Why I’m Not Currently Vegan

Why I'm Not Currently Vegan

Like many, over the years I have made the attempt to go vegan for the sake of the planet and the animals.  Many of my vegan readers have asked me why I personally did not stick with it.  Unfortunately, these are the 4 biggest reasons that a vegan diet has never been sustainable for me:

Skin

Eliminating animal protein majorly aggravates my skin.  I have genetic predispositions for acne, and already have to work quite hard to keep my skin clear, so anything that causes additional flare ups is an added stressor and a big no thank you for me 🙂

Digestion

There are many vegans out there who swear that cutting animal products is a cure-all for digestive issues. However, when I adopted a vegan diet, I experienced nothing but negative digestive side effects (that never affected me previously). Reintroducing animal products brought back my normal problem-free digestion.

Supplement Intolerances

When you go vegan, there are a number of supplements that are recommended. These can include B12, which can only be found in animal foods, and oftentimes Vitamin D and Calcium (depending on your specific deficiencies or diet shortcomings). I’m very sensitive when it comes to supplements. 99.9% of the time they lead to either severe nausea, stomach cramps, or intense headaches. I’ve also experienced side effects such as loss of appetite, rashes, and insomnia. Therefore, I personally need to rely on getting my vitamins from food sources alone.

Food Allergies & Sensitivities

I’ve had food allergies for all of my life. Many of these foods are unfortunately big vegan staples. A couple of main examples:
-Soy
-Tree Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, Walnuts, Pine Nuts, Etc.)

Therefore, if I am in a position where the only options are packaged or takeout vegan food, 9 times out of 10 it includes one of those ingredients.

I’ll admit, I often feel guilty that I am not a vegan. With the environment in need of our assistance and the inhumane ways that so many animals are treated, I have tried to do my part in this way. Needless to say I still try my best to only purchase the most humane animal products such as eggs from the pasture, etc.

I do feel that my own health takes precedence. Every human body is incredibly different. Only you know what works for you, and I urge you to follow your own health journey outside of the influence of others.

I think it’s wonderful that veganism works for so many, because it can have great impacts on this planet and for certain people’s health. I know that there are many vegans who follow me, and to all of you I say: amazing. I hope you can understand the other side of the coin.

My Top 10 Tips for Better Sleep

Hormones and Sleep Disturbance

I’ve always been a finicky sleeper.  All the stars have to align just right for me to get a proper night of shut-eye.  I’ve never been able to sleep on a friend’s couch, on an airplane, or in a car.  Ironically, I’m one of those people who really needs a full 7-8 hours.

For those with similar struggles, I’d like to share my top 10 tips and tricks for getting the best possible sleep you can when outside circumstances are battling against you:

1) Cut Back on Alcohol 

Whether you’re a regular drinker or are like me and just enjoy a couple of drinks once in a while, alcohol is harmful to restful sleep.  Though people commonly report that drinking makes them feel sleepy or fall asleep faster, it actually reduces your REM sleep (rapid eye movement).  Not only that, but it can suppress melatonin, which helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycles.

For me, drinking alcohol actually produces an effect similar to caffeine where I feel wired.  Even 1 drink is enough to prevent a restful night.

You don’t need to ditch alcohol completely, but cutting back will absolutely make a difference.

2) Try Melatonin

I’ve found that taking it as a supplement on occasions when I’m foreseeing a restless night can be really helpful.  I take 1.5 milligrams right before bedtime. 

3) Listen to Your Food Cravings

If you’re feeling hungry right before bed, it really can be worth it to have a small snack.  Lying in bed with a grumbling stomach will keep you mentally alert and make it more difficult to rest.  Fun fact – Eating carbs specifically can boost serotonin and tryptophan.  These brain chemicals are involved in the quality of your sleep, and having enough of them should help you fall asleep faster.

4) No Blue Light Before Bed

Blue light throws off your circadian rhythm and suppresses your production of melatonin.  Luckily, this one is an easy fix! If you must be looking at a screen in the evening, turn your device to night mode, or get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses.  They’re inexpensive and I guarantee they will help you sleep more restfully.  

5) Avoid Late Night Work if Possible

While making your own work hours can be great, if you’re a night owl like me, you might find yourself working into the wee hours.  The biggest downside to this is that you’re all fired up when you get into bed, likely still thinking about the work you were just doing.  If you’re able to conclude your work earlier in the evening, it allows you to choose an activity like reading a book before bed that will help your mind to quiet down.

6) Cut Back on Late Night Water

Too much water right before bed will have you getting up for bathroom breaks all night.  If it’s possible to cut back on your intake before bedtime, it can keep you asleep for longer stretches.

7) Keep it Cool

If you have control over your room temperature, keeping it cooler can actually help induce sleep more easily.  You should be able to fall asleep quicker and have better quality sleep overall.

8) Exercise!

On the days when I’m sitting at a desk all day, I notice a major difference in my ability to fall asleep.  I’m fidgety and restless.  On days when I exercise, even if it’s something as simple as going for a walk, my nights are so much more restful.

9) No Caffeine Late in the Day

Did you know that caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours?  I don’t consume much caffeine, but if you do, keep this in mind when you’re craving that afternoon coffee.  I’ve even seen that, in myself and others, even eating a moderate amount of chocolate in the evening can cause poor sleep.  So consider your desserts too!

10) Find Solutions to Quiet Your Mind

I am a classic over-thinker.  Worrying, planning, and dwelling in bed at night is NOT good for sleep!  If this rings a bell with you, try to focus on your breathing while falling asleep.  It can help distract from whatever you’re preoccupied with.

These changes have made such a huge difference for me.  Our bodies do so much important work while we’re asleep, so poor sleep is not something to be overlooked!

Tetracycline and Fingernail Separation

Tetracycline and Fingernails_2

When you visit a dermatologist for acne, leaving with a prescription for antibiotics is one of the most common outcomes. Of course this is to treat the bacterial aspect of one’s acne, and for many, it works wonders at getting it under control. The trouble is that for many of us, there are some seriously unwanted side effects.

My acne-prone skin is partially genetic. Both of my parents experienced it when they were teenagers, and oily skin seems to run in the family. When I was a kid, my mom used to recount her “fingernail story” whenever I prompted her as I found it absolutely fascinating. She would recall being prescribed Tetracycline as a teenager for her mild acne. Not long after she started taking it, her fingernails completely separated from her fingers.

She said that after looking into it, she thought this may have been due to the fact that she worked as a lifeguard at the time, and was getting regular sun exposure. To confirm her research, there is a phenomenon called Photo-onycholysis, in which sun exposure with Doxycycline or Tetracycline in your system causes nail separation (onycholysis). There seems to be somewhat limited studies on this, but it suggests you would need a pretty hefty amount of sunshine for this to occur (such as a beach vacation).

Fast forward to 20 years later when I was struggling with my own adult acne in my mid twenties. As I became frustrated with all of my own attempts to treat it failing, I saw many dermatologists. One of them prescribed a classic combo of drugs for both internal and external treatment: topical retinoids, topical antibiotics, and Tetracycline to be taken by mouth once a day.

Needless to say I was apprehensive. The story of my mom’s fingernails falling off had not been forgotten with age. However, between the desperation I felt for clear skin, and knowing that it was a TINY percentage of people who experienced this bizarre side effect, I took the chance.

I bet you can guess what happened next! After taking the Tetracycline for around a week, I began feeling a bit of sensitivity in my fingertips. I thought to myself, “There’s no possible way”. It’s too soon and the chances are too small. I’ll give it a few more days and see if it goes away.

It didn’t. A few days later when I was taking a shower, I noticed serious pain as soon as the water hit my hands. I could feel how far underneath my nails the water was going as it hit the nail beds. I needed no more confirmation that the process of onycholysis was starting.

Luckily, because of my mom’s experience, I knew to be on the lookout for it and could stop taking the medication before it progressed any further. I stopped taking the pills, and while it took a little while for the tips of my nails to grow back out and reattach themselves to the nail beds, no severe damage was done.

What I found interesting was that during this brief period of time, I had no sun exposure at all! I was working from home at the time. Every study that I’ve found suggests that this phenomenon only occurs with the addition of sunlight, but I found this to be a side effect of the drug all by itself.

I wanted to share this experience because at the time I was frustrated that there was so little information on the subject. The moral of the story is to try to be as in tune with your body as possible when you begin taking a new medication. Oftentimes doctors won’t convey all of the possibilities because they might not know themselves, and good old Google doesn’t have all the answers either. If something doesn’t feel right, go with your gut and stop taking it. There is almost always a different treatment you can try!

Soy Story

Soy Story_2

You may or may not have noticed that none of my recipes include soy.  It’s an ongoing debate; How does it affect hormones if at all?  The research is mixed, but from my personal experience, I can safely say it is incredibly unique to the individual!  

Hormones aside, I am actually allergic to soy.  Food allergies have been a big part of my life ever since I was a kid.  The weekly allergy shots at the doctor’s office, emergency trips to the hospital, rashes, hives, you name it.  I have a wide variety of reactions depending on the allergen, but with soy it’s nausea and vomiting. 

However, the times that I have managed to ingest a slight bit of soy and kept it down, I have absolutely noticed that it affects my hormones.  The giveaway? Cystic acne. There is a very particular type of acne that is hormonal versus comedonal. You acne sufferers out there know what I’m talking about!  They’re deep, and they linger for months on the lower half of your face. 

Soy Story

If you have no reaction to soy then great! I’m jealous.  From both the studies I’ve read alongside personal discussions, some people simply get along with soy while others don’t.

Like many foods, it comes down to your particular genetic makeup, hormone levels, and allergies.  One of my biggest mottos when it comes to eating “healthy” is eating what is right for you and you alone.  The only way to know is through your own trial and error.

Whole Wheat 2-Banana Muffins

Whole-Wheat-2-Banana-Muffins_web

You only need 2 bananas!

I don’t know about you, but any time I’m in need of a good banana recipe, it’s when I’ve gotten down to those last couple of brown and spotty ones.  I rarely have a whole big bunch on hand as I’ve usually eaten the first few.

Voilà!  This recipe makes between 6-8 muffins depending on how large your bananas are.

Ingredients:

2 bananas (just on the verge of being too ripe…starting to get some brown speckles)

Just under 1/2 cup sugar (I used cane sugar)

1 cup white whole wheat flour (such as King Arthur White Whole Wheat)

1 egg

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (almost melted)

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

A pinch of salt, around 1/4 teaspoon

1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°

Add your muffin liners to the muffin tin

In a large bowl, combine your bananas and the sugar with a fork, then whisk together once combined

Whisk in the egg, melted butter, and vanilla

In a smaller bowl, stir together your dry ingredients: the flour, baking soda, and salt

Add the combined dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until batter is evenly combined

Add the batter to the lined muffin tin. Fill them just below the tops so they have room to expand

Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (I always choose to undercook ever so slightly)

Enjoy!

Notes:

While they’re delicious the day of baking, beyond the first 24 hours I recommend storing these in the fridge.  When ready to eat, pop in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds, top with butter if you so desire, and they’re back to their “just out of the oven” soft warm form!

Caffeine and Acne

Why I Stick to Decaf

Caffeine & Acne_3

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the taste of coffee.  I started drinking it at age 14 and couldn’t let it go until I was in my mid-twenties.  However, the older I got, the more it became overwhelmingly apparent that caffeine was contributing to my acne.

Caffeine is a trigger for cortisol, our stress hormone.  It’s what surges during that fight or flight response deeply built into us as humans.  Stress can be a significant acne trigger.  Most people think of stress as pressure at our jobs, a personal hardship, or studying for a big exam.  However, caffeine can cause the body an equal amount of stress in sensitive individuals.

There are different degrees of caffeine sensitivity.  If I drink sips of a fully caffeinated coffee, I feel the unpleasant jitters almost instantly.  My family is similar.  Others can drink coffee at midnight and fall asleep peacefully within minutes.  It seems plausible that one would be more likely to have the acne-caffeine connection if sensitive to the stimulating drug in general.

The solution?  Try decaf!  You have nothing to lose if you’re struggling with your skin.  Yes, you will get the withdrawal headaches for a few days, but you can try weaning off of the standard coffee slowly to ease these.  Be wary though, many decaf coffees actually still contain a substantial amount of caffeine (though less than a standard cup).  If you’re able to get your hands on one that has been decaffeinated through the Swiss Water Process, this creates a coffee that is 99.9% caffeine free!

Another source of caffeine, as painful as it may be, is chocolate (particularly dark chocolate).  Granted, it contains very small amounts.  100 grams of dark chocolate has 43mg of caffeine, which is even lower than the amount in most black teas.  However, for some people, it’s still too much, especially when consumed in the evening.

You can also make the process less difficult by stocking up on some tasty herbal or decaffeinated teas so that you don’t have to give up any of your rituals.  These are nice for the sake of diversity, and you may even discover some new beverages that you love!  Best of luck to you 🙂