Is it possible that a low carb bread, an almost mythical baked good, can even exist? It’s almost like looking for a low carb gluten free unicorn. According to Doctor Sarah Myhill the single biggest reason that people lapse from a Paleo Ketogenic diet is because they can’t eat bread. I used to run a GF bakery ( I even won lots of awards over the years) so I know how much people miss their daily loaf. It’s just so easy and convenient to make a quick sandwich. Moving away from bread literally requires a shift in the national British pysche. Thanks a lot Earl of Sandwich…
Gluten Free flours
I’m used to using at least four different flours for a loaf, plus raising agents and binders (xanthan and guar gums, psyllium husk, eggs, linseed). Then there’s the critical ratio of whole grains and starches. I used to love baking with buckwheat and teff, and tapioca is a magical starch. I was understandably sceptical when I saw that Dr Myhill’s recipe uses only one flour, no raising agents and you could argue that it’s made entirely with a binder. The entire recipe is just three ingredients (and one of those is water!)
What’s the catch?
There is a catch. But it’s not a big one. The primary ingredient is linseed and this needs to be ground just before baking. Ground linseed can become rancid, plus it’s likely to absorb water which will mess up the hydration ratio given in Dr Myhill’s recipe. I used a Vitamix to grind the linseeds but any high powered blender will do the job.
How does it taste?
I was concerned here because Dr Myhill does go into some detail about how taste preferences are acquired. However, drum roll please… the taste was good, it was quite complex with almost a toasted nut flavour. The crust was good, the crumb was open and soft, although maybe a little too crumbly. There wasn’t that throat-catching dryness that I associate with bought gluten free loaves. I’d be interested to see what the addition of psyllium husk would do to the texture because as it stands it wouldn’t survive in a lunchbox. That would make it even higher fibre too. I’d also be keen to try a larger loaf, and maybe place the mixture into the fridge the night before to soak for longer.
Would I make it again?
Absolutely! I loved the simplicity of only using one flour. Gluten free flours are typically more expensive than their gluten-y equivalents, here a 500g bag of golden linseed would set you back £2.25 (Waitrose) and produce two small loaves. That’s a bargain for gluten free food which tends to be at least one third more expensive than their ‘normal’ counterparts. Given that this bread is also very low carb and would help to keep you in ketosis it’s a brilliant choice. Find the recipe for Dr Myhill’s low carb bread aka PK bread here: https://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/The_Paleo_Ketogenic_Diet_-_PK_Bread
I asked my son, Harrison, now aged 16 about his thoughts on managing the autoimmune disease alopecia. He was diagnosed in 2016. You can read more about his and my experience over the last few years here. https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/child-develops-alopecia/ There’s never going to be a good time to lose your hair, but having alopecia as a teenager regardless of whether you’re a boy or girl has got to be one of the worst.
What did you think when you first found a bald spot?
When I first noticed I had a bald spot it was pointed out to me by everyone in my year at school. It made me feel very self-conscious and that feeling of constant self-consciousness has stayed with me to this day. I took the short term solution to the problem and simply wore a hat until my hair grew back. But years passed and nothing changed.
What worried you the most about losing hair?
What worried me most was that I would be looked at differently and judged for not having hair. It seemed that I was either seen as a thug or as someone who was sick. At a rugby training camp, some of the boys thought that I was a skinhead and were concerned about being friends with me because of this! I despised the unwelcome attention given to me constantly because of how I looked.
Which was your least favourite treatment protocol that you tried?
My least favourite treatment by far was taking corticosteroid pills. One of the dermatologists prescribed them a couple of years ago. They gave me extreme mood swings… for example, my mood could go from happy and hopeful to angry and back to happy in under ten seconds as I was walking around at school.
After you’d lost all of your hair did you think that it would ever grow back?
Once I lost all my hair, I did not think my hair would ever grow back due to the sheer number of treatments I tried that failed. Eventually I gave up on my hope of getting my hair back, and thought that I’d be wearing hats all of the time.
What does it feel like now that your hair is regrowing?
Now my hair is finally growing back I feel much more hopeful for the future. But I still feel self-conscious because I still have some bald spots. I know that they’ll fill in eventually, but it’s taking time.
This is my current favourite cookie! It’s gluten free, and can be made dairy free if you’re not able to tolerate dairy. It’s made in a few minutes using just a food processor.
Why do I call it the ‘Feel Good’ cookie? Well, because chocolate chips… obviously. Plus the two flours used pack a nutritious punch which kicks the backside of wheat in just about every category. More protein, fibre and micronutrients (like iron, zinc, calcium and copper). This cookie is almost a health food!
As an added bonus it’s not obviously ‘gluten free’ there’s no chalky texture or excess crumbliness. As a Health Coach and Mum to three teenagers I’m happy to make these for a Friday treat, or a you’ve finally finished the never-ending schoolwork treat, or even as a we’re all stuck at home might as well bake treat.
A couple of notes: To make it dairy free use coconut oil in place of butter. For the teff flour either brown or white works well. Ground hazelnuts would work in place of almonds.
60g butter (room temperature)
1 medium egg (room temperature)
45g Coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
90g teff flour
65g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
60g chocolate chips (I use a brand sweetened with coconut sugar)
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan oven, or 180°C conventional or 350°F
2. Place baking parchment on a large tray and set aside.
3. Blitz butter and egg in the food processor by pulsing until combined.
4. Add sugar and vanilla, pulse until combined.
5. Add both flours, baking powder and salt, pulse until combined.
6. Add the chocolate chips to the mix using a spatula to mix in.
7. Drop 10 large spoonfuls of cookie dough onto your prepared sheet. Space them well apart, and gently press down to flatten the dough slightly.
8. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool fully.
Keep reminding yourself that these delicious treats are giving a lot more bang for your buck than a typical cookie
A key focus of mine as a Functional Medicine Health Coach is to support my clients to improve their gut health. We know that 70-80% of our immune system resides in the gut, and I work primarily with clients who are living with autoimmune diseases. It’s an area that fascinates me, so I was delighted to catch up (in a socially distanced way) with Emma Cronin aka Wild Pickle to talk about all things related to gut health. Emma’s been running her fermenting business since 2015. She’s literally a walking-talking advert for fermenting because she herself looks so healthy!
The first time that you speak to Emma you are immediately struck by both her deep passion for fermenting, and her incredibly wide knowledge. Unlike some people who have spent years immersing themselves in a subject and live deep in the weeds of the technical details, Emma makes it easy for a first-time fermenter to understand the process. I attended two Wild Pickle workshops in 2019 and came away armed with huge amounts of knowledge, and perhaps more importantly the confidence that I wasn’t going to food poison myself!
What led you to first become interested in fermented foods?
My daughter was suffering from gluten and dairy intolerances from her early years. While I was fatigued and suffering from low mood and digestive problems. I started to look at our diet and lifestyle overall to improve our health and I was introduced to sauerkraut, milk kefir and kombucha. I started to work on cooking everything from scratch and eating the kind of food our great grandma ate (no processed foods). Then I attended a sauerkraut making workshop. When you make everything from scratch, being able to make a fermented tomato ketchup that tasted amazing and lasted 2-3 months for a little one was like hitting the jackpot for me!
What differences have you noticed in your own health since becoming a committed fermenter?
There’s been so many positive changes: social anxiety lessened; mental health improved; skin condition and colour improved; my hair stopped falling out as much as it was; stronger nails; digestive health recovered; hardly any colds in the winter; enhanced immunity and overall better gut health and I really appreciated feeling an increased vitality in everyday life.
What’s your favourite food/drink to make and why?
Kimchi has to be one of my favourite ferments to make. I enjoy the making process of chopping the vegetables, brining them and making the paste. It is therapeutic and I take my time. I love the Korean phrase “Son Mat” meaning the taste of one’s hands, in my case this translates as made by hand with love and awareness. It slows me down. Kimchi ferments in such a short time of 1-3 days. I then leave it for a couple of months in the cold and when it is brought out the depths of the flavours… are totally different from the beginning. They are complex and superb and I love that all the alchemy of the bacteria is working in kimchi to create the pungency and umami flavours that we love. Giving time and patience is worth it.
If someone is completely new to fermented foods, where do you suggest they start?
I would recommend that with fermented foods you start with something you enjoy, whether it is gherkins, kimchi, sauerkraut or kombucha. In all cases I would recommend trying small amounts and paying attention to how your body reacts. I would then recommend trying a wide variety of live, unpasteurised fermented foods.
I think that the easiest introduction to making fermented foods is sauerkraut. It is simple and does not need much in the form of ingredients or utensils to get going. It’s great as you can control how tangy it gets and what ingredients go into it. It is a powerhouse of goodness for not very much outlay and effort.
That said, sauerkraut is not always everyone’s cup of tea. So sometimes Kombucha, a sweetened fermented tea is a good gateway into fermented foods and maybe try that first. I think that Kombucha was the first fermented food that we tried. Again, we had to get used to drinking it and had it in small quantities to begin with but we loved it!
What plans do you have for the future of Wild Pickle?
Wild Pickle is moving to online workshops. It’s exciting to be able to reach out and share the fermenting fun with many more people than I could reach locally. The workshops are teaching sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, milk kefir, condiments, salsas and looking at incorporating more wild foraged foods.
I’m starting with smaller workshops (less than 10 people) in order to give all attendees focused attention. In addition to the workshops I also teach groups of friends who are keen to host a kombucha/sauerkraut making virtual party. Plus, I’m also offering bespoke and tailored one to one sessions which will really explore the flavours that you particularly enjoy.
We have a small commercial test kitchen based on a farm in the heart of Staffordshire countryside. We’re also busy creating a workshop there which will provide additional teaching space, but given the current environment that will be ready in 2021.
Fermentation is an increasingly important part of supporting our gut health and immunity. But let’s not forget the other roles that it fills. It’s a tool to help in minimising waste, it focuses our attention to use what we have available, it helps us to get away from the use of plastic, it preserves seasonal food at its best, and makes it easier to store food without the relying on refrigeration.
Fermentation of food creates such complex and amazing flavours that cannot be achieved by other means. What’s incredible is that you can easily make this at home with no fancy equipment. It’s too exciting and too delicious not to share!
First off, while it would be fantastic to receive a diagnosis at the very first hint of a bald spot, the chances are that it will take a period of time to receive a diagnosis after your child develops alopecia. Then you know what you’re dealing with, and can take appropriate action immediately. I’m speaking as someone who didn’t do this, and hindsight is a wonderful gift! It would have been much more straightforward, painless and quicker to address the autoimmune disease before it really dug in, took hold and became even more challenging to address.
What not to do…
We didn’t do this… My son, Harrison’s, alopecia didn’t start with an obvious spot. It began slowly during the Summer of 2016 with thinning eyebrows and the ophiasis pattern. The first time that we noticed it, we thought that it was just a bad haircut! His hair behind each ear had simply disappeared in even lines almost as if it had been waxed. It wasn’t until the next hair cut a few weeks later, with a different barber who announced that it looked like alopecia.
second hairdresser’s diagnosis we visited the GP who thought that maybe it
could be alopecia, but he wasn’t sure. It was tempting to go back to the barber
and ask for his recommendations given that the GP had none, other than there’s
not much that you can do and it’ll probably grow back on its own. To be fair to
the doctor maybe this would have happened, but unfortunately two other events
happened in relatively quick succession which resulted in complete hair loss.
Immune System took a hammering
First, in December Harrison suffered a nasty spiral fracture to his leg while playing rugby. This meant that a super sporty boy was in a cast and stuck on the sofa for the best part of 12 weeks. He was annoyed at missing such a big chunk of the season, and unable to do any exercise at all. Being stuck inside and on the sofa had a negative impact on him. He then developed a throat infection. A week after starting a course of antibiotics his hair was falling out in handfuls. This was in March 2017.
Back at the GPs when I mentioned the timing they were genuinely confused and told me that hair loss wasn’t caused by antibiotics. It simply wasn’t a side effect of amoxicillin. At this time I had an awareness about gut health and knew that antibiotics could wipe out your ‘good’ bugs. I was wondering how I knew this but the doctor didn’t. Typically if your child develops alopecia you will be referred to a dermatologist, in our case he recommended a topical steroid cream. That didn’t work. Harrison lost all of his hair including eyebrows and lashes.
How many experts?
We then started along a path of seeing various experts including: a pediatric dermatologist, allergist, pediatric gastroenterologist (x2) and immunologist. Each of these doctors carried out their own tests, and some prescribed treatments too which we dutifully carried out. These appointments were mainly through our private health insurance, but none of them helped much either. Although the second dermatologist told us that the first had prescribed the wrong version of the steroid cream. Awesome.
took months during which time Harrison would have some patchy growth and brows
and lashes would come and go. For the most part he was wearing a hat to school,
and his friends and teachers knew of his condition. When he turned 14 he joined
our local gym and started working out. He trained himself using youtube videos
and after a year or so he bought Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Body Building bible.
While he did
have some patchy regrowth during this time it never stayed, as I mentioned
before the brows and lashes were particularly unpredictable. We’d also
completely given up on conventional medicine as none of these experts had
helped at all. What continues to astonish me is that the gastros didn’t have a
clue about gut health. The problem with all of these specialists is that they
are so focused on their own little niche, which they’ve spent years being immersed
in, that they no longer see the body as a whole interdependent system.
Done with ‘normal’ medicine
up on mainstream or ‘normal’ medicine while continuing to have an unhappy bald
son we crossed over the line to alternative treatments… We saw a trichologist,
Chinese Medicine doctor, bought hair growth products from Israel(!) and tried
acupuncture. Do I have to mention the shampoos? Yes we tried ‘hair growth’
shampoos too. All the above served to do was lighten my purse. With the exception
of the acupuncture which I’ll come to later, none of the above helped at all. Still
bald, still not happy.
Summer of 2018 we experienced hope for the first time in two years. Harrison had
an appointment with a Functional Medicine doctor who was the first person to
utter these magic words: Root Cause. Rather than treating the symptoms of alopecia
i.e. hair loss, we would get to the bottom of what was actually causing the
hair loss. He started on the Auto Immune Protocol diet which produced limited
success, in that his eyebrows which had grown back did not fall out. He was
treated for an infection and placed on a supplement regime which he took for 2
to 3 months depending on the supplement.
Back to school
back to school in September with a smile on his face. It didn’t last long, by
November his eyebrows had gone again. I didn’t want to be the kind of Mother
who was constantly hassling her child so we didn’t try anything else. In fact,
I thought that he had come to terms with it, and if he was happy, then I was
happy. But sadly that wasn’t the case. In February 2019 he asked if he could
get a wig. Clearly he hadn’t come to terms with being a bald teenager, and was
starting to grab at straws.
have a clue about how one went about getting a wig, none of the doctors had
mentioned it as an option. Plus because he played so much rugby I kept seeing
this image of him being on the pitch in a scrum, and instead of the ball coming
out, it would be a wig… So we went back to the drawing board.
I remembered an autoimmune web conference that I’d attended where a US pediatrician mentioned using LDN with children suffering from autoimmune disease. In a nutshell, for those of us who like our science to be understandable… it causes increased endorphin release, and increased endorphins modulate the immune response. His Functional Medicine doctor had experienced success with this strategy for other patients with alopecia. He started in February, and by May new hair growth had started. This is something that you could perhaps consider if your child develops alopecia. I’ve written about it here https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/alopecia-and-ldn/
Functional Medicine Health Coach
Also in May I took a 5 week course with a Functional Medicine Health Coach on alopecia. This was the first time that I heard that it was possible to regrow hair even if you’ve been bald for years! By June I was hooked and enrolled on the ADAPT Functional Medicine Health Coach program in order to help spread both the concept of Functional Medicine and Health Coaching in the UK. It has literally been the only thing that has worked for my son, and as you can tell we’ve tried a pretty big array of treatments over the years.
Fast forward to today and Harrison’s hair is continuing to grow in. Perhaps more importantly he hasn’t lost it either. I mentioned earlier about acupuncture, we tried that for a few weeks in the Summer of 2019 when his hair had already started to grow back, potentially that may have helped too.
My Health Coaching Practice
In my practice I work with clients (or their parents) to help them find their own root cause for alopecia. I can guarantee that your root cause will be different to other clients. There’s no magic lotion, potion or pill. Just because LDN helped Harrison it may not help you. If your child develops alopecia you need to start with gut health and diet, moving on to the importance of sleep and exercise, finally looking at breathing/meditation and environmental causes. I know, it all sounds so simple and straightforward!
What’s unique about my work is the focus on micro behaviour changes through the lens of autoimmune disease. I’ve spent the last four years learning about what works, and what doesn’t, for alopecia. I’m actually really excited to be able to share this with you in the hope that you save time and money yourselves. I will always work with people who can’t afford my fees on a pro-bono basis. Please get in touch if you’d like to go on my pro-bono waiting list. Obviously, like you, I can’t afford to work for free so each quarter I work with one client for 3 months on this basis.
Thanks for reading, I wanted to raise awareness that if your child develops alopecia it’s entirely possible for hair to regrow. I want to give you both insight and hope.
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