Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I Can't Eat...

People often ask me about the limits of my food world, so thought I'd write about it on here. My whole health journey is quite a saga, so I'll not dive into that right now, but just explain how I figured out the food part.

The "Can't" part of my diet came about in several ways. First, back when our 1st son, who is now nineteen, was a year old, I figured out that dairy gives me severe congestion. I had a bad bronchial cough that had gone on for over two months. I stopped drinking milk and eating dairy, and the cough went away! When I have any dairy, I get sinus/throat congestion. Certain kinds (ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese) have a worse effect than others. The last time I ate a bowl of ice cream, I got 'allergic' bronchitis that lasted for two weeks. I dabble in dairy here and there, but avoid it in general.

Next, around the time I was pregnant with our youngest, who is now thirteen, I noticed that some foods, like chocolate and garlic, did dire things to my digestion. Garlic was fairly easy for me to give up, but I continue to struggle with the chocolate issue. As I've continued to dabble, I've learned that dark chocolate has a much more severe impact on me than milk chocolate does. Several well-meaning people have tried to convince me that I'm not reacting to the chocolate itself, but to the dairy in it. I can say, conclusively, that this isn't the case. Dairy gives me congestion. Chocolate does some rather serious things to my stomach and digestive tract. I gave their advice a try, and ate completely dairy-free, completely organic chocolate, and the results were just the same. It really is the chocolate in chocolate that bothers me.  I also noticed that tomato sauce seems to have a bad effect on my stomach, so I started avoiding that as well.

About a year and a half ago, prompted by other aspects of my health saga, I went to a naturopath. He ran a blood test called an Allergy Panel, and the results were surprising and helpful. I had been so frustrated. I would say to my husband, "I just want to eat and not feel sick!" I was eating a diet high in whole grains and vegetables, making egg-white vegetable scrambles for breakfast, eating raw almonds for snacks, and using soymilk and tofu as standard parts of our diet...but no matter what, after every meal I felt sick. The Allergy Panel shed light on this issue. The biggest reaction I got was from eggs, along with almonds and soy. Ah. Eggs. Almonds. Soy. Well, that covered about half my diet right there! No wonder every meal made me feel sick! I also got a moderate reaction on wheat, wheat gluten, and every wheat-like grain. Sugar also showed some reaction. And some random things, like cranberries, peanuts, pecans, asparagus and mushrooms. Since I absolutely cannot stand mushrooms, I was fine with that!

Curiously, the things I'd already figured out- the dairy, chocolate, garlic and tomato sauce- did not show a reaction on the test. So, while I found the results profoundly helpful, I don't think it's the answer to everything. It did give me information that I had not managed to figure out on my own. This test shows whether the response is immediate or delayed, and every single response I had was delayed. Because my whole system was inflamed and reactive, I showed some slight reaction to every single food on the list. The hope is that once my body recovers from its various problems, the inflammation with go away, and I will be less reactive.

Also, as part of the journey, my naturopath found that I'm insulin resistant. I think his method was absolutely brilliant. He drew a 'fasting' blood sample, then sent me out for pancakes! Instead of drinking a cup of glucose liquid, I got to eat the kind of breakfast I will probably never eat again! My sweet husband drove me around the city till we found a Shari's restaurant. I had pancakes with fruit topping and syrup, and hashbrowns, and a large glass of orange juice. There might have even been a cinnamon roll, but I don't remember for sure. By the time we got back for my second blood-draw, the sugar effect had hit me. I was extremely sleepy, could hardly sit up straight, and was staring to slur when I talked. It was like I had been drugged! My glucose levels rose, but my insulin level went through the roof. I'm so glad he had me do the test that way. It really showed me what the typical American sweet breakfast will do to me!

I had gotten all enthused about all the gluten-free options out there, and was making muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc left and right. Then I remembered the refined carbs thing. All of the gluten-free mixes I was using were made with extremely refined starches (white rice flour, tapioca starch). Now when I bake/cook gluten-free, I try for more complete ingredients, such as brown rice flour. I've also found that some gluten-free flours also bother me, especially sorghum. In the interest of limiting our overall intake of starches and sweets, I now only make a traditional breakfast (gluten-free egg-free blueberry muffins, or gluten-free egg-free dairy-free waffles with agave syrup- with breakfast meat to give us protein) about once a week.

As far as I know, there is not one commercially available salad dressing that I can really eat. Ranch was my lifelong favorite, but it's out now (dairy and garlic). I can do just plain oil and vinegar, but this is bland and not that appealing to me, and sometimes vinegar bothers me. I've experimented some, with an orange-balsamic dressing, and a berry-poppyseed vinaigrette. They were pretty good, but again the problem with vinegar. Also, sometimes lettuce seems to bother me. I am having a hard time getting enough vegetables in my diet, between the results of my allergy test, the things that just bother me, and the low-glycemic issue!


 So, I think that's about all of it. There are other foods of which I'm careful, having gotten a mild hit from them on the allergy panel (cabbage family), or because they're high on the glycemic index (potatoes, corn). With so many things on the 'can't' list, it is very hard to eat completely within my limits. I find it easiest and best to just cook all my meals myself. Almost nothing that is commercially prepared works for me. For example, almost everything out there has garlic in it! When eating out, I take the "What is the least damaging to me?" approach to food decisions. Almost nothing out there actually fits my limits: dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, oat-free, rye-free, barley-free, garlic-free, tomato-free, sorghum-free, low-glycemic, peanut-free, pecan-free, soy-free, almond-free.

Okay, it always depresses me to a certain degree to really think about how comprehensive my "You Can't Have It" list really is. It is time to think of something positive! I will now post this and write one about what I can have!

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