Category Archives: Food & Nutrition

So What’s Wrong With You?

Tea ~ Jasmine Pearls

Do you struggle with any of these or know someone who does? Read on.

Fatigue, chronic illness or gets sick easily, food sensitivities or stomach cramps after eating, migraines, miscarriages or unexplained infertility, preeclampsia, pregnancy complications, birth defects, anemia, low red blood cell count, insomnia, joint pain, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, gallbladder problems, liver problems, brain fog or memory loss, allergic reactions frequently requiring anti-histamines, lip and tongue tie, anxiety, depression, ocd, ad(h)d, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, thyroid issues, addiction, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis or any number of autoimmune diseases, mental illness, psychological, behavioral or neurological problems. Even strange things that make people think you are crazy.

*Disclaimer* I’m not a doctor or medical professional. All I can tell you is from experience and research. Please seek a practitioner for diagnosis, but I am happy to answer questions about my experience! Sorry this is so long, it’s a lot of information and these are just the highlights.

Having stomach cramps for 4 hours after you eat really sucks. Having them and not knowing why and with continually more and more foods obviously sucks more. This started happening about 3 months after my second son was born. This started happening about 3 months after my first son was born too. First with eggs, and then with butter on a sweet potato. It didn’t stop there. After months of this in 2014, with doctors scratching their heads, even after I threw up on the el in Chicago and almost fainted while hitting my son’s 5 month old noggin on the handrail and was traveling by myself after a particularly fatty breakfast with my brother, he suggested maybe it was my gallbladder (Click here to read more on that). By the time I saw the doctor in the ER, my symptoms were gone and she wanted to send me home. I insisted on an ultrasound which showed possible issues with the gallbladder, but I would need to have a HIDA scan done (where they inject a radioactive isotope to see how things are moving with a special scanner) to know for sure. I had no classic symptoms other than stomach cramps after I ate. But, the surgeon recommended we take it out. We did, and I felt great afterwards. No other issues. Until 3 months after I had my second child. Except now I don’t have a gallbladder. And I have 2 littles under the age of 3. Now what?

I was already grieving the loss of my first child’s infant stages with illness and surgery and was so looking forward to enjoying my 2nd baby instead of the blur to just get through the days and nights without an attack. Fear of eating the wrong thing. Fear of lying on the floor or in bed unable to move with no one else home. (This was a stage where my husband was also traveling more for work. A LOT more.) Asking my toddler to bring me my phone so I could call someone. Anyone who would come watch my littles while I wait for this attack to pass. An attack comes on within 10 minutes. I have the most incredible parents, friends and neighbors. You know who you are. And to those who have been fervently praying for me. Thank you from the bottom of this momma’s heart!

We struggled to get pregnant for 1.5-2 years (click here to read more on that). I struggled with extreme fatigue during that whole time. I stopped taking birth control pills in 2010 because I was sure it was making me crazy. I was right and my husband agrees. It made me feel foggy and like my personality was completely subdued. I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome in 2013, shortly before I got pregnant with Zeke. I gave up gluten at that time because I learned that 80% of women with PCOS have a gluten intolerance. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis shortly before I got pregnant with Wesley in fall 2015. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome this fall, in the midst of all of my other health woes. I’m deficient in iron, vitamin d even though I play sand volleyball doubles all summer long, b vitamins, my thyroid hormones are out of whack (tsh, free t3, reverse t3,  free t4), elevated thyroid antibodies, low progesterone, to name a few. I feel my best when I’m pregnant and these things go into remission during that time, but clearly that is not a long term plan unless I decide to take up surrogacy as a hobby. I’ve been taking supplements in these areas for months/years. I see an amazing practitioner of functional medicine and we’ve made a good team the last 1.5 years. What’s the deal, man? What are we missing? We are treating the thyroid, the iron, the female hormones, etc. I saw a GI surgeon who was both elderly and very overweight who handed me a box of pills in our consultation which involved no tests other than a brief abdominal exam and said you have IBS and the only way to treat it is with medication. “So I can’t help it at all with diet or anything else?” He said no. You’re fired. Peace out.

Over a year ago, I had read about instances of Epstein Barr Virus and underlying infection as being a cause for your body going haywire with auto immune disease. This is the virus that causes mono. I had mono when I was 7 when no one else around me had it. 95% of adults have EBV. Just about everyone gets it in infancy or childhood. Many show no signs or symptoms. I asked to be tested. My PCP wasn’t sure why, but we did it anyway. My numbers were through the roof and she was shocked! There are 4 stages, I was positive for all 4 of them – past infection, past exposure, recent exposure and recovering infection. 2 of them in particular should have been below 18. Mine were 189 and 435. Ok, so let’s treat the virus. We did that for about a month, but I was still dealing with digestion issues.

My practitioner recommended we look at genetics to see if I had any predispositions to being unable to absorb certain vitamins and nutrients. Drumroll please…

I have a genetic mutation that prevents me from absorbing and converting B vitamins efficiently! This process is called methylation. The gene is called MTHFR or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. 30-50% of the population has this mutation and it is hereditary.

Ok, what does that mean? Turns out that B vitamins are essential to live.

“Referred to as vitamin B complex, the eight B vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 — play an important role in keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day.” Dailyburn.com

They help your body to naturally detox and reduce inflammation by repairing your cells and making new ones and providing energy in your cells. When you can’t do that efficiently, your health starts to snowball until the problems become bigger and bigger. If you can’t detox, you have a hard time producing things like dopamine and serotonin to feel good, putting you at risk for depression and anxiety. A buildup of toxins and inflammation may start a chain reaction similar to this:

Vitamin B Deficiency

Malnutrition

Toxin Build-up and Inflammation

Immune System Weakness

Auto Immune Response

Food Sensitivities or Allergic Reactions

Stomach Cramps, joint pain, sleep problems, miscarriages/infertility, refer to the list at the top of this post!

All we see are a list of seemingly unrelated symptoms at the bottom of this list or the outside layer of the onion. How can these food sensitivities just be popping up out of nowhere and with no rhyme or reason. I could eat eggs one day and be fine and eat them another and have stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, etc. I’ve been tested for food allergies and actually have very few. We need to dig beneath the surface and look at the body as a whole. Find a physician of functional medicine who will do this with you. All of these things I’ve written about in this post and previous posts all stem back to this gene mutation. You can take a test at home, but it is recommended you see a practitioner trained in this area.

But that’s not all. The combination of the gene mutation and the Epstein Barr Virus were a perfect storm for me. You can have these mutations and it not really impact your life much. Or, you could have them and they can become life threatening. There is usually a trigger that makes it become a problem. For me, that was EBV. At one point in October, I told my husband that I thought I might die. I’ve never said this before in my life! An article published just today about EBV triggering Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease (both thyroid auto immune disorders) had this to say:

“But why is it difficult to eradicate viruses?  Viruses live and replicate inside the cells, and they actually insert their own genetic material into our DNA.  Most active viral infections will eventually result in the death of the host cell, although cells in which the virus is in a dormant state usually function normally.  But the only way to eradicate the virus is by killing the infected cell.  The alternative is to do things to prevent the virus from replicating.”

My mind was blown when I read this. Why aren’t people talking about this?! So the virus is active in me, but I can’t detox the dead cells and can’t make new ones. I’m fighting an uphill battle of malnourishment. We need to come at this from both sides. The article describes some therapies to help with Epstein Barr. With methylation problems, it is recommended you take a methylated B Complex vitamin. If you have this mutation, you cannot convert folic acid and it actually can make you sicker. As many know, this is an important vitamin during pregnancy to prevent birth defects and genetic abnormalities. Folic acid is often fortified in things like cereals and pastas, so it is best to stay away from fortified foods like this and your multi-vitamin likely contains folic acid. Avoid taking antacids as they block B12 absorption.  The list goes on. And use caution with drinking alcohol and smoking as they often impede the methylation process and may put you at risk for any number of diseases, stroke, cancer, etc., later on.

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My Instagram Post December 30, 2016

Dec. 30, 2016 – “Friends, just being transparent here. You think you want what the outside of this body looks like. You don’t. It costs something. I weighed 137 lbs when I woke up this morning. (I’m 6’0” tall and 6 months post partum, having gained 60 lbs in my first pregnancy and 50 lbs with my second pregnancy, and gave birth to 8#12oz & 10#10oz babies) And I’m still nursing. Clothes that fit me fine pre-pregnancy now fall off. I feel incredibly insecure about what people think when they look at me. “You lost that baby weight fast!” “Do you even eat?” “Wish I could look like that after having a baby!” This is not healthy. This is malnourished. It’s terrifying. You have no idea what this has been like or what my family has gone through. Nothing good comes from comparing yourself to someone else or someone else’s journey. Truly.
Sorry to leave you hanging while we figure out what’s going on. Still processing everything and we think we have found the root cause of why I’ve been so sick since the beginning of September. Keep praying and encouraging and I’ll have a blog post update in hopefully a week or two. Know that I feel the best I have felt in months and my digestion has drastically improved.”

I am feeling much better with regard to digestion. I feel a great amount of fatigue currently, but apparently this can be normal as my body recovers and detoxes. It’s a wait and see game with dosages of vitamins. I’m also taking naltrexone to reduce my antibodies – related to the EBV infection because they are also attacking my thyroid and stomach simultaneously with the autoimmune piece of the puzzle. I’m hoping to see this snowball into my other symptoms with Hashimoto’s, PCOS and others. Only time will tell. I now know that I did not need my gallbladder removed. And that post partum for me is a time of depletion, detox and restoration. I’ve just been unable to restore my own body. My problem is not “solved,” and POOF I will be all better now. It is something I have to maintain for the rest of my life. Some days will be good days, great even! Other days will just be “hanging in there,” as I’ve said I have been for the last 4 months. It is truly a miracle that I’ve had not just 1, but 2 healthy babies without a miscarriage or major birth defects. I praise God everyday for those huge blessings and I pray for the strength and perseverance to enjoy them moving forward. I also pray that this helps someone else because I will wonder the rest of my days if my grandmother would still be with us had this one small change of taking methylated b vitamin complex helped her instead of losing her battle with Alzheimer’s at age 70, as she was forgetful for as long as I’d known her.

Be encouraged! Cheers to improved health in 2017!

Fall Flavors

I just wanted to take a moment to give you some links to some really delish recipes I’ve been making lately. All are gluten free & vegetarian, because that’s the house that I live in:

Butternut Squash Soup – I added garlic to this
Buckwheat Pumpkin Pancakes – I like that it’s not overly sweet, great with apple butter
Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal – I used GF rolled oats
Mexican Rice – Not fall, but the best I’ve ever had!
Homemade Granola – again, GF oats
Omelette – Best simple omelette I’ve found. I add in garlic & veggies to the mix before pouring into the pan. This has saved me in my pregnancy to make sure I’m eating a nice, big breakfast first thing.
Roasted Butternut Squash – At $.99/lb, stock up and make this a lot! The maple syrup is optional in my book. Orange juice is the secret ingredient here!

Enjoy!

Having a Baby is Like Studying for a Test – Part 2: Pain Management

Tea ~ Orange Swirl Rooibos

This is Part 2 of 2 – Read Part 1 here
I think every woman fears being a mom at one point or another. Is it becoming a parent we fear, or is it childbirth we fear? For me, it’s the latter. Pop culture does an excellent job of exaggerating life and life events, sometimes funny and sometimes not so funny. The problem with it is that it morphs into our perception of reality. Let’s take pornography, for example. If your child’s first introduction into sexual relationships between 2 people is the porn they’ve run across on the internet or that a friend shows them at their house? It makes sense that this becomes the foundation on which they build their expectations for future intimate relationships. And no one has told them otherwise – – that IT’S NOT REAL! Setting yourself up for failure, my friend.

Our culture has made it the norm during childbirth to receive an epidural, with anywhere from 60-80% of first time moms in the US opting to receive one. But why is that? With my recent history of extreme reactions to not only drugs, but allergic reactions to foods, I question a lot of things that go into my body. We discovered in April that I have a gluten intolerance, and we’re pretty sure it was causing infertility for at least the previous 1.5 years, because I got pregnant right after giving it up after trying every non-drug method and treatment leading up to that point. We even went to a fertility clinic just to get blood tested and see what my hormone levels were. Before I had a single drop drawn (13 vials to be exact), the doctor sat us down to give us our options – we could start Clomid or move on to IUI or IVF. Whoa whoa whoa, slow down, sister! We don’t even know what’s WRONG and immediately you want to pump me with drugs to fix “something?” You’re fired. We did not return.

After having a thyroid antibodies test done to reveal an intolerance to gluten (not to be confused with having Celiac’s Disease or to be tested for that, it would be negative), it makes perfect sense that if your body & thyroid are working overtime with the digestive system to break down & process things it can’t, what’s the one body system that is the least “necessary” and may not function properly until everything else is up and running as it should? The reproductive system. We even had an MRI done because we were concerned there was something wrong with my pituitary gland in my brain, or maybe even a tumor. There wasn’t, and never once did my neurologist ask me about my diet, something that I suggested when I called to cancel my follow up appointment after discovering the gluten allergy and ruling out a neurological problem. Symptoms of gluten intolerance for me included:  migraines, fatigue (never felt rested, even after 10 hours of sleep), anxiety, constipation and infertility. Symptoms of a gluten intolerance can be anything, by the way. It’s a good place to start (or any food allergy) if you are having chronic issues of any kind. I was 10x more fatigued on gluten than I am pregnant, if you can believe it! Do I miss bread & pastries? Of course I do! But do I want to be healthy and feel well, or do I want to eat gluten? Not a hard decision to make, and I am so thankful I had a diagnosis I could do something about! How did we get so careless about what we put into our bodies? Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good dose of artificial colors every now and then – love fruity candies…hey, they ARE gluten free, after all.

Scripture is pretty clear about our curses from The Fall in Genesis. My fear comes from this as well:

“Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:16-19

I can tell you from personal experience of basically being pre-menopausal for 10 months (no period whatsoever, no real hormonal changes either) that the “desire to control your husband” is what we call PMS. That bitchy-ness we all get monthly, that is part of our curse. Someone asking if it was “your time of the month” based on my behavior used to offend me. After I did not experience those up’s and down’s, Greg & I can call it what it is. As painful as it was to be infertile, I’m so thankful for that time and for the truths of Scripture to shed light on my humanness. I encourage you to meditate on these verses in Genesis and shed light on how you handle your PMS and then call it what it is – part of your curse, and own up to it.

The other part of our curse as women is the pain in pregnancy & labor. If you are a Bible-believing Christian, let me ask you this:  have you ever considered being obedient to your curse? It says it right there in black and white that this WILL happen. Have you considered that by voluntarily and automatically (obviously there are exceptions to every pregnancy and birth) defaulting to pain-relieving medication, you are actually cheating yourself (and your spouse) of not only a rite of passage, but one of the most incredible God-given experiences of your life? I haven’t read a single book on this subject from a Christian perspective – I’ve read this pile of books in the photo above, none of them by Christian authors or scholars, and come to this conclusion based on both this Scripture in Genesis as well as what I read in these books and all the amazing things that God designed women’s bodies to do in response to pain during childbirth! Have you considered that we have these long labor phases (early, active, pushing, etc.) so that our brains can release pain managing hormones to ease our labor pains? If you get an epidural or other pain relief medication, you block these endorphins. And what’s worse is if it doesn’t take or work, you will be in far more pain than if you had never received them in the first place. No time for your body to catch up there! There is risk for what some women have called the worst headache they’ve ever had in their lives for hours, even days or weeks after giving birth with an epidural. Imagine the disruption in breastfeeding for you and your new baby (issues with breastfeeding is another risk, even without the headache). If you have an epidural, you cannot move around into positions that seem innate to you to labor in, you have to remain in  your bed as you will not be able to feel your legs (though you can try to move into positions in your bed to labor and deliver, but labor will most likely slow down if you are not moving around. Keep moving!).

I am really excited to not only see what I am able to do in labor and delivery and hopefully come to the other side with a new sense of empowerment and confidence in myself and what my body can do, but I am just as excited to give Greg an opportunity to take an active role in the process! He’s going to be an amazing coach and father! Why do I want to cheat him of that opportunity? One of the videos we watched in a birthing class that was going through different birthing options showed a woman laboring with an epidural. When she got her epidural, she slept and rested and her labor slowed drastically, forcing the nursing staff to give her pitocin (a drug that mimics oxytocin to increase uterine contractions). She went back and forth with her epidural and pitocin doses just to deliver her baby, and she couldn’t feel her urge to push with the epidural (Note:  This video was in no way trying to convince us that one way of labor was better than another, these were just my personal observations). I turned to Greg and said, “Are we here to work, or are we here to take a nap?!”

Ladies, let me ask you another question. Do we not expect our spouses to go out and work to provide for our families? Go back and reread that passage in Genesis. What is the man’s curse? Firstly, Adam listened to his wife and ate from the tree God commanded them not to eat from. Is that not a constant temptation for men and fathers to just let women or their wives take on the leadership role? If you’ve been asking where the “real men” are in our culture these days, this is sin manifesting itself in their lives from Chapter 3 of God’s Word. The reality is, they are fighting their curse of lazy, self-centeredness as much as we are fighting our curse of controlling them and our world around us. And if we expect our husbands to be obedient in their curse of work and toil without taking shortcuts and looking for the easy way out, should we not be obedient in our curse of increased pain in labor and childbirth? While our pains may last as little as a few hours to our entire pregnancy (or multiple pregnancies), our husbands have 30-40 years of living out their curse and even longer for taking a leadership role in their marriage and with their families.

What beautiful opportunities for obedience men and women have been given! It brings joy and pride to my heart to see my husband taking responsibility for himself, our family and his curse from The Fall as I’m sure it will bring great joy to his heart to see, support and be proud of me for taking my curse by the horns. I don’t want to be cheated of an experience and blessing like this that will most likely take our marriage and friendship to a level I never dreamed! It sounds like an exciting adventure – oh, and then there’s a baby too. BONUS!

I really invite you to do your research and to consider your options and the risks & rewards of childbirth. Birthing from Within was really empowering (I checked all our books out at the Chicago Public Library), and The Business of Being Born is a really great documentary that is on Netflix Instant that I highly recommend.

Be encouraged!

Get some Garlic!

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Soymilk ~ Silk Light Chocolate Soymilk

So on my Mastitis journey I stumbled upon the true POWER of Garlic. I think this other website says it best so I’m just sending you to them.
Enjoy

Learn more: The Power of Garlic

In short eat 2-7 cloves ( some can be cooked but raw is better) per day and you will notice increasing health benifits. I chop it up in to pill like sizes and take it with orange juice.

Pulled Pork

Crockpot
1/2c Apple cider vinegar
2c Chicken broth
Season your pork loin ( I use Butt Rub)

Cook 6 hours. I’m sure you could do less. I go back and use 2 forks to “pull” the pork apart about every hour to ensure tenderness.

We eat this on regular Aldi’s bread (whatever kind I pick up, Oat Bread or Whole Wheat) we butter one side and sprinkle garlic salt on it. Put the pulled pork smothered in whatever you choose or naked in between the bread and Yahtzee. I prefer Cookies Wing Sauce and Ranch where Pete like BBQ. Enjoy!

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Cheddar Biscuits

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Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Ingredients:

Biscuits:
2 1/2 cups Bisquick
4 Tbsp cold butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Butter Glaze:
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp dried parsley flakes

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease or line one cookie sheet with parchment; set aside.

Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a pastry cutter (I just used 2 forks). Don’t worry about mixing too thoroughly; there will be small chunks of butter in the mix about the size of peas. Add cheddar cheese, milk, and garlic powder. Mix by hand until combined, but don’t over mix.
Drop 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto the lightly greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes in preheated oven or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.
While the biscuits are baking, melt butter is a small bowl in the microwave. Stir in garlic powder and dried parsley flakes. Use a brush to spread the garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Sprinkle a little kosher salt on the freshly coated biscuits. Makes one dozen.
Need to use up some zucchini? Grate a small zucchini, about 3/4 cup. Strain the grated zucchini in a cheesecloth or some paper towels to get rid of the excess moisture. Add the grated zucchini to the biscuit batter when you add the cheese and milk.

Dutch Apple Baby Pancake

Tea ~ Caramel Apple

Have you ever used a Vita-Mix? It’s the most amazing blender/food processor ever! They use it to make blended drinks and smoothies at coffee shops and restaurants. It heats up pureed soups while it’s on, it turns wheat berries into flour, it grinds coffee, you can put all your ingredients into it to make guacamole…only halving a tomato, no need to chop it! I love it!

I tried making my own flour for the first time since getting one in April, and I didn’t realize how easy it would be! I may just do this regularly. All-purpose flour tends to bleach out important nutrients like zinc and magnesium, which I’m pretty sure I have been deficient in and has been causing some health issues for me the last few months/years. And even “whole wheat flour” could be caramel colored to make it look more healthy, the key word is “grain” if you are looking for a flour that has not lost much of it’s nutritional value, as in “whole grain wheat flour.”

Hubby & I got up a little early this morning before church to make this Dutch Apple Baby Pancake for breakfast together. See below for the recipe or skip below for my quick summary of it (based on the photo at the top of this post).

Dutch Apple Baby

Wheat berries turned into flour, sugar turned into to powdered sugar (I did not know that was how powdered sugar was made! Just stick it into the vita-mix!), sauteed apples in butter, cinnamon, sugar & nutmeg, blended pancake batter mixed in the vita-mix & poured over the top of the apples top and bake. Garnish with powdered sugar & cinnamon. DELISH!

This might be a new signature breakfast/dessert dish in the Amidon house. Taking it to our Bible Study/Gospel Community right now along with a big carafe of Caramel Apple Rooibos Tea. I’m sure it will be a hit!