How to get clear skin: vitamins for healthy skin

Like many women before me, I used to be pretty complacent about many of my health issues. Joint pain? Bah, I’ll just walk it off! Headache, I’ll just pop a pill! But when my health issues affected my skin and my complexion, and how I looked, the vainest part of me became worried. I was forced out of complacency. After all, being 30-something (almost 40 even!) and having acne in addition to my grey hair seemed to be a cruel way for the universe to let me keep my youthful facade. I’ve written before about how I’ve had life-long issues with eczema, and I’ve come to realize that eating the wrong thing can result in an eczema flare-up or even cystic acne because of my food intolerances. One of the most frustrating revelations in becoming a holistic nutritionist has been learning that what you eat can affect your body in so many ways beyond your digestion. After all Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

How to get clear skin?

While what you can eat can affect you negatively, thankfully, the opposite is also true. There are foods that encourage healthy skin by reducing inflammation, helping to repair damage, relieve dryness or irritation, and more. So if you’ve got skin issues, don’t just rely on expensive beauty creams containing “skin-replenishing nutrients” – those will only help the surface of your problem. If you want to get to the root of the matter, you’ll have to start with what you’re feeding your body as what you eat affects you from the inside out.

Make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients for healthy skin

Water for hydration

You need water for all of your life’s processes, and if you want beautiful, glowing skin, you’ll want to be properly hydrated. Being dehydrated dries out your skin and increases the appearance of wrinkles. So make sure to reach for water as your beverage of choice – not sweetened juices, teas or coffee. Plain old water does your body best for hydration. If you need a little more flavor, squeeze a little lemon or other citrus into it, infuse it with berries or get some other ideas here. Aside from beverages though, eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, soups and stews and other foods that have water will help hydrate you too.

Protein to build

Proteins are the body’s building blocks, and every cell, organ and tissue (including your skin) gets built from protein. After all, it’s the most abundant component of your body, after water. The healthiest sources of protein also contain vitamins, minerals and fats that are necessary for life, never mind just healthy skin. Ideally, your protein sources should come from humanely-raised, pastured animals that have plenty of complete amino acid profiles, B12 and vitamin D (nutrients that aren’t found as readily from plant sources of protein). If you choose to get protein from beans or other legumes, make sure to prepare them carefully (e.g. fermentation, soaking and sprouting) to make them more digestible and reduce the anti-nutrients like phytic acid. Gelatin (from grass-fed animals) is a good source of protein too, and it can help build new skin and tighten loose skin as well. (Canadians: If you’re looking for grass-fed gelatin, I recommend getting it here. The shipping charge is reasonable, and if you use the code HMP485, you’ll get $5 off your order; $10 off if you order $40 or more). Another great way to get gelatin naturally through food is by making your own broth from soup bones.

Quality fats to fight inflammation

Fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids, – are essential components of every cell membrane in your body (that is, the ‘lipid’ part of the phospholipids membranes), and they’re also essential hormone pre-cursors and needed for your nervous system. Fats are also needed to help transport and help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K. There are two types of essential fatty acids (the types of fats that you must eat because your body can’t make them). Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to reduce inflammation in the body, and Omega-6 fatty acids help produce steroid like chemicals that help control inflammation. The problem is that in the standard American diet full of processed foods, corn-fed beef and other meats, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats is out of whack – most of us are getting too many Omega-6 fatty acids, and not enough Omega-3s, hence why supplementation of Omega-3s is often recommended. Just make sure to stay away from processed “vegetable” oils that are actually not from vegetables, but rather soybeans, grains and seeds like corn oil, canola oil and cottonseed oil. These trans-fats are made when polyunsaturated fatty acids are heated.

Where can you get good fats? Pasture-raised meats, wild-caught cold water fish (like sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon) are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Other healthy fats can be found in avocados, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin A to repair damaged skin

This fat-soluble vitamin is stored in the liver and comes in two forms: active, proform vitamin A (or retinol) that is only found in animal sources or beta-carotene which is a water-soluble co-factor found in plant sources. Your body converts 3 IU of beta-carotene to make 1 IU of vitamin A, but to do so, you’ll need a healthy functioning liver. One of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency is dry, itchy skin, and this vitamin is needed to help repair damaged skin, help retain skin moisture and counter infections.

You can find the retinol form in fish liver oils, and beta-carotene in green and yellow fruit and vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger and others.

B-complex vitamins to combat dryness

The water-soluble B-vitamins are usually naturally found together in food, and if you’re supplementing, they work best taken as a B-complex, rather than individually isolated B-vitamins. When it comes to healthy skin, B-vitamins help combat dryness and itchiness. B-vitamin deficiency can lead to skin issues including dermatitis, and more seriously, neurological disorders.

B vitamins are naturally found together in foods such as: organ meat, fish, meat, nuts, sunflower seeds, brewer’s yeast, eggs, leafy greens and more. Keep in mind that B12 is a B-vitamin that is only found in animal foods.

Vitamin C to help allergic skin reactions

Most people know that vitamin C will help stave off a cold and boost your immune system, so it shouldn’t be too big a surprise that vitamin C will also help fight skin infections too. Vitamin C also has anti-histamine effects which can help with allergic skin reactions. Aside from oranges, you can acquire vitamin C in apples, leafy greens, garlic, onions, and sweet peppers.

Vitamin E to protect skin

Lots of expensive creams and beauty products will boast that they have vitamin E in them. After all, this fat-soluble vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that can help protect skin cells and repair damage caused by free radicals and then sun. Some signs of vitamin E deficiency are bad skin, brittle hair and premature aging.

Get vitamin E from foods like eggs, liver, organ meats, as well as leafy greens, broccoli.

Quercetins to reduce skin reactions

Quercitins are flavonoids found in plants that can help stabilize cell membranes and block the allergic response that can result in eczema or hives. You can find quercetins in citrus fruits and green tea.

Zinc to help skin healing

Zinc is a mineral required for tissue and cell formation, and required in the body’s synthesis of retinol (the active form of vitamin A), so a deficiency in zinc can also lead to a vitamin A deficiency. Zinc can help skin healing and is also involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. People with eczema are often zinc deficient. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include skin disorders like acne.

You can get zinc from pumpkin seeds, oysters, liver, eggs, apricots, peaches and cocoa.

How do you get healthier skin? Eat more nutrient-dense foods.

The Skintervention Guide

What it comes down to is this – eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods from quality sources, will not only help you achieve beautiful, healthy skin, but also a healthy body all-around. Eating better quality food is certainly an excellent place to start. If you need more in-depth help with your skin beyond better nutrition, I highly recommend The Skintervention Guide – I bought this book before I even had a blog, and it helped me immensely. Liz Wolfe of Real Food Liz outlines how to improve your skin by first addressing nutrition, followed by improving your digestion and finally with natural body and skin care methods. Check it out here.



Better-than-Ikea Swedish meatballs (primal, gluten-free)

Swedish meatballs trigger a rather strong wave of nostalgia for me. Back when I was a wee little munchkin, my Maman and our Swedish family friends would take these epic trips to Ikea together- the kind of trips that would make my insides do gymnastics with excitement. And while the wild assortment of types of furniture I never knew existed – or much less needed – was an adventure to see, it was always the possibilities of what lurked in the cafeteria that sent me head over heels into a thrill. There were slices of Smorgasbord cakes draped in colors and cream, crisp shrimp salads with mouth watering cocktail sauces, oozing goopy apple pies with cream sauce, and lingonberry anything to your heart’s desire. However, the real dream come true was the Swedish meatballs.

Swedish meatballs have always been the epitome of comfort food to me. At my many childhood adventures at Ikea, they’d be served with a cream sauce with some sweet, yet tart lingonberry preserves on the side, and of course, the undeniable presence of happiness in result of the great company I had. Every last bite of those meatballs provided everything I could have possibly wanted in a meal: warmth, comfort, happiness, sweetness, and exceeded satisfaction.

Better than Ikea Swedish meatballsEventually, our trips to Ikea became less frequent as our beloved family friends moved out of state. But that didn’t stop me from chasing after the emotional flight that this meal would give me. Even after becoming a vegetarian – a vegan at one point, too – I still longed for this dish. Even after going through a roller coaster of eating disorders, more persistently than ever, I longed for encapsulated bubble of joy hidden in this dish. I tried re-crafting the memories by purchasing meatless meatballs from Trader Joe’s (this was well before discovering the power of real food, have mercy) and some lingonberry preserves from Ikea. And while I could always find comfort in the familiarity of the flavors, I longed for the complete nourishment of this dish, with the company of our sweet friends.

I eventually was able to revise a fairly authentic recipe for Swedish meatballs to make it a bit more friendly to those who appreciate the goodness in a sauce made from whole milk. I also wanted my dish to be accessible to those seek a familiar comfort in dishes that are now forbidden due to unrelenting repercussions of consuming said dishes.

Although it’s been years since our family friends have moved out of state, having this meal always brings back those memories that are so dear to my heart. And instead of mourning the empty chairs and dishes that I lay out and assemble in my head, I’ve learned to welcome the nostalgia as an essential part of the nourishment of this very precious meal.

Like this recipe? Click here to download a Free eBook that includes all the recipes listed on this site!

How to make meatballs (better than Ikea’s & better for you)

Rating: 5

Yield: 15-19 meatballs


  • 3/4 cup of beef stock to boil down to 3-4 tbsp of concentrated stock, PLUS an additional 1/2 cup of beef stock for later
  • 1 bunch of Dino kale
  • 1 shallot
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small bunch of chives
  • 2 large Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided into four 1 tbsp portions
  • 1 cup of organic half-and-half, separated into two 4 oz portions
  • 2/3 lb of ground pork
  • 1 heaping tbsp of creamy almond butter
  • 2 tsp of arrowroot or tapioca starch
  • 1 tbsp of Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp of allspice
  • lingonberry jam to taste
  • sea salt


  1. Start by simmering the beef stock in a small sauce pan on medium high. Periodically check on the stock to see if it has reduced to 3-4 tbsp.
  2. For the mashed potatoes, set up a medium large pot of heavily salted water and put it on medium high to boil. While the water is boiling, start your mise en place by cutting the kale into chiffonade-like slivers, mincing the shallot and garlic, finely chopping the chives, and rough chopping the potatoes. Place all of the ingredients in their own bowls and set aside.
  3. Carefully lower the chopped potatoes into the boiling salted water and cook for about 15 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce the potato. After 15 minutes, drain the potatoes, and place them back in the pot. To them, add 1 tbsp of butter, 1/2 cup of half-and-half, and salt and pepper to taste. With a wooden spoon or a whisk, mash the potatoes until they are uniform in texture. Keep the mashed potatoes on low heat and stir periodically. Check the reducing stock and see if it has reached the desired volume.
  4. In a large bowl place the ground pork, almond butter, shallots, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Be sure not to over mix. Roll the mixture into small meatballs, about 15-19 meatballs total.
  5. Heat a medium sized pan to medium heat and add 1 tbsp of butter. Once the butter has melted, place the meatballs into the pan. Once the meatballs are browned and caramelized – approximately 5 minutes – remove them from the pan.
  6. To the same pan, add another tablespoon of butter and the arrowroot or tapioca starch. In essence, you are making a quick roux for the cream sauce. Continuously stir the starch into the butter for about 1 minute. To it, add the reduced beef stock, 1/2 cup of half-and-half, 1/2 of beef stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Make sure to stir continuously for about 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. If the sauce appears to be gummy or lumpy, add a bit more beef stock and half a tablespoon of butter and blend it in a blender.kale
  7. Lastly, in a separate pan, heat up another tablespoon of butter on medium high heat. To it, add the minced garlic and let the garlic toast for about 45 seconds. Then add the slivered kale, and salt and pepper to taste and continuously stir for about 2-3 minutes, until the kale has wilted. Remove the pan from the heat, and while being mindful to keep your face out of the steam, add the tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar and stir thoroughly. Add the slivered almonds and stir.
  8. To plate, place a layer of kale onto a small plate, top it with a dollop of mashed potatoes, and place a few meatballs on top. Then add some of the cream sauce, lingonberry preserves, and a sprinkle of the finely chopped chives and enjoy. Bon appétit my friends!


Dumpling stuffing ground pork stir-fry

I have been craving comfort food, and because of my Chinese background, my kind of comfort food isn’t mashed potatoes and mac n’ cheese, it’s stuff like congee, noodles and dumplings. Alas, I’m in the long-term process of trying to heal my gut, and address food intolerance symptoms like my severe eczema – and as such, I can’t eat rice (which makes congee – a rice porridge, impossible for me), or wheat and most other flours that are usually used to make noodles and dumplings. So what’s a food-restricted girl to do, but to come up with a grain-free, egg-free, dumpling, right? Well, the universe has decided that the world just ain’t ready for my dumplings quite yet.

Dumpling stuffing ground pork stir-fryFull disclosure: My grain-free, egg-free dumpling wrappers were a complete and utter disaster, and I learned the hard way that it’s probably not a good idea to develop a recipe that will also double as your dinner. The inevitable failure just makes you cranky and hungry and scrambling to fix it enough to fill your belly. After the dumpling wrappers failed, I improvised and made a stir-fry dish that had all the flavors of dumplings, just without the packaging – huzzah! a stir-fry success from a dumpling failure.

In true Chinese family-style cooking, I hadn’t actually written down the exact quantities required of the dish and just threw in amounts that felt right, so I ended up making it again when my second dumpling wrapper experiment also failed. For a loosey-goosey way to improvise your own stir-fry, check out Nom Nom Paleo’s Garbage Stir-Fry. The first time I saw her post, I wish I’d come up with the name, because it’s exactly how my family cooks: identify suitable ingredients, cook quickly in wok, and done! The key to a good stir-fry is to season well, and taste as you cook. My mother’s own Chinese cooking techniques usually involve pre-marinating your meat as well, for at least an hour before you start cooking. For those of you who are less experimental, follow the recipe and enjoy the flavor of a good pork dumpling sans wrapper.

(And not to worry, I haven’t given up on AIP-friendly, egg-free, grain-free dumplings yet. I’ll make sure to post those when I finally get wrappers that work!)

Tip: Freeze your ginger and grate it

One tip about the ginger in this recipe: I freeze fresh ginger and grate it whenever I need some. It allows me to slowly use up ginger as I need it, and not have it go all wrinkly and sad, or worse, moldy. Also, I hated ginger as a kid. Actually, I still hated it as an adult. I love the smell of it, but never liked the big pieces of it that my mother used to flavor her cooking (sorry Mom). It was only when I started grating it that I realized ginger isn’t so bad.

Like this recipe? Click here to download a Free eBook that includes all the recipes listed on this site!

Dumpling stuffing ground pork stir-fry


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 tbsp of gluten-free organic soy sauce, or coconut aminos
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2-3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chipped
  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 medium head of nappa cabbage (about 7-8 cups) chopped


  1. In a mixing bowl, add the ground pork, soy sauce or coconut aminos, sesame oil and sea salt and mix until well combined. If you have the foresight, you can do this about an hour before cooking to allow the meat to absorb the flavors, if not, no worries as it still tastes good.
  2. In a large, wok, on medium-high heat, add some coconut oil and lightly stir fry the garlic, ginger and green onions until the garlic is lightly browned.
  3. Add the ground pork mixture into the wok and stir-fry until the meat is mostly cooked – some pinkness is okay.
  4. Add in your chopped nappa cabbage, a few handfuls at a time. The nappa will wilt as it cooks and make more room for the rest of your cabbage. Keep stir-frying until the nappa is sufficiently wilted and your pork is completely cooked.
  5. Enjoy!


Easy dinner recipe: Bacon coleslaw stir-fry

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you might have seen some teasers showing that I’ve been busy working on an eBook called “We Can ALL Scream for Ice Cream” with my co-author (and past guest blogger) Jennifer Robins of Predominantly Paleo. Let me just say that I never knew how much work went into putting together a “small” book. Small is in quotation marks because this book was meant to be a quick project, but the book itself is 57 pages, contains 24 recipes and even includes an introduction that outlines a basic ‘why’ of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Why does it have an AIP introduction? Because, if you’re like me and you follow an AIP diet that is devoid of all grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshades, you may have thought you’d never eat ice cream again. After all, the best ice creams are made of, well, cream. And they usually involve eggs, and sweetener. Well, I’m happy to say that the recipes that Jennifer and I have in this book are completely AIP-compliant. And while, some might argue that the autoimmune diet shouldn’t include treats because it’s recommended that you keep your daily fructose intake to less than 20g, our eBook allows you to make an informed decision about whether or not you can indulge in one of these recipes. How? We’ve included the amount of fructose per serving for each treat 🙂 So yes, you can have your cake ice cream and eat it too!

What does all of that have to do with this recipe though? Honestly – nothing. It’s just a little back-story as to why I’ve been a little pre-occupied lately and my family’s meals have been very basic (although on the plus side, there have been more frozen treats than usual). I wanted to share with you the most basic of convenience meals that we have around here when we don’t really have a lot of time: Baked chicken legs & this stir-fried bacon coleslaw. I know that I can’t be the only one who gets too busy, or feels too pooped to do anything fancy for dinner.

The chicken legs are pretty hands off, as the oven does all the work. This stupidly easy veggie side dish is made stupidly easy because there’s minimal prep when using pre-bagged, pre-washed coleslaw mix. There are actually healthy, convenience foods – and I for one, love the convenience of the ‘just open up the bag’ of slaw.


Bacon coleslaw stir-fry
Rating: 5

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes


1 tbsp coconut oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
5-6 strips of pasture-raised bacon, chopped
1 bag of coleslaw mix (pre-washed and ready to eat)

In a large wok or skillet on medium heat, melt your coconut oil to coat the pan. Then add your garlic, onion and bacon and cook the bacon to your preferred crispiness.
Add in your bag of coleslaw mix, and stir to coat it well in with the bacon fat. Stir-fry until the coleslaw is softened and slightly translucent, about 10 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!

Read more:

Mint Chip Ice Cream (Vegan, Paleo and AIP-friendly!) & A GIVEAWAY!

Vegan, Paleo, and AIP-friendly Ice Cream for you, for me, for everyone!

What makes this eBook different? Well, for very selfish reasons, the recipes in this book are free of the top 8 food allergens, making them: dairy-free, nut-free and egg-free. (All the things that often make a good ice cream… well, good!). As I’ve mentioned before in the blog, I follow a Paleo Autoimmune Diet (AIP) – that essentially means I don’t eat dairy, eggs or nuts, but I also don’t eat grains, legumes, nightshades and seeds. According to the guidelines for the Autoimmune Diet put out by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom) in her book The Paleo Approach, those of us who follow the AIP diet also need to watch our fructose intake. Too much fructose can be inflammatory and trigger an autoimmune reaction, so Sarah recommends that if you’re following the AIP diet, you should keep your fructose consumption under 20g per day. With that in mind, Jennifer and I made sure that our book was suitable for AIP by including the amount of fructose per serving of each recipe in the book. So, if you’re AIP, you can make an informed decision and go-ahead and eat the ice cream if you want 😉 The book is perfect for families where different loved ones have different food-restrictions too!

For even more selfish reasons, this Mint Chip Ice Cream appears in the book – it was my absolute favorite flavor of ice cream as a kid. I hadn’t actually had it in YEARS because of my intolerance to dairy until this recipe was developed. Possibly worse than a dairy intolerance, is not being able to eat chocolate though – and chocolate is eliminated as part of autoimmune diet too (since it’s technically a seed). So, if you’ve been missing Mint Chocolate Chip – try this. You’ll be in heaven!

Vegan, Paleo & AIP-friendly Mint Chip Ice Cream


  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon carob powder
  • 1 can (13.5 fl oz/398 ml)
  • full fat coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon real peppermint
  • extract
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  •  tbsp pure maple syrup
  • Handful fresh baby spinach


    1. Pre-freeze your ice cream maker’s insulated container. Or if you do not have an ice cream maker, place a baking dish in the freezer. Make your ‘chips’ by combining the coconut oil and carob powder in a shallow dish, and place it in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until completely frozen.
    2. In a blender or food processor, combine your coconut milk, peppermint extract, mint leaves, and maple syrup. If you want a greener looking ice cream, add in the fresh baby spinach. Blend until the leaves are well combined and your mixture is smooth.
    3. Remove your frozen carob mixture from the freezer, and break up the thin, frozen layer into chips with your hands or a fork.
    4. Add chips to ice cream mixture. If using an ice cream maker: pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow the directions for your machine. Serve when ready.
If not using an ice cream maker
  1. Pour mixture into a baking dish, and place it in the freezer. Freeze for 45 minutes.
  2. Remove the mixture from the freezer and stir it well with a rubber spatula, making sure to break up any hard, frozen sections. You can also use an immersion blender, in your baking dish to do this. Place the mixture back in the freezer.
  3. Every 30–45 minutes, check the ice cream mixture and mix or churn it, until the ice cream is of the desired consistency. This should take about 2 to 3 hours.
  4. Freeze longer for a harder ice cream, or allow to thaw slightly before serving for a softer texture.


Eliminate your environmental toxins: Everyday cleaners for you and your home

I have a lifelong history of eczema and long before changing how I ate, one of the first things I did in an attempt to improve my health, was to switch to personal care and cleaning products with no fragrances. Not long after that, I switched to ‘all natural’ cleaners that generally have fewer irritants. Most recently, I’ve opted to make a lot of my own products, usually using only a few ingredients, so that I know exactly what is in them. (I found out last year that aloe vera gel isn’t supposed to feel like burning, but may just do that if you have an intolerance to it). I’ve now gotten to the point where I don’t think about the products I use any more, as they are merely part of my everyday routine. However, a friend who was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease asked me about personal care and cleaning product recommendations, and I figured it’d be useful to actually jot this information down.

Beyond those of us who have Celiac disease, skin issues or autoimmune diseases, it’s a good idea for everyone to switch to cleaners and personal products that are low in toxins. And there are plenty of toxins to be found in cosmetics, personal care products and household cleaners. While it’s good to be aware of what you put in your mouth, ingredients in these cleaners and personal products aren’t filtered through your digestive system before hitting your bloodstream – they can be absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin. If you’re ever in doubt about one of the products you use, I highly recommend entering it into the Environmental Working Group’s database, and see which ingredients they flag as problematic or potentially dangerous.

6 ingredients you should be aware of in your personal care products and cleaners:
1. Gluten
Depending on your sensitivity, you may react to trace amounts of gluten found in cosmetics and other personal care products, especially those that could be ingested in minute amounts, like lipstick, mouthwash or toothpaste.

2. Triclosan
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that’s in many liquid soaps. The US government’s Food and Drug Administration recently found that triclosan may be doing more harm than good, and there’s no indication that triclosan is any more effective than regular soap. Worse than that, triclosan could interfere with thyroid hormone regulation, as it has been shown to do in animal studies. Companies are supposed to be pulling their triclosan-containing products off the shelf by 2016, which means for now, they are still available everywhere.

3. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
SLS is a foaming agent found in just about every cleaning product, from shampoos to hand soap and laundry detergents. The EWG considers it a low hazard that can cause skin, eye or lung irritation, however.

4. Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is a fragrance and skin conditioning agent used in many products to give it a smooth texture and prevent hardening. Ironically this ‘skin conditioner’ is also known to cause contact dermatitis (that can develop in hours or days after exposure) and contact urticaria (aka immediate, localized swelling and redness).

5. Coconut DEA
Coconut DEA is a foaming agent derived from coconut oil. Because of its origins, manufacturers like to claim it as ‘natural’ ingredient, but this chemical is a possible carcinogen, and can also be found as “cocamide DEA”, “amides”, “coco amides”, Coconut dietyhanolamide, “coconut fatty acid”, and many other names.

6. Parabens
Look for ingredients that end in ‘paraben’ like propylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben and others. Parabens act as preservatives in personal care products –because how else can something that’s liquid or creamy last so long? – but the big concern with them is that they can be absorbed through the skin and mimic estrogens and act as hormone disruptors.

The cleaners and products that I use
Below are some of my recommendations for the various products my family and I use, plus some extra links to other DIY recipes you can try. What you’ll find is that many of the DIY recipes involve a lot of the same ingredients, namely: coconut oil, baking soda, apple cider vinegar (ACV), washing soda, Castile soap, and maybe a bit of borax for household cleaning. Not only do these recipes help to reduce your toxic load, but they’ll also save you some money, since it is much more economical to mix batches of your own cleaners, rather than buying multiple cleaners for different purposes.

Most conventional toothpastes use sodium fluoride as their main ingredient, along with SLS, and some other ingredients listed above. For the last two years, I’ve been making my own toothpaste using The Wellness Mama’s re-mineralizing toothpaste recipe. Because this recipe is coconut oil based, be aware that it will solidify at temperatures less than 24°C (75°F) – not an issue in the summer months, but in the winter, you may need to warm up your toothpaste first. I’ve had great success in keeping smaller amounts of this toothpaste in a travel-sized GoToob. Just warm up the closed tube in hot water before using, and you should be able to squeeze out the amount you need.

I also regularly do oil pulling as part of my oral hygiene routine. In the years that I’ve not been using conventional toothpaste (and eating a grain-free diet), my family and I have still had good (if not better) dental check-ups.

This might come as a shock to some people, but for most day-to-day situations, I don’t use any deodorant. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No antiperspirant either. And people don’t run away from me and turn their nose at me. They’re not just being polite, because I have a nose that works too. I know that my pits don’t stink. The fact is, I’m normally not sweaty or smelly, and I think having a good diet has helped this. Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I might rub a little coconut oil into my underarms. Coconut oil has some antibacterial qualities and it also helps to moisturize. Baking soda can also help absorb odors, so for a simple deodorant, simply mix a little baking soda and coconut oil into a paste and rub into your underarms.

There are days – meetings, important social gatherings etc., where I know I might get stressed or nervous. For those occasions, I choose to use a deodorant (not an antiperspirant), such as: Primal Pit Paste

You can certainly make your own deodorant, too.


Shampoo & Conditioner:
Some of my fellow hippie, grain-free granola types swear by the no ‘poo method. (That’s poo as in shampoo). I tried it too, just washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I tried it again, but it just wasn’t working for me. I also tried making my own homemade shampoo, which was slightly better, but still not great. In short, I don’t know if it’s the hardness level of my water, my own skin/scalp issues or never being able to rinse the ACV off fast enough, but I never had soft hair. At best, I had hair that felt weighted down, and when you have as much hair as I do, it’s not a good feeling.

So now, I use an unscented, ‘natural’ shampoo. That’s free of as much stuff as possible. I currently use a Canadian brand that’s found in the organic section of most grocery stores. I’d tried Aubrey’s Organics in the past, but because it uses Aloe Vera, I can’t personally use it due to my extreme sensitivity to aloe, but it’s what my husband uses still.


pH Balanced Shampoo from Thank Your Body

Facial cleanser:
I use the oil cleansing method to wash my face, so I don’t find I need much in the way of moisturizer. Oil cleansing is especially great if you have dry skin, since the oils are naturally nourishing and moisturizing.


General household cleaning:
For light cleaning – everything from wiping up the tub, sinks, windows, and floors – I use a microfibre cloth with water. The microfibre has anti-bacterial properties, and cleans without leaving any streaks. A win-win! I’ve tried different brands, but generally, you’ll want to look for cloths that are thicker and will last you longer.

If I need a deeper clean, then I make some general cleaner that goes in a spray bottle. The recipe is here, but you’ll notice again that there are the common ingredients of borax, washing soda and Castile soap


Do you have any tried & true cleaners or personal care products or recipes that you love? Please share it in the comments. Or is there a specific type of cleaner or personal product that you’re looking for that isn’t covered. Just let me know!


eBook review: Reintroducing Foods on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol & a Homemade Chocolate Recipe

I’ve followed the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) for a little over a year now. This particular way of eating, essentially takes the grain-free, legume-free, Paleo way of eating, and takes it up a notch by further eliminating foods that can cause inflammation. Gone are the Paleo staples of eggs and nuts, and say goodbye to the ‘Primal’ dairy foods, along with seeds (including chocolate), and nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and peppers of all kinds.

While doing AIP is initially very restrictive (the most common question being: “What the heck am I going to eat for breakfast?”), there is the life-changing benefit of keeping autoimmune disease under control, and reducing inflammation conditions. For me, it’s been the difference between living with chronically itchy, and inflamed, sensitive skin, and only experiencing minor flare-ups during allergy season, with stress, or when inadvertently eating something that I probably shouldn’t.

Now the great thing about the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol is that in theory, if your gut has healed sufficiently by staying away from foods that irritate and inflame it, you should eventually be able to re-introduce some of these former food intolerances again without experiencing symptoms. Because I had food intolerance testing done, I used my test results as a guide to re-introducing foods for myself. But what do you do, if you’ve decided to try AIP and you’d like to bring back some foods? What do you re-introduce first? How do you know if a food is okay for you? What do you do if a food you re-introduce causes an autoimmune flare?

Well, the re-introduction process is a lot of self-experimentation, but luckily, Eileen Laird of Phoenix Helix has taken some of the guesswork out of that experiment with her eBook, ‘Reintroducing Foods on the Paleo Autoimmune rotocol’.

Eileen walks you through the whole reintroduction process, each step laid out, including suggestions on which foods to reintroduce (and in what order), tips on how to keep a symptom journal, and what to do should you experience an autoimmune flare (which is a possibility when you find you’re still intolerant to a food you’ve tried reintroducing). On top of this helpful guidance and encouragement, Eileen has included over 20 simple recipes to help you re-introduce specific foods without introducing too many other variables – that is, only introducing one new, non-AIP food at a time.

One of the first foods I re-introduced after strictly adhering to the autoimmune protocol was cocoa. Why? Well, first off, I really enjoy dark chocolate – who doesn’t? And secondly, according to my food intolerance testing results, I didn’t test as having any sensitivity to chocolate, so it seemed like a safe place to start. Eileen has kindly allowed me to share her recipe for homemade chocolate that will safely let you test if you can reintroduce cocoa back into your diet after having done at least a month of the autoimmune protocol. This simple chocolate recipe makes for a nice little treat for anyone 🙂

I highly recommend Eileen’s book if you’re feeling a little lost or confused about the reintroduction process. AIP is already hard enough, so any additional help is always appreciated. If you’re looking for other books on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, I highly recommend Sarah Balantyne’s book,’ The Paleo Approach‘, or if you’re looking for AIP-compliant recipes and meal plans, check out Mickey Trescott’s ‘The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook‘. And finally, if you’re looking to indulge in AIP-friendly frozen treats this summer, check out the eBook I co-authored with Jennifer Robins, ‘We Can ALL Scream for Ice Cream’.

Have questions about doing the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol? Leave me a message in the comments!

Like this recipe? Click here to download a Free eBook that includes all the recipes listed on this site!

Homemade chocolates (for re-introducing cocoa on AIP)

Rating: 5

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 3/4 cup of melted chocolate


  • 6 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1-3 Tbsp. raw honey (to taste)
  • 6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • sea salt


  1. In small saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat.
  2. Add the vanilla and honey. Stir to blend.
  3. Add the cocoa and stir until it dissolves.
  4. Turn off heat.
  5. Pour chocolate into small glass measuring cup, for easy pouring into your candy mold. This recipe makes approximately 3/4 cup of melted chocolate.
  6. Sprinkle the chocolates with sea salt and put in freezer for 2 hours.
  7. Pop the chocolates out of the mold, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. (They will melt at room temperature.)


If you don’t have a candy mold, double the recipe and pour the chocolate onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze the same way and then break into small pieces

Read more:

Not my Mama’s BBQ Pork (Paleo Char Siu)

As I’ve discussed in the past, I have a number of food intolerances that can result in some pretty severe eczema. As such, I end up avoiding dairy, eggs, nuts, some nightshades and some seeds. Basically, for ease of explaining to those in the know, I say that I eat a Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet, as this protocol avoids all of the above, along with avoiding the foods usually avoided when eating Paleo – namely grains, legumes, refined sugar, processed “vegetable” oils (corn oil, soy oil etc.), and processed food. While it’s easier to eat this way when eating in my own home, it’s much harder to avoid all these things when going out to eat, or even eating with other family members. So, I made it my mission recently to re-create a Paleo Char Siu or Chinese barbeque pork (also known as 叉燒), so that I could eat this protein staple of Cantonese cuisine without the repercussions.

Now, my parents are both excellent cooks. My mom being more ‘by the book’ than my dad, who tends to wing things and create his own ‘fusion’ recipes, so the natural place to start was to ask them for their recipe. It turned out, that their recipe for char siu uses three different jars of sauces you’d find at the Asian market. And all of these sauces include sugar or corn syrup, nightshade and seed spices, amongst some questionable ingredients like MSG, and artificial flavor and color. (After all, even Chinese restaurant BBQ pork is day-glo red.) If nothing else, my parents’ recipe was a place to start, though – seeing the ingredients was a hint to what gives Chinese barbeque pork its sweet, yet savory taste. Make sure you get the right cut of pork! Pork tenderloin is too lean for true char siu, so you want a fattier cut like pork butt or pork shoulder. You may need to specifically ask a butcher for this cut, or better yet, it’ll be part of the cuts you get when you buy a whole or half pastured pig.

My adaptation tastes pretty darn close to the “real” thing – but, when I told my mother what ingredients I used, she stubbornly declared that it was not, in fact, ‘cha siu’. (I didn’t have my mom taste it though, so maybe she’d change her mind with a sampling). In any case, not being ‘real’ char siu is okay with me, because this version allows me to avoid things like a lot of seed spices that can inflame and irritate my gut and skin, and still tastes really really good.

A note of caution for anyone following the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP): some of the spices (white pepper, black pepper, and star anise) are in the ‘be cautious’ category, as they come from the berries and fruit of different plants but may be tolerated after the initial elimination phase. These spices do add a lot to the authenticity of the flavor, but the dish will still work without them. If you have no problem tolerating any spices, you can try using Chinese 5 spice powder instead of star anise. Sesame oil is definitely not AIP-compliant, as it is derived from seeds, but if you can tolerate it, I highly recommend including it, since it really adds to the flavor like nothing else seems to be able to replicate.

Like this recipe? Click here to download a Free eBook that includes all the recipes listed on this site!

Not my Mama’s Cha Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

2 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt (preferably, organic, pasture-raised pork)
¼ cup coconut aminos or wheat-free soy sauce
¼ cup local honey
1 tbsp sesame oil or avocado oil if AIP
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp of ground star anise* (omit or be cautious, if AIP)
½ tsp black pepper* (omit or be cautious, if AIP)
½ tsp white pepper* (omit or be cautious, if AIP)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp fish sauce

Preheat your oven to 325F. If your cut of pork shoulder or pork butt is too large, divide it into two equal sized pieces and place in a shallow baking dish.
In a mixing bowl, add all the other ingredients and stir until uniform in consistency.
Pour about ¾ of the marinade over your pork and let your pork marinate, covered, for at least two hours. (You’ll be reserving ¼ of your marinade for basting later).
Place the marinated pieces of pork on a broiling pan and bake for 30 minutes. While the pork is cooking, put the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, until the marinade is reduced to a thick sauce.
After 30 minutes of baking, remove the pork from the oven and pour about half of the thickened marinade over the pork and spread and baste the sauce with a basting brush. Broil the pork for about 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes of broiling, flip the pork oven and baste the other side of the cuts of pork with the remainder of the sauce. Broil the pork until it is slightly charred.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice and serve with your favorite stir-fried Chinese greens.


Lo bak (daikon) noodle stir fry

Not too long ago, I finally caved in and bought myself a new kitchen toy – a vegetable spiralizer. I’d been toying with the idea of getting one for well over a year now and I put it off because I have a box grater and a julienne peeler which can essentially do the same thing: make vegetables into strands. The problem was that both of those tools made short, non-noodle like strands, and they can to be a little harder on the knuckles, especially if you’re trying to get free child labor your child to help in the kitchen. The bonus in finally owning a spiralizer is that there is a certain novelty to having your vegetables in noodle form, so that’s resulted in more vegetable-eating and, the gadget is so easy to use that my son will happily help with this part of the food prep!

This recipe is inspired by the turnip cakes or ‘lo bak go’ (蘿蔔糕, disclosure: I can’t read that, but that’s what Wikipedia tells me it is) that you can get at dim sum. Dim sum, for the uninitiated, is a Chinese lunch-ish meal where small plates are served literally à la carte). Unfortunately for me, the turnip cakes are usually made with either regular wheat flour or rice flour – neither of which I can tolerate. They also usually use lap cheong, a delicious, sweet-savory Chinese sausage. Again, because of my food intolerances, I haven’t been able to find a Chinese sausage that doesn’t include questionable ingredients like food coloring. I may risk it sometime just to see what happens because they’re that good, and would be a very tasty addition to this stir fry. In any case, I had a ‘lo bak’ (also known as a daikon radish), and decided to mix it with some shiitaki mushrooms, a package of frozen shrimp and scallops that I had on hand. The dim sum turnip cakes usually have dried shrimp or scallops with them, so seafood seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to this dish. This probably isn’t a dish my mother would make, but then again, most of the dishes I make are a bit too North American ‘fusion’ for her 😉 Hopefully though, you’ll enjoy this as an easy way to get the flavors of Chinese cooking without all the fuss of having to steam your own turnip cakes.

Choosing Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are a staple in many Asian dishes. Unlike white button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms have a meatier, more savory (or ‘umami’) taste. Shiitake mushrooms are readily available in any Asian market, or in the international section of major grocery store chains. You’ll usually find them dehydrated, in a plastic bag or sometimes even in a fancy box that is ready for gifting. That’s because these mushrooms can be quite expensive and can make the perfect gift for your Asian host/hostess, or foodie. You’ll also generally get what you pay for. Look for whole mushrooms that aren’t pre-sliced (as it’s harder to tell the quality when they’re already cut up). The mushrooms tend to have a more intense flavor when you can see fissures on the caps.

To prepare dried shiitake mushrooms, you’ll need to rehydrate them first. You can either do the “oh crap, I just remembered I should start dinner” method in using boiling water to soak your mushrooms, which takes about 20-30 minutes of soaking. Or for a more full flavor, you can soak your dried mushrooms in filtered water overnight.

Like this recipe? Click here to download a Free eBook that includes all the recipes listed on this site!

Lo bak (daikon) noodle stir fry

10-12 dried shiitake mushrooms
1-2 tbsp coconut oil or cooking fat of your choice
1 lb frozen shrimp and scallops
3 green onions chopped
1-1/2 tsp of white pepper (omit for AIP)
1-1/2 tsp of sea salt
1-1/2 tsp of grated ginger
1 medium-sized lo bak (aka daikon radish or Chinese white turnip), about 8-10 cups once spiralized
1-2 tbsp wheat-free soy sauce or coconut aminos

In a small bowl, soak your mushrooms with enough boiled, filtered water so that the mushrooms are covered. It should take about 20-40 minutes to soften, depending on the thickness of your mushrooms. Squeeze out all of the water, cut off the stems and slice the mushrooms.
Heat coconut oil or your preferred cooking fat in a wok on medium-high heat. Add your sliced mushrooms, shrimp and scallops, green onion, white pepper, ginger, sea salt. Stir-fry until the shrimp are translucent, and slightly undercooked. Remove everything from the wok and set aside.
Add more coconut oil or cooking fat to your wok, and add your spiralized lo bak/daikon noodles. Season with soy sauce or coconut aminos and stir-fry the noodles until softened, about 10-15 minutes.
Drain any liquid from the wok and add your reserved shrimp and scallop mixture to the wok with the noodles. Stir-fry until the shrimp is sufficiently cooked.
Garnish with additional chopped green onion and serve.


Cherry blossom popsicles (AIP, Paleo, Vegan)

It’s been one HOT summer, save for a week of (much welcomed) cooler weather… and I have NO complaints about any of it. 🙂 Being in Canada, we actually get our fair share of heat and humidity, because it isn’t always the Great White North. One way I’ve been cooling off lately is making different frozen treats – so many, in fact, that I recently partnered with Jennifer Robins of Predominantly Paleo to make a whole book of them. What sets our book, ‘We Can ALL Scream for Ice Cream’ apart from many others, however, is that our treats are all Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) friendly! For me, these recipes are purely selfish, since I’m among the growing number in the Paleo community who have found even further improvements to health by cutting out inflammatory foods like eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshades.

Now these popsicles aren’t in the book, but they are AIP friendly! (Thankfully, I can actually tolerate chocolate, but I know that many who follow AIP can’t successfully re-introduce chocolate, so these are actually made with carob powder. If you can tolerate cocoa, you can certainly use it instead).

This recipe came about because of a conversation I had with my husband about one of his favorite chocolates as a kid: ‘Cherry Blossoms’. It turns out that Cherry Blossoms are a Canadian thing apparently, because my discussion of these with my American co-author had her wondering what the heck I was talking about – not uncommon in our discussions though ;). A good Canadian Cherry Blossom is essentially a very non-paleo, cloyingly sweet, corn-syrup-filled, candied cherry, covered in chocolate, coconut, and pieces of nuts. These Cherry Blossom popsicles are AIP-friendly, and they aren’t cloyingly sweet, but they’re still very, very good. I’ve skipped the nuts for all of us on AIP, but if you can tolerate them, you can certainly sprinkle nuts on top of the chocolate coating for that extra crunch. The toasted coconut in the chocolatey coating is quite excellent with or without the added nuts. If you’ve never tasted a cherry blossom, these popsicles are a bit like a good black forest cake. YUM! If you’re vegan, you can omit the gelatin – but if you can, include it because not only does gelatin add plenty of gut-healing nutrition, it also adds to the creaminess of the popsicle.

Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom) does recommend that those of us following AIP should limit fructose intake to no more than 20g per day. So, while these popsicles are AIP-friendly, they do contain 11.6 g of fructose per popsicle (with 8.5g of that in the coating). If you’re very concerned about the fructose, you can skip the coating, or spoon it over your popsicles sparingly. The coating can be quite thick if you just dip it in, like I did in making them.



Cherry blossom popsicles


Cherry vanilla pudding pops
    • 1 can (400ml) of full-fat coconut milk
    • 1 tsp gelatin (omit if vegan)
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tbsp maple syrup
    • 2/3 cup fresh cherries, chopped
Chocolatey coating (enough to coat 8 popsicles)
  • 1 cup coconut oil (melted to clear liquid)
  • ¾ cup carob powder
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup vanilla
  • Optional: Toasted coconut flakes and/or finely chopped almonds or cashew pieces (about ¼ cup)


    1. Add coconut milk, gelatin, vanilla extract and maple syrup to a small saucepan on low-medium heat, and stir to combine evenly.
    2. Bloom the gelatin by sprinkling it over the coconut milk mixture, then stir or whisk in the gelatin, to dissolve. It should only take a few minutes to completely dissolve the gelatin at low to medium heat.
    3. Add in about half of the chopped cherries, and using an immersion blender, blend the mixture together until fairly uniform.
    4. Divide the mixture up between your popsicle molds. If you have any extra, you can chill it in the fridge and eat as a cherry pudding. Add your reserved chopped cherries into the popsicle molds.
    5. Freeze the popsicles for at least 1-2 hours, or until completely frozen.
For the coating:
  1. In a blender cup, mix the coconut oil, carob powder, maple syrup and vanilla with an immersion blender. You should have a thick, chocolatey paste.
  2. Loosen the popsicles from the mold and dip each popsicle in the coating, turning the popsicle in the coating until all sides are covered. If necessary, you can smooth the coating with a small rubber spatula. Sprinkle with coconut flakes or chopped nuts, if desired.
  3. To harden the coating, re-freeze the popsicles briefly, about 15-30 minutes. To do this, stand the popsicles upright in the popsicle molds, making sure you have enough clearance in your freezer. Serve when the coating is set.