Sunday, July 24, 2011

Skin Update - 15 Days No Almonds

A couple weeks back I learned that I'm likely sensitive to almonds. They came back as high on an allergy test my naturopath administered. I was psyched. Could it be, all this time that almonds were making my skin so bad?

Well, the saga continues. I'm heading into my third almond-free week and still no great signs of progress. In fact, below is what I woke up to yesterday morning:
"Was she beat up in an alley?" you might wonder. Puffy, red patches over my face/eyes, ever-creeping eczema on my right hand.
I seem to be in the following cycle: new theory to test (eggs, nuts, dairy, etc); seems positive at first; things take a turn; ultimately end up worse than before. I do have one last resort now in front of me. I hoped against hope it wouldn't come to this, but it has GOT TO be the problem. It's something referred to as histamine intolerance. Here's a great fact sheet about it by Vickerstaff Health Services Inc.

When you think about it, this would make sense. I've always had allergies to a certain degree, which were usually triggered by exposure to animals. Red, puffy patches on my face would happen the odd other times, I'd wake up from time to time with a puffier face, with red blotches and the like. Maybe a bit itchy here and there, but in a very temporary way. In hindsight, this reaction likely followed an evening with red wine, chocolate, or other high histamine foods. Since going paleo, I've increased my intake of meat (of course), which is often leftover = high histamine. I've also had my share of other high histamine foods like dried apricots, tomato (in its various forms), spinach, and raw egg whites.

I have mixed feelings about all this. I've been singing the praises of a paleo diet, and yet it's actually made me pretty miserable at times. Sure, my energy level has been great, I've lost weight, I'm doing well at the gym (my original motivation), but this skin business is making me crazy. Had I never turned paleo, would I not have "overflowed" my histamine bucket (if this is indeed the case)? On the other hand, maybe this has been the wake-up call I needed to improve my allergy symptoms for good. We shall see.

So my challenge now is to figure out how to eat a low-histamine diet, paleo edition. Ugh. I was pleased, though, to find blogger, That Paleo Guy, has written about this very subject. I'll keep you posted on how it goes...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sarah's Paleo Hash

Oddly, I've discovered that I like when food is somewhat pre-chewed. Not literally pre-chewed by someone else (that's disgusting), but diced up so it's easier to chew. Maybe it's laziness, maybe it's the way all the flavours combine in each and every mouthful. Wait, maybe it's keeping dirty dishes to a minimum...

Anyhow, the other night I made a hash of sorts (I'm open to better name suggestions) using some organic, local, lean ground beef and bacon (which makes everything better) and an assortment of veggies I had on hand looking to be used.
Mmmm, meat.
I'll point out here that I used my new, super-duper Cuisinart food processor for all of my veggie prep here. I'd include more details about said processor, but I'm embarrassed by how much I spent on it. Though I did score 20% off (and needed it).

On to the recipe (Note - these quantities are very much approximate, it's a flexible recipe.)

  • Some bacon (I used a whole package, but I think what I get in a package from Bluefield Meat Shop is smaller than a package you'd get at the grocery store)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large sweet potato, grated
  • 3-4 handfuls of baby carrots, grated
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • Any other grate-able veggies you can come up with
Start by cooking your bacon in a large pan over medium heat. Once the bacon is mostly cooked, throw in your beef and cook until most of the pink is mostly gone. From here, throw your veggies on top and cover for about five minutes. Uncover, give it a stir and if it seems ready (i.e. everything's cooked), go ahead and dish up.
And done.

Other benefits of this recipe: easy to substitute ingredients to your taste, easy to make, easy to keep for leftovers or to freeze.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Could it be? All this time? Breakthrough in paleo-induced eczema

If you know me, you may know that since going paleo a little over five months ago, I've developed a real good, ever-growing patch of eczema on my right hand/arm. You can imagine my annoyance since this is the OPPOSITE effect of what's usually observed in someone gone paleo. I've stuck with paleo despite this unpleasant development thanks to the many other benefits, but was determined to figure it out.
During a rough patch.
Redness, puffiness, and patchiness in the face were other common symptoms, often in the mornings/after the shower.

Over the past months I've tried cutting out eggs (probably the longest exclusion), nuts, and dairy. No luck. Sometimes it would seem better at first, but invariably get right back to the dry, cracked, itchy, red yuckiness. I'll admit upfront that I may well have discounted how long it would take to see the kind of results I was expecting.

At one point I caved and went to my doctor. I launched into my explanation of how I'd changed my diet a few months back and experimented with excluding certain foods, etc. It wasn't long before (as expected) she was simply reaching for the ol' prescription pad to hook me up with cortisone. [Note: I really like my doctor on an interpersonal level. The trouble is, she's a medical doctor. They don't seem interested enough in the WHY??? as opposed to the WHICH DRUG?] So I've used cortisone a few times over the last couple of months when I've been really enflamed/oozing/miserable. That stuff is crazy effective, but not all together natural.

A few weeks back I had my first visit with a Naturopathic doctor. She was lovely. We talked about everything--how I'd been eating (they're big paleo supporters!), stress in my life, symptoms, etc., etc., etc. We had a great talk. She was a bit perplexed by my skin since she'd usually have someone in my case revert to a paleo diet as a first step (see annoyance referenced above). She eventually took some blood for an allergy test, the results of which I received just yesterday. The culprit? ALMONDS. Well, that's what it looks like. The true test, of course, is how my skin manages without almonds during the six weeks until my next appointment.

Could it be? After all this time? Almonds. When I eliminated nuts early on, I probably didn't give it enough time, and maybe a few snuck past me somehow. I'll readily admit that lately I've been going wild on almonds... almond milk (I love milk, so was delighted with this alternative), almond butter, almond flour. Lots of it.

Bottom line--this is promising. It makes sense. Let's regroup in six weeks and I'll let you know how it goes.

If you're paleo, have you ever experienced a negative effect from the switch?

[NOTE: Turns out, it wasn't almonds. For more, see here.]

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Getting Started on the Paleo Path

I received a facebook message from a friend tonight that inspired this post. Allow me to begin by pointing out - I'm no expert. I'm about five months paleo now and I love it. Along this relatively short way, I've picked up a few things that might help others who are considering the jump. In no particular order...

  • Go cold turkey. Decide you want to do this (e.g. increase energy, lose weight, lift more, run faster, whatever your goal) and do it. Cart away the crap (food bank is a good option), replace it with real, whole food, and away you go. Stick with it for a month as strict as possible and you'll be amazed.
  • Make sure you get enough fat and protein, but especially fat (it's easy to overlook, as we're so used to avoiding it).
  • Don't worry if your meals have that "weird" factor, that's part of the awesome. Often my lunches are a random smorgasbord of food items. For supper tonight we had grass-fed veal, portabella mushrooms sauteed in butter, and a cauliflower/carrot/coconut milk puree. Okay, that's not so weird. But eating avocado straight up with a spoon at work might raise a few eyebrows. 
  • Get organized. Especially starting out, you'll have to plan a bit ahead. This includes making sure you have enough groceries on hand. I'm getting better and better at prepping meals on the fly with whatever we've got (see previous bullet) - mostly because the food we keep is all good. I'll often do veggie prep at night, especially the more labour intensive, like root vegetables. Earlier this evening I prepped a bunch of turnip and sweet potato fries, and sweet potato chips. They're ready and waiting for some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. (Your increased energy should help with this.)
  • Got other people under your roof? Get everyone on board. There is no one who will not benefit from a clean, paleo approach to eating. If you can make this decision as a family/couple/roomies/whatever, all the better. Tim being diagnosed with celiac disease was a great boost for that effort in our house :-)
  • Don't stress out over it. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you've had enough. If you're not hungry, don't eat (even if it's standard "meal time"). Listen to your body, not the clock.
  • There are lots of great resources out there. Do some research. I'll do a post at some point on some of my favourites.
  • If you can get through that first month and get past the carb/sugar cravings, you'll have won the battle. You may be surprised how easy it can be. At this point I'm hardly ever really tempted to "cheat". And with so many paleo-friendly treats, there's really no need. Once you get a taste of how good you can feel, you'll get it.

If that's not enough to help get you started, consider this: I not only weigh less than before I became pregnant, but less than I did starting university about ten years ago. Even more impressive are the ring dips, handstand pushups--and someday muscle ups??--that I'm owning at the gym. Not too shabby. Especially for someone who eats bacon ;-)