The Importance of Vitamin B12: Self Injection

[Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Please seek out a medical professional to take proper precautions, learn proper techniques and ask any questions before attempting a subcutaneous B12 self-injection. The information in this blog is not to be taken as medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, expressed or implied. The information herein expresses my own learning experiences. Note also that the pictures demonstrate the administration of a subcutaneous B12 injection by a medical professional and do not show a self-injection taking place.]


As it turns out, vitamin B12 deficiencies are very common in those with Lyme disease – as well as in the general population! The first thing my Lyme literate specialists did when I first became ill was to test my B12 with a simple blood test; the results came back shockingly low. The consequences of not getting enough B12 can be serious: it can cause irreversible nerve damage. Continue reading

Cauliflower ‘Rice’

Serves 2

For those that are avoiding grains to keep down inflammation, this cauliflower recipe is a delicious substitute for rice. It has such a similar flavour profile and texture that you won’t really miss the carbs!

  • ½ large head of cauliflower – pulverized in food processor to rice size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grape seed oil
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 2 frozen ginger cubes or 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • ½ cup frozen peas, defrosted in microwave and drained of water
  • 1 – 2 eggs, beaten

Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high to start.   Heat 1 tablespoon grape seed oil in pan and add onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring often until onion is soft. Add ginger and stir for 30 seconds, then add in cauliflower and the sesame oil. Let cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally,  then clear centre of pan and add 1 teaspoon of oil. Add in garlic cloves and cook for a minute stirring constantly until fragrant, then stir into rest of mixture. Cook a few minutes, add salt and pepper, then coconut aminos.

Clear centre of pan again, then pour in egg. Let set up a minute then break apart/scramble and stir into rest of mixture. Stir in peas and cook for two minutes to heat through then serve.


Blueberry Muffins (Gluten Free)

Makes 12

This is another America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) recipe from their How Can it Be Gluten Free cookbook that I have adapted for the Lyme diet. These muffins have a somewhat dry texture that reminds me a bit of cheesecake once they’ve been frozen and reheated. I swapped out Krisda for sugar, goat yogurt for plain yogurt (which is less inflammatory than cow dairy) and I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten free 1-t0-1 baking flour (NOT their all purpose garbanzo bean variety) – although you can make up the Gluten-Free Flour Blend that ATK developed if you wish.

  • 11 ounces (1 ¾ cups plus 2/3 cup) Bob’s Red Mill 1-t0-1 baking flour or ATK Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below for recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 5 ¼ ounces (3/4 cup) krisda – NOTE: I find Krisda much sweeter than sugar and have used as little as 1/3 of a cup and still gotten good results. I don’t care for a lot of sugary sweetness in this recipe, so 1/2 a cup might be a good compromise. You’ll have to experiment with quantities to see how sweet you like it.
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter and coconut oil, melted and cooled (4 tablespoons each of butter and coconut oil)
  • ½ cup goat yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 ½ ounces (1 ½  cups) blueberries

NOTE: coconut oil solidifies when it hits cold ingredients so you must take out the eggs and yogurt in advance and bring them to room temperature before mixing or you’ll end up with a lumpy mess!

  1. Whisk flour blend, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, xanthan gum and Krisda together in large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk melted butter/coconut oil combination, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla together until well combined. Using rubber spatula, stir egg mixture into flour mixture until thoroughly combined and no lumps remain, about 1 minute. Gently fold in blueberries until evenly distributed (batter will be thick and stiff). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Using ice cream scoop or large spoon, portion batter evenly into prepared muffin tin (I use muffin liners). Bake until muffins are golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 16 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  1. Let muffins cool in muffin tin on wire rack for10 minutes. Remove muffin from tin and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. (Muffins are best eaten warm on day they are made, but they can be cooled, then immediately transferred to zipper-lock bag and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.

To serve, warm in 300-degree oven for 10 minutes. Muffins can also be wrapped individually in plastic wrap, transferred to zipper-lock bag, and frozen for up to 3 weeks. I don’t bother with the extra plastic wrap because they don’t last that long in my household! To serve, remove plastic and micro-wave muffin for 20 to 30 seconds, then warm in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.)

ATK Flour Blend:

24 ounces (4 ½ cups plus ⅓ cup) white rice flour

7 ½ounces (1 ⅔ cups) brown rice flour

7 ounces (1 ⅓ cups) potato starch

3 ounces (¾ cup) tapioca starch

¾ ounce (¼ cup) nonfat dry milk powder

This makes up more than you’ll need for just one muffin recipe. Keep refrigerated or in the freezer until needed.

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Chickpea Flatbread

(Makes 5 flatbreads)

If you happen to be on antibiotics, bread contains yeast and sugar that are no-no’s when one is on antibiotics, so you should try to exclude bread from the diet altogether. Since there’s no yeast or sugar in this recipe, it fits the bill! It is delicious drizzled with a good olive oil and some coarse salt and ground pepper and is a great accompaniment to any meal.

Even though I wasn’t on antibiotics, I avoided bread during the first two years of Lyme treatment. I found this flatbread recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s Too Good to be Gluten Free cookbook and it really helped satisfy my craving for bread.

For those of you who absolutely can’t give up bread – or are on herbal treatment, in my opinion, O’Doughs manufacturers the best ‘thin’ gluten free bagle on the market so check them out. We used to bake our own bread every week to avoid the ‘lead pucks’ that were available when my husband was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, but now there’s such a great selection on the market that it’s not worth all the time and effort to bake from scratch. For those of you who WANT to bake bread, America’s Test Kitchen just came out with the How Can it Be Gluten-Free cookbook Volume 2 and there are several bread recipes that look good. I haven’t tried any of them, however ATK tests recipes to perfection in their test kitchen so I would highly recommend any of their gluten free cookbooks.

Be sure to use a non-stick skillet when making these; it’s an essential!

  • 6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) garbanzo bean flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Prepare a baking sheet with a wire rack and heat oven to  200 degrees to keep flatbreads warm as you’re making them.

Wisk flour salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly wisk in water and 3 tablespoons of oil until combined and smooth.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 1/2 a cup of batter to the skillet, tilting the pan to coat it evenly. Reduce heat to medium and cook until crisp at edges and golden brown on bottom ( 3 – 5 minutes). Flip the flatbread and cook until second side is browned (2 -3 minutes).

Transfer to oven to keep warm and repeat with remaining oil and batter. Cut into wedges to serve or leave whole.



Coriander/Lemon: Add 1 teaspoon ground coriander and 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest to chickpea flour before adding wet ingredients.

Caramelized Onion & Rosemary: Cook 1/2 an onion sliced thin in 1 tablespoon of olive oil; start with medium high heat and then turn down to medium stirring often until onion is softened and browned (approx. 10 minutes). Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary and cook until fragrant (30 seconds). Transfer to bowl and let cool slightly, then stir into the wet batter and cook as in main instructions.


IGeneX Testing – Navigating the Process for Canadians


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Note: If you suspect you may have Lyme disease, you can fill out this quick online symptom checker, print it out and take it to your doctor. For a more in-depth checklist of Lyme symptoms, this pdf from renowned Lyme specialist Dr. Richard Horowitz takes more time to complete, but is thorough:  LYME MSIDS QUESTIONNAIRE_Squeeze of Lyme

If you have been clinically diagnosed with Lyme disease or just got back a positive blood result (by IGeneX in the U.S. or the Public Health Lab in Canada) and don’t know where to turn, you can get in touch with Lyme Ontario or the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme) for further information, help and support.

To get right to the tutorial on how to send away a blood sample to IGeneX, skip to the next section entitled “IGeneX Testing Process” – but if you live in Ontario, be sure to read the important update six paragraphs below (after my EM rash picture).

Before I get into the tutorial, I just want to make everyone aware that blood testing – no matter where you have it done – is not a foolproof method to determine whether one has Lyme disease. There currently isn’t a reliable blood culture test that can detect LIVE bacteria; the best we can do is to test for antibodies and sometimes (depending on when you may have been exposed to the bacteria) a person will unfortunately not have made detectable antibodies at the time of testing.

In Canada, an ELISA screening test is done first, but is not sensitive enough to screen for Lyme – according to a Health Canada newsletter outlining the limitations of our test kits. You should be aware that if you do not test positive on the initial screening, your blood will not undergo further testing with a Western Blot (the most accurate antibody test currently available). A negative blood test does not mean you don’t have Lyme disease.

There are several reasons that IGeneX provides a better test, but the two that resonated with me were: a) I could order the Western Blot and, b) it tested for two strains instead of one. In my own case, the blood testing I had done in Canada came back negative, yet I had close to 50 symptoms that my GP was unable to diagnose.  That’s when I decided to send my blood for testing to IgeneX and seek out a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) in the U.S. who was familiar with diagnosing Lyme disease.

Based on my clinical symptoms and the picture below of an Erythema Migrans rash that appeared on my shin while vacationing in Naples Florida, my LLMD diagnosed me with Lyme disease (as well as Babesia and Bartonella; ticks can pass on more than just Lyme!)*. You can click on this link to fill out a symptom questionnaire to take into your own doctor to determine if you could have Lyme disease and here are some other examples of EM rashes.  When my IGeneX blood results came back positive, it supported the clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease (like I mentioned earlier, blood tests are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to diagnosing Lyme disease).

*UPDATE (June 2016): I recently had supplemental blood testing conducted in Canada and tested positive for QFever and Anaplasma – two other diseases that can be tick borne. These tests are covered by OHIP and can be ordered through your GP. They can be instrumental in confirming a previous tick bite and possible Lyme disease diagnosis. Have your doctor run a Zoonotic test panel to see what other ‘co-infections’ you might have.

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‘Erythema Migrans’ rash on the back of my shin is diagnostic of Lyme disease – no blood test is even needed!  Not all Lyme rashes look the same ; a target rash is not the only presentation. Most people never even get the rash!

IMPORTANT UPDATE (ONTARIO ONLY): In Ontario, some Naturopaths were previously providing a service to patients by conducting the blood draw and taking care of shipping to IGeneX on behalf of their patients. New regulations now prevent Ontario-based Naturopaths from directly ordering out of country tests, which unfortunately includes IGeneX.

However, if you have a Naturopath or are planning on finding one, all is not lost. Your Naturopath can contact a company by the name of In-Common Laboratories (or ICL). ICL is a private not-for-profit lab. As long as your Naturopath is registered with ICL, he or she can order the test kit directly from ICL and sign the requisition for you. The test kit is then given to you, the patient, and all you have to do is take the kit into an affiliated Laboratory to get your blood drawn (ICL takes care of the shipping).

ICL, has partnered with Alpha Laboratories in Ontario and Biotest Labs in Ottawa. As long as you go into one of these two labs to have your blood drawn, they will take care of the rest. When results are in, ICL will then forward them on to your Naturopath for interpretation.

Information to Pass Along to Your Naturopath

Alpha and Biotest Labs may have restricted hours at some locations, print out and take this pdf with you to your Naturopath if you are planning on doing the IGeneX testing through ICL: ILS058 Specimen Collection Hours for Naturopathic Doctors_Rev 1_May 13 16

For registration with ICL and access to ICL’s test menu, you can pass these links onto your Naturopath: AND or provide them with the following contact info for further information: Telephone: 416-422-3000 x 300 E-Mail:

If you live outside of Ontario (and don’t have access to a Naturopath), you can follow the instructions in my tutorial below for how to send your own blood sample to IGeneX.


IGeneX Testing Process

In May of 2013 I sent my own bloodwork off to IGeneX. In this post, I’ll share what I learned to make it easier for anyone else in Canada wanting to undergo better testing for Lyme Disease by sending blood samples to IGeneX. Below is an itemized list of the process, followed by a detailed explanation and samples for each step.

  1. Contact IGeneX for a Kit (free of charge): 1.800.832.3200
  2. Decide on which blood tests you want in discussion with IGeneX: 1.800.832.3200
  3. Find a Lab in advance: check ahead to see which lab in your area can draw blood (charge is generally $25 – $35 and should be drawn on a Monday or Tuesday).
  4. Arrange a FedEx Account online, then fill out Waybill and Commercial Invoice for customs once you have your kit. If you prefer not to set up an account, you will need to find a drop off location (visit a FedEx World Service Centre® or FedEx Authorized ShipCentre®)
  5. Find a Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor (ND) to sign the Test Requisition Form and fill out the rest.
  6. Have blood drawn at the lab. Be sure to bring the bright lime green instruction sheet included with the Kit so the lab technician knows what to do once blood is taken. Pack the vials according to the packing procedure found on the same instruction sheet.
  7. Arrange pick-up with FedEx. Pick-up can be arranged at your house or in some cases you may be able to drop off at a depot. Call FedEx at 1.800.463.3339 for assistance. You also have the option to ship without setting up an account by dropping your package off at a drop-off location: to ship without an account number, visit a FedEx World Service Centre® or FedEx Authorized ShipCentre®.
  1. Contact IGeneX for Kit

IGeneX is a lab in California that specializes in testing for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases – or ‘co-infections’ – such as Babesia, Bartonella, Erlichia. More often than not, the tick leaves you with more than just a Lyme infection so it’s best to test for co-infections too. You can contact IGeneX at 1.800.832.3200 to order a test kit free of charge and to ask questions about which tests may be appropriate for you.

It will generally take up to two weeks for the kit to arrive, as it is sent by snail mail. As an alternative, some Lyme support groups and naturopathic doctors keep kits on-hand. If you can find one close to you, it may save you time to pick it up locally.

  1. Decide on Blood Tests

Personally, I ordered #188 and #189 – Lyme Western Blot IgM and Lyme Western Blot IgG, as well as #5090 – the complete co-infection panel. Please see full pricing below for all the tests available (this lime sheet also has the test requirements for the lab technician and shipping requirements on it and comes with the IGeneX kit). However, keep in mind that these prices may have changed since 2013 and you will have to factor in the Canadian dollar exchange rate. In 2013, my Lyme tests were $100 each and the co-infection panel was $660. Contact IGeneX for current pricing.

Lime Green Instruction Sheet_FINAL

  1. Finding a Lab to Draw Your Blood

Have your blood drawn on Monday or Tuesday at the latest. I was going to have it done on Monday, but it was Memorial day in the States and nothing gets through customs on a holiday. Rather than have my blood sitting for a day in customs, I decided to postpone drawing blood until Tuesday. Any later than that and you run the risk of running into shipping delays and having your blood spoil before it can be tested (IGeneX does not work on the weekends).

A blood draw for IGeneX testing will cost around $25 – $35 if you can find a local lab to do it. Not all labs in Canada will draw blood for you, so call ahead to labs in your own area before you show up to ensure they’ll do it.

Initially I called LifeLabs’ head office and they said No. They said that IGeneX would have to call them to pre-arrange a contract first, so perhaps at some point in the future somebody will arrange that.

Then I called my local Gamma-Dynacare lab and they said they would do it if I came some time after 11:00 when they’re not as busy. When I got there, the clinician had to call head office to check and she got the ok to proceed.

I also heard that some locations of CML are familiar with the process, but again, you must call ahead to check the lab in your particular area.

  1. FedEx Packaging and Procedures

The kit will come in a FedEx clinical pak (UN 3373) which is specially designated for shipping of biological substances such as blood. Also included will be a FedEx International Air Waybill. Please see the picture below for a sample Waybill for help on how to fill out the information that is required. I checked off ‘FedEx Intl. Priority” under item #4 (Express Package Services) – depending on where you’re located, it will get the package there the next morning by 10:30 and is the best option for shipping to IGeneX.

IGeneX filled out their own address information on the waybill, but the Recipients Tax ID Number was missing on mine. IGeneX’s ID number is 943147701 – note that you will also need this number for the Commercial Invoice that has to be printed and included with your Waybill (see further info below).

FedEx Waybill_color_FINAL_final

To ship your blood back to IGeneX, you will be responsible for all shipping charges. To register for a FedEx account in Canada to ship your blood back to IGeneX, click HERE and fill out all information requested. If you have any questions, call FedEx at 1-800-463-3339. For the first two weeks of shipping, I received a 30% discount; shipping my package from Toronto to IGeneX in California cost me just under $50.

When shipping your blood, you will also need to fill out a Commercial Invoice to get the package through customs. To access the commercial invoice page, click the following link: Under the 4th title down on the page, “Where Can I Find It?”, you can then click on FedEx Document Preparation Centre for online completion or a PDF download of the form. Note that this used to be directly accessible, but you must now login with your User ID and Password in order to download the pdf or fill it in online.

For help on how to fill out the commercial invoice, click the following link:

See also below for a sample on how to fill it out for bloodwork purposes. Note that in the Description of Goods Section in the lefthand column, I wrote down the information that I found on the two vials for my bloodwork. Depending on which tests you order, your description may be different so be sure to write in what is appropriate to your own package.

Commercial Invoice_Sample_FINAL_FINAL.jpg

Once the commercial invoice is filled out, you MUST provide one original and two copies of the form for customs. Fold them up and insert them BEHIND the Waybill in the clear WayBill Ziploc bag which you should stick onto the front of the FedEx Pak. Be sure to tear off the first page of the Waybill – the ‘Senders Copy’ so you can track your package to ensure it gets delivered in a timely manner.

  1. Test Requistion Form – Signature Required

The kit also includes a requisition form which needs to be signed by a doctor or naturopathic doctor. You can also print a requisition from the IGeneX website if you want to do this in advance. However, the requisition included on the website is slightly different from the international form included with the kit.

My own GP refused to sign the requisition, so I went to a walk-in clinic and was able to get a signature from a doctor on-staff (a lucky break). I also discovered that my ND was able to sign the form (Note that this no longer applies in Ontario – an ND cannot sign the form unless they are registered through ICL labs as described at the beginning of this post).

Fill out the rest of the requisition form with your contact and credit card information, date and time sample was collected, and check off all the panels you are ordering (there are more panels on the back of the page). If the form is not completely filled out, it could result in delay of testing, so it’s a good idea to have someone look it over for you (and any other documentation).

Test Req_FINAL_Final.jpg

  1. Having Blood Drawn at the Lab

Other contents of the kit are a styrofoam box containing the tubes for blood collection, labels for the tubes (fill the lables out with the your first and last name, date of collection, and date of birth then stick onto the tubes) and the lime green instruction sheet shown above to take with you to the lab, which will explain to the lab technician how to treat the tubes after the blood draw. There is also a clinical history form (shown below), which isn’t mandatory to fill out but it helps IGeneX gather stats:

Once the blood was taken, one of the tubes had to clot for 15 minutes and then get spun in a Centrifuge. The technician set a timer and then the tube was spun for an additional 10 minutes. She was nice enough to put the vials into the Styrofoam holder, put the absorbent paper on top of the vials and then close the container and put an elastic around it to hold it together. The Styrofoam holder then gets placed into the clear Ziploc bag included in the box. Then the Ziploc bag along with the completed Test Requisition Form (and Clinical History Form if you chose to fill it out) are placed inside the white cardboard box.

  1. Arrange FedEx Pickup

When all was done, I went home and placed everything into the FedEx Pak, then I called FedEx to arrange to pick up at my house (I scheduled shipment before 5:00, but pickup was dispatched when I called and the driver came at 2:00).

Click HERE to track your package at FedEx once it is shipped.

You also have the option of dropping your package off at a FedEx depot. Search online for a location near you and for payment options: FedEx World Service Centre® or FedEx Authorized ShipCentre® or call FedEx at 1.800.463.3339 for assistance.

If you live in Toronto, keep in mind that California is 3 hours behind so a 10:30 am delivery there will actually be 1:30 pm here. I monitored tracking the next day and my package got there at 10:40 am. I also called IGeneX just to ensure it got there intact but was told that it takes all day to unpack the many packages and process them into the system, so I would have to call back at 4:00 if I wanted to check.

Test results take about two weeks (but that may depend on what you’re testing) and are only sent to the doctor that signed the requisition.

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Gluten-Free Medical Expense Tracker (For Celiacs and those with Lyme disease or gluten intolerance too!)


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I’ve been taking a break from recipe development to create a Gluten-Free Medical Expense Tracker that helps calculate the differential cost between gluten-free and regular food.

The government allows Celiacs to claim the differential cost of gluten-free foods as a medical expense on personal yearly tax submissions. Even though my husband has Celiac disease, we never took advantage of claiming the cost of gluten-free food because, in the past, we simply didn’t have enough medical expenses. All of that changed after I contracted Lyme disease, so I decided it was time to develop a spreadsheet to help track our gluten-free food costs.

I’m not going to sugar coat it: tracking gluten-free food is time consuming! Nonetheless, it can be worth the effort if you can include it with other medical expenses. Considering just my husband’s differential cost of gluten-free food, we spent over $1300 more for groceries in 2013 than we would have if my husband wasn’t Celiac.

As any of you that have chronic Lyme disease know, paying for treatment is anything but cheap — since doctors won’t treat here and almost all medical costs to treat abroad are paid out-of-pocket. That’s why it’s important to claim every medical expense you can in order to get as much money back as possible.

A few notes before using the Gluten-Free Medical Expense Tracker:

  1. Unless your medical tax credit claim exceeds 3% of your net income or approx. $2,100 (whichever is less), it won’t be worth the excessive time and effort to calculate the incremental cost of gluten-free food if that is your only medical expense.
  2. On Revenue Canada’s website it states that “persons with Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) are entitled to claim the incremental costs associated with the purchase of gluten-free (GF) products as a medical expense.” Here is the link to Revenue Canada’s website regarding gluten-free products:

According to the link above, to support your claim, Revenue Canada requires the following:

  • a letter from a medical practitioner confirming the person suffers from Celiac disease and requires GF products as a result of that disease;
  • a receipt to support the cost of each GF product or intermediate product claimed; and
  • a summary of each item purchased during the 12-month period for which the expenses are being claimed (that’s where my Expense Tracker comes in!).

The exact wording on the website makes it look like Celiac disease is the only disease that is recognized in claiming gluten-free food as a medical expense, so I called the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for clarification (1-800-959-8281). The agent I spoke to read and parroted back exactly what is on their website – not very helpful!

I then contacted a certified professional bookkeeper to ask if she has ever had success claiming the medical expense for those who don’t have Celiac disease. Her response was “I’ve never had CRA question the additional expense incurred due to the need for a gluten free diet, whether they have or don’t have Celiac disease.”

If you don’t have Celiac disease, but have been told by a doctor to keep a strict gluten-free diet, my best advice is submit your expenses to Revenue Canada and see what happens. One caveat though: be sure to get a note from your physician that includes the phrasing ‘gluten intolerance‘ since that wording is on the website.

Last year, we claimed the gluten-free expense on our taxes, but only for my husband who does have Celiac disease. This year we claimed for both of us and didn’t have a problem.

Now on to the ‘how to’:

How to Use the Spreadsheet

The excel spreadsheet – attached at the end of this post – helps us track our gluten-free purchases month-by-month on one tab and then compile all the information on another tab to calculate the difference between gluten-free and regular food purchases.

The first tab “GF Purchases” is a monthly tracker used to record information taken from the grocery store receipt such as what items we purchase, how many of each item we buy each month and the cost of each item. The grey-coloured column C calculates an annual total from the number of purchases made each month.

How many grams is in each package also needs to be included (sometimes the grocery store receipt provides the number of grams, but you will typically need to get this directly from the package itself). If you compare the grams of a gluten-free product to its counterpart, gram for gram, you will notice a even more considerable difference in price! The spreadsheet on the second tab will help you capture this differential to help put money back into your pocket!

The second tab “GF Med. Expense Spreadsheet” is where it all comes together. At the end of the year, I transfer over each item from the first tab (GF Purchases) to the relevant columns on this spreadsheet, (i.e. the item name, brand purchased, number of grams, number purchased over the 12-month period, and the purchase price for each gluten-free item). I’ve provided a sample of some common categories and gluten-free items to give you a start, but you will likely want to start with a blank slate when you transfer your own information from the “GF Purchases” Tab to this one. Simply delete the information from columns A to H and input your own information.

I’ve also provided a ‘blank’ row you can use to copy and paste additional rows that will keep the formulas from the grey-shaded intact (before you copy, remove the wording that says “BLANK ROWS WITH FORMULAS TO COPY”). The  formulas in the shaded columns calculate how much you can claim for each gluten-free item on a ‘gram-for-gram’ comparison.

Then you need to do some homework and find the cheapest comparable regular product, the number of grams for that product and how much it costs. You could find this information in the supermarket, but you don’t have leave your house with the convenience of the internet! Instead, I go online to either or to find the information I need to fill out those columns. In instances where I can’t find the number of grams, I try googling the product and click on the images tab. If I can find a clear image of the packaging, I can usually make out the number of grams.

Once you are finished with the spreadsheet, the formulas in each column will figure out the price differential. You can find the total of your yearly incremental costs of gluten-free food at the bottom of the spreadsheet (currently highlighted in green on row 66 of the sample spreadsheet). This is the number you will add in to your medical expenses and include on your income tax return.

You will also need to print off a copy (you only need the “GF Med. Expense Spreadsheet“) to submit with your tax return if you are filing a paper copy. It’s not necessary to submit all your cash register receipts at this point, but you will need to save them in case Canada Revenue Agency ever requests to see them.

Keeping track of gluten-free expenses is a lot of work but I try to sit down at the computer at least once a month to input our grocery purchases, check off each receipt and file them away. You will find that if you tackle it on a regular basis, as with any task, it’s not as overwhelming!

A few last tips:

  1. If you use the Gluten Free Medical Expense Tracker, rename it when you save it to your computer.
  2. When I run into a situation where I paid $5.99 for an item one month and then paid $5.49 another month, I usually take an average of the price over the course of a year (i.e. $5.74) and use that as the price on the spreadsheet.
  3. Now that we have additional medical expenses to claim, we find it much easier to purchase tax software and file our tax forms electronically. With respect to medical expenses, the program can determine whether it’s more beneficial for me or my spouse to claim them on our tax form (medical expenses should be claimed on the lower-income spouse’s return to maximize your tax relief).

I hope that sharing my tracker with you allows you to reclaim some of your hard earned money! If you have questions, leave a comment below or get in touch with me at

Gluten-Free Medical Expense Tracker_Sample_Squeeze of Lyme_updated

Best of health in 2015!

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pies


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I’m still in comfort food mode, even though it’s spring! This recipe makes two pies; it’s a real convenience to have food on hand on days when Lyme symptoms flare, so I encourage you to make the full recipe and freeze one for later. Source: Adapted for the Lyme diet from Canadian Living Magazine: Sept. 2011

8 servings

  • 2lb (907 g) extra-lean organic ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 turnip, (about 8 oz/225 g) peeled and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 sweet red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/4 tsp salt (3/4 tsp for meat mixture and remaining ½ tsp for the potatoes)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp GF all purpose flour or brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sodium-reduced beef broth
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ½ tsp coconut aminos
  • 1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar (with mother)
  • 4lb (1.8 kg) sweet potatoes, (about 3) peeled and coarsely chopped so they cook faster
  • 1/3 cup goat milk (I use Hewitt’s 3.8%)
  • 2 tbsp goat butter
Sweet Potato Shepards Pie 001_A

Prepped vegetables and sweet potatoes (pictured right)

Sweet Potato Shepards Pie 002_A


In Dutch oven, cook beef over medium heat, breaking up with spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in garlic, celery, onions, carrots, turnip, red pepper, bay leaves, 3/4 tsp of the salt, thyme, pepper and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Mix together beef broth, water, coconut aminos and apple cider vinegar. Stir in gluten free all purpose or brown rice flour to make a slurry. Add it to the pan, stir and cook for 1 minute. Stir in frozen peas and let mixture simmer for another 3 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Sweet Potato Shepards Pie 010Divide between two 8-inch (2 L) square baking dishes. Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling salted water, cook sweet potatoes until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and return to pot over medium heat; cook, stirring, until dry, about 1 minute. Stir in goat milk, goat butter and remaining salt; and mash in the pot until smooth. Either spread sweet potatoes evenly with an offset spatula or pipe them over the beef mixture. Bake 1 of the pies in 350°F (180°C) oven until bubbly, about 30 minutes. If desired, put under the broiler for another 5 minutes to brown, making sure the potatoes don’t burn. (Make-ahead: Cover remaining pie with plastic wrap then foil and freeze for up to 1 month. Bake, uncovered and frozen, in 350°F/180°C oven for 50 to 60 minutes.)

Makes 8 servings.

Sweet Potato Shepards Pie_Nutrition Facts

GF Mock Buttermilk Waffles


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Note: since I posted this recipe on May 8th, I’ve revised this recipe by reducing the coconut oil (which made the waffle a bit too greasy) and changing the proportion of milk and yoghurt so the batter is thicker.

Who doesn’t love waffles! That is why I developed this recipe for my husband, who is Celiac and isn’t following the Lyme diet. I do have another waffle recipe on this site that is just as delicious and uses oat flour. However, some celiacs can still react to gluten free oat flour. Here’s a link to that recipe if you’d like to try it:

While the following recipe uses white rice flour and some starches, it still avoids cow dairy, sugar and alcohol – and it’s totally gluten free. If you are just beginning Lyme treatment – or are on antibiotics and avoiding starches – however, you may want to save this recipe to try much later.

Although there is no buttermilk in these waffles, the goat milk, goat yoghurt and dried goat milk power lend a tangy flavour. Because of that, they can be eaten for breakfast with warmed fruit or, as my husband likes to eat them, for dinner slathered in gravy and peas.

I weighed my ingredients, so it’s best to use a scale if you have one. If you don’t own a scale, I’ve also added in measures of each ingredient by volume.

A note about ingredients used:

  1. The goat milk and goat yoghurt I used in this recipe add a tang that mimics buttermilk.
  2. The vanilla I use is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t use alcohol.
  3. I buy Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flours.
  4. Krisda is a sugar free substitute that contains Stevia – safer than comparable sugar free substitutes on the market. If you can find 100% Stevia and use it for this recipe, please let me know how it turns out!

This batch only makes 3 waffles, which I find is enough for the two of us. Plus, I didn’t want to mix up a bigger batch while I was testing the recipe! If you’d prefer to make more waffles, refer to the double batch at the end, which should make six. If you have extra left overs, you can always freeze them and reheat them in the toaster.

These waffles cook up crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, as the following picture shows:

New GF Buttermilk Waffles 005_finIngredients:

  • 2.5 oz brown rice flour – (½ cup + 2 ½ teaspoons)
  • 1.5 oz white rice flour – (¼ cup + 1 ¾ teaspoons)
  • 1 oz tapioca starch – (3/8 cup + ½ teaspoon)
  • 3/4 oz potato starch – (1/8 cup)
  • 1/4 oz dry goat milk powder – (2 teaspoons); I use Hewitt’s Skim Milk Goat Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Krisda sugar substitute
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ heaping teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, cooled
  • ½ teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla (optional) – I use Frontier All Natural Vanilla Flavour
  • 3/8 cup cup goat milk – I use Hewitt’s 3.8%
  • 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup goat milk yogurt – I use Liberté 2.7% Goat Milk Yoghurt

Yield: 3 Waffles


Whisk the flour blend, Krisda, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, goat milk, goat yoghurt and melted coconut oil until combined. Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the wet mixture thoroughly until batter has thickened and no lumps remain, about 1 minute (batter will slightly thick).

I let the batter sit while I heated up my waffle iron; heat and cook yours according to the manufacturer’s directions. I have a Belgian-type waffle maker and used ¾ cup of batter for each waffle. I let it bubble a bit before closing the lid. Each one took 3 minutes in total to cook.

New GF Buttermilk Waffles 006_fin

3/4 cup of batter. Let it bubble a bit before closing lid.

New GF Buttermilk Waffles 007_fin

Presentation side of waffle

The above picture shows the bottom side of the waffle, which I flipped over to show the ‘presentation side’.

Double Batch – 6 Waffles

  • 5 oz brown rice flour – (1 cup + 5 teaspoons)
  • 3 oz white rice flour – (1/2 cup + 2.5 teaspoons)
  • 2 oz tapioca starch – (3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 ½ oz potato starch – (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 oz dry goat milk powder – (4 teaspoons); I use Hewitt’s Skim Milk Goat Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Krisda sugar substitute
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ heaping teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons melted coconut oil, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla (optional) – I use Frontier All Natural Vanilla Flavour
  • 3/4 cup goat milk – I use Hewitt’s 3.8%
  • 1 1/4 cups goat milk yogurt – I use Liberté 2.7% Goat Milk Yoghurt

3 Servings.

Mock GF Waffles_Nutrition Facts

Slow Cooker Beef Chili


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I always think of chili as comfort food – and who doesn’t need comfort when one is sick with Lyme disease? For that reason, we make this recipe year round – no matter what the weather. This chili tastes better the next day; it thickens up and all the flavours come together, so it’s best to cook it all day, let it cool and then eat it the next day.

The recipe cooks up a huge crock pot of Chili, so you will want to portion it and keep in the freezer. Although you have to spend the prep time upfront, it’s always a big convenience to cook once and then reap the benefits for months to come.

I usually find the stewing beef pieces too large so prefer to cut them a bit smaller, but if you like them that way, leave them as-is.

You might be surprised at the amount of spice used for this recipe, but use it all. The ancho chili in adobo sauce adds a nice smokey flavour too, so try to include it.

I always try to buy organic meats and vegetables when I can; who needs the added pesticides?

Servings: 14

  • Grapeseed oil
  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 organic medium sweet onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 organic red pepper, diced
  • 4 organic celery stalks, diced
  • 3 organic carrots, diced (optional)
  • 2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 1 can organic tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1 can organic diced tomatoes, with liquid (28 oz)
  • 2 cans organic crushed tomatoes (28 oz each)
  • 1 TBL apple cider vinegar with “Mother”*
  • 2 cans organic kidney beans (reserve for ½ hour before end of cooking) (15 oz)

Spice Mix:

Not all spices are made in a facility that’s free of wheat and some spices contain gluten, so make sure you are purchasing gluten free spices.

  • 3 TBL chili powder
  • 1 TBL oregano
  • 1 TBL cinnamon
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp dried coriander
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • ½ tsp dill weed


  1. Heat a large pan with grape seed oil on medium-high heat. Brown the beef cubes in at least 3 batches (adding some oil in between) so the pan doesn’t overcrowd and steam the beef. Browning the meat builds flavour, so don’t skip this step. I also recommend you don’t use a non-stick pan as you won’t be able to develop the ‘fond’ from the meat. As the beef is browned, remove to a crock pot.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and stir to soften, de-glazing the pan and scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Cook 5 minutes, then add garlic cooking for one minute. Add in the red pepper, celery, carrots (optional) and ancho chilis. Cook for 3 minutes stirring often. Part the centre and then add the can of tomato paste. Cook it out for one minute and then stir into the rest of the vegetables.
  3. Add the spice, stirring for one minute until fragrant to cook them out, then add ¼ of the can of diced tomatoes just to prevent the spices from sticking to the pan.
  4. Making sure everything is scraped off the bottom of the pan, transfer to the crock pot. Add in the remaining diced tomatoes, 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and apple cider vinegar.
  5. Set the crock pot to high and the timer for 5 – 6 hours.
  6. Half an hour before the end of cooking, stir in the 2 cans of kidney beans.
  7. When done, allow the chili to cool. Transfer some to the fridge for the next day and portion out the rest to freeze. I use medium-sized Ziploc freezer bags as shown below:

Chili 010_FIN2Serve over brown basmati rice or brown rice noodles if desired.

* This is the only vinegar recommended on the Lyme diet.

14 servings.

Beef Chilli_Nutrition Facts

Lyme-Friendly Lentil Burgers

I’m an avid follower of the Food Network and happened upon a commercial for Chef Michael Smith’s new web venture with

According to the website, lentils are high in fibre and soluble fibre, and a good source of folate and magnesium, all of which contribute to heart health. Lentils are an amazing protein source and their fibre content helps reduce cholesterol. Best of all, they are locally grown in Canada—who knew?

Maintaining fibre in a gluten-free Lyme-friendly diet is extremely hard to do, so I was amazed to find out that Lentils have more fibre than chickpeas, kidney beans and even bran flakes (which are restricted on the Lyme diet because of gluten and sugar).

There is a plethora of recipes on the site, but I chose a burger recipe to adapt to the Lyme diet, because it’s a great meat alternative. The recipe originally called for mushrooms, soy sauce and miso – all flavour enhancers that contribute to the ‘meatiness’ of the burger, but are unfortunately restricted on the Lyme diet. I successfully substituted canned artichoke hearts for the mushrooms, a bit of tahini paste for the miso and coconut aminos for the soy sauce. I also added additional spices, as the original recipe was lacking seasoning and looked quite bland.

These can be cooked a number of ways. I first tried lightly browning them in a sauté pan with a bit of oil and they cooked up crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. I browned them for about 2 minutes each side and then covered them for 5 minutes reducing the heat right down to low to ensure that the centres heated up. The next night, with the leftovers, I put the patties into a toaster oven set to 400°F for 20 minutes (flipping them half way through). They were just as crisp on the outside, but a bit drier – without the addition of any oil. If you are trying to keep weight on though, I would suggest cooking them in oil!

Be mindful when shopping for ingredients; the lentils we purchased were manufactured in a facility that uses wheat – so technically they’re not gluten free. That’s a huge problem for my husband, who has Celiac disease; so always read the ‘fine’ print. Always try to purchase packaged goods that are marked ‘gluten free’.

  • 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Canned artichokes; 4 pieces chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, freshly chopped
  • 1 cups of dried lentils (I used the green variety)
  • 1 cup of gluten free bread crumbs* (you can also try substituting brown rice flour; start with 1/2 cup and add more, if necessary, to hold together)
  • ½ cup almond butter (I used an almond/cashew mix made by Nuts to You)
  • ½ teaspoon tahini paste
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons of dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup of chia seeds
  • 2 cups of sweet potato, grated


Cook the lentils according to package directions. I boiled 4 cups of water, added in the lentils, then reduced to a simmer and cooked for about 25 minutes. I strain them and then return them to the hot saucepan to steam off some of the water for a minute, stirring constantly. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.

Add the oil into your skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion, artichokes, and garlic and sauté until they become soft and flavourful, about 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add in all the remaining ingredients except the grated sweet potato. Rest the mixture for ten minutes, giving the chia seeds time to plump up.

In a food processor, puree the mixture until everything is smoothly combined. Transfer the mixture back to the mixing bowl and stir in the sweet potato by hand so it does not break down in the machine.

Using your hands, shape the mixture into evenly formed patties. They can be cooked immediately, refrigerated for several days, or frozen for a month. I usually place the patties and onto a piece of waxed paper, when ready to cook, so I can get them all into a pan or the oven at once.

Lentil Burgers and Choc Chip cookies 007When it is time to cook, you have lots of options. You can fry them in a lightly oiled sauté pan on your stove top, sear them on your griddle, grill, or BBQ, or even bake in your oven at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind that these burgers brown relatively quickly so medium-high heat will allow the centers to keep up while the exteriors cook.

I still have some mixture in the fridge – it goes a long way when you’re only a family of two! The whole batch yields about 12 servings.

* Note: if using bread crumbs, make sure you use a gluten free brand that does not have yeast in the ingredient list if you are on antibiotics. We had gluten free Irresistables bread crumbs on hand (sold at Metro); they contain rice flour and potato starch, which may be ok to use if you are on a herbal protocol or far along in treatment. If preferred, try using brown rice flour as the binder.

12 servings.

Lentil Burgers_Nutrition Facts