My Paleo Success story!

I sent in my Paleo story to and the lovely Neely Quinn sent me an email to say it had been published. Have a little read ūüôāScreen Shot 2013-09-25 at 15.08.30


Hello Day one, I’ve missed you.

I’m done messing with my diet (she says for the 17th day in a row). No, but seriously, I really need to stop using these antibiotics as a crutch and start clean-eating again. I am a month into my 10 week course of Clindamycin and Rifampicin and although taking antibiotics goes against everything I believe in, I have to say the results are amazing. I am barely leaking at all, and the persistent swelling has decreased so much so, that I can throw myself down into a seat and there is no pain. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. HEAVEN!!!

Excellent, you say, no need to write anymore blog!¬†Actually, no. These tablets are like a holiday for me. A little respite from real life. They are toxic and have horrible side effects. They can cause liver disease. They make my tongue furry (which swilling my mouth out with apple cider vinegar has cured, by the way). They have brought back my peeling, dry, itchy skin on my feet. They make me need to poop – and it’s not a pretty picture. I have to eat loads of sauerkraut (which actually isn’t too bad). They make me tired, a little out of sorts.

Most of all, I feel the opposite of how I did when I started the autoimmune diet. I feel like I am poisoning my body instead of healing it (did I mention I was a drama queen?). I was trying to heal my leaky gut with all that lovely, nourishing, home-cooked good food and now I am attacking my insides with chemicals.

Such a dichotomy.

Whilst I’m not looking a gift-horse in the mouth (that’s a really weird idiom!), I am only on these tablets short-term. I am still anticipating that after my 10 weeks is up, I am only going to get some major remission going on by sticking to my autoimmune protocol diet. In the meantime, I want to take advantage of the healing that has happened. I want to keep those sinus tracts shrunk, or healed or whatever has happened to them. I want to wear my bikini again and agin. I want to wear mini-skirts all summer, without Micropore peeping out of the bottom. I want to enjoy the freedom of spending under 2 minutes in the bathroom, because I have no dressings to change. I want to have a go on a Space Hopper. I want to sit comfortably with my baby on my knees, without wincing when she wiggles. I want the whole, entire and wonderful healed-upness of my Hidradenitis Suppurativa to stay just the way it is.

Today I got busy. I went to an amazing farmer’s market of organic goods¬† Lidl and bought as much of the fresh produce as I could fit in the bags I was carrying (it’s in the ghetto and they don’t have baskets). Their organic range is CHEEEEAP! They also stock the cured ham that I eat. It lists only ham and salt as the two ingredients and it’s cheaper by at least 2 euro here than in any other local supermarket. The only other packaged item I bought from there was Perrier.¬†I dodged the drug dealers on the way out and Mr B did the rest of the food shopping at Auchan – the actual, biggest supermarket I have ever seen. So big, I walked for about 5 minutes before I even reached the food section. So big, I think it may be bigger, even, than Sam’s Club in Slidell, Louisiana! Maybe not as big as a supermarket in Texas, though. I digress.

I made a meal plan for this week to keep me on track. We kicked off tonight with cod, marinated in a lime, garlic, coconut oil sauce with fresh parsley and basil, Himalayan pink salt and organic cracked black pepper. This was served with sautéed green beans, oyster mushrooms, onion and garlic and all cooked by the lovely Mr B!

De-li-cious! Made even more tasty, because I didn’t have to lift a finger to cook it!

For the rest of the week, main meals are as follows (not in any particular order):

  1. Easiest roast chicken ever¬†–¬†¬†Instead of leeks, which we don’t have, we ‘ll be subbing courgettes in to this dish and serving it with salad. Who says roasties can’t be served up with a salad??
  2. Chicken and vegetable curry – using leftover chicken, homemade coconut milk, homemade curry paste (excluding paprika and chilli), ginger, garlic, onion, carrots and homemade chicken stock (I use this recipe, with frozen leftover peels and chicken bones). Served with cauliflower rice, fried with peas.
  3. Healthy Gluten-free Life’s Dutch Oven Pork – as featured on Nomnompaleo’s page. Love our Le Creuset Dutch Oven¬†cocotte, which cooks food so evenly and keeps it moist. We’ll have that with saut√©ed broccoli, onion and garlic all fried in silky smooth organic coconut oil of course! Perhaps a side of salad, too.
  4. Large wild gamba, marinated in lime, garlic and ginger, seared on the griddle and served with my scrummy roasted sweet potatoes. And salad. And probably sauerkraut for me.
  5. Asian chicken thighs – again Michelle from Nomnompaleo’s recipe. What? Again? Yup. Each time I Googled the ingredients, hers was way up there and looked delicious, with only a few ingredients that I needed to remove to adapt for the autoimmune protocol. Served with salad.
  6. Sweet potato and prawn soup, which we’ve adapted from an¬†Everyday Paleo¬†recipe. We’ll have some leftover coconut milk and prawns (there are two kilos in the freezer and we’ll have to defrost the lot , so we’ll cook ’em all and throw some back in the freezer for this dish.

Et voila! That’s me all sorted for the week. I hope to all that is Holy and Mighty that there are no more sh*t storms this week and I manage to keep on track (and off the incredible Bordeaux wine).

Day one is done…..

Autoimmune and Paleo eating. The family approach.

My oldest daughter, Ty, asked me what it is like to be a parent. I said that it is the best job in the world, but it can also be the worst. I know she understands that statement, even though it sounds harsh. One minute she makes my heart feel like it’s fit to burst with pride and love and the next, I am tearing my hair out trying to deal with a stubborn ‘teenager’, who refuses to do as she’s told. Lately it’s been more of the former and part of it has manifested from her approach to how we eat now. We have become more united and she has shown me strength of character – beautiful independent thoughts exude from her.¬†To explain though, I guess I’ll have to go over a little of how our eating habits have changed in our home.

When I set out to eat a Paleo diet, I spent hours doing my usual research and my mind floated dreams of us all eating pile of vegetables and fruit, good protein; dreams of eliminating bread, pasta and all the ‘bad’ foods from our household. I had no idea how I would implement it, nor how it would pan out. I read about several different approaches to applying ‘the changeover’ at home; from the extreme, who ban everything and take a blanket approach within their household to those who made the changes for themselves and left the family to eat as they were before. There was not a great deal of in between, but maybe people think others don’t want to read about people, who (like me), go through waves of eating styles in their home based on the ethos of eating Paleo and more sustainably.

So I introduced Paleo to the family and let them decide. Mr B backed me and from day on. Our main meals were strictly non-processed and free from grains, rice, white potatoes and pasta. There was no more take-away pizza, no more beautiful mushroom risotto, with white wine and parmesan (Ty’s favourite) and no more spaghetti bolognese. Ty understood the changes and although she was a little reluctant, she soon became a massive fan of vegetable tagine and sweet potato with prawn Thai style soup. I carried on buying her any cereal she liked; I also bought bread, butter, milk and cheese. When Ty¬†started school over here in September, she ate school meals – carb-laden and although sometimes reliably sourced and organic, for the most part just a lot of processed food.

At Christmas, family and friends sent tons of chocolates, sweets and biscuits from the UK Рa lovely idea, but not great for a family who were trying to develop a new way of eating. I encouraged home baking, as I always have, and emphasised to Ty how great it was that we could see what ingredients she was putting in her sweets. I gave her constant and well-deserved praise for the beautiful cakes and cookies she made.

When my HS got worse, I decided to take the autoimmune approach and eliminated everything I needed to – ¬†no cheating at all. The family was subjected to more meal changes; no tomatoes, spices, chilli and eggs. Cooking got a whole lot harder and we had to get more creative. There were a lot of roasted vegetables, roasted chicken, pork. More sweet potato chips, stir fry broccoli, onion and a constant struggle to try to get leafy greens into our diet. A trip to Ed’s family went really well – everybody accommodated my changes and even though there was the usual chocolate, milk and pancakes for everyone else, together we had amazing main meals – simple but delicious fish and chicken dishes and organic vegetables. We encouraged Ty¬†to eat how she wanted and explained that being at Nanny’s on holiday was a good time to indulge, if she wanted to – and she did. As the diet continued I found I had a reaction to red meat and so homemade burgers, BBQ steak and ground beef were off the menu. More changes, restrictions and struggles, but we kept looking for more recipes.

One day when I was writing a shopping list, Ty¬†said to me that she didn’t want any more sugary/chocolate breakfast cereal.¬†¬†She told me that she wished to be healthier and have more protein for breakfast. It helped that the paediatrician in New Orleans had told her that protein was an important part of her breakfast – funny the things kids remember.¬†She said she was going to start eating omelettes instead. She decided that to do this she would shower the night before to allow herself time to cook breakfast. And she did. She cooked mackerel omelettes everyday for a longtime. As she became more confident in using the hob, she took a bigger interest in cooking. She started reading my recipe books and writing lists of ingredients for me to buy. She then started baking alone. From the weighing of ingredients, peeling and cutting fruit to using the oven.

Since then she has cooked apple crumble, cakes, upside-down apple and walnut pie. She made an amazing BBQ sauce from a Paleo cookbook and I often find her with her head in a recipe book, plotting her next bake-off. She tries hard to eat like me. She asks how much protein is in her food. She eats large helpings of salad with her dinner, without even being asked. She still eats sweets if she wants to, but they are never bought by me. My Mum asked if Ty would like some sweets and I suggested she buy Ty some silicone cupcake moulds. Ty loves them!

She’s back on cereal now, but it’s organic muesli, instead of Coco Pops. She has tried soya milk instead of cow’s milk. She talks about how different foods make her feel. She has an awareness of her diet, that last year even I didn’t have.

So this is how we do it in our house. We don’t all eat the same, but there are no special allowances when it comes to our main meals together. We try new foods and recipes often and we encourage baking – even if it is nowhere near Paleo. We cook together and eat together and this is one of the parts of our lives that has made us closer. Ty¬†still drives me insane and is as stubborn as a mule, but she is educated, objective and very considerate.¬†I am proud of my daughter and her approach to eating, even if it is not the same as mine.

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!