Category Archives: paleo

Treating PCOS, not Infertility

I had a bit of a meltdown the other evening. You see, we watched our donor’s pets while he was away and he brought us back a large crate of beer. I allowed myself one (or two [or three]) during shark week as a consolation prize, but then I had to put them away. Alcohol can worsen infertility problems and the gluten in beer is a problem for both me and the PCOS.

Then shark week was over and the beer was still there. That specific evening, I just wanted a beer. I tried to talk myself out of it. Half of me wanted to avoid any gluten or alcohol to give this cycle the best chance possible. Half of me wanted to say fuck it and just not try. Lining everything up perfectly hadn’t worked in the past. But if I didn’t try and it didn’t work again, I’d wonder.

How bad could it be? To answer that and hopefully decide on a course of action, I took to the internet. Bad mistake. Everything affects fertility. Everything causes infertility. Everything and in any quantity.

 

I’d run up against the wall I’d been running up against for months now – a year, even. This need, this feeling, that I have to do everything perfectly to circumvent my infertility. That if I just ate less carbs, less alcohol, less gluten, less chocolate – if I just ate more olives, more fish, more greens, more vegetables – if I just walked more, if I just meditated more, if I just did acupuncture, if I just, if I just.

A year and a half and I have never once managed to do every single thing I should. I have never once been perfect. There is always something more I could have done, and that Something More was exactly the reason for my infertility.

When I was diagnosed with PCOS, my need for control ratcheted up further. I had something wrong that gave me a specific framework in which to be neurotic. And I was for a month and change. Then I wondered why I felt like shit.

Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I just did everything perfectly right, then the next cycle would work. Unfortunately, this set me up to crash hard when the cycle didn’t work. And I would go wallow in those sugars and alcohols and overall just not taking care of myself. Rise, fall, crash, burn. Repeat.

That’s when I realized I was setting myself up for failure.

 

I’m not perfect. I can’t control every situation, every moment, no matter how much I try. In the attempt, I only create more stress – something else I need to avoid.

I need to look at this a different way. I need to treat the cause, not the symptom. I also need to be more gentle with myself – my PCOS won’t ever go away. It’s always been a part of me – I’ve known something was wrong with my hormones since high school.

I already know what helps. Switching to paleo four years ago brought my cycles back. It wasn’t carb-counting or avoiding alcohol or even nightshades (tho they give me other troubles, fuckers). Eating greens and fruit and eggs and making healthy substitutions instead of avoiding something entirely. Something sustainable. Something I can – and have – been doing for years.

That’s how I need to approach this. I don’t want to be on metformin forever. I don’t want to take birth control either. This is longterm, not cycle by cycle. And knowing that helps me make those decisions.

 

To illustrate, here are the two different approaches:

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Let’s say 0-1 is the optimal level of stressors/inflammatory foods – for me, that’s sugar, high GI foods, gluten, alcohol, caffeine, and nightshades. That also includes stressing about said foods/lifestyle choices.

Treating my infertility, I get a lot closer to that optimal level, but because reaching that level is in and of itself stressful, my willpower crashes hardcore. By the end of each cycle, I’m stuffing my face with cookies and whiskey to feel better.

But treating my PCOS – as I was unknowingly doing for a while – is a lot more level. I make substitutions, which means I never quite reach the optimal level, but I also maintain my willpower.

One of these options is way less stressful overall to my body, and way more sustainable.

 

Another example, going back to that beer at the beginning:

Should I have that beer?

A) Treating infertility: No, absolutely not. Maybe in two weeks. But it has gluten and alcohol and it’s going to shrivel up your eggs and screw up this cycle.

B) Treating PCOS: No – you know you can handle small quantities of gluten, but is beer really worth it? How about a half glass of wine instead? It’s less carbs and you can save your limited gluten allowance for a special occasion.

 

Maybe someday I can gradually approach the optimal level, but for now I need to be aware of my own limitations and work within them. I’ve been beating myself up for too long and it hasn’t helped anyone or anything.

Now, if only I can remember to be more gentle.

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Filed under depression, diet, goals, n steps, paleo

Paleo AIP Reintroduction Part: Eggs | Redux Redux’ed

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January of last year I did 30 days strict of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. In the subsequent six months I spent a lot of time reintroducing foods to figure out what had been causing several nasty skin problems, but in particular an inexplicable skin rash.

After those six months, it was fairly evident that I had a big problem with nightshades and eggs. Nightshades give me boils, but eggs were behind the skin rash. When I first reintroduced them, I felt sick, and a few days later I had new patches of rash. I waited a good five months before trying again. The reaction this time was even worse and I dealt with a very large rash on my leg for several months.

I didn’t touch eggs again after that. Not whole, not the whites, not the yolks, not cooked or baked or glazed.

At least, not until about six weeks ago.

I had just been told by the doctor that I had PCOS. I had just started metformin. I was super bummed about food because honestly, low carb without eggs is pretty hard. Every recipe I looked at had eggs. And I found myself craving them hardcore at the exclusion of meats and vegetables.

So I caved and I had one. Just one. And it tasted amazing, but I knew I was going to pay for it within a few days. But I waited a few days and nothing happened, then I waited a few more and had another egg. Still nothing.

It’s now been six weeks and I’ve eaten an egg or two more days than not. Every morning I check my body all over for the telltale bright pink flare of a new rash and I find nothing. The original rash is now nothing but the biopsy scar.

I can hardly believe it. But I guess it makes sense? This came on suddenly, after all, and the AIP says some allergies can go away if you give them enough time. It’s even possible that something else was interacting with the eggs to make me allergic to them and, given enough time, that allergy has healed.

Either way, being able to eat eggs again has made sticking to low carb so much easier. I can actually eat out. I can eat at friends’ places. When we go to Switzerland in a few weeks (three?!) I’ll be able to find something filling and nutritious to eat.

Nightshades, though, are still a definite no. In my excitement with eggs, I tried tomatoes and nightshade spices and both gave me horrible boils. I’m still healing from them and they’ve been a painful reminder to Stay the Fuck Away.

But eggs! Omg eggs! It gives me hope yet that someday I’ll be able to eat tomatoes again.

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Filed under AIP, diet, happy things, paleo, reintroduction

AIP Breakfast Casserole

 

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One of the biggest time-saving changes we made in our lives when we went paleo was preparing as many meals as possible in advance. When I (thought I) could eat eggs, I made large breakfast casseroles weekly which we could divvy up each morning and then be on our merry ways. Unfortunately, after finding out I had an egg sensitivity those casseroles went away completely.

When I started the AIP last year, I simply made greens every morning – fresh and crispy and delicious. I figured I would just deal with it and make casseroles later, after reintroducing eggs. Well, you know how that went. But instead of changing my breakfast ritual, I just kept doing it – every single morning. Add to that occasionally having to make lunch as well and often having to make a separate breakfast for Lady and soon half my morning was taking over by cooking. Not cool.

I seriously don’t know what took me so long to just make an egg-less casserole. I remember searching pinterest and google for inspiration, only to get bummed out at all nightshade-tastic alternatives. Then two weeks ago I looked at what I had and just went fuck it, I’ll make this work.

And I did. And it did. Surprisingly. Or maybe not surprisingly?

So without further ado

AIP Breakfast Casserole

  • 1-2 pounds ground meat (just depends on how much protein you like/need)
  • 1 tbsp. oil for frying
  • 5-7 cups of washed kale/greens of choice
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cups other veggies – I used mushrooms and broccoli
  • 1 pre-baked sweet potato
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 or 5 pieces of bacon to top OR crumbled feta
  • A frying pan
  • A baking pan – I used a 7×11

 

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Turn your oven on to 350.

Chop all of your veggies first – onion, broccoli, mushrooms, kale, what have you. Then brown the ground meat and set aside. Fry the onion and garlic in the fat (if it’s pastured/grass fed – otherwise use avocado oil), mix in with the ground meat. Briefly sauté the vegetables, then mix them in as well. Add salt and pepper and spices to the meat and veggie mix.

While the pan is hot, cook down the greens a bit. Use a little oil to get them crispy. Set aside.

Now to start the layering process:

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Slice your baked sweet potato and cover the bottom of your baking pan with the rings. Add a layer of the cooked greens, then spread out the meat mixture on top of that. Top it off with the rest of the greens and either the bacon or feta – if you’ve successfully reintroduced dairy, of course. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the feta browns / bacon crisps. Let cool and parcel out generous portions for breakfast.

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Filed under AIP, happy things, paleo, recipe

February Whole 28: Day 9

I was just thinking hey we’re a week in! And now it’s over a week!

I’d like to say it’s all been easy peasy, but around day five or six I looked in our fridge and our cabinet and I did not see a thing to eat. There were things, even Whole30 compatible, but nothing looked edible to me. I hit this wall during AIP, too – there’s a point where you’ve just kind of been eating the same things and you get super bored with it all.

Thankfully we were close to the weekend and our weekly Sunday cook-up so I didn’t have to endure that long. We went to Trader Joe’s that night and I got a bag of cruciferous crunch and one of smoked salmon, both of which nicely break up the monotony. I can’t say I didn’t whine about it, though. Maybe a little.

The weekend was actually more difficult than I had anticipated because it was a good friend’s birthday. We took her out to gelato one night and grilled another and then had brunch on her actual birthday – I had water and a salad through all that, which was not the most exciting thing, but the excitement wasn’t about the food thankfully.

But I still cooked some delicious grub on Sunday to make up for it. 🙂 We made lamb meatballs, cilantro guacamole, roast sweet potatoes, roast brussel sprouts (+ bacon), fried up some ground beef, washed some greens, rinsed some blackberries, and called it good. I’ve been snacking on almonds and raisins, as well as berries drizzled in coconut milk, which is the best snack btw, one that I discovered back on my AIP.

I also splurged for sparkling water and juice for date night, since alcohol is right out. Cranberry with a spritz of lemon juice is divine. Or, well, at least tasty.

One week down. Just three to go! I have to admit, Lady and I are already talking about having a high tea date in March…

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Filed under diet, paleo, whole30

February Whole28: Day 3 & a Meatball Recipe

Man, after the being on the autoimmune protocol, doing the Whole30 again is a breeze.

I’m on day 3 and I feel amaaaazing. One of the things I have found I absolutely love about the whole30 – and going strict paleo in general – is how quickly I feel better. All that puff from eating too much bread and cookies disappears almost overnight and I start actually liking my body again. My mind is clearer. My mood is more positive. I feel strong again. I find myself looking down at my stomach more often than not, surprised that so much pudge is already vanished. I always forget how big a difference just losing the water weight makes.

That said, I have been sorely tempted by sweets and treats. Yesterday I couldn’t stop thinking about donuts and if someone had brought some into work, I might not have made it. Thankfully they brought in the treats today – bagels and cinnamon rolls and chocolate cookies and spinach dip and coffee cake – but I went and got a plain coffee instead. That kind of spread of bready treats happens all the time here at work, which is why it’s so hard for me to limit myself to just one treat in any specified time frame. There’s almost always something and it’s always right behind my desk.

IDK how people can just eat one cookie/bagel/baked good and leave the spread alone for the rest of the day – even the week – but if any of you know the secret, please share. Because I am fine with one. But it never stops at one, does it?

Anyway: as I admitted before, I hadn’t anticipated that going whole30 would be that much of a change from my day to day, and I was right. The biggest difference isn’t in my meals – it’s in my snacks. No more half bagels mid-afternoon. No more grazing on crackers and chocolate chips in the evening. No late night runs (literally) to Trader Joe’s for vegan cookies and wine.

It’s too early to see much of a change aside from the reduction in puff, but I’ll keep ya’ll updated. For now, here’s a recipe that’s both Whole30 and Autoimmune Protocol friendly:

 

Garlicky Chicken Liver Meatballs

– 2 pounds ground beef and/or pork

– 3 oz chicken liver

– 3-6 cloves of garlic (if you/your coworkers can handle it, go for 6)

– 1 tsp oregano

– 1 tsp marjoram

– 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

– 1 tsp salt

– 1 tsp black pepper (or more, if you dare)

– 1 tsp ground caraway seeds, or 1 tbsp. whole caraway seeds (leave out if AIP – seed spices are not allowed)

– 2 tbsp. fat of choice (coconut oil, bacon fat, lard, etc – even ghee if you know it’s okay) if using lean ground meat

First of all: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep a baking pan with parchment paper or whatever you prefer to use.

Measure out all your spices into a small bowl and mix, then set aside. Blend/pulverize your chicken liver with the vinegar using your favorite blender/immersion blender/what have you. It will liquefy. It will be glorious. And disgusting.

And the spices and fresh garlic to the liver and pulse to mix it some more. Put your meats into a large bowl, wash your hands, and pour that liquid liver mixture (god that sounds awful) over the ground meat. Make sure you don’t have to open any doors or get anything else out or answer the phone because your hands are about to get icky.

Mix the meat with the liver thoroughly. Then mix it some more. Now form little 2″ diameter(-ish) balls and place them on your baking sheet. With 2 pounds of ground meat, you should end up with 16-20 meatballs.

Wash your hands thoroughly and bake your balls (kekeke) for 20min. Remove. Let cool. Don’t forget to turn off the oven.

Some notes:

I really don’t like the taste of liver, so 3oz is on the safe side. It’s recommended to eat about 4oz of liver a week, so if you can handle it, add a wee bit more. Additionally, chicken liver is less potent than beef liver, so adjust accordingly if you can’t find chicken. You can always add more garlic, too, but at the risk of scaring off your friends. I found 6 cloves on the upper limit of garlickiness.

You can also do 375 for 25 minutes or fry them in a pan. Meatballs are incredibly forgiving.

Play with the seasoning! This is my go-to for liver meatballs, but anything with strong flavors should work.

I’ve been eating these – or at least something very similar – for the past year as part of the Autoimmune Protocol. Mixing up the spices a bit keeps them from getting too boring. And I’m slowly learning to add more and more black pepper to get a spark of spicy back.

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Filed under AIP, diet, paleo, whole30

A Year Later: Update on the Inexplicable Skin Rash

It’s been an entire year since I finished the first part of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol and I feel like it’s time for another update. I started that whole thing because I had an inexplicable skin rash that showed up one November – now two years ago – and started spreading. It didn’t itch, it didn’t flake, it didn’t do anything except spread. When it also didn’t start to fade after a year, I went to the doctor and found out it was inflammation, possibly because of something or other.

Well, duh. I could have told them that. But they couldn’t tell me the cause and when the inexplicable skin rash decided to migrate to a spot right beneath one of my eyes, I decided I had to try something. That something was the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol – hereafter called the AIP – which is a very strict, healing diet and lifestyle. You avoid eggs, nightshades, grains, dairy, nuts, seeds (including seed-derived spices), alcohol, NSAID’s (like Aleve), food additives, and anything else that’s fun, while focusing on eating tons of greens, bone broth, fermented foods (like kefir and sauerkraut) and organ meats and getting enough sleep and exercise. It sucked.

But it worked.

Now, a full year later, my inexplicable skin rash is 99% gone. I can feel a little raised area where the first (and largest and most persistent) patch was, but aside from the biopsy scar (hiss) there is nothing to see. The big red patch on my leg after the egg reintroduction? Gone. The patch on my wrist and the inside of my elbow? Gone. All the little bits and pieces speckling my torso – gone gone gone. I would take a picture, but it would just be a picture of skin.

Not only that, but the AIP took away the big, oozing bumps I used to get on my rear and, although I’ve gotten a few small, irritating ones – exclusively when nightshades crept back into my diet, accidentally or intentionally – I haven’t had to utilize band aids like I used to. I’ve also been able to do sit-ups for the very first time in almost two years, because the inexplicable bump/awfulness at the base of my tail bone is finally healing.

Another big thing: I haven’t had a panic attack in going on three years now, and not even an anxiety attack in the last year. My depression was problematic in the latter half of last year, but during the stricter phase of the AIP it was nonexistent. I’m still figuring out why.

My diet has changed irrevocably, although it’s no longer as strict as the initial AIP introduction – nor should it be. I still eat a big heaping of greens for breakfast every day and make a batch of broth each week. I still mix pureed liver with meatballs and try to get in heart and tendon and tripe when and where I can. My coffee consumption is steady at one cup a day – literally a cup, I measure it – and I mostly drink herbal tea after that.

But I do partake in the occasional dairy – usually full fat milk, very rarely yogurt, more oftentimes amazing cheeses – and I go all out on the seed spices (MUSTARD YES). Although I officially reintroduced nuts ages ago, I eat far less of them than I did when I was just paleo and I actually tend to forget they’re even an option most of the time. I don’t have a problem with rice or oats, so those will sometimes make an appearance, but rarely. I also indulge in alcohol perhaps a little too often and haven’t been as good about saying no to baked goods as I had been in the past – a mental trade-off for having to avoid nightshades and eggs, I think, not that that makes it any better.

Overall, though, I’m glad I did it. I’m amazed at how thoroughly the inexplicable skin rash has vanished and I’m looking forward to the day where I can run my fingers over the place it was and wonder if it even happened.

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Filed under AIP, diet, paleo, progress, simply informative

Laying Down the Rules for the Feb Whole28

I mentioned a few days ago that I intend to follow the Whole30 for the month of February – so more of a Whole28. I have done several Whole30’s in the past and a much longer, and more involved, Autoimmune Protocol last January, so I really know what my problem foods (aka trigger or overeating foods) are as well as foods that are actually problematic for me. My intention for this Whole28 is a reset and a reminder about how much better I feel when I’m eating strict paleo. I have let breads and grains get the best of me in the last few months and I’ve got a little bit of a flaky skin problem going on on my eyebrow that I’m almost 98% certain is due to those breads – be it the gluten or the scant traces of egg. I’ve also been overindulging on alcohol a wee bit much.

That said, my Whole28 will look just a slight bit different than the normal Whole30. I am not eating eggs or nightshades, but I am making two small allowances for the rules because I know that those allowances do not impact my problem areas.

Allowance one is the butter in my morning coffee: it’s grassfed, delicious, and blunts the irritability that caffeine can give me. After reintroducing it on the AIP, I know I am 100% okay with small amounts of butter so, frankly, I don’t see the point of shelling out for ghee. The rest of the dairy family will remain off limits for February.

Allowance two is the sunbutter I’m using to mix my maca powder “truffles.” It has added sugar, which is a no-no on the Whole30. I am allowing this because: a) it’s to make the maca powder more palpable so I will actually eat it and hopefully ovulate this month; b) the sunbutter only makes the maca palpable enough – the “truffles” still aren’t very tasty and I’m at absolutely no risk of scarfing them down; and c) although I have had major sugar demons in the past, I have had a pretty tight hold on them of late and do not crave sugar nearly as intensely as I once did, even a year ago.

That’s it. The only other difference (aside from 28 days in lieu of 30 [but I might do the extra two for funsies when we get there]) would be the no eggs and no nightshades due to personal sensitivities. So if you’re looking for egg- and nightshade-free Whole30 recipes – well, hopefully I’ll get you thoroughly covered.

I couldn’t have timed a better month to try it – February starts on Sunday, which is our major cook-up day. The key to success, as I’ve learned in the past, is to prepare more tasty food than you expect you’ll eat, wash and pre-chop any raw veggies you might eat, and get super excited about things like ground beef with avocado and sweet potatoes (*drool*).

Anyone else doing the Whole30 in February? Or another dietary/lifestyle change?

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Filed under diet, goals, paleo, whole30