Monthly Archives: February 2014

Cabbage Bacon (AIP-friendly)

cabbage baconI’ve been up since 3am tackling a rambunctious work deadline & I’m starting to crave Cabbage Bacon…

Cabbage bacon first occurred when I was ready to roast a purple cabbage and the middle of my cabbage was fusty. I was sad until I remembered that whenever I roasted cabbage (past tense, I only ever make cabbage bacon now), I always high-graded the outside crispy edges. They were crunchy & salty & coconut-oily and really, really good.

So on that day I just made a pan-full of crispy cabbage strips with the outside leaves of my cabbage.

When I took the crispy cabbage strips out of the oven, my vegetarian teenager said (in the bemused voice she always uses when she talks about my food): what is that, some kind of weird cabbage bacon?

It totally is. It’s got crunchy bits & it’s salty & oily & delicious in a surprisingly bacon-like way.

Now that I’m no longer on my 30-day low-FODMAP AIP, cabbage bacon is back. It was what I wanted with my breakfast on my first day back on regular AIP on Monday & I want it again now!

Cabbage Bacon

Preheat oven to 350.

  • Purple cabbage
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • Himalayan salt (or similar)

Cut your cabbage in half & slice in sections, like an apple so the outside leaves become long cabbage strips. Now you have a choice. You can go for ultimate cabbage bacon presentation, use the whole cabbage and reserve the cabbage spines and crinkly inside bits for another use. Sometimes I put these in a container for my workday crudités. Or you can use the entire half the cabbage and be a little less fussy. The thicker cabbage spines & the fractalized centres just won’t get as crunchy, but they are still eminently edible.

cabbage bacon prepPile your strips on a parchment-lined baking sheet (they’ll shrink a lot). Melt the coconut oil and pour over the cabbage & get in there with you hands to make sure it’s coated well. Sprinkle generously with salt and pop it in the oven. Stir occasionally, especially toward the end.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the thinner pieces of cabbage are thoroughly crispy and brown.

Don’t take it out too early!

 

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Cinnamon Beef Stew (AIP-friendly, low-FODMAP)

beef stew

  • 2lbs stew beef
  • 2 teaspoons Himalayan salt (or similar)
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or coconut oil
  • 1 ½ litres bone broth
  • 3 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Bay leaf
  • Italian parsley (optional)

Add salt to stew beef, before cooking. Salting can be done well before cooking or right before cooking. As far as I can tell, each chef has their preferred approach, so go with what is most convenient.

Brown the stew beef in the fat in batches, ensuring several sides get nice & browned.

Add the browned beef to the slow cooker with the bone broth & cinnamon & bay leaf. Deglaze the pan with some of the bone broth & add this meaty mixture in, too.

carrots for stew 2Cook 6-9 hours on low (until you get home from work).

Add the finely diced carrots for the final 15 minutes of cooking time.

Serve sprinkled with Italian parsley leaves.

You’ll look forward to it all day long…

 

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Biohacking update: 2 months on the Autoimmune Protocol

Our life: our fridge

Our life: our fridge

We started our Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) on December 23rd.

And today, coincidentally, is also our 30th day on a low-FODMAP variation of the AIP.

It’s early AIP days yet, and I am hesitant to be hopeful because we have been disappointed about what we thought were in improvements in Matthew’s health so often in the past.

Also, Matthew left work on a disability leave at approximately the same time that we started the AIP, and a reduction of 40+ hours of stress per week has got to be considered when attributing any improvements.

Nevertheless, at this point the following seems to be true:

  • Matthew has reduced the number of painkillers he is taking daily from 4-8 to 1-4. These are heavy-duty medications (Tramadol & Dilaudid) that affect his ability to think clearly & relate to other people. Despite this decrease, he is still in a lot of pain. He isn’t sure if his ability to manage pain has increased or if his pain has decreased, but this reduction in pain meds is notable, especially given that winter & spring is usually the worst time for him;
  • He had the first ‘good day’ in over 5 months on Friday. It was followed by a bad day on Saturday (yesterday), but a complete absence of good days has been incredibly demoralizing. Back in the beginning, we used to think good days meant he was getting better, but once we learned that they were just part of living with a chronic illness, we learned to enjoy them when they came. I hadn’t realize how much we relied on them to recharge our relationship until they stopped;
  • His psoriasis is a little worse than it was 2 months ago, but still much better than it usually is at this time of year. It is usually minimal in late summer when he’s had maximum sun exposure & gradually worsens throughout the year until the next summer. So it’s following the pattern, but is less severe than it usually is in late February. Our 30-day AIP in July last year marked the beginning of a significant reduction in psoriasis symptoms which has been sustained. So even though it’s worse, it’s still better;
  • There seems to be a new working hypothesis about the severe nausea & dizziness that Matthew started experiencing last October. Those symptoms are what necessitated his disability leave from work. Through ongoing internet searches, Matthew learned about Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome and its connection to dermatological conditions. This led to a review of autoimmune conditions and the possibility (which a couple of doctors have now verified as likely) that he has Ménière’s disease, especially given that existing autoimmune conditions have been linked to Ménière’s. I think there may still be something else going on, because there are symptoms that are not adequately explained by any current theories, and if what he is dealing with is Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome, then there could conceivably be a 4th condition still lurking. The good news is that if the AIP is going to work for Matthew, then it could potentially address all autoimmune-related symptoms, whether they are attached to a diagnosis or not;
  • We’ve started having (tentative) conversations about the future. Which we haven’t done for a long time;

Next steps:

  • Matthew is going to continue to avoid the high-FODMAP foods that he believes don’t agree with him (cauliflower & mushrooms, for two), but may reintroduce some others to test them;
  • I am going to happily reintroduce some high-FODMAP foods;
  • We’d like to create a low-FODMAP AIP e-book (available for free, of course) for other people who want to try this experiment. But that will have to wait until Matthew is well enough to design it. In the meantime, I’ll keep creating & testing recipes!;

What I’ve learned during this 30-day low-FODMAP experiment is that carbohydrates can be divided into categories according to how full they make me feel:

  1. Low-FODMAPs that are lower-carb & not particularly filling (like spinach, chard & cucumber);
  2. Low-FODMAPs that are more filling & higher in carbohydrates (carrots, parsnips, green plantains & fruit); and
  3. Higher-FODMAPs that are more filling & lower in carbohydrates (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini ~ though zucchini is sometimes listed as low-FODMAP, we excluded it~)

What I’ve really, really missed is these lower carb, more filling vegetables.

I’ve eaten more fruit & therefore more sugar over the past 30 days than I had been accustomed to in my regular paleo life, and I have also relied more on higher-carb vegetables (parsnips & carrots) to fill me up. As a result, the weight I gained during my low-carb AIP experiment has been dropping pretty slowly, even though my energy levels are back up.

This AIP experiment remains fascinating to me, despite the inconvenience.

And we’ve had a lot of delicious food, including my new favorite carrot cake fudge (the creamy version) from Cats in the Kitchen. I don’t normally go for paleo/AIP desserts, but I go for this one, in a big way (I don’t add any sweetener & I omit the vanilla: it’s magnificent).

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Hawaiian Pizza (AIP-friendly low-FODMAP)

pizzaI don’t think I ever ate Hawaiian pizza before I went AIP, but I’m a convert now!

Step 1: Nom Nom Paleo’s Hawai’ian Pulled Pork

Michelle Tam has a post for this recipe , but I’m including my variation here as well. There are 2 things I love about this pork:  1.) its complete yumminess; 2.) the awkward cooking time. For those of us who are used to starting the slow cooker before work for dinner, a 16-hour cook time is unweildy. Until you realize that you can put it on Friday after work & have it ready for Saturday brunch. Or Sunday afternoon for Monday breakfast. Depending on the number of people yo are serving, this recipe makes enough for a number of glorious pulled pork variations over a few days, including this Hawaiian pizza.

You’ll need:Kalua Pig

  • 4-5lb pork leg roast with a moderate fat cap
  • 3 tsp coarse salt (I use black lava salt, Michelle uses Hawai’ian Alaea Sea salt, both are available here)
  • 3 pieces bacon ( I use Ayrshire bacon when I can get it)

Lay the bacon on the bottom of the slowcooker, rub the salt into the pork roast and lay it fat-side-up on the bacon. Turn it to low & put the lid on.

Cook for 16 hours.

When cooked, shred the pork with 2 forks and season with the pot liquid.

Give the portion of pork you are using for the pizzas an extra lavish helping of pot liquid to fortify them for the broiler.

Recipe NotesKalua Pig 2

  • The first time I made this I used a pork leg roast that happened to have no fat and it generated only a little liquid which then evaporated, leaving the resulting pork delicious but dry. You want some fat to keep the whole thing juicy and to generate enough liquid to season the pork shreds after.
  • Leftover pot liquid (including the well cooked bacon bits) can also go into a pan with a big bunch of chopped greens (choose chard if you’re sticking with the low-FODMAP theme) for a fabulous side.
  • My butcher gets pigs on Wednesday afternoon and the pork leg roasts are usually available Thursday morning and gone by Saturday. I plan my attack accordingly.
green bread

You can also make mini-pizzas with slices of green flatbread

Step 2: Green flatbread for pizza crust

Find the recipe for green flatbread here. Go with a round pan if you have one or oval pizzas taste good too. This recipe makes 2 medium sized pizzas. If you only want one, make green tortillas with the rest of the batter.

Don’t spread the pizza crust too thin & bake as directed for flatbread: 50 minutes.

Step 3: Piña Colada Pizza Sauce

Enough for one medium pizza.

  • ½ cup fresh pineapple, cut in small chunks to measure
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream

Blend the pineapple with the coconut cream in a blender or food processor until pureed.

To assemble

  • 1 green pizza crust
  • I batch Piña Colada pizza sauce
  • 1 ½ cups pulled pork (in a pinch you could use bacon)
  • ¼ cup of fresh pineapple chunks
  • 4 green olives, sliced

Place the pizza crust on a baking sheet (or remove the parchment paper if you have just baked it ~especially if you have a gas stove. It’s alarming when it catches fire.)

Spread the Piña Colada sauce on the pre-cooked crust and top with the well-seasoned pulled pork, fresh pineapple chunks, and sliced olives.

Place the pizza under a boiler for 10 minutes or so (watch it closely) until bubbling hot & browned on top.

Eat it up.

(Obviously you need to plan ahead for pizza night when you’re on the AIP! This recipe requires you to get the pork started at least 16 hours before you assemble the pizza. The pizza crust can be made ahead & refrigerated or frozen. The pizza sauce can be made a ahead & refrigerated.)

 

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Chronic Illness as Initiation

ShamanOne of the things I inquired into when doing graduate work in organizational studies was an idea I had that shamans were the original consultants.

That might sound dippy, but stick with me for a moment.

Back before we had consultants to assist with organizational health and professional development and systems thinking and such, back when we lived in interdependent small communities inside the cycle of nature, humans (on all continents) relied on shamans for advice.

Research tells us that shamans were ubiquitous in human societies before we got into this thing called civilization, and shamanism remains in societies that still live in traditional ways.

There are aspects of shamanism that are universal. Many shamanic practices are culturally unique, others are found in virtually all societies on all continents. These practices are just part of the phenomenon of shamanism.

One of these universal themes is the wounded healer archetype, in which an initiate (usually an unwilling one, because who would voluntarily sign up for the ordeal?) experiences illness so severe that he or she is transformed. The illness is described in some cases as being akin to dismemberment, or even to include dismemberment in the spiritual realm. Through this affliction, the initiate confronts death and passes through death into the spirit world. The new shaman then returns to the community, perhaps after an extended ordeal, with the ability to heal and thereafter retains the ability to communicate with the spirit world.

I’m not saying I’m married to a shaman.

But maybe he’s having the kind of experience that is prerequisite for that capacity.

I have watched precisely that type of initiatory illness, that devastating, transformative archetype, playing out in our home over the past 5 years. I have experienced (with a bit of awe, sometimes) the wisdom that Matthew has earned through it.

Believe me, he’s not exalted & wise all the time. A lot of the time he’s just suffering and having very human reactions to that suffering.

But there are times when I feel like he’s become centuries, or millennia, older than me, rather than just the 3 years on our birth certificates. It has occurred to me that if he manages to heal, even partially, that he, and others like him, will have a lot to offer those of us who have not been initiated through suffering.

I feel this quality in some of the autoimmune bloggers who have already found their healing path, like Eileen Laird at Phoenix Helix. Her response to finding healing from arthritis through the Autoimmune Protocol has been to assist others to heal. Before her illness she may not have expected to become an important source of wisdom and healing information for so many people.

Chronic illness may feel senseless, and it may be senseless. But maybe we also need people with the wisdom it brings.

 

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Grilled grapefruit & spinach salad (AIP-friendly, moderate-FODMAP)

Grapefruit spinach saladComplicated salad with intricate dressings are hypothetical in my world.  They look pretty in the picture but that’s where they stay. Simple salad can be equally theoretical because I just know ahead of time it’ll be boring. Lettuce. In winter.

This salad isn’t conjectural in either the over-elaborate or the boring-simple way. It could totally happen, in real-life. It did happen, even when I was sick. And it made me feel better.

[Subsequent to posting this recipe I have learned that 1/2 a grapefruit rates as a ‘moderate’ FODMAP. Though grapefruit shows up on some low-FODMAP lists, I am now using the FODMAP booklet from the Monash University in Australia as my resource (they also have apps for phones). Substitute orange for the grapefruit in this recipe to restore it’s low-FODMAP status.]

  • I grapefruit, cut in half, seeds removed
  • 8-10 cups (loosely packed) baby spinach
  • 1 long English cucumber, sliced
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (the good stuff: no sulphites)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan salt (or similar)

Section the grapefruit halves with a sharp knife & put them, cut side up, in a baking dish. Pour 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar into each. The vinegar should fill the grapefruit to the brim. Put the grapefruit under the broiler at 500 for 15 minutes or until very hot & slightly seared on top. Keep an eye on them: broilers vary.

Meanwhile place the spinach and sliced cucumber in a salad bowl.

Put the remaining balsamic vinegar (2 tablespoons), the olive oil & the salt in a small container with lid.

When the grapefruit is ready, scoop the hot flesh onto the salad with a spoon & squeeze the juice into the dressing. Add any caramelized balsamic vinegar from the baking pan to the dressing, then put on the lid on & shake until emulsified.

Pour over the salad & toss.

(Keep in mind that grapefruit can interact with some medications.)

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Pot Pie (AIP-friendly low-FODMAP)

Chicken pot pieI used to make a rustic top-crust pot pie back in the SAD old days & it was the one dinner that all the kids agreed that they loved. My #4 bonus kid still wistfully asks for it sometimes. This AIP-friendly (& low-FODMAP!) version uses a parsnip-carrot dough that feels very like my old pot pie pastry when chilled. Pot pie reinvented!

Pot Pie Pastry

The pastry needs to be started the day before & can be made up to several days in advance.

  • 6 modest-sized parsnips
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp Himalayan salt (or similar)

Preheat oven to 350parsnips & carrots

Peel & slice the parsnips & carrots into short sticks, something like this:

Melt half the coconut oil (3 tablespoons). Use your hands to ensure all the sticks are coated with the oil. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring several times, especially toward the end.

Put the roasted roots into a food processor with the rest of the coconut oil (3 more tablespoons) and a generous teaspoon of salt. Whirl until a thick batter or soft dough is formed.

Use a spatula to remove the dough to a storage container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day press the dough out into a pie-shape on the countertop. Use a metal spatula to lift it carefully away from the counter surface and lay it over the filling in a baking dish. It’s soft dough. It might rip. But that’s okay because this pie is rustic. Just patch it up.

At this point you can pop it back in the fridge until you want to cook it.

Pot Pie Filling

The whole point of pot pie, really, is to transform leftover meat into something new & delicious. Use roast chicken, baked salmon, pot roast, or leftover ground beef & balsamic blueberries from last night’s tacos.

  • I used the cooked equivalent of 1½ lbs uncooked ground beef and ½ cup of leftover balsamic blueberries to make a fabulous pot pie.
  • In another pie I used most of the meat from a smallish roast chicken. The bones, skin & pan drippings were already in my slowcooker becoming bone broth, so this was the perfect way to turn the chicken meat into something fancy. I squeezed the juice of an orange over the chicken before I put the pasty on, to favourable effect.

Once assembled, bake your pie at 350 for 35-40 minutes until hot with browned edges.

The pastry will be quite soft when hot and a little firmer as it cools.

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Soft beef tacos with balsamic blueberries (AIP-friendly, low-FODMAP*)

tacos

Soft beef tacos with balsamic blueberries!

Fill green tortillas with a chiffonade of lettuce and beef, top with balsamic blueberries.

Find those recipes here:

Step 1: Soft green tortillas

You can prepare the tacos well in advance and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat in a warm oven if necessary to restore their flexibility.

Yield: 9 6½” tacos

  • 2 large or 3 small bunches chard
  • 1 green plantain
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted

Preheat oven to 300.

Chop chard stems & sauté in bacon fat or coconut oil. Add chopped greens and continue to cook until wilted.

To peel a plantain, score along the length of the peel with a sharp knife and remove the peel in strips.

Combine cooked chard, plantain, melted coconut oil & salt in food processor until it forms a thick green batter. The greener the plantain, the longer this will take. Scrape down the food processor bowl once or twice, as required.

Cover 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Create each soft taco out of 1/3 cup of batter. Use a spatula to make a tortilla of even thickness about 6 ½ in diameter.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven, flip the tortillas and bake for another 5 minutes.

Step 2: Beef

  • 2lbs ground beef
  • Himalayan salt (or similar)
  • Savory (optional)

Fry the ground beef with a shake of salt & a heaping tablespoon of savory.

Step 3: Balsamic Blueberries

  • 2 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (the good stuff: no sulfites)
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger

Heat all ingredients in a pot until the blueberries are plump and hot and swimming in gorgeous purple sauce.

Appendix 1: Green Tortilla Recipe Notestortillas

  • The tortilla recipe is a variation of my new favorite invention: green flatbread. I got downright scientific (by necessity) when creating these tortillas in order to get the diameter, thickness & cooking time right so the tacos didn’t fall apart when full. If you would love a half hour walk or a bath while these tortillas cook, you can also just bake them for 35 minutes without flipping. That was the 2nd best variation.
  • To freeze, cool completely. Cut the parchment paper you used for baking into circles slightly larger than your tortillas & sandwich between each tortilla so you can separate them when frozen.
  • The first time we had the balsamic blueberry & ground beef combination was with the plantain nachos, in an attempt to find a low-FODMAP replacement for the green apple guacamole in that recipe. The balsamic blueberries were good with the nachos, but divine with the beef. Even my 19-year old kid, who is not even remotely paleo-inclined, approved of the combination when I insisted he put some beef with blueberries on his SAD pizza.

Appendix 2: *FODMAPs: There is a lot of contradictory information about low-FODMAP foods. All of the ingredients in this recipe is listed as low-FODMAP by reliable sources. Sometimes these sources link to charts created by others, but as the sources I’m consulting are trusted experts in the field, I’m putting trust in their links. Please do your own research to determine which foods you wish to include if are on a strict low-FODMAP diet.

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Loving someone with a chronic illness

When Matthew’s health first got really bad I went to the internet to try to find out how people cope when their lives are devastated by chronic illness.

I found online support groups for younger people living with arthritis and by reading those posts I came to understand more about what it was like to live with a painful, potentially degenerative disease.

I also learned that there were people who were much worse off than my man, people who had lost most of their mobility and could no longer care for themselves in even basic ways. People who were younger than him.

Truly, you never think it’s going to happen to you, or to someone you love.

One thing I noticed in those posts was that there seemed to be only 2 categories for people’s partners. They were:

  1. Saints who did everything that needed to be done and never once complained; or
  2. Jerks who left.

Even then I knew I wasn’t either of those things.

Anyone can pull off a short-term sainthood. 

When your partner gets pneumonia or breaks a leg or completes a successful cancer treatment.

But when your partner is more or less debilitated for years and you are left doing everything? Every single trip to the grocery store. Every time the bills need to be paid. The lightbulbs need changing. The kids need clean socks. Or are hungry. Including when you’re sick. And have had the crappiest workday in all of creation.

The reality is that until we figured out (slowly, by trial & error & radical upheaval) how to live, I felt mostly harassed and cheated, and I’m pretty sure it showed.

So I know for a fact that on the continuum between the saints and jerks are the harassed. And those that are feeling sorry for themselves.

And the desperately worried.

And the devastated.

Jerks

Over the past 5 years, I’ve thought a lot about what chronic illness does to relationships.

I’m now very aware that debilitating illnesses happen in real-life, including in real-life marriages. Loving marriages, cheating marriages, bored marriages, passionate marriages, miserable marriages and variable marriages.

Matthew and I happened to have the intensely loving & passionate variety, and I can tell you that if it can almost destroy ours then I don’t know how the other kinds survive at all.

SaintsSimone_Martini_-_St_Catherine_and_St_Lucy_-1320 25

Of course, it’s not just the partner who is required to be saintly.

The person with the chronic illness is expected to find ways to ‘manage’ their condition, and the expectation is that they will do it with a minimum of fuss and a great deal of quiet courage.

Not only are people supposed to manage their illness in an unobtrusively heroic way, everyone gets bored of hearing about their pain.

If not bored then uncomfortable.

Or skeptical.

Ultimately, no one particularly wants to hear about it.

(But you can be sure they will suggest a random remedy that will solve the problem: Marijuana! Lasers! Castor oil!)

Real-lifePetra & Matthew

So. Two ordinary people in a real-life marriage. Under tremendous stress. For years. Maybe forever. One of them in constant pain. Both required to begin their non-optional non-stop intensive training for sainthood.

If the relationship is going to survive.

Both will fail their sainthood exams on a regular basis.

While other people alternately forget, or expect that they will carry on as usual.

That’s the deal.

Maybe this is the post I hoped I’d find when I first started to try to figure out how to cope.

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Weird diets in the quest for health

Before...

Before…

Our kids are used to our weird diets. As far as they’re concerned, we’re always on one.

I guess they’re right…

Weird diets we’ve tried in our quest for health…

Petra’s health issues:

Borderline obesity (back & forth across the border!) + depression & anxiety

Matthew’s health issues:

Psoriatic arthritis, chronic pain, psoriasis + associated crappy complications

Pre-2009:

Vegetarianism (in Matthew’s case, with an occasional stealthy steak)

Ongoing decades-long struggle with weight, depression & anxiety

Worsening of all symptoms

2009:

4 months on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

No change

No change

2009-10:

Standard American Diet (or in Petra’s case, back to vegetarianism)

No change

Worsening of all symptoms

2010-11:

Raw vegan

No change

Worsening of all symptoms

2012-13:

Paleo

Alleviation of 9 health issues including obesity depression & anxiety

Worsening of all symptoms

Summer 2013:

30-day Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP)

I have no health issues that I am aware of since going paleo, but both times on the AIP I have experienced a dramatic increase in energy* & mental health: I feel buoyant & fantastic!

No change during, but  afterwards: A sustained alleviation of Psoriasis symptoms

Late 2013-ongoing:

Auto-Immune Protocol (including a low-FODMAP variation we’re doing now)

No change (so far)…

…but given that most other weird diets have resulted in worsening of all his symptoms, no change is an improvement!

*During a 25-day experiment with a super low-carb version of the AIP my energy tanked. Interestingly, I gained weight during that time even with the reduction in carbs, because my energy was so low that I couldn’t exercise as much. After a few days back on a higher-carb (relatively speaking) version of the AIP my energy soared again.

 

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