Food as Medicine: A Documentary Film about Healing

If you have not seen this documentary go watch it, tonight. If you can, watch it right now. The story they tell is my story!!!! These are real-life people who have done the same thing as me. Our stories could be similar to yours.

Food is fuel and food heals. Watch it. Know it. Live it. Step up and take control of your health and diet. Today. Don’t wait. The number of people living with chronic illness is on the rise, and my diet and lifestyle changes put me into remission.

There is so much confusion about diet and this documentary paints a very real picture of changing your life to control disease. It shows the struggle and the triumph. It shines light on the fact that your disease never truly goes away, and the truth that healthy food is often hard to find. It even highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with a healthy community. Even if you aren’t currently struggling with a chronic illness, most Americans are headed toward some type of disease.

Lately, I’ve been struggling. I have felt alone and strange for following my strict diet, which has led to more cheat days and increased feelings of isolation. This documentary has given me hope. It has lit a fire under me to spread the word that the American diet and lifestyle is making us ill. Changing these statistics are up to you and me!

This isn’t just about treating my disease, this is about connecting communities to healthy options. This is about getting healthy food, the most natural medicine, to everyone in the US regardless of income. Go watch this movie and LEARN.

https://www.facebook.com/FoodAsMedicineTheMovie/

Using SCD to Combat Crohn’s

Danielle Walker of Against All Grain posted an article on Facebook that I had to share. I know very little about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), but it has a lot of similarities to the paleo diet. Finally, doctors are beginning to realize diet has a huge impact on this illness! Check out the article and information on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet below.

Article:

http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/novel-diet-therapy-helps-children-with-crohns-disease-and-ulcerative-colitis-reach-remission/

What is SCD?

http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/home/

Resources for Recipes

The hardest part about becoming paleo is finding recipes that are quick, easy, and delicious. When you are learning an entirely new lifestyle, remembering what is allowed/not allowed can become extremely overwhelming. Many of the ingredients used in paleo cooking were completely foreign to me when I started. Here are a list of my favorite resources for new delicious recipes.

Against All Grain

Danielle Walker has managed her Ulcerative Colitis with a paleo diet. She also happens to be a New York Times Bestseller and an incredible chef. Everyone, including myself, loves her take on traditional favorites. She has some simple meals (usually not simple enough for this non-chef on a Monday night), meals that are great for meal prep, and a little more complicated recipes for special occasions.

http://againstallgrain.com/

Mangia Paleo

This blog is the reason I started the paleo diet. Laura Scaviola began a paleo diet right after her diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis, and has used her awesome recipes to help manage her disease. P.S. She’s also absolutely hilarious.

http://www.mangiapaleo.com/

laura

Other Websites… Yes, that is Cryptic

I skim through some other websites that offer great paleo options like Nom Nom Paleo, The Paleo Mom, Paleo Leap…and many more! Google paleo recipes and a million awesome resources will pop up.

Pinterest

 I LOVE PINTEREST. It is perfect for those times when I am completely out of ideas, but want a quick meal.The link to my Pinterest board is below. Please pardon, the mess… organization has never been my strong suit. There are tons of recipes in several different Pinterest boards (some I have tried and some I haven’t).

https://www.pinterest.com/collinskm2/

Instagram

When I see a great recipe, I take a screenshot of the link to the recipe. My favorite instagram chefs are donteatthespatula, emilyeatsrealfood, squirrel_kitchen, grassfedgirl, eat_heal_thrive, thespunkycoconut, paleochef, autoimmunepaleo, and mightymorphinmitch. Not all of these are completely paleo, but seeing what other people are eating always gives me ideas.

Google

I know it sounds crazy but the majority of my meals are found through google. I type in whatever I want to make (cookies, brownies, baked chicken, pot roast) and add the word paleo. Then, I scroll through recipes until I find the simplest one. Honestly, 9 times out of 10 it turns out delicious.

Simple Meal Ideas from Me

I believe in simple/cheap mid-week meals. I believe in very little clean-up. I believe in meal prep and microwaves.

My meals usually consist of some simple protein, vegetables (usually organic, frozen, or prepped ahead), and a carb. My carbs are usually sweet potatoes, white potatoes, or some form of seasonal squash. On crazy days, I swap my carbs for fruit!!! Living on the edge!

Tuna Salad: one can of wild-caught tuna, a scoop of primal kitchen paleo mayo (I LOVE chipotle lime), salt, pepper, tumeric.

Salad: Lettuce, whatever veggies you have (cooked or raw), whatever meat you have leftover.

Banana Pancakes: 2 eggs, 1 banana mashed and mixed together. Add bacon or a salad.

Buffalo Chicken over Mashed Potatoes: baked chicken tossed in Frank’s Red hot sauce over potatoes.

Breakfast Hash (sure… I’ll call it that): Roasted Potatoes, veggies, eggs on top with guacamole or salsa.

Roasted Potatoes: cut up potatoes, toss in olive oil/salt/pepper/whatever. Bake for 15-20 minutes (sometimes longer) until done. TIP: Make a bunch and use for multiple meals.

Stir-Fry: Frozen vegetables, chicken sausage with whatever seasonings I want.

Hamburger Steak: Hamburger patty, onions and peppers, guacamole, salsa.

Lettuce Wraps: ground turkey, frozen/fresh veggies with coconut aminos/fish sauce/seasonings. Scoop into romaine lettuce leaves.

Fish: Fish cooks sooooo fast! I usually buy the big bag of frozen wild-caught cheap fish at Walmart and put a packet in the fridge on my way to work to thaw. When I get home, I toss it in a small pan with olive oil and seasoning.

Taco Salad: lettuce, plantain chips, ground meat (turkey, chicken, or beef), guacamole, salsa, goat cheese if you can tolerate it.

Changing the World… One Stall at a Time

THIS IS AMAZING! Way to go Grace! Seeing children dealing with Crohns and Colitis always breaks my heart. Living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease is hard and embarrassing. I love that this little girl is making changes in her country, and using a bad situation to advocate for herself.

Can we get this in America? I’ve been in remission for almost two years now, but the amount of people who deal with severe IBD on a daily basis with no current path to remission is staggering. We need to stand up and advocate for ourselves, raise awareness, and get the plans in place to receive the accommodations we need. So proud of this little girl for acting wise above her years, thinking of others beyond herself, and advocating for others beyond her disease.

toilet

http://www.zincestates.review/strangers-give-girl-dirty-looks-when-she-uses-handicap-bathroom-but-they-cant-see-her-disease/

Olympic Swimmer Living with IBD

It’s been a hard week… But you know what is incredibly uplifting? Seeing a strong young woman achieve her life-long goals while living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Kathleen Baker has Crohn’s Disease, but she is COMPETING IN THE OLYMPICS!!!! She’s officially my new hero… Some days may be pure torture, but this disease does not have to limit your dreams. Living with chronic illness may mean taking a new route, but you can still make it to the finish line.

Now you know who I will be supporting at the Rio Olympics. Goooooo Kathleen! Thank you for inspiring all of us with IBD. I hope to see you around Charlotte one day.

Check out an amazing article on her below.

http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/joe-posnanski-kathleen-bakers-crohns-disease-isnt-curse

Jun 27, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Kathleen Baker during the women's 100m backstroke preliminary heats in the U.S. Olympic swimming team trials at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Unconditional Love

IMG_1521

This is me, two years ago (July 3rd, 2014). I was in the hospital between the first and second bag of my blood transfusion. If you think this photo is bad, you should have seen me in person. The old woman wobble, memory fog, bald spots, and steroid rash really topped off the look. But do you see that smile? That was real. I was outside, and I wasn’t crying.

In the weeks leading up to my hospital stay I would beg my boyfriend to take me outside. I needed his help to make it across the fifteen feet of flooring and two stairs that separated my living room from my driveway. I usually pleaded and promised to be good for over an hour before he would cave and drag/carry me outside. You see, he had a very good reason for protesting.

As soon as my face felt the sun, I would break down. Being outside opened a floodgate of emotions. I would cry about my stupid disease, my lack of independence, and my desire to just be normal. I would cry about the constant pain…. And every time I cried, he sat down beside me, stroked my hair, and told me I was going to be ok. Every time, after I finished crying, he picked me back up and carried me inside to begin another round of the couch to bathroom shuffle. This was the first time in weeks I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I felt the sun and instead of thinking of days past I thought of the days ahead.

 

When I see this picture, I see hope, joy, and unconditional love.

 

I see my mother going without sleep for weeks to make sure I didn’t hurt myself stumbling to the bathroom 30 plus times in the middle of the night. I see my father paying my astronomical medical bills without expecting anything in return and my brother driving 14 hours to clean out the dorm room I abandoned when I got really sick.

I see my boss and coworkers stepping in to help me, and I see my roommates watching over me when I came back to school. I see the doctors and nurses who cared for me and the friends and family who came to “babysit” me when I could not be left alone.

I see my grandfather reaching for my hand “for him, not me” when I was too weak to walk by myself but too stubborn to ask for help.

I see my boyfriend telling me he was going to marry me, because he wanted to be the one taking care of me for the rest of my life. And… moments after that he had to rush me inside to get sick.

This picture represents more love than anyone could imagine. In this picture, I felt Christ-like love when I had nothing to give in return. I would yell and scream. I would break down and cry. I would say hurtful, mean things to people who were giving up huge chunks of their lives to take care of me. (Sorry mom…).

I did not deserve their love, but they gave it anyway. I did not deserve their patience, but they gave it anyway. I did not deserve their grace, but they gave it anyway.

They showed me a glimpse of heaven.

In this picture I see the love, the compassion, and the hope for a better tomorrow. I see the huge strides I have made in the past two years. I see the blessings the Lord placed in my life, and the assurance that there is always a peace that passes understanding. In short, I see the unconditional love of Christ. The wobble, the bald spots, and the memory fog are gone, but the smile remains. I know my support system will love me through anything. Some days are still really tough, but I know no matter what happens I have unconditional love on my side.

Paleo Foods that May Be Causing Inflammation

You started paleo. You said goodbye to fried foods and soda, but you still feel tired, nauseous, and sick. It seems impossible. 

This has often been my story with my paleo diet. There is a reason that I strongly believe everyone’s body is different and everyone reacts differently to dietary changes. However, I also do not accept the physician viewpoint of determining which foods are triggers through trial and error. Over and over again, I was told I should try a food to see if I could tolerate it.  This method made me terrified to eat, and I spent months on a diet consisting of about 5 difference foods. Many times I was told my diet was not affecting my disease at all. While there are still certain foods I personally cannot tolerate, I no longer live in fear that a food will put me in the hospital since I went paleo. I have also learned which foods on the paleo diet do not work for me. 

While paleo is helpful, there are some foods that are paleo approved but could still be causing inflammation. I highly suggest beginning on an autoimmune protocol diet and slowly adding restricted foods, as you feel comfortable. This type of reintroduction protocol helped me realize which foods I could tolerate in small amounts, which foods caused no issues, and which foods were on the final “no fly” list. Below are some common culprits for those with autoimmune disorders on the paleo diet.

Nuts/ Nut butters/Nut flours/Seeds

Nuts are extremely hard on the digestive tract. Even in modified forms (almond flour, cashew milk) nuts are extremely hard to break down in your gut. Using nut flour is a quick way to add A TON of nuts into your diet. Nuts are full of good fats and excellent protein, but moderation is essential to nut consumption. Overconsumption of nuts into an system that is consistently fighting inflammation can spell disaster.

paleo nut butter

Too much fruit

Now this idea seems completely impossible right? Fruit is good for you. Many fruits possess anti-inflammatory properties. Fruits also contain lots of natural sugars. These sugars linger in your gut and help grow bad bacteria. Yes, there is good gut bacteria, but that is another blog post… The natural sugar in fruit can give you a spike in energy with a drop off, just like refined sugars. Too much sugar, in any form, is not what the body needs. I love fruit, but I always make sure to pair it with veggies and a protein to limit the sugar intake in my blood.

Berries

During my restricted days, I missed berries. I missed them terribly. Even though they are filled with antioxidants, be careful with berries. Not only do they possess the natural fruit sugars, they have teeny tiny seeds inside. When you are inflamed, these little seeds act like a grater on your digestive system. Once I healed, I started eating blueberries for the anti-inflammatory properties, and then expanded to all of my favorite berry deliciousness. I still limit my berry intake (about once a day) to make sure I’m not causing additional harm to my body.

berries

Too Many Paleo Treats

AKA: too much natural sugar

Yes, maple syrup and honey are still sugar. These sugars give your body a boost that it comes crashing down from, just like a refined sugar crash. They also cause bad bacteria to build up since it can feed off of un-needed sugar in your gut.

Nightshades

AKA: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers of any kind, spices made with peppers, potatoes

This concept was definitely the hardest for my family to grasp. They kept saying, “But vegetables are good for you…..”. Yes, vegetables and nightshades have tons of vitamins inside their delicious exteriors. However, nightshades possess lectin, a protein used to protect themselves. Some nightshades are incredibly poisonous. The nightshades we typically eat have very low levels of this protein, but for those of us with autoimmune disorders, it causes inflammation and leads to leaky gut. (Leaky gut is an entirely new blog post.) I can tolerate a meal with tomatoes or peppers about once a week. Any more than this will cause me to experience bloating, nausea, and exhaustion.

nightshades

Grass Fed Cheese/Milk/Yogurt

Grass fed cheese is allowed on paleo, but often people with gut issues of any kind struggle with lactose…trust me this saddens me as much as it saddens you. Cheese replacements… even worse for me than actual cheese. Now that I have been in remission for a while I can tolerate dairy about once a week in small amounts. If you are going to eat dairy make sure it is grass fed. That gives you the highest chance of preventing inflammation.

Eggs

People often remove eggs and possess some kind of allergy (small or large) to this common ingredient. Personally, I have never had any problem with eggs, and I receive almost all of my eggs from my father-in-law’s organic, cage-free chickens. Cheap eggs possess soy, hormones, and additives. Free-range organic eggs are the way to go. If you have a problem with eggs, they can often be replaced by gelatin in many baking recipes.

eggs

Chocolate/Cocoa Powder

Cue the tears. I love chocolate and cocoa powder. However, cocoa often causes inflammation. Limiting chocolate, even my favorite allergy-friendly Enjoy Life chocolate (technically not paleo) is essential for healing. It can also limit acid reflux.

Alcohol

Alcohol as part of the paleo diet is controversial, but the point is alcohol can cause serious inflammation. The sugar found in alcoholic drinks can be extremely detrimental in healing a digestive tract. Alcohol is inflammatory and makes it much more difficult for your body to deal with chronic inflammation. Some studies have shown that alcohol in small amounts is beneficial for preventing inflammation, however the sugar, carbonation, and sometimes wheat (I’m looking at your beer…) found in alcohol can cause major inflammation. I typically drink one glass of red wine (ONE) when I want a drink since red wine does have some anti-inflammatory properties.

Coffee/ Caffeine/Carbonation

Lay off the caffeine! So many people say they cannot give up caffeine, but coffee is like pouring hot inflammation directly into your body. Caffeine causes acid reflex, bloating, digestive issues, and curbs your natural appetite, throwing off your digestive tract. There are some studies that state coffee helps with digestion, but remember coffee is often used as a laxative. We are trying to keep food in the body. I also stay clear of all carbonation…. Even when I am flaring. For me, it only amplifies the issue.

coffee

 Raw/Slightly Cooked Vegetables

I learned this lesson the hard way this past week. My in-laws have a huge garden full of delicious and nutritious goodness. When the produce came pouring in, I started eating it at every meal. I was in heaven until my stomach threw me into a flare/stomach problem/whatever you want to call it. In short, it was no fun. Cut back on my raw vegetables, followed some directions by my doctor, and I am back on track. Raw vegetables are extremely hard for the body to digest. Your body has to work harder to break them down, steal the nutrients, and move them through the digestive tract. Cooking the vegetables until they are soft and mushy makes consumption easier. I plan on still eating raw vegetables in moderation, but I am also adding more cooked vegetables. I highly suggest cooking them down in organic chicken broth. It adds in nutrients but mostly it is just delicious.

For King & Country

I love when people living in the spotlight share their health struggles. It helps the public better understand the millions of people living with chronic illness, and it shows those of us with chronic illness that our disease does not define us! We can fulfill our callings, just like these great humans!

For King & Country is definitely one of my favorite bands, and it just so happens my best friend works for them as well. The band is made up of two brothers, and one of them is living with Ulcerative Colitis (shout out to my diagnosis!). Check out this article on a little bit of their journey.

Way to spread ‪#‎ibdawareness‬ Joel and Luke! I hope you win all the awards you are nominated for at the K-Love Fan Awards this weekend, but even more importantly thank you for sharing the love of Christ every day!

for king and country

http://www.tennessean.com/story/entertainment/2016/06/02/king-countrys-luke-smallbone-nearly-died-illness/84971670/

Weight Fluctuations

I’ve been working on an educational post, but instead I decided to post something personal. Something that I, just like most 20-something year old women, too often let define me. My weight.

The semester before I was diagnosed with UC I was considered slightly overweight (I probably needed to lose 10-15 pounds, but at 21 it seemed like 100) and suffered from symptoms of unknown origin. I wasn’t obese but I was puffy, uncomfortable, embarrassed, and exhausted. I was so determined to lose the extra pounds, I registered for a jogging and conditioning class even though I knew my body could not handle the stress. I spent most of the class time pretending to get water while I was actually getting vehemently ill. Basically… I was an idiot.

Fast forward 3 months. I lost 30 pounds in 30 days. During those days I barely had the strength to sit up, much less look in the mirror. I first saw my “new self” in the door of the hospital elevator. I almost asked my mom why that little girl was staring at me until I realized she was me. I laughed at first… then I cried. My clothes hung off me, my bones were showing, and I had zero muscle mass. Obviously I already knew this, but actually seeing it somehow made it much more real. For the first time, I realized how seriously ill I actually was, and I was terrified.

One month later I had gained about 5 pounds. I was determined to go back to college (under doctor supervision) but all of my clothes were way too big. My mom drove me to the store, and for the first time in my life size 0 tops and skinny jeans actually fit. Everyone assumed that would be fun for me, but it wasn’t. Try as I may, I could not see myself in the girl in the mirror. I started crying, and the lady in the next stall asked my mom if I was ok. “I just don’t see me…I don’t know where I went….” We found two outfits before I completely broke down.

Fast forward two weeks. I returned to school, and an acquaintance mentioned that he knew I had been really sick, but “Dang, I looked hot.” I went home and cried. Did he not understand the pain that accompanied being so tiny? Did he not know how much I wished my legs were stronger, or realize how uncomfortable I felt in my new shorts? Did he not know the reason I looked “so hot” was I was too afraid to eat? What did that mean about how he saw me before my illness?

I spent the semester on and off steroids. I had a ravenous appetite, and by Christmas I had gained around 20 pounds. All of my new clothes were too small, and all of my old clothes were still too big. I had failed at keeping my new “hot, tiny body…” and I cried.

Two weeks later I experienced another flare and dropped back down to the “almost dangerous” skinny zone. I cried. My mom cried. My clothes fit, but I looked like a skeleton again.

Three months later I finally achieved remission and returned to school once again a size 0. “At least this disease made you skinny,” they said. And I cried. By graduation I had to buy a dress that was a size 4. I was still tiny but had gone up 2 sizes in 2 months. My clothes became too tight again.

I ordered my wedding dress and told the seamstress I did not know if I would need it taken in or let out. “How much weight could you lose or gain?” she asked. “Possibly 30 pounds more or less.” She had her work cut out for her.

I gave away my “big” clothes, assuming I would never weigh the same as before my diagnosis. I follow a paleo diet… there was no way. I started graduate school. I gained my appetite back…. And I gained the weight back. At Christmas, I packed my shorts for a trip to Florida. When I got there I realized I could no longer zip them. I cried. I decided I would lose weight, tighten up my diet, cut out treats, really try… and I still gained weight.

I now weigh almost exactly what I weighed before my diagnosis. This time, I am not puffy. This time I look healthy and feel good. This time, I have muscle. But this time… I remember the many times I was told how good I looked when I was “so thin.” I wonder if people judge me for gaining 30 pounds in a year. I wonder if they thought I was too thin back then, or they think I am too big now.

My family tells me I am always beautiful… and I cry.

I share this with you to make a very real point about living with chronic illness. There are times when we gain weight and become “puffy”. There are times when we lose weight and look like skeletons. There are times when we are in between. There are people that have had even more drastic weight changes than me due to flares and medication. Autoimmune disorders have a very real impact on all aspects of the body, and this includes your weight.

Weight fluctuation is a very real part of living with an autoimmune disorder. Your appetite and energy level fluctuate. You are put on steroids and gain 20 pounds in two months. Or, life gets in the way, and you gain weight just like anybody else… even if you are eating paleo.

Throughout it all, we are on mood-altering medication, losing our hair, trying to cover up rashes, and struggling to keep our heads above water. Yes, I hated seeing my ribs, but I loved when someone would say, “You look so good. I mean, I love how tiny you are!” My weight has been a constant struggle for me, and maintaining a specific weight has been impossible. I have 3 pairs of the same pants in 3 different sizes that I had to buy in a 3 month span (yes, that is a lot of 3s).

Today, I am exercising, I am eating right, and I am trying to love my body just the way it is. I am trying Crossfit to make myself more toned, and I am cutting back on bad snacks. I am listening to my friends and family more, and focusing on how I look less and less. I am realizing steroids will make me balloon up, and flares will make me drop weight quickly. I may always have a stash of clothes in the back of my closet in case I gain/lose weight…. And that is ok.

When you see someone with an autoimmune disease, take a minute to think about how they got to their current weight. People with chronic illness range from 80-400 pounds. Some people are gaining weight due to lifestyle restrictions and steroids. Some people are losing weight due to malnutrition. And it is always hard. Love us just the way we are. Sometimes it is hard for us to love ourselves.