Hi, Welcome to Paleo Crust.

I’m so excited you found my blog. I hope it brightens your day and helps inspire you to live a more nutritious diet.

My food philosophy is all about awakening a carefree, healthier you and reducing inflammation and toxins in the body. I like wholesome, natural food. Heaps of vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, eggs and some low GI fruits as a treat. It’s about keeping things simple but using these food groups in a fun, creative way so that by living Paleo you don’t ever feel bored or deprived.

Food is one of life’s most powerful medicines. I’m a true testament that once you find the right diet for you, you can overcome chronic illness through the healing power of food.

I haven’t always been Paleo, in fact I used to think I was super healthy gobbling down wholegrains like they were the greatest superfood on earth. Don’t get me wrong, grains and dairy work for some people, just not for me anymore and definitely not for those of you with autoimmune diseases or compromised gut linings.

I decided to start this blog because I’ve always been a massive foodie but when I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a type of arthritis and autoimmune disease, I didn’t know what I could eat. I just knew certain foods made my pain worse.

The illness had a devastating effect on my life. It deprived me of my 20s and 30s, a time when I should have been out partying with friends. All I wanted to do was hide from the world as I battled chronic pain every day.

The problem is, Ankylosing Spondylitis can take 20 years to progress enough to show on an MRI so people can live decades in agony without a diagnosis and a plan to heal. I was 26 when mine started. Over the next 6 years, I was pushed from specialist to specialist and none of them really knew what was wrong. I was pumped full of every anti inflammatory drug under the sun and super strong Anti TNF medication that caused my hair to fall out and other horrendous gastro problems. I hate drugs by the way but by then I was on my hands and knees desperate. I went from little miss sporty, who bounced around like zebidee full of energy and love for life, to little miss miserable – introvert and a crying mess. Sitting or lying down to sleep was virtually impossible but the icing on the cake came when it reared its ugly head in my Achillies and I couldn’t walk for 18 months. The list of injuries and ailments goes on – IBS, leaky gut, Interstitial Cystitis…

Christmas day 2012, I remember it well. I’d hit my rock bottom and decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.

Whilst Ankylosing Spondylitis runs in my family, I hold its onset to antibiotics. Being young I naively did as one doctor told me and took an on/off 18 months course for an infection… WHAT?!?! Little did I know then about the damage such a long course can cause to gut health. The balance of good/bad bacteria in my gut was anything but balanced. I started to scour the internet for any correlation between gut health and autoimmune diseases and that’s when I changed my diet, discovered GAPS, Paleo and later my tailored approach of Low Starch Paleo. This increasing awareness of the correlation between gut health and autoimmune disease drew me to start experimenting in the kitchen, buy a camera and write this blog.

I started on the GAPS intro diet, lots of nourishing healing bone broth and simple foods. As I started to learn about Ankylosing Spondylitis, I gained a wealth of insight about its link to a bacteria in the gut called Klebsiella, which feeds off starch. Naturally on the GAPS diet, I’d already removed grains, high GI sugar and most dairy products like cheese and milk but things weren’t quite right. And that’s when I discovered Paleo. I now eat Paleo but with my low starch twist (so minus the very starchy vegetables like sweet potato and parsnips).

Almost 3 years on, I’ve surprised the doctors, am free of medication and continue to get stronger and heal my body every day. I’m back exercising and even do some musical theatre. Yes me, the girl who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, on the stage! I’m not disregarding medication as it has it’s place, I just passionately we can all improve our health if we look after our guts and find a way of eating that works for us. I’d never have thought way back then that I could have come this far just by changing my diet. When I was at my lowest I never understood why life had dealt me such a cruel hand, but now coming out of the other side, I see it was a way of directing me to find my true passion and hopefully help others lead a healthier life.

Jo Harding, Paleo food blogger, Paleo Crust

I’m self-taught in the kitchen, so my posts are the result of lots of epic cookathons and tons of reading. I understand it can feel scary changing your diet this dramatically and the mental torment of identifying which foods could be exacerbating your symptoms, but make a start, it’s a journey, you won’t get it right on day one but making the change is without a doubt the best decision I ever made. Eating Paleo has allowed me to regain control from my illness, get respite from the constant pain, giving me my confidence and life back.

I love, love, love healthy great food. Whilst there are so many amazing simple foods you can enjoy on the Paleo diet, there were certain ‘crusty’ comfort foods I missed – wholesome pies, crispy pizzas, squidgy bread, indulgent cakes. Food isn’t just about taste, it’s about texture right? I wanted to make nutritious, healthy Paleo alternatives hence the birth of Paleo Crust. In my blog you’ll find lots of creative ways to enjoy these everyday favourites using a whole host of fresh meats and natures most amazing vegetables, plus loads of delicious sides, superfood salads and raw dips to go alongside. Have an open mind, they’re not like the ones you once knew but damn tasty and so much better for you.

I started this blog because I want to provide a resource for people who suffer from Ankylosing Spondylitis and other autoimmune diseases. I want to share all the fun, healthy free from recipes I cook up at home and the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past 10 years in putting my autoimmune conditions into remission. Every week I’ll be posting simple, original recipes to get your taste buds firing and show you that ditching grains, dairy and refined sugar does not mean you have to ditch the taste!

So everything you see here is part of my learning and healing process. You’ll see that pretty much all my recipes are low starch, making them suitable for those with Ankylosing Spondylitis, and use foods that heal the digestive system. I passionately believe that the root of good health is a happy, healthy gut and super strong gut lining, so even if you’re not a sufferer, my Paleo recipes are a great addition to help nourish your body.

Please feel free to get in touch, ask questions, share your stories and send pictures of your recipes. I’d love to hear how you are getting on with the new healthier you.

Love food. Love life.

Jo x

Iberico ham Paleo pie with braised leeks, Paleo Crust


Ankylosing Spondylitis

Or AS as it’s often known is a form of spinal arthritis, in which the spine and other area of the body become inflamed.

Symptoms of AS present themselves in a variety of ways but often involve back/sacrum pain and stiffness that improves with exercise and isn’t relived by rest, pain and swelling in joints and extreme fatigue – because lying down to sleep is torture! I hear you fellow sufferers.

It can sometimes take 20 years for the disease to progress to a stage that it’s evident on an MRI. As a result, so many sufferers are left in limbo, battling chronic pain, and at best receive a diagnosis of ‘spondoarthropothy’ – an umbrella term doctors use now for an inflammatory condition.

The illness predominantly affects men but women can get it too and usually develops in your late twenties and early thirties. Whilst anti-inflammatory medications and anti TNF therapy are amazingly helpful in controlling symptoms, they come with a whole host of side effects. Currently there is no cure which is why I passionately believe diet can help manage symptoms, pain levels and improve your quality of life.

If you want to find out more about Ankylosing Spondylitis then these link may be useful – National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society and Kickas.