Vietnamese Bun Bowls

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Vietnamese is definitely in my top 3 favourite cuisines because the flavours are so vibrant and punchy, most of it is really light and healthy (or can be easily modified to be more nutritious) and it generally features copious amounts of chilli and coriander which I adore.

This week I was inspired to make a delicious yet quick and easy Vietnamese salad/bun bowl for my family and I. This recipe is extremely forgiving and you’ll find so many variations on the web, but this is what was in my fridge so I threw it in.

Serves 3

Slaw Ingredients
1 cup of shredded cabbage (I used red)
1 cup of julienned/mandolined carrots
1 cup of julienned/mandolined cucumber
1 cup of julienned capsicum (can omit if anti-nightshades)
1 large handful each of coriander and baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 small handful each of mint and basil, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, finely diced (optional)
1/2 grated beetroot (optional and non-traditional, but extra antioxidants and flavour)(I served this on top to prevent the rest of the slaw turning pink whilst mixing the dressing through)

Dressing Ingredients 
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs tamari
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Juice from 1/2 a juicy lime
1 tsp fish sauce

Toppings/accompaniments 
Handful of cooked brown rice vermicelli noodles for each person (optional, I went without due to my insulin resistance)
Handful of cooked chicken, or protein of choice
1/4 avocado per person, sliced
Spring onion, finely sliced
Sesame or hemp seeds (or both)(peanuts are more traditional but are pro-inflammatory so I tend to steer clear)

Method

  1. Once sliced and diced, place all slaw ingredients into a large bowl.
  2. Whisk dressing ingredients together (won’t combine homogenously but once evenly mixed through the slaw it will be A-Ok).
  3. Thoroughly toss the dressing through the slaw, saving a little to dress the noodles with/pour on top at the end.
  4. Toss the noodles in some of the remaining dressing and distribute noodles evenly between serving bowls, pushing to one side of the bowl.
  5. CHUCK ALL ELEMENTS IN EACH BOWL FOR EASE AND DEVOUR, or follow remaining steps for aesthetic purposes haha.
  6. Place a generous scoop of the slaw mix in each bowl, on the other side of the noodles.
  7. Place beetroot (if left out until now) and chicken on opposite sides of the bowl, along the line where the noodles/slaw meet.
  8. Fan the sliced avocado over the middle of the bowl.
  9. Garnish with spring onion and seeds.
  10. Drizzle with any remaining dressing, give an optional toss, and enjoy!

Vitamin D aka Vitamin SUN

In a day and age where we’re told to slip, slop, slap at all times whilst we’re in the sun to prevent skin cancer and ageing, people have almost become scared of that big, beautiful, ball of flames. Sunscreen and skin coverage is great, but like everything, it is only required in moderation. Vitamin D (calciferol) is one of the most crucial yet overlooked vitamins out there, and our main source of it is directly from the sun.

When exposed to UV rays, vitamin D precursors in our skin, which are derived from cholesterol, are activated and converted to cholecalciferol (D3). This is transported to the liver and sequentially the kidneys where it changes to calcidiol and then finally calcitriol, the form that is utilised by the body. It is possible to obtain vitamin D from food, however the only good sources of it are fortified milk (98 IU), fatty fish (salmon (360 IU)), egg yolks (25 IU), and animal liver (12-30 IU), and even so, these don’t meet the recommend daily intake of 600 IU. If you’re constantly applying SPF all over, these essential UV rays don’t penetrate the skin and your wonderfully smart cells can’t produce the vitamin D that they so desperately need.

So, why is vitamin D so important?

Vitamin D is essential for a range of biological functions, but its principal function is to increase the absorption of calcium and phosphate from your gastrointestinal tract (from the food you eat) and maintain normal blood levels of these ions. This is crucial for bone strength and the remodelling of bones, which is constantly occurring. In a deficient state, bones will become soft, brittle and even misshapen (rickets in children). Therefore, sun exposure is even more necessary for the elderly as they are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, yet they are the main demographic who tend to stay indoors.

Other functions of vitamin D include maintaining normal parathyroid status, cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis, neuromuscular function, and immune function. Many recent studies explain the beneficial roles of vitamin D (and detrimental effect with vitamin D deficiency) in cancer prevention/treatment, cardiovascular diseases (especially high blood pressure), and interestingly, autoimmune diseases (including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis) via its reduction of the inflammatory response. New research also links vitamin D deficiency to depression, and supplements have been used to alleviate the mental disease.

Approximately 25% of Australian adults and 41.6% of US adults are vitamin D deficient. Deficiency is more common in winter as the UV index rarely reaches a level high enough to begin calcitriol production via the skin, and we’re generally fully covered, leaving only our face and hands exposed to any potential UV rays.

If you are experiencing bone weakness, muscle pain, fatigue, depression, poor immunity or you have an autoimmune disease or osteoporosis, is it would be wise to visit your naturopath or integrative/functional doctor and have a blood test to determine your vitamin D status. I would recommend getting professional advice before self-supplementing because it is possible to overdose, and this can cause hypercalcaemia (calcification of soft tissues). Therefore, I suggest gradually increasing your sun exposure (before applying sunscreen) or taking 1/2-1 teaspoon/1 capsule of cod liver oil each day and be mindful of any effects you feels. Depending on where you live and what your skin type is, the amount of time you need to spend in the sun will differ. Use this calculator to get an estimate of the amount of sun exposure you need each day: https://fastrt.nilu.no/VitD-ez_quartMED.html

Megan // The Autoimmune Activist x

Sources

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Feature Article: Vitamin D, viewed 7 March 2017,

Better Bones 2014, Food Sources of Vitamin D, viewed 7 march 2017, <http://www.betterbones.com&gt;

Christakos, S, Dhawan, P, Verstuyf, A, Verlinden, L & Carmeliet, G 2016, ‘Vitamin D: Metabolism, Molecular Mechanism of Action, and Pleiotropic Effects’, Physiological Reviews, vol. 96, pp. 365-408, viewed 7 March 2017, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov&gt;

DeLuca, HF 2004, ‘Overview of general physiologic features and functions of vitamin D’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 80, pp. 1689-1696, viewed 7 March 2017, <http://ajcn.nutrition.org&gt;

Forrest, KY & Stuhldreher, WL 2011, ‘Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults’, Nutrition Research, vol. 31, pp. 48-54, viewed 7 March 2017, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov&gt;

Holick, MF 2004, ‘Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 80, pp. 1678-1688, viewed 7 March 2017, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov&gt;

National Institutes of Health 2016, Vitamin D – Health Practitioner Fact Sheet, viewed 7 March 2017, <https://ods.od.nih.gov&gt;

Stocker, HS 2016, General, Organic and Biological Chemistry, 7th edn., Cengage Learning, Boston.

Van Belle, TL, Gysemans, C & Mathieu, C 2011, ‘Vitamin D in autoimmune, infectious and allergic diseases: A vital player?’, Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 25, pp. 617-632, viewed 7 March 2017, <http://www.bprcem.com&gt;

History of a Sick Chick (Literally)

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) by my integrative doctor in March 2016, and about 6 months later, metabolic syndrome (prediabetes) was added to the list.

If you’re not aware of what an autoimmune disease is, it’s where certain proteins in your body change shape slightly, and your immune system no longer identifies them as your own. Immune cells think the proteins are foreign matter which could potentially be dangerous, so they attack them. In my case, my immune system has attacked my thyroid and due to a lack of thyroid hormones, my reproductive system turned off, and my pancreas no longer produces enough insulin. These issues produce a range of symptoms including fatigue, lethargy, hair loss, acne, eczema, excess body hair, brain fog, poor memory, poor concentration, anxiety, depression and more (aka a shit time).

Although there is no main understood cause of autoimmune diseases, they are largely due to lifestyle factors including diet, stress, activity level, and toxin exposure. According to Dr Terry Wahls, if you are genetic predisposed to an autoimmune disease (or any disease for that matter – cancer, heart disease, etc), for that gene to be expressed, it needs the right environment to cause havoc (aka unhealthy insides).

I believe my autoimmune diseases are the result of the following….

In 2011 I began taking hormones to stop growing… Sounds so fucked up and in hindsight it totally was, and I wouldn’t recommend it to ANYONE. I was medically predicted to grow to a height that would be too tall for me to model, so my endocrinologist gave me a super high dosage of estrogen (female contraceptive pill). This fucked up my cycle big time (no one wants to hear the details of that) so I was then prescribed testosterone to counteract the side effects of the estrogen… that fucked with my skin, which hasn’t had a break since (apart from break OUTS lol). Studies now show that autoimmune diseases in women commonly arise at times of hormonal fluctuations (eg. pregnancy, peri-menopause), so this could’ve been a big game player.

If that doesn’t sound hellish enough, the estrogen caused me to pile on the kgs. After a couple of months I began losing weight after lowering my food intake and amping up my exercise, but instead of tapering off when I’d returned to a normal weight, I was in such an unhealthy, anxious headspace that I couldn’t. I got down to a weight that was 20kg lighter than my starting weight and looked like a twig, but if anyone ever told me I looked super skinny I would’ve taken it as a compliment.

Sooo hormonal fluctuations + mental health issues and top notch stress/anxiety/depression + restrictive eating and starving my body of the nutrients it needed + gastrointestinal tract damage from vomiting = a great environment for diseases to start brewing.

If anything good came of the eating disorder, it was my new found passion for nutrition. This firey passion has only grown over time, and a lot of the gas that ignited this fire was thrown on by conventional doctors, who do nothing but give you fucked up synthetic drugs to cover your symptoms instead of targeting and healing the cause.

As of last year (2016) I decided to follow my passion for natural health and began studying Naturopathy. I am now a happy little health nerd on a mission to learn all I can about the human body and how to nourish it, so that I can heal myself and then help as many others as I can.

Autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more common as processed diets become the norm, toxin exposure sky rockets, and stress levels and mood disorders surge. Through this blog I aim to increase awareness of autoimmune diseases, and educate both sufferers and non-sufferers on the importance of nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and chemical avoidance. I’ll also share easy, delicious recipes to flood your body with nutrients and dodge the nasties.