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5 Steps For a Healthier Life

5 Steps for a Healthier Life

If you’re new to this blog and you look around you may feel like I am contradicting myself sometimes. On the one hand, I have posts that are all about commitment, the 100% solution, and being hard-core about your health. Then on the other hand I have a few short little listicle posts like this one that break being healthy down into small, context-less steps. So what gives?

5 steps for a healthier lifeWell, this blog is meant to be a resource for everyone who is at all interested in learning about or implementing the elements of a nourished and healing lifestyle. Most of us didn’t just wake up one morning and arbitrarily decide to go from eating easy mac, low fat yogurt, and diet soda to eating on the autoimmune protocol. There was a process that got us to that point. We took smaller steps and experimented with things that helped us decided if fully committing was “worth it”. So, my goal in these short posts is to help that audience choose the steps that are going to make the biggest impact and show the biggest results as a means of encouraging them to further commit to themselves and their health.

If you have already made the commitment, then good for you, please go eat some liver and drink some bone broth and continue being committed, I am proud of you! While you are drinking your bone broth you can send this post to that person in your life who asks you, “ I am not ready to do full AIP, but what are a few things I can do to help my health like you have?” Hopefully, this will help get them off on the right foot!

 

5 Steps For a Healthier Life:

  1. Eat Healthy Fats:

Yes, fat. Fat is not evil, the chemicals and sugar used to replace the fat in your fat free salad dressing is evil. Fat is required for every cell in your body to function properly and it is highly satiating which means it will help stabilize your blood sugar, keep you from over eating, and make you feel full faster and longer. Examples of healthy fat are avocados, coconut oil, animal fat from grass fed or pastured animals, olive oil, or fish oil. Eat a small amount of healthy fat with every meal and I guarantee you will notice a difference in how you feel.

  1. Get Probiotics:

Whether your probiotics come from a high quality supplement like this or from fermented foods like kombucha or sauerkraut, start consuming some daily. Not only do probiotics help your digestion they also help your immune system and they play a crucial role in reducing inflammation.

  1. Sleep:

Yeah yeah yeah we all know that sleep is important. You have probably been hearing that for ages, but for real though sleep is important. Sleep is what allows your body to regulate stress hormones, heal, and do all of the things that increase your quality of life. Without adequate sleep your body gets out of whack fast and you have a problem. Try to come up with a sleep schedule that gives you time to sleep for at least 8 hours each night and stick with it!

  1. Take Walks Outside:

Taking walks outside achieves multiple purposes. First, it’s a good, manageable form of exercise. Low impact, moderate exercises, like walking has been shown to be hugely beneficial for health. Being outside, is a big stress reliever for a lot of people and allows you to get some sunshine which is good for vitamin D production and the immune system.

  1. Take Intentional Down Time

Intentional down time whether it is for 2 hours each night or one day a week is probably the best give you can give yourself. By downtime I mean, time free of obligations that would keep you from taking care of yourself. By intentional, I mean schedule it. If you and your family agree that Friday night is a good night for intentional downtime that means Friday night is off limits to outside social events and free for you all to do whatever things you find fun and relaxing.

 

Finding the Missing Link: Troubleshooting on the Autoimmune Protocol

Why am I Still Not Feeling Better? Troubleshooting on AIP

Even after years of research, trial and error, doctors appointments and tests I still find that a small part of me wants to believe in the concept of a magic bullet; a simple answer, a single diagnosis, an “easy” fix. Honestly, this is a bit comical because every logical and educated part of me knows that no such thing exists. Our bodies are designed through an array of complex systems that all work together, or in some cases, fail together. When one piece of the system stops working every subsequent piece is thrown off and struggles to function properly. Having an autoimmune disease is the health equivalent of taking a beautiful and intricate puzzle and scrambling the pieces.

I spent about eight years living with my pieces scrambled. I had no diagnosis, no solution, I was just sick. I would go to the doctor and get testing done and try to see if we could find two or more pieces that fit together, but they never really fit. Then I got my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis and the perimeter of the puzzle started to take shape. I kind of had a rough framework for what was happening to my body, but it still wasn’t really working. We tried different prescriptions, added on complimentary diagnoses that weren’t really definitive and tried to cram more pieces together unsuccessfully. You could even say that we stuck some pieces in the wrong spots, causing more confusion down the line, but regardless, the perimeter was solid. Then I found the paleo diet and began to understand the connection between what I was eating and the inflammation in my body and some more pieces fell into place. You could even start to make out the picture through the holes.

Then I hit a road block.

I got sick again and it just seemed like the puzzle was doomed. In fact, I had to start taking pieces out in order to find where I had gone wrong. Some of my complimentary diagnoses were misguided and some of my medications were making things much worse than they needed to be. I was about to give up and walk away when I found the autoimmune protocol. All of the sudden a cascade of pieces fell into place. Everything started to take shape. I was addressing the lingering sensitivities in my diet, then I started to address some of the environmental toxins that were possible triggers and I even started to work on managing my stress and my emotions in a healthier way I thought I had this puzzle thing in the bag, until I realized I was still missing the last few pieces.

I couldn’t seem to shake these lingering symptoms.

Why am I Still Not Feeling Better? Troubleshooting on AIPI had a small flare, the result of the stress surrounding a major life change, and after that it seemed that things were still just slightly out of whack. I wasn’t bed ridden like I had been in the past, my world wasn’t falling down around me, I wasn’t really in pain or immobile, I was just not 100%. At first I tried to just wait it out, as if staring at the puzzle for a while would make the pieces magically appear… that didn’t work. Then I started searching for pieces in unlikely places. I wandered away from the perimeter of my autoimmune disease and decided maybe my symptoms were just side effects of medications or some minor, unrelated ailment, which was not the case. Finally, I went back to the original drawing board, the puzzle box, the autoimmune protocol and started to troubleshoot. The Paleo Approach book by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne has a comprehensive troubleshooting checklist in it. I sat down with a pencil and began to work my way through it. I was following the elimination diet, avoiding cross contamination, eating fish 3x per week, eating offal, checking my supplement ingredients, sleeping, managing my stress… I went through the checklist and there was really only three things that came up as possible issues. I could stand to eat more offal, I could try digestive enzymes, and I could get tested for and underlying infections, imbalances, or deficiencies. I poured myself an extra cup of bone broth and decided to look into the concept of digestive enzymes, as I really knew almost nothing about them. I read two helpful articles that I will recommend to you here since I am neither a doctor or a scientist the first was from Dr. Mercola and the second was a resource on the Whole 9 Website

Both of these articles seemed to be in favor of trying digestive enzymes if you were experiencing unresolved digestive issues after changing your diet or if you were dealing with issues surrounding leaky gut. They also seemed to take a just try them and see approach. To be fair, I also read a lot of other articles that stated that no conclusive scientific data existed to support the claim that supplementing with digestive enzymes was beneficial unless you suffered from a severe pancreatic abnormality. Finally, I read a review from a woman who said she had tried them for her fibromyalgia at the suggestion of her naturopath and that they had helped. I decided to give it a try and researched effective and credible brands of enzymes and decided to try this broad-spectrum supplement. I started taking them as directed and to my genuine surprise I could see a notable difference in my overall digestive health within about four days. Just like that, one more puzzle piece fell into place.

My troubleshooting journey is still not over.

I have plans to pursue testing in the near future to rule out or address any lingering hormonal imbalances that may be hindering my healing process, but I have found this process to actually be quite rewarding because it has served as a great reminder that healing through the autoimmune protocol is all encompassing. It is not just about any one lifestyle element or any one part of he picture, it is about putting all of the puzzle pieces back in place. The great news is that most of the time we have all of the information, tools and resources we need right in front of us.

For a full troubleshooting guide I recommend that you purchase either the print or e-book version of The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, but here are a few tips to get you started:

• Are you following all of the recommendations outlined in The Paleo Apprach in regards to diet?

• Are you successfully avoiding cross contamination and exposure to race amounts of gluten and grains?

• Have you double checked your supplements for non AIP ingredients? • Are you eating offal 2-5 times per week?

• Are you eating a variety of foods?

• Are you eating probiotic foods or taking a probiotic supplement?

• Do you avoid eating under duress?

• Are you getting 8-12 hours of quality sleep each night?

• Do you participate in mild to moderate physical activity each day?

• Are you working to decrease stress in your life?

• Have your cortisol levels and thyroid function been tested?

4 Tips for Eating Out on the AIP Diet

eating out on AIP

Eating out is probably one of the most difficult aspects about committing to the AIP diet. I will admit that I have only been able to eat out on a handful of occasions over the past 7 months, but once I found a few good go-to places things got a little bit easier. I still pack my food whenever possible, but sometimes everyone needs a night out, or has to attend a party or function at a restaurant. Here are four of my go to tricks for eating out without compromising health.

 

Burgers: With the popularity of organic and grass-fed meat on the rise, it is beginning to get a little easier to find responsibly sourced meat at restaurants. We have a restaurant near us called Tribeca Tavern that sells local grass-fed burgers. I usually get a burger with avocado and bacon wrapped in lettuce and accompanied by a cooked veggie like asparagus, which they cook in olive oil. Sure, the burger would be better with some condiments, but it is still satisfying and filling and the avocado gives the meal more texture than just eating a plain piece of meat. Add some sparkling water and you’ll feel almost fancy!

Seafood: Steamed seafood or grilled salmon are two of my other go-to options. Many places, like seafood restaurants and steak houses usually have salmon on the menu. I recommend getting it grilled and completely plain. Then add some salt or pepper, if you are having pepper, once it gets to the table. Again pair it with a cooked veggie or a plain sweet potato. Steamed seafood is another delicious choice. Just last week my hubby and I went to the beach for the day and stopped by a seafood restaurant for dinner where we split a heaping plate of steamed shrimp and steamed crab legs with fresh lemon and cooked veggies. All AIP and delicious.

South American Cuisine: This is one of my most exciting recent finds. There is a small Peruvian restaurant near us that a friend recommended to me a while back. I didn’t think much of it until one day when I was desperate for a night off from cooking. We went and checked it out and I was like a kid in a candy store. They had fresh local chicken cooked in a wood burning rotisserie and seasoned with basic spices like salt, garlic and lemon. You get the amount of chicken you want (1/4, 1/2, Or a whole chicken!) with bones, skin and all (a plus for pale folks). As sides they had green plantains (tostones), ripe plantains, and yucca fries to choose from. No flour, no sugar just fried plantain and yucca. I have had all three and none of them made me sick.

Panera Bread Power Menu: Finally, as a last resort, I fall back on the Panera Bread power menu. This will still take a few adjustments to make doable but basically you can put together a combination of meat, lettuce, veggies or avocado and then get a dressing of olive oil and a half a lemon. The turkey and steak are relatively safe, however the chicken has paprika on it so I would not recommend that. It is doable, but you will still be hungry later.

 

Again, like I said. Eating out is not easy on AIP and I honestly wouldn’t recommend it but on the rarest of occasions. However, I do believe that a key to being successful on a restricted diet is finding ways to live your life without feeling deprived and sometimes a night out is a big part of that.