Reviews & Interviews

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AIPCookbookCoverHave you ever had a friend that really, really pushes you?  I don't mean pushes your buttons, I mean pushes you to be a better you.  This kind of friend is usually completely awesome at what they do.  The kind of awesome that leaves you going, "How in the world is she so damn good at that?"  Here's where the push part comes though . . . instead of that leaving you feeling deflated and jealous, this friend has a way of being so encouraging that you wake up earlier, work harder, and learn faster, so that you too might one day be "completely awesome at what you do."  This friend is so inspiring with the work she produces, that you become more willing to push yourself beyond your normal comfort zone, so that you can refine your own talent in similar ways.  Mickey Trescott is that friend for me and her new cookbook, The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, is the work that inspires me. 

Mickey's book is the first ever completely AIP cookbook to enter the Paleo world and she has set the bar VERY, VERY HIGH for any other aspiring AIP cookbook writer.  If writing a cookbook is not in your wheel house, but both healing and eating well are, this book is going to blow you away.  Healing has never looked so beautiful on a plate or tasted so good in your mouth!

So, in my typical fashion, let me make this book review short and sweet with a simple list about why I love The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook:

1)  It's beautiful.  Ever self-published and self-distributed a 314 page cookbook and had it turn out to be a gorgeous masterpiece?  Me either.  Mickey has done it though.  Every single photo in this book is a pleasure to look at and every recipe is a breeze to follow, thanks to expert photography and precise design and lay-out.  Also, can I say that I am a font brat.  Well-chosen fonts make such a difference in a polished, finished product and even that detail is perfect in this cookbook.  Just take a look at page 290.  Have you ever seen a more attractive picture of popsicles in your life?  Until I opened this book I thought of popsicles as a messy, annoying childhood treat, not a sophisticated, healing indulgence for adults.

2)  It's easy.  If you're one of the thousands of people attempting to heal using an autoimmune version of Paleo right now, you know it is not for wussies.  It is a restrictive diet and requires enormous dedication in the kitchen.  Starting is usually an intense period of adjustment and mourning for most folks.  The healing that comes later makes it all so worth it, but nonetheless, beginning is difficult.  NOW, there's Mickey's book though and all of that is changed!  If I'd had this resource two years ago, my start would have been completely different.  All the work I needed to do to prep food would have been straight forward with Mickey's expert guidance.  And the sense of loss, of all my favorite foods, it would have passed within minutes of opening the book and feasting my eyes on all the delicious options Mickey has made available.  Her creativity and expertise in the book will ease the transition so much, you may not even realize it was work until it's over.

3)  It's sensitive.  How can a book be sensitive?  That's a weird thing to throw in a book review, right?  At the start of my AI journey, I felt so alone.  To be frank, even though I recognized that AIP was going to work, the diet itself felt even more isolating.  The Paleo Autoimmune Cookbook shows you that life on a healing protocol can be full, uncomplicated, and appetizing.  Mickey has included photos of sharing amazing meals with a whole group of friends.  She's given careful explanations and directions on how to make this diet a part of your health care, with detailed menus and shopping lists.  And, importantly, she's shown us that she knows first hand how critical it is to keep "yummy" in the vocabulary of those healing.  Having done the AI journey herself, Mickey was the perfect author for this cookbook, because she had a unique sensitivity to the needs of the AI crowd.

I was not paid to write this review.  I'm not going to personally benefit from its sales.  I can however recommend, without any reservations, that you buy this book.  It is motivating me daily.  Imagine how it might change your life?  You can find The Paleo Autoimmune Cookbook here.

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You might have noticed something about my blog . . . I don't write book reviews.  Ever.  The reason I don't write reviews is that there are so many books I love.  So many.  If I narrow it down to only the Paleo books I love (shockingly, I do love things outside the Paleo realm), there are still just so, so many.  How can I possibly read them all and then offer thorough, well-thought out reviews for my readers?  We are lucky, 'cause the Paleo community is full of intelligent peeps putting out great info, but it means there are literally thousands of pages of material to read.  My approach to this, in order to preserve my sanity, has been to read what I need from the various resources and not include book reviews as part of what I offer my audience.

The-Paleo-Approach

And then The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne hit the shelves.  I knew I'd have to change my book reviewing policy, 'cause this book is specifically for MY CORNER of the Paleo world.  My people are the ones this book was written for and I want to make sure that the word gets out that there is a brand-new, incredibly comprehensive resource written just for us.  You know who I'm talking about, right?  Autoimmune folks!  We now have a complete guide to the version of the Paleo lifestyle that is specifically meant for our journey!

So let me make this book review short & sweet, with a list.  You knew I was going to use a list, right?!

Reasons I Love The Paleo Approach:

1)  All the science is there.  I am the kind of woman that needs to know "why."  I'm happy to try new ways of solving my health problems, but I have to know why one method works over another.  When I first took on the protocol Sarah recommends, almost two years ago, there were not alot of resources on using Paleo to tackle autoimmune issues.  Sarah's blog was like hitting the jackpot though, as it had the very easy to digest "why" that I wanted.  In her book she takes the science to a whole new level and, in so doing, reveals her genuine respect for her audience.  In fact, in the opening pages of the book Sarah specifically says she believes the public is capable of understanding complex science.  I could not agree more and with her as the teacher, it is not a chore.  I believe this book will become a must-read textbook for health practitioners of all kinds, but it is not your average, dreaded, dry science text.  It's more like a clear, comfortable, easy conversation.

2)  All the how-to is there.  Once again, I think about everything I love (and that you probably love too) about the stellar how-to guidance that Sarah provides on her blog.  It was exactly what I needed in my early Paleo transition and frankly, the resource I still most often return to when I am stuck.  In the book, she takes it the extra mile.  Step-by-step Sarah lays out not only how to adapt the Paleo diet to battle autoimmunity, but also how to adapt our lifestyles.  You come away not only knowing how to adjust all those lifestyle factors, but also why it matters that much more for those with autoimmune disease.  Do you know that your healing isn't progressing as expected?  Sarah has that how-to area covered as well, with a whole section devoted to troubleshooting.  To be perfectly honest, I am totally reevaluating my current health status and planning to follow a new foods reintroduction path based on all the detailed guidance in the book.

3)  I know it works.  I love The Paleo Approach, because I know it works.  It completely, dramatically changed my life and the lives of so many others.  Sarah thought to include us in the book too (let's face it, she didn't forget anything).  All our stories openly share what the road from illness to health looks like when you use this approach.  And, in all honesty, that is what matters most to me.  The more diminished my life became due to autoimmunity, the harder it was to find answers, the more isolated I felt.  I thought I was the only one, but now I have a huge support system.  There is a whole community out here and Sarah has provided a truly impressive point where we can join together and start conquering AI.

I was not paid to write this review.  I'm not going to personally benefit from its sales.  I hope you'll pick up a copy, because there are over 50 million Americans with autoimmune diseases and this book is going to change how we help those people.  If you are one of the 50 million, this book is the answer to your question, "Can I ever feel good again?"  You can find The Paleo Approach here.

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Meet Jess!  Jess is a physician, wife, mother of four and also an autoimmune warrior.  She has Hashimoto's Disease and Celiac.  I found her blog, The Patient Celiac, roughly a year ago and have found her perspective, as a medical doctor, to be invaluable to my own understanding of Celiac.  I also check in on her Facebook page every day, where she posts great information and useful resources regularly.  I think the autoimmune community can get enormous benefit from having a doctor like Jess among us & hope that you will find her interview below as interesting as I did.  Spoiler alert:  She struggles with the same patient issues that all of us experience too!!


What were your first autoimmune symptoms? When did you learn what it was?
I had chronic bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea that started when I was 8 or 9 years old and during late adolescence I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  In my twenties I developed anemia, joint pains, Raynaud’s phenomenon (my hands would turn cold and white), and was extremely fatigued. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease (autoimmune hypothyroidism) when I was 26 and Celiac Disease seven years later.

Can you describe what it was like for you, when your condition was at its worst? 
My entire body fell apart after I had my 3rd child in 2009. I had constant diarrhea, diffuse joint pains, including arthritis in my lower back, canker sores throughout my mouth, and I began to bruise very easily. I became lactose intolerant for the first time in my life.  My hair became brittle and my nails stopped growing. I also felt like I could no longer think clearly, like my brain was in a fog. I ran a daily fever as well. I delayed getting evaluated because I was preparing for my Neonatology board exams, which only take place once every two years. I was positive that I had lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or some type of cancer.  I was relieved to find out that my symptoms were from Celiac Disease, as it was nice to have an answer.

What sort of diet do you follow now? 
I am gluten, soy, and sulfite free, as well as dairy and grain light. I developed a soy intolerance in 2011 and a sulfite allergy in 2012.

How quickly did you see results after going gluten free? 
I started to feel better shortly after going gluten free. My energy returned and my digestive symptoms improved by about the 2 week mark.  After about 6 months of being gluten free, I felt the healthiest that I ever had.

What symptoms still remain? 
I developed a gluten-related peripheral neuropathy, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, in 2012. My neurologic symptoms resolved when we removed all gluten from the home (despite being as careful as I could I was getting exposed to traces of gluten). I have experienced the neuropathy only twice in the last 9 months, both times after getting cross-contaminated while traveling.

What other areas of your health improved simultaneously?

My anemia improved quite a bit and my dose of Levothyroxine for hypothyroidism decreased.  My hair and nails began to grow again and my exercise endurance improved quite a bit. People stopped telling me that I looked “tired” all of the time.  I also had a tendency toward depression, and this has also improved since removing gluten from my diet.

What other things do you do outside of diet to support your health and healing? 
I am a runner and try to run 3 to 5 days per week. I will be running my second marathon next month. I practice yoga on a regular basis.  I also take a daily multivitamin, Vitamin D, B12, and folate supplements, as well as a probiotic. Goofing around with my kids is probably the best medicine!

What are the challenges for you in sticking to the diet? 
I find that I have the most difficulty while traveling.  Although I try my best to research restaurants ahead of time, a lot of the time we are on the road and are limited to fast food chains (which I refuse to eat at).  I always travel with my own stash of food and snacks.  I have survived for days on bananas and sweet potatoes!

What Celiac related symptom surprised you the most?  The peripheral neuropathy really surprised me as it developed after 2 ½ years of being gluten free and I really thought that I had been doing everything right.

Is your family also gluten free? 
Yes. Although I am the only person with Celiac Disease, my husband and four kids went gluten free in 2012 when I developed the Celiac-induced neuropathy.

What sort of advice would you give to people newly dealing w/ an autoimmune disease, specifically Celiac? 
To be patient with yourself and your body as you recover from the damage from this chronic illness.  To know that we all make mistakes that lead to “glutenings, ”especially at first, but that it gets easier to live gluten free with time.  I think that it’s really important to connect with others with autoimmune diseases, whether it is in person or via online support groups.  Also, to really listen to your body’s signals, i.e. rest if your body is screaming at you to take it easy.

In what ways does it benefit you to be a doctor & a patient?  Is it ever hard? 
My Celiac diagnosis put me in the position of being a patient for the first time in my life.  Although I had seen doctors my entire life, I had never identified with myself as a patient.  Being a patient has helped me to connect to my patients’ families and I believe has made me a better doctor.  My biggest challenge has been trying to teach my medical peers about what it is like to actually have Celiac Disease, especially that it is not an easy disease to have.

What do you think is the most frustrating part of dealing w/ Celiac disease in the medical community?  Do you encounter a lot of misinformation among colleagues, as many patients seem to report?  
There is a perception that if a patient has Celiac Disease, that as long as they eat gluten free foods, that they will be fine, despite research showing the lack of bowel healing and the prolonged persistence of symptoms in many Celiac patients. While most of us learned about “classic” presentations of Celiac Disease in medical school, many doctors are still not looking for Celiac Disease in patients with atypical presentations, i.e. unexplained anemia, infertility, and neurologic symptoms.  This is very frustrating to me.

Do you think you are better able to identify potential Celiac patients now, than you were pre-diagnosis?  Do you think knowing the disease personally has made you more capable of picking up on the confusing symptoms in others?
I see Celiac Disease everywhere, now that I know what to look for.  Although I do not see patients with Celiac Disease myself, as I take care of premature babies (who fortunately do not have Celiac Disease), I have encountered many mothers of patients who have concerning symptoms. Unfortunately, a lot of these women have declined testing.

What one piece of information do you most wish was better understood about Celiac?
That Celiac Disease is a chronic, lifelong autoimmune condition, the treatment of which requires much more than just eating gluten free foods.  Most of us require vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to the gluten free diet.  Getting enough rest, exercise, and proper nutrition are important as well.

What do you think the medical community could be doing better in terms of treating Celiac patients?

First, practitioners need to be able to recognize the symptoms of Celiac Disease so that people can be diagnosed. Secondly, the diagnosis needs to be done correctly, while a patient is eating gluten. Thirdly, the gluten free diet needs to be taken as seriously as any other medical treatment, such as insulin for a diabetic. Lastly, it is crucial that patients have their nutritional status (i.e. iron, Vitamin D and B12 levels) monitored on a regular basis, as in many cases this is not happening.  Patients are being told to only stop eating gluten and that is not enough. Celiac Disease needs to be taken more seriously by both doctors and patients

Meet Jennifer!  Jennifer is an old friend of my younger sister.  I've known her for a long time (from way back in the sleep-over days).  If you think your life is just too busy or too stressed for Paleo or that your schedule is just too hard to manage for the Paleo lifestyle, Jenn has another thing coming for you.  She's a bad-ass police officer working graveyard shift in a major city, but she still pulls it off.  Jenn is in her early 30's doing straight Paleo and CrossFit (she just competed in a competition!  Woot!).  She was one of the first folks to really encourage me when I found Paleo and I thought her amazing story of managing her thyroid issues and beating an exposure to Hep C (WTH!  Scary!) on the job would be a great read for all of you.  


1)  When did you start?  How long have you been doing it?
I was introduced to Paleo about three years ago.  At first it was on and off while I was trying to figure out how to really incorporate this into my life, I would say over the last couple of years I have been more consistent and my diet is now about 90% Paleo, I still use some protein supplements.   About three times a year I do one full month of strict Paleo.

2)  How did you learn about it?
I actually learned about it when I started doing CrossFit three years ago.  When I started we had to go through an "intro" type class, called OnRamp, where we learned all the basic movements and fundamentals of CrossFit.  During this time my coaches focused a lot on nutrition.  Anyone who does CrossFit knows that CrossFit and Paleo almost always go hand in hand.  I had gone in just for something new to try out, and honestly at first didn’t really buy in to the whole Paleo idea and kept eating whatever I felt like at the time.  I never thought my diet was really that bad, but looking back it definitely wasn’t good.


3)  What motivated you to give it a try?
I ended up deciding to give it a try when one of my coaches put together a 30-day “cut the crap” challenge.  It was basically 30 days of strict Paleo.  The whole idea was to get as many people on board as possible and do it as a group so we could support each other.  They really focus on a well-rounded healthy lifestyle and have often said, “You can’t out train a bad diet.”  You can workout a thousand times a day but you’ll never reach your full potential or optimal health until you get your nutrition on board.  When I started getting more serious about my training and interested in some competitions I realized that in order to really progress athletically I needed to change my outlook on food and what I was putting in my body.

4)  Before you began, what seemed the most difficult?
I would say when we had first started the most difficult thing was food planning.  Before this it was easy when I didn’t have time to cook to throw a sandwich together or just grab something packaged out of the cupboard.  It was especially difficult at work, some nights I barely had time to eat at all and hitting a drive through was sometimes the most convenient way to feed myself.  I also had a difficult time with the idea that no bread was allowed, after all everywhere you look everyone tells you that grains are good for you, so it took me a while to grasp the concept that I don’t actually need grains in my diet.



5)  After beginning, what are the greatest challenges?
At first I was having a hard time figuring out what I could eat.  After all, a person could eat nothing but carrots all day and while that would technically be considered Paleo, it is not healthy.  The easiest way for me is to follow a Paleo zone type diet, so I make sure to get the right balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbs in every meal.  I try to organize ahead of time and am constantly looking for new recipes and new ideas to get a lot of variety.

6)  What has been the greatest benefit? 
There’s so many its hard to pick just one!  I think just improving my overall health was the greatest benefit.  When I was a teenager my diet was never very good and when I was 15 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  After a year of several prescription medications to regulate my thyroid, regulate my heart rate, and slow my immune system down I was sicker than I’d ever been and they finally decided to cut it out.  After having my thyroid surgery I then struggled with constant low calcium.  I’m not talking about a minor vitamin deficiency. I’m talking even with insane amounts of calcium/vitamin D supplements and prescription levels of vitamin D my calcium levels were still dangerously low.  The general consensus was that my parathyroid was damaged during the surgery.  Then to top it off when I was 17 I had a suspicious mole removed that turned out to be melanoma.  I had always just assumed I was unlucky, but after my last few years of constant reading about health I realized that I might have been able to greatly help myself through diet.  At the time my favorite drink was Mountain Dew and I LOVED processed sugars.  Sadly that was something my doctors never talked to me about.  After being consistent and adopting a mostly Paleo diet my calcium levels are finally close to a normal range, for the first time in 14 years, and so far no more cancerous moles.

Another major benefit has been at work.  I have been working as a police officer for a major city for almost nine years now.  I have been working graveyard in the busier part of the city for my entire career.  Working graveyard can be challenging to say the least, trying to figure out when to sleep, eat etc.  This is when most nights I would just hit the Jack in the Box drive through because it was easy and fast.  After a few years on graveyard my blood pressure was so high I was told I had stage one hypertension and the doctor wanted to put me on prescription medication to help control it.  He also pressured me constantly about going to dayshift.  At the time I said no as I didn’t think I needed drugs and didn’t have enough seniority for dayshift.  I figured that it was all due to my lack of sleep and the general stress of the job.  After changing my nutrition habits my blood pressure is on the low end of normal, my stress levels at work have significantly dropped, and I usually sleep 8-9 hours a day unless my work wakes me up.  All this was accomplished just from changing my food.  And I still work graveyard.    One more thing I would mention, a couple years ago while at work I had the unfortunate experience of a blood exposure and when I went in for a blood test they told me that I had the antibodies for Hepatitis C.  I had hoped that it was a false positive but wasn’t so lucky.  I went through several tests over several months with several doctors, and was told that I did not have the virus, only the antibodies.  They had explained that a very lucky few people are able to clear the virus when they come into contact with it, but will always have the antibodies.  Of everything I had read at the time there didn’t seem to be much explanation on why some people are able to clear the virus on their own.  I still don’t know but I like to think that maybe I was giving my body the best tools to protect itself through food.

7)  What new info about nutrition surprised you the most?

When I started reading a lot about nutrition, one thing that surprised me was the science behind nutrition and the body, and particularly the role of insulin in health and disease.  I never knew the consequences of elevated blood sugar were so serious and how many diseases it is linked too.  There is so much data and research about how something as simple as eating better can cure most common ailments and yet it’s just not something that people turn to.  By far the most frustrating thing to me is when someone goes to a doctor they are more likely to be sent to the pharmacy instead of the produce aisle.  God gave us the tools to heal ourselves and our most powerful medicine comes simply from nature, yet it’s constantly over looked.


8)  Do you plan to continue?

Absolutely!  I can’t think of one reason not to.  I’ve never felt better in my life, physically and mentally.  I began Paleo for athletic performance, and I’m continuing so I can prevent the scourge of diet-induced disease.  It has also done wonders for my athletic performance.

9)  What is your favorite Paleo dish?
Beets.  I can’t stop eating them for some reason…I steam them then toss them with some coconut oil and some Himalayan rock salt and sea kelp seasoning.  Also toasted broccoli with garlic.  I also eat a ton of meat; I buy most of my meat from US Wellness meats, all organic, grass-fed/finished.  My dog is also on a raw diet and I feed her meat I buy from there.  We fight over the chicken a lot.

10)  What non-Paleo food do you still miss?

Cheese!  When I say 90% Paleo, I still eat a little cheese on occasion.  It used to be cookies but since I’ve gotten off sugar I crave those a lot less now a days.



11)  Have you learned new skills in the kitchen as a result of cooking so much more?
Most definitely.  I used to hardly ever cook and make my own food, now I cook almost every day.  I’ve gotten really good at making things in bulk, so I can store it and bring it to work with me and have handy meals to just grab out of the fridge for the convenience factor that I love.

12)  Have there been any unexpected changes?
One thing I’d have to add here is everyone comments on my complexion.  My skin looks amazing!  I don't use any special products or anything, just coconut oil and good food.  One creepier person at the store told me he loved how white my eyes were.  I was scared, flattered, but scared.  Also I’m rarely sick anymore.  Even if I do get a cold it seems less severe and doesn’t last as long.

13)  Who would you encourage to try Paleo?

Everyone.  Anyone who wants to be happy and healthy.  Just because you don’t have issues now doesn’t mean you won’t later.  Some health issues develop slowly over time, don’t wait until it’s too late to make changes and take charge of your own health.  I wish every day that when I was 15 I knew half as much about nutrition as I do now.  And while so many people are obsessed with fat loss and looking good, why not try a diet that optimizes fat loss and helps build lean muscle while avoiding chronic disease?  Really what is there to loose?

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I think you guys know that I use the "No Poo" method of cleansing my hair.  I haven't used shampoo and conditioner since January 7th.  I love No Poo.  I wash my hair about every four days.  It's manageable, it's healthy, and it is very easy.Sometimes though, No Poo doesn't quite do it for me, particularly during the humid mid-Atlantic summers.  Humidity equals frizz city for my hair.  I knew I was in for a bad hair summer by May and wasn't sure how I was going to control the frizz while sticking to my simplified haircare routine.  Then on June 10th, I was approached by Morrocco Method International to try some of their products for a review.

I looked at their website and after I confirmed my top three "no-nos" are not include in their products, I decided to give them a try.  They don't use gluten, soy or GMOs.  Perfect!  A few days later I got a package and inside of it was my new favorite hair care productDiamond Crystal Mist Conditioner and Moisturizer is AWESOME!  My summer frizz nightmare was over!

I use No Poo (cleanse with baking soda, condition with apple cider vinegar) and then blow-dry, next I follow-up with the Diamond Crystal Mist Conditioner and Moisturizer.  It's a leave-in conditioner, so I spritz it into my hair after blow-drying.  Next I brush it through and style like normal.  I even occasionally use a straightener or curling iron and it doesn't get overly dry or frizz out, it stays soft, bouncy, and shiny.  Even better, it smells amazing.

Without Diamond Mist this would be a picture about my summer frizz attack!

My hair is never greasy after using this product.  It keeps the frizz at bay without weighing my hair down.  I can even use it between cleansing days to perk up my look and keep my style fresh.  I definitely recommend Diamond Crystal Mist Conditioner and Moisturizer.  Surf over to Morrocco Method International's website and check out all their awesome products and find the one that is perfect for your hair.

So here is the best part of all . . . GIVEAWAY time!!  Morrocco Method International will be sending a full size bottle of the Diamond Crystal Mist Conditioner and Moisturizer to a lucky reader.  You can test out this awesome product first-hand.

So here's the rules:
1)  Go to my FB page here:  Alt-ternative Autoimmune.  If you haven't liked it, give 'er a like.  Next go to Morrocco Method's FB page, give them a like.
2)  Go to today's PRODUCT REVIEW GIVEAWAY on MY page and leave a comment (tell me about your favorite "alterna" beauty routine or why you like this blog, anything!).  You have between today (July 19) and Sunday (July 21) to leave your comment.
3)  Check back on the FB page on Monday (July 22) for announcement of the winner.  He or she will be chosen at random.
4)  I'll get in touch with winner for a physical address & then we'll get this fabulous leave-in conditioner headed your way.