Loving Someone With a Chronic Illness: One Husband’s Perspective

Loving Someone with a Chronic Illness: One Husband's Perspective

Earlier this week my hubby and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. Over these last three years my health has really become intertwined with our lives and even our relationship at times. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis ten months before we got married, so we have had to learn how to manage my autoimmune disease together. This has been a huge strain at times, but it has also taught us a lot of valuable lessons and drawn us closer together. Those of us with autoimmune diseases don’t and can’t operate on an island. We need community and support and our family tends to be the front line of support through the especially hard times and the day-to day.

While I’m sure many of our loved ones wouldn’t have it any other way, living with, loving and caring for someone with a chronic illness impacts their lives in ways many people probably don’t understand. That is why I decided to sit down with my hubby this week and ask him some questions about being the husband of an autoimmune sufferer and he agreed to share his answers with you all so that he could potentially be a help to others in the same situation.

I am so thankful for my husband and all of his support I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through this healing journey without him.

 

Loving Someone With a Chronic Illness:One Husband’s Perspective

Loving Someone with a Chronic Illness: One Husband's Perspective

How do you think living with a spouse who has a chronic autoimmune condition makes life different in the day to day?

That’s a tough question. With some of the day-to-day stuff, it becomes part of the routine, and while others may think that something is odd, to us it seems normal. If we eat together we eat AIP, but it’s part of the normal routine. Conversations about your gastrointestinal health become normal. Requests to heat up a cup of bone broth or bring you essential oils become normal. There are a lot of small changes from the routine of someone with out an autoimmune condition but you find a new norm. I also have never had a spouse without a chronic autoimmune condition so I’m not sure how life would be much different. We probably wouldn’t eat as healthy and doing stuff spontaneously may be easier but we’ve never lived that way.

What moments or issues have been the most challenging for you?

It can be tough when you’re not feeling well or having a down day, to hear how sad you to feel about having to constantly focus your life around your health. It is hard when we have conversations about our future and you express doubts of being able to accomplish some of your goals or live your life the way you want to because you feel limited by your disease.

What was your initial reaction to my decision to follow the autoimmune protocol?

You had been flaring for 6 months so I think my reaction was something like, “If you think it will help, have at it.”

What are your thoughts now that I have been following the protocol for about a year and half?

I’m amazed at how you’ve been able to keep it up. When you started I thought it would be a short elimination diet with things to be added back in fairly quickly, but as it turns out you haven’t been able to add much back in so far. It’s frustrating sometimes when we need to eat something quick or when we are trying to go out to eat but for the most part I think it forces us to eat more real food.

Has watching me deal with my health and the way I eat changed the way you think about your health and the way you eat?

It has taken a while but I think I’m slowly becoming more aware of my own health. I notice the biggest difference when I have eaten more AIP food with you and then I go out and eat a standard American meal and I don’t feel great afterwards.

How would you say that this process of learning how to manage my autoimmune condition has impacted our relationship?

I think it has honestly allowed us to become more of a team in our marriage. I’m not always perfect at it, but it I have to think more about how things with my schedule or my job obligations may impact you and your health and it has taught me how to help advocate for you in difficult situations.

Do you have any tips for other family members who have loved ones with an autoimmune disease?

Find people who can help you be a support system. No one can do it all on their own, and we’ve been lucky to have family that is supportive of you and your efforts to manage your health. They have been able to help be a support system for you so I don’t feel like I have to do it on my own.

Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken (AIP/Paleo)

Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken  (AIP/Paleo)

Whether you are on a restricted diet or not it is easy to fall into a rut when it comes to coking. We find a collection of recipes that we like, that are easy to cook and we end up rotating them on our menu day after day, week after week. I am super guilty of this. However, at a certain point I go to start making up my menu for the week and I just have to cook something new. Something with new flavors and a touch more excitement. That is how I created this recipe. The great thing about it is that it delivers the newness and spice without being overly complex so you don’t have to wait for a weekend or a special occasion to give it a try, it is easy to whip up on a Monday night.

It also delivers some wonderful summer flavor with the lime and the cilantro so it is a great meal to include as we near the last few weeks of summer!

Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken (AIP/Paleo)

 

Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken (AIP/Paleo):

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts

¼ tsp salt

1 TBS olive oil

1 cup of bone broth

1 TBS lime juice

¼ cup of finely chopped onion

1 TBS chopped fresh cilantro

½ tsp ground ginger

3 TBS coconut cream

2 TBS Ghee (if reintroduced) or Coconut Oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt. In a large oven proof skillet or dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Brown your chicken for about 3 minutes per side. Set chicken aside and cover tightly. Remove skillet from heat and add in the bone broth, lime juice, onion, cilantro and ginger. Return to heat. Bring to a boil. Boil gently uncovered for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and add in the coconut cream and ghee (or coconut oil) and stir until the ghee or coconut oil has melted. Return the chicken to the skillet and place in the oven. Bake until the chicken is completely cooked through (5-10 minutes). Serve chicken with a spoonful of sauce and garnish with lime wedges or cilantro.

 

Simple Summer Squash Stir Fry (AIP/Paleo)

Simple Summer Squash Stir Fry (AIP/Paleo)

I have a tendency to really over think the concept of recipe creation. I see so many awesome, unique and downright fancy recipes floating around on pinterest and facebook and on some of my fellow paleo and AIP blogger’s sites and I am so impressed by them. Everyone looks longingly at the AIP-ified pizza or ice cream, excited at the possibility of tasting a treat from their past. However, in reality, the day-to-day most of us are too busy to deal with fancy recipes and we know we shouldn’t be trying to recreate treats or junk food all of the time. We are running home from work, starving and ready to eat, we have kids to worry about, spouses to spend time with and emails to answer. It’s a weekday night and the goal is just to get food in our bodies and continue to meet our healing goals.

Often on these types of nights I am just winging it, when it comes to my meals. I am putting ingredients together and creating meals that I just don’t deem “internet worthy”. However, I was recently reminded of the fact that I created this site to help people with the day to-to-day stuff, not just the fun occasion, because it is the day to day that can get overwhelming and make it hard to stick to a healing regimen.

So, in that spirit, here is a super simple recipe that is perfect for a regular weekday night . It only takes about 20 minutes to make and it is yummy and perfect for summer. I hope you find it helpful and nourishing!

Simple Summer Squash Stir Fry (AIP/Paleo)

Simple Summer Squash Stir Fry (AIP/Paleo)

(serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

1 TBS olive oil

1 lb grass-fed ground beef

1 large zucchini – diced

1 yellow squash -diced

½ medium onion

7-8 whole button mushrooms

½ tsp sea salt

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp dried oregano

Directions:

In a large skillet add in your olive oil and begin to brown your ground beef over medium heat. Once the ground beef has begun to brown add in your zucchini and yellow squash. Then, add your onion and mushrooms to your food processor and blend until finely chopped. Add your onions and mushrooms into your skillet. Finally, add in your spices and sauté until the ground beef is cooked through and the squash is tender. Serve and enjoy.

 

Strawberry Basil Chicken Flatbread (AIP/Paleo)

Strawberry Basil Chicken Flatbread (AIP/Paleo)

I’ve been on AIP for over a year and a half and I’ve been paleo and gluten free for way longer than that and I have to tell you there is just something above putting topping on a crust and eating them that I can’t get over. I would eat a pizza this instant if you told me I wouldn’t get sick.

I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with summer flavors these past few months and this recipe was especially fun. There was just something so satisfying about putting together these light yet flavorful ingredients on a delicious flatbread. I felt like I should be enjoying it out in Tuscany with a glass of wine.

The best part about this recipe is that you can get fresh basil and fresh strawberries this time of year and it will just make the whole recipe that much more divine. I hope you enjoy it!

Strawberry Basil Chicken Flatbread (AIP/Paleo)

Strawberry Basil Chicken Flatbread (AIP/Paleo):

Ingredients:

Crust: 

This is my favorite flatbread crust recipe. 

2 TBS Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

Topping: 

1 TBS Olive Oil

1 TBS Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

1/2 Cup Shredded Chicken

4-5 Strawberries thinly sliced

3 TBS Fresh Basil shredded

1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using the flatbread recipe above, follow the directions and create the dough and roll it out. If you’re using a cookie sheet leave the dough on your silpat or parchment paper and transfer it to a cookie sheet, or flip your crust onto a preheated pizza stone. Before baking rub 2 TBS olive oil evenly across the crust and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and cover with your chicken, basil and strawberries. Then drizzle your balsamic vinegar over the top and bake for another 6 minutes. Removed from the oven and enjoy.

How Parasites Affect Your Health

 How Parasites Affect Your Health - Sweet potatoes and social Change

How Parasites Affect Your Health

So, if you follow my blog pretty closely chances are that you have seen me briefly mention my recent experience with parasites a few times.

For the past few months I had been battling some vague digestive ailments, I would have random bouts of abdominal bloating, changes in my stool that would come and go and indigestion even after eating AIP friendly foods that I don’t usually have a problem with. Basically, my health felt kind of tedious, and I felt like my healing progress had plateaued. None of these symptoms fully lined up with an ulcerative colitis flare but they were concerning me, none the less. Thankfully, during this time period, I had finally gotten established with a wonderful integrative health doctor who I trusted to help me get back on track. She recommended that we do some comprehensive stool testing. She ordered one comprehensive test through Doctor’s Data, which is a great lab, and another separate parasite test through a local lab.

I did them, feeling confident that the majority of my information would come from the comprehensive test and that the parasite test would come back clean. I hadn’t had any severe diarrhea, no weight loss (much to my annoyance, actually), and no severe abdominal pain. That’s what happens when you have a parasite right?

Well, about a week passed and low and behold I get an email from my doctor telling me that my parasite test had come back positive for fairly severe giardia, a parasitic infection, as well as a tapeworm called dipylidium. She recommended that I start medication immediately to resolve it and I agreed.

I was truly shocked at this diagnosis. I still have no idea where or when or how I picked up either of these infections, but given the severity of it, my doctor feels that both infections have been present for a long time. So, obviously me next question was what effect have these infections had on my health and my symptoms? This led me to do some research on the effects of parasitic and helminth (tapeworm) infections and the information I found was quite interesting. Research into the long term effects of parasitic and helminth infections is still in its infancy but I was able to find a couple of reputable, peer reviewed studies that helped shed some initial light on the topic.

Giardia is an incredibly common parasitic infection that can be spread through contaminated water, food or even person to person through microscopic amounts of infected fecal matter. Because it is very common, the body of research surrounding it was much larger than the research relating to tapeworms so I will start there.

A review on the topic published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2013 (1) showed that giardia can lead to:

  • intestinal barrier dysfunction (i.e. Leaky gut) through damage to the epithelial cells of the intestinal lining and a halt of the enterocyte cell cycle progression
  • nutrient malabsorption
  • changes in microbiotia composition- an increased potential for pathenogenic bacteria in the gut
  • an increased likelihood of food allergies- especially to dairy
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • IBS

In fact, this review stated that these effects can even be felt for 2-3 years following infection and treatment.

In regards to helminth infections, my limited review of the research showed that one common characteristic of helminth infections is a TH2 dominated immune response. This is interesting because many autoimmune diseases result from a Th2 dominant immune response, ulcerative colitis included, (for more info see this article) Interestingly enough, I also found a small study looking at how helminth infections alter the barrier function of the epithelial lining of the colon and it found that the th2 dominant response caused by the particular infection they were studying seems to compromise the mucosal barrier function in colon and lead to increased intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut) . (2)

So what does all of this mean?

It means that parasitic and helminth infections have the potential to contribute to leaky gut and an elevated immune response both of which can be precursors to autoimmune disease or make it extremely difficult to heal from or regulate an autoimmune disease. So, if you haven’t been tested for parasites recently and you are working to heal from an autoimmune disease it may be in your best interest to get tested. That being said, many standard test for parasitic infections only look for active parasites in the stool. This is a problem, because parasites have a life cycle that keeps them dormant for days at a time so standard tests have a high rate of false negative results. So, to get a more comprehensive look I recommend using a lab that looks for traces of parasite DNA (a PRC test) or that tests you stool over a period of 3 days rather than looking at a single sample. You can request this through your doctor or order your own tests online through a lab like Doctor’s Data.

 

  • I will note that there is a growing body of research addressing the idea that doe parasitic or helminth infections can actually be beneficial to overall and immune health. However, that is dependent on the type of infection and is not always the case.

How Parasites Affect Your Health - Sweet potatoes and social Change

 

Resources:

  1. Halliez, M. C., & Buret, A. G. (2013). Extra-intestinal and long term consequences of Giardia duodenalis infections. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG, 19(47), 8974–8985. doi:10.3748/wjg.v19.i47.8974

 

  1. Su, C.W., Cao, Y., Kaplan, J. Zhang, M., Li, W. , Conroy, M., Walker, A. W., & Shi, H. N. (2011). Duodenal Helminth Infection Alters Barrier Functions of the Colonic Epitheium via Adaptive Immune Activation. Infection and Immunity: 79(6), 2285-2294

Garlic Steamed Crabs (AIP/Paleo)

Garlic Seamed Crabs (AIP/Paleo)

My entire extended family is from eastern Maryland. I have many fond childhood memories of spending summer evenings at my grandfather’s house catching fireflies, listening for the ice cream truck, watching an orioles game on TV and eating steamed crabs. Steamed blue crabs are basically synonymous with summer in my family. I realize that in many parts of the world, the idea of steaming a live crab and then cracking the shell with a mallet and picking out the meat sounds… well, just straight up barbaric. However, I grew up with it and I love it. It is fun and it brings me back to my childhood. The only problem is that true Marylanders only want one thing on their steamed crabs… Old Bay Seasoning. A type of seasoning, that is definitely off limits for anyone avoiding nightshades. Maryland steamed crabs are also traditionally steamed in a combination of water, white vinegar, and beer, making them a bad idea for anyone avoiding grains and gluten. I have been trying to create a yummy AIP version of steamed crabs for two summers now and I think I have finally found a winning recipe. The key is to make sure that you have enough seasoning on the shells that it carries over onto the meat as you’re eating it. The key to this recipe is the crushed garlic. The texture on the crabs is similar to that of the old bay seasoning, so it works well. However, because it requires so much this is one instance where I would highly recommend buying it in a jar rather than making your own. Here is an AIP friendly brand. I had a lot of fun making these this year, and if you also happen to have roots in the Chesapeake Bay area or you just enjoy steamed crabs, I hope you will enjoy them too.

Here is a fun video of my dad and my hubby putting the crabs in the steamer this year: (Double Click to Play)

 

Garlic Steamed Crabs (AIP/Paleo)

 Garlic Steamed Crabs (AIP/Paleo)

Ingredients:

1 dozen live blue crabs

32 oz of Apple Cider Vinegar

32 oz of Water

6 TBS coarse sea salt

3 TBS dried oregano

1 TBS turmeric

3 TBS garlic powder

½ cup of crushed garlic

Directions:

Using a 15 and ½ quart steamer pot or larger, pour your water and vinegar into the bottom of the pot and insert the steamer tray. Bring the water to a boil. In a small bowl combine your salt, oregano, turmeric and garlic powder. Using tongs or gloves, pick up the crabs and place them in the pot. Sprinkle all of your spice mix over the crabs. Then liberally spoon your crushed garlic over the crabs and close the lid. Steam the crabs for 30 minutes. Remove them with tongs and serve.

 

20 Awesome Ways to Flavor Kombucha

20 Awesome Ways to Flavor Kombucha

I absolutely love making kombucha! Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic tea that can be flavored and carbonated to create a really fun and healthy alternative to soda. It has become increasingly popular in recent years, so it is easy to find in many health food stores or grocery stores. The only problem is, that it is usually sold at about $4 a bottle, making it a huge drain on your grocery budget.

Thankfully, it is super easy to make at home for just cents per gallon. Plus, in addition to the cost saving benefits it is also really fun to customize your flavors and experiment with different combinations. That being said, on any given week I am trying to squeeze in my kombucha making process in with all of my other kitchen tasks and when it comes time to actually flavor it, my imagination just isn’t really working.

(To Learn More About Making Kombucha Click HERE) 

So, to help you avoid this pitfall and feel inspired I have put together a list of 20 ways to flavor your kombucha! See if you can make it through all twenty and then report back on which one is your favorite!

20 Awesome Ways to Flavor Your Kombucha

20 Awesome Ways To Flavor Kombucha:

  1. watermelon mint
  2. ginger lime
  3. strawberry basil
  4. apple cinnamon
  5. blackberry lime
  6. berry berry (strawberry and blueberry)
  7. coconut lime
  8. strawberry lemonade
  9. watermelon lime
  10. lavender
  11. peach
  12. mango (puree the mango first, cut up mango doesn’t flavor well)
  13. orange grapefruit
  14. cherry vanilla (use a small amount of vanilla extract or a split vanilla bean)
  15. blueberry basil
  16. ginger peach
  17. cherry limeade
  18. pineapple
  19. orange and turmeric
  20. cranberry orange