Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Keto & Carbs, Fasting, Autoimmunity, & Chinese Medicine with Amanda Torres

Podcast Episode #309: Keto & Carbs, Fasting, Autoimmunity, & Chinese Medicine with Amanda Torres

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Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Keto & Carbs, Fasting, Autoimmunity, & Chinese Medicine with Amanda TorresTopics

  1. Introducing our guest, Amanda from The Curious Coconut {2:01]
  2. Stress and lifestyle [15:18]
  3. Low-carb/ketogenic approach [18:37]
  4. Chinese medicine therapies [25:46]
  5. Intermittent fasting [34:08]
  6. Choosing a Chinese medicine doctor [40:39]
  7. Latin American Paleo Cooking book [48:55]


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Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Keto & Carbs, Fasting, Autoimmunity, & Chinese Medicine with Amanda Torres Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Keto & Carbs, Fasting, Autoimmunity, & Chinese Medicine with Amanda Torres Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Keto & Carbs, Fasting, Autoimmunity, & Chinese Medicine with Amanda Torres

You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 309.

Diane Sanfilippo: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I’m Diane; a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo and The 21-Day Sugar Detox. I live in San Francisco with my husband and fur kids.

Liz Wolfe: I’m Liz; a nutritional therapy practitioner, and author of the Wall Street Journal best-seller Eat the Yolks; The Purely Primal Skincare Guide; and the online program Baby Making and Beyond. I live on a farm in the mystical land of the Midwest, outside of Kansas City.

We’re the co-creators of the Balanced Bites Master Class, and we’ve been bringing you this award-winning podcast for nearly 6 years. We’re here to share our take on modern paleo living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week’s episode, and submit your questions at http://balancedbites.com or watch the Balanced Bites podcast Instagram account for our weekly calls for questions. You can ask us anything in the comments.

Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Before we get started, let’s hear from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I’m an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s ability to heal. Nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants learn a wide range of tools and techniques to assess and correct nutritional imbalances. To learn lots more about the nutritional therapy program, go to http://www.NutritionalTherapy.com. There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia, so chances are you’ll be able to find a venue that works for you.

1. Introducing our guest, Amanda from The Curious Coconut [2:01]

Liz Wolfe: My guest today is Amanda Torres of www.theCuriousCoconut.com. She is a neuroscientist with extensive experience working in labs and conducting biomedical research. And she’s published scientific papers. For this reason, and many others, I’m proud to call her a friend. And also the lead researcher for Baby Making and Beyond. But, perhaps most importantly, Amanda has healed multiple health conditions using a holistic approach that includes a paleo template, Chinese medicine, and some other really interesting approaches that we’ll talk about today.

She has published 6 E-cookbooks that can be found on her website. And her debut print cookbook, Latin American Paleo Cooking. Which I’ve been fortunate to have a preview of, and it is amazing. Is available to order now. I have it; it’s fantastic. Amanda, welcome to the show!

Amanda Torres: Thank you so much, Liz! I’m so glad to be here. I’ve been a longtime listener, and really excited for this.

Liz Wolfe: Well. I’m lucky because I get to talk to you frequently. Maybe you're less lucky, because you get to talk to me frequently. {laughs}

Amanda Torres: {laughs} No.

Liz Wolfe: But we talk a lot. And inquiring minds want to know; what is it like working on the fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum juggernaut, Baby Making and Beyond?

Amanda Torres: {laughs} Oh my gosh, it is such an honor to be working on it. As you know, it’s a topic that’s close to my heart now, for an interesting reason. Not because I am trying to conceive, but because I’ve had some problems with my own reproductive system. Last year, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. And since that diagnosis, it really switched a trigger in my brain to want to understand better about female health. So when you approached me about working with you, and helping with the research, I was like, “Yes!” This is what I’m doing in my free time; reading about how to optimize fertility. Because it’s all connected. The health of your uterus is related to fertility; whether you like it or not. Whether you're trying to get pregnant or not. It’s all connected. It’s all important to address.

I’ve also really enjoyed the tough questions that you’ve had me research, really digging into these fine-tuned questions about specific nutrients and all kinds of things about lifestyle. It’s been great to flex my science muscles.

Liz Wolfe: Well, I’m so glad. It’s definitely a very particular talent that you have. You're incredibly; I don’t know what the word would be. Incisive? You're able to see things from a holistic point of view, but also really home in on the details. Which has been amazing. You’ve just been such an asset, and it’s been so cool to work with you.

And this is part of the reason why your story is so interesting to me. I’m going to ask you to kind of give us a rundown of your history, and what brought you to this point. What’s so interesting is, you are a scientist. You are incredibly scientifically minded. You know how to comb through the literature with a fine-toothed comb. But you’ve found the most healing, and the most support in your journey, with Chinese medicine, and acupuncture. And I think that is so fascinating. I want to hear a little bit more about it, if you don’t mind. Telling us a little bit about your story, and how you kind of reconcile your really scientific mind, and the way the general scientific community tends to deal with nutrition and lifestyle and things like that. Versus where you’ve found the most healing.

Amanda Torres: Yeah. So that’s a big question.

Liz Wolfe: I know.

Amanda Torres: It’s a big topic. It’s a lot to talk about. So, maybe I could start back in school, like in college. Because I have both a bachelor’s and a master’s in neuroscience. And back then, in the beginning, I was one of those people that was, science is my religion. Dogmatic, and I was just, even mean to people online who would talk about doing something that didn’t have, like, robust scientific evidence. I was one of those horrible people.

Liz Wolfe: {laughs} We see them a lot.

Amanda Torres: I’m so glad that I’ve evolved and have a much more open mind. But you know what’s really interesting, I think it’s because I studied neuroscience that it allowed me to have a much more open mind. I was thinking about this, because I knew you were going to ask me. I remember being in a lecture. I think it was towards the end of undergrad. And we had this huge, monster textbook that was like, I don’t know, 4 inches thick. And it weighed, I don’t even know how much. It was like the worst textbook to have to carry around. And the teacher; the professor at the beginning of class. And this isn’t; he was just saying this for effect. There’s no way to measure it. But he said that even with this huge giant textbook, we; talking about neuroscientists in general, just understand really, maybe 1 or 2% of how the brain even works, and consciousness. There are still basic things we don’t even get. Like, why do we sleep? {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: {laughs}

Amanda Torres: We don’t really have a good answer for that question. What is consciousness? Yeah, you're not going to get a straight answer on that. So he made this point that, there is so much that we have no idea how it works, why it works. We have this huge textbook, but that’s like 1% of knowledge about the brain. And that really triggered something in me to be like, “Gosh.” That kind of made me say, yeah I guess I should be open to lots of things as being the answer for explaining why things happen.

And that is really when that mindset shifted for me, to want to accept bizzaro explanations, or whatever you want to say, for how everything works with our bodies. And for years after that, I did still continue to follow Western medicine. And in grad school, when I was working on my thesis, it’s this stereotype of, “You're not taking care of yourself. You're stressed out. You're eating ramen noodles three times a day.” And a lot of people suffer, depending on your history and the genetic load you were given. All kinds of things can happen when you're not taking care of yourself. You're not sleeping, you're stressed, you're overworking. And I gained a lot of weight. And I ended up developing pre-diabetes when I was in grad school. Metabolic syndrome. Hypertension. Dyslipidemia. They wanted to put me on statins. And I was young. This was when I was like 24, 25.

And Western medicine was not able to give me a very hopeful outlook for how to approach it. I eventually ended up developing an autoimmune skin condition; hidradenitis suppurativa. Which, people in the paleo community might be familiar with. I am blanking on her name; her blog is Primal Girl, and she wrote that book.

Liz Wolfe: Tara Grant, right?

Amanda Torres: Yes. Tara Grant, thank you so much. She’s written a book about this skin condition.

Liz Wolfe: The Hidden Plague, right?

Amanda Torres: yes, The Hidden Plague, that’s her book. And so I developed this skin condition. And it’s really pretty awful what dermatologists tell you your life is going to be like once you have this. They first put you on chronic antibiotics, which is awful and miserable. And as females, that ultimately leads to, hello, yeast infections. And then there’s this cycle of coming off of it to treat the infection, and then you go back on the antibiotics.

And then they tell you that eventually, the antibiotics aren’t going to work, and you're going to need surgery to cut out huge chunks of your skin. And that will keep you good from anywhere from a few months to a few years. And then you're going to need more surgery. So it’s like; wow. That’s really not very; that’s awful. I was devastated when I heard that.

I did the antibiotic thing for like a year, year and a half. I can’t remember exactly. So I was finally like; I can’t do this. I have to do something else. I started exploring alternatives. That autoimmune skin condition is what triggered me to really start looking for help outside of Western medicine. Because Western medicine was not giving me answers or hope.

So from there; and this was also around the same time I discovered paleo. I had found Tara’s blog, and read her success with having remission with the diet. I also got into some herbal therapies, and some essential oils and things to help. Because the skin condition is boils; it’s skin boils. And they will; it’s so gross. I hate talking about it because it’s gross. But I think it’s important in case someone is listening and they deal with it.

Liz Wolfe: Yes. And it’s more common than we think.

Amanda Torres: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: I’m shocked at how many people I’ve actually heard from that suffer from this. Because I had never heard of it before Tara Grant’s book came out. But now I feel like people have come out of the woodwork, saying they’ve found help with an alternative approach. So I’m glad that you're talking about it.

Amanda Torres: Yeah. So these boils will form, kind of deep under the skin. And they can stick around for months. It’s just crazy. And they hurt. Sometimes it can hurt so badly that you have to miss work. I missed a lot of work when it was at the worst, and I was having golf ball-sized boils. And multiple boils can form. And then they form sinus tracts under the skin that connects. And it just becomes this mass of really unhappy, inflamed tissue. And sometimes they will drain. But then it can get infected. And it’s just miserable.

I know this is true with many chronic illnesses; but there’s a really high suicide rate for people who have this condition. Because it’s just so painful, miserable, embarrassing, and when they go to a dermatologist, they’re going to get this really depressing prognosis.

So now, I go paleo in 2010. So I’m coming up on my 7-year anniversary. And it was amazing. Just how good I felt, just within the first week. And within the first month; I think I lost 20 pounds in the first month. I was obese at the time. And nothing else had really helped me lose weight. I had done chronic cardio, and calorie restriction. Because that’s what the doctor told me to do. And it didn’t help.

That first year paleo, and using some herbal therapies and essential oils. And stopping the Western therapies. I was, you might say it’s irresponsible. But I was just kind of like, I’m not going to keep seeing these doctors. And back then, 7 years ago, it was much harder to be able to work with an alternative practitioner. If you didn’t have somebody local, it was much harder to work long distance with somebody. Now it’s so easy to do Skype consults and have a long-distance doctor/patient relationship.

But back then, I just kind of went on my own. I recommend working with somebody if you can, because it just makes everything so much easier. But I lost 80 pounds in a year, and I’ve maintained that weight loss this whole time. I was able to get off of all the prescriptions, all the over the counter stuff. I was taking Prilosec chronically for reflux and GI problems. I was taking antidepressants and antianxiety medications. And the antibiotics too.

I had a major, major health reversal in that first year. And I was like, this is it. Western medicine, conventional wisdom, they don’t know everything. There is so much more that you can do to achieve health that conventionally trained MDs aren’t going to talk to you about.

Liz Wolfe: So you were deep in the hole of conventional wisdom. Which is fine. Of course there’s a time and a place for lifesaving drugs and antibiotics and things like that. But what you had was not an antidepressant deficiency, or an antibiotic deficiency. {laughs}

Amanda Torres: {laughs} Right.

2. Stress and lifestyle [15:18]

Liz Wolfe: What you had was a chronic issue and we just see over and over again that an indispensable approach to dealing with chronic issues is lifestyle modifications. And you’ve been super passionate about that, even months ago you and I talked about your work and the research you were doing into stress and lifestyle things that had nothing to do with food. So that’s something that you're really well-versed in and passionate about, as well. We’re going to talk a lot about food right now. But obviously, I think that’s been important to you as well. Would you agree?

Amanda Torres: Yes. Absolutely. Yes. And that is one of the paleo mistakes that I made early on, was placing way too much emphasis on diet and not enough on lifestyle. And my husband, when he hears this, is going to be shaking his head. Because he’s always tried to tell me {laughs} to balance it out and to not be so stressed and to take time to rest and recover.

Liz Wolfe: Good old Andy.

Amanda Torres: {laughs} It’s taken me some time. But I have definitely come full-circle. I may even, now, place more emphasis on the lifestyle factors than the specifics of my diet right now. Just, on this journey that I’ve been on, that’s where I’m at. That I actually notice more problems when I don’t sleep enough or if I overwork myself, or if I am not managing my stress. If I’m not meditating. If I'm not doing yoga. That kind of stuff. Versus if I go out to eat and eat some food that’s cooked with bad oils; that impacts me much less than the lifestyle factors now.

Liz Wolfe: I am totally 100% in agreement with you on that. It’s kind of crazy, but it also proves how interconnected everything is. Which kind of makes it harder, and kind of makes it more stressful sometimes, when you think about this mountain of stuff that you need to fix. Like, I need to sleep better. I need to meditate. I need to stop stressing. And then you stress about your stress. {laughs}

Amanda Torres: {laughs} Right?

Liz Wolfe: And the thing about food is that you have to eat. So exerting control over that is maybe a little bit easier than it is to figure out how to get better sleep, or figure out how to stress less. But, if you can alleviate some of that pressure, and just kind of say, “I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to try to meditate for 2 minutes this morning.”

Amanda Torres: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: Or whatever it is. I think it can make a big difference.

Amanda Torres: Yes. With either the diet or the lifestyle factors, you can take really small, baby steps that will add up. And make it become more of a priority, and make it easier to make bigger changes. But exactly what you just said about meditating for 2 minutes. That is what I tell people. To just set aside two minutes, and eventually you're going to want that to be 5 minutes, or 10 minutes. And then 30 minutes. Or 20 minutes twice a day. You’ll get to that point where that is going to become easier. Just once you take that first step to get started.

Liz Wolfe: Totally. You don’t have to go with the New Years’ resolution syndrome, where you're like, “I have to go to yoga three times a week. I have to meditate every day. I have to eat perfect. I have to go to bed at 8 o’clock. I have to wake up at 5. I have to stop watching TV.” You know, all of that. That’s too much. Just start with 2 minutes.

Amanda Torres: Yeah.

3. Low-carb/ketogenic approach [18:37]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. So let’s talk a little bit. You said you lost 20 pounds your first month. I think you told me you lost 80 pounds your first year of paleo using a low-carb/ketogenic approach.

Amanda Torres: Yes. Oh yes, that’s an important point that I wanted to talk about. Is how in the beginning, I did do very low-carb/ketogenic style approach to paleo. And it was very effective for weight loss for me. So I wasn’t hard core with the keto. I never did the sticks to measure myself. But I do remember that keto breath.

Liz Wolfe: Oh yeah.

Amanda Torres: That distinctive; that was, that’s how I knew. And that was not fun. But I kind of got a little scared. I was scared to eat berries. And I was like, “I’m not touching a sweet potato until I get over these cravings.” Because I did have some major cravings in the beginning for carbs and sweets. And I think the only kind of treat I allowed myself was that Lindt’s. It’s like 98% dark chocolate.

Liz Wolfe: Oh yeah.

Amanda Torres: Yeah. I think there’s even 99%. I think that’s what I was eating. I think there’s not even half a gram of sugar in it. It’s so dark. And I was eating coconut oil by the spoonful because I had read that would help when you're getting to be fat adapted, and if you're hungry. So I did that very low-carb approach for that first year. And it was scary for me to start eating carbs again. But ultimately it ended up being the better thing for me. I’ve done experiments with macros, and I’ve done 21-Day Sugar Detoxes. I’ve done Whole30s. I’ve done other bouts that are low-carb, and maybe ketogenic. Like I said, I’ve never gotten crazy about doing the testing to check my ketone levels in my urine.

But, I noticed over these 7 years of having time to experiment with this stuff, I do notice that I feel better when I’m eating some carbs. Especially when I eat them later in the day with dinner. Everything just seems to work better. I feel better. Food is better. My appetite regulation is better. It’s just one of those things you can tweak. But on the other hand, I know that there are lots of people that do really well with long-term low-carb/keto approach.

Liz Wolfe: You just have to be willing, I think, to really look at it individually. And be honest with yourself about where this journey is taking you, and how you feel.

Amanda Torres: Right.

Liz Wolfe: One of the things that we know, and I think this is something that we’re being really detailed about for Baby Making and Beyond. I think sometimes people are not only afraid of fruit, and things with natural sugars. But people are also afraid of insulin.

Amanda Torres: Right.

Liz Wolfe: But what’s really interesting, and a lot of what I’ve been listening to Chris Masterjohn talk about with his Master Class with Masterjohn, which is a fantastic curriculum that he’s put together is that carbohydrate intake can actually support the thyroid independent of the HPA axis. Insulin actually has positive effects on thyroid regulation. And that really comes back to female hormonal health. We focused a ton on the thyroid in Baby Making and Beyond. And it makes sense to me that a lot of women just do better with a little bit more carbohydrate in the diet. And it seems like you’ve wrapped your head around that in a really balanced way.

Amanda Torres: Yeah, yeah. Totally. And my understanding in what I’ve seen, and the literature, too, with regards to women and low-carb or keto. It seems like the women who benefit the most from it are the ones who have polycystic ovarian syndrome. That’s just where I’ve seen. There’s been studies that have shown that that can really help women. But I know that a lot of people can be kind of shy or scared about; because of the hormonal impacts with going low-carb. A lot of women can be a little shy about trying it, because they don’t want to mess things up.

But you can always do an experiment and see. If your gut is telling you that maybe you're eating a little too much carb, maybe it would benefit you. You could always try. In my case, because I had all that excess weight to shed, I think it really, really, really helped me.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. Yeah.

Amanda Torres: Lose that weight. I’m just glad, too, that I’ve been able to eat. I’ve even gone through periods of higher-carb consumption, and never gained weight back. So it’s interesting. It’s an interesting place to experiment with. But it’s really important, like you said, to listen to what your body is telling you in terms of whether it’s helping or not.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. And one of the ways that I think is a really interesting way to track this. And this is totally off-topic. But the most useful way I’ve found to track is not just physical symptoms, like how you feel. But also what your body temperature is doing.

Amanda Torres: Oh yeah.

Liz Wolfe: And that’s something that you and I have had extensive discussions about. And we’re digging into that as much as we can. Well, you are, in the literature. {laughs} To help us understand how this might work and what; I don’t know. What connections we’re making to explain how this actually exerts its significance on the body. But I think that’s such an easy just metric to track, if you can’t do continuous glucose monitoring, or whatever folks are doing these days. Just see what your waking body temperature is, and see how it changes in different fluctuations in what you’re doing with food.

Amanda Torres: Yeah. That’s interesting. I should start. Because I’ve been tracking my temperature for the first time, as an ovulating woman, just in the last 6 months or so. And it’s been so cool, just from the aspect of tracking my cycle, and to see that temperature spike mid-cycle with ovulation. That’s really interesting. I might start paying a little closer attention to my temperatures, and my food intake. Because I am seeing some zig-zagging lines.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. It’s interesting stuff. And once you have enough data, you can kind of look at everything in context and see what’s going on there.

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4. Chinese medicine therapies [25:46]

Liz Wolfe: So what I wanted to kind of bring this around to now is, we talked earlier about how it’s not just about food. And we’ll talk a little bit about some of the interesting approaches that you’ve done; fasting-wise, and things like that, in a little bit. But first I want to talk a little bit more about Chinese medicine as your primary care medicine. And I know you’ve had success healing leaky gut with the functional medicine protocol and Chinese medicine. And things like that. Talk to me a little bit about the other stuff. Talk to me about the herbs, and acupuncture, and things like that and the effects you’ve seen.

Amanda Torres: Yeah, ok. So I was so skeptical. Even with my newly opened mind about alternative practices. I was still skeptical of Chinese medicine. I was kind of scared. I was scared of needles. I was intimidated by the cultural differences that exist in the way that Chinese medicine operates. It’s a very, very different way of talking about the body. Describing disease. And the language can even be kind of poetic. It’s kind of; it’s like this blend of art and medicine. It’s really interesting. And the more I’ve learned about it, it’s so beautiful. It’s such a beautiful way to look at the body as a whole and how everything is connected and affects everything else. There is no separation of mind and body. Everything’s connected. It’s not like Western medicine where you have a specialist for every organ, basically.

Liz Wolfe: Mm-hmm. Not a whole lot of cross talk.

Amanda Torres: Right. Yeah. And there are two books that I would really recommend to anybody that wants to learn more, that have helped me in my journey of being a good Chinese medicine patient. One is called The Web That Has No Weaver. The other one is called Between Heaven and Earth. They’re both fabulous books that also give a really great perspective on the flaws that exist within Western medicine, while still describing Western medicine in a good light for the things that it’s good for.

So I first saw an acupuncturist in 2014 I think. So about 3 years ago is when I started. The doctor that I saw was actually trained as an acupuncturist, but also had some functional medicine training. So that’s the doctor that I worked with to heal leaky gut, with a kind of combined approach. I did a functional medicine 5R; remove, replace, reinoculate. I always forget the 5 Rs; do you remember the 5 Rs?

Liz Wolfe: I thought there were 3 Rs. {laughs}

Amanda Torres: {laughing}

Liz Wolfe: There are 5?

Amanda Torres: I think, yeah. So anyway. You have to remove any bad foods from your diet. You have to also remove any bad pathogenic organisms living in your gut. So bacteria, parasites, Candida. And you have to replace enzymes, like digestive enzymes, and probiotics. You're also supposed to; I forget what this R is but you also have to address the lifestyle factors. Because stress by itself can cause leaky gut. There are studies that have shown that. That’s crazy to me. You don’t have to be; it doesn’t have to come from diet or antibiotics or whatever. It can come from just stress. So you have to address the stress.

So I saw her, and did that protocol. And in addition to that functional protocol, we did acupuncture. I also took some herbal formulas to address digestive issues from a Chinese medicine perspective. So, food intolerances in Chinese medicine are mostly related to; and this sounds crazy, but it’s spleen issues. So Chinese medicine talks about the organs, and they’re capitalized. So it’s the idea of your liver or your spleen. And as much as I can understand it, and read, and appreciate it and kind of see the big picture and understand it with myself, it’s still hard to talk about just as a; I’m not trained in it. Chinese medicine doctors go to school for 4 years, I think. Three or four years. So they’re in it for a long time, learning this different way of talking about the body.

So I took some herb formulas to help with the food intolerances. Because at that time, I was a mess. And it was unpredictable, too, in terms of what would set off a horrible digestive issue for me and also it just seemed like I was becoming intolerant to more foods as time went by. So, it wasn’t really until after I had done the leaky gut healing protocol, which took about 6 months for me. Between the functional supplements. I was actually seeing two acupuncturists, because one of them wasn’t so big on the acupuncture part. The one that was doing the functional medicine protocol. She was more with the herbs and the supplements. But she would do some acupuncture. But I also saw another acupuncturist for more in-depth treatments. And I think that combination of all that stuff that I was doing helped me to reverse everything.

And I know I have a unique story, but I’ve been able to reintroduce everything. And I can even eat gluten-containing foods sometimes. And I don’t notice any negative effects. Now I wouldn’t do it often; maybe just a few times a year I’ll let myself have something. But it doesn’t have any noticeable negative impact. But again, it’s just a very, very rare treat.

I’ve come a long way. When I first went paleo, and I first tried to eat wheat, I vomited and I had diarrhea for like 3 days. It was awful. I was like, I’m never touching it again! That was awful! So it’s just a testament to how much my body has healed and shifted and all these years of feeding it good food and managing all of the lifestyle factors.

Liz Wolfe: Well I think that’s the goal, right? I think a lot of folks figure they’re going to be able to live in a vacuum for the rest of their lives. And that’s just not how; that’s not even how the human body is primed to work. We’re actually built to handle intermittent stressors.

Amanda Torres: Right. Yes.

Liz Wolfe: It’s just not constant steady stream of them. We’re not built for that. And I don’t think our genes have changed over time. I think that our lives have just become so consistently stressful from food and lifestyle stress and things like that, just in the last, maybe couple of thousand years, I suppose. But I just don’t think we primed for that. So I think the goal is certainly to have a really strong baseline of health, so you can handle these things.

Amanda Torres: Right. I agree. Totally. I absolutely agree. And I also think that’s an important thing to keep an eye on. If you're still really struggling, then maybe it means you need to go a little bit deeper with whatever it is you're doing in the name of your health journey that, if you're still finding yourself not having that resilience to stressors, whatever they are. If they come from food or lifestyle that you might need to take another layer and look at something else. Not to be discouraging in any way. To have that be an empowering message. That you can always; there’s always something else you can look at and try. I’m kind of at this point now where I see my life. I’m just kind of always looking for ways to be better. Have a more balanced life and to improve in any way that I can. Accepting that things change, and the best thing for you is going to change over time; or can change over time.

5. Intermittent fasting [34:08]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. So on that note, tell me a couple of the things that you’ve incorporated more recently. The fasting and things like that. Tell me about what you’ve added on to your lifestyle.

Amanda Torres: Ok. So I’ve lived here in Memphis for two years now. And have been seeing an acupuncturist here who is amazing. He’s been the one who has also done more herbs for me as; I know you asked me another question. But this is relevant, just because it all goes in with this kind of treatment protocol that he’s had me on these last two years. But he makes these herbs for me. They call it bulk herbs, where it’s actual pieces of tree bark and roots and citrus peel. Sometimes I have seashells in my herbs. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: Wow.

Amanda Torres: Yeah, it’s really funny what it all; it’s not just herbs as you think of herbs that you cook with, you now. It’s all kinds of parts from plant and even animal, like with the sea shells. And I make a tea out of it. I soak it, and then boil it, and then strain off the liquid and drink it. As he’s treated me, and as I’ve had issues come up, he has suggested that I should experiment with some fasting. And he had suggested full day water fasts. Which are really hard. It’s still hard for me to do. There was a time when I thought, “I’m going to do that one day a week!” And that lasted one week. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. {laughs}

Amanda Torres: I think he does a little more frequently. But again, you’ve got to listen to your body and see where you're at. Because fasting is stressful. It is a stressor on your body and your mind, too. I love food. I love to eat. That’s why I blog about food. So it’s tough to willingly forgo something you enjoy for 24 hours; or more than 24 hours if you eat dinner and then skip food the entire next day, and don’t eat until breakfast the next day. That’s more like 36 hours. Or 30 hours, you know.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah, that’s tough.

Amanda Torres: That is really hard. But what I’ve fallen into, and what’s really comfortable for me, and what I think has really helped with a lot of issues that I was having with some focus and brain fog issues. Even some appetite issues as intermittent fasting. So that concept, people are probably pretty familiar in the paleo community, because that’s something that people talk about a lot. But you try to time your meals with a certain window during the day. So 8 or 10 hours during the day is when you're eating.

Or you can think about it; it’s easier for me to think about it from the other way. Where you time the time between your dinner and when you break your fast the next day. And to have that be; what I do is anywhere between 14 and 20 hours between that last meal the day before and when I break my fast the next day. And I’ve really found that having those mornings; so that can mean I don’t eat sometimes until, usually anywhere between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., depending on a lot of factors. How much exercise I got the day before. What time I did eat dinner. How much I ate at dinner.

But having those mornings when I’m in that fasted state, I have such clarity and energy and my mood is better. I don’t get sluggish in the afternoons. It’s just really helped me. And it’s interesting; this is a hot topic in the literature, looking at, I forget the term that they use. They don’t typically call it intermittent fasting. They call it something about meal timing something. Dang it.

Liz Wolfe: Compressed?

Amanda Torres: Maybe.

Liz Wolfe: It’s a compressed eating window, I guess.

Amanda Torres: Yeah, that might be it. Anyway. You can still find the articles in PubMed if you search for intermittent fasting. They’ll still come up. But there’s a lot of promising research about how it can help a number of health problems. And it’s working well for me. And from a Chinese medicine perspective, it’s good to give your digestive system a break. And there is something to that mental component, as well. To disconnect from this pattern.

And you had mentioned earlier about the way our bodies are wired. We’re not wired to have this constant smorgasbord of food all day, every day.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Amanda Torres: We evolved to have some days you might eat really well, and some days you might eat nothing, and you’ve still got to keep trudging on.

Liz Wolfe: Well, kids do that. That’s another thing that’s funny. Kids; toddlers will have tons and tons of food one day, and the next day; nah. They’re not going to want so much. Also, when I was thinking about this before our interview, I was thinking; way back in the day when Oprah told everybody to stop eating at 7 p.m. I was like, actually now we have some strong literature that suggests your window for metabolic function kind of closes in a 12-hour span of time. So most people, I think, eat from the minute they wake up, and then they have their ice cream and go to bed. And that could be a 16-hour eating window, or even longer than that. I don’t think we’re really primed for that. So maybe Oprah kind of hit on something accidentally there, back in the day. {laughs}

Amanda Torres: Yeah! She sure did. And I do try to eat before 7 if I can. It’s gotten a little complicated in the last couple of months, because I joined a yoga studio. Because I finally felt good enough to do that. And some of those classes are later, and so some days I eat my dinner at like 4:30 p.m. {laughs} But then I’ve had to also eat a little bit of a snack after I get home from my class. And then that kind of messes it up. But I’m just like; whatever. It’s all good. It’s fine.

Liz Wolfe: No stress.

Amanda Torres: Yeah.

6. Choosing a Chinese medicine doctor [40:39]

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. No big deal. Well, ok. I want you to tell us a little bit about how to choose a Chinese medicine doctor, and that process.

Amanda Torres: Yeah. There’s a website that you can go to. Chinese medicine is regulated by a body; the same way conventional doctors are regulated by the American Medical Association. Chinese medicine doctors are with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. I know that’s a mouthful. But NCCAOM. They have a website, and you can go and search your location and find someone who is certified near you. And you definitely want to go to somebody who is certified. I personally don’t think; because people like chiropractors; even MDs can take a weekend course to get trained to do what they call dry needling. Where they’re sticking acupuncture needles in your body. But that is just; I don’t think that’s cool. I think you should go to someone who went to school for three or four years, whatever it is, to do this. And you can go on that site. You can find somebody certified.

You could also check to see if they’re certified just in acupuncture, or if they also took the extra coursework and certification for herbal medicine. And they might be listed separately as acupuncture and herbal medicine. Or, if it says that they’re certified in Oriental medicine, that means they did both. So that’s what you want to look for. The doctor I see here is Oriental medicine, so he’s trained in both.

So depending on where you are, you may have people that are from the US who went to a US acupuncture school, and that’s going to be a very different experience versus going to someone who is from China and who trained in China. I’ve seen both, and had good results with both. I would just advise people to be aware that that culture difference is a lot more pronounced. I guess it’s probably obvious when you're working with someone who is from China. In my experience, I was kind of kept much less in the loop about everything. It was kind of this; they kind of have this the doctor is the authority, and you just listen to what the doctor says and don’t question. {laughs} It’s kind of like Western medicine a little bit, I guess, in that regard.

But at the time, when I was seeing a Chinese doctor, I took that and I was like; you know what, I do need to just let go and let somebody else be in control and stop trying to be my own doctor. And stop focusing on all these little details. Just let him know what’s going on, and just go with the flow. But I know that not everybody likes that.

You can always interview and ask questions if you're uncomfortable. A lot of people have the same questions and concerns. And most Chinese medicine doctors are going to have websites, or literature that they can give you that addresses those common concerns. Like, are these needles going to hurt? What’s going on? What are these herbs? It’s just a very different way of getting treatment.

And having needles stuck all over your body seems like it would be very painful and weird. But in my experience; sometimes they’ll hurt. Sometimes they’ll hurt just for a second going in. But by the time I have about 3 or 4 needles in my body, it’s like this shift, and I just get so relaxed. It’s like parasympathetic nervous system is on. {laughs} And I just go into this blissful, just meditative. I’m so relaxed. I don’t fall asleep. Some people fall asleep. My husband usually falls asleep. But I’m just so relaxed. It’s great. It’s so calming and it’s a great way for me to get that parasympathetic nervous system activation of rest and recover and rejuvenate.

Different Chinese medicine doctors will have different specialties, too. You can usually find that on their website. You can ask them. The one that I see here in Memphis had a background with fertility issues, so he’s very well versed with all the female issues that have been going on with me, with the fibroids and everything. But you can always ask them if they feel comfortable addressing whatever your specific medical concern is. It’s always good to let them know any Western medicine diagnoses that you have, always tell them. Because they can use that in the framework of the way they approach medicine to better help you.

Liz Wolfe: Awesome.

Amanda Torres: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: I think this is probably the most complete treatment of Chinese medicine that we’ve had on the podcast. I know we’ve talked about it in passing. But it’s really helpful to have some ideas about what to look for. And some personal experience, as well. And you’ve had such success with it, I’m really intrigued, actually. I’ve done a little bit of acupuncture, but maybe I need to get back into it and see what kind of benefits.

Amanda Torres: Yeah. Usually you need to give it a couple of weeks. Or maybe two or three months, depending, to really make a judgement of whether or not it’s helping you. And the doctor can also make a judgement, too. When I moved to Memphis, and I had this major burnout crash. I was really stressed out from the move and some other things in my personal life that were going on. I needed three times a week acupuncture treatments to kind of build me back up to a place of feeling good and being functional.

Now, I do twice a week. Sometimes I still do three times a week if I’m having a rough week, or maybe if I’m on my period and I’m having really bad cramps, I’ll go three times. But some people can go once week. My husband just goes once a week. And he’s more, just does it for maintenance. Because he doesn’t have any major health concerns the way I have had. But you need to give it; first of all, you need to do the frequency the doctor recommends. So if they say you need to come twice a week for 6 weeks, you need to go twice a week for 6 weeks before you make a judgement whether it’s helping or not.

But you know what? Most every single person that I know that has gone to acupuncture after hearing me talk about it. After that first visit, they say, “Wow. That was amazing. I can’t wait to go back.”

Liz Wolfe: This episode of the Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored by our friends at Primally Pure Skincare. Primally Pure makes 100% natural and nontoxic skincare products that support radiant skin, a healthy body, and a happy self. They use ingredients like tallow from grass-fed cows; organic and fair trade coconut oil, and organic oils, herbs, and extracts to formulate effective products that also smell amazing and look beautiful sitting on your bathroom counter. At www.primallypure.com, you’ll find their bestselling natural deodorant that actually works; face mists made from locally sourced and organic rose and orange blossom hydrosols, and their brand new baby line. You’ll also find Diane’s favorite Primally Pure product, dry shampoo, and Liz’s favorite, the Everything Spray with magnesium. As a special bonus for you, Primally Pure is offering a free lip balm with your first purchase of one item or more. Simply add a lip balm to your cart along with any one item, and use the code “balancedbites”, one word no caps, during checkout to receive one of their lip balms for free with your order. Head to www.primallypure.com and check out their range of safe and effective all natural skincare products.

7. Latin American Paleo Cooking book [48:55]

Liz Wolfe: Well that’s awesome. Let’s switch gears really quickly, because I don’t want to forget to talk about your book.

Amanda Torres: Oh, yeah!

Liz Wolfe: So let’s talk about Latin American Paleo Cooking. What was the inspiration for that? Tell us a little bit about it.

Amanda Torres: Ok. So, ever since I started my blog 5 years ago, I wanted to write this book. Because I had this passion for Latin American cuisine. Which is interesting, given my history. I’m from a small town in Georgia. And I married into a Puerto Rican family. My husband’s parents are both from Puerto Rico. And I remember the first time my husband cooked plantains for me. And I was like, what is this thing? It’s this weird banana that I have to cook. What are you talking about? {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: The best banana I’ve ever had in my life, was a plantain.

Amanda Torres: {laughs} Yeah, for real. Oh my gosh, I eat them all the time now. It’s so funny.

Liz Wolfe: So good.

Amanda Torres: But I didn’t even know what they were until I was like 25 or whatever.

Liz Wolfe: I don’t think I did either.

Amanda Torres: It was really getting to know his mom; Milagros. She’s with me on the book as I worked with her to include a lot of her family recipes that have been passed down for generations in her family. So I took some of those. Which interestingly, some of them need absolutely no modification whatsoever to be paleo. And that was something that had always interested me about Latin American cuisine broadly. A lot of it; they do get really creative with the plantains, and the yucca, and the taro and the milanga. All of these starchy, tropical fruits and roots. They get creative with them and use them as an alternative to making a dough out of wheat flour, for example.

So that had always fascinated me. And I just; I don’t know. I don’t know why I latched onto it. Why did Julia Childs love French cuisine so much? It did start with my mother-in-law. But then, we also used to live in Miami. And wow, gosh. I think I ate at a restaurant that was owned by people in every country in Latin America when I was in Miami. So I got exposed to this huge variety of different foods and different ways of thinking about foods. Food is so important, and the whole experience around food is so important in Latin American culture of really putting a lot of love into it. They don’t take shortcuts. It’s all about, they care. They prepare it with love.

Liz Wolfe: The process is important. It’s not just about getting something on the table.

Amanda Torres: Right. Yeah. They’re still; even in today’s modern world with all the digital distractions and devices that we have. There’s still an emphasis on the family dinner. And having; you prepare this food and it’s all about the family dinner to connect over delicious, nourishing food.

So I just have been so interested, and have loved incorporating these dishes to be a regular part of my diet. And it was really cool to work with my mother-in-law to immortalize these recipes. It’s just so cool to me that there’s so much history. And I took a lot of care in this book to take traditional dishes and really be as authentic as possible. I did so much research for this book. Both with reading a lot, and also talking to friends that I’ve made over the years who have family from various countries. Asking questions about how their family makes something.

Because that’s the other thing. And this is true with American food, too. It’s anywhere. That different families will have their own traditions. So, especially with the Puerto Rican food. I know there’s going to be some people that, their family tradition is going to be a lot different than Milagros’, and so they may say, “That’s not how you make a pasteles.” But, you can’t get that crazy about it. Because that’s part of what’s beautiful; is that there are these different traditions.

I took care to explain some of that when it’s relevant. That you might want to do a little more of this or a little more of that. But the other really exciting thing that I did with this book is I took care to make as many recipes as possible compliant for the autoimmune protocol. So over 90% of these recipes are AIP compliant; or can be easily adapted to be so. So that’s awesome. What else? I’m trying to think of other.

Liz Wolfe: I think you gave us a really good run down, actually. I think it’s amazing that you made so many of them AIP compliant. Because that’s such a big thing for so many folks right now.

Amanda Torres: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: One of my biggest concerns for a lot of folks that go on the AIP has been just the limitation of choices and people don’t each enough, and they don’t get enough variety. And it becomes really stressful. So it’s amazing that you're giving people the opportunity to have some really delicious; it almost feels like food you would go out to dinner for.

Amanda Torres: Yes. Yes. Absolutely.

Liz Wolfe: I love that. So I’m really, really excited about it. And tell us when it comes out. It should be right around when this podcast airs.

Amanda Torres: Yeah, August 22nd is when it releases.

Liz Wolfe: Ok. Perfect. But you can order it now via Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well, correct?

Amanda Torres: Yes.

Liz Wolfe: Awesome. Also go to www.theCuriousCoconut.com and join Amanda’s mailing list, because she has lots of amazing content, too, that you’ll want to receive via email.

Amanda Torres: {laughs} Thank you.

Liz Wolfe: If I may give you a little plug there.

Amanda Torres: Thank you, yeah.

Liz Wolfe: Ok, well I think we’re good. You can find me, Liz, at http://realfoodliz.com/. You can find my usual cohost, Diane, at http://dianesanfilippo.com. And you can find Amanda’s work at www.theCuriousCoconut.com. And her book, Latin American Paleo Cooking, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Thank you so much for coming on with us.

Amanda Torres: Yes, thank you so much. It was such a treat.

Comments 7

  1. Do you know the name of the Chinese Medicine website that Amanda referenced in the podcast? I thought a link might be present in the show notes, but I don’t see one. I’d like to look for a Chinese medicine practitioner in my area. Thanks!

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