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Oh, grain-free bagels. Where have you been my whole life? These photos show what I ate after work last night:
I've been eating a diet high in fat and low in sugar and refined carbs for the better part of two decades. It helps relieve my ADHD symptoms, and it's better for my digestion.
In the early 2000s, after I became aware of my ADHD and started reading about using nutrition to combat symptoms, I increased my fat consumption and my refined grain consumption. I was never a big fan of sweets, but over the years I would do the occasional “sugar detox”, and I'd also go through phases in which I consumed lots of “natural” sugar, such as honey, maple syrup, and molasses. I still think that all three are nutritionally beneficial and have their place.
For much of my adult life, I haven't been much of a sandwich person. Unless it's excellent bread, I see it as a vehicle for filling that can be eating without bread, thus allowing more room in my stomach for whatever would otherwise be between the slices.
I'm also sensitive to yeast in foods and beverage. Yeasty beers make me itch. Bread sometimes bloats me and makes me itch.
Bagels and I have a history
Bagels and I have a history. I'm Jewish. We Jews take our bagels seriously.
Also, I couldn't stop at eating just one fresh, warm bagel with its soft inside and (my preference), slightly crunchy outside. If you live in Toronto and you've ever had a fresh bagel from Gryfe's, you know what I'm talking about. (I'm also partial to What a Bagel).
For the last couple of decades, I'd rarely buy bagels because I could eat 4-6 FRESH bagels in one sitting, so it was best if they weren't around. At gatherings where there were bagels, lox and cream cheese I packed as many as I could into my body.
This past summer when my partner joined the ketogenic diet world to lose weight and gain energy, I got stricter with my intake. It's way easier to eat a certain way when your partner is too. In years past when he made me dinner, my detox periods frustrated him. Now he's on board.
Last August I discovered that I was able to eat half a bagel and be satisfied. It shocked and pleased me. I will now happily eat one bagel occasionally and be satisfied.
Keto and me
A modified keto diet meets my low sugar, high fat, low refined carb needs for brain and mental health. Because of the keto trend, foods & recipes are available to me now that weren't in the early 2000s. This includes recipes for “fat head dough” (mozzarella and cream cheese melted together with other ingredients added), used for baked goods such as pizza crusts, bagels and rolls. My partner made a fat head pizza crust once and it didn't work out.
Years before that there were various gluten-free recipes. I've had a fantastic grain-free loaf bread in my repertoire for a long time, but it's got a lot of ingredients and I prefer recipes with fewer ingredients to buy and to make it all come together quickly.
The bagels I've been making, like the ones I've been posting photos of to Instagram, are a life-changer.
Months ago I put my toaster in the garage. Earlier this week I welcomed it back into the kitchen.
Welcome back, old friend.
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Sashimi – keto friendly, full of good fats and protein, good for brain health. (Skip the rice.)
The keto diet and ADHD symptoms and Quora
I try to be active on Quora because I think it's a good way to position myself as an expert on ADHD. I've had several people specifically request my answer to questions. Since the keto diet has helped me manage ADHD symptoms, I felt absolutely qualified to answer the following question in July:
“How has the keto diet affected your ADHD symptoms?”
I have a whole keto series in progress for this blog, but here's how I answered:
Even before I knew about the “keto” diet, I was following something like it, and have been for over 20 years. The most impactful thing I’ve done to manage my ADHD is to consume more fat. The brain NEEDS fat. For this reason, I recommend that people with ADHD try the keto diet, or something close to it. (Modify as needed. Your mileage may vary.)
A medically-controlled version of the ketogenic diet that involves measuring food and nutrients has been used to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders for decades.
Some people with ADHD benefit from the intermittent fasting aspect of ADHD too. It’s something worth testing out. We do tend to need regular fuel with fat and protein but if IF works for you, then do it. I think that IF is more for people who do the keto diet for weight-loss, as IF forces the body to use fat for energy.
The key is to experiment, listen to your body and see what works. When you find what works, stick with it.
Worth emphasizing: Essential fatty acids are crucial, which means eating fatty fish and/or taking fish oil. If you’re vegan, then pumpkin seed oil or a marine plant source would work too. Fish is best, though.
Hope this helps.
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It's rare that I post recipes on my website. It's also rare that I make food that I like so much that I feel I MUST share it with the world. The preamble here is brief because I get annoyed when I look up a recipe on a website and have to scroll past a ton of narrative I'm not interested in, and that has no impact on my life when I'm only on the page because I want the fucking recipe.
Brain-boosting nutrition dominates this salmon dish. Read about how the brain bebefits from this dish on page 2 this post. There's a lot of info there.
After I ate this salmon dish for dinner, I took my dog for a walk and suddenly got clarity on a professional challenge that I'd been grappling with for over a month. There's one task that's been on my to-do list for weeks because although I thought I knew how I wanted it done, and although I could see in my head how it could look, it didn't seem quite right, and I just couldn't get the task out. Something was missing. After a piece of almond-crusted salmon and a dog walk, I received the answer in my mind As I tweeted, “#brainfood & #exercise #FTW.” (And possibly some of the EFT that I did earlier.)
Now, here's the fucking recipe:
[Jump to recipe notes and nutrition notes.]
(It's easy to increase or decrease serving size)
1/4 cup raw almonds
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
The Zest of 1 lemon [works for 1 or 2 servings of salmon]
Salt and pepper to taste – or a few grinds of pepper and a couple of pinches of salt
1-2 tbsp coconut oil
- In a food processor or food chopper, chop the nuts and seeds until they are fine. This is the coating. The finer you get the mixture, the more likely it is to stick to the fish.
- Add the lemon zest and give it another pulse to mix
- Rinse the salmon and pat dry
- Put some coating on a plate
- Dredge each side of the salmon, patting the coating on if that helps it stick
- Heat 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil or olive oil in a pan over medium heat (amount depends on the size of the skillet you're using)
- Cook the salmon for 4-5 minutes per side.
- Serve over greens, such as spring mix, that's been drizzled with juice from the lemon you zested (1/2 a lemon should be enough, but you decide how wet you want it). You can also add a drizzle of sesame oil.
(Click images for full size)
- You could start with almond meal or almond flour. I didn't have any.
- You could use whatever seeds you'd like. Chia seeds and/or sunflower seeds would probably work. My intuition guided me to hemp and pumpkin.
- You could replace the almonds with pecans or other nuts of choice (not peanuts).
- I ended up with enough coating for two servings, even though I'd only thawed one piece of fish, so I've got some leftover coating for the next time. If you end up with more coating than you need, you can use it on salmon in the future, or use it as a topping for salad or yogurt. If you're not going to use the ground nuts and seeds in the next couple of days, freeze the leftovers. They could go rancid.
- I didn't use the best quality salmon (it was a frozen fillet from a box, bought at a grocery store) but the execution was nearly perfect. I say “nearly” because I didn't chop the nuts finely enough.
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This post is a continuation of the previous post, which I felt was getting too long.
Finally, the reset diet…
I recently posted this to Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
At last, the series of posts that I tried to post previously: 📷📷📷 Sunday's poached eggs on kale with grain-free almond bread. I didn't set out to make a dish for Instagram, but it was beautiful. 🍳🍳🍳🍳 I seasoned the kale with garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper. I use a lot turmeric in winter. ❄❄❄❄ I've been choosing what I eat by intuition recently. I'm currently eating for body reset (some would call it a detox), so I've been eating lots of vegetables, light protein, anti-inflammatory spices and minimal allergens. I've eliminated all nightshades except for a small bit of black pepper. I've removed grains and legumes. 🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴 It's not forever, but when my reactions to certain foods become uncomfortable, I listen to my body and let it rest and heal. Otherwise, I mostly eat what I want, first asking myself if it's worth the potential consequences. I don't mind a bit of gas or a bit of itching. . . . . #instalove #glutenfree #yeastfree #instayum #healthyeating #wheatfree #poachedeggs #instalove #healthyliving #nutritious #foodporn #whatsforlunch #certifiednutritionist #instagood #candidadiet #tastytuesday
“I've been choosing what I eat by intuition recently. I'm currently eating for body reset (some would call it a detox), so I've been eating lots of vegetables, light protein, anti-inflammatory spices and minimal allergens. I've eliminated all nightshades except for a small bit of black pepper. I've removed grains and legumes.
It's not forever, but when my reactions to certain foods become uncomfortable, I listen to my body and let it rest and heal. Otherwise, I mostly eat what I want, first asking myself if it's worth the potential consequences. I don't mind a bit of gas or a bit of itching.”
I was having candida issues and while I've done full on multi-week candida cleanses in the past, I decided to do something different this time. For the first two days I consumed nothing but smoothies and vegetable broth, followed by a couple of days of nothing but liquids and vegetables with a few herbs. I cut out coffee. During this time I noticed an improvement in cognitive function and decision making, and I wasn't hungry at all.
Check out this broth in the making, which I cooked and strained:
And the next batch…
Details on Instagram
I've continued to eat in the way I laid out above. Intuitively. Lots of vegetables, light protein including a lot of eggs, anti-inflammatory spices and minimal allergens. Minimal nightshades. I've removed grains and legumes. I'm back on coffee, dairy-free. I've been consuming a lot of coconut milk and made cashew milk yesterday. I've read about the 80/20 rule of dieting, which is where you eat healthy (or on diet) 80% of the time. I seem to be doing a 90/10 or a 95/5. The bigger number is when I eat at home. When I'm out I still adhere to some guidelines and strive to avoid what my immune system would perceive as the worst invaders.
The two times I've had tomato, I've reacted to it, so it's out. I haven't touched beer in a few weeks.
I've been getting meal ideas from The 21 Day Sugar Detox, the 21 Day Sugar Detox cookbook and Practical Paleo, all books by Dianne Sanfilippo.
I've been eating a lot of greens and eggs, like this:
The grain-free almond bread kicks-ass. There's a photo series on Instagram.
Eating intuitively is really good for health. I know what’s “good” for me and what’s “bad.” I pick my poison, so to speak. I ask myself if it’s worth it. As I said in my last post, I ate a couple of slices of birthday cake in the middle of this. I didn’t get sick. I didn’t die. The sugar bomb did not upset me emotionally or physically. I did notice a slight immune effect.
And that cold that I discussed two posts ago? It did get worse after I stayed up late for two consecutive nights, one of which was spent working on that blog post, and ate one more piece of cake. I had ONE day on which I was blowing my nose a lot. One day of chest congestion. Then it was gone.
Questions? Comments? I might have one more blog post in me on the topic.
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In my last post, I discussed the neurotransmitters in your gut, making the connection between what you eat and your brain health. I addressed the gut's role in the immune system and allergic reactions in the brain. I shared that I've been on what I call a “reset diet.” I want to expand on all this, mostly from the perspective of the food we eat. I ended up with a post that was almost 2,300 words, so I moved the final part to a new post. Still, this is a long one because there are a lot of related concepts.
“Let food be thy medicine.”
Food can help us, or food can harm us. No two people are affected the same way. We have different food sensitivities and allergies. Some we're born with, some develop later in life.
What is an allergy?
Simply put, an allergy is a damaging immune response by the body to a substance.
According to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “An allergy is a chronic condition involving an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen.”
If you have an allergy, your immune system views the allergen as an invader, and a chain reaction initiates. White blood cells of the immune system produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to a specific kind of cell, causing a release of potent chemicals such as histamine.
Although allergies can develop at any age, the risk of developing allergies is genetic.
Understanding the immune system
The immune system is a host defense system. It’s made up of a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and the substances they make that helps the body fight infections and other diseases. The immune system includes white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system, such as the thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and bone marrow.
To function correctly, the immune system must detect a wide variety of microorganisms called pathogens that can cause disease and distinguish them from healthy tissue.
Immune system disorders can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, and cancer. Immunodeficiency occurs when the immune system is less active than normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections.
As indicated above, the immune system is involved in allergy responses.
There are two system analogies that I tend to use:
- The immune system is like a computer firewall, keeping viruses out.
- The immune system can be seen as an army with a limited number of soldiers and ammunition.
I think that the immune system can only focus its energy on so many things at a time so if there’s a cold or flu going around and you're not taking care of your immune system, there’s a higher likelihood that it will slip in. Everyone has different conditions under which they tend to get sick. For some, it's stress. For others, childhood trauma could keep their immune system chronically weak. For me, sleep is critical. I know that if everyone around me is sick, I need to get enough sleep to keep my defenses up. Some people seem to get sick every time there's “something going around.”
It's not just about getting sick, or allergies. Every time we bang our knee or stub our toe, our immune system goes to work. We bruise, we swell. When we get food poisoning, we vomit and/or have diarrhea. Our body reacts to keep foreign invaders out.
Skin reactions such as cold sores, pustules, and acne are all immune related. Acne has many causes – most notably hormonal – but the immune system also plays a part.
Studies have found a correlation between the bacteria Propionibacterium, acne and the immune system. (Source: Gabby Bernstein's interview with dermatologist Bobby Buka, MD.) Propionibacterium lives in and around the sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and other areas of the skin. One study found that Propionibacterium was the most prevalent human skin-associated genus of microorganisms.
The immune system and what we eat
In addition to allergies, there are other reasons foods might not be suitable for us and yet tolerated by others. Sometimes foods will always harm us, sometimes it's only at certain times.
We all have different needs to thrive. Some people thrive eating high-fat diets (everyone needs fat, but some need more than others). Some do well on a high carb diet. Some stay healthy eating vegan, some can’t eat vegan at all. Some people can’t eat raw vegetables without digestive distress. Some people get kidney stones if they eat too many vegetables. The list of examples goes on.
The point: There is no one-size-fits-all eating lifestyle. However, there are foods that in general, we should all eat more of, and some we should eat less of.
The Candida Connection
You might have a yeast overgrowth and not know it because you don’t know the symptoms or what it looks like, or you hear “yeast infection,” and your only association is TV commercials for vaginal yeast infection treatments.
Candida Albicans is the most common type of yeast infection found in the mouth, intestinal tract and vagina, and it may affect the skin and other mucous membranes. If the immune system is functioning optimally (your soldiers are fully armed), this type of yeast infection is rarely serious. It's usually harmless. However, if the immune system is not functioning correctly, the candida infection can migrate to other areas of the body, including the blood and membranes around the heart or brain. (Source: WebMD)
Candida is a fungus. At proper levels in the body it helps with nutrient absorption and digestion. When there's too much of it, symptoms may appear. That’s when you get Candida Overgrowth Syndrome, a chronic condition that flares up in connection with food sensitivities and a disruption in the gut and skin microbiomes.
Candida can grow out of control when your body's natural pH balance is disturbed.
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Back in February I had this idea: Start a new ayurveda morning routine (or, at least, ayurvedic-based). Blog about it.
The routine included activities I was already doing, such as yoga and meditation, so I was building on it. It also incorporated habits that I used to have but had stopped.
I started strong. Then a few weeks in I started a new corporate day job and my schedule changed both in terms of how long I had for said routine, and my blogging schedule. Honestly, for the first month of my employment I had little energy to do anything outside of work. (Working to make money vs. working on my passion is a topic I'm putting some notes together on, potentially to create an article on LinkedIn.)
What's in an ayurveda morning routine?
When I started my routine, based on some googling and what I'd seen in an Instagram account I follow, it looked like this – though the order would sometimes change:
- Meditate (20 minutes) – I still use the Insight Timer app.
- Journal (15 minutes)
- Scrape tongue with a plastic tongue scraper (30 seconds or so)
- Ayurveda recommends scraping away white coating that accumulates on the tongue overnight. This coating is perceived as accumulated undigested toxins sitting in the digestive tract. Those toxins can cause illness.
- Splashing cool water on my face/in my eyes, 7 times.
- Ayurveda recommends splashing your face and eyes with water as soon as you wake up, seven times. Seven represents the body’s chakras, or energy centers.
- Drink a half liter or full liter of warm water.
- Some practitioners recommend lemon, some recommend lime. Morning lemon water has long been part of my routine. Sometimes I juice of lemons or limes. Other times I use lemon or lime essential oil from Young Living, or their Citrus Fresh essential oil blend, which contains orange, grapefruit, mandarin, tangerine, lemon, and spearmint. Some days I get my magnesium in, with Natural Calm lemon flavoured powder.
- Give myself a body massage with coconut oil or sesame oil (washed off in the shower).
- Oil pulling with coconut oil and a couple of drops of Living Libations Healthy Gum Drops, done for 10-20 minutes.
- Oil pulling is where you swish oil around on your mouth. I scoop up some oil with a spoon, add the gum drops, and pop it in my mouth. It's part of the oral hygiene routine, though NOT a replacement for brushing teeth. When you spit, always do it into a garbage can, as it can clog pipes.
- Skin brushing with a dry skin brush before showering.
- Skin brushing, allegedly, helps encourages lymphatic drainage, improves blood flow, and rejuvenates the nervous system by stimulating nerve endings in the skin. It improves circulation and helps rid toxins from the body.
So many steps!
That's a LOT of steps. I also walk my dog in the morning, and like to do morning yoga. It's time consuming, and I was keeping it up at least 6 days a week. I tried including pranayama (breathing) exercises but I kept forgetting to do them.
Sometimes I multi-tasked with other activities on the list, or with other activities. For example, I'd oil up and then sit at my computer, or oil up and then empty the dishwasher. Or sit with oil on my body and in my mouth at the same time.
Oil pulling is one of the activities that I've been doing on and off for years, and I usually do it in the shower (again, spitting into a garbage can). Once, I sat down on the couch with my body oiled and coconut oil in my mouth while my man told me stories. For 10 minutes, I nodded and “mmmhmmm”ed , amused by it.
(My sister commented that she has a similar routine. Of course she does!)
My Ayurveda morning routine now…
When I stared my new job I couldn't sustain that time-consuming ayurveda morning routine. Some experts say that you should wake up at 6 am, or before the sun. By the end of March, the sun is rising around 7 a.m. My optimal sleep cycle is 11 p.m. -7 a.m., though 10:30-6:30 is do-able and 6:30 wake up is necessary now. I still need 2 hours before I leave for work in the morning!
I need 8 hours of sleep, though can get by on 7.5 without feeling too bad. When my dog was a puppy I DID get up before 6 a.m. to walk her before work but she's older now and her morning needs have changed.
So here's what I say to 6 a.m. wake up – and especially any time earlier: Screw it. If you can do it, that's great! We all have different needs and rhythms. I'm a little envious, but I'm satisfied where I'm at, I'd just like to get up a little earlier. Last week I made myself 3 versions of a morning schedule. One does have a 6 a.m. wake up. I eye it in the way that one looks at something unappealing. Then I sleep later. Maybe if I start with 15-minute increments…
Do what's right for you (find YOUR health and wellness)
In an article on Chopra.com, provides the following note before its ayurvedic-inspired morning routine:
These suggestions for morning habits are inspired by traditions in Ayurveda; however, the invitation is to try them out, do what feels right, skip the ones that don’t, add ones that balance you best. They can be done in any order. Whether you’re already an early riser or more of a drag-myself-out-of-bed, stumble-to-the-coffeemaker, why-is-it-so-bright, kind of person—these tips will help you get a jump on your day.
Indeed. And I did.
The activities I kept were those that were already part of my life:
- Meditation (20 minutes tops these days, though I'm striving for earlier wake up and longer sessions)
- Tongue scrape
- Skin brush
- Oil pull in the shower. Above, I said that I take a spoonful of the oil. In past warmer months when the oil was melted, I swigged straight from the container. My Happy Gum Drops are a new addition – maybe I'll drop them straight into my mouth.
- Drink warm water. I've been saying for years that even if I neglect to drink water throughout the day, at least I know I've had my morning water.
After 100 days of meditation I missed a day. And then went back to it. I'm doing yoga most days but I occasionally do skip. I loved challenging myself and feeling really good about streaks but I eventually decided to go easy on my self if I miss a day.
Sometimes I forget to skin brush as part of this ayurveda morning routine. I often forget to splash water on my face. Most mornings I go from bedroom to living room for yoga/meditate/journal. The massage would be nice, but it's more of a treat now. I remember one evening after I'd done it in the morning, when suddenly felt my neck release nicely and knew it was a result. The timing just doesn't work right now.
How do I feel from all this ayurveda morning routine stuff?
I honestly don't know if the skin brushing is benefiting me, but often times we don't see or feel health benefits. Not seeing or feeling doesn't mean it's not working, nor does it mean that it is.
My tongue always feels cleaner with a good tongue scrape. I use the small plastic scraper that came with the Living Libations Successful Self-Dentistry Kit that I won last year. Some people swear by stainless steel or copper. You could use the back of a spoon. I used to sometimes do that.
My teeth always feel cleaner with I oil pull before brushing. It amazes me that oil pulling will loosen debris from the day before that evening flossing did not.
I was sick with colds in both March and April, even though I usually only get sick twice a year, in fall and spring. However, both times the cold lasted less than a week. The first one stayed mostly in my chest. I didn't even go through an entire box of Kleenex. The second one was more intense and in my nose, but brief. It could be the ayurveda morning routine, the turmeric consumption, or the Genuine Health probiotics I've been taking.
All I know is that I'm trying, and being as consistent as possible without being extreme about it.
We try our best and be gentle on ourselves. That's the way to live.
I'm glad it took me a couple of months to get around to blogging this because it provided the opportunity for a “then and now” post, which I think is more interesting and relatable.