Planning a Wedding with Graves’ Disease in the Mix

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.

Trigger warning: This article discusses weight gain/loss as a symptom of a serious medical condition.

Receiving a life-altering medical diagnosis is challenging on its own. Add in a major life event and everything surrounding that event can become much more difficult to manage.

My wedding was quaint, intimate, and very personal. My husband and I got married in a quiet corner of Central Park and proceeded to our favorite local restaurant for the reception. Every detail from the invitations (which my husband designed by hand) to the bouquets (which my mother made the night before) were very “us.” We disregarded many wedding traditions and focused on the things that were important to us. When it came to my dress, hair, and makeup, I didn’t want to look like a glamorous new person; I just wanted to feel like myself. This proved to be incredibly difficult when autoimmune conditions were wreaking havoc within my body.

Read the full article on HealthGrades.com

Thoughts on Supporting a Loved One with Graves’ Disease

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.

It can be very difficult to know what to say and do when a loved one is managing a life-altering condition like Graves’ disease. How can you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes when you cannot relate to the internal chaos that thyroid conditions can often cause?

No one can fully grasp the full experience and intricacies related to someone else’s medical condition, but everyone can do their best to learn, listen, and support their loved ones. As someone who has lived with Graves’ disease for several years, here are my tips for those who are hoping to show support.

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Graves’ Disease: Feeling Out of Control in My Body

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.

Trigger warning: This article discusses eating disorders, body image, and weight gain/loss as a symptom of a serious medical condition.

I became aware that something was wrong with my thyroid as I was trying to fall asleep one night. Why did my heart feel like it was rapidly pounding out of my chest? Yes, I had a stressful moment that evening, but I was mostly calm when I got into bed. No amount of breathing exercises helped, and I called my doctor the next morning.

It took several months for me to transition off of a medication I was taking, get an EKG, find a different, kinder endocrinologist for a second opinion, receive my official Graves’ disease diagnosis, obtain the correct medication, and finally start navigating treatment. Those months were incredibly scary. With a resting heart rate of 120 bpm (normal is about 60-90 bpm), forget exercise – I was scared to bring my heart rate up too high by doing simple activities like walking up the stairs. My body was practically running a marathon while sitting down. I decreased my physical activity and focused on resting.

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The Emotional Side of Thyroid Eye Disease

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.

Do you know what it’s like to wake up and not recognize yourself in the mirror? To have this happen so often that you forget what you looked like before? Unfortunately, that is the scary reality for many people suffering from thyroid eye disease – like me.

When my thyroid eye disease (TED) symptoms were at their worst, my eyes were dry, red, watery, and painful. On the outside, I experienced eyelid retraction – my upper eyelids had pulled backwards, making my eyes look unusually wide – and the muscles behind my eyes swelled, which pushed my eyes unnaturally and alarmingly forward.

I constantly woke up in the middle of the night, aching with pain from the extreme dryness. Fatigued and walking to work, I looked like I was crying as I constantly dabbed my watering eyes and tried to salvage my nearly-destroyed makeup. I’d show up every morning with the whites of my eyes unnaturally red. However, by far the worst parts of my experience were the changes to the shape of my eyes….

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Graves’ Disease? A Thyroidectomy? But I’m a Singer!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.

Singing has always been a part of my identity. Having sung since I was a child, I graduated college with a degree in musical theatre and moved to New York City to pursue my career. After performing in various concerts and regional theatrical productions, I took a break to learn how to do what nearly all of my voice teachers thought was impossible: belt contemporary music. I’d always been a soprano with a voice well-suited for classic melodies from the Golden Age of Broadway. But I wanted to play the quirky, powerhouse musical theatre roles, and to do that, I’d need to be able to belt. It was what I wished for every year when I blew out my birthday candles or threw a penny into a fountain. My previous teachers said my voice simply was not built for it. How wrong they were! I just needed the right teacher – and I found them. Learning how to belt was one of my most meaningful accomplishments.

As I was exploring new techniques and dimensions of my voice, I was also experiencing alarming changes to my health. What began as fatigue and a diagnosis of an underactive thyroid turned into a rapid resting heart rate, shaky hands, and weight loss. I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition resulting in an overactive thyroid.

My endocrinologist started me on a low dose of methimazole, a medication that would block thyroid production to an extent and ideally put my thyroid levels in a healthy range until I hopefully went into remission. She explained that in her experience remission would normally happen within two years of symptoms appearing. I asked, “What if it doesn’t? What if I don’t respond well to the medication?” She told me there are two long-term solutions in that case: I would undergo radioactive iodine therapy or have my thyroid surgically removed – a thyroidectomy…

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Graves’ Disease: My Search for the Right Doctor

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.

I was very exited when Health Grades reached out to ask if I would write a few articles about my experiences with Graves disease and thyroid eye disease. As an autoimmune disease advocate with multiple chronic conditions, I was disappointed in many of the resources I found online at the time of my diagnosis. While I could read up on clinical information, I wish I had been able to find more personal and patient-focused articles. I’m happy to have the opportunity to discuss some of the topics that I wanted to read about earlier in my journey. Thank you to Health Grades for giving me a larger platform to help share my story and spread awareness.

Presenting my first article – “Graves’ Disease: My Search for the Right Doctor” –

Looking back, my experience with Graves’ disease and thyroid eye disease has been a very long and bumpy road. The thing I’m most grateful for is having a team of truly extraordinary doctors. Unfortunately, it didn’t start off that way. Most of my doctors today were the second specialists I saw in their field. Connecting with the right doctors for my needs was a process and a story that I hope will help others.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease over a decade ago. I was well aware of the link between celiac disease and thyroid disorders like Graves’ disease, and when someone has one autoimmune condition, there’s a high probability of being diagnosed with another someday. I was experiencing a fair amount of fatigue. My primary care doctor was reluctant to run a full thyroid panel, but after finally agreeing to my request, I received a sheepish call from their office with a referral for an endocrinologist. I found an endocrinologist with decent reviews in a convenient location. After running a few more tests, she casually looked over the results and said she didn’t think I had a thyroid problem, but perhaps my thyroid was a little sluggish and we’d try a small dose of thyroid replacement medication. Did I love this doctor? No, something didn’t vibe well. But I knew I wasn’t feeling well, and at least she gave me something to try….

Read the full article on HealthGrades.com

Tasty Meditation’s Favorite Things Holiday Giveaways!

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post. I have special relationships with some companies and may have received product samples. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I genuinely enjoy.

It’s that time of year! My annual gluten free holiday giveaway series has begun! Throughout December I’ll be featuring some of my very favorite gluten free small businesses starting with Little GF Chefs and their gingerbread house kit!

(The instructions said to make whatever shapes I wanted with the extra dough, and I couldn’t resist. This is Gingerbread Lyla’s house)

All of this year’s giveaways will be posted/run on instagram, so follow me (@tastymeditation) and look out for the giveaway posts for a chance to win! Best of luck and happy holidays!

The Tasty Meditation Gluten Free Holiday Gift Guide: 2021 Edition

Disclaimer: I was not paid nor given free products in exchange for writing this post. I have special relationships with some of these companies and may have been given samples in the past. This post contains a few affiliate links in which I get a small commission that helps maintain the cost of this site (there is no added cost to you). All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I genuinely love. As always, double check labels and product information. Ingredients, allergen policies, and facilities can change at any time.

The Tasty Meditation Gluten Free Holiday Gift Guide: 2021 Edition is here! It’s more important than ever to support small businesses, so you’ll find many of my favorites listed below.

For the chocolate & sweets lover:

• See’s Candy – Gluten free chocolate truffles! Most of their chocolates do not contain gluten, but be sure to visit the allergen information page of their website for the most up to date information.

• LA Burdick hot chocolate – Kris introduced me to their hot chocolate on our first date. “I hope you brought another pair of socks…because yours are about to be knocked off.” Lucky for me – it happened to be gluten free! Their drinking chocolates are prepared in a dedicated gluten free kitchen.

• Yum Earth – Certified gluten free treats, even licorice!

• Goodie Girl Cookies – If you’re thinking that “Mint Slims” sounds almost exactly like a certain Girl Scout cookie, you are correct. So good, you’ll be tempted to eat an entire box in one sitting.

For kids (or kids at heart):

• Little GF Chefs baking kits – Absolutely adorable, creative and fun baking projects for people of all ages! The founder, Jereann Zann, is on a mission to empower kids, build confidence, and encourage a positive relationship with food. Every baking kit is made in a dedicated gluten free and top 8 allergen free facility and comes with just about everything you need to make the fun treats. Individual kits and subscriptions are available. I loved their rainbow donut kit!

• Cat-shaped cookie cutters – (affiliate link) Visit @howtocoeliac on instagram to learn how to make these perfect calico cookies!

For the experienced cook:

• Nuts.com gift certificate – (affiliate link) My favorite source for gluten free flours, nuts and dried fruit. They have a huge selection of gluten free items, and everything is clearly marked.

• Guittard Chocolate Chips – My absolute favorite chocolate to bake with. Most of their products are made in a dedicated facility and will say so on the label.

• Jovial olive oil – I didn’t know what I was missing until I tried their olive oil from Italy. Wonderfully flavorful and perfect for dipping bread and drizzling on top of pizza.

• Digital Kitchen Scale – Digital scales are essential for measuring gluten free flour accurately! So far my favorite scale is by Escali. I use it nearly every day, and years later it’s still working perfectly.

• The No Gluten, No Problem Pizza Cookbook by Kelli and Peter Bronski – (affiliate link) This book is seriously life-changing, and I make their pizzas at least three times a week. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this cookbook The recipes rival my favorite pizzas in Italy.

• Ultimate pizza-making equipment bundle – (affiliate link) I’ve compiled a collection of everything you need to make my favorite No Gluten, No Problem pizzas! The cookbook, baking steel, storage-conscious pizza peel, digital kitchen scale, and food thermometer.

• Pasta machine – (affiliate link) There’s nothing like fresh pasta! Be sure to check out my video tutorial and recipes for gluten free fettuccine, ravioli, and tortellini!

For those who enjoy easy cooking projects:

• Charlie’s Table fresh pasta – Once you try fresh pasta you’ll never want to go back to dried. Certified gluten free and made in a dedicated facility, Charlie’s Table offers pasta shapes that are difficult to find gluten free – bucatini, rigatoni, garganelli, gemelli, and tagliatelle.

• Still Riding Foods pizza crusts – One of my favorite pre-made crusts. Certified gluten free, dedicated gluten free facility, dairy free, egg free, soy free, nut free, vegan and kosher.

For the makeup lover:

• Red Apple Lipstick gift certificate – (affiliate link) Amazing allergen-friendly makeup with a wide variety of stunning lipstick colors. The Rallye Balm is a lifesaver for chapped/dry lips during the colder months. My personal favorite colors include Vogue and Ooh La La. Get 22% off orders of $50+ with the code “TastyMeditation”.

Gluten free bakeries – All of these 100% gluten free bakeries ship across the US (for residents of Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories please inquire with the bakeries directly), and several offer gift cards:

• Bread Srsly sourdough (affiliate link) – Seriously the best gluten free sourdough (and my favorite gluten free bread, in general) on the market! Made in the Bay Area, this bread nails that traditional sourdough taste. Free from gluten, wheat, egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, potatoes, sesame, refined sugar, and chickpeas. The last day to order for the holidays is December 12th, but I recommend ordering early because they sell out. Use code “TASTYHOLIDAY” for 10% off your order through 12/12/21!

• Krumville Bakeshop – Delicious cookies, cakes, muffins, and bread – everything that comes out of the Krumville kitchen is incredible! I recently made it my mission to try all of their layered cakes (spoiler alert – they’re all wonderful). If I had to choose one favorite, it would be three – chocolate raspberry, lemon & berries, gingerbread & cranberry. Feel free to send me a message if you’re looking for a personalize recommendation.

• Senza Gluten Cafe & Bakery – This bakery holds a very special place in my heart. My favorite items include panini bread, burger buns, almond ricotta orange cake, lemon mascarpone almond muffins, shortbread cookies, and pecan snowball cookies. After years of visiting this bakery, I recently tried the cookies for the first time. Normally when I visit in person I opt for the pastries, but wow was I missing out! Their cookies are truly magical.

• Modern Bread & Bagel – You’re not dreaming, these are real New York style bagels! When I was diagnosed with celiac disease I never thought I would experience this joy again. Infinitely grateful to Modern Bread for making this magic happen.

• Meredith’s Bread – A family-run bakery located in Kingston, NY, Meredith’s Bread is well known for selling products at farmers markets around NYC. They have two lines of products (wheat-based and gluten free – look for that GF label!), and their gluten free baked goods are made in a separate/dedicated facility. Excellent pricing. I love their rustic farmhouse breads, black and white cookies, and biscotti.

• Izzi B’s Allergen Free Bakery – So many free-from statements! This bakery is free of gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, nuts, casein, preservatives, trans-fats, refined sugar, and more! Located in Connecticut. Try the yellow cake, it’s my favorite!

• Everybody Eats – Mention Everybody Eats to a gluten free New Yorker, and they’ll immediately start talking about how kind and wonderful the owner, Pedro, is. Check out their instagram for delightful videos of Pedro singing in his bakery, and you might spot a certain special guest (spoiler alert – it’s me!). Highly recommend their gluten free baguette.

• Mariposa Baking Co – Located in San Francisco, so shipping rates are more affordable for friends on the west coast. I highly recommend their cinnamon rolls and flaky pastries. One of the few bakeries I’ve found that makes gluten free croissants!

• The Karma Baker – 100% vegan and gluten free in LA. I highly recommend their donuts.

For the bar:

• Tito’s Vodka – Certified gluten free, corn-based vodka. You might want to get some for yourself, too. I’ve found that you save more money in the long run if you buy the bigger bottle (wink).

• Barr Hill Gin – Lightly sweetened with local honey, so every batch is a little different. Labeled gluten free.

• Deep Eddy Vodka – Flavored vodka that’s labeled gluten free. Cranberry, peach, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, and sweet tea flavors.

• Bright Cellars – (referral link) A fun subscription box with wine tailored to your preferences. Each box comes with fun cards to help you learn about the wine you receive. The more you rate your wines, the more the algorithm learns about what you love.

• Wolffer rose cider – Our favorite cider in the Tasty Meditation kitchen, and naturally gluten free!

• Pallini Limoncello – A taste of Italy! Kris and I tried various different limoncello brands during our gluten free honeymoon in Rome, and this was by far our favorite.

Gluten free resources:

• Gluten Free Watchdog subscription – GFW is one of the most incredible advocates in the celiac disease/gluten free community, and her website is a wealth of information. Subscribers get special access to products reports (selected items are tested for gluten in a laboratory setting) and support her overall efforts.

• Gluten Dude app subscription – An excellent resource with restaurant/bakery lists, product recommendations, and moderated message boards created by celiac disease advocate Gluten Dude. See you on the app!

Happy Holidays!

Ginger Chai Tea Recipe

If you’ve been following my updates on social media, you know that I recently had my first orbital decompression surgery to help correct some of the damage done from Thyroid Eye Disease. It’s a pretty intense surgery and recovery process (I’ll go into more detail in a future post once I’m on the other side of my upcoming procedures). As I’m following all recovery instructions from my doctors and taking my prescribed post-op medications, I’m trying to help my body as much as possible with a variety of nutrients.

I’ve been making fresh ginger tea for years, and it’s my go-to recipe whenever I’m not feeling well. I was looking for a way to spice things up, and my Ginger Chai Tea is now one of my favorite cold weather drinks. Hope you enjoy!

Ginger Chai Tea

For ginger tea:

5 cups water

3 oz peeled fresh ginger, cut into cubes

For chai tea:

1 1/3 cup ginger tea

2/3 cup milk

1 tbsp maple syrup

1/8 tsp vanilla

2 dashes cinnamon

2 dashes nutmeg

Place water and fresh ginger in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn the stove off and let the tea sit for two hours. Discard the ginger. Place all chai tea ingredients in a pot. Heat and stir. Add more maple syrup/vanilla/spices to taste and serve.

Makes two cups. Extra ginger tea can be refrigerated for future use.

Thyme & Tonic – NYC Restaurant Review

Disclaimer: I was not paid nor given complimentary product in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend restaurants and products that I truly enjoy. Please always call a restaurant before visiting to verify that it is appropriate for your needs, as policies and menus can change any time.

I have a new favorite 100% gluten free restaurant, and I can’t believe it took me so long to try it. I visited Thyme & Tonic on the Upper West Side earlier this year for cocktails and appetizers. I was incredibly impressed and excited to eventually return to try the entrees and desserts (and more cocktails, of course). In short, I was blown away.

Chipotle Pineapple Margarita

We started the evening off with a round of cocktails. Kris was instantly a fan of the Chipotle Pineapple Margarita. I opted for my favorite cocktail from my previous visit – Besos Calientes (Spanish for “hot kisses”). Featuring vodka, lime, passion fruit, and a cerano ice cube, the concept of this cocktail was so smart. It was on the sweeter side (which I like), but as the cerano ice cube melted, it changed the flavor profile of the drink. And it got spicy quickly!

Besos Calientes – Vodka, Lime Juice, Passion Fruit, Cerano Ice Cube

I normally feel very confident in my gluten free restaurant research, but when this salmon burger arrived at my table I thought, “Oh no, I’ve made a terrible mistake. Am I at the right restaurant? Did I read something wrong? Look at that bun! The height, the color! Is it gluten free?” And yes, of course the restaurant is 100% gluten free. They just do magical things in their kitchen. The burger and fries were simply amazing.

Salmon Burger, Watercress, Avocado, Horseradish Aioli

Lucky us, our reservation happened to coincide with their final ice cream special of the summer. The mini lemon donut ice cream sandwich was heavenly. I’m looking forward to seeing what desserts specials Thyme & Tonic will offer in the fall/winter, but I’ll be on the lookout for anything they make with lemon because this dessert was perfect.

Chocolate & Lemon Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches

Overall, I adored my experience at Thyme & Tonic. The service, atmosphere, food and cocktails were all top notch, and it has quickly become one of my very favorite restaurants in NYC. Book your reservation now. You don’t want to miss out.

Thyme & Tonic is a 100% gluten free, mostly vegan, and certified Kosher restaurant located at 474 Columbus Avenue (near 83rd St). Open for brunch (in collaboration with Modern Bread & Bagel next door) and dinner.