** If you’d like to read a more extensive health story, scroll down past the “short” version.**
**If you’d like to read about the recipes here (Is there gluten or dairy?) click here. ***
MY JOURNEY IN SHORT
So, the person behind Organically Mandy? That’s me. My name is Amanda, but I grew up with my family calling me Mandy. I’m getting back to the roots of our health with food and food preparation in this blog, thus I found it fitting that I also use the name that gave me roots. I’m a wife and a mother of two small children living just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota with our two collie dogs. I develop all the recipes here, photograph and chat about them and life.
I’m a biomedical engineer by trade and have always had a fascination with the human body. I am a proud nerd. When I saw my health ailments stacking up in 2010 – Gut Dysbiosis a.k.a. leaky gut, Candida overgrowth, IBS, acne, hair loss, brain fog, massive fatigue, Raynaud’s Syndrome and insulin resistance – I knew I needed to make a change in my diet. I started out going gluten and dairy-free, but when things didn’t improve all the way and my kids (who were born in 2012 and 2014) had eczema, keratosis pilaris, thrush, and digestive issues, I knew I needed to take a step further. This meant removing gluten-free grains and legumes for a time being, drinking a lot of bone broth and eating fermented foods. When I reintroduced the grains (still gluten-free) and legumes, it was in moderation and with traditional preparation methods (i.e. soaking and sprouting).
Our diets don’t fit under a given label and that’s OK. I prefer it actually.
Through all of this there have been ups and downs, but more ups than downs. I have come to love food deeply and love my kitchen. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but after I made dietary changes and went searching for recipes in old cookbooks and online, I found that I was nearly always, if not always, changing them. I then gave up the search all together and created my own recipes, which was so healing and fulfilling for me. Organically Mandy was born a year or so later.
I am passionate about food that promotes health, I am not passionate about judgement and eating dogmas. This site is devoted to deliciously simple, nourishing (supports health), clean (unprocessed), and nutrient-dense food (cooked with vitamin and mineral content in mind as well as digestibility).
I eat with the seasons as much as possible, choose local organic produce from small farms, support meat farmers that raise animals humanely and with room to roam. Voting with my purchasing dollar every day is something I feel very strongly about.
However, though I am very passionate about supporting organic farmers and eating a lot of produce, we are all walking our own paths, and I have zero judgement towards other’s choices. Whether you are starting out on a new journey toward health or simply wanting to dabble with a few healthy meals a week, have compassion and love for yourself first. I have witnessed stress completely derail my health when my eating lifestyle didn’t change one bit. Yes, there are foods that support health and vitality more than others, but enjoyment with friends and family should be paramount. That looks different for everyone. No judgement, only support here.
So, that’s me, not really a “short” version I suppose. But, I would much prefer to hear about you! Please send me a message, comment on the recipes, spread the word on social media, and, most importantly, share great food with your family and friends while sitting around a table together. For time around the table talking and sharing a meal is some of the best time spent. Together is a good place to be.
To your health.
** If you’d like to read a more extensive health story, scroll down.**
**If you’d like to read about the recipes here (Is there gluten or dairy?) click here. ***
My family – Me, my son who I call “Mr. News”, my husband, and my daughter who I call my little “Sweet Potato”.
MY JOURNEY – THE LONG VERSION
Like so many people nowadays I had been sick for a long time. In my twenties I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Raynaud’s Syndrome. I had horrible acne (worse than my teenage years), hair loss, horribly irregular menstrual cycles and mood swings just to name a few. I considered these issues common and minor annoyances in my life. I thought back then that I ate well, but all that meant was I stayed away from fast food. In actuality, I was horribly addicted to sugar and refined carbohydrates.
All of this changed after I got married in 2010 (I was 30) and my husband and I thought about starting a family. There’s nothing like a baby that makes you want to change. I knew, deep down, that I had too many “common” problems, that they were all connected and I needed to heal before nourishing a baby for 40 weeks. I wanted to get to the root of the problem.
I didn’t want a cream or a prescription for what ailed me anymore, so I sought out the help of a Functional Medicine doctor. My doctor helped me realize that acne was not just a nettlesome exterior condition. It was a sign of internal inflammation. And having digestion issues all the time is not normal and not OK. It was also a sign of inflammation. I was diagnosed with Gut Dysbiosis (a.k.a. leaky gut) and severe Candida overgrowth (which explained soooo much!). To put it simply, I didn’t have enough good bacteria in my gut. My gut was full of yeast and the pathogenic bacteria that causes problems. (Read about how that happens here via the Paleo Mom.) Because of the disarray, my intestinal lining had larger than normal gaps in between its cell walls, which created a heightened immune response every time I ate certain kinds of foods (primarily, but not exclusively, dairy and gluten for me). It was the reason I was having all the issues I was having. He started me on the path to healing (calm down at that inflammation) and wellness by the power of food.
To be honest, and in hindsight, I didn’t have enough time to heal before I got pregnant. Though I adopted some of the positive changes initiated by the functional medicine doctor, I didn’t go far enough, meaning I needed to go grain-free to heal. This six-year journey has been full of ups and downs, successes and major setbacks. After becoming a new mom in 2012 to my daughter, I lost my way with eating the right foods and my health took a downward turn again. And shortly after my son was born in 2014, I had another wake-up call. My son had eczema, thrush and digestive issues and my daughter was also having digestive issues. It became obvious to me that even though I had made positive changes, I had not gone far enough.
So back in 2014, shortly after my son was born, I made an even more intense transformation. I went on the GAPS diet for 6 months to heal myself and my son (still nursing exclusively). (For those of you who are knew to GAPS, it’s an elimination diet focused heavily on adding bone broth and beneficial bacteria to body to heal and seal the gut.) Now in 2016, the three of us are all healthier than we’ve ever been. I feel like I’m finally feeling how I meant to feel. I don’t think about what’s wrong, I just LIVE!! And all of my kid’s “common” health issues have resolved. (I have such a mama bear response to pediatricians, and doctors for that matter, using that word.)
The major thing I have learned through all of this is that listening to your own body and being it’s advocate is so important. It is your home. When you are providing nourishing foods that work for your body, your mood is improved, energy is heightened, sleep is more restful and rejuvenating, and overall health is improved.
I’m not saying that food cures all (and I’m not in a medical position to say that anyway), but I believe from my own personal experience that you must start with a whole food, clean diet that is anti-inflammatory for your body (which looks different for different people) before really assessing your health situation. For many that are sick, eliminating vast amounts of certain “healthy” foods (all grains, legumes, nightshades, etc.) has to be done in order to finally allow their body to heal. It can be a complicated journey and there are amazing health professionals (Naturopaths, Functional Medicine Doctors, etc.) out there that can guide you on your path. Everyone is different. I’m here to help answer the question, “What do I make for dinner?!?”
My eating lifestyle is enjoying the following foods. I honestly do not feel deprived of anything. I’m being completely honest. When you feel horrible and then feel wonderful all because of the food you’re eating, you’ll never want to eat the food that doesn’t support a healthy state again. It is so empowering to know that the awesome nutrient-dense, whole food, you put in your body is the reason you are feeling so fantastic.
Here’s a rough outline of my eating habits and thus what you’ll find on this blog.
Organic if at all possible:
- Tons and tons of vegetables (cooked and raw)
- Ferments, ferments, ferments (fermented food like sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.)
- Lots and lots of plant based fats (coconut, avocado, sprouted nuts, sprouted seeds)
- Meat is a “side dish” on my plate. (It is always from humanely raised local farms; grass-fed and/or organic)
- Small amount of fruits (Being a former candida sufferer, I stick to berries as much as possible for my fruit source since they are lowest in sugar.)
- Small amounts of beans or gluten-free grains (sprouted if at all possible)
- Very small amounts of dairy (butter or ghee)
- Cooking (using heat) with coconut oil and ghee
- Finishing off meals or making dressings from flax seed oil or olive oil (I don’t cook with these as the they are unstable with heat.)
Whether you are just starting on a new path to health with food or have been on this road a long time, know that whatever steps you are taking are courageous ones. Don’t stress yourself out unnecessarily. Take steps that you can manage. You will adapt to a new normal and new comfort zones. Eating cleanly won’t feel burdensome forever. It will feel empowering. I promise!