Supplementing, Autoimmune Diet and no food fun.

I’m back in the driving seat today and feeling calm again. I have just purchased some digestive enzymes and Spirulina and am about to buy some krill oil, glucosamine and chondroitin, MSM and turmeric with piperine supplements. I have never been a big fan of supplements, mainly because I was rubbish at remembering to take them and they would just end up out of date. But now I am all grown up and have to take my homeopathic Serocytols twice a day, I’m sure I can remember more supplements (although I have already forgotten to take the digestive enzyme…just getting it now. Ok, we’re good) If I do forget, generally pain jogs the memory sufficiently well. It’s just then finding someone to bring you the stuff, because you’ve just found the right position to sit in to avoid the pain and don’t want to set it all off again.

My eggs trial has failed – I had a flare up after two days of eating them. I’m not too disappointed, although I did have visions of making some AIP baked goodies one day. I’m sure there are some scrumptious baking recipes without eggs out there, although I’m not torturing myself by looking. ‘No food fun’ is still my motto at the moment.

I am hoping to reintroduce cooked tomatoes next week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this one. Before I started the AI protocol diet, I had tomatoes at virtually every meal. We had tomatoes in tagines, curries, Bolognese sauce, lasagne-free lasagne, chicken casserole, with fish, vegetable stew and well, just about everything. It was a real heart breaker to omit them from my diet. It changed our entire meal plans. It was hard, but it really challenged us get creative about how we were eating. Avoiding tomatoes has been a good way to eliminate chilli and peppers. And finding out that standard beef was causing flares meant there was no point in trying to recreate ‘fajita’ style lettuce wraps or any other ground beef sauce that normally required tomatoes. It was time to put the Mexicans to bed and move on!

A little round-up of most of what is definitely off my menu for good:

  • Eggs
  • Regular beef ( I haven’t tried grass-fed, as I haven’t gotten round to finding here in France)
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Raw tomatoes
  • Artichokes
  • Raw/Undercooked cabbage
  • Raw onions (make my mouth taste like sh*t, so probably a good indicator that I shouldn’t be eating them anyway!)
  • Soy products
  • Potatoes
  • Deep fried food
If it’s not on my list and it is a nightshade or any other AIP food, it means I haven’t tried reintroducing it yet and I live in hope that I won’t have a flare up when I do (please God, let me be able to tolerate chilli – don’t leave me hanging). Until then, the rest of the food are all ‘maybes’ and I live in hope ūüôā

Zero pressure = increased motivation.

Hangover. Day 3.

Wow. This is not good. How did I used to suffer this pain all the time? I am 3 days into recovery from my ‘binge’ on Saturday and my HS is horrible! I have new spots, pain and all over discomfort. It hurts to sit down again – well, it always hurts a little to sit down, but right now? Horrible! I am taking paracetamol again – just one in the morning and one at night to help me sleep. I am having to completely strap all my wounds up, to stop the pain that I am getting from the chaffing. there are so many unmentionable side effects from a flare, I am just going to stop right now!

Monday was a complete right off. Now that was due to the wine hangover. When did it get so hard to overcome a night of drinking? I guess I didn’t feel so bad Sunday, because I was still buzzing a little from the lovely evening we’d had the night before, but Monday was a different story. I was tired, in pain and just one thing after another went wrong – I even locked myself out and had to break in by climbing through the neighbours’ gardens – not an easy feat when you are suffering a big HS flare!

The good news is I’m coming out of it though and I know it will get better than this. Before, a flare like this would have really gotten me down, as I would have had no clue as to how to reduce the pain again. ¬† I wouldn’t say I feel completely in control, but at least I know that by staying on the right food path, the inflammation will slowly subside. Even though I am moaning now, I know that the reality is that this pain could be 100% worse right now. My ‘golf ball’ has not swollen back up to a golf ball since I started the AI diet. All the HS spots I have right now have done a complete cycle over the last three days and at the risk of sounding icky (which we always do with this disease!), all are leaking nicely!

So it’s been a tough couple of days, but I am still feeling positive. The worst thing I can do is start thinking about what I haven’t/can’t do when I’m in pain. This morning I put zero pressure on myself to achieve anything and it worked; no expectations for me = ¬†increased motivation. In the end, I managed to bake bread for the rest of the family (which always makes you feel like you’ve achieved something doesn’t it?) and ended up doing a lot of washing and housework – success!

As far as the diet goes, I am pretty keen to start reintroducing foods in a controlled way soon. I hope I don’t trip myself up again and manage to stay on the right path!

Good food, good wine, good cheese. Hangover.

Hangover Day.

I had a fabulous evening with friends last night. It was a perfect end to a not so perfect week. Last night I ate most everything I am not supposed to, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a conscious choice and almost certainly swayed by the fact I was having a flare up anyway – what’s a couple more days pain once you’re in it?

I have three suspects on my flare list. Number one – gluten. Straight forward, right? You’d think so. But it was an accident. I was making pasta for the kids – they don’t always eat everything I do – and I cooked the carrots in with the pasta. When I dished up, I absent-mindedly ate a few of the carrots. Oh. There’s gluten in the water and probably soaked all the way into my otherwise innocent carrots. What an idiot. So, instead of having a lovely piece of homemade flatbread with garlic infused olive oil and parsley, the olive oil dripping down my chin, whilst I savour the moist, hot, doughy piece of heaven….I got carrots. Idiot.

Number two: Lady’s time of the month. Boo. ‘Nuff said.

Number three: Walnuts. A conscious decision to have walnuts, as I had already started to flare from either Suspect One or Suspect Two. Ed made an amazing dinner of organic chicken breast, filled with pesto, with a side of sautéed cabbage and paris mushrooms. The pesto recipe came from my Well Fed cookbook and it happened to include walnuts. It was delicious. Walnuts may not have been the culprit, but as I was on a downward spiral already, who knows?

So there we go. By last night, I had already flared up pretty bad. My decision to slowly reintroduce foods was thwarted again, by an accidental ingestion of gluten, damn hormones and well, a slippery slope from there. So, last night we had this:

An appetiser of julienne cut raw carrots and radishes, with a creme fraiche and chive dip (I didn’t have dip). Then I made the aforementioned flatbread, dripping with roasted garlic infused olive oil and parsley, cooked on a pizza stone ( I had a bit of this – first time I’ve had flour in three months).

For main we had marinated a huge rump steak in olive oil, salt and pepper in the morning and left it all day. The same with two duck breasts, skin on. We also had pork strips, just ‘nature’. Just an hour or so before dinner, we squeezed the juice of a Sanguinello orange (blood orange) into the duck marinade.

These were cooked on our BBQ and seared with a salad of rocket, iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced fennel, sliced radish and diced cucumber, with a Sanguinello, lemon and oil dressing. The combination of all the meats and the salad, especially with the citrus dressing was amazing! I probably enjoyed this food the most, despite the other food indulgences. There’s nothing quite like grilled meat with an amazing salad.

My other downfall. Wine and pudding. Ty had made an amazing apple crumble and once I started tucking into this, I helped myself to quite a bit! It was probably nothing compared to the portions I would have had before, but I guess there is no such thing as a ‘good’ sized portion of flour, butter and sugar! We drank 3 bottles of quality red wine and finished off with some organic Brie and Tommes cheese. Heaven.

I woke up at 4.30 am in a bit of stomach distress and with a headache. I had one (usually prohibited) ibuprofen, lots of water and went back to bed.

So, here it is. Hangover Day. But this morning I feel good. I had a great night. I didn’t beat myself up about what I ate and today all I am craving is salad. I am not in hideous pain (yet!) I hope I stay on course and that my flares go as quickly as they came. Roll on beautiful Sunday!


They don’t call me Sporty Spice.

I have never been what I class a sporty person. As far back as I can remember, I admired those with a lean physique. No ‘bulging hips’ or pot belly, the ability to run and run for ever, to push themselves no matter what. As a kid, I quit ballet at age 5. My reason was that I thought I couldn’t point my toes properly. Everybody else’s feet looked beautifully arched, whilst my flat-footed ‘point’ just didn’t look the same. I never told my Mum why I didn’t want to go anymore – I didn’t want to admit that I was a failure. Later in life, she told me the ballet teacher was sad to see me go, because I had been one of the best in the class. It turns out, like most things in life, being ‘sporty’ is about perception as well as how well you perform.

Since then I’ve been a rower, I’ve attended boxing training, I’ve been a gym member and even took a GCSE in PE. I still never truly felt sporty. Then in 2007, I started running. It was a revelation to start running at my own pace and find that I could run and run for many miles. So long as I kept a reasonable pace and did not compare myself to others, running gave me freedom and a new-found confidence in myself. Later, when I worked in a prison, we would work out and run up to 4 days a week in our lunch hour – perfect! No need to get up super early, nor go to the gym after work. Plus, it was a good break from our desks in the middle of the day. The prisoners were locked up and the Gym instructors were free to show us how to use the different weight machines and teach us the rules to sports like badminton, tennis and volleyball. They had folders and folders of exercises we could do on the gym mats, using weights and the fit ball. ¬†They take us through gruelling circuit training – challenging us to keep up with them. It was fantastic and the only downer for me was I was unable to take the spinning classes, because of my “ingrown hair abscesses”. I kept up the training and running¬†until I was 24 weeks pregnant – not all of it, just the occasional run by the end. Two years on and a stay-at-home-mum, my activity levels have plummeted. I am not free to exercise whenever I want, but if I really wanted to, I mean, if I was really dedicated, I would do something to get started. Anything.

So, I finally went for a run. Today I am feeling good pain. Not the usual soreness of open wounds or swollen skin; not kick-your-butt-back-to-bed pain. No, this is good, healthy, it-hurts-my-hamstrings-to-get-on-and-off-the-toilet kind of pain. My legs ache, as does my torso and I am physically worn out. It feels great!

I ran a fairly short distance – about 4 km/2.6 miles – but it felt good to finally get out there again. My average time was about as quick as it used to be when I was fit – I was pretty shocked. However, it’s not because I am miraculously athletic after such a long time out of the saddle. It is because I am the lightest I have been since I was around, I don’t know, probably 9 years old. Since following the autoimmune protocol diet, I am carrying an average of about 35 pounds/15.8 kgs less than before. I shouldn’t be surprised by this basic science, but I am easily awed by so many things in life.

My HS didn’t flare up, nor did it cause me any pain during the run. The area was a little more swollen in the evening, but no more than when I have been walking a lot.

I may not be Sporty Spice, but I have spent a good part of my life doing sports and enjoying them. I don’t think I’ll ever have a lean physique, or a six-pack, but my body can do sports just as well as the next person. If I don’t run again for a while, or my time drops, I am not a failure. I am somebody who cares enough to take care of their body, when time (and HS) allows. I just need to remember the quote: No matter how slow you run, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.

Organic does not mean wild. Lesson learnt.

I’m five days back into my diet and seem to have made another little faux pas. Today I have swelling and pain again – boo! I think it’s either the apple cider vinegar, or the organic smoked salmon.

Organic, but from my research, still toxic??

Before I made a dressing for my beautiful, pressure-cooker steamed artichoke, I need to find a substitute for balsamic vinegar after my last experience left me a little inflamed. I had read quite a few different sites yesterday on the effects of apple cider vinegar and they all seemed very pro this type of vinegar on the autoimmune protocol (now I’m wondering if I had been reading ‘Doc’ sites or just blogs…hmmm?). Now I am having another little look, there appears to be a huge debate over the quality of apple cider vinegar and what effect it can have on you.

I had had a bit of a flare last time I ate organic farmed salmon, but I had forgotten about it. So now I am trying to do a little bit of research, so that it stays in my brain. I must remember not to be lured in by the organic-ness and I remember why I should not be eating farmed fish.

It’s all about keeping the Omegas 3 and 6 in balance apparently.¬†Now, there is so much sciencey stuff attached to this and I would love to spend my days immersed in the ever elusive search for the perfect balance of fatty acids in my system, however, I have ‘home’ stuff to do (and a life that doesn’t just revolve round me).

I did do a little research, and as with most things food related, I wish I had never opened the flood gates! I found so many articles on how farmed salmon is ridiculously dangerous for the ecosystem and how the labels for organic fish have much lower restrictions than those on farmed animals. There is quite a comprehensive article on the The World’s Healthiest Foods site, explaining all the science behind the imbalance of Omega 3 and 6.

This article about Canadian salmon is interesting, ‘Demystifying “organic” farmed salmon: Is there such a thing?‘ and obviously a little Googling it up produces a plethora of the ‘whys’, ‘whats’ and ‘wherefores’ of eating salmon. An article here¬†gives a bit more background into what we should be eating and steers the topic away from the eco/ethical debate, focussing on the health issue more.

Back to my search for the ‘perfect salmon to meet my Omega ratio requirements’, I found another little article on Balancing Omega-3 and Omega-6. It doesn’t talk about farmed salmon, but does give an insight into how the imbalance affects people’s health.

After trying not to get too sucked in by the whole salmon debate online, as I do try to limi my exposure as to why eating anything that has a pulse makes me a bad person. Thus, I have managed to skim the surface of farmed vs wild salmon and the many reasons I shouldn’t eat it farmed.

I found a little fact sheet that summed it up with this:

Don‚Äôt eat wild Atlantic salmon and farmed salmon.¬†The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California recommends wild Alaskan salmon as an alternative, while the UK-based Marine Conservation Society suggests organically farmed Atlantic salmon.”

With my apple cider vinegar debate still looming, I think a little more eating experimentation will have to occur before I can make any confirmed conclusions between the salmon and my HS flares.¬†In the interests of health and general eco-equilibrium of world balance, my conclusion is that I should probably just eat wild Alaskan salmon once or twice a year (preferably when I’m near Alaska to minimise my carbon footprint).¬†Perhaps this is my cue to start looking for a wild, line-caught fish oil supplement….

The autoimmune protocol diet in baby steps.

This time last year and hadn’t even considered giving up any of these foods. A couple of month’s down the line, I had started a “Paleo” diet, having read a little about how Hidradenitis Suppurativa could be an autoimmune disease and therefore influenced by diet. At that early stage, I knew then that I’d never be able to cut out eggs if I was hoping to get enough protein in my diet without bankrupting us. I definitely could never have envisaged living without tomatoes, spices and chilli – my staple foods for cooking up tagines, curries and most of my evening meals. Six month’s down the line, and many hours of research on the internet, my diet is almost virginal (slight exaggeration, but that’s how it feels sometimes!). I am a fully fledged autoimmune protocol diet fan!

What I should be drinking right now…..

As with any times of restrictions in life, I found that it helps to have some kind of boundary or end date in sight. Without this, my motivation to abstain wouldn’t have lasted past my¬†initial¬†pain-motivated, stubborn determination. I set my timeframe as 60 days of a complete elimination diet, before starting to¬†reintroduce¬†foods one at a time. Somedays, I would comfort myself with the fact that I may only need to do 30 days and other times, I would face the (sometimes depressing) reality that this diet may become my way of life. Forever. However, for the sake of sanity and positivity, it is good to keep in mind that there are definitely worse realities in life than this!

….what I’m actually drinking right now
(NOT recommended for AI elimination diet!)

Just snacking on a piece of fresh coconut with a lovely cup of freshly brewed cup of Fairtrade organic Ethiopian coffee (which should read ‘a lovely cup of organic mint, nettle and¬†gunpowder green tea’, but no-one’s perfect!) ¬†and thinking that I’d share a little of what I have read and researched in terms of things to avoid whilst on the autoimmune diet.¬†Despite it being a little negative to start with what I¬†can’t eat, it is a known fact that bad news is far more exciting/interesting than good news…so we’ll start with what we can’t eat….

Foods to avoid

  • Eggs
  • Dairy, including all dairy (yes, even fermented dairy, goat’s milk and any thing else that comes from an animal’s udders)
  • Cereal grains¬†(rice, oats, wheat etc)
  • Seeds of any variety.
  • Seed and vegetable oils¬†(all except coconut oil and olive oil, which I have in abundance – see Foods to Eat’)
  • Spices derived from seeds (cumin, coriander, mustard – anything which I used to eat that made my food taste good)
  • All nuts, including nut butters.
  • Legumes, including all types of beans, chick peas (garbanzas), lentils, soy, peanuts etc.
  • Any soy derivatives (soy milk, yoghurt, tofu, soy sauce)
  • Refined sugar in any form.
  • Honey in any form.
  • Processed foods – bread, pasta, any gluten-free ‘health’ alternatives, cured meat, ham, bacon.
  • Alcohol (boooo)
  • Nightshades. This includes tomatoes, all types of peppers, including bell peppers, pimento, chilli pepper (excluding black peppercorns), egg-plant, tobacco (not many people still eat this, but you probably shouldn’t smoke it either!) and common old potatoes.
  • Coffee – especially if you are a caffeine addict! (I am not a coffee drinker per se, but I have started to have a cup here and there, in the name of¬†rebellion¬†and inner freedom. Also, I haven’t noticed a reaction from it….yet)
  • Fruit juices (too much concentrated sugar, not enough fibre).
  • Any food that contains an ingredient that you cannot pronounce, like stock cubes and sweeteners and anything containing sweeteners, like sugar-free gum.
  • Many vinegars ¬†– I even avoid organic balsamic vinegar; I think the ‘concentrated grape must’ contains too much sugar.
So it’s not a long list, but the combinations of processed foods out there are endless. Dark chocolate, carrot cake, “Paleo” muffins, cereal bars, smoothies, V8, gluten-free crackers – so many things that look innocent (ooh, Innocent Smoothies – yum yum…No. Stop it. Illegal), but are now off limits. Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed, a beautiful Paleo recipe book, tried the autoimmune diet for 30 days and as she puts it, there is zero “food fun” during that period.
Anyway, enough of what can’t be had and onwards and upwards to what can and should be delightfully savoured in the name of self-healing….
Foods to Eat
  • Fresh vegetables – anything in season, although when your diet is so limited, I’ve found it’s better not to fully restrict yourself to keep some variety and sanity in your life.
  • Beautiful squash and versatile sweet potatoes (I know these are vegetables, but they become your “pasta/rice replacements”, so I think they deserve a line on their own)
  • Fresh fruit – I have read so much about limiting fruits, eating one piece per meal, eating them before dinner not after – oh so many pieces of advice, but I just tend to eat as much as I want. It may have a¬†negative¬†affect, but it’s got to be better than eating a handful of Haribo Tangfastic jelly sweets.
  • Fish – preferably wild and line caught.¬†
  • Grass fed beef¬†and¬†pastured meat of any variety and game.
  • Poultry, again organic and not battery farmed would be best.
  • Coconuts, coconut oil and¬†coconut¬†milk (preferably (homemade!) with no guar gum and BPA-free- although hard to find unless you have dedicated organic shops).
  • Olive oil and olives (organic as non-organic contain various preservatives).
  • Herbal teas (I’m bang into Jasmine green tea – amazing!)
  • Naturally dried fruit (although I’d avoid this as a staple ingredient as it’s too high in sugar).
Ok, so the ‘Foods to Eat’ list looks shorter, but when you consider all the amazing varieties of fruit and veg in the world, it is an endless list of variety and choice.¬†I know that to back this all up I should include all the yummy recipes that we try every week, here at home. One day I will, but until then, I’ll leave it to the experts, like Michelle Tam from¬†and Sarah Fragoso from¬†Everyday¬†Paleo.
Until then, I am back on my autoimmune ‘wagon’, and hoping to start reintroducing foods in the coming months. For all those who are embarking on this journey, it is baby steps all the way and a constant reminder to “be kind to yourself”. Bon courage!
I’d love to hear people’s experiences of how they have survived the elimination diet and things that have or haven’t worked…..

I am not a physician, licensed dietician, nor nutritional specialist. The dietary information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or to provide medical advice. it is advised that you make your health care decisions based on your own research and the advice of a qualified health care professional. Good luck!

Slay that sugar dragon!

I am way into my diet now and I am now noticing that apart from being the skinniest I’ve been since I was 8 years old, I am not craving bread or cakes. I think I may have finally slain the sugar dragon – wooohooo!

Big Momma before…
..Skinny Momma after!
It has been a tough 6 weeks, but I feel I am settling in to it now. It is surreal that I have come this far and not quit. I remember the first time I read It Starts With Food, I remember thinking that there would always be a limit to what I would be able to cut out of my diet and I certainly wouldn’t be able to cut out all that food and eggs – what would I eat for breakfast??

The truth is, when you are desperate, you can pretty much achieve anything.

I had really got to the point where I was ready to even give the antibiotics a go. I was in constant pain and was still just using the gauze and Micropore to strap my sores up. Painkillers were ruining my stomach and after a few days of painkillers, I was getting awful headaches.

I knew then that I just didn’t want to be intoxicating myself even more with antibiotics. I had been eating semi-paleo since June. I got back on the internet and found Primal Girl‘s blog again. I re-read it and decided, enough was enough – ¬†I was going to do it!

And here I am. Eating a beautiful variety of nature’s beautiful foods. Again, I’d love to say it was easy, but it is not. Who wants to cook two-three times a day, everyday? Who doesn’t want to be able to throw in a ready-meal, or a pizza at the end of a hectic week? I certainly struggle at those times. But let me say this. My family and I are eating a bigger and better variety of fruit and vegetables than ever before. We have cut down on our meat consumption and we substitute junk food nights with oven baked sweet potatoes, eaten covered in pink Himalayan salt and eaten with our fingers from a bowl whilst watching TV. We have learnt to appreciate that all the food we are eating is nourishing us and the effort we put in has a reward. Good health. For all of us.

So on the mornings where I struggle to decide what to eat and force myself to cook up those leftover courgettes and onions, I am comforted by the thought that I have achieved more than I ever believed was possible! The inflammation in my backside has subsided so much. I still have the spots and they are still leaking – I have even had a couple of new ones. But it’s all healing so much quicker. I haven’t had any painkillers for at least two weeks. Will I go into remission? Who knows? But something is working and I am more motivated than ever to carry on eating this way.