Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

paleo diet

Paleo Sweet Potato Pie Recipe!

I’ve had a lot of requests for the pie recipe from my birthday and so here goes! I found it online at a forum posting here , but then we modified it as we went along. The main changes are no honey (our sweet potatoes are sweet enough) and baking dishes used.

sweet potato pie lit candle

It is paleo friendly, gluten free, and dairy free recipe for dessert, side dish, or an after workout snack!

Paleo Sweet Potato Pie:
– Sweet Potatoes (equal parts potato to milk, adjust as needed)
– 1 can Coconut Milk (I used full fat)
– 2 Eggs
– Spices (we used cinnamon and cloves, anything used for pumpkin pie would work for this)
* Often times yams are called sweet potatoes – I don’t know how those would work as we used actual Japanese Sweet Potatoes grown locally. Canned sweet potatoes are also an option.

Wash and dry the potatoes, then toss them naked and unpoked into a 375F oven to bake. We don’t use foil, just a cookie sheet on the rack below for drips. Start checking them after 1 hour, they should be soft to squeeze like with russet potatoes. Ours took about 1.5 hours to cook due to size.

After potatoes have cooled, remove the skin and mash them. The skin can be eaten or saved for cooking with later. Unlike russet or other potatoes, these are not part of the nightshade family and so are safe to eat.

We never measured the sweet potato volume, just added milk until the consistency seemed right. If you’ve made a few pumpkin pies, you’ll know the type of consistency to aim for. Otherwise I’d suggest aiming for equal parts potato to milk as the original recipe called for one can of sweet potato to each can of milk.

Add two eggs per can of milk, we doubled the recipe so had 2 cans of milk and 4 eggs.

Add spices to taste. Traditionally used spices would include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice – and never forget the love!

We do not have a pie pan, but instead split the mix between two small rectangle baking dishes. Seemed to cook up just the same as it would have with a pie pan. The original recipe called for oiling the dish and coating it with your choice of flour (they used almond flour), but this proved unnecessary for our pies. Plus we lacked a paleo friendly flour.

In a preheated oven, cook the pie at 425F for 15 minutes then lower temperature to 350F.

Cook another 35-45 minutes. Ours were ready at 40 minutes.

They were good warm, but also very tasty cold! Enjoy!

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A Sweet Potato Pie Birthday!

Last week was my 35th birthday. I had many ideas for how I would be spending the day, but ultimately a week long asthma flare narrowed down my choices.

Yet, that didn’t stop me from having a fantastic day. Ultimately I knew my day had to involve two things – I needed to be at the ocean and it there would have to be pie!

I'm 35 today!

The day began with a beautiful sunrise. It’s difficult to describe how incredible the sunrise can be here. We have an east facing apartment and some mornings I can hardly wait to get out of bed after glimpsing the magnificent colors in our window. I would have posted a picture, but my camera has yet to capture the clarity and brilliance of the dawn.

Breakfast, a bit of early birthday pie, and presents soon followed as we made sure to have a lazy morning. Then it was off to the beach!

This time we went to a small beach we frequent, called Lower Paia Park. Other than the occasional tour group, this seems to be more of a locals beach. The waves had a couple feet of swell, which looks daunting from the shore, are a blast to go swimming in!

Sometimes you can float over the waves, they simply raise you a few extra feet higher than you were before quickly passing on and leaving you in their wake. Other times you have to be quick to duck under them when they are extra large and break before reaching you.

These are the more exciting waves because each time they pass over you, its an amazing amount of energy running down your back and tugging at your feet while the surf surges toward land.

After a surprisingly long swim, we changed out of our swimwear and headed to a second beach – Ho’okipa. We were off to watch the surfers while having our picnic lunch.

Shortly after we found a spot to sit, a surfer chick came along to try surfing in front of our position. She was very new, likely has only tried surfing a couple times so far, and it made for some good entertainment. We quietly cheered her on each time she struggled to catch a wave, her legs wobbling under her, and hoping this time she would be able to stand on the board.

Surfers at Hookipa

During a lull in the surfing action, we ate our lunch and Jeremy sung me Happy Birthday. This is the first time in many years we’ve had a candle. They were never something we thought of while living in the tent and luckily an Aussie friend fixed the problem by sending one along as an extra secret gift just in time!

sweet potato pie unlit candle

The sweet potato pie was amazing. I’ve never had it before, though I’ve always been curious as to what it would taste like. Our sweet potatoes are purple on the inside which added to the festive nature of the pie.

After swimming, picnicking, and surf watching it was time to go home. After paleo meatloaf for dinner (and more pie of course!), we watched a couple movies that both turned out to be rather dull.

Bad movies didn’t change anything – it was still a fantastic day!


One Month Later…

What does a month in Maui look like? All of these pictures are from today, exactly one month since we landed here.

We wake up to greet the morning sky brightening off our lanai (porch).

Jeremy waters the sunflowers he planted less than three weeks ago.

Stepping into our slippers (Croc sandals) we head out for groceries and the beach.

Wait a minute! We forgot Jeremy's AAA Hawaii card, just in case!

Hop into our car, turn on the stereo for some reggae, and off we go!

We get to Mana Foods as they open. For $83 dollars we have all the organic, locally grown veggies and eggs we need for over a week. Our grassfed, organic beef will be purchased from a local guy tomorrow. Veggies in picture: 4 red leaf lettuces, 3 savoy cabbages, 3 broccoli, 2 cucumbers, 10 sweet Maui onions, 6 sweet potatoes, 1 jicama, 8 kolrabi, 1 bunch of rainbow kale, ginger, and 1 leek.

We tried a new beach this morning, Baldwin Park Beach just outside of Paia. It is only 20 minutes from home and was a great place for swimming.

I had to be a little careful at the beach as the sunburn at the top is from two days ago. Luckily my Mexican heritage has already turned my burn to tan!

After a short swim we headed home to some tasty fruit. Each day we take a small walk and pick fruit from the organic trees on the property where we live. Clockwise from top: 1 Papaya, 2 Limes, 2 Jamacian Passionfruit (lilikoi), 1 other type Lilikoi, 2 Guavas, and in center 1 Mango. Bananas, Oranges, and Avacados are also here but they are between ripe batches.

Time for a nap! Our bed is made of several blankets for padding, another for the pillow plus a coat, and a few to keep warm with while sleeping. It's basically the same type of makeshift bed we had used the last 10 years of tent life, but a bit nicer with a flat floor and fewer bugs. At some point we hope to have an organic bed, but for now it's not affordable.

After my brief nap, I had a bit more energy and made dinner for us. Paleo meatloaf with assorted veggies. Tasty!! For some strange reason I often day dreamed of meatloaf the last few years, though I had never made it in my life and ate it rarely as a kid. This was a fine way to end my adventures today with one last new experience in the kitchen.


Paleo Cookie Pancakes!

With the holidays upon us, seemed a good time to share our recipe for Paleo Pancakes. These are a bit different than many similar recipes online as we designed them to be high density protein with a good dose of veggies – basically, a balanced paleo meal for times without the ability to cook. Turned out, they are tasty anytime!

Better yet – they taste a bit like cookies!

They are a sugar free, gluten free, organic, ready to go meal.

I’m sure the hemp powder we use can be substituted for other nut flours, we just needed the big protein gains during cold times without cooking.

Paleo Cookie Pancakes:

1 cup mashed squash
1/2 cup hemp powder
1/2 cup walnut flour
1/2 cup coconut milk
6 eggs

Lots of cinnamon (to taste)
Light cloves
1 tbl ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Mix the hemp and walnut flour with the coconut milk. Mix in the mashed squash. Add eggs and mix well. Add spices or substitute for pumpkin pie spice.

It should have the consistency of thick pancake batter. Can add a few chopped nuts or berries to the batter for texture and bursts of flavor.

Scoop 1/4 cup of mixture onto a hot skillet or griddle, use plenty of butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking. Cook on a low heat, they burn a little easier than other pancakes.

Flip each pancake when the bottom side firms up, like normal pancakes. Cook some more until done!

These tend to be thin, but fluffy due to the egg content. Two pancakes each makes a filling meal for us. I did not write down how many the recipe makes, but its around 9-12 cakes.

We usually eat these plain, but for special occasions (like birthdays) we’ll put a little vanilla ice cream on top. Wow they are good!

It would be easy to substitute many of the ingredients. The squash helps balance the acidic nut flours, helps provide carbohydrates, and keeps the pancakes moist. Bananas, pumpkin, yams, etc would all work well in its place. There are different types of nut flours, you can experiment with finding the one that suits your taste buds the most.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!


Winter is on the Way

I had intended to post back here more frequently, but my health has been up and down, especially the last few weeks.

We have gotten our winter preparations well under way. October saw us finish changing out the leaky tarps over our tent – a project encompassing two years while letting the new tarps off gas. There has been a great deal of catching up on other small projects around camp. Mostly projects that were unable to be done during our steep decline in health over the last year.

October also saw the end to my six month long sinus infection. It took a combination of antibiotic and antifungal treatment simultaneously, along with a few other additions to help with sinus drainage. I saw an initial surge in energy after I was done with treatment, but this has ebbed somewhat as other influences have sapped my reserves.

A majority of our state medical coverage is ending on December 31st this year. This has changed some of our plans for winter prep as we have had to fit in dental appointments while we still can. The good news is that cavities I had a few years ago have healed themselves. For more information on remineralizing your teeth, a good start would be an article by Stephan Guyenet at Whole Health Source called, “Reversing Tooth Decay.”

Our main struggle right now is with different viruses making homes in us. It feels like each week sees us with a new cold or flu bug. This could be a good thing if it is caused by our bodies waking up to the viruses it is host for. Or it could be a bad thing as our immune system is too weak to fight any of them off. Only time will tell the story.

I do have to wonder how much of our slump the last several weeks was caused by too much birthday fun. With both mine and Jeremy’s birthday’s falling less than two weeks apart, it can get particularly festive around here. It could be that too much ice cream lead to another Candida yeast overgrowth in our guts. Having cut all sugars for three weeks is helping lower many of the symptoms I would attribute to this possibility.

The weather has suddenly shifted from a warm Indian summer into a cold Fall. At its coldest point last night, it was the same temperature as you would find in your refrigerator. Come December, we will be living in your freezer – next to the ice cream perhaps!

I am looking forwards to the colder weather, because it will kill off the molds that have been plaguing me since spring. On the other hand, it also brings smoke from chimneys and wood stoves that is aggravating our asthma and making breathing more difficult at times.

It is a rollercoaster time for us right now, each up comes with a down shortly after. I am thankful to have any up swings at all, as this was not happening most of the last year. With some luck and a good amount of hope, we will see next year bringing more ups than downs again.


Another Trip to the Wizard

Yesterday was this year’s trip to see our MCS/CFS specialist who’s office is about two hours away. (For last year’s trip see Back from the Wizard) The weather couldn’t have been better as it was one of our warmer days and lots of sunshine. A good day for a road trip!

A month ago Jeremy and I had our usual 10 vials of blood drawn each. It was a bit rougher trip than normal as we had forgotten to fast prior to the blood draw and opted to go home and wait another six hours before heading back in for the draw.

That day was a highlight of the blood sugar improvements we have seen since starting a paleo diet as eight hours total without a meal was rough, but very doable. A year ago this would not have even been considered possible.

Yesterday we received the results of those blood tests, covered our next stage of treatment, addressed my still lingering sinus infection, and tweaked a few things with our current treatment.

This is a very long, detailed post. Listed below is the quick version and all test results are at Test Results – Jeremy and Test Results – Lisa (or just go to top of my blog page for the tabs). Last year’s test results will be added there too for anyone who wants to compare them to this year.

Quick list of all changes:
– New antibiotic for sinus infection (possibly some acetylcysteine to nebulize too).
– Increase our b12, methylfolate, and milk thistle (detox herb).
– Start supplementing Vitamin K2.
– Keep Vitamin D the same for next six months and then retest.
– Take MTHF test.
– Jeremy increases his testosterone 50-100% and taurine.
– I begin supplementing thyroid, glycine, arginine, and methionine.

With a good amount of luck and hope, we should be seeing some improvements in our health soon. I only wish there was more to follow up with on Jeremy right now, but possibly time will shine more light on what needs healing for him too.

Sinus Infection
First thing we talked about, my recurring sinus infection. A couple weeks ago I noticed it coming back and restarted the same antibiotic as treatment. After two weeks, it briefly saw some improvement but is beginning to slowly worsen again. I will be starting a different antibiotic (also nebulized) early next week when it arrives in the mail from a compounding pharmacy in California. It should be noted that the first course of antibiotic treatment likely would have fully taken care of the sinus infection but some misread instructions led to it not being used properly. I suspect this new antibiotic will work very well.

Detox
We discussed how the treatments outlined at our last office visit had gone. He had suggested last October that we try a product to help promote detoxing but it had proved to strong even at 1/20th of a dose. Because of this, we are going to be trying an increase in an herb that has been helping us to detox instead.

Last year the plan had been to try the detox product and if it did not help much, then we would do a test panel which would help pinpoint where we are having trouble detoxing. However after looking over the current supplements we are using and our lifestyle (high avoidance of toxic triggers and really good diet) we all agreed that running such a panel would not likely require us to change much with our healing program even were it to be very informative.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love my doctor – him being ok with not running a test that would be out of pocket costs for us simply because he recognizes it would only give information but not change our treatment program is another big reason he’s such a great physician. I have not heard of very many doctors who are open enough to the needs of the patient to recognize saving money as one of those big needs.

MTHF
We will be running an insurance covered test of our MTHF process to see if it is working properly. This is the process by which methylfolate is used in the body for many important functions and if it is wonky can cause detox problems as well as a host of other symptoms. Meanwhile, we will slowly begin to increase our methylfolate supplementation.

Hydroxocobalamin shots (B12)
Starting with our b12 shot yesterday, we will be increasing each one by 50% – from 10,000 mcg each shot up to 15,000. I think I noticed a very large difference with the increase last night. A lot of energy after our trip instead of being totally wrung out as expected. It will take a few shots to see how well this works, but I suspect it is a very good change.

Vitamin K
One new blood test this time was to check our osteocalcin levels, aka Vitamin K. With the amount of Vitamin D we are supplementing with it is important to have enough Vitamin K to help ensure calcium is utilized properly in the body and not deposited in muscle or other tissues. Good catch by Dr. Buscher with this test as our results show we both are in need of supplementing Vitamin K. This was a little surprising actually as there should be ample K in our diet due to the amount of greens we eat which is why most doctors would not have bothered to test it. I tested below minimum and Jeremy right at minimum levels.

Vitamin D
We retested our Vitamin D levels again this year. They have both come up by a large amount to land us in the mid-normal range instead of the very low (Jeremy) to below minimum (me) that they tested at last year. Even so, we will still be on our current dosage of Vitamin D until they raise up into the range Dr. Buscher has found to be more optimal. This will be retested in six months as it is entering a more fine tuning area of supplementing.

Sex Hormones
Another test of our hormones this year showed some positive improvements for both of us. Jeremy is still too low on testosterone but he did see a 30% increase in levels. He will be having his supplemental testosterone raised to help further. Its a sticky situation to take supplemental testosterone as its one of those things you will be on the rest of your life once you start it. I did bring this up as a concern with increasing his dosage, but we all agreed that with how low his is, the time for options to raise it without medication have passed.

I saw positive improvement for my progesterone levels which had been fairly low last year. Though I’m now mid-range and could conceivably cease supplementing with progesterone drops, I’ll be continuing on them as there is still signs that they are needed.

As a side note – though we have been supplementing with hormones for the last 11 months, I also think our diet change has contributed to the improvements. Certainly removing phytoestrogens from the diet (soy) would be of tremendous help when trying to rebalance hormones.

Thyroid and DHEA
Next up is our thyroid and DHEA panels. Jeremy saw little or no change with both of these, however for me they both decreased over the last year. While last year there was the option of not addressing the thyroid because it was in the low normal range, this year it was pretty much only a question of what I would be supplementing it with. I had dropped another 27 points this year which lands me at 247. The reference range is 230-420 and very often people experience symptoms of low thyroid (hypothyroidism) when in the low normal range. I’d say I am now low, low normal.

When I was 15, I became ill and the doctor could not find the cause. After a specialist ran a lot of tests (enough blood drawn as to make me nearly pass out), he decided to take a chance and treat me for hypothyroidism despite me being in the low normal range. It worked almost immediately. A few years later I was able to cease thyroid medication but always kept in mind that I’m one of those who can have devastating symptoms as a low normal.

Last year I tried supplementing with Synthroid to see if it helped some of my symptoms but it had a huge, not good reaction in me. This year I will be trying the natural thyroid supplement, Armour, as it has recently come back on the market. It has a lot of negative reviews for it with the new formulation, but I have read many are able to crush it and add a bit of sugar/honey to make it fully absorbable again, thereby alleviating the problems with the new formulation.

My lowering of DHEA will be addressed after we tackle the thyroid and anything that arises from trying to address it.

Amino Acids Profile
Lastly I’ll cover our biggest new test of the year – an amino acid profile that was all out of pocket expense. We will see what happens by treating the things shown low on this profile, but I already feel the money was well spent.

This is the first time in 9 years of illness that Jeremy and I had significantly different test results. Granted my lowering thyroid does fall into this category as well, but it is not as dramatic a difference as what we saw on the amino acid profile.

It has been a nightmare to try and convince new doctors or officials we have had to deal with, that two people can both have CFS/MCS and similar test results. The amount of skepticism and outright disbelief that we are ill but instead just faking has been enormous. To finally have differencing test results, while meaning only one of us is good, it still brings much satisfaction to my heart to be able to point to something being different.

It is also interesting from the perspective of wondering – what finally changed after nine years to give us different results? Maybe we simply weren’t looking in the right places all that time…

This last profile measured the quantity of amino acids in our blood at a fasted state. It is absolutely amazing the impact amino acids have in bodily processes. Many amino acids can be made by the body or its organisms (bacteria in our gut), but some we can only obtain through outside sources – namely food.

The paleo diet helps with this because meat is a very good source for these essential aminos which we only get through food. Having low amino acids can be a sign of poor digestion, poor diet, or areas where the body is having trouble converting from one thing to another.

Jeremy and I tested nearly opposite each other on almost this entire test. As I said, this is the first time we have ever showed almost any difference, let alone such a dramatic difference in a test.

To go over each test thoroughly would be far too much information to add to this already long post, but there is now a tab of all the test results for anyone who wants to see more detail.

In a nutshell, Jeremy has some unbalanced ratios of some of his aminos but the general levels of everything except taurine are pretty good. Oddly, taurine is the only amino acid we were currently supplementing which makes it a little surprising to find his levels low.

On the other hand, my levels of almost everything were very low. This is also surprising given how much protein I eat every day. It is likely part of the problem has to do with poor digestion or absorption from my intestines, as well as problems detoxing. The MTHF panel we are doing next should help provide some answers to some of my low amino levels.

Of note, my “Urea Cycle and Ammonia Detoxification” (numbers 31-36 on test results) are all pretty much bottomed out. This could certainly be cause for some of my continual brain fog along with some other symptoms. Dr. Buscher wanted to see the results of the MTHF panel before treating this area due to the influence an imbalanced methylfolate process could have on this detox system.

To sum up this test, Jeremy will be increasing his taurine supplementation. I will begin supplementing with glycine, arginine, and methionine to start and more can be added later. Dr. Buscher will be researching what impact our imbalanced ratios of aminios are having on us and if they need to be treated, I think our test results threw him a bit of a curve ball on this aspect, especially Jeremy’s. Lastly, we will reevaluate these tests again in light of the findings of the MTHF panel we will be doing sometime soon.

XMRV
Lots of changes and lots of places treatment can lead. We never brought up XMRV (soon possibly renamed to HGRV) or Dr. Buscher’s impressions of its potential to be a key role in CFS. As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done in stabilizing some key body systems before we can even consider looking into what for now are still experimental therapies.


A New Chapter Begins

My life has been led by far too much fear.

If you had asked me ten years ago while I was still healthy, I would have been very sure that fear played little role in the direction life was taking.

I would have been wrong.

Over the last several months I have been thinking about fear’s role in my life. Its not just the fear I felt every time I stepped out into the darkness at night alone the last eight years, but also the fear that has unknowingly held me back from jumping in and living life instead of life living me.

I see fear in my choice to stop following veterinary medicine after a negative experience while observing a surgery on a large dog in my 2nd year of college.

There was a great deal of hidden fear that caused me to be content with stoner friends who rarely did anything but sit around and have a good time.

In fact, an amazing amount of my life decisions have been chosen based on an unknown fear of failure. Much easier to set expectations of myself lower so that I can be the superstar I want to perceive instead of merely being average at something I put a lot of effort into.

I have done a lot of really great and brave things in life, but there was so much more I would have done had fear not gotten in my way. I wish I had known this years ago, before illness took away huge chunks of my ability to live and follow my dreams.

After becoming ill, my fear took on a whole new dimension as there was suddenly a tremendous amount of things to be afraid of. Overnight I had to become hyper vigilant of toxic exposures which could severely impact my quickly diminishing health.

These could be found hiding in plain sight on any stranger I passed on the street, in any building I entered, any street I walked down, a shift in the breeze, a box in the mail, and many other places. Perfumes, fabric softener, car exhaust, fresh paint, solvents, pesticides… so many things and more to be wary of.

Suddenly everything I knew about being safe in the world was turned completely upside down and every where I turned was another dangerous situation that had to be avoided or minimized at all costs.

My world had become a battlefield in a hostile and foreign land.

Even at home I was not necessarily safe. Living in a tent with nylon walls does not offer much protection against anything. I found myself fearing mountain lions, bears, trees falling on our tent in a wind storm, heavy snow storms, power outages, people not respecting our privacy and strolling into camp at their leisure, shifts in wind bringing toxic fumes from neighbors into our tent, neighbor dogs rooting through our stuff, and raccoons doing the same. Worse yet was all of the above, but in the dark where I could not see it coming.

evil raccoon

"My evil plan is working."

This fear had made me unable to leave the comfort of our lighted tent at night without Jeremy nearby, even for a simple trip to our ‘facilities’ because it meant being completely enclosed in the dark with nothing but my flashlight to see by. I used to go backpacking alone overnight and now I could not even tolerate 1 minute in the dark by myself without a panic attack overwhelming me.

Then a few months ago something began to change.

At first it changed so slowly I didn’t even see a difference until last month. I was up at our refrigerator area (about 70 ft from the tent) and using my sinus medication. It takes about 20 minutes for the whole process and it was quickly getting dark. Oddly, this hardly bothered me at all. I stayed the whole time and then calmly walked back to the tent. First time in eight years I have been able to do anything like this.

Over the last few weeks I have even gotten to the point where I have wanted a little quiet “me time” some evenings. I walk up to the chair we have by the fridge, have a seat, and just relax for a while – after dark. Critters rustling around in the bushes, breeze making strange noises in the trees – none of it freaks me out anymore.

When I do get spooked a bit, it is a pretty simple matter to calm my mind and body back down to a place where I can continue to enjoy the time spent alone, in the dark with only my flashlight. I have actually turned it off a couple of times. Only briefly off, but I still had the courage to do it.

Almost exactly what it looks like 20ft from our tent at night.

I am seeing this same shift away from fear in many aspects of my life and how I look at situations. Such as making a very important and empowering choice to stop fighting my situation and working with it instead.

To fully explain what brought about this change would take at least one more article, very possibly more. In summary, I have been utilizing alternative mind/body healing practices for nearly a year, specifically EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Reiki. It is these practices to which I attribute many of these massive changes.

I have not spoken of these things here in my blog because of my fear that at even merely mentioning I am finding healing in alternative means, it would damage my credibility and the degree my chronic illness is taken seriously.

Having one’s integrity and mental soundness questioned goes hand in hand with a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was reticent to add to that by opening the door for further skepticism with alternative therapies. It appears that in writing this article, I am again seeing the same shift from a fear led life to one I lead on my own.

Too much of my life has been governed by fear. That chapter is now closing and it is time for me to write the next chapter in my own words.