Gluten Free for Autoimmunity: Should You Be Following a Gluten-Free Diet, Too? 60 FREE RECIPES.

Gluten Free for Autoimmunity: Should You Be Following a Gluten-Free Diet, Too? 60 FREE RECIPES.

GLUTEN-FREE! It is hard to avoid the term if you are looking into making changes in your diet, especially if have autoimmunity, but should you jump on the gluten-free wagon?

It is in most of your favorite foods, and you hate to give them up, but you keep wondering if this is just a fad or if you should be eating a gluten-free diet, or maybe at least be limiting consumption or avoiding it.


Gluten is protein found in many grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It’s responsible for developing the sticky consistency that develops when flour mixes with water. It’s commonly found in bread and other baked goods, pasta, cereals, beer and other products made from these grains. Gluten-containing flours are added to many processed foods as well.

Gluten is not an essential nutrient, so it is possible to eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet without it. Many doctors suggest that avoiding gluten would actually benefit everyone. So it is not just a passing fad.

Chances are that yes, you could benefit from going gluten-free, especially if you have an autoimmune condition.

Who should definitely be gluten-free?

Some people are dangerously sensitive to gluten. For example, if you have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, you definitely should avoid all traces of it. About 1% of adults have been diagnosed with celiac disease. However, it’s estimated that up to 80% of people who have it don’t even know it!

After eating even a trace of gluten the immune system attacks it as a foreign invader. This results in severe damage to the gut lining. Some of the digestive symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Other symptoms of celiac disease include headaches, fatigue, and skin rashes.

Long-term effects of eating gluten, if you have celiac disease, are serious, including:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Nerve damage and,
  • Seizures

It’s estimated that one percent of the population has Celiac disease and one in 30 people have a gluten sensitivity. Many with autoimmunity are sensitive to gluten.

There are many common signs of gluten sensitivity. The problem is that they’re not very specific. They don’t necessarily occur immediately after eating it, and they’re not always located in the gut. This makes it so difficult to pin down the symptoms as gluten related.

Symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity include:

  • Digestive issues (bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and stomach pain)
  • Skin issues (eczema and redness)
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Fatigue and chronic tiredness
  • Other symptoms like headaches and mood issues


Many with autoimmunity, like me, are sensitive to gluten and find that their symptoms improve when following a gluten-free diet.

Why is this?

Gluten Free Diet

Gluten Causes Inflammation

Eating gluten causes inflammation every time someone with a sensitivity eats it. An estimated 99 percent of people with gluten sensitivity are undiagnosed, so they are increasing their inflammation without even knowing

What does this mean for your health?

Dr. Amy Myers, the author of The Autoimmune Connection, explains it this way:

If you have an autoimmune disease, then that means that somewhere along the way, your immune system went rogue and began attacking your body’s own tissues. This change from healthy to autoimmune isn’t instantaneous, it happens over years. As I explain in my book, it’s a spectrum, and the factor that pushes you up the spectrum and towards autoimmunity is inflammation.

When your immune system is continuously creating inflammation in response to the gluten you’re eating, your leaky gut, and the microbes and toxins flooding your bloodstream, you develop chronic inflammation. Your immune system is now stressed and is less able to attack pathogens and invaders with precision. Instead, it begins indiscriminately sending wave after wave of attack in a desperate attempt to fight off the invaders. Eventually, your body’s own tissues end up on the receiving end of the attack, and you end up with an autoimmune disease.

The only way to give your immune system the break it needs to regain its precision so that it can stop mistakenly attacking you, is to remove gluten entirely.

“Remove entirely” is a tough phrase to read when considering transitioning to gluten-free.

I know. Oh, how I know. Some of my very favorite foods are gluten bombs: biscuits, pancakes, doughnuts, bread of all shapes and sizes,  GrapeNuts cereal. . . I could go on and on.

But I could also go on and on about the benefits I have experienced since going gluten-free and the changes I have seen in our daughter since removing the gluten from her diet as well. I noticed an immediate reduction in bloat and overall inflammation: my morning stiffness was greatly improved, and my skin cleared up.You can read more about my diet here.

My daughter stopped having chronic stomach issues, her energy level tripled,  her allergies improved, and the dark circles under her eyes disappeared. It has been an amazing experience.

A few points of consideration when going gluten-free:

It is easier than it used to be.

Being gluten-free is popular and as a result, there are many foods available now that are “gluten-free.” But, as with most “diets,” gluten-free is not guaranteed to be healthier (gluten-free cookies are still cookies!).

Some gluten-containing foods have the nutrition that you’re going to have to get elsewhere (not from those cookies, though):

  • Folate/folic acid (vitamin B9). Many breads and cereals are fortified with this vitamin. To get it naturally, make sure you’re eating plenty of leafy greens. And if you’re planning to get, or are pregnant, talk to your healthcare professional about this critical nutrient.
  • Dietary fiber. Whole wheat is a major source of this all-too-important and often forgotten nutrient. High-fiber gluten-free foods include brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds, chia seeds, beans/legumes, and fruits and veggies.

So if you’re going gluten-free, choose real food! Choose nutrient-dense whole foods (not gluten-free processed junk foods) to make sure you get all the nutrition you need.

Here’s my recipe for banana chocolate chip muffinswhich is actually quite healthy, but tastes like an indulgent treat.

I realize the idea of transitioning to gluten-free can be daunting. I was freaked out about it too, especially when I added my daughter into the mix. But trust me, if I can do it you can too. Going gluten-free has been a very positive experience for us and was the first step I took toward taking back my health post-diagnosis.

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Here’s to getting real results!




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Thank you for helping me keep this blog going. I appreciate your support.

Need help with gluten-free meal planning and snack ideas? Try Real Plans today!

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Post Autoimmune Diagnosis: Adjusting to your “New Normal”

Post Autoimmune Diagnosis: Adjusting to your “New Normal”

autoimmunr diagnosisYour new normal post autoimmune diagnosis is the why behind this blog.

Helping others adjust to a new way of living brought about by necessity is my focus.

Making sense of your diagnosis can be a complicated, frustrating journey.

Everyone I have met with an autoimmune condition has struggled with their new normal post diagnosis and has grappled with the same questions:

  • What should I eat?
  • How should I exercise?
  • What are the best ways to manage my symptoms?

It will take some time to figure out what personally works best for you, but you will, and It’s going to be okay.

Realizing your life will never be quite the same as before diagnosis is terrifying. I know. I’ve been there.

When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2013 I was completely overwhelmed. My symptoms came on suddenly and aggressively. My daughter was five years old at the time and I was distraught thinking what this might mean for her, much less for me.

It will take time, patience, and persistence to learn what food sensitivities you may have, what causes your flares, and what your body needs most to start healing.

As a teacher, I am a researcher by nature, so after my autoimmune diagnosis, I scoured the internet for answers to my questions: What do these test results mean? What are healthy alternatives to pain medications? What are the side effects of (insert medication of the week here) and most importantly, what is the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis?  I read many books and articles on this particular topic and wound up more confused than when I started. I found stories of people bringing their disease into remission with vegan diets, Paleo diets, and keto diets, diets full of nightshades and others nightshade free. I love reading success stories, but they can be frustrating when you just want a quick answer.

Unfortunately, there is no quick, one size fits all answer.

I have read countless books and articles with contradictory information and have come to this conclusion: autoimmunity is complex and what works for one person may not be the answer for another- even with the same diagnosis.

After my autoimmune diagnosis, I had to figure out what would work for me. You will, too, and you need to giv it time.

I floundered for a while, trying various natural approaches while simultaneously cycling through three different biologic drugs in an attempt to find one I could tolerate. There were a few highs, but many, many lows. My doctor didn’t believe in the diet/ disease connection, so I searched on my own for answers. I gave up gluten and dairy to start (a suggestion I would recommend to anyone as a starting point).



There will be ups and downs on your journey and you will need to make many changes.

Thankfully, these changes will improve your quality of life.


psot autoimmune diagnosis

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplas

If what you are doing isn’t working, you need to try a new approach.

I changed my diet completely based on what I had gleaned from past experience (you can read about my diet here) and started exercising differently as well. I modify almost every program I try.  Gentle yoga is what I found works best for me. I have also worked hard to get rid of as many chemicals in my daily routines as possible since 60% of what we put on our bodies is absorbed within 26 seconds. I have enough problems without adding additional hormone disruptors and carcinogens into my bloodstream.

You might find your lifestyle in need of an overhaul, too.

This can take time as well. We all have food sensitivities of some kind and one exercise that is perfect for one person may be too challenging or not challenging enough for some. There are some athletes out there rocking it with RA- and they are truly inspiring.

You might need to change your mindset as well. Don’t let negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead of viewing autoimmunity as an end to life as you knew it- think of it as a new beginning.

Your mindset and a positive support system can make all the difference.

I tried online support groups, left those that focused on long-term disability and hopelessness and started a public Facebook page (click to like my page)  as a place to share my journey and inspire others to make positive changes as well.

During this process, I realized that a positive community of like-minded individuals is incredibly powerful. I am so inspired and empowered by the men and women who have joined me.

Everyone needs a tribe.

Your new normal might surprise you (in a good way).

Once you slow down and really make your health a priority and follow a diet and exercise program that supports your needs, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised with some of the positive changes you see in yourself. Maybe you are on your way to becoming one of those athletes I mentioned earlier!

This is a journey.

Working on improving your post autoimmune diagnosis “new normal”  will be a lifelong journey. We change, and our needs change. Aim for progress, not perfection. Your happiness and wellness will depend on your ability to adapt, grow, and forgive yourself.

I still struggle sometimes but I have lowered my medications significantly and improved my blood work. I still work full time and am able to engage in gentle exercise. I have improved my quality of life and I genuinely feel better. I am certainly not perfect (Hello, tortilla chip addiction! Margaritas, anyone?), but I do pretty well and can honestly say I am living well with autoimmunity. My new normal is one I am proud of and I would love to help you with yours.

Please reach out to me anytime and please be sure to subscribe to my email list by clicking here, as I will be sending out helpful information, new anti-inflammatory recipes, and freebies designed just for you.





Some of the links on this website are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase a product through one of my links, I receive a small commission, and the price is still the same for you! To learn more about this, click here.

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Living Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis: a Wellness Journey

Living Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis: a Wellness Journey

My rheumatoid arthritis wellness journey began four years ago when I was diagnosed with a severe form of the disease.

It came on with frightening speed: I went to bed one day feeling just fine and woke up the next with such intense foot pain that I was barely able to walk. At first, I thought it was cute, but impractical shoes I loved wearing, so I invested in a few new pairs of comfortable flats. But when the pain kept moving to different parts of my body and I noticed that my toes were literally shifting, I made an appointment.

My doctor ordered many blood tests and based on his initial examination told me it could be as simple as a vitamin B deficiency or as complicated as rheumatoid arthritis. As I waited for my results, despite his insistence that I stay off the internet (he knew me pretty well),  I Googled rheumatoid arthritis. After reading all day and well into the evening about autoimmunity and looking at pictures of deformities caused by this disease I prayed for a vitamin B deficiency, but deep down I knew I had rheumatoid arthritis.

My blood work came back with all of the hallmark markers for rheumatoid arthritis: positive rheumatoid factor, super high anti-ccp antibodies, and an elevated sed rate.  The diagnosis was swift, for which I was grateful, and I was on my way to a rheumatology appointment within a week. As relieved as I was to have a diagnosis though, I was overwhelmed.

This diagnosis was terrifying, devastating, and life changing for our family.

Within a matter of weeks, I went from taking weekly Zumba classes and competing in daily Just Dance dance-offs with my then 5-year-old to barely being able to walk from my bed to the bathroom each morning. Sometimes I even needed help getting dressed.

My rheumatologist took one look at my hands and feet and said he wouldn’t even need to see my blood work to diagnose RA. He said the damage had already begun, so we needed to act aggressively. He elected to skip the usual starting point drug, methotrexate, and went straight to the biologics and Prednisone.

Finding the right medication took some time.

While I went through the agony of finding a biologic medicine I could tolerate (I tried Humira and Enbrel first, discovering that I was allergic to both), it took all the energy I had to make it through my workday. I had nothing left for my family at the end of the day, and my weekends were spent in bed recovering. Feeling like a neglectful mother and wife was exceedingly difficult and this, paired with the emotional side effects of Prednisone affected my emotional well-being to the extent that I needed anti depressant, anti anxiety medication to pull through.

Once I found an RA medication that I was not allergic to and also alleviated my symptoms (Actemra), and identified several flare inducing foods, my physical and emotional state improved to the extent that I would bet those around me had no idea that I was still struggling. But I was still allowing this diagnosis to define me.


rheumatoid arthritis wellness

Photo by David Cohen on Unsplash

I felt fragile, powerless and often hopeless. I went through my days on autopilot and put on a happy face.

I probably would have continued on that path if an opportunity for change had not presented itself.  After much discussion, my husband accepted a job in Indiana in 2014. This meant a new job for me and moving to a town where we did not know a soul. He moved in November with the plan that we would finish out the school year in New York and join him in July. I tried not to think about it much during those first few months because change is frightening.

But somehow I very reluctantly researched schools and filled out applications and was more than pleasantly surprised when I was hired after a phone interview at one of the top high schools in the state. It was what I needed to shift my mindset and ready myself for change. Instead of letting fear paralyze me I took the advice I give my students at the start of each new school year:

“If you aren’t happy with the outcome of last year, look at this new year as a fresh start and as a chance to reinvent yourself.” Aren’t we all students of life? It was time to reinvent myself.

I decided, new job, a new town- new life! Let the reinvention begin! I wish I could say it was a smooth transition, but when I got to Indiana my rheumatologist in New York refused to refill my prescription because I was no longer in his care. I had just seen him two weeks prior, so I had no idea this would happen. STRESS!

Stress should be avoided at all costs when managing inflammatory conditions.

This brought on a nasty flare that left me pain stricken and horribly depressed. I moved to a new state from a four bedroom house to a two bedroom apartment (we were trying to figure out where we wanted to live), tried to keep my then 7 year- old entertained and happy, attempted to be a decent wife, and started my new job (full-time English teacher) medication free.

I went without meds for two months while I waited for an appointment with a new doctor here, waited for the blood test and x-ray results, and by this time, approval from my new insurance company.

Thankfully, I finally found a new doctor, started back on my medication and had another added to the mix for muscle pain: Plaquenil, the Prednisone did its job, and I started feeling like myself again.

But the stress and time without meds had taken its toll. I needed an overhaul. I was bloated, exhausted, crabby, highly emotional, and just unwell overall. I decided I was ready to get serious about my nutrition and needed to start exercising again. I knew I couldn’t do it alone though so I recruited several friends from all over the country to join me in a private Facebook accountability group. The impact was phenomenal. I achieved the results I could never have alone and I realized in the process that I really enjoy leading accountability groups.

rheumatoid arthritis wellnessThis led me to the diet and exercise programs I currently follow, and an overall better quality of life. I feel great most of the time now.

My rheumatologist is shocked at my dramatic turnaround and how well I am doing now. She even cried happy tears once. Recently she said, “just keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. It is working and you look great.”

You can read about my autoimmune diet here.

From the start of my journey to now, I have made progress with my rheumatoid arthritis I am proud of, although I am still hoping to do more.

you can read more about me here

Here is my medication progress to date:

  •  60 mg of Prednisone to none (this took almost three years to do though as one must taper slowly)
  • 162mg of Actemra injected once per week to once every two weeks
  • 400 mg of Plaquenil to 200mg per day
  • 300mg of Wellbutrin to 150mg per day

This is a journey. I am a work in progress. I still struggle with my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms at times but I am making great strides and am taking my life back. I am the hero of my life story, so I’m going to make sure I’m the one writing it!

I’d love to help you do the same.

I hope to connect with you soon!



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My Autoimmune Diet: How I Manage My Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms with Food

My Autoimmune Diet: How I Manage My Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms with Food

Are you curious about diet and autoimmunity? You’ve probably read or heard that there are no proven connections between diet and autoimmune symptoms, but countless testimonials and personal experience tell me otherwise. I’ll share my autoimmune diet below.

I have tried many dietary approaches over the past four years. I started by eliminating gluten and dairy. When that wasn’t enough to improve my autoimmune symptoms I looked into the Paleo diet, AIP, Whole30, and Primal diets because they kept coming up during my research. Read my post on how to tell the difference and how to choose which one might be best for you.  I explain my autoimmune diet further in that post as well.

I avoid gluten, grains, dairy, beans, nightshade vegetables, refined sugars, and processed foods. So essentially, I follow a modified Paleo diet.

Changing my autoimmune diet has made all the difference in my autoimmune symptoms. My disease activity is minimal, I have very little inflammation, and my energy levels are back close to where they were pre-diagnosis: I can actually work out again.

Because of this, I thought it might be helpful to show you what a typical day on my autoimmune diet looks like. You’ll see how easy it is to follow a grain, gluten, refined sugar and low dairy diet without losing your mind in the process.

Through this post and others, I’ll show you how I make following my autoimmune diet for symptom relief is doable. This is real life, after all.

I am busy, a little lazy, frequently exhausted at the end of a long workday, and very human, so I eat many of the same foods repeatedly. I do this to simplify my life and because I have many food sensitivities; on my autoimmune diet I eat what I know will not increase inflammation and other autoimmune symptoms.

Also, I am not a food blogger and my food is shown “as is” on this blog, meaning there is no fancy plating going on around here. Well, sometimes I attempt it- but you will see what I mean. HA!

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This is my weekday breakfast on my autoimmune diet

Almost every weekday for the past two years I’ve started my morning with a shake.

I start with full-fat coconut milk and/ or sugar-free almond butter frozen banana or berries, but I ALWAYS add MCT OIl and collagen powder.

Other days I just have Bullet Proof coffee (coffee with MCT oil, and a little grass-fed butter added). It’s delicious and filling.

anti-inflammatory smoothie maker nutribullet

Some might tire of a breakfast routine like this, but on my autoimmune diet, I have come to rely on simplified menus and routines as a way to better manage my disease activity.

I love starting my day with something so healthy and simple. I never have to think about breakfast, it takes about 30 seconds to whip up in the NutriBullet, and I drink it in the car on my way to work each day. The fact that it’s crazy delicious makes me pretty darn happy, too.

I also always have a cup of organic coffee with coconut or almond creamer or Nutpods when I have it and sometimes a drop of liquid stevia (chocolate is my favorite!). I am an addict, for sure.   

the coffee i drink on my autoimmune diet

On the weekends I eat later and have brunch instead.

Eggs with bacon or quiche made with an almond flour crust are favorites.

I make sure to drink lots of lemon water throughout the day because I never drink enough during the week. This is something I am working on, for sure!

Some people’s autoimmune symptoms are aggravated by eggs. I eliminated them while on AIP and am happy I am able to tolerate them and have them as part of my autoimmune diet.







Lunch is almost always leftovers, a salad, or leftovers and a salad.

It rarely changes because I am not one to prepare a new meal at lunchtime, and during the school year I pack my lunch every day (actually my husband packs it for me because he’s awesome like that) so it needs to be something quick.

I actually work leftovers into my weekly meal planning for this purpose.

One of my favorite salads is simply two handfuls of baby spinach, a few chopped strawberries, a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds, and a  simple balsamic vinaigrette. On the day I took this photo I was out of pumpkin seeds, so I just went with the berries and spinach.

Sweet Potatoes and steak are two of the foods we eat often. I usually roast the sweet potatoes and anything we can grill is also a go-to especially for the summer months.

Sometimes I just skip sweet potatoes and toss the steak right on my salad!

Voila! A perfect lunch crafted from leftovers. 

How I Meal Plan

customized meal plans


Because who doesn’t need a few snacks from time to time?


I love snacks and I have a sweet tooth.

This is tough when trying to avoid refined and artificial sugars.

I love hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, a handful of almonds and almond butter with celery or an apple will sometimes work their way into the mix when I am especially hungry.

I also keep RX BARS on hand for emergencies. They are delicious. RXBAR makes whole food protein bars with simple, all-natural ingredients.



Dinner usually consists of a high-quality protein and plenty of vegetables.

The grill and Instant Pot are my best friends.

Cauliflower is a frequent flyer because I could eat mashed cauliflower every day!

I also try to eat as many green vegetables as possible. green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and brussels sprouts (roasted only) are the usual picks.

We use leftover veggies in a frittata. A big slice of frittata with a salad is one of my favorite lunches.

I like to prep more than I need each time to make dinner time easier during the week.

A typical dinner for us: grilled steak, sauteed zucchini and mushrooms,  and mashed cauliflower.



I cannot think of a better dessert than fresh berries topped with coconut whipped cream (I use this). It’s simple and satisfying.  I try to stick to organic for the Dirty Dozen whenever possible, but I don’t obsess about it. I just wash everything really, really well. We do our best, but we aren’t perfect by any means.

So, as you can see, if you keep it simple, following a Paleo-friendly diet can be quite doable, not to mention beneficial.

I hope you will give it try if you’ve been thinking about it.

Need help with meal planning? Click here

Be well,

Some of the links on this website are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase a product through one of my links, I receive a small commission, and the price is still the same for you! To learn more about this, click here.

Thank you for helping me keep this blog going. I appreciate your support.


I believe one should never underestimate the power of a good cup of coffee or the perfect glass of wine and that we should love ourselves at every age!

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