Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins {grain-free, sugar-free}

Good morning, Autumn! I’ve been expecting you, thanks for stopping by 🙂 First order of business: break out the pumpkin pie spice.

I’ve been sugar-free and grain-free for a long time, and one of the most exciting things is finding new healthy sugar-free sweeteners. I’m talking about stevia, erythritol and xylitol sweetened things. One thing I haven’t been able to find, until now, is a good maple syrup. A few weeks ago I discovered Lakanto maple syrup! That’s the same brand that makes a sugar-free chocolate bar that can be found in grocery stores and DOES NOT use inulin (inulin doesn’t like me, but if you tolerate it, it has great prebiotic value). Lakanto’s chocolate bars use tapioca fiber. I know because when I saw “vegetable fiber” listed in the ingredients, I called the manufacturer and asked. I use a lot of tapioca fiber in my treats. It has great prebiotic value, like inulin, but is made of isomalto-oligosaccharides.

I decided to do something different for this recipe post and add a little more value for my readers, because ya’ll rock and you deserve it. For those living in Florida (or nearby), below is a list of seasonal produce for October! You’ll also find the recipe for these yummy muffins at the bottom! Feel free to share it!

PS. If you are vegan, go ahead and omit the eggs and sub in coconut oil for the ghee. I made mine without eggs and they were a little dense, but still great!

How to Know When to Advocate for Your Well-being

I’ve been dealing with chronic illness my whole life. Until being diagnosed, though, I felt a duty to myself and the people around me to push as hard as everyone else. The golden rule in a working class family is to work hard. My dad retired early, partly due to the insane number of sick days he had saved up from never taking sick leave (although, I have to disclose that he didn’t get sick often anyway). My mom, bless her heart, has always had aches and pains and other semi-minor issues that she diligently worked through, because of her sense of duty to her family.

So the question is: How do you know when to push through like everyone else and when to take a break, make a change, or just simply start a conversation because of your health challenges?

I almost hesitate to speak to this topic, because I am still sorting out the answer for myself. However, I do have quite a bit of experience in this space. I’ve lived through times when I didn’t speak up and wish that I had, later, and I’ve lived through times when I did advocate for myself for better or for worse. All things considered, I have learned from my experiences, and that’s what I plan to share.

Situations in Which You Might Consider Advocating For Yourself

  1. Work or home environment that gives a reaction (for me, it’s usually mold or EMF pollution)
  2. Factors preventing you from getting adequate quality sleep
  3. Emotionally unhealthy situations/people
  4. Unnecessary or harmful level of stress
  5. Lack of adequate recovery time after illness or flare of chronic illness
  6. Feeling as though if you do not take a break, your health will decline

The thing is, in order to fill other people’s lives with utility, service and meaning, you have to first have a reserve to pull from. If your reserve is empty or running low then you have to ask yourself if any of those situations apply to you. Let’s say one of those situations does apply… how do you know if you’re at the point where action is necessary?

How Do You Know it’s Time to Take Action?

  1. A solution to the problem exists

When presenting a problem to an employer, partner, spouse, etc it is important to have a solution in mind. If you don’t currently have a solution to offer, unless your health situation is dyer and requires immediate action, wait. However, even if the solution is one that puts strain on you and/or others involved, it’s still a solution, and it may be the right time to bring it up.

  1. Timing

Do you feel like in order to get the best outcome it’s now or never? If the answer is “yes”, I would follow your intuition. In my experience, any time that I felt a window of opportunity and ignored it, I later came to regret not taking the bull by the horns. For instance, if your environment is making you sick and know you’re going to have to take action if you want to change that, go ahead and proactively decide what verbiage you’re going to use when the opportunity to bring it up presents itself. You don’t want to be caught off-guard by an impromptu meeting with your boss or the right moment with your spouse/partner and just blurt out whatever emotionally charged feelings you have about the situation. Be ready for the right timing, if you know that change is imminent.

I have found it helpful in the past to even set a deadline for myself. Ask yourself, realistically when will my prime window of opportunity to bring this up start to close? Also, mentally prepare a response for when your boss or whoever asks how things are going. If you’re in a new role, that is likely going to be happening in the foreseeable future. If you’re chronically ill or are recovering from a recent illness, that others are already aware of, you can bet that someone is going to ask how you’re doing. They won’t be expecting a lengthy response, but what you DO NOT want to do is shrug off the situation or minimize it even though it is likely your instinct to. Go ahead and prepare a casual response that isn’t too “heavy” for small talk, but still doesn’t leave out room for future discussion when the timing is right. Or better yet, use that opportunity to say something like “actually I’ve been wanting to discuss that with you whenever you get a chance”. I emphasize again, though, the importance of having your elevator pitch at the ready in case that person says that now is a good time to discuss it.

  1. You feel good about it

If you feel like jumping to action is the only route to avoiding further health problems or healing your current issues, that’s a pretty obvious sign to go for it. If your solution is a good one, you have the support of loved ones, and you feel the only thing left to do is rip off the bandage- do it. If you wait, things could change, and then who knows whether or not you’ll feel as good about your solution or timing.

  1. The risk of being complacent outweighs the risk of speaking up

This may seem silly, but make some lists of pro’s and con’s. Or consult someone you trust, like a priest or loved one who seems to always know what to do/say. Another idea is ask yourself “why”? My mom was the first person to teach me about this method. You just get out a pen and paper and keep asking yourself why until you’ve reached some sort of closure. The original version of this is to ask yourself “why” 7 times. After 7 answers to “why”, you should have a better idea of the true risk of keeping quiet vs. advocating for your health.

Other ideas include things that are not rooted in science, but may bring you some insight if you tend towards the spiritual side. For instance, the I Ching is the Chinese philosophy that all change is good. The idea is that you use the I Ching book and methodology to uncover the answer to your dilemma. I have used this method before when faced with the prospect of change and it provided invaluable insight into my problem. It’s been years since I’ve consulted the I Ching, but from what I remember you take about 50 small wooden dowels and drop them on the floor. Then you pick them up and place them between your fingers in a pattern while thinking your question to yourself the entire time. Although it may seem like your pattern is developing randomly, because you are contemplating a change that needs to happen, the pattern you end up with will correlate to a passage in the I Ching book. You read the passage and it should have some meaning.

  1. There is no foreseeable end to your suffering

Last, but not least, this is the real deal breaker for staying quiet and pushing through. There are some situations you may feel that you can push through, but if there’s no end in sight what are pushing through towards? The answer is that you aren’t pushing through you’re just pushing yourself to disaster. If you know change has to happen, but there is no way that’s going to happen without you speaking up, then you better start devising your plan of action. On the other hand, if the situation that is impacting your health negatively is temporary, ask yourself how long you can reasonably stand it. Depending on the nature and severity of the problem the answer to that question could be one more day or it could be one more week, or it could be another year or two until you find the right solution.

Some situations are more dyer than others. An emotionally harmful boss is something most people would rate as being able to wait a little while before taking action. However, if you’re in a moldy or otherwise toxic environment consider taking immediate action (which starts with devising a solution, finding your words, and asking for time to discuss it with whoever).

The Take-away

Albert Einstein once said something to the effect of “you can either choose to believe the universe is working against you or for you”. I heard that recently in a podcast interview with the creator or Quest Nutrition.  I think that’s a good filter through which to view your situation if something is negatively impacting your health and you aren’t sure what to do. I urge you approach the situation as though everyone wants you to be healthy and happy; the solution is out there somewhere and you’re going to find it and everything is going to be alright! DON’T let yourself get stuck on negative feelings or feelings of blame. Just move forward.

Grain-free Cassava Flour Waffles w/ Fresh Berry Compote

This week I had been eating through a large batch of Dave Asprey’s Vanilla Get Some Ice Cream that I whipped up to serve as a quick easy bite that contains a HUGE portion of healthy fats and some un-oxidized protein from raw eggs. All the while reminiscing about the brownie sunday I used to love from Steak n Shake.

So for days now I’ve been dreaming of smothering this healthy ice cream in a mixed berry compote. Now that my community nutrition rotation is over, I decided what better way to celebrate than to make my day dream a reality?

Since the ice cream recipe is not my own and I follow the original instructions to a T, I won’t include that here, but you can Google “get some ice cream” if you wish to make this a part of your dish.

Below is the recipe for the cassava flour waffles, followed by the recipe for the mixed berry compote.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cassava flour (I was finally able to find Otto’s brand locally at Whole Foods)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp syrup sweetener of your choice (I chose IMO syrup + 1-2 dropper-fulls of liquid stevia)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (I used refined so as not to add any flavor from the coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup grass-fed collagen powder (I was also finally able to find Bulletproof brand in the protein supplement section of Whole Foods, this week!)

Instructions:

  • Whisk together eggs, salt, sweetener, and collagen powder
  • Melt coconut oil
  • Mix all other ingredients in with whisked egg mixture, then add the coconut oil as well
  • If using a mini waffle iron, scoop about 1/8-1/4 cup of mixture into waffle iron that has been pre-heated on medium (if there is a temperature control) and let cook for about 5 minutes, but check after 3 minutes
  • Once golden brown, remove with tongs and plate

For the fresh berry compote…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup mixed fresh berries of choice (I used blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries because the raspberries at Whole Foods were not organic. Otherwise I think raspberries would have really been perfect)
  • 2 tbsp sugar-free granulated sweetener (I used Lactanto Golden Monk Fruit sweetener, but birch xylitol or erythritol would have worked just as well. Of course if you wanted to use a natural sugar-containing sweetener like coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup that would also give the right result, just not sugar-free)
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • 2 tbsp orange or lemon juice (optional)

Instructions:

  • Slice strawberries into thin vertical slices
  • Add all berries to sauce pot over medium heat
  • Add granulated sweetener
  • If using citrus fruit juice, add that now as well
  • Allow to cook down for about 5-10 minutes while stirring occasionally
  • Once some liquid has formed in the pot and the berries have begun to soften, add in the tapioca starch and stir well until dissolved
  • Continue to cook mixture for about 3 more minutes until it has thickened
  • Remove from heat and serve over plain buttered waffles or with some Vanilla Get Some Ice Cream like I did!

If you enjoyed my thoughtful and allergen-free creation, you should follow me on Instagram @Experimental_Betty for more things like this!

And, as always, please feel free to drop me a line below with any questions you have 🙂

Science & Myth Are Not Mutually Exclusive {Neither are Intermittent Fasting & Intuitive Eating}

In fact, most of the time they aren’t. I’ll go a step further to say that opposing forces not only can, but should exist in tandem with each other.

I was riding my fat bike (electric bike with fat tires) today on the trails while listening to Screeching Weasel “The Science of Myth” when this occurred to me. I set out on this ride to get some “vigorous exercise” as Temple Grandin recommends. However, there were times when I needed the assistance of the peddle assist (PAS) and/or throttle in order to keep going and finish what I came to conquer. At first, I was bothered by my propensity to take short breaks and rely on the bike’s power to allow me to regenerate my energy. As someone who is still recovering from Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS or biotoxin illness), I have poor exercise recovery and quick muscle fatigue, so I have to be aware of my limits as to not be counterproductive in physical activity.

As the lyrics “take the facts of science and apply them [for better understanding of religion]” simultaneously linked-up in my mind with the thought that not only was the assistance (the opposite of doing it on my own/vigorous exercise) occurring at the same time as my vigorous effort, but in opposition to it; however, it was actually enhancing success in reaching my goal. I realize this wouldn’t be some great existential moment for most, and probably quite obvious at face value, but then the thought occurred that this idea applies to another area.

Since nutrition science has become a bit of a religious (or at least dogmatic) discussion these days, I’d like to take this allegory and apply it to two pervasive topics of debate in the nutrition-sphere.

Fasting and intuitive eating. Polar opposites. Mutually exclusive, right? Nope. Not even close.

In fact, practicing one can enhance the efficacy (the benefit) of the other. Fasting can reset your hunger hormones to allow you the ability to intuitively eat. This has been shown in numerous studies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

The entire basis of intuitive eating is to not stress over eating, but instead to do whatever your body is telling you. Want to have a cookie? Do it; the world won’t end. Full after two bites? Ok; stop eating. Craving a big ole’ steak? Good; that means your body needs those nutrients.

Look, I get it, and I don’t disagree with the basic idea of it. However, if you suffer from any chronic health problem the likelihood of your hunger hormones and neurotransmitters being naturally balanced enough for you to eat “intuitively” is pretty small.

Leptin and ghrelin are the two main hunger hormones. They work together to tell your brain when you’re hungry and when you’re full with the rise and fall of their concentrations in your blood 8, 9.

This mechanism is greatly affected by insulin receptor site inflammation which is involved in a good bit of chronic disease, since inflammation is at the root of most chronic disease and insulin receptors are easily modulated by inflammation. Where there’s chronic inflammation there’s insulin dysregulation. This is evidenced by over half of our countries population in the US now being obese 10, 11, 12.

Guess what? Intuitive eating won’t help those people.

Going even deeper into the metabolic pathways, you have neurotransmitters that communicate impulses for cravings and satiety, as well.

There are a handful of genes that code for enzymes that modulate the break-down and the up-take of neurotransmitters. Scientists have identified a handful of common polymorphisms that can occur in these genes. With a handful of genes that have a handful of common polymorphisms comes several hundreds if not thousands of combinations of such single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) 13, 14.

Meaning, you have a decent likelihood of having one or more variations in these key genes that control how quickly your neurotransmitters are broken-down (deactivated) and/or how quickly they are used-up.

You can imagine that if your serotonin or dopamine is degraded quickly or the re-uptake of either/both is sped-up, then you’re going to be seeking-out activities that increase your serotonin and dopamine, like eating cake or chips.

Intuitive eating will not help these people, either.

These mechanisms are complex. Possibly too complex for the candy-coated, rose-colored glasses intuitive eating crowd to understand. Yes, if you suffer from an eating disorder, it may be a necessary first step to overcoming your struggle with food and body image. I understand why it’s necessary to tell someone who is restricting calories to the point of becoming underweight not stress about what they eat (ie. Eat intuitively).

There are actually other steps that involve looking at pathologies related to methylation pathway defects and the processing of micro and macro minerals that should be addressed after the person stabilizes their eating habits. Intuitive eating is not a cure for eating disorders, but it can be a good front line defense in the treatment and early intervention of eating disorders. That’s a different topic though. This blog is not for those with eating disorders. I’m not here to help you figure-out how to restrict your diet to lose weight. That’s not what I do.

Anyway, back to what I was saying about fasting enhancing the efficacy of intuitive eating.

If you can fast for 12-18 hours every day or 3 days a week or even just 1 day a week, you give your body an opportunity to perform autophagy and other naturally processes helpful in resetting your hungry hormones and decreasing inflammation 15.

Not just that, but if you’re unknowingly eating something regularly that is contributing to inflammation and/or methylation imbalances that are effecting how long your neurotransmitters are staying in the synapse, then it’s possible that a short fast can give your body a necessary break to help it get back to its baseline.

All of which will help you be able to intuitively eat (ie. Know when you’re actually full and stop eating and know when you’re actually hungry and eat to fuel your body instead of eating to fulfill a craving).

So intermittent fasters and intuitive eaters come together and take a page from Screeching Weasel’s music book. What you think is in opposition to your deepest held beliefs may actually be the missing puzzle piece you didn’t know to look for.

If you like reading these kinds of things and/or enjoy my cool infographics, follow me on Instagram @Experimental_Betty and Facebook: Experimental Betty.

Rosemary & Sage Cassava Flour Crackers {Grain-free, Gluten-free, Nut-free}

Sometimes I get crazy “homesick” for the salty, savory comfort foods of my past life. Crackers, chips, popcorn… all the things that I swore-off in the name of health.

I know, all of the anti-gluten-free, intuitive eating folks {many of my colleagues and cohorts} would balk at the idea of restricting yourself from the occasional indulgence. What I and my spoonie friends know, however, is that when food makes you feel sick it’s not worth the momentary high of “indulging” your craving.

Do I ever indulge? If you’re familiar with my blog then you know the answer is HECK yes I do!

I just do it intelligently and creatively. Gluten gives me migraines; therefore, I’m not going to eat crackers that contain gluten. Gluten-free, store-bought crackers often contain other grains and/or potato products. The outcome of eating those things is no different than gluten, as far as I’m concerned.

So what do I do when I can’t get past my cracker craving?

I developed a grain-free, easy-to-make, quick recipe!

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients in medium size glass bowl
  2. Cut butter or ghee into small pieces and add to mixture
  3. Pour in MCT oil and stir to combine
  4. Slowly add cold water and stir some more
  5. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll dough until 1/4″ thick
  6. Cut with small cookie cutter {or use the rim of an upside down shot glass}
  7. Place crackers on cookie sheet
  8. Bake at 360 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes or until just lightly browned
  9. Cool and enjoy!

Female Autism {Missed Diagnosis/Misdiagnosis}

 

Most accounts of the prevalence of autism among males and females report a 4:1 (male:female) ratio of those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some report a ratio closer to 1.6:1 in severely ASD populations and some reports are closer to 16:1 in “higher-functioning” ASD populations. It’s important to note that this ratio reflects only the diagnosed cases [1] [2] [3].

Out of the females who have an ASD diagnosis, most are severely autistic. Stated a different way, females with diagnosed ASD are typically more severely affected than their male counterparts. Severe cases of any disorder are, by nature, easier to diagnose due to their exaggerated symptom presentation.

This begs the question- Do more boys actually have ASD than girls or are high-functioning females with ASD overlooked more often than their male counterparts?

The idea that ASD occurrence in females may be just as high as ASD in males has become more and more recognized in light of recent criticism that the diagnostic parameters for ASD were developed using largely male ASD populations [4].

Clinical studies of ASD have long used an all-male model for research strength. It may be a bit of circular thinking giving-rise to what’s now being considered a tragic epidemic of undiagnosed adult females with mild ASD who grew-up without the support (and self-acceptance) of their diagnosed male counterparts [5] [6].

The first doctor to report Asperger’s Syndrome (a disorder that is now just considered under the umbrella of ASD, but truly should be its own diagnosis, since people with ASD do not improve without intervention, whereas people with Asperger’s do somewhat adapt even without intervention), for instance, reported 3 cases of males with symptoms, and 1 female. The female, of course, was a much more severe case than the males. Here, we are starting the history of a disorder with the bias that it affects more males than females, when it may just affect females differently (as is the case with most occurrences in nature) [7].

Researchers will often-times only include one gender in clinical studies in an effort to decrease variables and increase the power of the results. It stands to reason that since we know (or think we know) that ASD affects mostly males, that clinical research studies would be primarily all-male in sample population [8].

Now, we have a bias that more males than females have ASD and a body of research used for developing diagnostic criteria that is largely male-specific. Therefore, not only is it likely that a clinician would overlook the possibility of ASD occurrence in females that are high-functioning (not overly obvious in presentation, and perhaps presenting with symptoms later in childhood), but it’s also likely that the diagnostic criteria themselves would exclude many ASD females from a diagnosis because females present slightly different than males [9].

For instance, if you have a behavior or thought disorder that causes obsessions over numbers, would it be possible for males to obsess over numbers related to different things than what a female would be interested in obsessing about? Yes. Of course [13].

Also, because the female brain develops differently than the male brain, females have different strengths than males.

This is true in the case of social skill development and adaption, for example. Women’s brains are wired to communicate and make social bonds. Not only that, but young girls are taught how to do the right thing, socially. If you attended etiquette class as a child, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You learned exactly how to be a girl [10].

Aspies are nothing if not good imitators.

Give a female Aspergian child a play-by-play rule book for how to fit in and go about life undetected and liked by others, and they will adapt in ways that your typical male may not.

Yes, young boys attend etiquette classes too, but they aren’t taught the way to cross your ankles, that the scent of one’s perfume should only be detectable upon the closeness of a hug, the most tasteful way to plan an event and send invitations (reaching-out, developing social bonds, including others’ interests) or the appropriate give-and-take of a conversation (young girls are still taught to be seen instead of heard).

Why?

That’s a-whole-nother story, but suffice it to say that boys have long been granted the courtesy of being able to set the rules, be themselves, and have the other gender bend to their ideas.

I mean, we are just now realizing we need to send professionals into locker rooms to educate grown boys and fully-developed, neuro-typical men that it’s not okay to rape and sexually assault women. So, yes, it is reasonably possible that women on the spectrum become better socially adapted out of necessity and practice.

Girls just grow-up with a different, more socially conscious and strict set of rules to follow.

Polishing school lessons aside, girls are taught to host tea parties, be a good mother to their baby dolls, apply make-up and style their hair, play with Barbie dolls (again, learning the give and take of conversation vs. playing with action figures and video games which emphasize fighting, racing and other non-social behaviors), and girls also learn how to share/keep secrets. Girls are taught to let someone else lead, be polite and brief with our verbal interactions, and always offer to help in the kitchen or bake for a neighbor in need. These are all things that do not come naturally (or even make sense) to an Aspien girl, but if she is intellectually gifted and has a desire to “fit-in” she will take this easy-to-follow playbook and learn it to the T [11]. Although, these things may be very uncomfortable and exhausting, for her.

We girls literally have the neuro-typicals’ guide to being female ingrained in us from early childhood.

Boys are just kind of left up to their devices in many ways, until a problem arises. If problems keep occurring then eventually the parents, teachers and physicians will look for a clinical explanation as to why the boy isn’t doing the right things. The boy may be administered the autism screening tests and then you have a diagnosis that may go something like Asperger’s Syndrome or High-functioning ASD.

Bare in mind, I am only talking about high-functioning ASD, in this post.

The female who has difficulty will present in a much more subtle way, most likely because:

  1. We were better at adapting to neuro-typical standards due to the behavioral guidance we received early and often, but also because our brains are just more inclined to be better at social interactions.
  2. Our difficulty is mistaken for mental or emotional weakness. Girls are misdiagnosed as having eating disorders or bipolar disorder or what have you.

The take-away:

Females with high-functioning ASD and/or Asperger’s Syndrome may be under-diagnosed and misdiagnosed because of the subconscious bias of the healthcare professional providing evaluation. The gender bias is partly due to diagnostic criteria that were developed using all-male subject research findings. Bias could also be a result of skewed prevalence rates that mistakenly state ASD is more common in males. Furthermore, females with mild ASD may also slip through the diagnostic cracks because their symptoms manifest in slightly different ways and at a slightly later age.

I haven’t even touched on the notion that teenage females (the average age for a female with mild ASD and/or Asperger’s to be diagnosed is anywhere from 12-22 years old, depending on the country [12]) are often characterized as being a little “crazy” because of their hormones, anyway. Therefore, rationalizing and normalizing any emotional turmoil that they experience as a result of “masking” their entire lives or feeling like they are simply from a different planet.

Nor have I mentioned that women have far more emphasis placed on the role of their appearance in their perceived self-worth. Since much of a female’s worth is based on her appearance, if the female with mild ASD appears normal, her symptoms may be subconsciously dismissed as unimportant as they do not affect her attractiveness. It’s commonplace for a diagnosed “high-functioning” Aspy to be told that she “doesn’t look autistic”. Whether that statement is coming from a place of skepticism or intended as a compliment, it’s counterproductive to identification and acceptance.

That’s harsh, I know, but I think there is little use for political correctness, here.

For there to be any hope that females with mild ASD start being identified and supported as frequently and accurately as their male counterparts, we need to shed the blindfold and face this unintentional (albeit sad) bias head-on.

These are strong words, because I have a very strong opinion about this.

My intention is to change the conversation about autism. Yes, as Temple Grandin (famous female researcher who has autism, and my idol) says, the world does need all kinds of minds; but we also need to identify neuro-diversity early so that those gifts can be fostered and the deficits can be attended to.

We need to be proactive in preventing misunderstood and misdiagnosed females from living a life that’s less than their potential.

To take a screening test for Asperger’s Syndrome online try this link and/or take a different test at this link.

My score on the first screening linked above (Asperger’s Quotient or AQ) is 42. For the second (Ritvo), my score is 217. I’ll leave that up to your interpretation, but I step out of my comfort zone to offer this information about myself in a show of solidarity for neuro-diversity.

These screening tools are the same ones (among others) that professionals use in the diagnosis of ASD, although the interpretation of these scores should not be used in place of a diagnosis. However, if your score gives you concern, it may be worth your time to seek a professional evaluation by a psychiatrist experienced in diagnosing females. Be warned the diagnostic process can be very long and personally challenging, though many women find it worth the trouble, in the end.

If this post moved you (whether good or bad), leave a comment below. I’m opening the walls of conversation on this topic, and would love your input.

 

 

4 Benefits of Drinking Camel’s Milk

Camel milk is lower in lactose than cow’s milk, and 3x higher in vitamin C content. It also has less casein than cow’s milk 1.

Due to its lower lactose content, in a study of 25 children with lactose intolerance, it was discovered that children who are lactose intolerant can tolerate camel’s milk 2.

Not only does camel milk contain less of the allergenic components (casein and lactose), but it contains high mineral content, as well as higher lysine content than cow’s milk 3.

Lysine is one of the amino acid constituents of glutathione, your body’s master anti-oxidant found in every cell of the body. Glutathione, itself, is not easily absorbed through oral delivery (so supplementing with glutathione is not usually recommended unless using a liposomal form), but eating a diet high in its component amino acids is thought to facilitate your body’s own production of it (I’ll elaborate on that point in a second).

Although glutathione is the predominant anti-oxidant in our bodies, we only possess a finite amount for use as our front-line defense against inflammation and oxidation. For children with autism, their level of neurological inflammation is extremely high, and often-times their innate ability to manufacture glutathione within their cells is reduced due to a high prevalence of defects within the pathway that produces glutathione.

It stands to reason that when researchers in 2 different studies used camel milk supplementation (about 2 cups per day for 2 weeks) with autistic children, they not only found an increase in blood glutathione and other anti-oxidative compounds, but also a reduction in symptoms measured by a reduced Childhood Autistic Rating Score (CARS) 4.

Aside from the improvement observed in autistic children, camel milk supplementation has been shown to also benefit type 1 diabetics (another disorder recently thought to be a result of immune activation, like autism).

After the same rate of supplementation as the autism studies, type 1 diabetics were observed having decreased wound-healing time. Type 2 diabetics also improved after consistent camel milk consumption leading to decreases in HgbA1c and insulin resistance 5.

One animal study even saw a reduction in symptoms of colitis after camel milk supplementation 6.

Better still, the anti-oxidant and healing effects of camel milk have been observed in cancer patients being treated with strong cancer drugs. While cancer drugs are a necessary tool in the treatment of some cancers, the side-effects are difficult to tolerate for most. Studies have shown that camel milk supplementation in conjunction with certain cancer treatment drugs mitigated some of the harmful effects of the drug, while preserving the effectiveness against cancer 7.

Out of all of the various kinds of milk available for consumption, camel milk is closest in composition to human mother’s milk 8, and is considered completely safe for human consumption 9.

Are there any downsides to camel milk?

Yes, unfortunately. Camel milk is expensive and difficult to find in stores making it cost-prohibitive for many. You can, however, purchase raw grass-fed freeze-dried camel milk online and, according to the research, receive the same benefits. You can purchase here and receive $20 off your first purchase, like I did!

As I work on recipe development for my upcoming grain-free, sugar-free recipe book, I am also going to be incorporating some camel milk into some of the baking. I have been experimenting with the freeze-dried powder in smoothies and no-bake treats, and have tried the actual milk plain and I’m really enjoying it so far!

For daily recipe ideas, healthy tips, and glimpse into my life overcoming my auto-immune disease, follow me on Instagram @Experimental_Betty or find me on Facebook: Experimental Betty. I’m also on Pinterest as Betty J00n (with zeros for o’s!).

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found this useful in your health journey 🙂

Make Your Own Vegan “Quest” Protein Bars {high fiber, dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free}

 I love Quest bars, but I don’t love the awful bloated and painful feeling I get after eating whey. Not to mention, IMO syrup {the high-fiber sweetener that holds the bars together} is often sourced from corn, unless other-wise specified.

I use Fiberyum IMO syrup that I order in bulk from Amazon, which is sourced from tapioca, instead.

Last year, I set out to make my own version of “Quest” style protein bars in my flavors and it turned out AMAZING!

My favorite flavor combos were vanilla Vega Sport w/ cacao nibs, chocolate Orgain w/ a sugar-free chocolate fudge stripe {made by adding solid chocolate to “batter” while warm and mixing lightly, and vanilla Vega Sport w/ lemon flavoring, cinnamon and dried blueberries.

Have fun! Drop a comment below w/ any fun flavor combos you want to share!

Pictured above: Chocolate Chip Cookie Version

For more cool stuff, follow me on IG @Experimental_Betty or Facebook: Experimental Betty.

How I’m Healing My Auto-immune Disease w/ Evidence-based Science

“You have lupus, but don’t get too overwhelmed because I think women are living much longer than they used to with new medications that are available. Past their 50’s even.”

These were the doctor’s words that were met with my shock and confusion the day I went in to get the results of my blood work.

The doctor that had ordered the blood work actually ordered an ANA panel initially because I had complained that my eyes and mouth were always dry. Turns out that my physician (my OB/GYN) had recently returned from a conference where she learned about Sjogren’s Syndrome and when I told her of my dryness she replied “I always suspected there was something a little not right with your overall health. I’ve just learned about an autoimmune disorder that I think you may have! We’ll draw some blood and then go from there.” – or something like that, but it was almost 10 years ago, so you get the gist.

I should mention that the doctor who delivered the aforementioned pseudo-grim prognosis was not my normal OB/GYN, who ordered the tests. She wasn’t there that day, so not only was I hearing this bizarre and unexpected news, but I was hearing it from a man I’d never even met before.

He followed-up with, “If you have a family practitioner I recommend taking these results to him.” So I did. My family practitioner drew my blood and re-tested my ANA along with some other confirmatory tests. After other specialists and other tests, the final diagnosis- lupus.

During the days in between the OB/GYN’s diagnosis and my family practitioner’s diagnosis, however, I was afforded what seemed like an overwhelming amount of time to search Google for information about lupus. I also spoke with my parents (I was about 21 years old at the time and in college) who told me something previously unknown to me about my paternal grandmother; she had lupus. My Granny Lou, at the time, was still alive, but in bad shape even for a granny. She was on a TON of medication, she had side effects from all of the medication, and (like me) would have these horrible fits of uncontrollable itchy feeling that she referred to as “being terrorized by the itching”. Boy, did I relate… and now more than ever.

I’ll skip ahead a little here because the years following can be condensed down into a few sentences. I set out to determine the root cause of my lupus, because I did NOT plan on my fate going the way of my Granny Lou’s. This led me to discover I had heavy metal poisoning (which I knew the symptoms of because I also had it as a child, so I had been suspicious that I had an overload of heavy metals again, by this time). I did intravenous chelation for about 4 years, once a week, every week and each chelation visit took 3-4 hours. Sometimes it was very unpleasant and sometimes it was fine. I loved my physician’s assistant like family and grew to love my phlebotomist and fellow “Tuesday Chelators” who were mostly in their 70’s (several of which passed-away over the years that I was chelating with them).  I felt a little better after a while, so I stopped only to get worse and have to start again. Then my doctor discovered that I had a polymorphism on my MTHFR gene, and I started taking high-dose methylated B vitamins, prescription MetanX.

But, the real breakthrough came when my hair started falling out.

Fast forward about 6 years and I had moved to South Carolina from Tennessee for my first “big girl” job as a nutritionist, and was living in a condo when my health got A LOT worse. My thyroid was functioning less and less, I kept getting what felt like the flu, my migraines had returned, scaly red spots covered my body from head to toe and itched and burned constantly, I could barely fall asleep at night then barely stay awake during the day, and no matter how or what I ate or how much I worked-out I had gained almost 10lbs and could not lose it.

Meanwhile, one day I decided to try and refurbish a dresser that had come from my Granny Lou’s house after she passed away. Upon opening the drawers for the first time (after having the dresser about 3 feet away from my bed for about 5 months) I saw that the inside was COVERED in mold. I mention this because it’s important. Also, during my domicile in this condo, the washing machine had leaked when the hose fell from its connection to the wall and soaked the entire downstairs which was carpeted. It took days if not weeks to fully dry even with the use of a shop vac.

After 6 months in this condo I switched to a new location within the company and accepted a traveling position which also meant I would move to a new city. I started to improve within a month of being in a new apartment with no moldy dresser and no wet carpet and a new work environment. Months go by and I’d describe my status as thriving- the best health I can ever remember.

Then my hair began falling out. It was terrifying. About ¼ to maybe 1/3 of my hair was gone and the shedding wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. I was almost certain the cause of my hair-loss was related to a mega dose of B5 that I took 3 months prior in an effort to improve my cystic acne (yes, during the best health of my life I still had a ton of minor issues including cystic acne). So I figured, I have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and chemistry… I can figure this out. I just have to follow B5 through the biochemical pathways to figure out what I upregulated, downregulated and depleted.

Ah-ha! That was what it felt like when I decided to Google MTHFR a little more closely to see if this defect could be playing a role in my B5-induced hair-loss or, even better yet, my lupus. I found a Pandora’s Box of information about single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP’s, like MTHFR) and their impact on the processing of B vitamins, synthesis of DNA, and their modulatory effects on detoxification capacity.

After 3 months of exploring PubMed for information on methylation pathway defects and playing around with targeted nutrient supplementation, my hair stopped falling out. Some of it even grew back, although not all of it. I got better in other ways, too. I started to feel super human compared to the shotty health I’d come to know as normal throughout my life. My migraines decreased in frequency and severity, my mental energy and IQ felt like they were peaking, and my mood was stable.

This next part is still a bit of mystery for me, but I slowly started to get worse. I was prompted by unresolved digestive issues to take an all bifidobacteria probiotic that ended up causing diarrhea, and after realizing the probiotic was the cause and stopping it, the diarrhea persisted. All of the problems I had in the moldy condo returned. My thyroid functioning was lower, my digestion was awful, adequate energy level gone, focus gone, weight began climbing back up again, skin rashes and migraines returned, and my cycle became irregular once again.

I had already decided I was going to grad school before my health had taken this recent turn for the worse, so I ended up in Florida at one of the nation’s top research universities as a graduate student in Nutrition Science with uncontrollably failing health. Things only got worse from there. I went to University Health Services where the physician ordered another ANA test. Over the years, every new doctor I saw ordered another ANA despite the vast history of positive ones. And every ANA result was more positive at a higher dilution. This time, however, my ANA was negative. WHAT?

Yea… I was in the worst health of my life and my ANA was finally negative. Mind you, all of the “bio-hacking” with diet and targeted nutrient therapy I had been doing over the past year had been aimed at healing my lupus, so I wasn’t sure if I had succeeded or if there was some kind of mistake because I didn’t feel like I was healed. Also, you can imagine how helpful this physician was after me, a complete crazy-pants stranger with 18 different symptoms, telling her I had lupus and then my lupus test coming back negative. Yea… not very.

Months go by and I get a private physician who orders all kinds of new blood work. What we found was that all of my hormones were below reference range. ALL of them. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, pregnenolone, DHEA, and thyroid, along with several other biomarkers, were all completely messed up including a high copper/zinc ratio, but low bio-available copper. How did I get to this point? What the hell was going on? All in all, I had chronic diarrhea for about one entire year, so I thought maybe this had some connection. We did hormone replacement creams, anti-microbial treatments for my digestion, and I even started IV chelation again.

Nothing gave me any long-term improvement, although there was something I did on my own that gave me about a month’s reprieve from symptoms.

I knew that I was sensitive to mold, because when I was a child I had been “terrorized by the itching” every time it rained and the mildew behind a bookcase in my bedroom grew back. I suspected mold had been the cause of my worsening of symptoms in the condo. I also suspected that my apartment in Tallahassee had mold, as well as the building at the university where I spent 8-12 hours 5 days a week. So I Googled it and found a protocol to heal mold illness.

During Christmas break, while visiting my parents, I did the protocol which consisted of taking a bile acid sequestrant (Cholestyramine) 4 times daily away from food (I had been prescribed the bile acid sequestrant back in South Carolina since it’s off-label use is for diarrhea, but not being one to take a medication to just fix the symptom instead of finding the root cause, I had decided not to take it back when it was first prescribed). I also ate a hormone-balancing diet void of sugar, grains, and dairy but with 5 cups of vegetables daily.

I was me again… for about a month. Once I went back to my apartment and back to the building where I was doing research for my graduate degree everything slowly began to worsen, again. I became even worse than before Christmas break, and that’s pretty freaking bad. I gained about 20lbs in one month without changing my diet or level of physical activity whatsoever. I was, by this time, emboldened in my conviction that mold had something to do with my health’s decline. I moved apartments, dropped my thesis so that I could minimize my time spent in that environment, and started looking for a doctor that specialized in mold illness.

Long story short, I wasn’t able to find a physician who specialized in mold illness AND who was accepting new patients. I did, however, find some information. At this point I knew in my heart that I had biotoxin illness caused by exposure to mycotoxins produced by mold, and that my autoimmunity was a result of it. I just needed to prove it. I found a list of lab orders published by the leading researcher and physician in biotoxin illness and was able to talk my nurse practitioner into doing some of the testing and lo and behold!!!!! I was right!

The lab work showed that I had a defect in my innate immunity which caused my body to be unable to recognize mycotoxins as a biotoxin and therefore I could not adequately detoxify on my own. About .01% of the healthy population have this unique haplotype, but about 25% of the chronically ill population have this susceptible haplotype. As a result, the mycotoxins were just being recirculated in my bile over and over. And because of my chronic exposure I had developed Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) and autoimmunity issues (lupus and guttate psoriasis). The blood work also confirmed neurological inflammation that is a hallmark of CIRS symptoms and leads to developing autoimmune disorders. My NP was also wonderful enough to order a urine mycotoxin analysis, which showed high levels of mycotoxins belonging to the two most pathogenic mold species and most carcinogenic toxins known to man (AKA black mold mycotoxins).

It’s important to make the connection that we are talking about epigenetics at this point. My genes met up with my environment and caused chronic illness. Genes that I inherited from my mother and my father. Genes that they inherited from their mothers and their fathers… Granny Lou… lupus, itching, mold… it’s all coming together now.

What people without chronic illness don’t understand is that this may sound like ravings from a conspiracy theorist, but this is the inconvenient truth. We cannot treat chronic illness the same way in which Western medicine always has and expect to ever see any long-term improvement. We have to move on. We have to dig deep down into the disease pathway and hammer it out over long days and even longer nights. We have to be diligent and a little obsessive if we want to get well.

I’m not well, yet. But I am getting better every day. And as fellow chronic disease sufferers know, there are good days and bad days. What we also know is that you have to gauge your improvement by the number of good days relative to the number of bad days.

My advice to those suffering from chronic illness:

If your illness has a name/a diagnosis, don’t accept that as gospel. Don’t accept the treatments of Western medicine as your only option, or your only hope. Don’t accept that some people just get ill, and others don’t- it’s not just luck of the draw. Don’t accept that your disease is incurable. Don’t accept that your environment can’t be the cause of your illness just because you’re the only one ill from it. And finally, just because something is common does not make it normal!

Why? Your genes carry nuanced differences that when met with environmental variables will be modulated (environment includes what you put into your body too, not just what exists outside of your body). Each individual gene codes for something meaningful whether it’s an enzyme or the size/shape of a receptor site and your DNA can either be constricted or expanded to upregulate or downregulate its enzymatic activity- your gene expression. Your environment is what controls that activity, but your genes determined the impact of that activity on your health.

If I had listened to any of the tens of doctors who were, despite their expertise and good intensions, telling me to take biologics, anti-histamines and steroids I may have ended-up like Granny Lou and millions of other women whose quality of life decreases every day. If I had been discouraged by my friends, family, teachers, bosses, coworkers… you name it… who tried to convince me that I just needed to relax and not get too stressed-out, then I would have not come this far. I certainly would not have ever improved.

That is the fact of the matter.

Without the proper diagnosis and proper intervention I would not have ever improved. Let that sink in, for a minute. Auto-immune disorders are degenerative diseases. Likewise with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and others. These diseases are chronic (life-long) and degenerative (they only get worse without intervention). What else do these chronic degenerative diseases have in common? They’re all (often-times, but not always) either misdiagnosis or caused by biotoxin illness also known as CIRS.

I’ve pieced together most of the puzzle, but I’m not done yet. The story doesn’t end here and I know there is more to be discovered. The exciting thing is that I know I can do it. Everything is going to be ok, and that’s a feeling people with chronic degenerative disease don’t often get the pleasure of knowing. Today, I write this with the feeling that I’ve erased almost an entire year’s worth of worsening symptoms, now. I know that tomorrow I may feel worse, but progress isn’t linear. As long as I keep learning and never stop persisting I will have done my body justice.

Mini Grain-free & Sugar-free Doughnuts w/ Glaze {Matcha or Vanilla w/ Chocolate}

So I’ve seen some pretty tempting doughnut photos popping-up all over my social media feed, lately. Instagram, Snapchat… and it’s making me really pine for my pre-grain- and sugar-free days.

I decided to be strong and take matters into my own hands, though. Below I will share with you my mini sugar-free cassava flour creations!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cassava flour
  • 2 tbsp grass-fed butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • either 1/2 tbsp matcha powder or 2 tbsp cocoa powder {or nothing additional for vanilla}
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup xylitol
  • 2 dropper-fulls of liquid non-alcoholic stevia
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients
  2. Whisk egg lightly and combine with other wet ingredients
  3. Combine wet ingredients into dry ingredients slowly and stir until mixed well
  4. Fill a ziplock bag with batter
  5. Cut very small hole at bottom corner of bag
  6. Pipe the batter in an un-greased mini doughnut pan
  7. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-12 min
  8. Remove and either eat plain or glaze them with either my chocolate glaze or matcha glaze

*Dark Chocolate Glaze = 2 tbsp melted sugar-free chocolate chips, 2 tbsp IMO syrup, 2 tbsp powdered erythritol

*Matcha Glaze = 2 tbsp powdered erythritol, 2 tbsp IMO syrup, 2 tbsp water, 2 tsp matcha powder