Heartworm Medicine for Dogs

Those of you who know me also know that I have an unhealthy attachment to my Yorkie. Those of you who don’t know me should know that I have a Yorkie named Tobias and I love him more than most people. I also don’t have children so I’m one of “those people”. You know who I’m talking about. Those people who try to liken raising kids to raising their dog. They explain how consistent training and time outs are great ways to train both, and then ask you what kind of kennel you use for your toddler. Seriously, though, I love my dog.

How can you not love that face?

How can you not love that face?

I bring Tobias up because I recently got my little reminder in the mail that it was time for Tobias’ yearly heart worm test. Can I just throw it out there that every time that comes up, my chest hurts and all I can think about is “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, what if he has it? Then he’s going to die and I’ll be heartbroken and I will never love again!” Oh, yes, I am quite aware of how crazy I sound. Anyway, when the crazy stops and I calm down, I make the appointment, sit and feel sick the whole time we are waiting for the results and then Tobias is always fine and I can calm down, go home and cuddle with my Yorkie. Who has by then usually forgiven me for taking him somewhere where he got poked and prodded.

This year when the subject came up, I started thinking about the necessity of giving a dog heart worm prevention medicine every single month. Now I’m terrible about it, I’m the first to admit it. Part of it is because I don’t believe heart worm is actually a threat during the winter and also because I personally choose not to take medicine whenever I can help it. It makes me wonder if giving my dog medicine I know nothing about is really a good idea? So even though I’m told by everyone to give him the medicine every month on the day, for the last year I’ve been sort of lax about it. Am I really making the right decision for both my dogs health?

First off, let’s throw it out there that we have to always look at drug recommendations with a grain of salt. Who tells you that your dog has to take heartworm medicine every single month? The people who make a profit from the sale of heartworm medication. Take a look at the American Heartworm Society’s Sponsor page. It’s full of drug companies. Am I saying that we should then completely disregard AHS’s recommendations? Absolutely not. But we also need to be aware of where these helpful (and probably very profitable) hints come from.

Evil monster.

Evil monster.

The American Heartworm Society recommends giving dogs their heartworm medicine all year long in order to protect them from heartworm carrying mosquitoes. Now I live in Michigan. For those of you who do not live in Michigan, it’s important to point out that Michigan spends a good part of each year cold. Snow on the ground cold. As far as I’ve found, mosquitoes can live through winter, however usually in a protected place waiting for warmth so the little monsters can swarm you in the springtime.  So your chances of being bitten by a mosquito in January in Michigan are probably pretty slim. So that seriously minimizes your dog’s risk of getting heartworm. On top of that, there is a life cycle the heart worm has to go through in order to actually become adult heartworms and infect your dog. And during that life cycle (a rough estimate of 45 days), the temperature can never go below 57 degrees. So even though, dogs in Michigan have about 6 months out of the year that they would be naturally protected from heartworm and the mosquito hosts, vets are still recommending all year long. I tried to find why exactly they recommend this and came up with “Pet owners are too stupid and irresponsible to give their dogs medicine so we dumb it down for them so they don’t forget”. All right, that’s not exactly what they said but it’s kind of the tone. It was hard to find any example of a legitimate reason for heartworm prevention all year long. The only health risk reason I could find is that some of the preventative brands (Sentinel, Trifexis, Revolution) protect against other kinds of infections like roundworms and hookworms.

Getting infected with heartworm is not exactly easy. There is a number of factors that have to fall in  line in order for your dog to get infected. This article does a good job of explaining the life process as well as the natural ways to help prevent heartworm. Bear in mind, this article is definitely written from a biased point of view, the author definitely leans toward a more natural handling of dogs.

You might be asking yourself, “But, Primal Otter, if everyone recommends preventative medicine for dogs, why wouldn’t you?” Well, my first problem, of course, is those pesky side effects that are written in tiny little print on the packaging. Those side effects, which I had to find from the FDA website, are vomiting, loose stool or diarrhea with or without blood, anorexia, lethargy, salivation, tachypnea, and muscle tremors (for the topical brand) and vomiting, depression/lethargy, pruitus (itching), urticaria (hives), diarrhea, anorexia, skin congestion, ataxia, convulsions, hypersalivation and weakness (for the oral brand). The biggest side effect that I feared is the big C word. Cancer seems to take so many beloved pets, however, I was unable to find any legitimate studies or evidence of the linkage between preventative medicine and cancer. Although, I don’t think its impossible, the problem is who would pay for that study? Certainly not the drug companies. But there seems to be very little study and the best I could find was just anecdotal evidence.

I found this great article about the best ways to naturally prevent heartworm infection. And although, I realize that the information is more a matter of opinion than perfect science, I believe it’s really important to consider those “hippy dippy” ideas. As I firmly believe with humans, I also believe that a good diet is essential for a dog’s health and immune system. Lots of people recommend the raw diet. Let me tell you, I love this concept. However, my husband and I work full time and between our bills, our animals, and having to spend extra money on our own food sources, we have chosen to go with the more manageable grain free dog food. I personally like Taste of the Wild. My dogs seem to like it well enough, they don’t overeat, and they are both healthy and energetic dogs. Also, I believe that my German Shepard has an allergy or a sensitivity to wheat, and I’m pretty sure rice as well. Her skin tends to look the best when she eats totally grain free.

The dynamic duo

The dynamic duo

 

The all natural concept also mentions not over vaccinating as a way to help your dog’s immune system. I really wasn’t able to find a good source of what constitutes over vaccinating but it’s still some food for thought. Even though I am currently doing lots of research of human vaccination (I’m trying to learn all I can before kids so I can make an educated decision when that time comes), I have never really questioned the vaccination of dogs. Can you say “DOH”? When we vaccinated Tobias, our Yorkie, I never questioned all the stuff they wanted to give them. And guess what? He had a terrible and terrifying response. Yes, I know lots of dogs don’t feel great after shots but to have my one pound Yorkie throwing up, shaking, and sleeping twice as much as usual was incredibly upsetting. At his yearly check ups, they want to inject him with everything even though I explain to them that he has had bad reactions before and they usually just tell me to give him Benadryl and he’ll be fine. And I really have to ask myself, “Is injecting my dog on a yearly basis with something his body reacts badly to a good idea?”

So where do I come down? Well, call me a bad hippy but I think that I will continue to give my dogs heartworm preventative medicine. However, I will do it on my own terms. Even though, they recommend all year long, I will not be giving my dogs unnecessary medicine in January. In the summer, though, i will give them their medicine. There is a very large pond behind my property that was probably once used as an irrigation pond so the mosquitoes that live there are probably mutated from the pesticides. Ok, they’re probably not but we still have a pretty decent mosquito population. On top of that, my dogs are mostly house dogs but when we do go out, it’s for hikes in the middle of nowhere, or swimming in lakes and rivers, and for those times I don’t have them on a leash and they decide that drinking stagnant, mosquito infested water is a charming idea. So hopefully, I am making the right decision for my dogs. But either way at least, I am doing my best to make an informed decision.

What about you? Do you believe that the preventative medicine is necessary? Have you ever even heard of the negative side effects? And if you don’t use the heart worm medicine, do you use any other preventative methods?

Is Raw Milk Paleo?

After my post on raw milk versus pasteurized milk went online, one of my Facebook friends questioned whether or not dairy was even Paleo? Which made me realize that I had not even addressed that issue. Dairy is one of those things that has become a bit of a sore subject for Paleo people. You know how you don’t talk about hunting when you are hanging out with a bunch of vegans because it’s just not worth the fight. Yeah, that’s kind of how some Paleo people get about dairy. One of the other reasons that I chose to call myself the Primal Otter instead of the Paleo Otter, because although, I started Paleo, I definitely have fallen into a more ancestral lifestyle. It really drives me a bit crazy to get into these conversations of “Is this thing Paleo?” because I think that question loses the big picture of the whole “Paleo” intent. Which is to eat in a way that is best for you and for Nature. At least, that’s my take, others may definitely differ.

Dr. Loren Cordain is known as the father of the Paleo Diet in a lot of ways. He wrote The Paleo Diet book first and is looked at as a solid voice in the community. And Dr. Cordain does not believe that milk should be consumed. His reasons are cited in this interview and his reasons are why a lot of people should not and do not drink milk. Milk can be a huge allergy trigger for some people. Between the casein and the lactose, a fair amount of people (numbers are given around 65%) are unable to digest milk. He also cites the drugs that are given to cows (they are) and references studies that show an increase in insulin for people who consume milk, although I am unsure if that includes all sources of milk or just store bought, mass produced milk. And since it is called the Paleo Diet, ingesting milk is not something the nomads of the Paleolithic era did. Drinking milk past breast feeding did not start until, we believe, less than 10,000 years ago which is a very short amount of time in the human evolution.

Caveman lady

What cave ladies probably looked like.

But let’s be totally honest folks. First off, there is no way that we as modern human beings can completely mimic the Paleolithic diet. We just can’t. Produce has evolved. Animals have changed. The world has changed. Does that mean that we should throw healthy, whole eating and the concepts of the Paleo diet out the window? No. But I also think that we need to look at everything bearing in mind that we are not necessarily Paleolithic people.

Now on to the people who are the big voices in the pro milk category. While technically, not a Paleo group, the Weston A. Price Foundation is an amazing resource for good, natural eating. They differ from Paleo in ways that I personally think are not important (although, you’ll see people on both sides bad mouthing the other side) because they think you should eat grains but you should sprout them first. And they are supporters of dairy products. Their similarities on the other hand are endless. They support local, grass fed meat, eating animal organs, cod liver oil, organic produce, consuming good, healthy fats, and the list goes on and on. Again, though, we tend to get lost in those little unimportant issues and lose the big picture.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a huge proponent of consuming dairy and keep in mind that we are referring to raw, grass fed milk not the store stuff. A few different sources that give you a general idea on their viewpoints of raw milk can be found here and here. This article also directly addresses Dr. Loren Cordain’s claims that milk contains growth factors that cause cancer. As that article points out, there is a lack of a direct effect between milk consumption and cancer.

Paleo reenactments. Not really. But wouldn't it be cool if it was?

Paleo reenactments. Not really. But wouldn’t it be cool if it was?

So where do the other names in Paleo come down on milk consumption? I think Mark’s Daily Apple takes a good stand about milk. He lists the good and the bad, and chooses not to totally take a stand, although you can tell he leans toward not consuming it at all. Abel James of the Fat Burning Man talks about his heavy cream, and grass fed butter he loves to put in his coffee. Angelo Coppela of Humans are not Broken and of Latest in Paleo tends to say that he does Paleo/Weston A. Price. Sarah Ballantyne of The Paleo Mom comes down on the side of choosing not consume dairy herself but recommends caution for others. It’s also important to keep in mind the background these particular bloggers come from too. Abel James and Angelo Coppela both are more the type who’ve tested it, found great results, and recommend that other people test it too. Sarah Ballantyne suffers from an autoimmune disorder and is Celiac disease so because of the similarities between gluten and casein, she can’t drink milk even if she wanted to.

As I’ve stated previously, I choose to drink milk. And other than occasionally getting some cheese on something when I go out to eat, I only consume my dairy from a local source because I think that’s important. I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve done totally dairy free, occasional dairy, or just raw dairy, and I feel the very best when it’s just raw dairy. I find my digestion is better, I’ve actually noticed less bloating. I’m satiated for longer periods of time and even though with the milk and yogurt I’m probably taking in more calories on a daily basis, I have not had any weight gain.

They were actually baking almond flour cookies!

They were actually baking almond flour cookies!

It really sounds like a cop out but it genuinely has to be a personal test. How do you personally feel when you eat grass fed, raw dairy? As it should be with all foods that are “Paleo” or “Not Paleo”. It shouldn’t be necessarily about whether or not the cavemen were eating it (because I highly doubt cavemen were baking coconut flour cookies in their caves) but how you feel when you eat. Experiment with foods objectively, keep a journal, listen to your body. That’s the true way to find the optimal diet.

Raw Milk versus That Store Stuff

Can I start off by saying that I really have missed writing? A lot. In my defense, I got married a month ago and you would think that all the stress and stress-related symptoms would disappear when the wedding is over, but that is just not true. Your body takes a beating when it is stressed and sleep deprived, and it takes real time to heal and get back to normal. And for me at least, while feeling that way, the urge and the ability to write is pretty much nonexistent. On the positive side, my wedding was completely amazing, the honeymoon was perfect, and I am back to putting my blog as a priority. And yes, for those of you who are into that sort of thing, there will be a wedding post with lots of pictures coming soon but today’s topic is about the benefits and risks of choosing raw milk over pasteurized store bought milk.

Milk

Let’s first start off by explaining what makes milk raw milk. It is simply milk that has not been pasteurized, or heated up until it kills the pathogens in the milk. Raw milk can be a carrier of dangerous bacteria including salmonella and E. coli, which can not only be dangerous but also deadly. Hence why the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Center for Disease control) believe that it is necessary to pasteurize milk before the consumer can buy it. It is actually illegal to buy or sell raw milk in quite a few states. In my own home state of Michigan, it is illegal to sell raw milk, however, you can join a herd share and receive milk that way. The logic of the herd share is that you own part of the cow and pay for its room and board so you therefore have a right to what it produces. And there genuinely is a risk when choosing to consume raw milk instead of the pasteurized milk. Chris Kresser does a fantastic job of breaking down the actual statistical risks that CDC found and reported about raw milk and other foods that cause food borne illnesses. The findings basically come down to saying that there is a larger risk drinking unpasteurized milk than drinking pasteurized milk. However, it is only 9.4 times more likely to cause illness, and is actually last on the list of most common foods causing illnesses.  Bear in mind that these “illnesses” we are referring to are not necessarily just E coli and salmonella. This can refer to any illness like an upset stomach or diarrhea, and although food poisoning seems horrible while one is suffering from it, it is not necessarily life threatening. Personally, when I think about what foods are dangerous to eat and cause illnesses, my first thought is actually peanut butter or spinach. Now given the rate that peanut butter is consumed compared to raw milk is exponentially higher but it also proves that pretty much anything can have risks, and shouldn’t our concern be the source of the food, not the food itself? When pasteurization first became a requirement in America, there had been a huge TB breakout in New York. The tuberculosis was thought to be spread by milk, and most likely rightfully so. This was also during a time that doctors were just starting to finally accept that there lack of hand washing was what was killing newborns and their mothers. It’s hard to compare the knowledge of germs and sanitary conditions of the 1930’s to now. And again, source is so important. The more mass produced something is, the higher the risks for contamination. Mass produced milk has to be pasteurized.

So we agree that raw milk does carry a greater risk of illnesses and the CDC says that drinking pasteurized milk loses no nutritional value. So why drink raw milk? To start off, there are believed to be many health benefits, however, none completely proven, albeit more because of a lack of studies. Raw milk contains fats, good bacteria, and enzymes helpful to digestion. Because of it’s helpfulness in digestion its thought not only to help your immune system but also to even cure allergies. This sounds a little far fetched but as science continues to grow and develop about food allergens, we are more and more coming to understand that much of it comes down to gut health. Raw milk also contains lactase, which is the enzyme that helps to digest lactose. Those of us who are lactose intolerant can greatly benefit from the bacteria that creates those enzymes. I, myself, am one of those who does not have the certain broken gene that allows me to digest lactose well. I quit drinking milk in high school because of serious digestive issues and in an attempt to get my eczema under control, and it worked well for me. However, give me a glass of raw milk and I can drink it down with no negative side effects. I’ve actually seen an improvement in my ability to digest other foods but that is of course, only anecdotal evidence. And fat. Oh fat. The macro nutrient that has been vilified for so long. Fat is good for you. It’s good for brain development. Its satiating in ways that carbohydrates can almost never be. Breast milk is almost entirely made from fat and most people and experts agree that it is incredibly important to breast feed children. Even Dr. Oz is coming down in favor of “good fats“. I need to make the disclaimer that I definitely do not agree with everything that Dr. Oz points out in that video as good for you but getting the message out that fat can help with weight loss, wrinkles, and bone health is a definite improvement.

So we have anecdotal evidence of improved immune system, easier digestion, and healthy fats that help with overall health. But I believe that there is a moral responsibility in not supporting milk producers that use industrial raised cows. The milk that I drink comes from local, grass fed cows. Whereas these industrial raised cows are fed grains. Cows cannot digest grains well. As many people know, cows do that lovely thing where they chew grass, and chew and chew and chew grass until the grass becomes cud and then they swallow. The cud enters the first compartment of the stomach and is often regurgitated and chewed some more until the cow is able to digest it. Cows are not able to do this with grains. Their inability to do so can actually cause bloat and kill a cow rather quickly. Yes, we feed an animal something that can kill it and then expect it’s meat and milk to be good for us. So because of this, the cows are given antibiotics to help keep them alive. As well as animal byproducts and arsenic (at least for chickens but how long before its cows as well). They are kept in unclean conditions, spending a large part of their lives in their own filth, and then when ready to slaughter are shipped to more containment, mistreated, and slaughtered in unclean conditions. And dairy cows are not above this treatment. They, too, are given antibiotics to treat all the illnesses that inflict confined animals, to levels that are high enough to actually violate the FDA’s laws and leading to arrests in both Ohio and Idaho. These animals are genuinely sick and mistreated and we expect their products to be good for us. And not to get all hippy dippy on you, readers, but I just can’t believe that eating animals that have been treated that way is going to come back to you in a good way. God said that we shall have dominion over the land and the animals but we were meant to be caretakers of this world, and the mistreatment of animals does not fall under the role of caretaker.

Cow

I’m sure many of you can see that I come down on the side of raw milk. The farm that I get my milk from cares about their animals. They are well treated and the owners are open and honest. Visit their farm anytime, check out their equipment, and feel free to ask questions. They explain honestly that they do not regularly give any of their animal antibiotics, however, if one of their cows became sick, they would give them the necessary medicine to make them better. The cows have pasture upon pasture to eat and are happy, bright eyed animals. And I’ll be honest, I like the family. The husband and wife owners are genuine and interesting, and the children are gorgeous and active. It’s a small farm but I feel completely safe getting my milk, yogurt, and cheese from them. And it has, I believe, genuinely helped me. I feel better when I have it. I feel more satiated for longer. I have a better digestion. My overall skin health is also improved, which goes along with better digestion, less eczema.

Am I advocating that every person drink raw milk? Nope. I believe that if you think it is dangerous then you absolutely have the right to choose to not take the risk. I also believe that I should have the right to drink whatever milk I choose to drink. Our health, our food choices should be our own. Allowing the government to dictate the milk we drink is in a lot of ways opening the door for other things. We are all right with raw milk being banned because most people believe it’s  dangerous. How long before consuming the eggs that come from our own chickens becomes a food borne illness risk in the government’s eyes? Is buying organic produce from a local farmer going to be health risk at some point? It sounds a little paranoid, but we always have to think about the consequences of every law and how far reaching they can be. I’m so glad the federal government is doing raids in order to protect me from the dangerous Amish like this (sarcasm alert!). Raw milk or pasteurized milk, it should come down to our right to choose.

How about you? Do you drink raw milk? Would you? Do you believe that we should allow no one to assume the risks or should it be a personal choice?

Marriage Advice

I’m getting married in a few days. Yeah. I’m definitely starting to feel the pressure come on. Everyone keeps saying that I must be all set and ready to go and I’m sure this look of panic comes over my face, and I get that deer in the headlights look with the stammering answer of “Nope, not quite yet.” And then I think about the people who do have everything ready this early and realize that I am incredibly jealous of people that do not procrastinate.

But the wedding planning part isn’t really the important part. To be honest the wedding itself isn’t the most important part. In all reality no one remembers those little things anyway. Now don’t get me wrong, the wedding is a big deal. I have been very careful not to be exposed to the things I am allergic to, I have washed my face every night with all natural cleansing wash. I have gotten my hair colored back to its natural color. I have done the things that I wanted to do so that I can be beautiful on my wedding day. I think that although the wedding itself is important, the thing that really matters is that I am marrying my soul mate. All those cliché sayings sound so lame until you realize that you truly did not know you were missing a part of yourself until you found your other half. The way that I am choosing to look at this wedding is that although there are things that I care about, all that really matters is that when we end that day, we’ll be married. We could have the most beautiful wedding in the world but if you aren’t ready for the amount of work that marriage is, then it’s all for waste. Or you could get married in a courthouse with one witness and have that marriage last forever.

I’m hoping that I have the strength of character and honesty with myself to be going into this marriage with all the dedication and understanding that I believe that I have. I know that marriage is hard work and that it is a journey that sometimes seems like an uphill battle but because my fiance and I love each other so completely we know we are doing the right thing. Because we are getting married so soon, everyone is sharing their advice on how to make a good marriage. This is a list of the most recent advice and my thoughts on why I do think these things are incredibly important.

11493774-wedding-rings-can-be-tricky-purchase

Always kiss me goodnight. I think one of the most tragic things that a couple can do is stop being affectionate. It’s so easy to do. When you’re together a long time, months, years, whatever, you start to get so used to them that you forgot how special they are. Love and affection need to be tended constantly.

Don’t go to bed angry. This one is sort of self explanatory. It’s a bit of a cliché statement as well but one of the worst feelings in the world is waking up angry. And a lot of times, it almost feels like unless you address the wounds while they are fresh, you can take the chance of letting them fester.

Be your spouse’s champion. This token is essential. We all get caught up in it. No one is going to annoy you more than your spouse. It’s just a fact. We are human and no matter how much you love each other, sometimes you are going to drive each other up the wall. But you should never bad mouth your spouse. You can laugh and joke about those little things they do that drive you crazy but in true fights, you never want to turn others against your spouse. No one else is going to love your spouse like you do and if all they hear are the bad things, they might not view your spouse in a good way. You should sing their praises from the roof tops as much as you can.

Put your spouse above everything and everyone else. This one sounds a little weird because the person who told me said that you should put them not only before the standard stuff like work and friends, but even in front of your children in some ways. Which for a woman is very hard. But the way she explained it is that someday your children will leave and look to someone else for their needs, when they are gone don’t you want that love and devotion to still be there. A well loved husband will help you through all those growing pains if you let him.

Remember that women actually have the power and that it only takes a few things to make a man happy and if you do, he’ll move mountains for you. I love this one. It was such a simple, honest statement. Not to over simplify it but it pretty much came down to make him hot meals, be available to give him attention, and do the things with him that make him happy and a man can’t help himself. He will try his best to make sure you feel as good as he does.

Always communicate. This is the one that everyone tells you but it also tends to be the one that most people ignore. No matter how in love you are, you are sometimes going to want different things and sometimes you will have different expectations. You are two different people. But I think it’s really important as a wife to always be honest about your expectations.  If you want the dishes done you can’t expect your husband to just guess and get it done for you. Especially if when he doesn’t, you get mad or resentful toward him because you feel like he doesn’t do enough to help. You should have the ability to ask. Just ask your husband to do the dishes. And when you don’t want something, don’t be afraid to say no, discuss it, and try to compromise.

Wait for kids, be a married couple first. A friend of mine brought this one up. He got married a little younger than me and if I remember correctly they got pregnant on the honeymoon, which was a little earlier than they were planning. And although, I’m sure they have no regrets, it was a good point. Even though we’ve been together a long time, there’s nothing like your first year of marriage. Being newlyweds is both incredibly fun and a lot of adjustment.

Always do the small things and never take him for granted because you don’t know how long he will be there. This one was powerful because of the person it came from. Never ever stop making your spouse feel like they are loved and special because there is absolutely no predicting the future. And love and life is so precious.

Get your finances in order before you take the plunge. Money is one of the biggest reasons for divorce in the United States. It sounds kind of cynical but you should go into marriage, a life long commitment, with your eyes completely open and that means being on the same page about money. That means having those tough discussions about priorities and spending. My fiancé is a planner and I’m more the optimistic “we’ll make it work” kind of person. Sometimes that opposition can be a disaster if you are not realistic about your needs and your goals. I can be the stay at home mom that I want to be if I can respect and follow my fiancé’s financial plans. We can compromise about what we want and need.

The perfect marriage is when two imperfect people learn to enjoy their differences. I think that says it all.

That’s the main advice that I have been given so far and I really think that they are not only important anecdotes but things that everyone should incorporate into their lives no matter how long they have been married. So you tell me, blog readers, what’s the best advice you can give or have been given? Let me know what I’m missing.

Paleo Diet Part 3

Recently, I’ve introducing the Paleo Diet to my readers as simply as I can. In Part 1, I explained the premise and in Part 2, I tried to express the great and terrible things that can happen when you try to turn a life style change into a fad diet. Now I would like to talk about my favorite subject.

Me.

Just kidding. Well, sort of. I’m not that much of an ego maniac but I do want to spend Part 3 talking about my own personal journey and changes throughout the past year or so.

weight-loss

First off, let’s talk about the weight loss. Weight loss can be fantastic but I also don’t think that it should be the focus over health. But many times it’s what brings people to the Paleo Diet. It’s what originally got me interested. I was one of those lucky people who was born with a monster metabolism. I could put away more food that most grown men, and at 5 foot and 6 inches, I still only weighted 110 pounds my freshman year of high school. And I stayed pretty small until about 21 or 22, and slowly the weight started creeping up. Nothing major, though, this is not one those miracle stories, but it still crept up. By about 22, (with the help of working in a restaurant and let’s face it, way too much beer and box wine) I made it up to 146 lbs. And yes, I know that’s not a lot but I had two things working against me. One is that I am a very slender build and those love handles were painfully noticeable. Two is that even though I knew looking at the scale that I had gained weight, I couldn’t figure how to dress like I gained weight. I kept grabbing shirts off the rack that were way too small or pants that were incredibly tight around my bloated stomach. And as I’m sure many of you know, nothing will send into the arms of a glass of wine and bucket of ice cream faster than feeling like you’re too fat to wear anything.

So I tried what everyone tries. I started tracking my calories throughout the day. I lost no weight, and spent every single day only thinking about what I could eat, when I could eat, and how many peanut butter banana sandwiches I could have before I crossed over my calorie limit. I realize that limiting calories does work for a lot people, albeit mostly in the short term but for me, I couldn’t stand to be hungry. If I was hungry, I was unhappy. If I was unhappy, I wanted to eat. You can see the cycle forming. So I gave up. Fairly quickly. And bless my fiancé because I know there was a huge part of him that wanted to tell me that if I just eat a little less and exercise a little more then I’d lose weight. And partly because I am scary when I am angry but mostly because he loves me, he let me make my own decisions about my weight loss.

So anyway, fast forward. At this point, all my clothes were too tight and my acne, which was never an issue as a teenager, was terrible. I had very serious hormonal issues, as well as issues with anxiety. I genuinely thought that terrible gas pains and bloating were normal. I was just used to it so I never questioned the terrible stomach pains that followed each meal. Eventually, I watched a documentary that basically challenged the calorie obsession portrayed in Super Size Me. This documentary is called Fat Head. The director, Tom Naughton decided that he too, could eat McDonalds every day for 30 days. So he did and he made food choices that actually caused him to lose weight instead of gain it. It was sort of amazing. I highly recommend it and it is on streaming video on Netflix. It’s message really resonated with me. The idea that instead of eating filler food (bread, and other grain), eating nutrient dense whole foods made total sense to me. So I tried it. And I lost 10 pounds pretty quickly, but I didn’t know how to continue that. I didn’t know how to keep eating that way sustainably. Then my dad turned me on to this podcast called Latest in Paleo. Latest in Paleo is awesome. The host, Angelo Coppelo, is wonderful. He is sweet and genuine and when he talks about his wife and daughters there is such a sense of love that you feel that you are part of their family too.

So I started the Paleo Diet at this point. And I started it hardcore. And, wow, did it work for me. I dropped weight right away. I had a cyst that stayed put for 4 years, and the doctors were incredibly vague when I asked about it, but three weeks on Paleo and it disappeared. My mood got better, my acne slightly improved, not completely. That took further investigation and experimentation to get a hold on that. My energy level went up and my terrible eczema got better. It was awesome. I went from a size 8 in pants to a size 0, and I have kept it off for over a year. I felt stronger too. I don’t really exercise any more now than I did before but with the ability to burn fat, which I eat tons of instead of sugar, I build muscle fairly quickly. I’m still not as strong as I would like to be but I can do a couple pull ups and decent amount of push ups, and I haven’t been able to do that since I was 16. I felt like I had found the answer. Both my fiance and I finally felt like we were in our early twenties again, like we should have felt.

Bigger picture

Although, the difference between these two photos is more subtle to most people, the ridiculous changes that I can feel make these two pictures even more of a Before and After.

Thin Picture

Everything was great, well, almost. My hormones still didn’t feel like they were quite right and my acne had not improved any where near what it should have. So I became frustrated. I was doing everything right and yet, my body would not do what I wanted. So I fell off the wagon. I never gained any weight back but I started introducing things back in. Too many chocolate bars. Peanut butter. Gluten free snacks, which is just normal junk food with rice flour instead of wheat. Recently, I was exposed to something when I went out to dinner. It was sort of my fault. I should have investigated the food, but I had become so lax. I had always avoided gluten, even when eating things that were not Paleo because at the time, I thought it was the gluten that I was allergic to. Upon being exposed in that restaurant, my body decided to fight back. And hives appeared under my eyes. Big giant, very embarrassing bumps. And the journey began all over again.

angry otter

At this point, I was angry. I felt like I was living such a restricted life style. I couldn’t eat anything. Ever. Why could everyone else eat pretty much whatever and I couldn’t? And then came the journey of trying to figure out what I could eat and having no idea whatsoever where to start. I wasn’t sure if I was allergic to coconut or coffee or eggs or what. The thought of just not eating crossed my mind more than once. Oh, I know how dramatic that sounds but there is nothing quite like feeling like your body is working against you. And my issues are only an immune disorder that mostly only affects my skin. My heart breaks for people who have terrible debilitating auto-immune disorders.

So I started again. I started listening to The Paleo View and one of the hosts, Sarah Ballantyne, has Celiac disease and listening to her really made me start to understand what I was doing wrong. She explained how most people with Celiac disease cannot eat things like chocolate and coffee, or eggs and milk because the proteins in these items tend to act like the damaging proteins in wheat. And I realized that not only did I need to give up some of the things I love but I also needed to just go to the doctor and get tested for allergies. I kept putting it off because I just don’t think that doctor’s are sufficiently taught about nutrition. They treat symptoms amazingly but I don’t think they all know how to treat the underlying cause.

At this point, I stopped eating sweet potatoes, any dairy (including raw), eggs, coffee, chocolate, and any grains whatsoever. After my allergy tests, I received some really good news and some really bad news. The good news was that I do not have Celiac disease. The bad news is that even though I am not allergic to gluten, I am still allergic to wheat, corn, soy, shellfish, walnuts, and peanuts for sure. I think there may be a possibility that I have an issue with chocolate and sunflower seeds but that will be a later experiment.

So where does that put me right now. It still puts me mostly Paleo, I think. I’m just even more restricted than the general Paleo crowd, with some divergences. Like the fact that I do think that raw dairy is very good for you and that as long as you have no negative effects from it then consume away. Once I am able to do some gut healing for myself, 24 years of eating inflammation causing foods have done some serious damage to my health, then I am planning on reintroducing raw milk back into my diet. Many people in the Paleosphere you will find think dairy is bad because we didn’t start drinking until the Neolithic Era. I have to make the choice to eat and supplement as healthfully as possible. So that means my vitamins are all plant based, instead of synthetically made and added to corn starch pills. Which also makes them twice the price. And I will take my codfish liver oil everyday with my probiotics. I will try to eat my fermented sauerkraut at least once a day, as well as drink my kombucha, and will hopefully develop a taste for grass fed liver. And yes, I will try to eat sardines every day, too.

I almost didn’t put up before and after pictures to try and show off the changes that I have made in the last year. Part of me is incredibly self-conscious about it because even though I’m better, I still have a long way to go. Because of my recent exposure, my acne and eczema are terribly flared up. I can’t wear make up right now and even though, I want to be a person who’s 100% confident without it, well, let’s just say I’m not there yet. Whenever I want to encourage people to learn more about what they eating to help some issue they have, I want to put my hand next to my mouth to cover up the eczema patches that have recently appeared. It’s hard to try and tell other people how healthy you are when you know that you don’t always look it. But the entire point of even starting this blog was to encourage other people, especially women, that we should be proud of who we are. That as long as we are doing the very best we can for our health, that we should walk around like we are best looking people in the room. I’m on a journey right now to be the very healthiest and happiest I can be for me, my fiance, and our future family. And because of that, I have to be more forgiving of my faults. Please try to walk the same way for yourself. Stop being your worst critic and forgive of your own imperfections.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~Buddha

Mother’s Day

Today, I want to interrupt my Paleo Diet series and do a little tribute for my  mother on Mother’s Day. My dad and I bought her some gifts to show our appreciation of her and what she does but I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post to tell her, and those that read my blog, how much I love and cherish her. Maybe then she can begin to realize how amazing she is.

I am in awe of my mother. Truly. My mother came from a lot less and worked really hard to provide for her children. She married a man who wouBearld be her equal, and who would be the father that her children deserved. My mom is the strongest woman I know. She is the strength in our family and I am unbelievably blessed to have her not only as a mother but also as a best friend. She is completely selfless. No matter what her hurts were, she always put her husband and her children first. Throughout my life, she has always sacrificed to give us everything. I know that my biggest cheerleader will always be my mom. Never in my entire life has she ever made me feel like I couldn’t do something. She always told me how talented I was or how beautiful I was or how incredibly much she loved me. I have never been the perfect daughter and sometimes probably not deserving of her unconditional love but she always gave it. Always. Heck, everything she does, good and bad, she does for the love of her children. Her love is amazing and fierce. You know the old advice that says that you should never get between a mother bear and her cubs. That bear is my mom, only I think my mom might be even more protective and a little scarier when her children are threatened.

As I’ve become an adult, I’ve gotten to know my mom as a human being and a person instead of just as a mom. I see all her faults and all her strengths, and I still stand amazed. She has taught me to be the woman that I am today. Strong, confident, a little too stubborn, and someone who believes in right and wrong and will stand for it no matter what. I’m getting married in a few weeks and I hope to emulate my parent’s marriage in all their best ways. They have been happily married for 24 years, and they owe it to God and a lot of hard work. My mother loves my father unconditionally. She honors him daily. She laughs at his jokes and shares in his dreams. They still hold hands when they walk together. They need each other completely even after almost a quarter century. I want to love my soon to be husband as my mom loves my dad. With all the love, commitment, and admiration that they have for each other.

I am so proud of my mom. She has come so far in her life. I’ve seen her at her best and worst moments and only hope that I have the strength of character that she has to come through the trials and tribulations of motherhood and still be standing tall at the end of it. She held my hand on my first day of Kindergarten. She bought me flowers for every single play or performance I ever did. She tightened the belt and saved money to make sure that I could have voice lessons, and nice clothes, and a car in high school. She watched me graduate high school. And she did the bravest thing she could and stood back when I moved out on my own to try to prove to myself that I could do it. She helped me move into my first apartment. She fell in love with my fiancé and blessed our engagement. She took me to the bridal shop so we could pick out my wedding dress. She will be there on my wedding day when I am feeling just as nervous as I was on my first day of Kindergarten. She will tell me how much she loves me before my dad walks me down the aisle. And she will be there for me through everything, big or small. God has blessed me. Not only with amazing parents, but also amazing examples of the kind of wife and mother I want to be.

Thank you, Mom, so much for all that you have done and all that you will do. Thank you for helping me plan this wedding, and making me the princess and being supportive even when we disagree. And thank you so much for your unconditional love that no one but another mother could possibly understand. You will always be my friend and my anchor in any storm.

God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers. ~Rudyard Kipling

The Paleo Diet Part 2

scales

Earlier this week, I talked about the Paleo diet and what it is in Part 1. Now I want to explain the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet. When you first go Paleo, let me tell you, it’s all pros. Your energy goes up, your skin gets better and your pants start feeling baggier. It’s almost amazing how effortless it seems. And then about 3-6 months after starting, some things start setting in for you that kind of slow you down. You start getting confused by some of the information, and you’re not getting the results other people are, you start plateauing, and then all the Paleo stuff starts to get old and then you’re not sure where you are. Well, I want to talk about some of the good and bad about the Paleosphere so that hopefully, when you are able to give this crazy, wacky life style a try, you won’t hit a lot of the same road blocks that I did.

First off. Let’s talk about the good. Effortless weight loss. Well, not effortless, there’s no such thing as effortless weight loss. But it is effortless in that to lose weight you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym. In actuality, heavy cardio is not usually recommended. There is more and more evidence coming out on how heavy cardio, and I am referring to those who jump on the elliptical for 2 hours everyday, can actually be bad for you and cause fat storage, specially for women. There is exercise involved with the Paleo Diet because it is necessary, but in my opinion it’s fun exercise. Walk often and in the sunshine. Lift heavy things. I’m a huge fan of pull ups, push ups, and squats. Do yoga and meditate. Sprint when you can because getting the blood flowing is good for you. Join a team sport, garden, go swimming, in other words: Go play! And this is a great concept about Paleo. Exercise should be fun and encouraging to adults and kids.

Another great thing about Paleo is the fact that nobody really recommends calorie counting, or fat counting, or obsessing about food till it’s all you think about. We’ve all been there. You need to lose some weight so you tell yourself “Ok, I have time to exercise and burn 1,000 calories, and so that means that I can eat 1,400 calories today instead of 1,200 so that in turn means that I am allowed to eat half of this chocolate cookie and drink a beer and that’s all the food I can have for the rest of the day.” Maybe those aren’t your exact words but it’s easy to get there. It’s easy to turn all your food into calories and grams of fat and grams of sugar and to completely forget what food is for. Food is for life. We should eat and enjoy it. Eat with our families and tribes, and eat the most nutrient dense food possible. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some reasons to watch calories. If you are eating 1,000 calories a day in just almonds there are going to be some problems, but the overall message of Paleo is to eat to love and work with your body, not against it.

Oh my goodness, and the success stories. I love them. I really do. Every Friday, Mark Sisson posts a success story that someone sent in. Some of them make you go “No way!” and some make you tear up because of the paths that some of these people have walked down. The wonderful things is these stories are very rarely ever just about weight loss. A lot of these people are gaining their lives back from chronic illnesses or debilitating allergies. Rarely do people say, “I’ve lost all that weight now I got to get back to eating the standard American diet”. Usually, they are on a life changing journey that they will always be traveling on and I love that. I truly believe that you always need to be going / growing somewhere, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally.

One last pro about the Paleo diet. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more but I plan on talking about a lot of the real pros when I do Part 3 and explain my journey with the Paleo diet. The last one I want to talk about is the sense of community. It’s awesome. And supportive. I love the podcasters I listen to and the blogs I read because each one is personable and lovely. They are realistic and down to earth. They encourage people to shop locally. Support your town, support your local farmer, heck, be a wannabe farmer and build a chicken coop in your back yard. They want you to do your best to stay away from factory farms because let’s be honest, it is clearly animal abuse and there no other way around it. The Paleo community encourages you to plant a garden and live as nature intended you to live. They want you to create your community around you. Yes, if you get enough people like myself who mostly eat organic, do not use shampoo, and refuse to wear shoes then it will start to look like a commune but that’s all right. Build a tribe. It’s what our ancestors did.

Now I want to talk about some of the cons. I know what you’re thinking. “Kayla, after all those great things, why do you want to be such a downer?” Well, I have to be. I want everybody, I mean everybody to at least give Paleo a try. And I believe that the clearer eyed you enter this community, the better chance for success you have. First, let’s just get this out of the way. There are some crazies in the Paleo community, and yes, you get those with anything but it doesn’t stop them from driving me crazy. It’s hard to really generalize these people but for example, I think the cross fit community takes things a little too far. Not all of them, there are fantastic boxes out there but I think a lot of them do. Over training can have the opposite effect you are going for. My favorite crazies are the really self righteous people. I only recently gave up coffee and I read an article on the benefits of drinking coffee. It was a good, open minded article explaining coffee. And so many people in the comment section said “OMG, I cannot believe that Mark Sisson or Robb Wolf or whoever could possibly condone coffee. Caffeine is a drug and I am disgusted with them.” This sort of attitude seems funny but I think that people like that are incredibly discouraging to those of us who choose to take things one step at a time.

Then there’s the intermittent fasting argument. When I first started Paleo, I thought intermittent fasting was fantastic for absolutely everyone. It was recommended to everybody and everybody had good results. The intermittent fasting goes hand and in hand with this whole low carb thing. Most people call Paleo a low carb diet. It technically is if you are comparing it with the Standard American Diet, but I think most people, myself included, go really low carb when they first start Paleo. Then I read Stefani Ruper’s blog, Paleo for Women, and she talks about both of these things. Her post on intermittent fasting made some big noise in the Paleosphere. It was amazing. People were starting to really make a conscious effort to look at the differences in dietary needs between men and women. You would think that would already be a given, but it’s very easy to forget the different biological needs of both genders.

I highly recommend reading the article but I will give you a brief overview.

  • Most studies that have been done have only used men and post-menopausal women as their subjects
  • Studies that have been done on female rats have had negative side effects
  • Young women biologically are designed to bear children, and if their bodies are not receiving their caloric and nutritional needs, the female body will limit it’s ability to reproduce.

Intermittent fasting and too low carb can be amazing for some people and it can be incredibly terrible for others. Even though I think Paleo can be helpful for those with eating disorders because of it’s encouragement to not micromanage, it can also turn into it’s own kind of monster when you lose sight of the things that are important.

This all goes with the extremists that I mentioned at the beginning of the cons. So many people make such a huge deal on how you can’t eat fruit. It’s too much sugar. You can’t eat starch because it’s too many carbs. You can’t eat this and you can’t eat that. And when we start getting down to those minute details about the amount of sugar in an apple versus a banana, we are really losing sight of the important part. Yes, it is true that if you are trying to lose weight and especially if you are metabolically deranged, it may help you to limit your fruit and starch intake and only get your carbs from vegetables. That is absolutely true. But the part that you should be asking yourself is: “Did I enjoy that fruit? Did I feel sick or bloated after eating that sweet potato?” If your answer is yes, I did enjoy that fruit, or no, I actually had more energy after I ate the sweet potato, then by goodness, eat and enjoy your food. Listen to your body always.

Another big mistake that people can make with the Paleo diet is how they get their calories on a daily basis. We are a dessert society. We love it. I love it. After a bad day at work, I want to just come home and eat some cake (I can’t because of my allergies but it doesn’t stop me from wanting it).  So the Paleo recipe writers give the people what they want. Paleo treats. Treats that use almond flour or coconut flour instead of wheat. They use organic honey instead of refined sugar. You get to use 80% dark chocolate instead of the milk and soy based Hershey’s chocolate. But you always have to remember that just because you throw the word Paleo on it all willy nilly does not necessarily mean that’s it’s good for you all the time. Do I think it’s a better choice than white cake with white frosting and ice cream? Sure. Do I think that your weight loss will probably stall and you will likely risk gaining some of the weight back if you eat a Paleo treat 5 times a week? Probably. You would be amazed at how quickly a handful of almonds turns into eating an entire bag. For me, it sort of goes back to the concept of looking at what our ancestors probably did. And I’ll bet, since nuts are not easy to shell, that they didn’t eat a pound or two a day.

dinosaurs-ark1

Lastly, I just want to talk about a pet peeve of mine that in the grand scheme of things is probably not that important but yet still irks me for some reason. It’s this whole concept with some in the Paleosphere that have this attitude that one cannot be Christian and believe in the legitimacy of an ancestral diet. I actually stopped reading a few bloggers, one especially, because whenever he brought up anything with religion (which was too often in my opinion), it always seemed to be with this condescending tone toward Christians. It was almost like he was saying “That people who believe in God are too stupid to believe in science.” And that really bothered me a lot and probably helped to scare off people who were new to the Paleo scene. I find it frustrating that because I don’t believe  we evolved from monkeys that in turn means that I don’t believe in evolution within a species. I absolutely believe in evolution within a species. I believe that my God did such an amazing job creating us that He knew in that all-knowing, all powerful head of His that we would need to evolve to survive. That the world would change and we would change with it in order to continue on in this world. If anything, I think that as a Christian it’s incredibly important to take care of your body because it is the one that God gave to you. Eating and living in a way that is healthful, happy, and thankful to God and nature is incredibly spiritual and important. And let’s not forget the people who believe in Intelligent Evolution. If someone believes their God created man, and the heavens and the earth, then why couldn’t they believe that God set evolution up too.

The most important thing that I  need to say is that this life style is all about your personal journey. Just because some things work for some people does not mean that they will work for you. And that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. It means that even though milk is “not Paleo” doesn’t mean that if you tolerate it well, that you shouldn’t have it. There will be an explanation of milk and why it is “not Paleo” and why I am still a supporter of drinking it in Part 3. I personally cannot have many of the things that Paleo people can. That doesn’t make me broken, just different. In Part 3, I am going to talk about my personal journey and the things that I learned along the way. I want to show some before and afters and really help to show people that even though I have been eating this way for over a year, I am still learning new things every single day.

The Paleo Diet Part 1

The Paleo Diet, also known as the Primal Diet, the Caveman Diet, and the Ancestral Diet. It also is sometimes confused with a Low Carb diet. Some people associate it in some ways with the Weston A. Price diet (for right and wrong reasons) and a lot of people have heard about it from their local CrossFit gym. Over the next week or two, I plan on doing a three part series about the Paleo Diet, including the explanation, the pros and cons, and why I personally believe that the Paleo Diet is a great choice for most people including myself.

the_evolution_of_man_ages

Let’s begin by explaining what the “Paleo Diet” is, starting with the theory as a whole. The concept of the Paleo Diet is that back in the Paleolithic era, before the introduction of agriculture, we as human beings were at the prime of evolution. We were strong, fit, and healthy tribes of homo sapiens. It is believed by the “Paleosphere” that upon the introduction of agriculture and mainly wheat, that we may have taken a backwards step in evolution. Do I agree with this concept 100%? No. Do I think they make a very strong argument? Yes, I do. Evolution aside, I think that everybody can agree that cavemen were not eating McDonald’s “I think there might chicken in there somewhere” nuggets.

I tell you that so I can tell you this. The Paleo Diet is very simple and very complicated in a lot of ways. The big guys tell you to eat meat (preferably grass fed), seafood (wild caught), lots and lots vegetables, nuts and seeds, and plenty of healthy fats. They recommend limiting fruit, starches, and natural sweeteners. Sounds pretty good, although in Part 2, I will talk about my feelings on limiting fruit and starches dependent on what your goals are.

Here comes the kicker. This is the part where everyone says to me “What? I can’t avoid that. What would I eat? That’s too hard.” The Paleo Diet says that you should avoid all gluten containing products (some people recommend all grains), soy, legumes (yes, I realize that soy is a legume but most people don’t realize that), refined sugars, and many also recommend avoiding dairy. More to come on my views on dairy. Now I’m sure that many of you have heard about the most recent fad with the gluten-free movement. Gluten is a protein in wheat that constantly fights digestion. It is the culprit in Celiac disease. It is the cause for many digestive issues for those that are gluten intolerant which is an affliction that more and more people are finding out they have. Feel free to check out this Mark’s Daily Apple article to see a really simple breakdown of why grains and gluten can be bad for you.

Gluten is definitely the biggest “no no” in the Paleo diet, but taking a close second is soy and other legumes. Soy is kind of funny to me because I always thought, due to main stream medical advice (yes, I’m referring mostly to MSN articles and the like) that soy is really good for you and vegetarians and vegans swear by their Tofu-Turkey. My personal biggest problem with soy is I am allergic to it. Secondly, it is highly processed and it acts like estrogen in your body. This can cause issues for some women, and I believe that I was one of those women who were negatively affected by it. There’s no definitive research at this point but some people theorize that soy is part of the cause of what are eloquently known as “man boobs”. The other legumes fall under the same category of being highly processed and they are not easy to digest. The phytic acid found in beans contains complex sugars that are hard for us to digest. Yes, that classy song you learned as a child has truth to it; Beans will make you toot.

And then refined sugar. This is the easy one so I will make the explanation short and sweet. Sugar is not good for you. No, I am not talking about the sugar in fruit, or honey, or even raw organic sugar cane. I am mainly talking about the bleached white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Which once again goes back to the fact that these things do not appear in nature. Well, at one point, they may have come from nature but they are mostly created in labs now. Sugar suppresses your immune system, causes you to store fat, and is shown to feed cancer cells. Now, I will say that the Paleo community recommends limiting all the other kinds of sweeteners for what I believe are valid reasons, but that will be Part 2.

Lastly, there is a large divide about dairy and “safe” starches in the Paleo community. There are multiple reasons why you should have dairy and many reasons why you should not have dairy. There are some people who do amazing with lots and lots of starches (squash, sweet potatoes, etc.) and there are some people who will bloat with the same foods. The arguments for both sides will appear in Part 2.

The most important take away from this, which is sometimes lost to the consumer because they get so worked up about the little details that probably don’t matter, is that the Paleo Diet in truth is about eating natural, whole foods. It encourages people to buy locally and organically as much as possible. It discourages people from buying meat that comes from the horrible hell called factory farms. Paleo bloggers tell you to walk barefoot and enjoy the sunshine as much as possible. Don’t over train, but walk every single day if you can. The other important part, the part that makes all the difference in the world is that this is not a short term diet. It truly is a lifestyle. With a short term diet, you tend to go back to your standard way of eating and that will wreak havoc on your metabolism. Paleo, on the other hand, begs to be a life style in so many ways. Not just with food, but also with exercise. And with harmony with nature. It’s a full package. Harmony with yourself and the world around you.

On food allergies

Let me preface this by explaining that I am allergic to everything and I have eczema. The combination of these two things is no fun at all. I recently went to the doctor’s office because after about a month of trying to figure out why there were hives on my face, I finally gave in and went for a conventional medicine approach. And when I say hives on my face, I mean that below my eyes there were huge bumps that became more exasperated the more I tried to cover them up with make up. The doctor did what I thought she would do and prescribed some steroids. Ugh. I hate taking steroids. My heart breaks for people who have to take prescriptions like that constantly. I felt so off kilter and I was only taking them for ten days. Complaining aside, the steroids only sort of helped, I started doing some research and decided that I need to just go get a food allergy disease test and a Celiac disease test. According to the test, I do not have Celiac disease. I am, however, still allergic to wheat (just not the gluten), along with a list of about 10 other things including soy, peanuts, walnuts, shellfish, and corn. The positive part of not being Celiac disease is that even though I still cannot have wheat, I am not as limited as so many others with celiac. From what I’ve gathered, those that are sensitive to gluten (which is a protein that does not like to be digested) also tend to have an issue with similar proteins. Those proteins include eggs (egg whites technically), coffee, chocolate, milk and tons of other things. If you are interested in the technical language, please check out this The Paleo Mom article. I had already given up so much. I did not want to get rid of my recent herdshare milk and my fiance and I had just bought 12 chicks and built a chicken coop.

In other words, the results from the allergy test, although seemingly having negative results actually turned out to be a positive thing. The way I was looking at it is that even though I am incredibly restricted, I am not allergic to what I think are the healthiest things. I am not allergic to milk, well, I am lactose intolerant. I choose to drink raw, hormone free, non-factory farm raised cow’s milk and that does  not bother my lactose intolerance. I’m pretty convinced that full fat dairy (from safe sources) is incredibly good for you. And eggs. Eggs are almost super foods. They contain protein, fat, good cholesterol, choline, and naturally occurring Vitamin D. And codfish. Fermented codfish oil is amazing for you. Second only to grass fed liver for great sources of vitamins like Vitamin A and healthy omega-3s. And I can have all three of those things. That’s awesome. I am a huge fan of Weston A. Price and the diet and lifestyle that they advocate and all three of those items are at the top of their list for healthiest foods. So that’s good, right? I can continue living almost the same as usual, minus a few more things that I used to think I could have.

Then came today. I went to the health food store, which I like to call the Hippy Store. And the awesome thing about this hippy store is that they have amazing gluten free options. They carry the natural teas that I like to drink. They sell goat cheese and ice cream made from coconut milk. It’s awesome. So I went today and told myself that I was going to get myself a gluten free cupcake or cookie. It had been a long time since I treated myself to something like that and I was really excited. So I looked at every single gluten free baked good and just became more and more frustrated. Every single item had either corn, soy, or sunflower oil in it. Oh, did I not mention that I am also allergic to sunflowers. All I kept saying to myself as I read yet another ingredient label that disappointed me was that I can’t have anything. Anything. And I’m getting married in 42 days, there is no way I am going to risk having another reaction. I felt the tears of frustration welling up and I had to fight the urge not to take my frustration out on the soy eating vegan with long hair working at the counter.

It’s so easy to think “Why me? Why do I constantly have to work so hard to eat?” Most people can have all their food on the go. They can stop at a fast food restaurant and get some french fries to go. They can say “Gosh, I don’t have time to cook tonight”, or even “I don’t feel like cooking tonight” and they can order pizza. Or just stop by the frozen section at their closest grocery store, grab a box and pop it in their oven when they get home. I’m incredibly jealous of those people and sometimes I feel very negative and aggressive toward those people. I have to work very hard at being positive about my restrictions.

Sometimes people ask me how I do it. How do I keep from eating the three most common ingredients in the Standard American Diet (wheat, corn, and soy)? Sometimes this question bothers me. Sometimes I want to scream “Well, I don’t really have a choice, now do I?” But I do have a choice. We all have choices and I had to choose what would be the healthiest for me, and the healthiest for my future children.

So where am I going with this? I am trying to say in my own rambling way that although, health and food choices can be incredibly frustrating, you have to be positive. The most important thing is that you are healthy. And health makes you happy. So what if you can’t eat a cupcake when you feel energetic and good enough to go for a 5 mile hike with your awesome dogs.

Some of the good things that have come out of hives on my face:

  • I finally made the move to using baking soda instead of shampoo
  • I started using homemade cleaning and household products
  • I stopped wearing make up confidently (that’s a huge thing for me)
  • I started fermenting my own sauerkraut (that’s to help gut health, which can have a direct affect on allergy symptoms)

These seem like small things but it feels good to feel good about yourself. It feels good to make good choices about what you put into the environment. No, I can’t have beer anymore but I can still have cider and wine. No, I can’t have store bought pickles but I can make my own and they are delicious. Make the choice to always view things in a good light.

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our
circumstances.” – Martha Washington

What my blog will say…

Well, what I will try to say. The whole thought of starting a blog in some ways seems so easy and then sometimes, it is so intimidating. What if no one likes it? What if people say mean things? What if I start it and then give up on it? And then the subjects. What do I talk about? Well, I’m interested in a little bit of everything. A friend of mine writes a blog called A Brand New We and she focuses on a few different things. She talks about being a new wife and does blog posts about all the amazing DIY stuff that she does. She is incredibly talented so they are always fascinating. And let’s be honest, if I didn’t think she was so amazing, I would probably be way more jealous of her.

But I am getting off subject. I decided that I must do this blog for a number of reasons. One of those is that I believe that living in harmony with our bodies and with the earth is detrimental to our physical and mental health. I believe that we are taught incorrectly about food and health. Another reason is that I have struggled (what I really mean is struggling) with food allergies and I want to educate everyone about allergies. Well, allergies in layman’s terms at least, I am definitely not a scientist. I also want to talk about sustainable living, about not depending on anyone or any program to feed, educate, or heal yourself and your family.

I think I could probably go on for days about the things that will come up in this blog.  You will see things about relationships, gardening, chickens, dogs, and pretty much anything and everything.

First actual subject post coming soon. I think to start, I want to talk about the importance of staying positive in the face of food allergy restrictions.