Episode 5 of my collaborative project with Rory Linehan of The Paleo PI and Petra Chambers-Sinclair of BiohackU – two of my favourite peeps in this corner of the health caper world – is up and running!
The three of us all hail from different corners of the globe and have very different life experiences, but we share both friendship and passion for seeking health through an holistic approach. The intention behind our podcast is to seek out and interview others who share the same goal – and hopefully impart what we learn and have a little fun along the way. We hope you’ll join us!
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This month, Chinese Singaporean Dora Siah describes her experiences as she works to reverse Graves Disease with food and lifestyle, as well as how her high-stress lifestyle in Singapore may have contributed to her autoimmune disease. She shares her best tips for how to make fresh Asian food from local ingredients (even if you find yourself in Quebec!) a part of your healing protocol lifestyle.
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0.00 Introduction to the Healing Protocols: the global edition
1.20 Rory: Welcome to Episode 1: Interview with Dora Siah
1.50 Petra: Tell us about you & your history. How you started a healing protocol lifestyle and your autoimmune diagnosis.
- 2:16: Diagnosed with Graves Disease in my mid-20s. Symptoms included heart palpitations, weight loss, anxiety, and hand tremors. Pharmaceutical treatment helped me go into remission but then would relapse repeatedly. First discovered ‘primal’ through Mark’s Daily Apple, then paleo, and finally the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).
3.43 Rory: How did you know that the Autoimmune Protocol was right for you?
- 4.13: Throughout my 20s tried various diets. Nothing seemed to work, but after 2-weeks on the Autoimmune Protocol, the swelling in my thyroid was reduced. My medication had not had that effect. My symptoms went away. I am still taking my medication.
5.45 Jo: What is daily life like for you now, after a couple of years on a healing protocol lifestyle? What health gains and what setbacks have you experienced?
- 6.03: Still following the Autoimmune Protocol template, with reintroductions. My gains include a better understanding of my body’s requirements. Previously I was a foodie. Food is practically a religion in Singapore. It took me a while to realize that what I ate had an effect on me. For example, nightshades give me aching joints, even though I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis. I have also learned that I am sensitive to starch. As a result, I eat more whole foods.
9.04: Rory: Have you noticed lifestyle factors like sleep or exercise that may have helped, or hindered, your healing?
- 9.19: Sleep is my biggest challenge. Growing up in Singapore, life was very hectic. 10-hour workdays were typical, as was eating late, and waking up early.
10.57 Rory: Could you describe what your lifestyle was like growing up and the kinds of foods you ate?
- 11.08: As a Chinese Singaporean, I ate a lot of home-cooked Chinese food cooked by my mum. Our food was always cooked just before the meal and my mum would cook just enough so we had no waste and no leftovers. The emphasis was on freshness and natural flavours: very different from Chinese food from commercial restaurants. My family is Buddhist so we avoided eating beef. My parents ate more nose-to-tail when they were young, but when I was growing up in the 80s, everyone was encouraging a low saturated-fat diet.
14.56 Jo: As a Chinese Singaporean did the Eastern philosophy and lifestyle influence you, or was the influence more Western?
- 15.38: In the Asian context it’s all about productivity: getting good grades and staying out of trouble. The stress level was probably higher than our bodies could cope with and could have contributed to my autoimmune disease.
16.17 Petra: You’ve gone through a couple of transitions, including the transition to a healing protocol lifestyle, what was challenging for you in making these transitions?
- 16.53: In Singapore, I lived with my family. People usually live with their parents through their 20s and even 30s. It wasn’t difficult to transition to Canada because I had lived in Australia and New Zealand. The big change was having a family of my own. I started the Autoimmune Protocol after 3 years of living in Canada. The most challenging element was figuring out the equivalents for meat cuts here in Quebec because everything is in French and the cuts are not the same. A lot of AIP recipes come from bloggers who live in the States. Also, it is a challenge to find AIP-compliant ingredients.
20.30 Petra: What aspects of this process have been enjoyable and what tips do you have for listeners who are transitioning to a healing protocol lifestyle or from one culture to another?
- 20.49: I have enjoyed learning to eat locally and seasonally with unfamiliar ingredients. If you are living in a country that you didn’t grow up in, I recommend that you cook what you can find, and try to develop an open and open mind and an open palate. Expand your repertoire. For example, in Singapore, it’s not traditional to use an oven for day-to-day cooking, but in AIP cooking there is a lot of baking and roasting. Steaming and stir-frying are traditional cooking methods.
23.32 Jo: The elimination phase of the Autoimmune Protocol excludes rice, and rice is an important staple of Chinese cooking. Have you been able to adapt any element of the AIP to reflect your traditional Chinese Singaporean culture?
- 24.09: I have tried to re-introduce white rice but I can’t tolerate it. I can tolerate black rice, but I don’t make it a staple. Chinese home-cooked meals typically consist of several vegetable dishes, a meat dish, a seafood dish, a bone-broth based soup and rice. You can avoid the rice or substitute cauliflower rice and the rest of the dishes are easy to make AIP. Soy is a challenge because key ingredients like black bean sauce include fermented soy. I recommend fresh ingredients, so you don’t have to rely on heavy flavoured sauces. Singaporean foods are influenced by Southeast Asian foods with a lot of seed-based spices and chili peppers. Spices are the backbone of the dish. That is challenging during the elimination phase of the AIP. One strategy is to make it a priority to reintroduce seed-based spices after the elimination phase, to help make things more manageable in the long-term.
27.50 Rory: Who has been the most influential person for you as you have pursued your healing protocol lifestyle?
- 28.07: The first AIP cookbook I picked was the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott. Sarah Ballantyne has been very influential. My husband encouraged me to take the leap and do the AIP.
To learn more about Dora Siah, check out her blog Provincial Paleo where she shares experiences from her kitchen in the heart of Quebec City in Canada, along with truly wonderful Paleo-inspired recipes.