Tag Archives: Autoimmune

Fresh Broccoli Salad (AIP/Paleo)

Fresh Broccoli Salad (AIP/Paleo)

For a long time, even after beginning AIP most raw vegetables were off limits for me. They would tear me up and give me indigestion for days. I dreaded going over to someone’s house who had kindly cooked for me only to find that salad was on the menu. I knew how healthy it was and I wanted to eat it, but my body just couldn’t handle it. Looking back now, that just makes me happy for how far I have come. I eat salad almost daily now an no raw veggie sends me running for the hills.

Even though I am still in the process of fine-tuning my digestive health my overall improvement has been remarkable and there are days where I need to remind myself of that.

It is so easy to get bogged down in whatever the challenge of the day is, which for me, right now, is battling intestinal parasites and a tapeworm that I had no idea I had. I get frustrated by the small battles lost; the one day of low energy, the unexpected test result, the site of a small drop of blood, the slight bloating of my belly and I forget about the many wars I have won. I forget about years I spent with my stomach distended to look 7 months pregnant, I forget about the months on end when I couldn’t get out of bed, I forget about the tears I cried in the doctors office when I thought the bleeding would never stop. Honestly, I forget because I don’t often want to remember. Its easier to move forward without too many past memories weighing me down, but at the same time the past adds value to the present. Which is why, I actually look at this simple recipe as a celebration of a healing victory.

You don’t appreciate the deliciousness of a fresh raw vegetable until you can’t enjoy it, so fill up your summer with lots of green goodness, take a break from today’s battle and remind yourself of you victories.

Fresh Broccoli Salad (AIP/Paleo)


Fresh Broccoli Salad (AIP/Paleo)


3 cups of fresh broccoli florets

5 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled

¼ cup of raisins

½ red onion chopped

¼ cup of full fat coconut milk

2 TBS honey


½ tsp salt


In a large bowl combine your broccoli. Bacon, raisins and onion. In a small bowl combine your coconut milk, honey, apple cider vinegar and salt to make your dressing. Pour your dressing over the salad and toss until all of the broccoli is coated. Serve cold.





3 Tips For Dealing With a New Diagnosis

3 Tips for Dealing with a New Diagnosis

Diagnoses are tricky for those of us with chronic illness. We all know the emotional cocktail that comes from waiting for test results. Part of us waits in anticipation hoping that they will find something, anything, that will allow us to move forward and feel better. The rest of us waits is fear of the unknown scared of what those tests could or could not say.

Then when the news comes and we get that news we are stopped in our tracks. I remember going in for an exploratory surgery that was meant to find the endometriosis that I had been told I had for over 3 years only to wake up and hear that they had found nothing. Then, four years later I went in for a colonoscopy after experiencing some blood in my stool. I was assured that it was probably hemorrhoids, but when I woke up I was told that it was ulcerative colitis and shown pictures of the inside of my bleeding colon. This week I was waiting on results from a comprehensive stool analysis and out of nowhere I got an email from my doctor informing me that I had tested positive for a parasitic infection and a tapeworm… (WTF?) The emotions of these events always hit me in stages. At first I take it in stride because it is honestly overwhelming to take it all in. Then I go into the laugh it off stage where I just say something along the lines of, ”Oh whatever, this would happen to me” Then I go into the questioning and shocked phase where I just think back over past events trying to figure out how this could have happened, then anxiety about the future and ramifications of the diagnosis, then finally some level of acceptance.

Everyone has a different reaction to this type of event, but we can all agree that it is an emotional experience.

Here are 3 things that I have found make the experience a little bit easier:


1. Find A Doctor Who You Actually Want to Work With: 

With my past diagnoses I was working with doctors who I already felt had failed me before I even received my diagnosis. The OB/GYN who handled my suspected endometriosis had ignored my symptoms and stuck me on birth control for years. The gastroenterologist who gave me my UC diagnosis had ignored inflammatory markers in my stool test and insisted that I just had IBS for over a year until my symptoms got so bad I called the office begging for a colonoscopy. This time around though I m working with a doctor that I want to be working with. I feel confident that she has my best interest at heart and I agree with her methods. This takes a tremendous amount of the pressure off of me.

2. Be Honest With The People Around You:

If you’re like me and your issues and diagnoses tend to be of a sensitive nature your first inclination is to keep them a secret. I mean who really wants to tell their other 25 year old friends about their colonoscopy and their stool testing? However after years of doing that I finally realized that keeping secrets was only hurting me. When I was feeling ok it was fine, but when I was sick and I needed help no one knew how to help me. Now I am just honest and even though some people may be kind of grossed out when I tell them that I have a tapeworm at least two days later when I don’t feel well from the medicine and I need to stay in bed, they know why.

3. Confront The Diagnosis Head On:

Being in denial or feeling resigned to your fate is another very common coping mechanism, but it isn’t going to do any good. This is how I handled my UC diagnosis initially. I was in my lest semester of college I was engaged, planning a wedding, and the last thing I wanted to deal with was the thought of having a chronic disease. So, I didn’t. I just did what the doctor told me and carried on. The only problem with that was that a year and half later my life came tumbling down when the medicine stopped working and I couldn’t get out of bed. My new husband didn’t know what he had just signed up for and neither did I. We learned and we adjusted, but it was not easy. Sooner or later you will be forced to deal and it is much easier to start earlier.

3 Tips for Dealing with a new diagnosis

Hormonal Birth Control and Autoimmune Disease

Hormonal Birth Control and Autoimmune Disease

My Story: 

As many of you know, my specific interest and quasi expertise within the natural health realm lies in the world of women’s health. I am a childbirth doula and that has led me to become well versed in the issues that affect women, especially young women, on a daily basis. A doula is not a medical professional or someone who can make medical recommendations, but rather someone who is well versed in current research, evidenced based practice, and can point people in the direction of research and resources that they may find useful and helpful in making personal decisions. It is this mindset, combined with my own personal health journey and experiences that has led me to write this post on hormonal birth control (HBC) and autoimmune disease.

My journey with HBC began in eighth grade when I began to experience severe and unexplained abdominal pain on a daily basis. Many times each day I would be overcome by a contraction-like pain that would originate in my sides and back and would wrap around to my front and build to an excruciating level before dissipating about 2 minutes later. The pain would cause me to turn completely white and feel nauseated and light headed. However, it happened so frequently that I learned to just work through it so that no one would notice. This, partnered with frequent dull pain localized in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen became a regular and concerning experience. I went to the ER for an appendicitis more times than I can count and each time they would send me home without a diagnosis but the assumption that the pain was gynecological in nature. Shortly after the pain began, my mom took me to a friendly female OB/GYN who diagnosed me with suspected endometriosis. I was put on a birth control bill that suppressed all but four cycles a year and told that they would monitor it. The pain never really went away, but I kind of liked only having four periods a year and I was not in a place in life where I ever thought to question a diagnosis or a doctor’s advice. This went on for about 3 years when, in my junior year of high school, I agreed to an exploratory laparoscopy to have the long suspected endometriosis fully diagnosed and hopefully removed. I went to the hospital, went to sleep and fully expected to wake up to a full endometrial report. Instead, I woke up to my mom’s voice telling me that they hadn’t found anything. For three years I had lived with a completely unfounded diagnosis and now I was lying in a hospital bed for absolutely no reason. I was understandably frustrated but after three years it was fairly easy to just pick up and carry on. At this point, I was so used to being on HBC that I decided to just stay on it after the surgery. That was until about 6 months later.

Seemingly out of nowhere I started experiencing severe insomnia, anxiety, upsetting dreams, and feelings of emotional detachment. For a few months I kept these symptoms to myself hoping that they would just go away, but before long I began feeling increasingly depressed and detached and I told my mother how I was feeling. As someone who had never tolerated HBC well, she immediately identified my symptoms as HBC side effects and within days of stopping the pill I was feeling normal again.

After that experience, I stayed off of HBC for about a year and half but because my health was so poor that my hormones remained unbalanced and I dealt with terrible PMS symptoms, ovulation symptoms, and miserable periods. I felt like I was constantly at the mercy of my hormones. Hopeless, I decided to go back on the pill but unlike my early days of HBC use I reacted negatively to every single brand I tried. Some brought back my negative emotional symptoms, one brand made my hands shake constantly, others made me feel physically ill… the list went on and on.

Now through college and with my UC diagnosis, my abdominal pain had resolved and I was preparing to get married and needed to start looking at HBC for its intended purpose rather than just as the hormonal support supplement I had used it for up to that point. I had given up on the pill at this point, but I was still very young and unprepared to have children so I decided to try the Mirena IUD. I liked its reported high level effectiveness and I hoped that having the hormones secreted locally in the uterus rather than having to be digested and absorbed systemically would minimize the side effects.

For about a year I was happy. I had no visible side effects, I wasn’t getting pregnant, and my cycle was super light and short. However, after about a year I started to get painful ovarian cysts almost every month, then I started getting severe breast pain for two weeks out of every month and finally my hair started to fall out. Around that same time I kept running across horror stories of people experiencing seizures, tanking progesterone levels and infertility as a result of the Mirena. I have no idea if any of those stories were true or not, but I had begun AIP at the time and I knew that I would forever live with guilt if I experienced a life changing side effect from the Mirena that I could have prevented. I was still not in a place of being able to support a child so I wanted something that was still highly effective, my husband and I were still in the midst of graduate school craziness so NFP (Natural family planning) was not something that either of us could handle learning about or investing in. After doing my research, I decided to get a non-hormonal copper IUD. I have had it for almost a year now and I love it. It works perfectly for my life, I have had no side effects, and in fact through my diet and lifestyle changes my hormones have been able to balance out naturally. I was recently told by my integrative health doctor after a hormone panel that my levels are “perfect”. I am very happy with my decision, but it is just that MY decision. I know that this is a very personal decision so, here are some points about HBC and autoimmune disease pulled from recent research as well as a list of non-hormonal birth control options to consider.

Hormonal Birth Control and Autoimmune Disease


Research Points:

  • Sex hormones play a large role in regulating the immune system, which make them an important part of managing autoimmune disease (Dr. Sarah Ballantyne)
  • Using HBC and artificially altering sex hormones can make it more difficult to manage autoimmune disease (Dr. Sarah Ballantyne)
  • HBC depletes many vital nutrients including zinc and many of the B vitamins, which in turn weakens the immune system. (Chris Kresser)
  • HBC alters that state of the gut microflora increasing the likelihood of leaky gut, inflammation, gut dysbosis, and can even effect the gut microflora of future children. (Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride and Chris Kresser)


For information on recovering from long term HBC use check out this source


Non-Hormonal Birth Control Options:

Copper Paragard IUD: more than 99% effective, not dependent on correct use. Lasts for 10 years or more. Works by disrupting sperm and secreting copper into the uterus which affects implantation. Best for women who want to avoid pregnancy for an extended period of time. Must be put in by a health care provider. Does not protect against STIs.

NFP (Natural Family Planning): 80-98% effective depending on correct use. This is a great options for couples in a long term, monogamous relationship who are comfortable with the efficacy rate and are willing to work together to communicate and plan ahead. It is also best used when a woman has a predictable 28 day cycle. Does not protect against STIs.

Male Condoms: 85-95% effective depending on correct use. Easy to access, does not require a health care provider. Does protect against STIs.

Diaphragm: 86-94% effective depending on use. Does not protect against STIs. Good for a woman who does not want to rely on condoms and is comfortable with the efficacy rate. Must be fitted by a doctor.






Paleo Raspberry Carob Truffles (AIP)

Recently, I was asked by Lauren over at Empowered Sustenance to write a guest post on her site. I have loved her site for a long time. In fact, she was one of the first people I ever read about who was also trying to manage ulcerative colitis naturally. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to share this recipe on her blog, so I hope you all will click through and show her some love! 

Paleo Raspberry Carob Truffles

Raspberry Carob Truffles (AIP/Paleo)

My very first job, outside of babysitting and pet sitting, was in a chocolate store. That seems a little funny to me now since I haven’t had more than a few bites of chocolate in over a year, but I was a sophomore in high school and I couldn’t think of a job more fun. It was a little local chocolate shop with all sorts of handmade confections.  The shelves were lined with everything from eggnog truffles in the winter to chocolate covered fruit in the summer. My job was to handle the customers, decorate the store and decorate the chocolate. In return, I got paid a little over five dollars an hour and was allowed to have a piece of chocolate or two per shift. Not a bad deal for a 16 year old in a small town.

While I’ve never had an overwhelmingly strong sweet tooth I absolutely love the intricacy of baking and making desserts. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking every day meals too, but there is just something so artistic and beautiful about creating that perfect treat. That treat that makes you feel like you are spoiling yourself; experiencing something luxurious. 

However, if you are on any sort of a restricted diet for an extended period of time it can be easy to lose that sense of fun and excitement that comes with enjoying a special treat.  I have been following the autoimmune protocol for over a year now and while I have seen amazing improvements in my ulcerative colitis symptoms it can sometimes feel like I am only eating to heal rather than to enjoy the experience of food.  This feeling can become especially pronounced around holidays, when everyone else is indulging in sweets, eating out at restaurants, or drinking fancy cocktails.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I wanted to create a recipe that was both luxurious and safe for those of us seeking to enjoy the holiday without sacrificing any of our hard work. The result was even more fabulous than I could have imagined!

Raspberry Carob Truffles (AIP/Paleo)When I thought up the idea for this recipe I was somewhat skeptical of my ability to make it work, it has been a long time since those days in the chocolate shop, but I wanted to try. How could a truffle, free of chocolate, dairy, refined sugar, and nuts turn into something truly luxurious and indulgent? I set to work with excitement and reserve only to have these little beauties turn out perfectly on the first try! I took a bite of the first one and audibly squealed with delight! I gave one to my husband later and the next words out of his mouth were “are there more of these?!” 

If you are in the process of healing through diet and lifestyle changes, you have made a really difficult but rewarding commitment. True healing is not found in constantly “paleo-izing” treats or solely eliminating certain foods. Elimination must be paired with the addition of nourishing, nutrient dense foods like bone broth, leafy greens and grass-fed meat. However, I strongly believe that long term healing is also found in feeling satisfied as well as nourished. So, this Valentine’s Day don’t eye those cheesy heart shaped boxes of chocolates with looks of longing and depravation, whip up a batch of these lovely truffles and indulge in the fact that healing never tasted so good!

For The Recipe Click HERE

AIP Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

AIP Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings (AIP/Paleo)

Growing up I moved around a lot so I had a particular fondness for things that were consistent and familiar. So, one of my favorite places to go out to eat was the restaurant Cracker Barrel. We started going to Cracker Barrel with some close family friends around the time that I was 4 or 5 and after that, the familiar atmosphere, smells and tastes always held fond memories for me. For years, I always got the same dish, chicken and dumplings and a root beer (I liked that they served it in the bottle and with a frosted mug). They would bring out a giant bowl of it and I would polish off every single bite. Even as I got older and my preferences changed I would still order the dish every now and again just because the nostalgia and familiarity were so comforting.

Now, as we approach February, my least favorite month of the entire year, and I adjust to living it yet another new place I am finding myself longing for more nourishing versions of the comfort foods of my past. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that emotional eating is the answer to life’s ups and downs, but if it can be both nourishing and comforting then there is nothing wrong with it in my book. This recipe doesn’t taste exactly like the Cracker Barrel version, but it is delicious in its own right and still just as comforting.

Do you have any favorite comfort foods from your childhood?

AIP Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings:


AIP Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings (AIP/Paleo) Soup:

3-4 chicken breasts

1 cup of bone broth

1 tsp sea salt

1 large onion (chopped)

4 cloves of garlic (chopped)

1 cup of full fat coconut milk

2 medium carrots (peeled and chopped)

1 stalk of celery (Chopped)

2 tsp arrowroot flour



1 cup tapioca flour

½ cup coconut flour

¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp salt

3 TBS coconut Oil, melted.

½ Cup of hot water



Put all of the ingredients for the soup except for the arrowroot powder into the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. About an hour before serving add in your arrowroot powder. In a large mixing bowl combine all of your dry ingredients for your biscuit dough. Fold in your coconut oil until the dough becomes crumbly. Pour your hot water over the dough and stir until the dough forms a ball. Tear the dough into 1 to 2 inch pieces and place them on top of the soup in the slow cooker. ladle some of the liquid over the dough until it is submerged. Cover the crock pot and allow it to cook on high for another 30 minutes to and hour or until the dough is cooked in the middle.

If you like this recipe share it on Pinterest so that other people looking for AIP recipes can enjoy it too! 

Superfood Energy Bites

Superfood Energy Bites (AIP,Paleo)

As some of you may know, about twice a month I have the opportunity to write a post over at the blog Homemade For Elle. This month, I shared a recipe perfect for those days when you are on the run and in need of an energy boost. I hope you enjoy! 

Simple, on–the-go snacks are something that is taken for granted by most Americans. There are countless mini packages of traditional junk foods like chips, cookies, and even healthier options like Lara bars, lining shelves at the grocery store. However, for people like me on a limited yet nourishing diet, on-the-go snacks can be a challenge. Most gluten and grain free snacks in the stores contain nuts, which can be problematic for many people and still others contain a fair amount of added sugar. This leaves making some at home.

Superfood Energy Bites (AIP, Paleo) If you look up homemade grain free energy bites or snack bars on Google or Pinterest you will inevitable get a very long list of date based ideas. All of them are yummy looking and simple to make. So what is the problem? Well, while dates are perfect for an energy boost they contain a lot of natural sugar which can give you a little bit too much of an energy spike and subsequent crash if not balanced out by some protein. If you’re on the go, the last thing you need is a blood sugar crash.

Grass-fed gelatin is the perfect source of nourishing added protein. Most protein powders are dairy or soy based, making them risky options for most, but grass-fed gelatin is responsibly sourced, animal based and incredibly nourishing. Gelatin is fantastic for improving digesting, healing the lining of the gut, healing joint and cartilage damage and reducing inflammation and irritation (source). It is also incredibly high in protein! 1 TBS of grass fed gelatin contains 11g of protein!

Two of these snack energy bites equals approximately 20g of carbs, 5g of protein and 8.5g of healthy saturated fats, meaning that they are a far more balanced option than anything you’ll find in the store. They also take less time to make than it would take you to go to the right aisle of the store, pick out your favorite snack bar and checkout. So, next time you are going for a hike, on a car trip, or just have a long day filled with running errands and chauffeuring kids, whip up a batch of these and take them with you. They will be just the boost you need!

Click HERE For the Recipe

Roasted Garlic Mashed Rutabagas

Roasted Garlic Mashed Rutabaga (AIP, Paleo)

For me, mashed potatoes are the epitome of comfort food. I have never had much of a sweet tooth, so outside of the occasional treat I always turn to savory foods when I’m looking for something comforting and soothing. When I was sick, when I had my wisdom teeth out, or even just when it had been a particularly cold or long day my go-to food was always mashed potatoes. There is just something about the thick creamy consistency and the way they fill you up and make you feel satisfied that is just delicious.

That being said, up until recently I had never found a perfectly adequate substitute. Obviously, potatoes are a no-go on the autoimmune protocol since they are nightshades and contain glycoalkaloids which are damaging to the lining of the gut. Sweet potatoes are delicious mashed, but they are, by nature, sweet. Mashed cauliflower is also delicious in its own right but usually has a thinner consistency than the starchy potato. Enter the rutabaga. I have been cooking with rutabagas a lot recently but I have always just roasted them in the oven or used them in stews, when all of the sudden a light blub went off one day and I realized that their neutral taste and starchy consistency would make them a perfect mashed potato substitute!

I was not disappointed. This recipe is as simple as it is delicious and will definitely give you that good old southern cooking feel. Pair it with turkey and you will have yourself a perfect feast!


What Is your favorite comfort food?

Roasted Garlic Mashed Rutabaga (AIP, paleo)


Roasted Garlic Mashed Rutabagas

(Serves 4-6)


2 Large Rutabagas (peeled and chopped into large chunks)

2 TBS of Animal Fat (I used bacon fat)

4 cloves of roasted garlic

1 tsp sea salt

2 green onions (diced)

Bone Broth (Optional)



In a large pot, cover your rutabaga chunks with water and bring to a boil. Boil until the rutabaga is tender (about 10 minutes). Drain the pot and add in your animal fat, garlic and sea salt. Using either a masher or your food processor mash/blend your rutabaga to your desired consistency. If you want the consistency to be smoother or creamier, I recommend adding in some bone broth until it is as smooth as you want it. Finally, garnish with your green onions and serve.