Friday, March 23, 2012

Gluten-free Holidays: Spring

Holidays are often tricky to navigate when you or someone in your family has to stick to a gluten-free diet.  In my house, two of us eat gluten-free and we're always trying to create some semblance of "normalcy" during holidays.  With Passover and Easter on the horizon, I thought I would pass along a few resources for celebrating, gluten-free style.

At (pictured left), they provide a host of traditional Passover foods in gluten-free form.  This site was quite a find!  There is a helpful recipe section and they even sell a gluten-free Passover cookbook.  In addition, they offer gluten-free noodles, horseradish, honey and macaroons. All items are Kosher.  I especially like the gluten-free matzo.  Next, I have to try the macaroons (oh wait, I gave those up.  See - The Power of Sugar). If only they sold those little chocolate ring jell candies I adored as a child! I contacted the company for some information and to grab a box of matzo for my son and they were very helpful, courteous, generous and kind.  A great company all around.

Now, on to Easter....oh, Easter.  As a child who grew up in a house with Easter and Passover and now, an adult who is raising a family that celebrates both Easter and Passover, it is always so hard to get that Easter basket during Passover and have to wait until Passover is over to eat any of the goods inside.  Man, did I look forward to the chocolate bunny, Cadbury eggs, jelly beans and the Peeps.  Now that I have a little one, the Easter basket gets even more challenging by trying to make it gluten-free and low in sugar.  This year, since my son and I are also on the GAPS diet, I will be making homemade Easter treats - I'll let you know how that goes.  In the meantime, Indie Candy  is a great site to try if you need to make Easter an allergen free holiday.  Now, if I could only find some organic, gluten-free, low sugar Peeps!

Do you have special dietary needs?  How does it affect your holiday shopping?  Any recipes to share?  Leave a comment below.  Join the discussion!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Gluten-free Treat For You!

Fettle Vegan's - Samoa Macaroon
I thought I'd share a post from my Healthy Plate blog on a gluten-free treat that my fellow friends with thyroid challenges could enjoy.  Here ya go!
I am always on the look out for awesome recipes and treats I can make my family given all the food sensitivities in this household.  As a holistic health coach, I have studied over 100 dietary theories and utilize many of them in my practice.  So, when I go looking for recipes, I look everywhere - Epicurious, Food Network, Traditional Foods blogs, Gluten-free blogs, Paleo/Primal Blogs and Vegetarian/Vegan blogs.  There are so many great recipes floating around out there and all of them can be adapted to suit your needs.

Today, I really needed a treat and one that was gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free because that's how we role in my family.  For this reason, I started my search on some vegan websites (since their recipes don't include animal products like eggs and butter).

I found just what I was looking for at Fettle Vegan.  It's a great website on vegan living.  I really enjoyed my time there trolling the site.  I chose their take on the Girl Scout's famous Samoa cookies.  I had to tweak the recipe a bit for my needs (they weren't gluten-free).  Check out their recipe, use mine below for a gluten-free/low-sugar start or create your own!

Samoa Cookie Macaroons (mostly copied directly from Fettle Vegan

2 cups shredded or flaked coconut, unsweetened
1/2 cup coconut oil ***Coconut oil should NOT be melted. (FV recipe: 1/4 cup coconut oil)
1/2 cup coconut flour (FV recipe: whole wheat flour, or you could try almond flour)
1 1/2 tbsp raw honey (FV recipe: 1/3 cup maple sugar.  This was way too much sugar for my family + you've read my "Sugar Addiction" post below so you know my challenges...)
3/4 teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt (FV recipe: 1/2 tsp finely ground pink sea salt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup of cold water (FV recipe: 2-4 teaspoons of cold water)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened dark or other vegan chocolate

  1. Combine coconut, coconut oil, flour, honey, salt, almond and vanilla extracts.  
  2. You want to have to fork the mixture together until the solid coconut oil has been completely smooshed up and combined with everything else. It takes about 2 minutes of dedicated forking.
  3. Add water, starting with two teaspoons, and mix until mixture comes together and becomes sticky.
  4. Once combined, use your hands to form the mixture into (about) 1 inch balls.
  5. Once your macaroons are formed, set them on a paper lined cookie sheet in a cool place. The fridge will work beautifully here.
  6. While the macaroons are chillin', melt about 2 ounces of chocolate. Use a double boiler (I don't believe in the microwave.  Not even for chocolate.)
  7. Once chocolate is fully melted, remove macaroons from cooling area. Dip a fork in the chocolate and drizzle chocolate over the top (to keep the sugar low, minimize how much you drizzle or leave it out altogether.)
  8. Once a little chocolate has been added, place macaroons back onto lined cookie sheet and let sit for about 20-40 minutes, allowing chocolate to set. This process can be sped up by placing the entire cookie sheet into the refrigerator until the chocolate cools completely. 

As you can see, I had a great starting point and easily tweaked the recipe with substitutions to fit our needs.  They turned out delicious!  I only wonder if the "forking" could have been made easier by using a potato masher instead.  If you try this recipe out and use the potato masher, let me know how it worked out by commenting below.  Thanks!

What do you think of this recipe?  Join the discussion!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Spiritual Side of Hashimoto's

I sat in front of the doctor in tears.  "I don't understand.  How did I get this disease?  I really can't handle anything else wrong with my body."  In addition to this new Hashimoto's diagnosis, I had been recovering from serious physical injuries to my body from an auto accident with a semi-truck.  I really didn't think I could handle any more bad news.  We had just finished a long legal battle with the truck company to pay for my medical bills.  Within a three month span, my dear grandmother had past as well as two of my friends (way too young.)  I was under enormous pressure and in the thick of deep sadness.  Now this.

My caring doctor looked at me and explained all the medical reasons as to why I had gotten this disease.  "But," he said, "there is a spiritual component as well."  What he went on to explain made perfect sense to me.  The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped organ located in your throat, your 5th chakra.  The 5th chakra is linked to your ability to communicate and be heard.  It is also correlated to faith and understanding. I had been through a 5-year long legal battle with this truck company.  Had my voice been heard?  No.  Did I have to squash so many negative and angry feelings just to survive this period? Yes.  Was I in a period of faith and understanding?  NO.  I had just lost two people in my life, who were under the age of 40, for reasons I couldn't comprehend.  I had little faith or understanding of why they had to leave this world.

What the doctor was saying struck a chord deep in my soul.  He explained that when you don't communicate your feelings, when you squash what's inside, your body reacts in ways to make you notice and put you back in balance.  When you have Hashimoto's/Autoimmune thryroiditis, your body is literally attacking itself.  You are attacking your thyroid, the seat of communication. My body was literally crying out, "Pay attention to your voice. Be heard.  It's time to speak."

When I thought back, I hadn't been myself for years. Once a brazen, loud-mouthed, jovial type who sang and laughed often, I found myself turned inward, never speaking my true thoughts. I always had a knot in my throat.  I often kept my mouth shut when I really had so much to say.   The doctor said, "You really have to find your voice again. This is the way you're going to heal."  

For the next couple of posts, I'm going to share with you the techniques I've learned to better communicate with myself and with others.  Do you believe there is a spiritual component to thyroid disease?  What are your thoughts?  Join the discussion!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this excellent resource to our readers.  It was an absolute blessing that I came by the book, "Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?" by Datis Kharrazian.  In his book, Dr. Kharrazian describes in great detail how one comes to have thyroid challenges, the different types of thyroid issues there are and the complications that arise system-wide from these issues.  In addition, he addresses thyroid issues in men and women and the many different methods for treatment.  I wish I had found this book sooner.  It really explains in layman's terms what is going on with the body.  After reading this book, I was able to have a more educated discussion with my doctors and healers and was armed with the questions that need to be asked.

What books or websites have you found helpful in managing your thyroid symptoms?  Please join the discussion!

Meditation Only Takes A Moment

We've all heard how great meditation can be for the mind and body but man, is it hard!  I've been an unsuccessful meditator for over a decade now but lately, I've been reinvigorated with my practice.  For one, it is especially important for Hashimoto's sufferers to manage stress and soothe the nervous system.  Secondly, a quiet mind ain't a bad thing.  But thirdly, and most importantly, it works!  Science is showing in study after study the true benefits of meditation - how it helps heal, how it re-circuits the mind and body and how it helps stave off memory loss to keep us thriving.  There is a terrific amount of information on the science of meditation in the March 2012 issue of Shambhala Sun.

I know that finding time for meditating and "succeeding" at it can be overwhelming.  Here are a few tips for us harried people:
  •   If you can't find time to meditate early in the morning or before bed, try arriving to work 15 minutes early and meditate in your car.  Although it doesn't sound ideal at first, it gets really easy with practice.  Set the timer on your phone.  Just close your eyes and focus on your breath.    Breathe in and breathe out for 15 minutes.  If your mind wanders, come back to the breath.  It really works and puts you in a great place before getting into the office.  Give it a try!
  • Attend a guided meditation class.  We're lucky that in Los Angeles there are several of these classes and they are free!  My favorites are at the Lakeshrine Temple and the Siddha Yoga Center.  If you don't live in L.A., you can find these classes almost anywhere - the YMCA, church, or as an extension class at your local college/university.  Just Google it!
  • Join the Chopra Center's 21-day Meditation Challenge series.  It's easy - you register for the class (it's free) and they email you a link every day to a recording of a guided meditation class. The Chopra Center does these challenges quarterly.  I just get up a few minutes early, plug in my headphones and start my day with their meditation.  They last between 10 and 20 minutes.  Easy peasy.
Meditation can be done by anyone.  It's not a religious practice but a personal and often times spiritual one.  And remember, mediation is a PRACTICE and it takes just that to get comfortable with it.  Do you meditate?  What's your favorite method?  What challenges do you face when meditating.  Join in the discussion!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Stress Component: Massage Miracles

Having Hashimoto's can be very stressful.  Not only do the symptoms cause a lot of stress but handling stress itself is more difficult given our compromised nervous systems.  I know I used to pride myself on how well I handled stress.  In my previous life (pre-HT), I thought stress was for ninnies.  Just deal with things and move on was my attitude.  Not so much anymore....

My poor husband has to deal with a lady who breaks down all the time anymore.  Things that would never have bothered me in the past create not only a stress reaction now but a strong physical one.  As soon as I stress, my body goes into panic mode.  On top of that, the more I read and speak to doctors and healers, the more I receive the message, "Limit Your Stress.  It's exacerbating your condition!"  Well, if hearing that when you can't seem to control your nervous system isn't stressful, I don't know what is.

So, to nourish my sweet, sensitive nervous system these days, I get a massage as often as I can afford it.  It really has had a positive impact on my ability to manage stress and on my symptoms.  There are many ways that massage can help.  Here are a few of them:
  • Getting an hour to yourself!
  • Enhances Immunity
  • Alleviates Pain
  • Relaxes the Nervous System
  • Stimulates the Lymphatic System
Really, the list could go on and on.  What about you?  Do you use massage to manage stress?  What kind of massage works best for you?

Live in the LA area and want the best massage?  Go to Burke Williams (my happy place) and make an appointment with Caroline (at the Santa Monica location).  She's the best!  Speaking of which, I should make my appointment now....

And don't forget, massage doesn't have to be expensive.  Trade massages with a friend or partner or even find a great massage therapist and trade services!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dry Brushing: Better than coffee!

As many of us know, toxicity from the environment and heavy metals can play a role in causing Hashimoto's.  One of the first things my doctor suggested to help with detox my system was to work on supporting the lymphatic system.  Dry brushing is a simple, inexpensive way to start that process.

Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system and sets in motion the body's natural healing process.  It also promotes blood circulation and aids in releasing toxins.  In Ayurveda, this process is called Garshana.  I first learned about Garshana in 2007 when I attended the Perfect Health program at the Chopra Center.  After a week of Ayurvedic treatments and food, I felt better than I ever had before.  Of course, this was before I had Hashimoto's.  Because I have sensitive skin, I was wary of taking those scratchy, dry bristles and brushing my skin with them but after my doctor reminded me of this type of therapy, I gave it a try. 

Now, I'm hooked!

With all the fatigue and fog that can come with Hashimoto's, dry brushing is a welcome treatment.  Before I was diagnosed, I drank gallons of coffee to keep my energy up.  Now that I know it's best to skip the coffee, I dry brush first thing in the morning. It only takes me 5 minutes! The stimulation from my skin being brushed wakes me up in such a refreshing way that I now look forward to the brush instead of a Cup of Joe.  It's a pretty amazing experience and here are some of its benefits:
  • Assists body's lymphatic system to release toxins
  • Exfoliates the skin
  • Promotes cell regeneration
  • Can improve cellulite (I'm still waiting to see those results! ;-)
  • Leaves you feeling energized and invigorated (no need for the coffee!)
This is how the Chopra Center suggests you dry brush.  I have seen other methods as well. I just do what feels best to me.

Won't you give it a try?  And, if you have, tell us your experience...