Coconut Milk: My Personal Dairy Alternative of Choice

Hey there! Did you know that June  is Dairy Alternatives Month? It’s also Dairy Month, but since I can’t consume any dairy without having a coconutmilkcrazy autoimmune response that makes my arthritis flare like a raging brushfire, I’m just going to focus on dairy alternatives.

I’m sure you have noticed a whole slew of commercial dairy alternatives on the market recently. First there was soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk. Now you can even find pre-packaged hemp milk, oat milk, cashew milk, etc.

There are so many options available on the market if you have a dairy allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. The downside is that most commercial dairy alternatives are highly-processed foods.  Most of them contain additives like Carrageenan and guar gum. Some of them also have added ingredients like sugar, salt, and canola oil. If you have autoimmune or digestive issues, you have to be careful with additives and extraneous ingredients.  For this reason, I recommend making your own dairy alternative at home or searching for a commercial brand that only contains two ingredients (the main ingredient and water).

My personal dairy alternative of choice is coconut milk. Firstly, my girls have life-threatening tree nut allergies so I am not about to fool with any nut milks–plus I have my own autoimmune issues with  nuts (in case you’re wondering, coconuts are tropical fruits in the drupe family, not nuts). Secondly, coconuts are a very nutritious choice. They are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

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Quick Summary of Food Allergies in the US

Did you know that about 15 million Americans have food allergies? Did you know that 1 in 13 children have food allergies? That’s about 2 in every classroom across the country. During Food Allergy Awareness Month, I came across this handy little infographic put together by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). You can learn more about FARE and how you can help spread awareness at

Food-Allergies-in-US-Infographic (1)

June 2014 is Scleroderma Awareness Month

Did you know that June 2014 is Scleroderma Awarness Month? If not, I’m not surprised most people haven’t even heard of Scleroderma, not to2014_scleroderma_awareness_icon_1 mention Scleroderma Awareness Month.

According to the Scleroderma Foundation, Scleroderma is a chronic, often progressive, autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own body.

Scleroderma means “hard skin.” It can cause  thickening and tightening of the skin. In some cases, it causes serious damage to internal organs including the lungs, heart, kidneys, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract. As scarring, or sclerosis, of these organs and organ systems progress, they work less effectively, and can lead to organ failure and death.

Here are some quick facts about Scleroderma:

  • Approximately 300,000 Americans have scleroderma
  • An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people have systemic scleroderma
  • Approximately three to four times more women develop scleroderma
  • Scleroderma can affect any age group, but onset is most frequent between 25 and 55
  • 90 percent of people living with systemic scleroderma also have Raynaud’s Phenomenon, an autoimmune disorder in which there is constriction of blood vessels in the ears, nose, fingers or toes
  • Lung disease is a major cause of scleroderma-related deaths.

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5 Steps to Make Time to Cook Healthful Meals

I often hear many women say that one of their biggest challenges to eating healthy is not having enough time to cook. In fact, I used to be one preparing foodof those women before I had children.  When I was in my early twenties, I didn’t realize how important cooking real food was to my overall health and well-being.

According to one study, “time scarcity, the feeling of not having enough time, has been implicated in changes in food consumption patterns such as a decrease in food preparation at home, an increase in the consumption of fast foods, a decrease in family meals, and an increase in the consumption of convenience or ready-prepared foods. These food choices are associated with less healthful diets and may contribute to obesity and chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.”¹

Another study published in Public Health Nutrition, maintains that frequently cooking your meals is associated with living a longer life and enjoying a more nutritious diet.² This does not surprise me considering that most of today’s modern illnesses are associated with the highly processed foods we eat today. The more you cook your own meals from scratch, the better off you are.

As a mom of three young girls and a business owner, it can be quite challenging to make homemade meals everyday but I have found a way to make it happen. The truth of the matter is that we make time for the things that are really important to us. Once you make cooking a true priority, you make time to do it.

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How to Safely Share Your Kitchen with Gluten-Eating Family Members

If you have Celiac disease or another form of gluten sensitivity, you know that you must adhere to a gluten-free diet. In order to stay healthy,Butter and bread you also need to avoid cross-contact between gluten-free foods and foods that contain gluten (ie. foods made with wheat, barely, or rye ingredients).  When other family members are still eating foods that contain gluten, this can be a bit of a challenge.

My family has a number of food allergies, food sensitivities, and autoimmune conditions that are triggered by a number of different foods. Some foods, like peanuts and tree nuts, are banned from ever entering the house because the risk for anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction that can result in death) is just too high. Other allergens are allowed in the house, as long as everyone follows safe-food handling practices to prevent cross-contact.

Most of my family is gluten-free but my husband still likes to eat gluten-containing foods like bread and pizza. We have definitely had to implement a few safeguards to keep the rest of the family healthy.

Here are my top 7 tips to safely share your kitchen with your gluten-eating family members.

1) Get a new toaster.

The girls and I don’t eat any bread at all but if you plan on eating toasted gluten-free bread, you will need to get a new toaster that is used exclusively for breads that do not contain gluten. Toasters usually house so many bread crumbs that it’s impossible to clean them out completely. If you don’t have room for a second toaster or just don’t feel like buying a second one, you can also use a toaster oven. Just be sure to clean it out between uses. Another option is to stick with toasting your bread on a pan in your oven. Hey, it has worked for many years.

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Wellness Begins with Your Mindset

Wellness begins in your mind. In fact, wellness begins with your mindset. Your mindset is the ideas and attitudes with which you view and feel good conceptapproach the world. In order to truly be healthy, you must begin with a healthy mindset.

Here at BrightFire Living, the focus is on living well despite the challenges we face living in our modern world. Day in and day out, we are constantly bombarded with all sorts of unhealthy situations that have practically become the fabric of our society; whether it be stressful jobs, lack of physical activity, the Standard American Diet, toxic chemicals, etc .

Living well in this day in age requires you to have what I call a “BrightFire Mindset.” You must be bold and fiery. In other words, you have to be willing to do something different than the masses. It takes courage and passion to go against the grain, take responsibility for your health, and reclaim your wellness.

Here are 10 BrightFire mindset principles for igniting your wellness:

1) You are in control of your health and wellness.

Generally speaking, most people have given up control of their health and wellness. Our society tends to rely on pills to make problems better when they occur rather than look for and address the underlying cause. Most people also take a passive role in their wellness only thinking about their health when something goes wrong. Many folks feel helpless, like their fate is beyond their control.

In contrast, the BrightFire approach is a proactive approach. Even if you are struggling with a chronic illness, your fate is not predetermined by your genetics. Chronic illnesses result from a misalignment between our genes, our environment, and our lifestyle. While you may not be able to cure your chronic illness or get new genes, you can alter your environment and your lifestyle so that you can better manage your condition, and in some cases, even turn off those genes that are expressing themselves in a negative way.

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5 Tips for Communicating with Family and Friends Who Just Don’t Understand

One of the most common statements I hear from people with chronic illnesses regarding their friends and family members is, “They just don’tDictionary Series - Marketing: communication understand.” This is particularly true for people with autoimmune disorders (such as, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lupus, Celiac, etc) and other modern invisible illnesses (like food allergies and ADHD). I am amazed at how many times I have heard someone cluelessly minimize the impact of one of these conditions.

If you are dealing with a chronic condition, I am sure that you have uttered the words, “They just don’t get it” at some point in your life. I know I have on several occasions.

This lack of understanding can be very frustrating for you because whenever anyone speaks to another person they want to feel like they have been heard and understood.

Unfortunately, it is particularly hard for people to wrap their minds around chronic conditions unless they experience them first-hand. Unlike visible disabilities, such as breaking your leg,  people around you have little or no reference point in regards to what might be going on inside of your body. This lack of awareness often leads to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

Communication breakdowns can lead to feelings of anger, anxiety, resentment, animosity, hopelessness, isolation, despair, and depression. All of these emotions negatively impact your relationships and overall quality of life. The stress brought on by conflict can also weaken your ability to manage your symptoms effectively.

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Blessing Your Food Is Good for Your Health and Well-Being

If you are like most Americans, you probably sit down at the dinner table and quickly scarf down your food. And this is assuming that you actually sit down at the dinner table to eat dinner.  Many people are eating on the couch, at their desks, or wherever, while multitasking.

When I worked in hospitals, inhaling your food was actually a necessary job skill. If you didn’t eat fast, it was quite possibOur Meal Prayerle you wouldn’t eat at all.  Reversing this tendency to eat my food in about 30 seconds flat has been quite the challenge. I still have to work on it some days.

One thing I have found that really has helped is saying a blessing before meals. I wanted to teach my daughters gratitude and instill a sense of connection with God, so I created a little prayer that they could model until they felt comfortable coming up with their own words. You can read it on the right.

It’s a very simple prayer but it has worked wonders. When we say this prayer each night before dinner it gives us a sense of peace and calm. When you have life-threatening food allergies and autoimmune disorders, every meal that you eat can be a source of stress and anxiety, so this really is a special gift.

We also feel a sense of gratitude and connection with God when we say this prayer. Research has shown that people who measured high in terms of spirituality also measure high in their ability to cope with chronic illness [1].

Saying a prayer before your meal or just expressing your gratitude for your food allows you to slow down and actually leads you to experience the full benefits of your meal in more ways than one.

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Are You Maximizing Your “Superhuman” ADHD Strengths?

Most often we focus on the negative aspects of ADHD characteristics.  I am not going to lie, ADHD traits can cause many problems sometimes,PowerPosePost729 but they can also be great strengths. In fact, I’d say they are nearly superhuman strengths.


According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “superhuman” can be defined as, “exceeding normal human power, size, or capability.”

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap a tall building in a single bound”–only someone with ADHD has that kind of energy.

Have you ever stopped to consider just how closely ADHD characteristics resemble Superman’s traits? No. I didn’t think so.  Allow me to illuminate them for you.

Here are a few of Superman’s traits that many people with ADHD also possess:

1). Superhuman Strength and Stamina

Hyperactivity anyone?  High energy actually is a positive trait. A person with ADHD can get so much done if they can focus on the task at hand (see hyperfocus) and use their powers for good.  I know many peeps with ADHD who can work circles around neuro-typical folks.

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Two of My Favorite Things Just Had the Sweetest Baby!

I’m a bit of weirdo in that I eat Kale and Brussels Sprouts like other people pop potato chips. I absolutely love them! So, imagine, if you will, my

Kale Sprouts

reaction when I stumbled upon these little gems called, “Kale Sprouts.”

When I first saw them in the produce section of my local Whole Foods, I thought they were teeny, tiny, little miniature heads of Kale. As I leaned in for a closer inspection, I noticed the label, which read, “The New Superfood! Powerful source of antioxidants, vitamins & iron. The perfect fusion of Brussels Sprouts & Kale.”

My next thought was, “Oh no! What have they done to my Brussels Sprouts and Kale? Is this some kind of GMO Frankenfood?”

Curious, but still afraid to eat them (hey, GMO’s are scary), I scooped up a bag and added them to my shopping cart. Once I got home, I decided to call the company that distributes this new curiosity in my region, 4EARTH FARMS.  Kale Sprouts were just released in my area in March 2014. If you haven’t seen them in your neck of the woods, yet, don’t worry, they are probably on their way. It turns out that Kale Sprouts are a natural hybrid between Russian Red Kale and Brussels Sprouts. The small sprouts look like Kale but grow on a stalk like Brussels Sprouts. Very cool, huh?

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