Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Second week on the autoimmune protocol (low histamine edition)

Food Diary (March 31 to April 6, 2014)

Couple quick things first...
- My first week summary is here.
- I have definitely seen some improvement this past week - and not just in my head!
- My blood work (taken March 25, 2014) came back and the results were very good - excellent cholesterol (with all this red meat - go figure :-), however, my blood glucose was a bit low.

7:00 - Beef strips, Brussels sprouts, EVOO, arugula, coconut aminos
8:15 - Raw celery, coconut manna
14:00 - Steak, zucchini, bok choy, purple and reg. sweet potato, EVOO, garlic, parsley, yellow apple
18:15 - Chicken thigh, broccoli, radishes, EVOO, chinese broccoli, coconut oil
19:30 - Apple
20:30 Apple chips, kale muffin
NOTE: This was the last night I applied cortisone to my skin.

10:15 - Chicken thigh, broccoli, radishes, EVOO, chinese broccoli, coconut oil, mango
13:00 - Beef strips, fennel, sweet potato, garlic, shallots, EVOO, arugula, raw celery, apple
15:20 - Apple chips
16:00 - Raw carrots, celery, cucumber
17:15 - Ground beef, sweet potato, fennel, garlic, broccoli, chinese broccoli, parsley, EVOO, shallots, apple

DAY 10
9:30 - Beef strips, fennel, sweet potato, garlic, shallots, EVOO, arugula
12:00 - Apple
15:00 - Apple chips
17:30 - Beef strips, kholabri, sweet potato, apple, shallots, garlic, asparagus
21:30 - Kale muffins (2)

DAY 11
8:20 - Ground beef, sweet potato, fennel, broccoli, EVOO, shallots, garlic
10:30 - Dried figs, dried mango
12:40 - Beef strips, sweet potato, fennel, shallots, EVOO, garlic, apple
18:00 - Raw carrots and celery, ground lamb, shallots, leeks, chinese broccoli, parsnips, kholabri, red palm oil, parsley
April 3, 2014 - Three days without cortisone and a few small cracks have developed.

DAY 12
7:45 - Ground lamb, shallots, leeks, chinese broccoli, parsnips, kholabri, red palm oil, parsley
12:45 - Steak, broccoli, carrots, fat of some kind (lunch at restaurant)
17:45 - Roast chicken, EVOO, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, arugula pesto (arugula + EVOO + garlic + lemon juice + salt), mango, dried figs

DAY 13
7:45 - Roast chicken, EVOO, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, parsley
12:30 - Apple chips, San Pellegrino (movie theatre snack)
18:00 - Roast beef, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, fennel, shallots, garlic, parsley, EVOO, dried figs
April 5, 2014 - Cracks start to retreat.

DAY 14
9:30 - Beets, carrots, zucchini, garlic, parsley, red palm oil, ground lamb, EVOO (recipe here), dried figs
13:15 - Steak, leeks, zucchini, parsnips, garlic, coconut aminos, EVOO
15:00 - Raw carrots, dried apples
17:00 - Chicken thighs/legs, asparagus, leek, zucchini, ginger, garlic, honey, red palm oil, dried figs

April 8, 2014 - Cracks almost entirely gone,.

Low histamine faux-mato sauce

I've discovered a life changing recipe. As you can see from my blissful pre-histamine intolerance paleo diet, I love tomatoes - sauce, salsa, etc. I miss making a hearty spaghetti (squash) with meat sauce in particular. Well, I've finally tried a replacement recipe that has many versions out there - in fact, I can't seem to find where I first saw the one I worked from. Ah well.

I was surprised by how tasty (and relatively easy) this sauce turned out. If you're on a low-histamine diet, it's definitely worth checking out. Note - the measurements below are very imprecise - sorry, that's just how I roll (which is funny since I never used to consider myself a competent cook who could stray from a recipe).

I made this for Saturday morning breakfast. I'm so weird.


  • Ground meat (I used lamb, but will likely try beef next)
  • 1 part beets, roughly chopped
  • 2 parts carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 small-medium zucchinis, spiralized into noodles (I used this dandy contraption)
  • Roasted garlic (as much as you like - is there every really too much?)
  • Fresh parsley (or any fresh herbs you like - I just happened to have parsley on the go)
  • Bit of salt to taste
  • Little bit of cooking fat to throw in with the meat (I used coconut oil if I'm remembering correctly)


  • Steam beets and carrots until soft, drain water
  • While veggies steaming, roast garlic and cook meat in a pan, breaking it into small bits
  • Puree veggies, garlic, and herbs with an immersion blender (or food processor or blender I suppose)
  • Stir in cooked meat to form a meat sauce
  • Serve over zucchini noodles (raw, or cooked somehow - I admittedly just nuked 'em for 1 minute  in the microwave)
So I will definitely make this again. And, like so many great recipes, it's an excellent base recipe from which to play - change up the herbs/spices, add some heat, whatever you like. Enjoy!

PS - Week two summary of autoimmune protocol low histamine experiment coming soon.

Monday, March 31, 2014

First week on the autoimmune protocol (low histamine edition)

As written recently, I've decided to try to heal my eczema by following a low histamine version of the autoimmune protocol. I'm now on day eight, so thought I'd give an update on my progress, including my food diary and some observations from the week.

Food Diary (March 24 to 30, 2014)

Couple quick things first...
- I've been oil pulling with coconut oil every morning. No big revelations as yet.
- I've been supplementing daily with fish oil, probiotics, vitamin D, and liver pills
- The food is listed in no particular order and simply includes the ingredients
- I'm weening off the cortisone. I'll go a couple days without, but apply if I've had a big flare up or if it becomes difficult to bend my fingers/make a fist. I know I'll have to get off it to truly see any impact from this approach.

10:00 - Ground beef, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, garlic, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
12:40 - Ground beef, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, garlic, coconut oil, EVOO; (organic gala) apple 
18:45 - Chicken thigh (with skin), bok choy, sweet potato, ginger, EVOO

9:15 - Apple (after fasting for blood work - I don't usually like to eat fruit in isolation - especially first thing in the day, but I'm pretty limited in food-to-go)
11:00 - Beef strips, broccoli, purple sweet potato, EVOO, cilantro
13:15 - Apple
14:50 - Raw carrots
18:15 - Ground beef, spaghetti squash, broccoli, asparagus, ginger, garlic, honey
19:00 - Apple

9:00 - Beef strips, broccoli, purple sweet potato, EVOO, cilantro
13:00 - Beef strips, bok choy, purple sweet potato, EVOO
14:00 - Two kale "muffins" (kale, honey, baking soda, carob powder, coconut oil, coconut flour, salt, modified from this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie)
15:20 - A few green apple slices
17:30 - Roast beef, sweet potato, cauliflower, EVOO, fresh dill
19:40 - Apple
20:40 - Kale muffin

8:30 - Puree of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, heavy cream (was from freezer, a bit of a dairy accident), garlic; apple
11:15 - Roast beef, cauliflower, sweet potato, EVOO, fresh dill, "leather" (apple, carrot, ginger) snack that Molly didn't like - it was very gingery); 1/2 kale muffin
13:00 - Raw carrots, apple
15:30 - Two kale muffins
17:15 - Raw carrots, ground beef, broccoli, bok choy, garlic, cilantro, sweet potato; apple

8:00 - Roast beef, cauliflower, sweet potato, EVOO, fresh dill
10:40 - Raw carrots
12:15 - Ground beef, broccoli, bok choy, garlic, sweet potato, cilantro, apple
18:15 - Chicken thigh, coconut aminos, celery, broccoli, asparagus, cilantro, carrots
19:35 - Apple

8:00 - Beef, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, coconut oil, cilantro, broccoli
[Fasted through lunch at an event with not one "allowed"piece of food.]
15:15 - Chicken thigh, coconut aminos, celery, broccoli, asparagus, cilantro, carrots; green apple; raw carrots and celery
18:30 - Roast beef, sweet potato, boy choy, zucchini, EVOO
20:15 - Apple, homemade beet chips

8:45 - Beet chips (they were a bit better having crispened overnight)
9:35 - Beef strips, Brussels sprouts, arugula, coconut aminos, EVOO
14:00 - Beef, zucchini, bok choy, sweet potato, EVOO
15:10 - Mango
17:10 - Beef, zucchini, broccoli, EVOO, raw carrots and celery
18:00 - Two kale muffins
19:15 - Green apple slices, raw carrots

I've been keeping rough notes on my skin condition as I go, including any flare ups along the way (only a few, with some mild itchiness here and there). Admittedly, I have trouble accepting that the itchiness doesn't disappear immediately and my skin improve steadily from day one on, but such is life.

Photo taken Friday, March 28, 2014

Photo taken Friday, March 28, 2014
On the upside, this extra clean spell has been a great reminder of how delicious real food is when your palate isn't tainted by extras. I literally find myself making "mmmm, mmm" noises throughout my meals. I've also been using this experience as an excuse to change up our veggies a bit. Not a whole lot above, but tonight we had roasted radishes and Chinese broccoli. I also have fennel and kolibri to try (cooking suggestions welcome). So there's always that...even if this doesn't send my eczema back where it came from :-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A new plan: the autoimmunity route

Since my last post, it's been more of the same. With a few breaks, I've continued the use of cortisone, which is just keeping my eczema at bay (sometimes barely). Based on this lack of positive progress, I've been debating my next move with the help of these two books:

1. Is Food Making You Sick? - The Strictly Low Histamine Diet by James L. Gibb

2. The Paleo Approach - Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD ( aka The Paleo Mom)

The approaches in these two books are quite different, though I'm finding both to be helpful in my quest. The biggest difference is probably that the Gibb book would have me cut out meat altogether - something I'm just not completely comfortable with. On the flip side, grass-fed, organic, high quality meat - red meat in particular - is a cornerstone of The Paleo Approach (with an emphasis on organ meat). I may do a more thorough book review of each soon, we'll see. FYI - The Paleo Approach includes info and modifications specially for those with histamine intolerance, which is what drew me to it in the first place.

So here's the new plan:

The Paleo Approach won over in the end, however, I am incorporating some elements (i.e. restrictions) found in the Gibb book, which are not specified in The Paleo Approach. I'm now on day two of my customized autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, which includes:

(List modified from The Paleo Mom)
  • Vegetables (Emphasis on green, but from a variety of colours; excludes known histamine offenders such as spinach. My go-tos include broccoli, bok choy, asparagus, cauliflower, sweet potato.)
  • Quality meats (Grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild as much as possible; poultry in moderation due to high omega-6 content.)
  • Organ meat and offal (The Paleo Mom suggests aiming for 5+ times per week, which I find  ambitious. I was delighted to find this great idea for consuming liver by Primally Inspired, which I've since incorporated. I bet I can do this with other stuff too. I'm also making plans for the beef heart in my freezer...)
  • Quality fats (pasture-raised/grass-fed animal fats, olive oil, coconut oil)
  • Limited fruit (apples, melons, figs, mangoes)

Notable exclusions include (beyond grains, dairy, legumes):

  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Nightshades

For later reference, this is what my hand looks like today, two days in and still on cortisone:

Looks pretty good, but this is the cortisone talking.
Also of note, I had blood taken today. The results should be ready in about a week or so. We'll see if that has anything to say.

In closing, I should add that I was inspired by one of my readers here to look at the autoimmune protocol. I'm interested if there are others out there who have had good experience with such an approach. Let me know in the comments.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Enough already

After several weeks of progressively bad eczema, I caved about a week ago and have been using hydrocortisone to tame my skin. We took baby Simon in for his first check-up and I got to talking with my doctor who offered to write me a prescription. It's a low concentration which I've been applying once at bedtime (thin layer). It's crazy how well - and quickly - this stuff works. It's certainly not a long-term solution in any way, but I admit it's helping me battle the post-partum-winter-coldness-baby-to-care-for situation in which I currently find myself.

My sense is, without the cortisone use and despite the diet considerations, my eczema would still be progressing before healing. I'm still experiencing the odd touch of itchiness, maybe once a day (which is actually not too bad). Anyhow, I'll give the cortisone a rest for the next week or so and we'll see how things develop over that time. Fingers crossed.

Below is a chronological account of the eczema on cortisone. Again, apologies for the bad photography!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Riding the histamine roller coaster

I'm now seven weeks post-partum. Since my last post, I've continued my low-histamine eating approach, even taking it up a notch (thanks to The Low Histamine Chef). In that time (about two weeks), I've been riding the histamine (and corresponding emotional) roller coaster. I thought I was on the road to healing about a week ago, only for my hand to take another turn on me. My theory in that case - you see, it's constant analysis - was that canned coconut milk I'd been adding to my morning smoothie was the culprit.

In any case, here's a quick summary of what I'm doing to combat the histamine with a few observations, followed by a snapshot of my current diet...

  • I've added a bunch of anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory foods into my diet, such as garlic*, onion, ginger**, fresh herbs, and spirulina.
  • I've reduced my intake of meat (a bit, I'm only so strong).
  • I've cut out coffee (was having up to one cup).
  • On my husband's suggestion, I'm taking one diamine oxidase supplement with breakfast and another with dinner. This is a temporary measure to help boost me out of this symptom-filled, post-natal stage.
  • I've been using two main products on my skin - pure emu oil (Wax!t) and bum balm (Bare Organics). I like both of these products for soothing and moisturizing, plus they're both Canadian companies. For what it's worth, my skin seems to drink up the emu oil faster.
  • I'm trying with all my might not to pick at my skin, especially during this current stage where it can be very flaky if I haven't applied one of the above within at least an hour or so.
  • I've been entertaining some non-paleo foods to my diet, including white potatoes, white rice, peanut butter, and I even picked up some plain oatmeal earlier this week. I've done this for a few reasons: 
    • I feel like there's not much I can eat right now, so this is a bit of a consolation.
    • These foods don't appear to bother me in any way.
    • It's my diet and I can add if I want to (*to be read in the tune of "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To"*)
This regime seems to be helping and the eczema seems to be retreating slowly. The tough part is accepting the two steps forward, one step back nature.

*Holy moses, I love garlic. If I'm to be truthful here, I've really just been too lazy to use it in earnest. I admit to having those little jars of pre-minced garlic abandoned in the back of my fridge in the past. But wow, garlic adds delicious flavour to pretty much any meal - I now find myself making self-flattering eating noises throughout dinner (mmm-mmmm).

**Ginger was a favourite of my grandmother and will always remind me of her :-) 

So here's what my diet looks like these past several weeks...

I've been on a smoothie kick of late, possibly because I picked up some plant-based protein powder at Costco recently and I like it. The smoothie has evolved a bit over time, leaning more on the greens and ultimately eliminating the fruit (started with 1/2 banana and a few blueberries). I also, as referenced above, stopped the coconut milk. It currently includes:
Mmm, delicious green sludge.
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Chia seeds
  • Spirulina
  • Almond or peanut butter
  • Lots of frozen kale
  • Protein powder (about half a scoop of this stuff: http://www.leanfit.com/leanfit-completegreen-protein/)

I've been loading up on greens (excluding spinach, of course). Inspired - once again - by my mom, I've given salads another chance. You see, I love condiments. And I love salad dressings. So it's with a certain sadness that I resort to salad greens + onion + olive oil + S&P. With a few freshly hard boiled eggs and butter. I'm actually growing to acquire the taste (it's amazing what eliminating sugar and the like will do for the taste buds).

If I'm out of fresh greens or eggs or just want something else, I'll nuke a frozen leftover dinner meal (see next). I often have an organic gala apple for dessert, sometimes with almond or peanut butter (mmmm).

Standard lunch fare.
I have to say, with the introduction of garlic, my dinners are getting better and better. Not more complicated, mind you, but more delicious. Below isn't the best dinner pic, but I'm usually too hungry and tempted by my dinner plate to think about blog pics. (Keeping in mind that's also any household's crazy time). Anyhow, dinner is generally meat + veggies + tuber. Pretty basic, but tasty stuff. Our dinner veggies of choice lately include parsnip fries (included below), roasted broccoli, green beans, peas, and sweet potato.
Note the bok choy - a recent and most delicious addition. The gunk on the steak is extra garlic and ginger from the bok choy side.

With all this said, here are a few recent pics of my hand. The photos are in chronological order, the first pic having been taken around Christmas Day if I'm not mistaken, and the others at various points since. (Apologies in advance for the poor quality and inconsistency in photo taking.)

It started with just a wee bit around the middle finger nail and some hive-like red spots.

Starting to spread over a couple knuckles and in between fingers, but still reasonably manageable.

More redness and the creeping across the hand increases.

Now between all fingers, with the index finger taking more of the brunt.

Ouch. More redness, more creeping.

Doesn't look so bad here - but it depends on lighting, time of day, if there's anything on it. Likely one of my delusional "I think it's getting better" moments.

Quite dry. The winter, cold, warm, constantly tending to baby-ness  tends to aggravate.

Hmmm, maybe not getting better so much.

After going for errands yesterday and at my wits end. So many irritants in a simple outing for groceries - cold, warm (i.e. increased body temp while inside store w/jacket), jacket sleeve, glove, etc. Quite sore, raw feeling.

See something in this post that could be aggravating my skin? Let me know via comments.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The honeymoon is over

Well, it's happened. In October, I posted about the glory of the placenta, which was curing me of virtually any and all histamine-related symptoms. And now, five weeks post-partum, the eczema is back in a serious way. I recall someone tweeting me that it came back "with a vengeance" for them, so I can't say I wasn't warned.

Here's the beautiful source of my histamine hiatus :-)

Here's a confession: I intended to scale down histamine trouble foods a good month before baby's due date. Well, that turned into about three days of scaling back. In addition, I did eat some left overs during baby's first week that my wonderful mother-in-law magically put in our fridge. Last, but certainly not least, there was Christmas of course. I typically try to keep my holiday indulgence eating to Christmas Eve (which this year included popping a couple diamine oxidase supplements), so there were definitely poor choices made on Christmas Eve.

All this said, my skin is not good. And it sucks. I have, however, been managing to keep a positive attitude (with a few exceptions). Part of my getting this under control has been getting myself a copy of The Low Histamine Chef's book, The PALEO Anti-Cook Book: Antihistamine & Anti-inflammatory Recipes for Health (yes! There's a low histamine chef). I've been perusing this e-book for ideas to go beyond simply reducing histamine and seeking out more antihistamine ingredients. Now that I'm over the initial depressed feelings of "this is so complicated" / "I've never even heard of these ingredients" / "crap, I don't have a juicer", the outlook is good.

Here's how the skin was looking about a week ago (four weeks post-partum)...

Red, blotchy face is back.

This photo doesn't do justice to the condition of my right hand, but you get the idea.  In fact, it validates for me that it's now worse.
And so, the task now is to get my symptoms back under control, while eating a delicious, whole, fresh, (paleo) diet that's rich in antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods...during the dry winter months...while caring for a new baby (spoiler - you use and wash your hands a lot).

Oh wait, I have another confession: we've been eating white potatoes. But it's totally okay, because the super awesome Liz Wolfe (Cave Girl Eats) said it was okay.