Kari Owens, from the blog Whole Life, Full Soul, is a lady of many talents. She writes beautifully expressive and thought-provoking articles filled with advice and support on self-love and emotional healing. Her stunning photographs illustrate posts filled with tempting, healthy and restorative recipes. She is a holistic and nutrition coach with a keen interest in strengthening the relationship between body and soul. And now she has written a book.
Mind & Body Balancing is a 45 page e-Book dedicated to inflammation. Or lack of it, it might be prudent to point out. Kari has set out to help her reader counteract inflammation through food and lifestyle and, to be honest, if anyone is qualified to do the job, you would be wise to look to her. Although still only young, she has already suffered more than her fair share of chronic inflammation (I urge you to read Kari's post 'Diagnosis is not always the answer', it makes for powerful yet inspirational and empathetic reading). Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis for over a decade, she has seen her body deteriorate to the point of near immobility ... and now to brimming with health and vitality. By her own admission she is still a work in progress, however to make such an incredible u-turn with such dramatic results is nothing short of astonishing. It seems only right, you'll agree, that Kari's book would be written with those dealing with various forms of chronic inflammation themselves in mind.
Kari's e-book is not only beautifully photographed but a delight to read. She starts by giving a clear and concise description of what inflammation is and how it works within the body. She explains potential causes of inflammation and ways to tell that that is indeed what you are experiencing. She goes on to discuss how environmental impact and lifestyle factors come into play and finishes by suggesting everyday strategies, practical therapies and simple tools whereby we may take control and decrease our own chronic inflammatory responses. These include so much more than getting a good night's sleep and eating the right foods.
Having said that, Kari offers a compact but delicious recipe section, divided into categories that are essential to healing; Greens, Vegetables, Omega-3's, Fruit, Drinks and Ferment. Each and every single one of these straightforward recipes will appeal and though it took a while for me to decide which one to try first (would it be Garlic Kale Kelp "Pasta", Purslane Pesto & Meatballs, Pineapple Turmeric Ice Cream or Turmeric Tonic Tea?), I plumped for the intriguing Cultured Herb "Cheese". I was not disappointed - it is gorgeous. If you're at all familiar with Boursin then you are bang on the money with Kari's non-dairy, totally healthy fermented version.
It should be noted that this is not an Autoimmune Protocol book per se. Kari talks about including certain ingredients (seed spices, immune stimulants) that are not recommended for strict AIP followers. Her 'Foods to Remove' section is much more flexible and broad than the AIP and therefore you may be wise to check this post for what is and isn't appropriate to eat when following the AIP. Having said that, all her recipes are in line with AIP, if you don't add black pepper and in one recipe, miss out the optional pumpkin seeds. This fabulous Cultured "Cheese" recipe is 3000% AIP/GAPS/SCD/Paleo compliant!
Cultured Herb "Cheese" from Mind & Body Balancing (photo © Kate Jay)
So, in keeping with my nosy nature, I thought I'd find out a little bit more about Kari:
Kari, please tell us what brought you to the Autoimmune Protocol, how you came to it and when?
I came upon the Autoimmune Protocol by way of the Paleo Movement. I was in search of a way to remedy my severe arthritic symptoms, hypothyroid condition and adrenal fatigue. I started to follow it after about 1 year of transitioning to a Paleo eating lifestyle.
Can you explain the symptoms of your AI disease and whether you still get any of them now?
Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis vary for all individuals. It is classically defined as spondyloarthropathy or spinal arthritis, but it can also be polyarticular, meaning the arthritis can present itself in joints other than the spine. In my case, this is true, I was diagnosed as having arthritis present in 18 different joints. Arthritic pain is challenging to describe, it can feel like a very dull ache on the joints of your body, there is significant swelling, inflammation and stiffness that also occurs. In my early stages, prior to diagnosis I lost all mobility of my hands, which eventually spread to my knees causing difficulty walking more than a few steps. Today, I can experience mild arthritic irritations, I notice when I eat something reactive or am under a lot of stress. Mostly these mild reactions have been a little swelling.
How did you finally get your diagnosis?
I was 15 when diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis after about 6 months of the disease severely progressing. I went from an active volleyball player to not being able to grip a straw or walk down the school hallways. I went to every doctor under the sun from infectious disease, rheumatologists, every specialist you can imagine. I was finally diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis after confirming that I have the HLA-B27 gene, often present in people with this particular RA.
You say on your blog that you saw your friends becoming fewer and fewer as your health declined. How did you get through those times?
Fortunately, I had my mom. She was truly my anchor during the worst of the months before getting a diagnosis and then after trying to process it all. I didn't understand at the time, and it took many years for me to fully understand why people I considered friends felt so distant, and eventually were no longer around. I learned early on the art of resiliency and the importance of friendships. I learned what I value in a friend and how to choose well who I spend my time with.
Garlic Kale Kelp "Pasta" from Mind & Body Balancing (photo © Kari Owens)
What advice would you give to teens (and everyone actually) who are suffering as you did and what would you say to the parents of those teens, to offer them hope and light?
Don't define yourself by an illness. You are so much more joy, love, caring, adventurous, curious, intelligent, every little interesting quirk you have, all your experiences, and your passion let those things define your life. I want them to know that it is possible to feel well again, that because we all have a choice to eat well and take care of our bodies we can do this. I won't say it's not hard, and that especially being a teen trying to process life is challenging, let alone with any disease, but know that through it all you are not alone.
For parents I would say to continue to be an ear. Let your child go through the feelings associated with being diagnosed and allow them the space to really express how they feel. Without expressing their frustration, grief, sadness and sorrow it will manifest and further perpetuate disease inside of them. You are their rock, and when they look back on these times they will appreciate you more than you can imagine. As a parent watching a child suffer is unimaginable, know that together through therapies and food that healing is possible. Teach your kids by showing them the way, they will admire you more for it.
You mention on your blog that at your lowest point you could hardly walk yet now you are taking several-mile hikes. How long did it take for you to be able to achieve that and what do you put that down to?
I was diagnosed ten years ago. In that ten years I have gone into remission with medication, fallen out of remission, fallen back into bad flares and remained stagnant. It's been a constant up and down, but I never truly felt capable enough to do anything. Physically I was weak, out of shape and my body stressed. As I began my healing journey I focused so much on food, which was a wonderful thing for my body. What I realized later on as my physical body became more capable was my mindset. For so long I set self-limitations in order to protect myself, a lot of "I can'ts" had been said over those ten years and reversing them isn't easy. But it wasn't until I completely realized that I can do anything as long as I believe I am capable that my physical mobility started to shift. I attribute these factors along with my daily yoga practice to have been mobility game-changers.
Are there any therapies that you swear by for reducing inflammation?
Acupuncture has utterly changed my life in many ways, physically, mentally, emotionally. I'd say it's been my best tool for decreasing inflammation especially in targeting it right away. That and gentle chiropractic work have transformed my life. Mostly kinesiology and muscle testing through a practice called NET (Neuro Emotional Technique) are my tried and true therapies. A few things I do to keep inflammation away are daily yoga practices, eating loads of leafy greens and supplementing with omega 3's (bone broth, fish) and herbs like turmeric regularly.
What, or who, inspired you to write your e-book?
I was inspired to write Mind & Body Balancing because I know inflammation is the key problem for most people. There are so many healing foods out there but it can be overwhelming. I was already fairly well-versed in the kitchen and culinary world but still found myself eating foods I had never explored prior to following a more healing diet. For many people who maybe don't know as much about these different foods I wanted to make them accessible by not only sharing about their benefits but doubling the value by showing how to eat and prepare them.
What do you say to people when they question your way of eating?
My answer is usually simple, it's my choice and no one else's. I am the only one living with my body and I want to feel well. If it is in my power to keep my body mobile, then that's my motivation.
Cinnamon Dandelion Root Tea from Mind & Body Balancing (photo © Kari Owens)
Have you reintroduced any foods and if so, what are they?
I have reintroduced several foods. Fennel seeds, paprika, ghee, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, cocoa/cacao, macadamia nuts, and eggs.
Has any reintroduction not gone well and if so, what were the symptoms that told you it had failed?
Yes, sunflower seeds I can only do in moderation as with macadamia nuts. There were no immediate symptoms other than I just generally feel better without them. Cocoa is very stimulating for me, I have no arthritic or digestive symptoms but I get wired so I can not have it in the evening or it disrupts my sleep (learned the hard way).
What is your favourite meal of the day and why?
I love breakfast. I eat a ton of greens, collard, kale, mustard, turnip, radish, you name it. I love the way it makes me feel in the morning to have a super nourishing meal to power me for the day. I also love the idea of slow mornings and appreciating waking up the body. So I always give myself ample time to flow through my routine and enjoy the start of the new day.
What is your wind-down routine before bedtime and how long does it usually last?
My wind down routine consists of a few things. Generally for me, dinner signifies the end of the work day, after that I usually do some readings from what I currently have in rotation. I do any number of my hobbies be it knitting, taking care of my plants, or crafting. In the cooler months I usually have some tea, I'll take a bath with epsom salt and healing clay. Baths are truly a ritual for me. Depending on how my day went I may do some gentle yoga and breathing exercises. I really love treating myself at the end of the day and making my space a sanctuary, sometimes this means lighting candles and just journaling. Not every night is exactly the same for me, but it's always within these parameters and with a certain rhythm.
What would your last supper be, AIP-style?
If it's my last supper, I'm going all out! I'd have antipasto of my Cultured Herb "Cheese" (in my ebook) with olives and figs. Then a seared rosemary lamb shoulder chop with Purslane Pesto (also in my ebook), a huge helping of slow cooked collard greens (method in ebook) with the rosemary mashed sweet potatoes from my blog. For dessert I'd either have a slice of this "cheesecake" pie or this delicious cake from none other than Kate!
GIVEAWAY: Would you like to win a copy of Kari's Mind & Body Balancing e-book? All you need do is tell me what changes you would like to make to achieve your own mind and body balancing and a winner will be chosen at random (and not on the quality of your answers 😉 ). In the meantime, if you would like to buy a copy now, click here. Giveaway ends midnight PST, Tuesday 22nd September. Good luck! [GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED - congratulations Hayley, you are the winner]
Pomegranate Seeds with Ginger Coconut from Mind & Body Balancing (photo © Kari Owens)
pomegranate seeds with ginger coconut
from Mind & Body Balancing
Time: 12 mins
1 cup full-fat coconut milk (chilled)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp fresh ginger (zest)
pomegranate seeds (as much as you like)
dash of clove
Whip the chilled coconut milk until creamy and thick, with either an electric beater or by hand. Then stir in spices and pomegranate seeds. Serve chilled topped with extra spices and poms!
Tip: Make sure the coconut milk has been chilled in advance to allow the separation of the fat from the liquid. This will result in a much thicker coconut cream.