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Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part II

Allergies word cloud

Three months after my food allergies were identified; I learned to live a life free of: apples, almonds, bananas, corn, all dairy including butter, all grains except rice, potatoes and soy.   Although I had made these changes, I didn’t learn about them in time for it to make a difference in my pregnancy. There I was, back in the office of Dr. M, my Naturopath, the doctor who had helped me identify my food allergies and MTHFR genetic mutations, copies A&C.

Though I was no longer pregnant, I was more determined than ever to get healthy enough to conceive again. In fact, the thought of having a baby to hold was what got me through most days.

I won’t say that I was excited about getting my results. I spent most days surrounded in a cloud of grief, my body still bleeding as my levels of HCG, the pregnancy hormone, declined.

At the follow up appointment, I was ready for the results of all my hard work.   Dr. M asked if I stuck to my diet. I replied I had, with the occasional unknown exception. I was bracing myself for bad news. I thought it hadn’t worked, I thought my efforts had left my values unchanged. I was surprised when Dr. M revealed the results.

proud-woman-in-red

“Your results certainly show you’ve been working hard. You’ve done as much in three months as some of my patients do in a year!”

I was so happy to hear something was working!

Although I was overwhelmed with grief from the loss of our child, this good news gave me hope that we might be able to conceive again one day.

It was two and a half months after our loss; and yet, my HCG levels had not yet hit zero; and so we were not allowed to try to conceive. Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, suggested we wait three months after my levels hit zero to avoid having sequential miscarriages. The idea of going through another loss was something I couldn’t even handle thinking about! After a D&C we waited three months before we even considered trying.

couple grieving

Those three months were a time of healing for us. We cried a lot. Sometimes we walked around as empty shells that just went through the motions of everyday life. We didn’t feel much other than pain. We did the best we could to put one foot in front of the other. Thank God, we had each other! I can honestly say I would not have made it through this time without the support of my amazing husband, Frank.

Just as we were getting ready to try again, I received a letter from Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, telling me he was closing his practice to help other doctors learn to treat patients with the respect and kindness for which he is famous.

I was devastated, again! There I was, about to get back on the TTC roller coaster, and my doctor was getting out of the NaProTechnology business!!! It was one of those moments that made me question my journey in life and whether I was following God’s plan for me or walking the path of my own desires and wants. I quickly reminded myself that while I am strong willed; I am not patient. The only reason I could have ever stuck on the TTC roller coaster after IUI, surgery for endometriosis, and a miscarriage would be because God was with me, giving me the strength to take each step down this path. I reminded myself of something I said to my dear friend, Jordan, a few weeks before she conceived her miracle baby: “God wouldn’t have gotten us this far, only to leave us here.” I wasn’t going to quit.

Still, I had a problem. I needed a new doctor. Thankfully, Dr. C had included a list of possible new NaProTechnology doctors in his farewell letter. I made an appointment for August and called Dr. C to request lab work. He authorized estradiol and progesterone levels to be drawn on peak plus 7, what we NaPro patients call 7 days after ovulation.

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

If you’re uncertain as to why my doctor ordered estradiol and progesterone levels, the short explanation is that based on those levels NaProTechnology doctors prescribe doses of ovulation assisting medications such as letrozole, to help compensate for any ovarian dysfunction. I was unable to conceive without this medication the first time, so I was fairly certain I would need to take the medication again.

The results of the estradiol and progesterone tests were very surprising. While I was previously unable to conceive without the assistance of medication, the initial peak plus seven blood draw showed that I wasn’t having this difficulty eight months after miscarriage. My post peak estradiol was 249 and my progesterone was 28.4. I was stunned. The test results showed my levels were above normal, they had reached the optimum range for conception. Other than my vitamins, I was taking no medications.

To put this in perspective, to conceive, the post peak level of estradiol should be above 120 and progesterone should be above 15. I had gone from sub-fertile to fertile!

My husband, Frank, and I were over joyed. It appeared that it would only be a matter of time before we conceived! We followed doctor’s orders, taking the vitamins, and mucus enhancers to compensate for the damage done to my cervix by years of birth control.

Month after month my peak plus seven blood draws continued to be in the optimum range. And yet we had not conceived. At my first appointment with my new NaProTechnology physician, Dr. R flat out asked why I was there with numbers like those.

Pumpkin Cheesecake–grainfree, dairy free, egg free!

Living here in New England, we are surrounded by pumpkin everything as soon as fall hits! I can usually walk by all of the pumpkin cookies, cakes, and donuts without a problem. But one fall favorite that I simply cannot live without is Pumpkin Cheesecake. This is a bit of a problem considering that both dairy and grains have been identified as allergens and have been proven to mess with my fertility.

 

If I were to eat a real pumpkin cheese cake, not only would I get sick, but it would seriously affect my fertility. Since getting the allergens out of my diet, my hormone levels have gone from sub fertile, to fertile, and now to the optimum zone. I’m not going to let gluten or dairy take that away from me.

BUT, I WILL HAVE MY PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE!

pumpkin cheese cake

If I can make pasta without grains, I can make cheesecake that is dairy-free!

I had a few ideas as how this might be done. I knew I’d need to use coconut milk to substitute for the dairy products, and of course a can of pumpkin, and the rest, well I took what I knew from making other grain free recipes and decided to do a little tweaking. The result was success on the first try!

I was sold on the tastiness of the cheesecake immediately; but, I always like to run a dish by my grain loving friends and family before sharing that recipe with my followers. I am lucky enough that they are always willing to act as a focus group; their opinions mean a lot to me.   Now that they have given me their seal approval, I am pleased to share my recipe with you!

pumpkin cheesecake slice

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust:

1 cup nuts of your choice

1 cup dates

1 TBSP coconut oil

1 tsp cinnamon

 

Filling:

1 can coconut milk (I use Native Forest)

1 can organic pumpkin

1TBSP gelatin

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

 

In a food processor, chop nuts until they have a “meal” like texture. Add dates and coconut oil; process until smooth. Add cinnamon and process one minute. Press into spring form pan.

 

Heat coconut milk until boiling in a large saucepan. In a small ramekin, mix gelatin with water and whisk until smooth. Wisk gelatin mixture into coconut milk, set aside. Mix pumpkin and spices in food processor. Slowly add coconut milk until blended thoroughly.   Pour on top of crust. Refrigerate at least three hours, preferably overnight.

 

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as my family and friends have!

Chicken Tomato Florentine Soup

Today, the beautiful fall weather has inspired me to cook up some soup!

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A few years ago, I read that chicken is often a staple ingredient in soup because chicken fat contains properties that fight colds. I guess that’s why my grandmother always had chicken soup in her freezer ready to defrost as a front line defense for any illness!

Today’s soup combines the delicious immune system boosting zing of chicken with the vitamin C found in tomatoes and spinach, as well as the iron contained in spinach and white beans; finished with the delicious taste of freshly pressed garlic and basil. The best part is, I threw it together in about an hour!

Ingredients:

8 cups chicken broth (I make homemade broth from leftover organic roast chicken)

3 cups water

1 large can crushed tomatoes

1 cup dried white beans

3 cups chopped organic celery

1 large organic onion

1lb frozen organic spinach

2 cloves organic garlic

2t dried organic basil.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Dairy free mozzarella cheese for topping!

chopped celery carots and onions

In a large stockpot, combine organic chicken broth, crushed tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. In a separate sauce pan, bring 6 cups water to a boil and add beans, cook at a low boil for about 45 minutes or until done.  Chop celery and onions and add to boiling stock in large sauce pan. Press fresh garlic into pot and stir in dried basil. When beans have cooked drain and rinse beans and add to stock pot. Remove pot from heat and stir in spinach. Top with dairy free mozzarella cheese and enjoy!

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Conquering Food Allergies, the Next Step on This Journey…

The next baby step on this road from infertility to conception is getting my food allergies under control.  At my second appointment with my Naturopathic doctor, I learned that I have food sensitivities to apples, almonds, bananas, corn, dairy, oats, potatoes, and wheat.  These foods are causing inflammation throughout my body and wreaking havoc, and most likely are related to our inability to conceive.

food allergies

Considering that I had cut grains out of my diet more than a year ago; this new list pretty much limits me to eating: meat, fruit, vegetables, water, chocolate and wine.  When I cut grains out of my diet I increased my intake of both dairy and potatoes, so seeing both of them on the list stuck a knife in my heart, not to mention my stomach!

There are two possible ways to deal with this: I could spend time lamenting about all that I have to lose; or I could focus on all that I have to gain by eliminating these foods from my diet, knowing full well that my tolerance of these foods may improve once my body has time to heal.  I have one goal, to become healthy enough to conceive a child and be a mommy.  When we started down this road my husband and I agreed that we would both do whatever it took to become healthy enough to conceive.  This is something I have to do.  I know that if I do not, it may very well be something I regret or at least wonder about for the rest of my life.

Thanksgiving table

Tastiness, and culinary desires aside, it is time to learn to live life anew.   Please don’t think I’m a Pollyanna. There were lots of groans, and some serious mourning of all the delicious foods I was about to eliminate from my diet.

coffee

Yesterday, while I sipped my morning coffee, complete with organic cow’s milk,  I decided to try a day without all these foods  (with the exception of milk in my morning coffee b/c I hadn’t yet purchased coconut milk).  I didn’t do anything crazy like chart my symptoms, or even pay particular attention to what was happening to my body throughout the day.  I had the opportunity to deliver another sample lesson for another potential job, so I started my morning as I might on any other grain free day: with grain free toast, and coffee wtih milk.  After the interview, I came home did a few things and felt lethargic.  Rather than fight the fatigue as I might have if I were working, I decided to be good to myself and see if a nap might help.  I woke up feeling sluggish and didn’t have much go for the rest of the day.  I didn’t feel like myself at all.  That was how I felt when I was working, not when I had been so well rested and healthy as I’ve been on this leave of absence.  I kept my word and did not consume any of the foods the Naturopath identified as allergens for the rest of the day.

Later that evening as I was talking with a friend who understand food allergies very well,  it hit me, I felt like I went through withdrawal yesterday!  I spent the afternoon super tired, and didn’t have any go.  I have been reading Grain Brain By Dr.  David Perlmutter and he talks about our brain reacting to foods that cause inflammation similar to the way it reacts to narcotics, with a high followed by a withdrawal period that produces cravings, moodiness, lethargy, and an overall feeling of blech.  That has how I spent my afternoon yesterday.  Then after supper, which was completely allergen free, I felt great.

 

This morning, I awoke and I’m feeling pretty good.  I have more energy than yesterday and I’m in a pretty good mood.  Having never been a morning person, this is pretty cool.  If I can feel like this every day, staying away from the allergens will be totally worth it!

Grain Free Staples to Keep on Hand…

For years, I’ve heard about the importance of getting enough whole grains in your diet. When I was in school, the food pyramid was all the rage!  I had the metabolism of a teenager at the time, and I could burn off whatever I ate, plus so much more. food pyramid Years later, things changed.  That grain heavy diet lead to a body that no longer fit in my clothes.   I had no intention of keeping the every growing body that I found myself in.  I was engaged to be married so spending a day with 200 people’s eyes on you is a great motivator to drop the carbs and lose weight quickly.  It was 2004, and the South Beach diet was all the rage. I lost 17 pounds and looked amazing on our wedding day. bride I kept the weight off and kept up the diet of whole grains and few white carbs.  Then little by little the weight came back although I didn’t change my eating habits.  I ate all the whole grains and kept the white carbs to a minimum, I was exercising 3-4x per week and I was still gaining weight.  At that point I called in a nutritionist. Her genius idea was to eat more whole grain carbohydrates, whether they were processed or not. She demanded I reduce the amount of homemade jam and  meat that I was eating.  Let me say that although I wasn’t convinced, everything that I tried hadn’t worked and she was after all a certified expert, I decided to try her way.  The result of trusting her methods was that I gained more weight. weight gain photo After I told her that I’d no longer be using her services, it was my NaProTechnology doctor who discovered my grain allergy.  Of course that wasn’t what I was there for, it was just something I brought up and it was a problem which he immediately solved.  I stopped eating grains, and I started losing weight.  The only problem was that every time I turned around, there was another grain hiding somewhere.   There were grains in kielbasa, bouillon, cranberry sauce, pudding, and so many other foods where no sane person would ever expect to find grains! There’s no reason anyone should have to reinvent the wheel here.  If you’re looking to stock your pantry with grain free ingredients, here’s a quick list of the basics that we now keep on hand at all times.  Items marked with an asterisk will be used in the recipes for the Week of Grain Free Meals Challenge.

Coconut flour*

Tapioca Flour*tapioca flourwhite bean flourcoconut flour

White bean flour*

Almond flour

Xanthum gum*

Better Than Bouillon chicken base

Better Than Bouillon beef base

Organic Herbs both fresh and dried*

Honey (Local honey is best, it will boost your immune system and actually ease allergy symptoms!)

Organic Maple Syrup

Dark Chocolate

This short little list of ingredients has made a huge difference in the way we eat.  I’ve deliberately kept the list concise because trying out a grain free lifestyle should not require taking out a second mortgage!  So often I find recipes which call for ingredients ingredients that require me to spend a week’s worth of grocery money on only one recipe!  Not my kind of cooking! Our foods don’t taste grain free and when we have guests they’re often impressed that what we serve them tastes “real”.  For me, that’s the whole goal of all this, eating delicious food that’s good for me and will actually make me a healthier person. Sacrificing taste is not an option! In the past year, I’ve lost 16 pounds thanks to my grain free lifestyle.  I’ve made no other changes.  So are you ready to do this with me?  I promise you a week of grain free meals including roast pork, cheese burger pie, creamy spinach and mushroom bake, sweet potato casserole and much more!

Leave a comment and I’ll respond with a link for $10 coupon for purchasing your grain free staples!

Roast Pork Stroganoff With Grain free Pasta

roast pork

I’m always looking for new recipes.  Since I’ve been cooking with grain free ingredients, I’ve developed my old stand by recipes, chicken cassoulet, meatloaf made with grain free bread crumbs, turkey cutlets wrapped in bacon, and of course there’s always the standard roast chicken or roast pork.  Whenever I make roasted meat, it’s a struggle for what to do with the leftovers.  With only two of us in the house, there are always leftovers, even when we have guests.  Sure there are a few standard options:  chicken salad on grain free bread, but that takes a bit more prep time than I’d like; and that’s a lunch, not a dinner. Truthfully a green salad topped with chicken would make me happier than a chicken salad sandwich.  I decided to do a search for a leftover roast pork.  Much of what I saw wasn’t grain free, and lots of the recipes included soy, which is also not on my list of approved foods.

I did a little more research and started combining recipes and then added my own twist to make the recipe grain free and amazingly delicious!  Sure, it could have turned out a flop, but that’s what happens when you play kitchen chemist.  For every success there is a recipe or three that flops. No matter what, culinary experimentation is usually worth it.   The end result was a delicious stroganoff style sauce over grain free fusilli pasta made with my Roma Tube Pasta Machine.  I’ll be adding this to my collection of standby grain free recipes!IMG_0498[1]

 

 

Ingredients…

2-3 servings of left over roast pork, thinly sliced

1 batch grain free pasta (or pound of pasta of your choice)

1 cup water

1 cup sour cream

½ cup white wine (I used pino grigio, but any white wine would work well)

1 medium onion chopped

2 cans mushrooms

3T snipped fresh parsley

2T butter

1T better than bouillon

Melt 1tablespoon butter over medium heat, sauté onions and mushrooms until browned, then set aside.  Melt remaining butter and add 1tablespoon my grain free flour blend (either a or b will be fine) and stir until a rue forms.  Stir in water gradually allowing rue to thicken as water is added (a nylon whisk is ideal for this) and better than bouillon.  Whisk in sour cream and wine.  Allow mixture to simmer and thicken. When sauce has thickened add roasted pork, mushrooms, and onions.  Simmer for five minutes.  Stir in parsley then serve over pasta.  This is delicious with a side salad of organic baby lettuce.

Grain Free Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Well, it happened, I turned 29 again.  This year, I’m celebrating the 15 pounds I’ve lost since my last birthday, the improvements in my general health since last year, and all the knowledge I’ve gained in the past year!  I was blessed to celebrate my birthday with my husband, family, and friends this week.  There was great company, excellent food, and most of all there were cookies that I could actually eat!

cookies

If you’re grain free, then you know how the world seems to brighten when you can enjoy grain free treats that don’t taste like they’re grain free at all!  The first batch of cookies was courtesy of my amazing aunt.   After we enjoyed a birthday dinner, she told me she had a treat for me.  While out shopping, she stumbled upon a cookie mix from XO baking Co, and was delighted to find that these cookies were not only gluten free, but also grain free!  We enjoyed the cookies and decided we should absolutely try and find the mix again.

When I tried to locate the mix on line I immediately had sticker shock!  While I will probably order a few packages of the mix to keep on hand for times when I don’t feel like baking cookies from scratch, it’s certainly not a price I want to pay weekly to keep my sweet tooth happy.  So obviously, I’m not going to do without cookies.  I’ll just have to come up with a recipe that I can make from scratch!

Last night we were having guests over, so it was a perfect time to try out a new recipe.  I’ve been working on a new grain free flour blend, one that’s a bit liter than the first.  I’ve used it in baking my bread and it’s worked very well.  To look at this flour, it’s hard to distinguish it from white four at all.  It does have a different taste when it is uncooked, but once heated to boiling temperatures, the taste disappears and you’d swear you’re eating something made with white flour. I decided it was time to try baking some cookies with this new flour.

chcolate chip cookie bars

The result was happy guests who said the cookie bars were pretty much indistinguishable from grain based baked goods.  If the grain lovers go for seconds, I’m pretty sure the recipe’s a keeper.

Wet Ingredients:

2 eggs (or 2T flax seed plus 6T warm water)

1 cup butter or coconut oil

¾ cup white sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1t vanilla

 

Dry Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup my grain free flour blend (Mix A)

1t baking soda

1t xanthum gum

12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar using an electric mixer.  Add eggs and vanilla and blend well.  Mix in my grain free flour blend.  When well blended, stir in in xanthum gum and baking soda.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Spoon batter into an 8x 10 inch baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Bars are done when a knife is inserted to center and comes out clean.  Cool until room temperature then slice into 1 inch bars.

Grain Free Pasta in an Hour!

I’ve been grain free for about seven months now.  I can do without oatmeal, rice, cereal, and almost any other grain based product.  My weaknesses are bread, pasta, and cookies!  I cracked my grain free bread recipe a few months ago and life has been pretty good.  I’ve got a few cookie recipes that I like, so between those and ice cream, desserts are covered.  Pasta- macaroni as my mother would call it- is something I cannot live without!

I tried lots of flour blends. After lots of failures, including one on Holy Saturday when I tried to make grain free lasagna and got as far as dropping the dried noodles in the water and cried as I watched them disintegrate, I’ve got a recipe that is grain free but doesn’t taste like it.  That’s my kind of grain free!

Like anything else, making pasta is a skill and having cooked a meal, or made a dough before does not put you at an advantage.  The first time you make this recipe, you might want to have two sets of hands available, if not you can do it by yourself, it just takes more time and is a bit more awkward.

Here’s what you’ll need

1 ½ cups My grain free flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon xanthum gum

3-6 tablespoons cold water

Directions:

Mix  first three ingredients in small mixing bowl.  Add water one tablespoon at a time until a dough forms.  IMG_0296[1]

Cut dough into quarters.  On a board floured with my flour mix, roll out each section until it is less than ½ inch thick.IMG_0293[1]

  One section at a time roll each section through your pasta machine on number one.

IMG_0294[1]

Repeat with the number two and three settings.  After number three my sections are usually long enough where I have to cut them in half. When you cut your sections in half, it’s a good idea to re-dust them with flour.  Having enough flour on your pasta dough keeps it from sticking to the rollers.  Continue running each section through your machine until you have reached level 7.  Flour your sections again and run them through the pasta making attachment.  If you have a drying rack, hang up your pasta for a quick dry.  If not, you can lay out your pasta on trays and it will dry by the next morning.

IMG_0388[1]

The quality of your pasta will be the same regardless of which drying method you use.  Once your pasta is dry, cook it in boiling water for about 8 minutes, add your favorite sauce and you’ll hardly be able to tell it’s grain free!

Mangia!

I had my laporoscopy, now what?

A laporoscopy is considered noninvasive surgery, and in truth it was noninvasive.  I was up and around and back to work in two weeks.  Yay for Dr. B!  He is the best NaPro Surgeon on the east coast—eh, I think he may be the only one.  Regardless, my recovery time was quick, my stitches healed within a week.  I was back to work within 2 weeks.  Standard recovery time with another surgeon is anywhere from four to six weeks.  So yeah you could say NaPro Technology wins with recovery time from surgery as well as results!

gianna center

You would think that all would be well to try again since I recovered so fast, but not so.  Dr. C. requested that we wait for two cycles after surgery to allow my body to heal.  This was difficult for us as a couple since I felt the best I had in literally years.

The only change after surgery was that I got tired faster than I ever had.  It took a while, but I was back to my normal energy levels about three weeks after getting back to work.  And by week four, I was less tired than before surgery.  I was able to get through the day without pain medication, my mood had improved and, I just felt like myself again!

I got lots of questions from friends and family.  They asked: “How could you have this for so long without knowing it? How did you recover from your laporoscopy so quickly?” And my favorite,  “How long before you can get pregnant?”  I wish I knew the answer to the first and the last questions, but I don’t.  I know it will take between nine and twelve months for my immune system to get back to normal, but I can feel my health improving day by day.

Recovering from the laparoscopy:

The laparoscopy was successful.  They removed endometriosis from my abdominal cavity and a polyp from inside my uterus.  Typically, the recovery period after a laparoscopy is between 6-8 weeks.  Thanks to Dr. C, I was connected with the Gianna Center and  my NaPro Technology surgeon, Dr. B, whose typical recovery time is much shorter.  And thanks to my friend, Jordan, who had experienced the same surgery before I had, I knew to expect that my recovery period would be much shorter, more like two weeks.

gianna center

I’m not good at sitting still, I’m much better at being active.  No matter what it is, I need to have a plan, a to do list with items to check off marking my progress.  For the first few days of my recovery, I kept busy by taking care of myself, making sure I took my advil on time to keep the stitches from pulling and itching.

That worked till we got back home.  I was in much better condition than we expected.  Because Frank would have to return to work immediately, I scheduled different friends and family members to come by during the day to help me let the dogs out and give me a hand with anything I might not be able to do for myself.  Turns out I didn’t need as much help as we thought I would.

My first day home I didn’t have energy to do much, I was grateful that I did have my friend coming by to help me with lunch and for some company.  Thanks to the company of good friends and the support of my husband, Frank; the first week of recovery passed quickly.  Although I had just had surgery, I felt fabulous, better than I had felt before surgery.  Other than the pulling from the stitches, the only side effect I experienced was fatigue, like napping in the middle of the day fatigue.  Since I wasn’t doing anything –other than feeding the dogs—I attributed this fatigue to my body’s need to repair itself after surgery.

My recovery went as smooth as we expected.  After a week, I was able to cook dinner and fold laundry, laundrythought I was forbidden from carrying the laundry basket upstairs.  Within two weeks I was back to work.  I no longer looked like a corpse, as I had on some days before surgery.

The medical report confirmed my health was good.  A friend of mine who is a nurse came by to hang with me on her day off and pronounced that in week one I looked at just about where one of her patients was in week four after a laparoscopy.

This might be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway, if you are going to have any type of procedure related to infertility, I highly recommend a NaPro technology.  If You don’t know where to find a NaPro doctor, I’d be happy to help.