Category Archives: Social Change

A Day On The Autoimmune Protocol + GIVEAWAY

A Day On the Autoimmune Protocol plus A Celebratory Giveaway

4 years ago I began this blog as a way to share my recipes and talk about some of the hippy dippy things I enjoyed doing like canning and gardening. Since then, I found the autoimmune protocol and this site has blossomed into a community that aims to support others who are working to heal and manage autoimmune disease through diet and lifestyle. I genuinely never could have imagined what this blog would come to mean to me and those it has helped.

Thinking back over the past four years has really highlighted for me how many things have changed in my day-to-day life. The way I eat, the foods I eat, my priorities, and my routines have all changed dramatically and the results have been fantastic. I know that a lot of you out there are either just beginning your journey or maybe you are just thinking about the idea of diet and lifestyle changes and it can all seem so overwhelming at the start. So, to celebrate my four year blog-iversary I decided to put together a little video showing you what a regular day in my life looks like almost 4 years after beginning the autoimmune protocol. My life is far from glamorous as is evident from the new-mom bags under my eyes, my postpartum tummy, my messy house and how ridiculous I look while exercising but when it comes down to it that is the point right? This is a lifestyle, not a quick fix or a magic pill. Life is messy but even when things aren’t picture perfect you can still work towards healing and creating a better life.

The video is fun and I hope you enjoyed it, but what is a celebration without gifts? So, to celebrate my 4 year blog-iversary and to show my appreciation for all of my wonderful readers I have teamed up with Paleo on the Go to give one lucky reader a $120 gift certificate to try out some of Paleo on the Go’s awesome AIP food. All of their food is delivered to your door fully cooked and frozen all you have to do is heat it up. Plus is is incredibly delicious and they have a huge AIP menu. 4 years on AIP has equaled a lot of cooking for me but it has been so nice to enjoy Paleo on the Go‘s food when I just need a break. So, be sure to enter below!
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5 Tips for Better Sleep

As many of you probably know by now, our family has officially grown from two to three with the birth of Baby Sweet Potato. I am taking some time off from blogging to settle into my new role as a mother so for the next month I have authors from around the web stopping by to tell their stories and share their favorite recipes. I hope you enjoy all they have to say, I look forward to being back with new posts and recipes of my own soon!

Today’s post is by Michelle Hoover of Unbound Wellness.  

5 Tips For Better Sleep

Hi, there! Michelle Hoover from Unbound Wellness here. If you don’t know me, I’m an NTP, blogger, and have used real food and lifestyle to overcome chronic gut issues and Hashimoto’s disease. Under the lifestyle umbrella, sleep is huge… and something that poor Samantha is probably struggling with right now with a newborn.

Sleep is one of those obvious health needs like drinking water, or getting exercise, but that doesn’t mean that people actually get enough of it it. Especially for those of us with chronic illness, sleep can be hard to come by, and incredibly important to heal. It’s in times of rest that our body rebuilds, and sleep is our built in rebuilding time every single day.

Trouble getting asleep and staying asleep is common in many autoimmune illnesses and related conditions, so what do we do to get more of it?

Here are my top 5 tips For Better Sleep

Get Sunlight Early and Avoid Light Before Bed

From the time we wake up, our bodies are already preparing for sleep the next day. Regulating our circadian rhythm is hugely about getting enough sunlight during the day. It doesn’t have to be an hour every morning. Even taking a 10 minute walk around the parking lot at your place of work can be enough to get your body into the groove.

Just as important as getting sunlight early is avoiding light at night. Blue blocker glasses are popular for late night screen time, however, I urge you to just try and avoid screen time altogether and opt for other night time activities like reading. (Using amber light bulbs like THESE are also helpful) 

Move During The Day

Most people have jobs where they sit all day and expend little energy (myself included) which is bound to result in a poor nights sleep. Moving your body during a short walk, time at the gym, or even just playing with your kids can have a drastic effect on your sleep

Eat a Good Fat Snack Before Bed

Many of my own clients report to me that they have issues with waking up at 2am and not being able to get back to sleep. This is typically caused by cortisol and blood sugar shifts from stress to the adrenals, or a drop in blood sugar from a poorly balanced diet. When this happens, I suggest trying a good fat snack before bed! This could be an avocado, some coconut butter, or a snack like my anti-inflammatory coconut turmeric bites.

5 Tips For Better Sleep

Photo by @mydallasobsession.

Get a Night Time Routine Down

Morning routines get talked up a lot for productivity, but night time routines are just as important. Sleep helps us to be more productive during the day!

Focus on getting down a routine that works for you. This may change on the week versus the weekend, or in different seasons of your life. It could be anything from a restorative yoga routine before bed, snuggling up with tea and a book, or whatever floats your boat! As long as it’s something that relaxes you and makes you want to keep doing it, go for it.

5 Tips For Better Sleep

Make it Non-Negotiable

We put value on so many things in our life… why not sleep? Make it non-negotiable to get to bed early, and do everything you can to make your sleep restful.

My husband and I like to hold each other accountable for things like this, and I highly recommend leaning on partner, or a even a daily reminder on your phone to go to bed!

I hope these 5 tips are helpful! Sleep tight!

For more information on sleep and autoimmune disease I encourage you to read my post on how I decided to buy a non-toxic mattress and how it helped my health – Samantha

 

michelle-hooverMichelle Hoover is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner from Dallas, Texas who after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s as a teen, turned to the paleo and autoimmune protocol diets to manage her autoimmune disease and heal her gut naturally. She is now the author behind the blog Unbound Wellness and you can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.

From Vegan to Paleo: Making Peace With The Transition

From Vegan to Paleo: Making Peace With The Transition

As many of you probably know by now, our family has officially grown from two to three with the birth of Baby Sweet Potato. I am taking some time off from blogging to settle into my new role as a mother so for the next month I have authors from around the web stopping by to tell their stories and share their favorite recipes. I hope you enjoy all they have to say, I look forward to being back with new posts and recipes of my own soon!

Today’s post is by Mitch Hankins of Instinctual Wellbeing. 

I’ll never forget sitting across from my doctor back in early 2013, when he delivered my lab results showing that I was deficient in just about every amino acid, vitamin, mineral, digestive enzyme and healthy blood cell you could think of. He looked me squarely in the eye and said “You have to start eating meat.”

Boom. There it was. It felt like the news he delivered was so much grimmer than just a mere diet recommendation. After all, I had been vegan for three years prior to that moment, and vegetarian for even longer than that.

While I knew in my heart (and in my malnourished body) that he was right and I would need to make the change, I was completely bamboozled. What went so wrong to have caused this? I wasn’t one of those vegans who just ate a bunch of vegan cheese and vegan food substitutes. I ate about 100 types of fresh, organic fruits and veggies per day, I juiced, I sprouted my legumes and pre-soaked my grains, and I even incorporated some “raw” principles into my life by being careful not to overcook my food. I even made pizza crust out of adzuki beans for God’s sake. I mean – if my body was “failing” at being vegan, then I didn’t know what would work.

The worst part for me though, was that I didn’t choose to be vegetarian and vegan because I thought the food was particularly yummy, or because I wanted to lose weight or something like that. My choice was based almost (I say “almost” because I could see some potential health benefits from following a more plant-based diet) entirely due to my own personal values and morals.

So, when I heard that I needed to make some diet adjustments, it wasn’t just me thinking, “um…well what am I supposed to eat then?” Instead, it was throwing into question my whole being, my personal value system, and who I thought I was as a person. Additionally, I was also beginning to study Buddhism pretty deliberately back then, and this idea of eating meat also challenged my newfound spiritual belief of non-violence, which was typically translated as not eating animals, amongst other things.

I realize that may sound melodramatic to some, but chances are if you’re reading this article to begin with, you’ve probably had a similar experience with something in your life, whether it be diet-related or not.

Luckily, my doctor knew me well enough to understand how I was feeling. He asked if I was alright, and I explained to him that this wasn’t just about a diet to me – it was about challenging what I believed in and how I interacted with the world. He kindly suggested that I look into the paleo diet specifically, because that movement wasn’t just about factory farming and eating meat in an unconscious way. Instead, it focused on sustainable (and ideally local) farming, and only eating animals that were raised in their most natural environments without restrictions or tons of stress. I told him I had a lot to think about, but that I’d do my research as I always did.

Fast-forward nearly four years, and I’m still following a paleo (well, AIP, if we’re being specific) diet and lifestyle. I’ve seen huge success with my health and autoimmune conditions, and I found that the paleo philosophy really helped me bridge the gap between vegan and paleo. I’d be lying though if I said there weren’t still times when I catch myself wondering if I’m doing the right thing for my body, the animals and the world’s ecosystem. If the fact that my health did a complete 180 isn’t proof enough that this is the right path for me at this point in time though, I also like to remind myself of two valuable points that I’ve come to understand (or at least believe) over the years:

Eating grass-fed or free-range/pastured meats is NOT the same thing as eating and supporting factory farmed animals and organizations.

  • If you’ve ever been out to a farm – a real farm – you’ll know how peaceful and beautiful it can be. You’ll be able to bear witness to the fact that, when treated right, these animals are able to live full, happy lives, grazing on grass, playing in mud, and happily pecking at each other until it’s their time to complete the “circle of life” and give back to the world in their own way. This is so different than the tragedies that exist at the factory farming levels, which I believe we still very much need to push back against and educate about. But just because factory farming exists doesn’t mean that every time we eat an animal, that they are subjected to the same harshness and abuse. We have to separate that out in our minds, and know that each animal or person gives back in its own way. This leads me into the second thing that I’ve come to believe, which is…
  • Each living creature – human, plant or animal – on this planet, has some sort of mission or “dharma” (purpose). Now, I want to make the point that sometimes this purpose may be to just simply exist and touch the lives of those in our immediate family or circle of friends; it doesn’t always have to mean our purpose is to ride camels through the Sahara until we reach Enlightenment and then return to the cities to preach of it. 🙂 But I do believe that in one way or another, we’re all here for a reason, and chances are – we decided what that reason would be before we even decided to come into being.I know this may be pushing you wayyy outside your comfort zone to think this way and hey – that’s totally understandable and OK. But if you can just humor me for a moment, I’d ask that you consider the possibility that animals know what their purpose is, too. And that sometimes – for certain animals – that purpose may be to come here for a specified amount of time until they can provide healthy nourishment to people when they’re called to do so.

From Vegan to Paleo: Making peace with the Transition

So, those points are what I remind myself of whenever I start questioning my paleo/AIP diet or getting a little down about the fact that I now eat a lot of animal products. I just try remember that sometimes our bodies just need a little extra nutritional support from animal proteins, and also that we’re lucky to live in period where movements like paleo and AIP have helped demand farming reform (and so many other great organizations, individuals, authors and farmer’s markets have facilitated this, too!) so that animals and humans can co-exist and co-nourish each other to support each other’s wellbeing.

I hope that if you’re ever struggling with the transition from vegan to paleo, that my experience and thought processes can help you as well. Much love!

About Mitch:

Mitch is thmitch-photoe man behind the Instagram accounts @mightymorphinmitch and @thatautoimmunelife, as well as the blog, Instinctual Wellbeing. He believes that along with following a whole foods diet, humor, self-awareness and self-love are keys to healing autoimmune disease and chronic illness. Originally from Florida, he now lives in Kansas City with his fiancé and two cats.

 

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Birth

My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The Birth

I wrote this birth story in such a way that I could share it on multiple platforms and have it for myself so it is not just focused on the paleo/AIP side of things. I have included some notes about specific AIP concerns at the end. Also, it is an honest retelling of the birth and includes birth language so if you are super squeamish about these types of things this may not be a story for you. However, it is a positive story and I encourage people to read it and learn more about the options surrounding birth today. For more on my paleo/AIP pregnancy you can read about my first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester by clicking on these links.

 Many birth stories aim to walk through the physical details of the day a child was born, what happened and when. While I do want to remember every detail of the birth of my first child, focusing on these physical details is not fully indicative of my labor and birth experience. As a birth doula myself, I have seen many births, I am not afraid of birth, I understood the physiology of childbirth long before I ever became pregnant myself. I knew that I wanted an un-medicated water birth, who I wanted as my doula, and the type of provider I wanted the minute the test came back positive. My labor preparation was not found in childbirth books or classes. For me, preparing for labor was a mental and spiritual journey.

My pregnancy was filled with a lot of stressful events, unrelated to actually being pregnant. I lost two family members unexpectedly in my first trimester, my husband had to travel for much of my second trimester and at the start of my third trimester I found out that I was being laid off from my job following my maternity leave. All of these things kept me from feeling very in tune with being pregnant. I was just desperately trying to get things in order, assuming that I would just focus on the baby when it arrived. All of that changed at 37 weeks when I started having almost non-stop prodromal labor. Suddenly, it was impossible to ignore the fact that I was about to become a mother. I had to finish working early because the contractions were made worse by being on my feet all day and by being tired, so at 38 weeks I left my job early and finally switched my focus to gestating. I started taking daily short walks, during which I listened to birth and pregnancy podcasts and meditated to my birth playlist. One day someone on one of the podcasts mentioned that they had challenged themselves to pick three words to describe their ideal birth, words that were unrelated to the actual environment or method of delivery. I liked the sound of that, so I gave it some thought. The words that came to mind were worshipful, peaceful, and confident.

I wanted this birth to be a spiritual experience. I felt like so many popular natural birth affirmations functioned to convince the mother that SHE could give birth through her own physical power and while I know that that resonates with a lot of people I didn’t want to conquer birth, I didn’t want to rely on my physical strength, I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. Instead, I decided that my focus would be on using this experience for God’s glory and relying on His power to guide me through the process. I wanted the environment to be peaceful at the time of birth, I didn’t want things to feel rushed or chaotic and regardless of what happened or how I gave birth I wanted to feel confident in the decisions that needed to be made so that I didn’t come out of the experience with regrets. I didn’t share these convictions with anyone, I just meditated on them every day in preparation for delivery.

My estimated due date was Nov. 25th, the day after Thanksgiving. When my prodromal labor started so early I thought for sure that this baby would arrive ahead of schedule and that I would be spending my Thanksgiving getting baby cuddles on the couch. Thanksgiving came and went. My whole family traveled down from 2 and half hours away to spend the holiday with us and I hoped and prayed the baby would arrive before they left so that I wouldn’t have to call them to come back again. However on the 26th everyone packed up and drove home and I was left grumpy and convinced I would be pregnant forever. In fact, my husband found me in my PJs, in bed, with the lights off watching TV, in full hibernation mode by 4 o’clock that afternoon. I was mentally done and ready for this baby to make an entrance. At midnight on the 27th I woke up to some strange “cramps”. I tried to ignore them and go back to sleep, but that quickly became impossible. I got up to go to the bathroom and low and behold… bloody show! The contractions were coming about every 6 minutes and were strong enough that it was uncomfortable to stay still through them. They quickly progressed to being every 4 and a half minutes apart so we alerted my doula and my mother and they both prepared to come to our house. My plan was to wait and go to the hospital when I was in transition because we only lived a few miles away and I wanted to spend most of my time at home. Over the course of the next nine hours I spent time watching TV with my husband while he rubbed my back, I visited with my mom and my doula in the stillness of the early morning, the sun came up and my team took turns eating breakfast and drinking coffee as I labored in the living room by the Christmas tree, leaning forward with each contraction, swaying back and forth as someone rubbed my back. We bundled up and took a walk around the neighborhood, joking that it was probably against HOA guidelines to have a baby in the parking lot. Finally, around 11 AM I began to get shaky and feel some pressure so we decided to go to the hospital. We packed everything up and caravanned to the hospital. I was very nervous about dealing with the drive, check in and triage process and I could feel my focus and faith slipping as soon as we made the call to go to the hospital. The triage process was long and irritating and when the midwife finally came in I could tell instantly that she and I were not going to click. She gave me an uncomfortable cervical check, the first cervical check of my pregnancy, and announced that I was only 3cm. I could stay and be monitored for an hour or I could go home. While I was obviously somewhat frustrated by this news, I was also relieved. Now I could go back home to where I was comfortable and get my focus back to where it needed to be. Looking back, I am actually really thankful for this “practice” trip to the hospital because it gave me a chance to walk through the part of labor I was most fearful of, the transition from home to hospital, so that when it came time to do it again I was prepared.

My mom, my husband and I headed home and my doula headed back to her house to check on her family. My husband laid down to rest, my mom sat with me as I took a bath and tried to eat and then I took some Tylenol PM, at the advice of the midwife, and tried to rest myself. The contractions were still coming every 4 and half minutes and I still couldn’t stay still through them so I was only able to groggily drift off in between contractions before rolling onto my hands and knees through each one. This went on for about two hours when I decided to get up and try to get things moving. I pulled out all the stops, doing abdominal lifts, positioning exercises, walking the stairs, squatting, and moving my hips like my life depended on it. By 7:30 that night we called my doula back and we once again transitioned from day to night with everyone taking turns eating dinner and rubbing my back. I decided to go get back in the shower, since that was where I could relax the most, but I told my husband I needed him to stay with me. He tried helping me through contractions from outside the shower but that wasn’t really working so he changed into some shorts and got in with me. This was honestly my favorite part of my labor because I was so focused, my husband was doing a fantastic job of supporting me and it was private, just the two of us. The water was so relaxing and in that moment, I was sure I was never leaving that shower and that the baby would just have to be born right there. Unfortunately, we ran out of hot water… I stayed in the bathroom with my husband for a while longer but I think my team could sense a shift in my mood and started talking to me about going back to the hospital. The tiniest bit of fear started creeping in again and at first I said no, but then my wonderful doula reminded me to trust in my team and that fear was not a good reason to stay home. So, at 9:45 PM – almost 22 hours into my labor we headed back to the hospital. I began to cry a little as we pulled away from our house because I knew that when we came back we would have a baby and that still seemed so surreal.

This time, I was not afraid of the drive or the triage process I was just determined to get through it without losing my focus. The contractions in the car were very very hard but I only had two before we arrived. I stayed focus through check in and was brought into triage, I got right up onto the bed in hands and knees and strapped the monitors to myself so that they would stay on and I answered all of their questions without losing my focus. The nurse offered to check me so that we wouldn’t have to wait for the midwife, a different midwife from earlier in the day, and I agreed. Her check was much more gentle than the previous one and I was thankful for that. She asked if I wanted to know how dilated I was and I said not if I was far enough along to be admitted. She said that I was, so they sent my doula up to our room to begin setting up the birth pool. I told them I would be wearing my own clothes, rather than a hospital gown and I walked myself to our labor and delivery room, albeit very slowly. I had to do another 20 minutes of continuous monitoring before I would be allowed off the monitors to get in the pool, so again I climbed up into bed on hands and knees, closed my eyes and focused. The only negative to this time was that I overheard the nurses talking to each other, saying that I was still only dilated to a 5. At that point I knew that I needed to shift my efforts to conserving the energy I would need for transition and pushing so I told my doula to go ahead and fill up the pool even though everyone wanted me to walk around to try and get things progressing. I had been on my feet almost non-stop for almost 24 hours and I could feel my legs starting to get weak. I finished the monitoring and got in the pool and it was a definite relief. The water took the pressure off my legs and made it much easier to move from a resting position to my hands and knees for contractions. I would lay on my side to rest in between while my mom poured water over my belly to help my muscles relax, when a contraction came I would get on my knees and lay my upper body over the side of the pool while my husband applied counter pressure to my back. This routine went on for probably two hours before the midwife came in to check me again. It was now around 1 am the next day, November 28th. She told me that I was still dilated to about 5cm and that my bag of water was bulging, causing the pressure I had been feeling for much of the day.

Having attended a fair amount of births I was not terribly surprised by this news and I knew in my heart that it was time to help things along. The midwife offered to break my water and I agreed but I asked for ten minutes to talk with my team and to get myself prepared. After 25 hours of labor there was a definite part of me that was nervous about feeling things change and intensify. I had my doula say the risks of an artificial rupture of membranes out loud so that my mom and my husband would understand them and we all agreed that it was the best call. I got out of the tub and made my way to the bed as the midwife came back into the room. She was very gentle during the procedure and I hardly felt a thing. When they said the water was clear I started to cry out of relief. My contractions intensified immediately. I agreed to get in the shower for a while to help keep pressure on my cervix so my husband and I got in the shower and while I never felt scared or out of control I did cry and say a few curse words when it was just the two of us because the intensity of the contractions was a lot to get used to. After a little while I got back into the tub and I went into that full “labor land” hormonal state that people talk about. It was incredibly surreal, I felt as though I was drifting in and out of sleep and I just kept saying “Ok, Ok, Ok” after each contraction because in my mind I just kept reassuring myself that I was ok and that things were going well. Around this time the nurse and the midwife asked to check me again and without even really thinking about it I just said “No” very firmly. They hung around for a while and each time they would ask to check me I would just close my eyes and shake my head. I just knew that I could not handle anything breaking my focus and I knew that this baby was going to come out whether they checked my cervix or not. Finally, they left the room and I decided to try and see what it would feel like to bear down a little bit during the next contraction. I hesitantly tired it and it felt Ok so I tried it again on the next contraction without saying anything to anyone. All of the sudden on the next contraction my body took over and “trying to bear down a little” became involuntary pushing. My sounds and body language must have changed because my doula very calmly came over and asked “was that you pushing on that last contraction or was it your uterus?” I barely got the word uterus out before my body started pushing again. My doula chuckled and said, “it looks like you have a butt full of baby!” Apparently at that point she went out in the hall and told the nurse and the midwife that they should probably come back in, the nurse replied “well she is going to have to let us check her” my doula just laughed and said “I don’t think you’re going to have to, the head is coming out.”

The nurse and the midwife came back in and got everything ready. I don’t think I really realized how close I was to having this baby because I remember someone saying that they were setting up for delivery and thinking, “yeah right, that doesn’t mean anything I could still have hours left.” Then they moved the mirror to the side of the pool so that I could see myself pushing and there on the next contraction I saw the head starting to crown. One of my favorite songs on my birth playlist came on, “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli, this is one of my favorite worship songs and is all about creating a sacred and worshipful space. At this point my body was pushing so hard and uncontrollably I honestly felt like I couldn’t breath and in just two or three more contractions our little baby arrived! I reached down and pulled our little one up and out of the water. It was 3:30 AM just two hours and twenty minutes after my water had been broken. My doula was standing on a table taking pictures and both she and my mom were singing along with the song in a moment of total praise and worship. The baby’s cord was tangled at first so I could only get her to my belly. It took me a minute to snap out of labor land and realize that it was over and we had a baby! They untangled the cord and I pulled the baby up to my chest. I kissed that wet little head, covered in hair, and said “Oh baby, you did such a good job!” We heard that perfect little cry and I just stared in total awe. It was actually a few minutes before we realized we still didn’t know if we had a girl or a boy. I had my husband look and he announced to the room that we had a baby girl! I announced her name, rubbed her vernix into her skin, and my husband cut her cord. She went with him for some skin to skin time while I got out of the pool to deliver the placenta. The only downside to the whole experience was that her quick decent and my strong pushing caused some tearing that took a while to get repaired so I wasn’t able to feed her and hold her for another hour and half, but she was in the room with her daddy where I could still see her and hear her. After she ate and we moved to our postpartum room, she was weighed and measured. She was 6 lbs 14oz and 19 inches long.

Honestly, I would not change anything about my experience. I felt calm and confident throughout the entire 27 hours of labor. My team did an amazing job of supporting me. Even the slight hiccups, like the first trip to the hospital and having to have my water broken helped me reach my goals in the long run. The length of my labor kept me fully relying on my faith in God and her moment of birth was honestly one of the greatest moments of pure worship I have ever been a part of. I am still in awe of the experience and I am so thankful that it brought us our beautiful baby girl.

 

AIP-Related Notes:

  • Part of my motivation for wanting an un-medicated childbirth was that I do not tend to react well to most medications and I wanted to avoid side effects that could potentially trigger my autoimmune disease. I was able to avoid any medication during birth, and I did not even have an IV line placed. I have been taking Tylenol post birth to help relieve pain from the stitches and I used an herbal tincture to help relieve the discomfort of those post birth cramps.
  • I did eat and drink throughout labor. In my early labor and immediate postpartum I ate THESE paleo protein bars. They are not AIP. I also ate some sweet potatoes, applesauce and plantain chips. To help keep myself hydrated I drank coconut water and THIS mineral water.
  • In a future post I will talk about my postpartum period, including what I ate during my hospital stay.

Here Is a video of some photos from our birth (Nothing Graphic): 

What AIP Bloggers Do For Fun…

What AIP Bloggers Do For Fun...

I know that each of you out there has a handful of AIP or Paleo bloggers who are just your favorites! They post your favorite recipes and you love to follow them on Instagram. What you may be surprised to know, however, that most of us are actually friends in real life! We talk often about recipes, our goals and community projects and we also just like to have a good time. Recently, I got the amazing chance to hang out with four of these awesome writers in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for a weekend and it was a blast! I was joined by Eileen of Phoenix Helix, Angie of Autoimmune Paleo, Sophie of A Squirrel in the Kitchen, and Jamie of Gutsy By Nature, and since we all live in different parts of the United States it was a rare treat to get to hang with these beautiful ladies in person.

Attachment-26So you may be asking yourself what does a group of AIP bloggers do for fun? Well, we do a lot of hanging out and talking to start with. It was so fascinating to get to hear how everyone’s health journey is going, and how everyone’s experience with the autoimmune protocol has effected them. We all have different autoimmune diseases but its easy to understand and relate to the frustrations and victories of each other’s journeys. We also talked about our blogs and our fantastic readers and what our goals are for the future of our writing. When we tired of talking we did some fun activities like getting fantastic reflexology done on our feet… (side note: if you are pregnant go right now and have someone do Attachment-15reflexology on you because it feels incredible after spending all of your time carrying another growing human around). We also explored the local town and attempted to go tubing down a river but were thwarted by some nasty weather. Finally, no AIP retreat would be complete without lots and lots of yummy food!

The bulk of our food was generously provided by Paleo on the Go, which is a meal delivery service that has both paleo and AIP friendly meal options that are already cooked and delivered to your home. Honestly, I have been eyeing Paleo on the Go for months and I even thought about ordering food from them for our trip to Hawaii but I was skeptical so I never pulled the trigger. After this weekend I am no longer a skeptic. My biggest concerns before trying them

Examples of some of our yummy food from Paleo on the Go

Examples of some of our yummy food from Paleo on the Go

were the price and the portion size. From looking at the food online it looked like a lot of money for not a lot of food, but I was definitely wrong on that front. The portion sizes are very generous and even at six months pregnant one meal serving filled me up for everything we tried. The first night we tried their herb roasted chicken, roasted root vegetables and bone broth. Everything was very good and very well seasoned! The next morning for breakfast I tried the chicken breakfast sausage and collard greens. The sausages were much larger patties than I usually make and they were very flavorful and the collard greens were a delicious AIP version of southern style collards. Our second dinner was the shepherd’s pie. I was a little skeptical of this dish because I usually make mine with sweet potatoes on top rather than cauliflower and the meat contained some beef heart, which I had never tried. Let me tell you, usually I can sniff out organ meat a mile away but I gobbled up that shepherd’s pie without a second thought and the cauliflower made a perfectly thick topping. Plus again, the portions were very big. We also had their cream of broccoli soup that night, and honestly that may have been one of my favorite dishes. It distinctly reminded me of my favorite broccoli and cheddar soup that used to be served at this café on my college campus. I will happily admit I ate three bowls of it over the course of the weekend. Over the course of the rest of the weekend we also had their chicken soup, the creamy chicken and bacon alfredo, and the bangers and mash. I was genuinely impressed with each dish. It has been a long time since I was able to put a pre-cooked dinner in the microwave and be sitting down to eat a few minutes later and honestly it was a treat. We as AIPers spend so much time in the kitchen it was a true blessing to get a break for one weekend and instead focus on relaxation and good company. Now having tried the food, I am strongly considering buying some for my postpartum period and for future vacations. Cost wise, I would say that you need to compare it to the cost of eating out at an AIP compliant restaurant while on vacation. The food is up to that caliber as is the convenience and if you look at it through that lens the prices are very reasonable. If you are interested in checking out Paleo on the Go click HERE.

I am so thrilled that I was able to spend time with all of these fantastic bloggers and selfishly, it was nice to have a weekend to focus on myself and think about the blog before we get ready to welcome our new little arrival this fall. If you haven’t added these lovely ladies to your list of go-to bloggers you should do so immediately!

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Fire Retardant Chemicals- The Real Monster Under The Bed

The Dangers of Fire Retardant Chemicals

A few months ago I wrote a post about my experience shopping for a new mattress. In it, I talked about wanting a non-toxic mattress; one that was free of chemicals and off-gassing. Today I want to talk more specifically about what those chemicals are and why we should want to avoid them where we can.

Back in the day (i.e. the early part of the 20th century) mattresses and cushions were made with cotton for comfort and steel springs for support. However, over the last 30 years cotton has been almost completely replaced by synthetic foams. In 2007, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission required all mattresses to meet strict flame resistant standards (strict doesn’t really even begin to cover it, think taking a blow torch to your mattress for over a minute kind of strict). Unfortunately, for us (the consumer) the government did not set any parameters for companies around how to meet these standards so it quickly became common practice to drench both the outside and the inside of all mattresses with a cocktail of chemicals. There are also no regulations requiring mattress manufacturers to list what chemicals they use. Here are a few we know about though:

  • PCDS’s (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)- these were used in mattresses before 2004, when they were found to be toxic to the liver, thyroid and nervous system. As a result they have now been mostly phased out of use.
  • Boric Acid: Studies have found that boric acid has the potential to be a carcinogen.
  • Melamine resin: Contains formaldehyde

The reason these chemicals are of primary concern when it comes to health is that they do not break down into safer chemicals over time and they are bio- accumulative meaning that they build up in the human body and the bodies of animals over time leading to toxicity and chronic health problems. Their persistent nature also makes them a concern for the environment because they don’t break down and decompose and they can be easily transported far from their original source and be spread across the world.

Unfortunately, there is little we can do to avoid flame retardant chemical completely since they can be found in everything from car upholstery to couches to baby crib mattresses and nursing pillows. However, we can work to limit our exposure during times when we are most vulnerable to their effects. Many groups recommend not eating on your couch to help you avoid ingesting these chemicals ( I am totally guilty of this), wash your hands before eating, use a HEPPA air filter, and regularly clean your car upholstery. However, one of the most important areas to avoid exposure is in your bed. We spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping! This time is when our body needs to be under the least amount of stress possible so that it can work to restore our health. Having to combat the onslaught of toxins in your mattress is counterproductive to restorative sleep. The problem is that, as we stated above, ALL mattresses have to meet these flame resistant standards one way or another. So, even if you buy an organic mattress made with wool and the website says that it is flame resistant all that means is that they probably used LESS chemicals to meet the standards but wool alone is not resistant enough to meet the federal regulations. So you may have gotten a perfectly organic cotton and latex mattress, but it still have flame retardant chemicals on it. This was my dilemma until I found Intellibed.

If you are interested in my full review of intellibed you can read my post HERE, but suffice it to say I am totally in love with my bed. Rather than using chemicals as a fire blocker, Intellibed uses a completely safe silca thread throughout its mattresses that acts as a natural, chemical free alternative to meeting the federal regulations. On top of that it is also an incredibly comfortable bed!

In today’s climate we cannot run in fear of every environmental toxin or else we would end up as hermits living in the woods, but we should strive to limit our exposure and create the healthiest environments possible for ourselves within our homes.

The Dangers of Fire Resistant Chemicals

2015 Year End Review

Sweet Potatoes and Social Change 2015 Year End Review

I really can’t believe that 2015 is already coming to a close! On the one hand it feels like just yesterday I was sitting in a new house in a new city beginning the year. On the other hand, so many wonderful things have happened this year that its hard to believe it all fit into 12 short months. This year here at Sweet Potatoes and Social Change we published 52 new AIP/Paleo recipes, and discussed many topics ranging from stress, to parasites, to fertility. We heard inspirational stories from other members of our community and we shared our struggles and our triumphs. So, as we say goodbye to 2015 I thought it was only fitting to look back over everything we ate and talked about this past year!

2015 Year End Review:

2015 Superlatives: 

Most Popular Recipe of 2015: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Creamy Maple Frosting (AIP/Paleo)

Most Popular Discussion Post of 2015: Loving Someone with a Chronic Illness- One Husband’s Perspective

My Favorite Recipe of 2015: Raspberry Carob Truffles (AIP/Paleo)

My Favorite Discussion Post of 2015: Why I am Proud to Be an Autoimmune Warrior

Over 52 New Recipes: 

30 New Discussion Posts: 

3 Tips for Creating a Supportive Community (While On the Autoimmune Protocol)

Healing Ulcerative Colitis with the Autoimmune Protocol: My Story (An Update)

6 Ways to Get Started Healing Your Gut

There is Only 100%: The Importance of True Commitment When Following the Autoimmune Protocol

AIP and Conventional Medicine: Finding a Balance that Works for You!

20 Valentine’s Day Date Ideas That Don’t Involve Food

Finding the Missing Link: Troubleshooting on the Autoimmune Protocol

How The Autoimmune Protocol Changed the Way I Look at My Body

Why Batch Cooking is the Answer to A lot of Your AIP Problems

Hormonal Birth Control and Autoimmune Disease

5 Steps For a Healthier Life

Learn How to Cook Like Your Grandmother and Save Time in the Kitchen: AIP Batch Cook

Has Contemporary Medicine Made Us Lazy?

AIP Easter Recipe Roundup

20 Awesome Ways to Flavor Kombucha

The No ‘Poo Hair Washing Method… My Experience in Review

AIP Summer Recipe Roundup

Why I Am Proud To Be An Autoimmune Warrior

3 Tips For Dealing With a New Diagnosis

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

How Parasites Affect Your Health

5 Tips for Healthier Sleep

Healing From Ulcerative Colitis- Jesse’s Story

I Don’t Have Time for AIP

Why Can Some People Eat Junk Food Without Getting Sick?

Shopping For A Non Toxic Mattress

Telling The Truth About Chronic Illness

Tips For Improving Health and Fertility Before Trying to Conceive

Shopping AIP or Paleo at Aldi

Paleo and AIP Holiday Gift Ideas