a lot of people need.

This may not be your perfect diet. But you could still take away some ideas for how to heal your own body and feel good.

Here are some of the main principles from various sources that have helped me. Maybe they can help you too. I am also including some of the downfalls…mistakes I made along the way. You might be surprised by what actually hurt instead of helped me.

Nourishing Traditions/WAPF

Pros:  Nourishing Traditions is what introduced me to REAL food. It is still my go-to book for questions about traditional foods and how to prepare them. It taught me the truth about things like fat (which ones are good for us and which are not…and that you should eat a lot of it), cholesterol (no, high cholesterol is not what causes heart disease…we actually NEED cholesterol) and grains (they can be part of a healthy diet, but they should be properly prepared by soaking, sprouting or fermenting). It contains a wealth of knowledge and changed the way our whole family eats and views food.

Cons: NT encouraged my tendency to eat the same things day after day. Especially when giving advice on eating for fertility and pregnancy it recommends eating a specific amount of certain foods (like egg yolks, organ meats, certain fats, etc…nutrient dense foods) every single day. Unfortunately this habit is what led to a lot of my food sensitivities…which I now have to try to undo. For someone with a healthy gut this can be good advice. And they do recommend very healthy food. But for someone like me it was detrimental to focus on eating a certain list of foods every day. It fueled my obsessiveness and caused inflammation in my body.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome

Pros: Gut and Psychology Syndrome is a detailed protocol for healing the gut…and in turn healing conditions like allergies, autism, ADD, etc. It introduced me to the wonderful world of stock and bone broth. They are both very healing and should be a staple for everyone (in addition to healing they provide nourishment and protect against illness). GAPS showed me that we don’t have to rely so much on grains in our diet, as they can be irritating. It also reinforced the need for probiotics (both through supplements and foods like cultured dairy and ferments) to help seal a leaky gut. It really explained how the gut works and what can damage it. And it forced me to be creative with my cooking and baking and try new things.

Cons: GAPS is quite restrictive. And for someone with OCD that is not good. I got to the point where I was almost scared to eat. I was afraid the tiniest thing would hurt me. So it caused a lot of anxiety instead of helping to get rid of it. Much like NT, GAPS also reinforced the idea of eating the same things day after day. You could be on a certain phase of the diet for weeks, with only a few food options. I also wound up eating very low carb. It was not intentional. I had never even heard of eating low carb. But without grains in my diet and without the knowledge of what does/doesn’t contain carbohydrates and how to balance them with protein and fat I tended to eat a LOT of protein. I lived on meat, broth, eggs and nuts. And it did more harm than good to my body in the long run.

Many people are on the GAPS diet for years. I now know that unless you have severe problems it should probably be more short term. You can go through all of the phases in a matter of weeks to kickstart healing and then get back to a normal diet of what works for your body.

I also don’t think that grains are bad for everyone. Nor is gluten a problem for everyone. I personally do better with some grains in my diet (I’m still figuring out which ones are best). Yes, I feel better when they are properly prepared. No, I can’t make them the bulk of my diet. But I do need some. Otherwise I don’t get enough starch/carbohydrate and I get colon spasms. My gut does not like only having meat and vegetables.

Allergy/Sensitivity Rotational Diet

Pros: I was recently tested for food sensitivities. My results came back with a long list of foods I should avoid. The protocol for healing involves rotating foods/food families every four days. This is a new concept to me. But something that I need. And something that has had the biggest impact on my healing. I tend to eat the same things day after day. And that is what caused a lot of my problems in the first place. By rotating my foods I avoid causing new sensitivities and I give my gut a much needed break to heal. It is also a great way to pinpoint what foods I don’t tolerate. For the moment I am limiting gluten and dairy and cutting out eggs. But I hope to add them back at some point.

Cons: Some say that these tests are not accurate and that depending on the day/time you test you could have different results. So if you follow the prescribed diet you might be cutting out foods without really needing to. I am aware of this. So I am not completely cutting gluten and dairy out of my diet yet. I have them in limited quantities in my rotation to assess how my body responds.

Metabolism Typing

Pros: When thinking about a healthy diet it is important to realize we are all different. Metabolism typing helps you figure out what type of food your body metabolizes more efficiently and needs more of to function well. I learned that I am a carb type. So my body needs a higher amount of carbohydrates than protein…the opposite of how I was eating on GAPS. It was very helpful to know how to adjust my diet.

Cons: As with most diet theories, not everyone agrees with this. Some say it is not accurate. It is also easy to fall into the trap of gravitating towards a diet full of mostly grains. You still have to figure out which carbohydrates are best for your body (potatoes, starchy vegetables like pumpkin and squash, fruits, natural sweeteners, grains). So you still have work to do, but it is nice to have a general guideline.

Eat for Heat/Diet Recovery

Pros: 180 Degree Health, Diet Recovery and Eat for Heat (all written by Matt Stone) really helped me get out of my obsessive, anxious, restricted way of eating. Matt’s information helped me stop the GAPS diet, gain some needed weight, become more relaxed about food and taught me to listen to my body. I am so thankful for the change this brought. It has been the biggest help in dealing with my OCD. I now challenge what I read and make sure I’m doing what works for me. I don’t follow anyone else’s diet/path to health. I recommend these books/his site to everyone. No matter what your health status.

I have learned that we don’t need to drink so much water every day. Most people are likely overhydrating and flushing the minerals out of their bodies. I have learned that a great assessment of your health is body temperature and the warmth of your hands and feet. This directly correlates to the state of your metabolism.

I have learned that it’s good to start the day with a large, starchy meal and gradually eat lighter as the day goes on. I learned that a good way to get your metabolism and body temperature up is by eating plenty of salt, sugar, starch and saturated fat and to be sure you are eating enough calories. Restrictive eating only does damage.

I have also learned that it is important to not overexercise. If your body needs healing you need to give it rest. And sleep is very important. Even up to 10 hours a night if you are in the process of healing. Once you are feeling good then you can exercise according to what you feel like doing, not what you think you should do.

Cons: While this way of thinking was very freeing and just what I needed after GAPS, it can also lead to an attitude of ambivalence. Although sometimes it actually does help to forget all health rules and just eat what sounds good (even processed food and fast food!), after a while you have to remember what your idea of health is and what your standards are for healthy eating. It is great to let go of a restrictive mindset, but you also can’t stop caring about your health.

Many people do gain weight at first when following Diet Recovery and Eat for Heat as the body heals and regulates (though not everyone does…some lose weight!). Usually the weight comes off naturally after the healing period. This can be a negative aspect for some. But in the end it’s worth the short term gain to fully heal your body. I think my weight went up about 12 or 13 lbs. at first. Then I dropped about 3 lbs. and stayed pretty steady.

Fiber Menace

Pros: For anyone struggling with digestive issues, the information in fiber menace is worth a read. Especially if you struggle with constipation. If you go to a doctor they will tell you to eat more fiber, drink more water, eat less fat and exercise. My response…WRONG! If that was the answer I wouldn’t have had problems for so many years. In fact, the answer is quite the opposite. You need lots of fat (healthy fats like butter, sour cream, tallow, evoo, lard and coconut oil). And you actually don’t need a ton of fiber. It is good to get some in your diet. But you don’t need a lot. Fiber is actually quite irritating. It causes bulk in stools…which makes stools tougher, not easier, to pass. And this causes things like fissures, hemorrhoids and prolapse. You should eat foods that are mostly utilized and absorbed by the body.

Cons: Fiber Menace promotes eating hardly any fiber at all. We do need some. And the amount is different for everyone. So you have to figure out what works for you. You need enough to help digestion work properly, but a small enough amount so that it does not cause problems. This book also talks about how little we need to it. I don’t agree with that. Just because someone can function on two meals a day, made up mostly of fat that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So there are some good ideas in this book, and it really explains the digestive process well. But you also have to use common sense and know what works for your own body.

So what does my diet look like you ask? I am always making adjustments as I listen to my body and figure out what does and doesn’t work at the moment. I challenge myself and experiment with different foods to see if my tolerances have changed. But in general these are the guidelines I use to choose my food and create my perfect diet.

1. Eat nutrient dense, homemade food. Make sure all grains are properly prepared through soaking or sprouting.
2. Incorporate broth when possible to heal my gut. Make sure I use a variety of broths (beef, chicken, turkey, fish) and rotate them.
3. Use a 4-day rotational diet that eliminates my personal problem foods and limits foods I’m not sure about/that I test positive for on a sensitivity test.
4. Eat a higher proportion of carbohydrates than protein.
5. Eat enough salt, sugar, starch and fat, especially to start my day. Don’t drink too much/only drink if I’m thirsty.
6. Don’t eat too much insoluble fiber/raw food. My colon is very sensitive and is irritated very easily. I stick to softer foods most of the time with occasional small amounts of raw food or higher fiber foods. Eat plenty of healthy fat.

How about you? What is your perfect diet, and how did you come up with it?

The Results Are In…

After years of experimenting, going to various doctors and trying to figure things out on my own I recently decided to see a more holistic doctor. She ran a lot of tests to get a better idea of what is going on in my body.

I got all of the results yesterday. To say that I am overwhelmed is an understatement.

I’m not making tons of changes today. I’m giving myself time to read, research and plan. But I will also be making some simple changes right away.

Since I’ve been sharing my healing journey for so long I figured I’d share all of my test results as well. So here goes.

I’ll start with a positive – my CBC is almost all normal. No anemia! Blood sugar, red/white blood cells, etc. all normal. I am thankful for that. It doesn’t seem as though I have any kind of autoimmune disease. That was great news. I was also happy that my temp was 98 degrees at the doctor’s office!

Thyroid: As expected my overall TSH is in the normal range (because of my medication). But my Free T3 is NOT. It is very low. That is why I still have hypothyroid symptoms even on medication. I will be switching to Armour – a more natural thyroid medication. I can’t wait!! Hopefully this will take care of things since I don’t think I have anything more serious, like Hashimotos.

Vitamin D: My vitamin D levels are very low. So I’ll be taking a large dose of D3 once a week to try to get that back up to normal.

Magnesium: As expected my magnesium levels are low…even while taking quite a bit of supplemental magnesium. So I have a new form to try.

Minerals: On the whole all of my mineral levels are low. Which means I’m not absorbing them from the food I eat. This is largely due to a leaky gut, low stomach acid and taking Miralax. One of the minerals that is really low is Lithium. So I’ll be taking a low dose supplement of that. I will also take Zypan to help with stomach acid and absorption. And I will be taking L-glutamine. My goal is also to stop taking Miralax as soon as I am able. Hopefully some of the other changes I’m making will help my digestion and take away the need for Miralax.

Heavy Metals: I have fairly high levels of lead and nickel in my body. Other metals that are higher than desired are aluminum, arsenic, cadmium and mercury. At the moment I am not going to do any thorough testing/chelation. But I will be taking alpha lipoic acid to get some of it out of my body.

Adrenals: My adrenals/cortisol levels are way out of whack (I knew that). They are really high in the morning (should be 7-10, mine are 16!). Then they dip into the normal range mid morning. But instead of continuing to go down as the day goes on they go back up a bit and never get back to the normal range. So my body is always in a fight or flight stress mode with raised cortisol levels. I will be taking Nusera to help with anxiety to get my stress down and I’ll be trying to get more sleep.

Allergies: This is a big one. I don’t have any life threatening food allergies…if I did I would have known that by now 😛  But I do have some very strong reactions in my body from some foods. You can call them food allergies or food sensitivities. It just depends on your definition. Either way my body is attacking itself when I eat these foods. Here is the list of foods that came up positive (I have antibodies to them), from the highest (worst offenders (in red)) to the lowest (in yellow).

egg yolks
baker’s yeast
brewer’s yeast
cow’s milk
egg white
lima beans
cheddar cheese
black pepper

The plan of action for dealing with this is to completely eliminate all of them from my diet. After 3 months I can one at a time try re-introducing the yellow foods. If I tolerate them I can add them back in to my diet. If not I have to wait another 3 months and try again. After 5 months I can start trying the orange foods. After 6 months I can try adding the red foods.

According to my doctor it is rare to be able to add dairy and wheat/gluten back. I don’t think that is totally true.

Regardless of what phase I’m in I should be on a rotational diet…permanently. That will take some getting used to. If you eat a food one day, you can’t eat it (or anything from the same family I think) again for 4 days. I’ll have to do some good planning and keep track of what I eat.

I think it will be difficult to find enough food to eat. In addition to this list of allergies, I have the list of food sensitivities that I’ve discovered just through trial and error (there is some overlap with this list). And if I can only eat a particular food once every 4 days I don’t know how I’m going to find enough options. So I need to do some thinking and planning. And I might need to talk to a nutritionist.

Here are my biggest offenders that I have found from experience (I did not mention the ones already listed above): brown rice, corn, potatoes, bananas, apples, almonds, oats, peppers, onions, tomatoes, spinach/most leafy greens starch/gums – corn starch, potato starch, guar gum, tara gum, arrowroot, carageenan, polysorbate, etc. (ice cream, processed foods, powdered sugar, frosting), artificial sweeteners, black beans.

This is too much to do all at once. At this point I’m planning to start by eliminating eggs (I started that last Sat. and I can tell it has helped.)  I already don’t eat yeast or malt. The only other item on the red list is yogurt. I will probably cut that out soon as well. Once I’ve got that going I will work my way down the list. Then eventually work my way back up 🙂

I still need to do some research before I cut too much out. I don’t want to make things worse again by cutting huge food groups out. I’ve done that before…and it hasn’t seemed to help. I finally got wheat and dairy back into my diet. So I’m hesitant to cut them back out again so soon. We’ll see.

I will be working on following a rotational diet. I’ll start with vegetables. I tend to eat a lot of different vegetables each day. But then I don’t have enough options left to skip all of them for four days. I need to focus on just a couple vegetables each day (even if I eat the same ones for breakfast, lunch and dinner). And make it easier to rotate. After I get going with vegetables I work on things like protein sources, grains and fats.


Finally my tests showed major candida/yeast overgrowth. I tested positive for abnormal IgM antibodies (recent Candida overgrowth), increased levels of IgA antibodies (mucosal barrier overgrowth – digestive, respiratory, nasal, mouth ears, vaginal or skin) and increased levels of IgG antibodies (ongoing chronic infection).

This cuts even more foods out of my diet. Basically anything fermented or anything with sugar (added or natural). This includes things like olives, alcohol, vinegar, most condiments, sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit, cheese, fruit juice and dried fruit.

The so-called remedy is to avoid foods that feed the bad bacteria and take antifungals. Then replace the bad bacteria with good bacteria through probiotics.

I am not sure what my views are on candida at this point. Some say anti-candida diets are so helpful. Others think it’s a bunch of bologna 😛  So I’m still researching right now. I have decided to focus on the other items (thyroid, minerals, allergies, etc.) and hold off on any treatment related to candida. I will be conscious of not going overboard with sugars. And I don’t eat much fermented anyway since I just don’t tolerate it well. I am taking a probiotic. But I’m not doing the antifungals or a totally sugar free diet right now.

So that’s it…at least most of it. Hopefully you made it this far 🙂  I have a lot to think about. A lot to research. A lot to change. I’m going to do it one step at a time and not overwhelm my system. I’m hopeful that these changes will be very helpful and that I will experience a lot of healing. I’m hopeful that the elimination diet will be successful and I’ll be able to add the majority of the foods back into my diet at some point.

I’m sure there will be more updates as I get a better handle on everything. Now I need to figure out what I can/can’t eat and when. I need to figure out how to make meals that I can eat without totally restricting my family, especially my kids. And without always having to make a separate meal for myself. I need to figure out how to manage social settings that revolve around food. All in good time.

I am thankful that I don’t have any life threatening allergies. I am thankful that I have more information and direction about what my body needs to heal. It will take work and will be challenging. But it’s just that, a challenge. Nothing I can’t handle. I know God will provide the knowledge and strength and help I need. I look forward to new cooking and baking experiments that fit my new lifestyle. And I’m excited to continue to share my journey and knowledge with others.

I want to continue to spread the word about Real food and health. I want to continue to spread the word about hope and healing. I want to get healthier so I can be a better wife and mother and servant of Christ. I’m thankful for answers. And I’m thankful that God has a plan and will guide me through this next phase.

Lost and Found…And Lost Again

Over the last month I’ve had a lot of ideas floating around in my head. Just when I think I figure something out I find contradictory information or another avenue to explore. The best way for me to make sense of my thoughts is to write them out. So bear with me as I navigate some theories. This may get quite lengthy and there probably won’t be any pretty pictures 😛  I commend you if you make it to the end. And feel free to offer advice if you have any experience with any of this.

Theory One:

My initial theory about what’s going on was something like this: I eat well (i.e. healing foods, GAPS, etc.) for a few days. I feel good and have no problems sticking with what I should eat. Then, my body tries to start healing/getting rid of the junk. I suffer bad die off. I feel rotten. My body craves the junk again and I give in to calm my body/feed the bad stuff that is causing the commotion/reduce stress (I’m an emotional eater…if I don’t feel good I might as well just eat whatever I want mentality)/feel “better.” I suffer through this for a week or two and end up back where I started.

So my body is in a constant state of distress. I can be “good” about what I eat for a few days. But then the reactions are so strong that I just can’t stick with it. It’s like my brain is telling me I MUST have sugar, bread, etc. And I just can’t control it. It’s kind of like trying to stop a drug addiction. It doesn’t help that I love to bake…and have temptations all around me. And my family does not have restrictions…nor do I want to impose my restrictions on them. But I do all of the cooking. So inevitably I take little tastes of things here and there that I make for them. I take bites when I feed my kids. And it adds up.

I’m not sure how to stop this process. I don’t think just trying to eat good foods and avoid “bad” foods is enough for me. I’ve had so many years of restrictions. It’s hard to keep up. Maybe I need some kind of cleanse or detox? Maybe I need higher doses of vitamins/minerals/probiotics? Maybe I need amino acids or other supplements? I’m not really sure.

Whatever the case the road to recovery involves a healing diet like GAPS…and figuring out how to do it in a way that works for my body and stick with it.

Theory Two:

The first theory makes sense. And it could be true. However the basis of GAPS is healing using broth/stock/gelatin, probiotics, cultured foods and ferments while eliminating stressors like grains and sugars. I did that. For about 10 months. And I can’t say it made a huge impact overall. Sure, there were times I was feeling ok. And I now know I was eating a little too low carb. But it still should have helped more. On the whole I’m still where I started. And actually tolerate less now than I did before doing GAPS (more on that in theory four).

I’ve recently been reading a lot about histamine intolerance. I learned about it as I researched reactions to ferments. I’ve always been intolerant of alcohol. And I’m figuring out lately how strongly I react to anything fermented – sauerkraut, vinegar, even cheese. This is a large component of histamine intolerance.

The funny/frustrating thing about it is that a diet to help with histamine intolerance is almost the complete opposite of GAPS/opposite of how I eat right now. Nothing slow cooked, no long simmered broth, no ferments, no eating leftovers from a big pot of soup. Everything must be fresh. A lot of my go-to foods that I eat almost daily are on the list of high histamine foods.

That leads me to the question…is a healing diet like GAPS doing me more harm than good? Do I feel rotten when I try to eat “right” simply because my body is going through a healing phase/die off or am I really causing my body stress and eating everything I shouldn’t? Do I eat the ferments and push through the reaction and hope my body adjusts? Or should I completely avoid them?

The treatment for histamine intolerance is to eat a low histamine diet. I think that it can be overcome at some point and you can start adding the foods back in eventually.

Theory Three:

Another  theory is that I’m dealing with a bad case of candida. Meaning the good/bad bacteria balance in my gut/body is so out of whack. The bad has taken over. And every time I give in to foods that feed the bad stuff I’m just making things worse.

There are a lot of differing opinions about candida. A lot of western doctors don’t believe it even exists. Some people think you have to be on a very strict diet to get rid of it (no sugar of any kind, no yeast, nothing starchy, etc.). Some say to just avoid high fructose foods and add glandular supplements to your diet.

This also involves taking lots of probiotics to increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut.

Theory Four:

The final diet “revelation” I just recently heard about is a rotational diet. This one actually makes a lot of sense to me/for my situation. I LOVE leftovers. Seriously. If it’s a food I like I don’t care of it’s hot, warm, cold, one day old, three days old. I’ll eat it. And I do. Got four containers of leftovers in the fridge? Even better. I’ll mix them all together (even cold). And eat them for meal after meal until they are gone.

I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. If I find something I like I can eat it day after day after day after day. I never get sick of it. In high school I ate almost the exact same lunch every single day. My senior year of college I ate an apple and a yogurt for lunch almost every day. My husband can attest to that 😛  Sometimes I would swap carrots for the yogurt.

Now that I have so many intolerances I tend to stick with a few foods and eat them over and over. I just don’t have many options. I find what “works” and keep eating it. If I make a big batch of split pea soup for dinner one night I’ll eat it for one to three meals a day until it’s gone. If we have leftover salmon cakes I’ll add them to my breakfast and lunch the next day or two and snack on them between meals until they are gone. I don’t think I’m alone being the mommy that ends up using the leftovers so they don’t get wasted 😛  But I actually enjoy them. Not to mention it makes my life easier to have leftovers available for my meals when I don’t have time to cook while taking care of the kids.

So, what’s wrong with that? I didn’t think there was anything wrong before. I actually thought it was great since I could make a big batch of nourishing, healing foods and always have something on hand for myself. Then I wouldn’t reach for junk.

Turns out there could be a lot wrong. First, eating the same foods over and over often creates a food intolerance. And I’m quickly finding this to be true. The foods I ate all the time in college (apples, carrots, oats, peanut butter)…they are the foods I am most intolerant of now. I created such a sensitivity that even one or two small bites of them can make me feel awful/cause a strong reaction in my body.

Then on GAPS I stuck to the same foods. It’s hard not to when you are so limited as you go through the intro diet. And since I considered them “safe” foods I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Well, I was wrong. While on GAPS I ate a lot of nuts. And I did fine with them for a while. Now just one nut (any variety) can be enough to cause inflammation and pain. I’ve also been living on avocados for quite some time. But lately I’m starting to wonder if they are what’s causing a lot of my pain and inflammation.

My list of safe foods is slowly dwindling down to nothing. I currently eat a lot of peas and squash. But I’m afraid that if I keep eating them daily like I do pretty soon they’ll cause a reaction. Maybe even consuming so much broth has made that cause a reaction too. I’m afraid that soon I won’t have anything I can tolerate. Then what?

The solution – a rotational diet. This is a far cry from anything I’ve ever done…which is why it may be just what I need. The idea is that you only eat a particular food/food family once every four days. That way you can really tell if you react to it, and your body does not become intolerant. I’m so used to doing diets that restrict foods or limit your choices…but you can eat those foods as much as you want. And that is my weakness. I’m not even sure how I would go about starting a rotational diet. I love using leftovers. And one of my main strategies for feeding my family healthy food is preparing large quantities and preparing them in advance.

This is definitely something I want to look into more. For now I can try to take simple steps like freezing leftovers in individual servings to take out every so often instead of trying to use them up over the course of three days. And I can try to add a few questionable foods into my diet once every four days just to see what happens. If I don’t expand my diet and just stick to the few things I currently tolerate, soon I’ll be left with no options. So I have to take some chances and change things up a bit.

And when I eat something new and feel ok…I need to NOT go overboard and eat it non-stop for three days 😛  I need to give it a break and wait a few days before trying it again. I’m an all or nothing kind of person. But I need a slow and steady approach.

Miscellaneous Factors and Thoughts:

There are a few other things in my life that factor in. First is lack of sleep. I know how critical sleep is. But I don’t get it. Because of small children and my OCD I actually get very little quality sleep. So my body never has a chance to fully repair and recover over night.

Breastfeeding is another factor. I’ve been doing it for 18 months now. And it really depletes my body. It’s to the point where just one extra feeding in the night can change my weight, my mood, my hunger, my fatigue. I never realized before how much work it is for my already struggling body. Thankfully this one will not last forever…or for much longer 😛  I’m anxious to see how my body reacts when I am done breastfeeding and do not have to provide for two people. Some days I wonder if it’s even worth trying to heal until I’m done breastfeeding.

From a mental stand point I know I don’t get enough down time. Being a full time stay at home mom is stressful. Plus some unique challenges with my kids/the phases they are in/their ages. I also don’t spend much time with other adults/developing relationships. I can’t say I’ve had a really good friend/someone I can call anytime/someone I hang out with since high school (that’s about 15 years…). Being someone with severe OCD, anxiety and chronic health problems I just don’t bother/feel comfortable letting people into my life…letting people really get to know me. I have so many restrictions (food, schedules, etc.) in my daily life that it’s just “easier” to not let people in. I also am not the kind of person that asks for help. I don’t like to bother anyone. So I take everything on myself.

I have had a pretty skewed body image for a long time. So I often just don’t feel good about myself. My weight goes up and down daily. When it’s up I feel down. When it’s down I feel up. And my health issues make it hard to keep it steady. One day I feel good in my clothes. The next day my jeans feel tight and uncomfortable. It doesn’t help that I am in serious need of an entire new wardrobe. Most of my clothes are 5-10 years old. They are out of style and don’t fit my body anymore. So I never feel good about how I look.

I have always had a very strong cold intolerance. I don’t think it’s just part of who I am. I think it’s a big indicator of the severity of my health problems. Once in a while I will eat a meal and then get really warm/my ears are burning. Then I know I finally got at least one meal “right.” But some days I am freezing from morning until evening and can’t seem to do anything about it. I’m finding that’s usually on the third day of eating the same foods over and over. A good sign I need to change it up.

A lot of these theories/diets/ideas overlap. It seems that up until now I’ve always pursued the first theory. I need to heal. Here is exactly what I can and can’t eat. End of story. And it just isn’t working.

So I need to find some kind of new path related to the other theories. All three of them would cut out my current use of leftovers. With histamine intolerance everything has to be fresh. The histamine levels in some foods increases with age. Which is why ferments are so bad. With candida it’s related to mold, yeast, etc. And I am not good about heating leftovers. I’ll eat leftovers cold that are four days old. I know it’s probably bad. But I do. I’m probably consuming lots of bad bacteria without knowing it. And with a rotational diet obviously you can’t eat one night’s dinner for the next day’s breakfast. So I have a lot of thinking and planning to consider.

Taking all of this into consideration I’d say I’m holding up quite well. But that’s not how I want to live. I don’t want to just get by. I want to feel good! I feel like the slightest thing could send me in a downward spiral. I had the flu a couple weeks ago and I could barely manage. My immune system is so run down. I’m planning to see a new doctor soon and try to have some testing done to get more definitive answers. Am I histamine intolerant? Do I have candida? Do I have food allergies? Do I have severe deficiencies?

It’s hard to know which way to turn. Some days I want to just keep plugging along. Some days I want to take a break from everything…sleep as much as I can, eat as much as I want, no exercise, reduce stress as much as possible (the basis of RARRF). I need balance. I need direction.

Simply writing this post has been a big help. It does give me some direction for the moment. But I need external help as well. There are other factors that I have not included in this post that add to the stress of my daily life. I have my own worries and worries about my children.

To conclude…I have no conclusions. I don’t know what’s next. I’m not really sure how to proceed. I just wanted to get my thoughts out. For anyone that doesn’t know me very well…now you probably know more than you want to 😛  For anyone that has experience with any of this please chime in. Or if you simply want to offer a quick prayer that would be appreciated too.

I’m sure there was more I was going to add, but I think I’ve rambled long enough. My brain is in need of a break. It’s Abram’s nap time. So it’s time for me to have a few minutes of quiet.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

This post is linked to Fight Back Friday and Fresh Bites Friday and Fat Tuesday and Real Food Wednesday.

Meal Plans Week of 7-22-12

Another week of summer has flown by. Last week was quite busy. I did lots of produce preservation (blueberries, zucchini, beans, corn and blueberry topping) and baking/cooking (zucchini bread, sd muffins, yogurt, kefir, ice cream, roasted beets and pesto). Plus I used any extra time I had (and even stayed up a little late sometimes) to finally finish Rebecca’s dress! I’m glad I got all that done…but now I’m worn out!

I think I’m going to take it a little easier this week. I’ll still have to keep up with produce, but I’m not going to do a bunch of extra stuff. And I’m definitely taking a little break from sewing. I do have more projects coming…but maybe in a few weeks. We are going to take it easy and have fun this week.

I do have a couple of baking projects I want to do with Rebecca. But I think I’ll hold off for a week or two on those as well.

I’m not really sure what to say about myself…last week was pretty rough. And I really don’t know why. I’m sure stress and lack of sleep contributed. But I know it was more than that. I do think I overdid a bit with grains (wheat and rice). I can handle a little bit each day, but I had quite a bit some days (why do I bake such good stuff? :P). I’ve also had a mild cold all week. Mostly just a sore throat. It’s what Abram had the week before. I’m also finding that sadly I can’t handle blueberries as well as I had thought. But they are in season and so good! I’ve been eating a lot. They are my absolute favorite fruit, always have been. But…they have seeds. Yes, blueberries have teeny tiny seeds…and they bother my intestines…that’s how sensitive things are right now. I was actually in pain again part of the week. And the inflammation was pretty bad. I even had some weight gain again from how bad it got…my weight has finally been stable for a few months until last week. It’s beyond frustrating! I LOVE fresh, raw foods…but I can’t eat ANY right now. I basically have to live on mush at the moment. And it’s tough. I love crunchy food.

I’ve been digging more and more into the world of minerals and micronutrients. I’ve been reading more and more about potassium and magnesium and how much they impact each other. I know that I am deficient in both. And without one I can’t increase the other. If magnesium is low I won’t be able to get my potassium up no matter how much I eat. And the impact on my body from being low in both (and probably much more) is really taking its toll. So I did some research about what foods contain high amounts of magnesium…no surprise I can’t eat any of them! That is a big problem.

Here is what I think is happening. I can’t eat the food that contains the vitamins and minerals I need because my gut is too damaged to digest them. Without the minerals I can’t heal my gut/my body/my mind. So I’m left with no way out. I need healing, but can’t eat what I need to heal. So now what? I need supplements temporarily to get my body back on track and to be able to get my nutrients from food again and properly digest it. I just need to figure out the right supplements and how much. I can’t do that on my own just guessing.

I did not call my doctor last week…this time on purpose. I have decided I want to see a naturopath to help in this process. I have gotten some recommendations from friends and will soon be calling to set up an appointment. Hopefully they will run some tests and help me figure out how to get my body back in balance. And hopefully this will really help my body function better and get me off of this path of cutting out more and more foods and feeling worse and always guessing. I’m not happy with how my body is functioning and how my health seems to keep declining. I’m hoping that this is the right path to get things back on track. I need a little “help” from supplements to bring back the balance my body needs. Real, nourishing foods are great. But if you have so much damage that you can’t utilize them they do no good.

I did also make an appt. with my psychologist. I have not seen her in over a year. But I’m struggling lately with dealing with my own health problems and the daily struggles with Rebecca’s behavior. I need strategies on how I can handle both things better. That will be next week.

So on to the menu. Nothing fancy this week. Simple, summer meals.
S (boil eggs, church, prep smoothies)
  B – pancake and sausage muffins, fruit
  L – egg salad sandwiches, peas, chips
  D – pb and honey sandwiches, sauteed zucchini, blueberry milkshakes

M (freeze beans, freeze zucchini, dance)
  B – smoothie, blueberry muffins
  D – salmon cakes, peas, buttered noodles

T (skim cream, make sc, fm)
  B – yogurt, granola bar, fruit
  D – RR – chicken and rice lasagna (with rice, chicken, cheese and avocado)

W ()
  B – smoothie, strawberry bars
  D – spaghetti

Th ()
  B – yogurt, zucchini bread
  D – beer battered fish, corn on the cob, sweet potato fries

F ()
  B – yogurt, granola bar, fruit
  D – fried egg, toast, cheesecake cups, fresh fruit

S (clean)
  B – zucchini bread, fruit
  D – grill brats, roasted red potatoes, peas

Is Your Diet Causing Deficiencies?…Potassium

**A heads up – this is a lengthy post. But it contains a lot of good information.**

I hear a LOT about macronutrients these days. There is always a debate about what “diet” is better…high/low fat, high/low protein or high/low carb. My opinion…find a balance that makes you feel good. It’s pretty easy to keep tabs on your macronutrients. There are only three. But when it comes to micronutrients it gets a lot harder. In general if you eat a varied diet of balanced protein, fats and carbs and you eat enough calories you should get most of the nutrients you need. But what happens when you can’t eat the balanced diet you want with any choice of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, meat, etc.?

That is the dilemma I’ve been facing for quite some time. My diet has been restricted in various ways for the last seven or eight years. Currently my diet is quite restricted due to my own gut/intolerances and excluding foods that bother Abram. This is especially true when it comes to fruits and vegetables. This is problematic for getting all of the necessary micronutrients.

I’ve been curious about potassium for some time as I’ve narrowed down my list of foods that I absolutely must avoid. I wondered if they had anything in common. Some common denominator that would crack the case on some of my problems. And since bananas are my worst offender…and bananas are known to be high in potassium I wondered if there was a connection. But I didn’t do anything about it. Then a few weeks ago I did an experiment where I logged my meals for a few days. My intent was to count calories. But it also gives you a good overview of vitamins and minerals. The one thing that stood out to me day after day…Potassium is TOO LOW. Interesting. I hear about magnesium deficiency a lot. But I never hear anything about potassium.

So I did what I always do. I started researching. And I found lots of great information.

Here are some of the symptoms of potassium deficiency (also known as hypokalemia):
anxiety, depression, insomnia, constipation, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney stones, thyroid problems, arthritis, obesity, headaches, pain in the eyes, muscle spasms, “restless leg syndrome,” fatigue, muscle tension, edema, irritability and dry skin.

What role does potassium play in our bodies? Quite a bit actually. “Potassium is a mineral that helps maintain the water and acid balance in blood and tissue cells, assists in muscle building, and transmits electrical signals between cells and nerves. Potassium is also necessary for bone health, as it prevents the alkaline compounds found in bones from being used up by the body’s natural metabolic acids; low potassium is associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis. The mineral helps the body to use glucose, its main source of energy, so when this process isn’t working correctly, it can leave a person feeling run down. In addition to fatigue, when the muscles don’t have enough energy to work correctly, they can become weak and achy. As an electrolyte, potassium plays a key role in the movement of electrical impulses throughout the body. When a person has low potassium, those impulses may slow down or not travel as they should. This may lead to irritability, anxiety, confusion, and depression, which may only worsen when combined with other effects, like tiredness and weakness. Low potassium can also result in paralysis, as the mineral is essential for the transport of electrical signals that allow muscle movement. Paralysis can occur in any part of the body, but is particularly associated with the digestive system. When parts of this system become paralyzed, food cannot be digested properly, leading to stomach and intestinal cramps, constipation, and bloating.”(1)  “Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body. It is also an electrolyte that regulates blood pressure, water retention, muscle activity, and proper function of every cell in your body. Potassium helps the cells in the body eliminate toxic waste, promotes balanced pH levels, and increases energy.” (2)  Sounds pretty important to me!

Potassium does not work alone, though. It needs to be in balance with sodium, magnesium and calcium. Potassium is especially related to sodium, as they balance the fluids and electrolytes in and out of cells. So if you eat a high sodium diet, but low potassium it could cause big problems…and that is exactly what I’ve been doing. I eat a LOT of salt. I love salt. And in general I think it’s healthy as long as you are using unrefined sea salt that contains lots of minerals. But of course you can have too much of a good thing. I am also likely deficient in magnesium. And magnesium helps your body utilize potassium. So far things don’t sound too good for me 😛

So far I’ve talked about simply not eating enough foods with potassium. But what else can cause a deficiency? One of the biggest culprits is certain medications…one of them being laxatives. I’ve been taking miralax for 6 years now! Laxatives prevent your body from absorbing all of the nutrients from your food. Strike two for me.

Stress and anxiety can cause magnesium deficiency…which contributes to potassium deficiency.

My blood pressure is often low. And when I do yoga I always get headaches. I think it is related to my blood pressure. This could also be caused by my sodium/potassium balance.

I also get severe swelling (edema) during pregnancy. And after my son was born (over a year ago!) I don’t think it ever went away completely. I still feel like my ankles are mildly swollen every day. It could be related to potassium and balanced sodium levels.

I already know I have a leaky gut that prevents me from utilizing all of the nutrients in the food I eat. Top that off with a full time breastfeeding child for over a year that has priority when it comes to the vitamins and minerals in your body…and doesn’t care if it depletes your stores.

Where does that leave me? Not in good shape. I don’t eat enough potassium rich foods. I eat a lot of sodium, which means I need more potassium. I’m low in magnesium…which prevents my body from utilizing all of the potassium I do consume. Plus my body doesn’t absorb half of what I do eat. Plus my son gets a lot of what my body does have. Now what??

The RDA of potassium for an adult is 4700 mg. For a breastfeeding woman it is 5100 mg. When you look into the potassium content of food you’ll see that 5100 mg is a LOT. It’s hard to consume that much even if you are utilizing all of it. And that is the minimum you should get in a day.

I can’t eat a lot of foods that are really high in potassium. But there are some that I do tolerate. To demonstrate just how tough it would be to consume enough potassium I’ll give a sample of what I would have to eat in a day. I’ll be very generous and say my body is utilizing 75% of what I consume (even though I think it’s probably more like 50% or less). That would mean I need more than 7500 mg of potassium a day to get my daily minimum. This is what I would have to consume to reach that amount (eating only foods that I tolerate):

Potassium content:
1/2 avocado = 450
1/4 cup raisins = 310
5 dates = 500
1/2 cup orange juice = 236
1 cup cantaloupe = 494
10 dried apricots = 800
1 cup yogurt = 400
1 peach = 193
1 Tbsp. cocoa = 76
1/2 cup pumpkin = 282
1/2 cup zucchini = 173
3 oz. salmon = 319
1 egg = 55
1 cup milk = 400
Daily Diet:
2 avocados (900)
1/2 cup raisins (620)
10 dates (1000)
1 cup OJ (470)
1 cup cantaloupe (500)
10 apricots (800)
2 cups yogurt (800)
1 peach (193)
2 Tbsp. cocoa (150)
2 cups pumpkin (550)
2 cups zucchini (350)
6 oz. salmon (600)
6 eggs (325)
2 cups milk (800)
total: 8058 mg

That is a lot of food! And it hardly even includes vegetables. It doesn’t contain any grains. It doesn’t contain any added fat (I consume a lot of coconut oil, EVOO and butter each day). It is definitely not what I would normally consume in a day for a good balance. Plus I probably need a lot more than 7500 mg to compensate for a deficiency and a leaky gut and breastfeeding and laxatives. Just these foods would be about 3265 calories. Add extra fat on top and it’s more like 3600 calories (at least). Add in any more vegetables and grains and it’s more like 4000 calories. Way more than I could ever eat in day. Plus it has 80 grams of fiber! I try to eat fairly low fiber to go easy on my gut. This doesn’t seem like a doable thing for me.

For the last two weeks I have been trying to add more of these high potassium foods into my diet. And in general I have been doing pretty well the last couple of weeks. I try to eat yogurt, avocado, raisins, dates and cocoa daily. Plus I often eat salmon, zucchini, pumpkin, eggs and milk. I have also been drinking some orange juice lately. I rarely drink juice. I don’t think it has much nutritional value. And if I do drink juice it’s always grape juice…my favorite 🙂  But I’ve really been craving orange juice. Maybe it’s one more sign that I need potassium…and maybe even more vitamin C.

Although I’m sure adding high potassium foods into my diet is helpful, I don’t think it will be enough. I am currently researching potassium supplements. It seems strange to me that the RDA of potassium is 4700 mg, but most vitamins and supplements only contain trace amounts. My multivitamin has a lot more than 100% RDA for many vitamins and minerals, but only 5 mg (.1%) of potassium. So I’m looking for a supplement that actually has enough potassium in it. I might also start supplementing magnesium again. And trying to cut back on salt a little bit.

I am also going to contact my doctor to see if I can get a blood test to check some of my vitamin and mineral levels to be sure I’m not way off.

One thing I am still curious about is if my body is truly intolerant of my no-no foods that are mostly high potassium foods. Or if my body is so low in potassium that when I eat foods that contain a lot it holds on to them and sucks out every last drop of minerals…slowing down digestion. If I ate a large amount of some of my problem foods would I tolerate them better since my body wouldn’t feel deprived anymore? I don’t know. And at this point I’m not brave enough to try since it could cause major problems.

Obviously I have a lot of experimenting and researching to do yet. I know that two weeks of diet adjustment and feeling some improvements does not mean it will be good long term. This is an ongoing process. But I think that increasing my potassium levels could really help. It is also a good reminder that eating the same foods day after day (either because they “work” for you or just because you like them) can contribute to deficiencies. Variety and balance can help ensure that you get all of the vitamins and minerals you need.

How do you find balance in your diet, especially with a restricted diet? Do you follow the GAPS diet or a paleo diet or even a gluten free diet? Could you be deficient in potassium? Or maybe a whole group of micronutrients? Even with the “best” diet you could easily be deficient. Have you ever been tested or thought about getting tested? The more I read the more I think it’s a very worthwhile tool in the search for improved health. Do you know of good supplements? Has anyone tried Nutreince?
This post is linked to Fight Back Friday and Fresh Bites Friday and Fat Tuesday and Real Food Wednesday.

(1) wiseGEEK
(2) Natural News

The Mary Diet

When it comes to “diets” I’ve practically tried it all – low fat, high fat, low carb, high carb, low protein, high protein, low fiber, high fiber, grain free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, soy free, red meat free, IBS diet, GAPS,…you get the picture. I’m by no means an expert, but I do have plenty of experience. And my experience leads me to one conclusion…there is no one-size-fits-all diet. There is no perfect way to eat (i.e. GAPS does not work/is not necessary for everyone, paleo is lacking for some people, low carb can really deteriorate some people’s health, etc.). Not everyone needs to avoid gluten/grains. Not everyone needs to avoid dairy. Every body is different and has different needs. Even individuals have different needs at different times. I do believe there are some basic principles that pretty much everyone should follow:

Eat REAL/whole food
Avoid processed/packaged foods (most of the time)
Eat plenty of healthy fat (butter, coconut oil, evoo, lard, tallow, etc.)
Avoid vegetable oils and high omega-6 foods (canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, etc.)
Eat a balance of carb/protein/fat that works for your body (I do better with higher carb, but others do better with higher protein)
Eat animal protein sources (it doesn’t have to be a lot, but animal proteins have a lot of stuff the body really needs, even if it’s just eggs or dairy or seafood)

Aside from that you have to work with your own body and your own lifestyle. So after years and years of trial and error based on a diet that someone else said “should” work, I’ve decided to follow the Mary diet. It’s what works for me. I don’t have it totally figured out. And it will always be changing for the different seasons of my life. So this is not a diet that anyone else should follow. But I decided to give a rough idea of what works and doesn’t work for me. I know I always enjoy reading what others have figured out that works for them. So this is the Mary diet…for now.

I also want to add an update on an experiment I did. I struggled with eating disorders for years. Now I still have a very skewed mentality about food…which is a big part of my problem. For years people acted like I hardly ate anything. My mom was always trying to get me to eat, and her nervousness about it made me nervous. So to this day I always feel like I don’t eat “enough” or as much as everyone else. And I feel like I can’t waste food and that if I miss a meal or snack something horrible will happen. I have a combination of a fear of undereating (that came from others) and a fear of overeating (that came from myself/my fear of getting fat). But none of that is really true. I decided to log my calories (using a free online tool) for a few days, just to see how much I actually do eat. I was quite surprised to find that on average I eat about 2200 – 2800 calories a day! I’d say that’s plenty. The other thing I learned is that I eat a LOT of fat. Many days my fat intake is 60% of my daily calories (see that picture of me…Fat does not make you fat!!! As long as you’re eating the healthy kind – saturated and monounsaturated. When I ate very low fat years ago…that’s when I had the most weight gain. And when I ate lots of processed foods…that were typically low fat). I think I need to try to lower that a bit and increase my carb intake…even them out a little. Fat is very healthy, but I need a few more carbs I think for my body to be in balance. My protein intake is 10-20%…I think that’s about right for me. I think this is a great thing for anyone to do just to assess what your daily intake really is and see if you need adjustments.

I’m working on trying to calm my gut and reduce inflammation. It’s hard to get a good balance. If I eat very much insoluble fiber it causes gas and inflammation. If I eat very much starch it acts like glue in my intestines. If I eat much PUFA it causes major inflammation.

There are many symptoms I experience that tell me something isn’t right. I’m finally realizing that all of the small annoyances I have once in a while aren’t coincidental/random. They are caused by the food I eat and how my body handles them. Allergies, intolerances and inflammation can do major damage.

Here is a list of some of my symptoms that tell me my body is having a reaction of some kind (die off, allergy, intoleranc, inflammation, adrenal fatigue, etc.) – headache, eye pain, bloodshot eyes, itchy eyes, small cysts/bumps on edge of eyelid (makes it feel like there is something in my eye), mouth sores, cystic acne on my face, acne on my head, neck and back, sore throat, stuffy nose, leg swelling, bloated belly (that I can’t suck in…feels like a rock), weight gain, fatigue, oily skin, dull skin and hair, feeling cold/chilled, joint pain, dry/cracked skin/small cuts, constipation, stomach pain, trapped gas, intestinal spasms, rash/skin irritation, build up on my teeth, coated tongue/thrush/yeast,  frequent urination, anxiety and moodiness.

So, on to the diet. I’m still figuring things out. Sometimes it’s a painful process. But I hope I’m getting there. It’s just a list of some of the foods we eat regularly, not an extensive list of all foods. Below the menu I’ve included a timeline of my diet progression over the years. I also wanted to mention that other factors such as sleep, exercise and stress reduction can play a big role in your health.

Have you had experience with all sorts of diets? Have you found anything that works for you?

Must Avoid:

brown rice
spinach/most leafy greens (do ok with small amounts of kale and beet greens)
starch/gums – corn starch, potato starch, guar gum, tara gum, arrowroot, carageenan, polysorbate, etc. (ice cream, processed foods, powdered sugar, frosting)
artificial sweeteners
black beans
egg whites

My go-to foods:

chicken broth
egg yolks (especially raw) – wondering about this one (1/13)
dairy (all kinds…especially high fat)
sweet peas
snap peas
coconut oil
ground beef
romaine and iceburg lettuce
brussels sprouts
beans (green/yellow)
maple syrup
white rice
whole wheat (soaked or sprouted)

Here is a recap of my progression and what went wrong:
high school – fat free/low fat ice cream in large quantities, extremely low fat diet, no nutrients
college – lived on granola (oats), cereal (processed), ice cream, low fat, carrots, apples, diet pop, high sugar/processed, lots of beans, lots of snacky foods, high sugar/starch, low nutrient, lots of salads – vegetable oils/fat free dressing, peanut butter (basically in college I lived on all the foods that I now can’t eat at all – created intolerances or allergies)
2002 – 2005 – low fat, processed food, ice cream, cereal/granola, citrucel, zelnorm, anti-depressants, birth control
2005 – 2006 – IBS diet – low fat, no red meat, no dairy, no egg yolks, soy/rice milk/products, oats, cereal, graham crackers, grape juice
2006 – 2007 – colon surgery and recovery, stick to IBS diet, fertility treatments, pregnancy, thyroid meds, miralax (so many chemicals/synthetic hormones)
2008 – expand diet – finally start learning about REAL food, pregnancy, breastfeeding
2009 – breastfeeding, oats/cereal, ice cream, juice, fertility treatments
2010 – fertility treatments, tried gluten free, pregnant
2011 – grain free, GAPS, pregnant, breastfeeding, low carb/high protein
2012 – stopped GAPS, RARRF, figure out what works for me, start mineral supplements (calcium, magnesium, blends), start rotating foods more, breastfeeding
2013 – Eat for Heat – finally getting my metabolism, mineral levels and body temp up, have more energy, waiting on allergy, adrenal, mineral and thyroid test results, working on weaning so my body can fully recover, trying to get more sleep to help heal adrenals

Some of the biggest culprits/stumbling blocks/temptations for me over the years have been oats/granola, cereal (processed food), carrots, peanut butter, ice cream (boughten), packaged food (fillers/chemicals), low fat foods, artificial sweeteners, low carb; lack of sleep; synthetic hormones; anxiety. I’m still struggling with the lack of sleep and anxiety.

Here are a few good books/sites that have helped me along the way:

The Mood Cure (for some)
GAPS (for some)
Nourishing Traditions
Fiber Menace (for some)
Diet Recovery / 180 Degree Health
Eat for Heat
Real Food / Real Food for Mother and Baby

This post is linked to Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Fresh Bites Friday and Fight Back Friday.

Mood, Brain, Diet – My Current Status

I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time now. But I keep coming across new information. And I’m still reading and researching. (Not to mention I don’t have much time to write a long post these days with a little guy that can’t seem to sleep past 6am.)  But I wanted to give an update of what I’ve learned so far…before I forget it or read too much! This is an update on my current status. I’m sure it will continue to evolve and change as I learn, but for now this is where I’m at. Since this has the potential to be another very long post I think I’ll save some of the detailed information for separate posts.

Last year I started GAPS. And it was great. I really think I experienced a lot of healing on my leaky gut. But after 6 or 7 months I started to feel worse. I struggled for a couple months wondering what was going on. I had been doing so well, the OCD was improving, digestion was better, etc. Then it went the opposite direction. What happened? I started getting more obsessive as I tried to do things “perfectly” to no avail. My tummy got worse. I got moodier and more anxious. The holidays were rough being so over anxious and not feeling well. This isn’t supposed to happen…that’s what I thought. But after a month of research and changing my diet a bit I’ve learned a lot. It is actually VERY common for that to happen. Why? I was eating way too low carb. And possibly too much protein and fat for my body to handle. I let my body get run down by not eating enough carbohydrates. I let my brain chemicals get too low…which led to the increase in OCD, anxiety and bad moods…which leads to stomach knots. I’m over tired, over stressed and just plain worn out. My hormones are out of balance – adrenals, thyroid, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, etc. My brain chemicals are out of balance. It’s one big mess 😛  I have been doing a lot of reading lately. And most of what I read comes to the same conclusions about what is going on and what basic direction I need to head.

So I kind of know the problem (in general…my specific hormone/chemical needs are things I’ll have to figure out). That in itself is a stress reliever and helps me relax. But now that I’ve identified some issues, what can I do about them?

First – relax!! This is the biggest thing for me. If what I eat causes anxiety it doesn’t make much difference if it’s nourishing or junk food. It will still cause me harm. If the whole time I’m eating I’m worried a particular food will make me sick…then it will. There is no magic pill or diet that works for everyone. There is no one RIGHT way to eat/live (i.e. GAPS, paleo, primal, WAPF, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, etc.). There is no one-size-fits-all. I have to figure out what works for me no matter what any book, website, blog, doctor, etc. says. Although GAPS was a great tool for healing my gut it was too rigid. I got so worried about what I could and couldn’t eat and about eating the “wrong” thing. I’d obsess over every meal/food when I didn’t feel well. Was it this? Was it that? Why can’t I eat that…it’s “supposed” to be safe. I’ve learned that I have to experiment and figure out what works for me. Over the last few weeks I’ve really relaxed my diet. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed eating bread, potatoes, rice, quinoa, yogurt, kefir, milk, ice cream. I still don’t know how they will impact me or how I’ll really tolerate them in the long run. But for now I’m just not worrying about it and enjoying food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still eating real, nourishing food. But I’m not so strict about things in general. Some days I get more veggies than others. Some days I eat more eggs, some days less. Some days I eat more fat, some days less, etc. If I’m craving a lot of fruit one day I’ll eat it. I’ve even had 3 ice cream cones in the past week (of homemade ice cream :). Ice cream cones are my absolute favorite food ever. And I haven’t had one since before Abram was born!! It was so nice to relax and enjoy my favorite food again. I didn’t have to go overboard like I used to (I used to make massive cones…that’s a whole different eating issue/mentality I used to have). Just a small cone that I could enjoy without stuffing myself. I need to relax and enjoy eating. I can already tell that this has made a difference in my stress level and overall mood. I’ve gained about 5 lbs. since Christmas since I’m relaxing and enjoying so much food 🙂  I’m learning I will never get rid of my digestive issues if I continue to worry about food and restrict my eating. I need to eat enough and not worry about it.

There is another type of relaxing that is a bit tougher…a generally relaxed life. With a strong willed 3 1/2 year old and a very busy toddling, early rising baby there is never a dull moment around here. I don’t have much time to myself/time that I can truly decompress and fully relax. My mind never gets to “turn off.” Especially since nobody but Justin can watch Abram at this point. He has such stranger anxiety that even his own grandmothers can’t hold him. So he is ALWAYS with me…when I’m home, when I’m at MOPS, when I’m at church, when I run errands, etc. I love him. But sometimes I just need a little break. So that is something I need to work on. But at the same time it may not change much while I have small children. One thing I would like to look into to help is yoga. I would like to do yoga a few mornings a week instead of biking.

Another big component that I read about over and over is getting enough sleep. This is another big one for me. Due to my OCD and trying to get a few free min. in my day I get up at 4 am every morning. I use this time to do work in the kitchen, exercise, read, shower, get ready for the day before the kids are up, etc. Even getting up at 4 doesn’t always give me much time with a baby that gets up so early. In addition to getting up early I’m usually up a couple times in the night feeding Abram. That is just the life of a breastfeeding mom. But it all leads to major sleep deprivation. Which leads to major hormonal imbalances and always being stressed out and worn out. I consider it a good night if I get 3 consecutive hours of sleep once. Pretty sad. I need to put more effort into getting more sleep. I’m not sure at this point how to go about doing this. I can’t control Abram’s sleeping. But I would like to adjust my mornings so that I can sleep in a little sometimes. And go to bed earlier sometimes. One night this week I went to bed at 9 instead of 10:30. That sure was nice!

Relaxing and sleeping are two key components. Now I get down to the rest of the details. I have read several books and several diet theories lately. There is a lot of overlap in the information I have read. So I do have some direction. But I also have to figure out what works for me. One of the main components of health (especially mine) is the health of your brain. Many conditions that are said to be “psychological” are actually physical…they are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain…and they can be fixed! There is so much information on this topic. I am going to speak in very general terms/only skim the surface of what I’ve read. I highly recommend reading on this subject to everyone! I read “Change Your Brain Change Your Life,” “The Mood Cure” and “The Edge Effect.” All three books talk about the four main chemicals/amino acids that control your mood – dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA and serotonin. Everybody is dominant in one of these and it is what determines their nature/personality. Any or all of them can be out of balance…which causes psychological disorders and physical ailments. I believe that I am out of balance/low in both GABA and serotonin…which greatly contributes to the OCD, anxiety, constipation, inability to relax, overactive parasympathetic nervous system, hypothyroidism and infertility. GABA and serotonin both help the brain/body to relax.

What can I do about it? Well, that’s a bit tricky. All three books agree on some aspects, but greatly disagree on others. I tend to put the most trust in the information in “The Mood Cure.” Although the other authors have years of experience and lots of great info, I can’t fully support someone that tells you to stop eating saturated fat and instead eat polyunsaturated fats. One book even says that aspartame is good for increasing dopamine levels. Artificial sweeteners? No thanks! They all talk about medications, supplements, diet and lifestyle. As always my first line of defense is diet. I am gathering ideas/info from these books along with the theories of metabolic typing and blood type diets. I see where they all overlap, experiment and decide if it works for me or not. But here are some of the key components that I feel will help me.


1. Carbohydrates – I need to find the right balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. I was eating way too low carb for a while. I need to increase my carbohydrate intake. I am still trying to figure out how much of that should be fruits and vegetables and how much (if any) should be grains and starches. I will have to experiment with the grains and starches. See how I do with each kind, especially those containing gluten. All of the sources I’ve looked into recommend a decent amount of carbohydrates in my diet. My blood type, metabolic type and brain chemical imbalance all require plenty of carbohydrates.

2. Protein – This is where “The Mood Cure” shines. Julia Ross emphasizes the importance of getting enough protein in your diet (all 3 books do, but she really goes into it.). Getting your brain chemistry back in balance is accomplished by getting the proper amino acids. And where do we get amino acids? Protein!!! It’s the only source. And animal protein is the only complete source. For example, serotonin is produced by tryptophan…which comes from things like poultry. Ross recommends at least 20-30g of protein three times a day (at each meal). I think I do pretty well with protein in general. Although as I’ve mentioned before I struggle with beef. Which is frustrating because it’s so healthy. I thought it was fascinating (and reassuring) to read this from Ross:

“Note: For better protein digestion, people with Type A blood seem to do best adding supplements of hydrochloric acid when eating animal protein, as they are known to be weak in this protein- (and mineral-) digesting acid.” I do have Type A blood. I guess I’m on the right track taking my stomach acid with dinner. Maybe I need to order more and start using it at each meal again for a while.

Ross also talks about the importance of eating fish. “It’s so quick to prepare, so easy to digest, and contains, along with plenty of all twenty-two aminos, the unique omega-3 fat that your brain needs to correctly form the cells in your brain, your eyes, and the lining of your arteries, among other things.”

Her list of great sources of protein (in order) include” fish; poultry (especially cornish game hens due to their good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats); eggs; lamb, beef, pork, venison and buffalo; dairy products and shellfish.

3. Fat – This is another important factor. It is also one where I see “The Mood Cure” really shining again. Julia Ross recognizes the importance of omega-3 fats and saturated fats and decreasing omega-6 fats. This is actually one area that I don’t really need to work on. I eat quite a bit of fat. Daily I eat coconut oil, butter and EVOO. I also eat raw egg yolks daily (often 2-4 a day). I eat avocados daily (anywhere from 1/2 – 1 1/2). Plus I take a decent amount of fermented cod liver oil/butter oil. In addition to that I get fat from the protein sources I eat – meat, dairy, nuts, etc. (I do eat nuts sparingly so as to not get too many omega-6 fats).

4. Eating Enough – This is another key component for me. I am not a big person. And I hate feeling too full. So I tend to undereat I think. To my body that is a sign of starvation…which leads to anxiety, imbalances, etc. So I am trying to push myself a little to eat more. Like I said earlier I have gained 5 lbs. recently. So I think it’s working. Just a few extra pounds gets me out of the underweight category and improves my mood. Undereating also can be a cause for constipation. If you don’t eat enough your body will hold on to what it has and try to suck out every last nutrient it can.

5. Variety –  I tend to find something that “works” and then eat it day after day. But then it stops working as my body adjusts and starts digesting it differently. So I need to keep changing things. Even if I eat the same foods regularly I need to rotate them, take breaks and then bring them back, etc.

6. What to Avoid – sugar, caffeine, simple carbohydrates (white flour, etc.), artificial sweeteners, colorings, artificial ingredients, additives, soy.
All three books recommend basically the same supplements for the same conditions. Since all of the books are written by experienced psychologists and say the same thing I believe there is a lot of validity to it. I hope to do separate posts on the specific brain chemicals and the corresponding moods and disorders. For now I’ll just mention the supplements that could help. I also want to mention that as badly as I want to try these I’m not yet. I just don’t know if they are safe while breastfeeding. I will start with diet and relaxation techniques. And if I really think I need to start the major supplements I’ll probably see my psychologist to get her thoughts.

1. Serotonin – This important chemical comes from the amino acid tryptophan. The most commonly recommended supplement to increase it is 5-HTP. Tryptophan converts into 5-HTP…and 5-HTP converts directly into serotonin. If 5-HTP doesn’t work there is l-tryptophan, St.-John’s-wort, and SAM-e. I want to include a short portion of what Julie Ross says about your gut and serotonin:

“If you’ve lived wtih your stomach in knots because of low serotonin worry or anxiety, it might help you to know that 90 percent of the serotonin in your body is not in your brain; it’s in your gut. When you raise your serotonin levels, your digestive tension (including constipation) can often dissolve along with your mental constriction.” Sounds a lot like the GAPS theory to me 🙂

2. GABA – This is the brain’s natural Valium. You can take GABA, taurine and glycine.

3. Magnesium

4. Vitamin B


1. Exercise – Exercise is a natural stress reliever. It helps increase serotonin. But you also have to be sure to not overexert yourself. Otherwise you can have adrenal fatigue.

2. Sleep – ideally at least 7 hours a night. I haven’t figured out my plan yet to try to get more sleep. I’m afraid that will just have to come with time…as Abram gets older and sleeps through the night.

3. Relaxation – I need to find ways to relax. I’d like to try yoga.

That is the basic rundown of where things are at right now. I’m experimenting and seeing what works for me. I’m staying open to changes. I now know that just because something starts out great does not mean it will work forever. I need to be cautious of extremes and try to find a good balance in my life. I am currently eating grains and dairy. But both could potentially be hard on me. Again, I’m experimenting right now.

I did want to mention that it is kind of funny that in college although I was not eating healthy by my current standards, maybe I had my ratios in a better balance. I rarely ate red meat. And I ate plenty of carbs. And that was the only time in my life that I ever had regular cycles. So my hormones were a bit better balanced. Maybe I had things somewhat right…but I was eating junk food instead of real food. Now maybe I can bring it all full circle, eat the proper ratios, eat nourishing foods and get my body back on track. Only time will tell. But I already feel like my mood and anxiety has greatly improved in just the last week.

Finally I want to mention one more source of great health information that I’m just starting to dig into. It’s called 180 Degree Health. Matt Stone (the author) has a lot of controversial theories and health ideas. But a lot of it makes sense. He talks about letting your body totally rest, feed it well and getting back in balance. This is something I actually heard about a couple years ago, downloaded his info…and then forgot about it 😛  But I’m hearing about it more and more again lately. So we’ll see what comes of my research on that.

I’ve been kind of rushed getting through this post. I hope it makes sense and conveys what I wanted. I’d love to hear feedback, hear of any success stories of others that have used diet and supplements to improve both mental and physical disorders.

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.