Health Journey - Part 4

Ahh.. sitting in the sun while writing this is a nice relief from the really crazy weather we were having in Ontario. Dare I get a HOT COFFEE instead of a cold one? The answer is yes, haha.

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So I got my results back from a stool test I took via my Functional Medicine doctor. AAAAND I have a yeast overgrowth as well as 2 parasites. FUN. So I had the choice between taking herbal supplements (which, having studied the basics of herbalism from an herbalist there are some pretty powerful herbs out there) or wait to convince my GP Family Doctor to prescribe me something. I felt as though I would risk it and try the herbal supplements. I mean, I guess the prescription medicine would be a risk, too, given how sensitive my system has been lately.

People often ask me why I’m gluten intolerant, specifically what physical symptoms made me realize that I was. None. I really didn’t feel like I was suffering from chronic IBS or anything else gastrointestinal except during my period. I thought it was normal for me to have horrible symptoms during it. Guess I was wrong and guess I’ve had a PARASITE contributing to it (let’s hope when it clears I will no longer have those symptoms.)

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Back to how I found out. I suspected I had some sort of food intolerance when I would drink wine or beer and feel my throat closing up. Scary. So I went to one Ontario Health covered allergist and they told me the couldn’t test for a food allergy. Okay. So then I found out a NATE allergist practiced in Ottawa as recommended by my friend. LOOKING BACK, I question the legitimacy of that allergy test but that’s another story.

The allergist told me to cut out all grains except for quinoa and rice, all dairy, all legumes, all nightshade vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers) and sulphites (which was in the alcoholic beverages I was having an allergic reaction to). Around the same time, I was suffering from very severe paranoia, depression and panic attacks. Because I saw an alternative allergist, she conducted a thorough health history so I listed these things. She told me about how eliminating these food groups as well as supplementing with a few different vitamins could help heal me.

WELL, I was fucking desperate to live, literally. I went with it full force to the incredible annoyance of my employees at the time (I made gourmet sandwiches for a living so I completely understand), my Italian (now) in laws (though they never showed it) and my friend group at the time. Said friends were so convinced that I was lying to them that I had an allergy to alcohol to avoid hanging out with them. I know, how high school. 

Anyway, I know this now, but these food groups are also cut out of an Autoimmune Protocol meal plan (kind of like a deeper intervention version of a Paleo / Primal diet) as well as Dr. Gundry's Plant Paradox.  So whether or not that allergy test was legitimate or not, it allowed my gut to heal and for my psychological symptoms to dissapate, most likely due to the fact that I was actually absorbing nutrients again and therefore my nervous system began functioning properly. Not only that but my skin eczema went away as well as chronic hip and knee pain I was suffering. Wild. This was a point in my career where I realized that food can be healing and that I would incorporate it into my work as a chef. 

I know this is a long entry but I also want to speak from the point of view of people like Michael Pollan and Sally Fallon, two proponents of eating grains and dairy how our first farmers did. These two, and rightly so, argue that grains and dairy aren’t inherently bad, but it is how the modern food industry has processed them that eliminates our ability to digest them. I spent many a month eating grains solely this way and eliminating dairy prior to my allergy test with little physical benefit but there could be other reasons why I wasn’t feeling well. I was mostly vegetarian and I now know that we need animal fats to absorb certain vitamins in our body.

 Cauliflower Rice & Flank Steak.  

Cauliflower Rice & Flank Steak.  

I know!! It’s complicated but only because we have been so far removed from the natural way of eating. Plant Paradox author Dr. Gundry is gaining some traction too along the with many parallels to Pollan and Fallon. He has found that our digestibility, particularly of legumes and nightshade vegetables, need to be processed how people did during pre-industrial times. A lot of it is in the science!

I would like to suggest the following advice that pushed me to finally dish out the cash monies and pay for a Functional Medicine doctor.  If you try a diet and heal, that’s great. It’s even better if you can work with someone who can monintor your symptoms and understand your blood work. I chose this much more costly approach because I had been tired of guessing what foods I ate affected me in which way. I think I now realize, though it's interesting to know, it's not what's most important. I want to approach food in a healthy way and and not have it rule my life. I'm happy I spent some years obessing over it because I learned a lot about myself and the way food impacts our well being. But now, after my gut heals a bit, I hope to not think about it so much.

Asparagus & Roasted Red Pepper Frittata

Normally, I'm a stickler for tradition when it comes to cooking from recipes even if it takes longer! A frittata is started on a stove top in an oven safe skillet then finished in a broiler. I was really happy that this recipe turned out since you don't need an oven safe skillet. Just grease a glass deep pie plate or square baking pan and you're good to go!

Here's a recipe that's great as a grab and go breakfast or lunch. Elevate it as the main dish of the meal with a lovely fennel salad on the side and some micro basil or cilantro as a garnish. Enjoy the incoming fresh veggies!

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Asparagus, Roasted Red Pepper & Pork Frittata
keto, paleo, gluten free, can be made dairy free
serves 6

10 large eggs
2 tbsp cashew milk or heavy cream
2 tbsp olive oil
250 g ground pork
1/2 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cup asparagus, washed and sliced 1cm thick on a bias
1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper (or make your own, see below)
1 tsp thyme, dried
1/2 tsp white pepper
salt and black pepper to taste
ghee or oil to grease

Preheat oven to 400F

Grease a deep dish 9" pie plate with ghee and set aside. 

Whisk eggs in a bowl and stir in cashew milk. Season with salt and black pepper, set aside.

Heat a medium-sized skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Add minced onion to skillet and sauté until they begin to sweat, about 3 min. Add ground pork, thyme, white pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until pork is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add sliced asparagus and season with salt and sauté for 3 minutes.

Slice roasted red pepper into 1" long, 1"cm wide strips.  

Add whisked eggs to greased pie dish. Distribute pork & asparagus mix over the egg mixture evenly. Top with strips of roasted red pepper.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and centre is cooked through.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Note: To roast your own roasted red pepper

  • heat stove top element or small skillet to medium heat
  • slowly blister red pepper in skillet, about 5 min per side
  • place blistered red pepper into a bowl and immediately cover tightly with plastic wrap, set aside for 10 min
  • use a paring knife to peel away the skin off the pepper (it should slide right off with little effort, places on the pepper that aren't roasted enough may be harder to peel)
  • slice in half and remove the seeds
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Health Journey - Part 3 Intermittent Fasting

Well.. a few weeks have passed and I’m feeling pretty amazing.. not gonna lie. Ok, well, except for that massive headache I had two days ago. It was just as bad as when I first started Keto. I think I pushed my intermittent fasting a little too much.

The idea of intermittent fasting is that one tries to have one open window a day where no food is consumed for 12-16 hours. It might sound extreme but it’s more like, finish dinner at 7pm, don’t eat the next day until 7am. For some, they get so ‘keto adapted’ (primarily using fat molecules for energy instead of glucose) that they don’t feel hungry until lunch time. I tried that the other day and a) probably didn’t drink nearly enough water that morning or b) I’m just not suited for a 16 hour fast. I’m down with that. I like breakfast anyway! The overarching idea is that without insulin in your blood being raised often, you are less likely to snack and truly are aware to then eat when you are hungry / need calories and not need to feed the insulin blood glucose!

 Grilled Asparagus with feta anyone?

Grilled Asparagus with feta anyone?

A lot of information out there for the keto diet is male-centric. There are no ideal parameters for either female or male however a lot of the information out there is biased towards men. That being said, I’m awaiting my next period with extreme curiosity (mostly trepidation) because my hopes are that my hormones & IBS will be mitigated by this monitored diet change (plus herbal medication and supplements as given to me based on my symptoms by my Functional Medicine Doctor).

I was speaking with a friend of mine about how to approach speaking about my dysmenorrhea on the blog and she reminded me that women need more information online about it. To eliminate the taboo of speaking about periods is pretty important in our opinion because periods are such a clear indication of health and, hell, 50% of the fricken world HAS  (or will / has had) THEM.

 I haven't even been able to buy tickets for anything in case my period happened, my pain was taking over my life. Hopefully this year's summer festival season will be different.

I haven't even been able to buy tickets for anything in case my period happened, my pain was taking over my life. Hopefully this year's summer festival season will be different.

Back to my keto diet reform, I’m no longer scared of how it may limit my enjoyment of food. I actually feel like I have MORE freedom than on a Whole30 or anything an allergist / health practitioner has suggested I omit from my diet. I’m finding that dairy doesn’t affect me nearly as much. I had no idea that there was a concept that one can be carbohydrate intolerant. It makes sense that dairy would aggravate me if I coupled such a high fat food with something high carb (pizza anyone?). LATTEES FOREVER! It’s wild.

 Beautiful Del Cielo Restaurant in Tulum, Mexico

Beautiful Del Cielo Restaurant in Tulum, Mexico

So now that I am slowly eating more dairy and finding my limit with that, I am curious to try something with gluten in it again.. so long as I don’t eat more than 30 grams of net carbs in a meal. This means that my main worry (trying food I cook for clients or for recipe development) won’t be an issue so long as I don’t exceed how many carbs my body can take. Food freedom, ya’ll.

I also have gotten over any orthorexia fears because of this. I initially felt as though I needed to be extremely diligent and not have an OUNCE of refined sugar, grain, potato in my body. Having keto sticks at my disposal, I can measure my body’s reaction after eating a bite of cake or some battered food and make sure I am still in ketosis. I don’t measure it after every meal if I don’t consume anything too carb heavy.

I have also been listening to some good Keto podcasts and a lot of them always have an encouraging message to not beat yourself up if you eat something you’re not ‘allowed’ to. I’ve really been self aware when it comes to how I speak to myself about food to make sure I’m not approaching this dietary change with self hatred or perfection.

This podcast was really good at addressing the fact that women have been marketed diets their whole lives, a lot of which have rules to follow. It’s great for those who are interested in making any dietary change that has been prescribed for your health without feeling pressure on oneself to be perfect following it. Be patient and do it gradually for maximum success! The only ‘rule’ I would suggest is to eliminate negative and self destructive language about ANYTHING you eat or are thinking about eating. Easier said than done but there are more and more educated women speaking about the concept of Food Freedom.

What has been that one habit or food that you've come to peace with or have struggled with your relationship with.

 

Health Journey - Part 2 Keto Flu and Initial Reaction

Thanks for checking in!

I decided to go full force into a ketogenic diet. Some people, including my functional medicine doctor, suggested I add one ketogenic meal at a time but since I had done the Whole30 diet, I decided to go all in. It was pretty simple since I was used to being mindful of what had sugar in it and what didn’t. However confident I was going into eating keto without worry, I was pretty grumpy because of the VEGETABLE limitations I had. I was sad about the lack of variety I would have my hands on. I started really getting into potatoes and fruit on a Whole30 diet…

 Throwback to vacationing in Tulum, Mexico. Chillin' and wondering how to stop the bloat!

Throwback to vacationing in Tulum, Mexico. Chillin' and wondering how to stop the bloat!

TMI alert: My period also came earlier than expected so the combination of a dramatic carbohydrate reduction, AND having to do an induced stool test AND having my period was NOT happy making. No matter how much water I drank (ok, I had coconut water too which has too many carbs for a keto diet), I still had the most splitting headaches I’d ever experienced.

There’s something called a Keto flush, that happens when you start to train your body to burn fat molecules instead of glucose for energy. Apparently, each gram of carbohydrate in your body holds onto 3 grams of water. Thus, the lack of carbs makes your body eliminate any excess water hanging around. And LEMMYTELLYOU, it’s been a couple of weeks and I feel a lot less bloated. I really wanted to get rid of the painful 3 months pregnant looking bloat I have been chronically experiencing. I was feeling lighter after doing my last Whole30 but then I went on a pasta making spree.. all in the name of RECIPE DEVELOPMENT. Ok, and personal enjoyment.

 Spiralized vegetables are fun tho. Get this salad recipe  here .

Spiralized vegetables are fun tho. Get this salad recipe here.

Hopefully this is my answer to years of painful periods! The only problem isssss this very restrictive diet. I had to actually apply to become a patient with this functional medicine doctor which included providing my personal goals for my long term health. One of them was to know how much food I can TASTE while recipe developing and working as a chef. OR I just move towards a paleo / keto blog and cheffing business. I really don’t feel like changing careers ENTIRELY, please. Not yet anyway – unless someone needs a full time karaoke / rapper / actress? 

One of my cheerleaders, Rich, is confident that if anyone can come up with fun keto meals it would be me so I’m trying! I made a really delicious Asparagus & Roasted Red Pepper Frittata that was really delicious! If you want the recipe, I can write it out for you for the next blog post. Let me know and I’ll write it up.

Until next time!

            

Health Journey: Part 1 - My first visit to a Functional Medicine Doctor

Hello!

It's been a while since I've last blogged. I've been navigating this world of health and wellness, cooking for those with dietary restrictions or wanting a reset for a number of years now. I'd love to share with you what mistakes I've made and what approach I am taking now. 

No, there are no fun photos or videos associated with this, yet. Enjoy!

 mmm.. diner breakfast: not ketogenic as is

mmm.. diner breakfast: not ketogenic as is

I just got back from a Functional Medicine doctor, a naturopath with an integrative approach to medicine. I asked my General Practitioner friend what she had heard of Functional Medicine. She replied, "nothing". She asked why I wanted to go see one and I told her that Functional Medicine doctors look for the cause of what's ailing people. She responded by saying that all doctors should be doing that... UGH.

I was nervous to proceed with the appointment with the naturopath. I only have the initial visit covered by my health insurance and I had already been to several doctors with the following results:

2 GPs (test results = I'm fine)
1 allergist (not allergic to anything but here, take this Epi Pen prescription for that anaphylaxis you experience)
1 allergist for NAET diagnoses and treatment (remedied my ailments for 1 year)
1 herbalist intermittently for herbal tinctures and lifestyle advice
1 gynaecologist using an ultrasound and not finding any cysts or weirdness

Maybe I should go over what's ailing me. I want a solution for my dismennoreah, or FUCKING PAINFUL PERIODS that make me bed ridden for 2-4 days of my period. I had already cut out gluten (and most grains as I was told to do by my second allergist visit) and since then, (not expecting it either!) the grain elimination got rid of my depression, cognitive difficulties (think hearing things and feeling the floor falling from me) and am no longer anaphylactic to what I now know was caused by sulfites. However, I can't afford to or WANT to be bed ridden for 2-4 days anymore.

How was it seeing a Functional Doctor?
Good! She seemed legit which was nice. After some recent experiences, I've been weary of anything self-help that's of the 'alternative' variety.

We went through the progression of my periods throughout my life and other big events in my life like surgery, development of allergies, living conditions, supplement and medication history, what and when had my symptoms improved or nah.

I am going to do a stool sample (WHAT I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO - YAY!) to see if I don't have an underlying parasite, bacteria, dinosaur, etc living in there that's wreaking havoc.

I've also got some supplement advice. I had already been taking some that I had suspected had been helping me but I was corrected on dosage (aka WHY YOU SHOULD SEE A PROFESSIONAL).

Last but not least, I was told to eat a.. dun dun dun.. ketogenic diet! BOO! I have come to love my plantain chips and fruit yoghurt but I'll try it. I almost eat that way anyway. I feel like this, however, is a gateway to moving into a new career path.

 I wonder how phó will taste like without noodles. I'll ask to sub in extra vegetables.

I wonder how phó will taste like without noodles. I'll ask to sub in extra vegetables.

Reaction to a Dietary Change Verdict

I'm tired of being tired. I takes so much for me to recover from the trauma of the pain of my periods. I need healing. 

Honestly.. how I feel is a loss of identity. Loss of my chef identity.. loss of cultural identity.. I know this could be interpreted as a bit of an extreme, but I want to be part of innovative cuisine. Hell, I have a plethora of bad-ass gluten free recipes that taste like the real thing, damnit. I want to EAT IT but at least I can still share it. 

Another frustrating part is that I don't know if this all means I need to MOVE. I know that health is also a function of lifestyle. The only time in my life where I was the most consistently happy and period pain-free was when I lived in IRELAND. When I look at my time there, I was doing all the things that a Ketogenic or Paleo - centric medical professional refer to in terms of nutrient intake and lifestyle.. lemmy break it down:

  • only eat high quality fats (nothing we cooked with was pre-made.. we only ate pasture raised animals, raw milk dairy for butter, milk and cheese)
  • bone broth (we made it every morning and used it in many many dishes)
  • locally and seasonally, mostly vegetable diet

I know that it's possible to recreate that in Ottawa but it was so easy over there... maybe keep an eye out for me in Ireland.

Pozzies (positive aspects)

At least I'm practicing what I preach by doing what I've been telling people who ask me what kind of diet to eat, "find a professional to help you.. don't blindly just try diet or lifestyle changes without someone to measure the results". Why? You are removed from your own biases and inclinations. It's motivating to see lab test results as they improve with your efforts under the watfchfull eye of a professional.

Alright, stay tuned for more posts! Let me know if you are going though the same thing below. Navigating through the online world of health and wellness can be confusing I know. I've been obsessively listening to podcasts with experts and can't wait to share more resources with you!