Gut Health Retreat – in the stunning French Alps!

“Bad digestion is the root of all evil” – Hippocrates 400BC

It seems a little extreme to call bad digestion the root of all evil, but Hippocrates was way ahead of his time!

Gut health really is the key to good health! Get your gut health in order and everything else will fall into place!

Digestive issues such as bloating, cramping, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, reflux are so common these days.

But its not normal to experience these symptoms on a daily basis.

Its your body’s way of trying to warn you that something is not right.

Yet is so often gets dismissed as just one of those things and nothing to worry about!

If you don’t get it under control it can lead to a whole host of health issues!

Believe me I know the price of ignoring it and its not worth it!!

Which is why I’m collaborating with the lovely Marie Nordling-Stewart and Nikki Shields and hosting a Gut Health Retreat Day up at the beautiful Chalet Savoie Faire.

So that you can get rid of those digestive symptoms and start to feel great again!

If you haven’t already paid a visit to Chalet Savoie Faire you’re really missing a trick.

Chalet Savoie Faire is situated in the most tranquil location.

What you can expect on the day

To get the day started you’ll be welcomed with a lovely cup of tea.

Marie will then guide you through a specifically tailored yoga sequence designed to improve your gut health.

You’ll have worked up an appetite by the end of the morning!

You won’t be disappointed with the delicious food that Nikki has prepared.

Nikki really has a flare for preparing the most beautiful, tasty food. Not to mention making you feel right at home!

Lunch won’t be rushed! You’ll have time to relax, savour the flavours and get to know your fellow retreat members.

Post lunch we’ll relax in the comfy seats by the roaring log fire to discuss gut health.

I’ll be teaching you exactly what triggers those annoying and often painful digestive symptoms.

As well as how to fix them for good!

There’ll be time set aside before the end of the day for questions about everything you’ve learnt.

We’ll finish the day off with meditation and breathing techniques.

You’ll leave feeling relaxed and ready to make those changes to get your gut health working for you again!

Ready to reserve your space on the Gut Health Retreat Day?

The Gut Health Retreat Day will take place on Sunday 21st November 2021

Cost for the day is only €90

You can reserve your place here

Find out more about Marie, Nikki & Chalet Savoie Faire

Follow Chalet Savoie Faire on Instagram or Facebook you can also find more information on their website

You can follow Marie on Instagram too

Organic food: more bang for your buck!

Organic food can have great benefits for Hashimoto’s symptoms. Since starting the AIP protocol nearly 5 years ago, I have made a huge effort to eat Organic food wherever possible. I seem to be extremely sensitive to chemicals. Both in my beauty products and in what I eat. So for me its definitely worth it. Plus its something I recommend my clients try and follow if they can.

I often hear that organic food is too costly and that there is no noticeable benefit.

Organic food has great benefits for hahsimoto’s symptoms. Homegrown tomatoes & sage

But there are various benefits of buying organic food, especially when it comes to improving Hashimoto’s symptoms. Not only the lack of chemicals from pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in the meat we eat. But also the environmental impact, the animal welfare and the nutritional value.

Still not convinced? I’ve explored some of the research specifically in the area of nutrition and have discussed it briefly below.

Nutritional Value:

2 recent studies conducted by the University of Newcastle show that Organic food has huge benefits when it comes to Nutrition.

The study below compared organic crops to non-organic crops and showed that organic crops are upto 69% higher in a number of key antioxidants than non-organic crops. Organic foods provide additonal antioxidants which are equivalent to eating 1 to 2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day! There was also a significant increase in minerals and vitamins in organic crops compared to non-organic crops.

Another study compared organic milk and meat vs non-organic milk and meat. It showed that Organic Milk & Meat contained 50% more Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Plus it showed a clear difference in the concentrations of essential minerals and antioxidants.

Why are antioxidants so important? They help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and certain cancers.

Organic, homegrown blackcurrants, packed full of antioxidants

And Omega 3 Fatty Acids? They help reduce inflammation which drives autoimmunity. So lowering inflammation can only be a good thing when it comes to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Are pesticides really that bad for us?

The health of our gut bacteria directly influences the health of our immune system. So the healthier your gut bacteria the less severe your Hashimoto’s symptoms are likely to be. Pesticides can affect the delicate balance of our gut bacteria, leading to dysfunction and overgrowth of “bad” bacteria. Causing inflammation, leading to leaky gut, food intolerances and an over taxed immune system. Which makes you more susceptible to developing autoimmune diseases. Or makes your autoimmune disease symptoms worse.

Whats the end result?

Our liver has to work hard to detox all of these chemicals. But has less antioxidants, vitamins and minerals with which to do it. This can have a huge impact on Hashimoto’s as a large proportion of our T4 hormone is converted to T3 hormone in the liver. The liver prioritises detoxing over hormone conversion. So less T3 will be produced. Which leaves us with all the classic hypothyroid symptoms – fatigue, brain fog, digestive issues, dry & itchy skin, weight gain, feeling cold, etc.

So is it really worth it?

YES! For me organic food is worth every penny!

Wild caught salmon with a thai coconut broth packed full of vegetables, spices & herbs, not to mention omega 3 fats. Variety is key to healthy gut microbiome!

Where to start when buying organic

If you can’t stretch to organic for everything, make sure your meat is organic. Or at least grass fed and finished. Go for wild caught fish or organic, as pesticides are heavily used in farmed fishing. After that you can avoid the fruit, vegetables and grains that are most heavily treated with pesticides. And buy non organic for those products that have the least amount of pesticide traces detectable. The EWG in the USA and Pan-Uk both have a great list called the dirty dozen. It lists the most heavily pesticide treated fruits and vegetables. So you know which ones to definitely buy organic.

The EWG also have a clean fifteen list of the fruits and veg with the least amount of pesticide traces detected. So you know you can buy these non-organic without too many worries.

Do you already eat organic? Has this article tempted you to give it a try? I’d love to hear your thoughts on organic food, drop me a comment and let me know what you think.


Check out my recipe for AIP Ginger & lemongrass green vegetable soup.

Ready to take back control of your health? Then get in touch!

Hashimotos Thyroiditis Flares and it’s impact on Mental Health

Some of my favourite therapy: Snoop, Mythos & the great outdoors. When I have enough energy its one of my favourite things to do to unwind.

This is hard to write

I started this post in March this year whilst I was in the middle of a thyroid flair, I found it so hard to write as I was feeling so low that I stopped halfway through, every time I tried to write I’d end up in tears. I’ve revisited it a couple of times but still struggled to write what I feel. I really wanted to finish it because I feel it is so important and one of the areas of my health I discuss the least, its the area I try the hardest to mask. Below (in italics) is what I wrote in March.

Original post

This is a hard one to write and I’m sure it might not make comfortable reading either but its a major part of my illness and the one part of it I struggle with the most.

After 3 months of feeling really good after starting taking LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone), things have taken a turn for the worse. I’ve had a thyroid flare, which wasn’t exactly unexpected as the LDN works to modulate your immune system and I was aware that it could cause my thyroid medications to need adjusting as it does this, but I was expecting it to need a reduction in medication as my thyroid went towards a hyper state not to need an increase as it went in to a hypo state! So I was on the look out for hyper symptoms not hypo symptoms. That was my first mistake, my second was ignoring the symptoms that were slowly starting to occur and dismissing them as due to physically doing more than I’ve been able to in years, being stressed and actually having a social life for once among other things.

Current Symptoms

So what are my hypo symptoms and why did I not recognise them straight away?

  • Cold hands and feet (to the point of pain)
  • Fatigue
  • Needing to Sleep more
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Lack of coordination
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty processing my thoughts and speech
  • Feeling irritable and anxious
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Hairloss, dry brittle hair, skin and nails
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Decreased libido
  • Digestive slowness, bloating, pain and constipation
  • Breathlessness

These are just some of the symptoms and not everyone’s experience is the same so I can only speak for how it affects me. For me the start of the symptoms start with an increasing level of fatigue, which is easy to put down to overdoing things, the winter is very busy for us in the Alps, everyone is busy so who isn’t tired at this time of the year!

This is then followed by cold hands and feet but it starts intermittently and gets gradually worse until its there constantly and is causing pain so at the start its easy to put it down to the external temperature being below zero, its winter of course I’m cold!

I start to become irritable and jumpy, which again is normal when you’re tired so its easy to ignore at the start. The muscle pain, weakness and breathlessness again are gradual so you don’t notice it until its pretty bad and your struggling to walk properly.

The digestive symptoms start slowly and as I am sensitive to so many foods its easy to start examining what you’ve eaten to see if something has inadvertently been contaminated (especially if you’ve been eating out at all). The weight gain is slow so again its not instantly obvious although the loss of appetite should be a little more obvious.

Its a bit of a kick in the teeth to lose your appetite and to gain weight! You can probably see a pattern here without me explaining every symptom, they start slow and intermittently so individually its easy to miss what is happening until you start to put all the symptoms together.

Tipping Point

But for me the tipping point comes when the depression hits. Again this is a slow process, but it’ll start out with the irritability and jumpiness that I mentioned earlier and progresses into irrationality, inability to cope with the slightest change in plans or things going wrong, followed by huge mood swings and feeling a little down.

At this point this quickly progresses into a constant overwhelming feeling of sadness, lack of motivation for even the most mundane things. This is followed by what I call the blankness, which scares the shit out of me! Its a feeling or should I say a lack of feeling, any feeling. You know you should feel something but there is nothing just an empty space, the situation often seems hopeless and is underlined by thoughts of whats the point, if this is what living with this illness is going to be like do I want to live the next 40 years like this.

Suicidal ideation often occurs throughout this period and it is quite scary to have thoughts like this in your head, even if you know you won’t act upon them. It is not living its existing. Its easy to see on a good day that things might be better the next day or week, but prior to starting the LDN and changing my diet I felt like this a lot, my thyroid flared at least twice a year (usually from winter into spring and then again at autumn to winter time), and if it can take roughly a minimum of 6 weeks for the symptoms to reach a point where its obvious what is happening before changing my dose and then another 6 weeks for it to get back to what it was before, thats 3 months gone and if thats just twice a year thats half the year feeling this way. Β Luckily thanks to the changes I’ve made it now generally only happens once a year in winter.

Just as the symptoms creep up on you, when you realise what is happening and you adjust your medication accordingly it can be just as slow for the medication to take effect and for the symptoms to subside.  So it can be months feeling like this, which is particularly unpleasant. 

Looking Back With Hindsight

The one area that I failed to consider whilst in the midst of my flair was a pattern I’ve since noticed thanks to a blog I read regarding how the winter months affect your thyroid. Basically when the temperature drops your body has to work much harder to keep you warm and functioning, it needs to produce extra energy to do this. Your thyroid is a major component of energy metabolism and when it doesn’t function properly you will likely struggle to cope with the changing temperature without a medication adjustment.

After requesting further testing in April when my dosage change seemed to be taking a particularly long time to improve my symptoms, it became obvious that whilst I was getting sufficient thyroid medication, my body was struggling to convert the T4 medication in the active T3 hormone that our body needs, so I switched to a combination T4/T3 medication which has helped hugely.

The cold temperatures are compounded for me by living at altitude too, which is also harder on the body. Sunlight exposure is much less and my Vitamin D level drops into deficiency range, this a major factor for those with autoimmune disease, research has shown that those with autoimmune disease have less symptoms and flares when there Vitamin D levels are at optimal levels.

In fact there is a direct correlation with the rise in autoimmune disease the further away you live from the equator and vice versa. All this explains why I feel better in the summer when I live and work at sea level (not that this doesn’t come without its own issues, such as heat intolerance) and why my health drops off in the winter back at altitude in the cold temperatures.

Learning From Experience

Its been 7 years since I was diagnosed and every winter this has happened. It has become so bad at points that we have considered moving to a climate that is more moderate all year round. At the moment this is not an option thanks to the uncertainty of Brexit, yes I know politics, bleurgh. But the fact is whichever way you voted (if you did) it makes life more complex for us right now and all the options and rights we had before are now not guaranteed, so a move is off the table.

As a result of this I’ve come to a decision that I will be doubling my vitamin D supplement dosage and adjusting my medication come next month in the hopes that I can pre-empt a winter flare or at least the worst of it hopefully. I’ve also bought a SAD lamp to help with light level exposure to hopefully help boost my mood. I have also re-committed to meditation, I’m not very good at this, I do it for awhile and then stop for ages. And I’ve just started doing a little Qi Gong. Every little helps right! Lets hope so!!

A Message To My Friends!

To those friends I don’t see for weeks or months on end in the winter months this is why. Its not that I don’t want to socialise or that I’m uninterested in your life. I’m usually just struggling to cope with this shitty illness.

Why do we find it so hard to talk about mental health? I have plenty of friends who would happily listen to me when I feel like this, friends who have already offered. Yet I still don’t pick up the phone. I’d say its more not wanting to offload onto others than thinking they won’t want to help that stops me. After all how can I explain why I’m crying uncontrollably or why I feel so depressed or hopeless if I don’t even know why, it just is. It is so easy to isolate yourself when you feel like this.

So as well as all the physical things I am changing I’m also going to try to reach out more, to go out, to speak to people or even to message friends more often. Feel free to hold me to this if I’ve turned into a hermit again!

Taking Back Control

The seasonal work we do seems unsustainable to me for my health as from week to week my workload can go from nothing to unmanageable, this undoubtedly does not help as my thyroid cannot adapt to this like it would if it functioned correctly, and the medication is slow acting so you can’t just take extra if you know you’ll be doing more.

So in September I started to retrain to become a Nutrition and Health Coach and then hopefully a Nutritional Therapist, the idea is to find ways in which I can improve my health yet further and then eventually to be able to help others do the same. This was a hard decision for me as the course runs through the winter when I’m usually at my worst and I didn’t know if I would be able to manage this on top of my usual workload. But something needs to change so I’m hoping it all works out. In the 3 months I’ve been doing it I’ve learnt so much and I’m loving it, hopefully I’ll be able to share some of the stuff I’ve learned and not take 8 months to write my next post!

I’d love to hear any techniques you use to cope with chronic health & mental health conditions and the positive things you’re doing to change your life.

And when I don’t have the energy, cuddles on the sofa are a close second. They make me feel better and in return I let them hog most of the sofa.

AIP is it worth it?

Just over 2 years ago I started the AIP protocol on the advice of my nutritionist.  I was in a bad way at the time, every day was a struggle both physically and mentally, so anything was worth a shot at that point.  I thought I’ll give it a month and see how it goes, never intending for it to be a long term thing.

Cherry & apple AIP slice

So what is the AIP protocol?

AIP stands for the Autoimmune Paleo protocol, it is not a diet for losing weight (although I did) its a lifestyle change to improve your health. The idea is to remove all inflammatory and reactionary foods from your diet, to eat fresh produce free from additives and preservatives, in order to heal your gut and support your immune system.  Once you’re gut is healed sufficiently you can then reintroduce foods one by one back into your diet and assess which if any are reactionary for you. Its important to know that reactions to foods do not just cause symptoms in your gut but throughout your body too.  So you may suffer from migraines after eating certain foods, or intensely itchy skin, or notice sinus problems or it may affect you emotionally and mentally.  Certain thing are not intended to be reintroduced such as additives, preservatives, processed sugars, etc as they contain no nutritional value.  As well as what you eat its important to focus on the quality of what you eat also, so organic meats and vegetables wherever possible, wild fish rather than farmed.

Sweet potato crisps, the perfect AIP snack

What can you eat?

So the good news is you can eat all of the ingredients below.  Seems like plenty of choice right? Now take a look at the list of ingredients you can’t eat and try not to cry!

Organ Meats/Meat/Poultry – Bone broth, Heart, Kidney, Liver, Tongue, Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Mutton, Pork, Turkey, Wild Game

Fish/Shellfish – Anchovies, Cod, Halibut, Herring, Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines, Sea Bass, Snapper, Tilipia, Trout, Tuna, Clams, Crab, Crawfish, Lobster, Mussels, Octopus, Oysters, Prawns, Scallops, Shrimp, Squid. This list is by no means exhaustive, most fish or shellfish is good but try and steer clear of farmed fish wherever possible.

Sea Vegetables – Arame, Dulse, Kombu, Nori, Wakame

Vegetables – Arrowroot, Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Beets, Beet greens, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Capers, Carrots, Carrot tops, Cassava, (tapioca/yuca), Cauliflower, Celery, Collard greens, Courgette (zucchini), Cucumber, Dandelion greens, Endive, Herbs, Jicama, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Okra, Pumpkins, Radish, Radish greens, Radicchio, Salsafy, Spinach, Squash, Swede (rutabaga, neep), Sweet potato, Swiss chard, Taro, Turnip, Turnip greens, Watercress, Yams.

Alliums – Chives, Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Scallions, Shallots, Spring onions

Olives/High fat fruits – Avocados, Olives, Coconuts

Fruit – Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Clementines, Cranberries, Currants, Dates, Figs, Gooseberries, Grapefruit, Grapes, Kiwis, Lemons, Limes, Mandarin oranges, Mango, Melon, Nectarines, Oranges, Papaya, Peaches, Pears, Pineapple, Plantain, Plums, Pomegranates, Pomelo, Raspberries, Strawberries

Oils/Fats – Animal fats (duck fat, pork fat, etc), Avocado oil, Coconut oil, Olive oil

Natural Sugars – Blackstrap, Coconut, Honey, Maple (natural only), Molasses. Limit your intake of these, they should only be used occasionally and in small quantities.

AIP pan fried prawns with garlic, lemon and coriander

What can’t you eat?

When I first saw this list I thought this is impossible, there is nothing left to eat! I found it best to concentrate on the list of foods you could eat and start coming up with recipes, rather than dwelling on what I could no longer have.

Alcohol – Beer, Wine (okay for cooking), spirits



Grains/Grasses – Barley, Corn, Durum, Fonio, Job’s tears, Kamut, Millet, Oats, Rice, Rye, Sorghum, Spelt, Teff, Triticale, Wheat (all varieties), Wild Rice

Grainlike Seeds – Amaranth, Buckwheat, Chia, Quinoa

Dairy – Butter, Buttermilk, Butter oil, Cheese, Cottage cheese, Cream, Curds, Dairy protein isolates, Ghee, Ice cream, Kefir, Milk, Sour cream, Whey, Whey protein isolate, Yoghurt

Legumes – Adzuki beans, Black beans, Black-eyed peas, Butter beans, Calico beans, Cannellini beans, Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), Broad beans (fava beans), Great northern beans, Green beans, Italian beans, Kidney beans, Lentils, Lima beans, Mung beans, Navy beans, Peanuts, Peas, Pinto beans, Runner beans, Split peas, Soybeans (edamame, tofu, tempeh, all soy products, soy isolates, soy lecithin)

Processed Vegetable Oils – Canola oil (rapeseed oil), Corn oil, Cottonseed oil, Palm kernel oil, Peanut oil, Safflower oil, Soybean oil, Sunflower oil

Processed Food/Chemicals – Acrylamides, Artificial food colour, Autolyzed protein, Brominated vegetable oil, Emulsifiers (carrageenan, cellulose gum, guar gum, lecithin, xanthan gum), Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Monosodium Glutamate, Natural flavours, Nitrates & Nitrites (naturally occurring ones are ok), Olestra, Phosphoric acid, Propylene glycol, Textured vegetable protein, Trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, hydrogenated oil), yeast extract, anything that has a chemical name or you don’t know what it is.

Sugars/Sweeteners/Substitutes – Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K), Agave, Agave nectar, Aspartame, Barley malt, Barley malt syrup, Brown rice syrup, Brown sugar, Cane crystals, Cane sugar (refined), Caramel, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Crystalline fructose, Dehydrated cane juice, Demerara sugar, Dextrin, Dextrose, Diastatic malt, Erythritol, Evaporated cane juice, Fructose, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Galactose, Glucose, Glucose solids, Golden syrup, High-fructose corn syrup, Invert sugar, Inulin, Lactose, Malt Syrup, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Mannitol, Monk fruit (luo han guo), Noetame, Panela, Panocha, Refined sugar, Rice bran syrup, Saccharin, Sorbitol, Stevia, Sucralose, Sucrose (saccharose), Syrup, Treacle, Turbinado sugar, Xylitol, Yacon Syrup

Nuts/Seeds – Almonds, Brazil nuts, Cashews, Chestnuts, Flax seeds, Hazelnuts, Hemp seeds, Macadamia nuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Poppy seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts. Any flours, butters, oils or other products derived from nuts or seeds.

Nightshades/Spices derived from Nightshades – Ashwagandha, Aubergine (eggplant), Bell peppers (sweet peppers), Cayenne peppers, Cape Gooseberries (physalis), Garden huckleberries (regular huckleberries are ok), Goji berries, Hot peppers (chili peppers & chili-based spices), Naranjillas, Paprika, Pepinos, Pimentos, Potatoes (not sweet potatoes, which are ok), Tamarillos, Tomatillos, Tomatoes. Some curry powders contain nightshades so please check them.

Spices derived from Seeds – Anise, Annatto, Black Caraway (russian caraway, black cumin), Celery seed, Coriander seed, Cumin, Dill, Fennel seed, Fenugreek, Mustard, Nutmeg. Celery leaf, Coriander leaf, Dill fronds, Fennel fronds, Mustard greens are all ok. 

AIP mussels with a thai coconut broth

How hard could it be?

Lets face it, it was only going to be for a month I could cope, I was already coeliac so how hard could it be! Well it turns out it could be pretty hard. The first 2 weeks I had such bad cravings for sugary foods it was unreal, I didn’t eat that much sugar in the first place so why were the cravings so bad?!  It wasn’t until trying the AIP protocol that I realised how many foods sugar is hidden in. You think sugar, you think cakes, sweets, desserts, etc, you don’t necessarily think stock cubes, sauces, bacon, sausages, cured meats, bread, etc. But sure enough its there! I was constantly hungry thanks to the cravings, even though I was now eating twice as much as before. I was contemplating giving up at this point, and then I started to notice a few things. For the first time in over 20 years I was starting to sleep more regularly, after suffering from pretty bad insomnia where some nights I barely got an hours sleep, and I rarely slept before 4am I suddenly wanted to go to bed before Duncan and I could actually go to sleep pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow, this was a revelation for me!! As a result I started to find I had a little more energy than before. By the end of the first month my digestive problems had started to improve, I didn’t have debilitating cramps and bouts of unexplained diarrhoea (sorry TMI) constantly.  So rather than giving up at the end of the first month I decided I’d give it another month.  This pattern continued for the next few months, I slept better and better, I felt more energised than I had in years as a result I could think more clearly, my daily digestive issues pretty much disappeared, my emotional state was vastly improved. I added in digestive enzymes and probiotics to help my gut, I added in Omega 3s to help with inflammation and I changed some of my existing supplements to better quality ones, with no nasty fillers. I’d already been taking vitamin D topically as taking it orally had had no effect for over 2 years, despite dosage increases, my  nutritionist advised increasing it even more as studies have shown improvements for those with autoimmune disease who are able to have an optimal Vitamin D level.

It wasn’t perfect by any means and I was nowhere near back to normal but it was a huge improvement and at a level I felt I could manage, rather than feeling like I was barely existing.

Simple AIP salmon & avocado coconut wraps


At about the 5 – 6 month mark I started to think about re-introducing foods. I started off slow, with one ingredient at a time. Some people follow a set order others prefer to try things they miss the most first.  I must admit I did a little of both. Some of the first things I tried are chocolate ( I was still missing the convenience of sweet things at this point), pepper, rice, egg yolks (I already knew that egg whites were a problem for me prior to the AIP protocol), potatoes, spices, seeds, nuts. Chocolate was a definite no unfortunately, as were egg yolks.  For awhile I thought pepper was also a problem but it turned out I’d been making truffles and AIP cereal bars using carob instead of chocolate and it just happened to be on these days I’d had pepper also. I’d never eaten carob before and assumed because it wasn’t on the no foods list it wouldn’t be a problem, how wrong I was, the stomach cramps were horrendous to the point of feeling like I was going to pass out, hot and cold sweats, it was nearly on a par with a coeliac reaction for me. Once I figured this out and stopped eating carob, it became obvious that pepper had never been the problem. Its good to note that even if a food is on the “yes” list, if you’ve never eaten it before, don’t just start eating loads of it, try a little first! Spices and seeds turned out to be fine, which opened back up a whole load of flavours and recipes for me. Potatoes no problem and rice, or so I thought. Shortly after reintroducing these I started to feel unwell and ended up with food poisoning at which point my nutritionist ordered a whole load of tests for bacterial levels in my gut, parasites, infections, antibody levels, etc. Not only did they show that I had food poisoning but that my Gliadin antibodies were elevated. Now I definitely hadn’t eaten any gluten as I’m very strict with this because my reactions are so severe. So my gliadin antibodies should definitely not have been elevated. We took a look at what I’d eaten as there are certain foods that do not contain gluten that can trigger a reaction as the protein structures are similar enough that your immune system often recognises it as gluten and reacts accordingly.  There are 6 such foods, dairy, oats, corn, millet, rice and yeast. I’d already discovered I couldn’t tolerate oats a couple of years previous, so the only other food that I had eaten that was on the list was rice. To say I was gutted about this was an understatement, I love rice, its such an easy replacement for those of us who are gluten free, I used to eat a lot of it. No wonder I felt like shit constantly, if my body was recognising rice as gluten! I was even more gutted about this than chocolate believe it or not!! After this I eased off the reintroduction for awhile to let my system recover again. By the end of month 9 I no longer needed the digestive enzymes, I was only taking one probiotic, I’d successfully reintroduced all nightshades. Which made life so much easier being able to eat tomatoes, potatoes, chillies, peppercorn, aubergine, peppers, etc. Since then I’ve slowly reintroduced other things, but I’ve been cautious about when I’ll try new stuff, it can’t be when I’m working as I can’t risk a major reaction when I’m self employed. I don’t think its a bad thing having taken it so slowly as its given me a chance to fully assess each new item without the temptation to keep trying something every few days and then be confused as to what is causing a particular reaction.

Paleo salmon & avocado salad salad


Yes alcohol gets its own section! Other than sugar this is probably the hardest thing to give up. And maybe thats because it contains so much sugar anyway. I didn’t miss this instantly unlike the sugar, as I a rarely drank at home anyway. Initially I did miss it when going to friends for dinner, but now that doesn’t even register for me. But the times I missed it the most were going to something that had a large amount of people, such as a bbq, party or to the pub. I’m not sure now if it was actually the alcohol itself I missed or the fact that it helped me take the edge off of the sensory overload of these situations, such as the noises, smells, heat, etc. I tried on several occasions to reintroduce different alcohols as I thought maybe its just the beer or the wine, maybe spirits will be fine. Wine definitely had a very visible affect as well as an emotional toll, after about a year of no alcohol with only having tried a gf beer once or twice with no success, I went to a wine tasting. I was very strict and only tasted and spat the rest. Nevertheless, I woke up the next day feeling like shit, my sinuses were so painful it felt like I’d been punched in the face, to my horror my husband confirmed that it also looked like I’d been punched as all around my nose and eyes were swollen! This pain lasted 10 days and throughout that whole time I was very fatigued and felt very low emotionally. Ok so wine was a definite no, maybe it was the histamines, maybe it was the sugar but either way I wasn’t interested in giving it another go. So that was beer ruled out because of the potential cross reaction with the grains, wine because of the intense sinus reaction. Maybe spirits would be ok, as long as I used a mixer with only natural sugars. On a couple of different occasions I tried a gin & tonic, initially with just a normal schweppes tonic and then with fevertree tonic with just fruit sugars, the second was definitely better than the first but I suddenly realised something that I hadn’t before, whilst none of the alcohol I’d tried to reintroduce had caused any digestive symptoms, for at least a week after each trial I’d had a severe mood drop each time. And I’m not talking about feeling a little low, but actually verging on feeling suicidal, switching from uncontrollable crying to having absolutely no interest in anything, being completely disassociated from everything and everyone. This scared me and at this point I decided drinking was not worth it for me. I didn’t ever want to feel like that again. It then dawned on me that throughout my years of illness, this was a constant feeling I’d battled. Which isn’t uncommon with those suffering from chronic autoimmune illnesses, but if alcohol was a trigger for this side of my autoimmune illnesses then I needed to put it firmly on the “No” list. Now it rarely bothers me when I go out that I’m not drinking, even in noisy situations. It tends to bother others more than it bothers me, a lot of people can’t understand that you’d choose not to drink. But then again if you’d have told me 2 years ago that I’d have chosen not to drink, I’d have laughed my ass off too!

Paleo bacon & vegetable broth

Whats the Verdict?

For me the AIP protocol has been a life changer. So I’d definitely say its worth it. But maybe not for everyone, as its pretty extreme. I’d definitely advise anyone who has autoimmune conditions, chronic illnesses, digestive problems, allergies or mental health problems to seriously consider it. Maybe those who don’t suffer from any of these, but want to lead a healthier lifestyle might consider the Paleo protocol which is less limiting but still very healthy and nutrient dense. The key in all of it for me is to avoid those things that have no nutritional benefit, and to focus on those that are rich in nutrients.

AIP seafood nage

Want to try AIP?

My advise for anyone who decides to try the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol is to plan, plan & plan before you even start. So first pick a date to start, don’t just think I’ll start it tomorrow or on Monday because chances are something will crop up and you’ll postpone it. As I turned 40 I had a busy couple of months, with holidays booked, meals and parties lined up with set menus that I’d already committed to, so I picked 2 days after the last event I had planned, obviously I’d need a recovery day after the annual girls night out! From the day you decide to try the AIP protocol to the day you actually start, familiarise yourself with the foods you can and can’t have, research recipes, write a meal plan for at least a month and write your shopping lists. Make sure the house is well stocked with items that are on the “yes” list and prepare meals and snacks in advance. Don’t leave the house without a snack if you’re going to be out for a few hours, as you’ll find it nigh on impossible to find anything suitable in the shops! A great place to find AIP recipes is pinterest, if you want further information on the paleo or the AIP protocol head over to thepaleomom this site was recommended to me by my nutritionist and I found it absolutely invaluable. Once you’ve started the protocol, stick with it, its definitely worth the initial pain. Don’t be tempted to re-introduce things too soon or too quickly, leave at least a week between introducing each item so you can be sure what you’re reacting to if you do have a reaction.  The hunger and the cravings for the sweet things do pass in fact you’ll find your tastebuds change after awhile and if you do inadvertently have something that has sugar in it several months down the line you’ll know instantly and find it sickly sweet!

The big 40! One of the last nights drinking alcohol for me.

Over the next few months I hope to add some recipes of my own to help those of you who are just starting out. If you want to share any of your recipes with me please do!