What Has Made the Biggest Difference? {reader question}

One of the questions I receive most often is:

“What dietary changes have you made that helped you the most? Or what changes did you make first? It seems so overwhelming to make all of these changes at once, so I’m looking to just focus on the things that will have greatest impact on my health first.”

It’s hard to know exactly what changes made the biggest impact on my health as our diets changed drastically within about 6 months, but there were some definite big ones in the midst of everything that I really think helped the most. And even now, years later, these are the ones that I notice have an impact on my body if I stray to far away from what my diet should be.

1. Cutting out processed foods – In the few months before I really found the ‘traditional’ food movement, I began trying to save money by making more foods from scratch. We had recently built a house and Todd’s hours at work were cut to where he was no longer getting overtime. this meant crunch time on the budget and I began making my own bread and cooking at home as much as I could. Granted – it wasn’t in the same “cook from scratch” method I do now, but it was a huge step in the right direction. We also stopped eating out as much.

2. Making the switch to raw milk – When my son weaned at 16 months old, we found that he -under no circumstances- could tolerate the whole milk I was buying at the store! Constipation, severe diaper rashes, and major gas caused us to take a look at what he was drinking, though it took us a couple of weeks to figure it out. (poor baby) But when talking with a good friend, she mentioned that maybe it was the milk (she had done research to help her daughters ear infections) so I began to google and read about the possibility of a milk issue. We soon tried goat milk from the store and his issues went away within a day or two! But store-bought goat milk available was ultra pasteurized and I knew we didn’t want to go that route, so raw milk became my new focus of research. Since the switch was going to be for my young son, I spent a few months looking at safety data, nutritional data, and talking to people who consumed raw milk. It was then that I learned how much better it was for all of us to drink whole/raw milk that the pasteurized skim milk I had bought for Todd and I. In the end we made the switch and won’t ever go back! I think the biggest reason this had a positive affect on my system was because I was finally getting in such good fats – before we made the switch I had always been on a fairly low-fat diet.

3. I started to eat fat – I grew up under the impression that to lose or maintain weight, one must be on a low-fat diet and I followed this into my adult life. When I was diagnosed with high cholesterol at 23 I went on a strict no-fat diet to get it under control. Once I learned how beneficial fats were to my body, I tossed out my fat-free margarine sprays (blech!) low-fat cheese, and fat-free dressings. Instead I opted to use butter, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil. I soon found that my skin wasn’t near as dry as it normally was!

4. Cutting out sugar – one of the most difficult changes I made was to cut sugar out of my diet. To this day I’m still not perfect, but my sugar consumption is drastically different than it was 6 years ago! Instead of finishing off each meal with something sweet and snacking on sweet treats during the day, I find myself more satisfied with the natural sweets I make as an indulgence once a week or two. Looking back, I was eating so much sugar I have no idea how I ever thought my endocrine system could function. Though back then I had no idea that me eating so many sweets was causing such a hormone imbalance…… Even now, when I find myself resorting to old ways, I can feel my health deteriorating as my consumption of sugar increases.

While just those four changes seem like a lot, I also made those changes within about 6 months times – it was not an overnight thing! (ok – the raw milk was, but that was an easy step to make once the decision was made)


I also asked our friends on the Naturally Knocked Up facebook page what their experience was and here’s what they had to say:

  • Raw milk! Switching to raw milk made a HUGE and very obvious positive change to our health. We never got sick, for one thing!
  • Biggest changes in my health are attributed to what I eat, or really what I DON’T eat. I’ve cut a LOT out, the largest being all processed foods, most restaurants, all sugar (HFCS, even cane sugar), for me cow’s milk because even organic plays with my hormones, and wheat. Second biggest change would be approaching my health by looking at deficiencies and what diet changes/supplements can fix them.
  • The obvious, trying to cut out refined sugar and eat more fresh fruits and veggies – for me, that especially means fruits and veggies with vit b to assist in lengthening my luteal phase. Cutting down caffeine intake as well.
  • Going gluten free made the biggest impact for me!
  • After 14 years of being a vegetarian and eating soy products I have stopped. I am now eating chicken, turkey and fish. My husband and I have been reading books such as ‘Eat Fat, Lose Fat’, ‘Know Your Fats’, ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’, …’Traditional Foods’, etc. We have started drinking raw milk, eating raw cheese and have cut out carbohydrates. We have been trying to get pregnant for almost 2 years now. 1 1/2 years of that I was on the soy products. I’m praying these changes will help increase our chances of conceiving… God willing. But all in all these changes have been so positive. I feel less aggressive and more feminine and submissive towards my husband. Not to mention just being happier in general.
  • Cutting out fake fats and replacing with good ones- I can’t believe how great I felt with just this change! :) {Health Home Happiness}
  • Consuming more raw fruits and vegetables (organic) makes a huge difference. And raw, organic grass-fed MILK actually makes me feel INCREDIBLE. I also love squeezing fresh lemon juice into my water (rather than having juice or soda which are usually too high in sugar). :) More protein, more fiber, more RAW foods always makes me feel the best. And try raw honey instead of sugar. Sea salt instead of table salt. :)
  • Not eating out as much and preparing a weekly meal plan
  • cutting caffeine down to 1 cup a day was HUGE. I also drastically reduced sugar, alcohol, and carbs at the same time but I’m fairly certain it was the caffeine. (not sure how it affected fertility as I’m not going for that LOL – but I have so much more energy now and am sleeping way better.) {The Local Cook}
  • Gluten removal, hands down. Although I think homeopathy has helped me a lot too.
  • I became less moody when I stopped eating sugar (processed sugar, juices, baked goods etc.). Although I’m not perfect at staying away from it, I differently can tell the difference when I do tiny bit. I think removing Gluten from my diet as well has also helped.
  • avoiding sugar
  • Changing to the use of all natural whole sugars, cooking only with oils like coconut oil, and trying to incorporate as much homemade foods as possible and cutting out processed foods. No processed foods saves on the budget too. {Our Peaceful Home}
  • Cutting sugar. Making real food at home. Discovering I have MTHFR C677T Homozygous gene variation…therefore adding a super dose of methylfolate supplement, plus special versions of b6 & b12 –> Discovering energy that I have never had in my entire life once I added those supplements. I haven’t been able to get out of bed since I was 5 years old…suddenly, I barely need any sleep.

So what dietary changes have made the biggest impact on your health?

Grain Free Recipes E-Book

Eating grain free and gluten free foods seems all the rage now, but the fact is that not only do some people need to eat this way because of food sensitivities, the recipes themselves lend them to many different diets.

Including a fertility diet.

The reason being, is that you’re taking out many foods that may trigger immune responses within the body or may be hard to digest causing mal-absorption of nutrients.

Kate, one of my friends and fellow bloggers is releasing her newest e-book today, “Against the Grain” Delicious Recipes for the Whole Food and Grain Free Diet. In it she includes over 30 recipes, 55 pages of information in all. Most of her recipes are dairy free as well and “GAPS friendly”.

This book sells for just $7.95, but Kate also has some great sales throughout the first week that you’ll want to pay attention to:

40% off the 40 books : use the code GRAINFREE40 (cost after code – $4.77)

30% off until Tuesday night : use the code GRAINFREE30 (cost after code – $5.57)

25% off until Friday night : use the code GRAINFREE25 (cost after code – $5.96)

And even if you are not grain free for a specific reason, I always carry the thought that we should learn how to cook outside our comfort zones a bit more. In my own personal experience, it’s helped me add variety to my meals and has been a great way for me to introduce new foods to my family.

Do You Have a Heart for Cooking?

With all this talk we’ve done over the last few months about different food sensitivities and the problems that wheat and gluten can cause in a body intolerant to it, I knew I had to contact Sarah from Heart of Cooking! You see, Sarah is well versed in cooking meals that are free from common allergens like wheat, dairy, soy, and eggs. She also offers a fabulous meal planning service that comes with recipes for each day!

But before, we get into the giveaway (yes – a giveaway!!), I’ll let Sarah tell you a bit about herself and Heart of Cooking:

Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’ve been blogging at Heart of Cooking since November of 2008.

Eating whole foods didn’t really happen all at once for me.  It’s been a process of discovering what kinds of foods really nourish human beings and what kind of diet really supports me.  All of this has really taken some time to learn and discover – as in, the past 15 or so years of my life.  So I’ve gradually moved from eating at Panda Express and other fast-food chains to eating an almost 100% organic, whole-food, local, grass-fed, pasture raised, chemical-free, and allergen free diet.

For me, eating whole foods and sticking to my allergen-free diet is like my life-line.  At this point, I am not sure what I would do if I was stuck in a room and forced to eat food containing my food allergens, chemicals and preservatives.  I would probably have a return of a host of symptoms running from constipation to manic depression.  I would feel hopeless and probably want to die.  I would probably get angry for no good reason and blame the world for all my troubles.

So although it’s taken some time to figure out, the reason why I eat whole foods and stick to my allergen-free diet is because I know what will happen if I don’t.  Life is too good and too precious to waste feeling horrible about myself.  And I can simply do so much more good in the world when I feel good – body, mind and soul.

Presently, I follow a grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free diet called GAPS but I also don’t eat eggs or very much honey or fruit.  The GAPS diet stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and it’s based on the Specific Carbohydrate diet.  I’ve been following it for a year now and feel better than I ever have in my life.  The idea is that most people follow the diet for 2 years and then they can start to eat some grains and starches.  However, if I do go back to a more “normal” diet, I plan on following traditional methods of soaking and sprouting grains before eating them.

You can read more about the GAPS diet here:  www.gapsdiet.com

I have always felt a desire in my heart to contribute something positive and helpful to society.  I believe we all have something to share and contribute, even if it takes some time to discover it.  I believe that is how the world is meant to work – we each discover our God-given talents and then somehow put them to work to help others.  It doesn’t happen over night but it’s a wonderful journey to be on!

And now that we know a bit more about Sarah, let me tell you about the Menu Planners she offers. It’s really one of the best ways for someone to get support when life keeps them to busy to eat well, or they feel overwhelmed while trying to make changes to compensate for food allergies. Don’t worry – she’s got you covered! I’m still amazed at all the different plans she offers, including –

Meat and Seafood Diets:

  • Wheat-free and Gluten-free Menu Planner
  • Gluten-free and Casein-free Menu Planner
  • Dairy-free Menu Planner
  • Wheat/Gluten-free, Dairy-free and Soy-free Menu Planner
  • Nightshade, Wheat/Gluten-free, Dairy-free and Soy-Free Menu Planner
  • GAPS/Paleo and Limited Diet Menu Planner
  • Egg-FREE GAPS/Paleo and Limited Diet Menu Planner
  • Thanksgiving Limited Diet Menu Planner
  • Holiday Limited Diet Menu Planner

Coming soon:

  • Egg-free, Dairy-free and Gluten-Free
  • Nut-free, Legume-free, Wheat/Gluten-free and Dairy-free
  • Kid-Friendly menus for GF and CF diets

Seafood/Vegetarian Diets

  • Wheat-free and Gluten-free
  • Dairy Free
  • Wheat/Gluten-free and Dairy-Free
  • Wheat/Gluten-free, Dairy-free and Soy-free
  • Nightshade-free, Wheat/Gluten-free, Dairy-free and Soy-free – Available Now!
  • Valentine’s Day or Special Event Menu Planner
  • Just Desserts for Limited Diets e-book

Now – before I ever tell you all about a product or service, I always test it out first, and Sarah sent me the egg free GAPS/Paleo week of menus. And let me tell you……I was blown away!


I was expecting a few pages of consisting of a menu and then the recipes. What I received was so much more! In fact twenty-two pages of more! Sarah suggests within the menu plan to print it out – I totally agree. It’s much easier to have something that you can lay out in front of you.

Once I had it all printed out, I sat down on my couch and read it over. I absolutely loved the sections on organizing meals, necessary kitchen equipment, and even the how-to’s on soaking nuts and making bone broth.

The meals themselves are wonderfully planned and include substitutions and even kid-friendly tips for kids who have a picky palate! But the very, very best feature is the thorough shopping list. Not only complete with each ingredient you’ll need – but how much you’ll need as well.


Even more awesome for you….. Sarah is going to giveaway a meal plan to one of my lucky readers! To enter, please go check out Heart of Cooking and let me know in the comments here on this post what benefit of the meal plans that you find most appealing.

*open until Saturday, Oct. 23 at midnight

**also, I am an affiliate of Heart of Cooking, which means that should you buy one of her month-long menu plans, I receive a small commission. I am only affiliates of products I truly believe in and I thank you for supporting this site!

Can you Prevent Gluten (food) Intolerance?

I was asked a couple weeks ago if there was anything we could do to prevent a gluten intolerance. This especially comes into play when the parent has problems digesting gluten and they want to prevent the same issues in their young children. Dr. Tom O’Bryan has already told us that once your body has begun producing antibodies to gluten, it always will. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, I’ll rephrase an interesting point he made.

Basically……you have to think of gluten antibodies the same way you look at the antibodies that are created from vaccines. The premise of a vaccine (whether or not you agree with the issue!) is that by injecting a virus into the body, our body then learns how to protect us from it in larger amounts by making antibodies. These antibodies travel around seeking out the virus. When the virus is gone, the antibodies go dormant, just waiting for the chance to attack again. When we’re exposed to the virus, these antibodies activate again (supposedly) to destroy the virus before it makes us sick. It’s the same with gluten. Once the proteins get into our system and antibodies are created against it, it starts to attack our system. One of the biggest issues with this, is that the structure of these proteins look very similar to the structure of some of our own cells, so the gluten antibodies also attack our own cells. This is also known as auto-immune. Anyways….even if/when we cut out gluten entirely, we still carry around these antibodies, ready to attack at a moments notice. In this train of thought, one can never get over gluten intolerance.

But how does Gluten get into the Bloodstream?

When we are born, our intestines are actually porous. Colostrum from mothers, along with the healthy bacteria they pass on to baby, helps to fill these holes. When circumstance are not what we want them to be, these holes can be left open, leaving a damaged or ‘leaky’ gut. This can even happen beyond infancy with the very common junk food diets, consumption of antibiotics, and the over pasteurization of foods.

Is Prevention Possible?

I’m not an expert, and I don’t really know how much we can do/should do to prevent gluten intolerance, but I do know there are a few things that can help.

  1. It begins before and during pregnancy with the mother following a nourishing, whole foods diet that is low in sugar and high in cultured or fermented foods. Doing so will help to make sure the mother is able to pass on a wonderful array of beneficial bacteria to her baby. Antibiotics should also be avoided as much as possible!! (not only does this cause the death of all beneficial bacteria, but it also causes the proliferation of yeast which can lead to many different health issues)
  2. Exclusively breastfeeding a baby helps to fill all of those little holes in the immature gut, thus lessening the risk of dealing with a leaky gut from a young age. Any exposure to another food source, especially within the first few months, can drastically change the final formations of the baby’s digestive system as well as how the baby absorbs nutrients. During this phase, mothers need to make sure they follow the same diet as during pregnancy to make sure the baby is constantly supplied with a balanced bacterial system. If the mother or someone else in the direct family has celiac or issues with gluten, it would also be best for mother to abstain from gluten until the baby is older, to allow that barrier to form without the presence of gluten in the body.
  3. Practice baby-led feeding and allow babies to eat naturally and when they are ready. Using baby foods is a fairly new invention, especially the practice of using grains (rice cereal, oatmeal, etc) as first foods. Allowing babies to begin to eat at a stage when they are ready is important because baby’s follow their bodies signals, and if we follow those signals along with baby, they’ll be eating what they need, when they need it. Serve the foods you eat (minus grains and sugars), when baby seems to want them. Avoid hard to digest foods like grains until the baby is at least a year old, and keep them on a low grain, low gluten diet. Introduce gluten only when you know the baby is healthy! If they show any signs of lowered immune response, I personally would not feel comfortable allowing it into the diet when say a direct family member had celiac or gluten intolerance. (lowered immune response can include chronic illness, ear infections, eczema, rash,
  4. Stay away from antibiotics whenever possible. Often over prescribed for ailments that would heal themselves naturally, or respond to other treatment, they destroy the beneficial bacteria within the gut, allowing for more damage. If you do have to take a round of antibiotics, make sure to boost your probiotic supply with supplements.
  5. Consume a diet high in cultured and probiotic foods (yogurt, kefir, etc) along with wonderfully nourishing foods like bone broth. Making sure to eat only grains (wheat, oats, rice, etc) that have been properly soaked and prepared is also important as they are much easier for the body to digest and this may help prevent damage to the gut.
  6. Avoid foods treated with pesticides and preservatives, food colorings, chemicals, and flavors along with diets high in sweets. The modern diet destroys our guts and allows the open passageways for gluten, and other very small food particles, to pass through.

Above all else, I feel it’s beneficial to do something rather than nothing if only to have a chance for prevention. In fact, this is the very situation I am in with my family, as my husband has a gluten intolerance (has not been tested for celiac, but he is sick when he eats gluten, fine when he doesn’t) and my son shows symptoms, but my daughter does not. She currently is on a gluten free diet along with the rest of us, if not for anything more than to try our best at prevention.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject! Can we prevent gluten intolerance or even celiac?

Do you have a post you’ve written this week about celiac/gluten intolerance, going gluten free, or have you featured a new gluten free recipe? Share your link with us below! Make sure you leave your permalink (not your homepage url) and leave a link to this post within your own so your readers can find us back here as well.


Gluten-free Breakfast: what do you eat?

Since going gluten free (and over the last couple of months, grain free – I’ll try to get to that before I take off for vacation next week!) I get asked a lot…..

“What do you eat?!”

Here in the U.S., as well as in a lot of other industrialized countries, bread has become our staple. It’s become easier to make with the availability of dry yeasts and we can make it in excess because of the mass amounts of wheat grown each year. Going even one meal without bread is almost unfathomable for people! I know here in my own home we regularly ate wheat with each meal, even while on a Nourishing Traditions style diet.

As we’ve made our way away from this practice, it’s become easier to consume larger amounts of nutrient dense foods.

Instead of beginning to consume large amounts of other grains (like the common gluten free alternatives) we’ve decided to branch out and away from grains, which has severely decreased the amount of ‘normal’ American foods that we consume. One of the reasons we’ve done so is that GF options are often much less healthy than the wheat versions; full of extra sugar and stabilizers. It wasn’t something we made a quick decision about by no means, and I had to purposefully lower our consumption before we took the final leap.

One of the first steps I took was to turn our breakfasts into a nutrient dense powerhouse, leaving the rest of our meals alone. In doing so, it made the transition much easier not only for me (the one who prepares all the food) but for my family as well (so that they could adjust their taste buds).

Our favorite breakfasts:

  • Eggs! These are routinely turned into scrambled eggs, omelets (great way to get veggies in early in the day), fritattas, crustless quiches, and fried eggs. On the weekends we serve them with bacon or sausage and a bit of pan fried potatoes.
  • Yogurt! We love it especially with some berries and a touch of honey. A bit of nut granola is great as well.
  • Smoothies! What a great way to get in even more nutritious foods! We blend our fruit and yogurt together with a bit of raw milk, add a raw egg yolk or two, maybe a bit of melted coconut oil, some almonds, and it’s an entire meal in a glass – satisfying for hours.
  • Leftovers! We seriously need to move away from the thought that breakfast has to be sweet. Not every culture consumes copious amounts of sugary cereal, syrup on pancakes, and muffins and donuts for breakfast. Once you realize this, it gets easier to consume ‘non’ breakfast foods – and I don’t just mean pizza for breakfast either!
  • Salad! Really. It’s a great way to get extra greens and veggies into your diet, you just have to overcome the sweet = breakfast mentality.

Eating free from gluten (and even free from grains) in no way means you’re deprived of food! In the best sense, you’re opening yourself up to different, more nutritious fare.

I started with breakfasts because it IS the most important meal of the day. It’s the meal that breaks our ‘fast’ and a meal I wanted to make sure was not going to be starting the roller coaster effect  of insulin spikes throughout the day. It’s important that I feed my family lots of protein (and even fat) to keep up satisfied and satiated throughout the morning.

So what do you routinely eat for breakfast that is naturally gluten free?

Extra Sources for Breakfast:

Do you have a post about going gluten/wheat free? Or maybe a recent recipe? Link it up below!

Also – if you’re looking to figure out the whole ‘grains thing’, Katie is holding a Test Your Grains Challenge!