Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Food. The story of my life.

For as much as I love food, get super excited about eating it, and for as many good choices as I like to think I make on a weekly basis, food has been the bane of my existence over the past year.

It's New Year's Day, which means it has officially been a year since I began my crazy elimination diet to try and figure out what was making me feel sick all the time.

So, a year has past, and I would like to think that the giant mystery has been solved, but unfortunately, only part of the case can be closed.  It seemed like the farther I delved into the search, the longer the list of questionable foods became.

Here's why:
Problem #1: "Nothing" is wrong with me. (Some might beg to differ... but I digress. :D )
I spent a hell of a lot of money on tests to try and figure out the root cause of my digestion issues, stomach pain, muscle inflammation, headaches, etc.  I was really hoping there was a giant indicator that would come up on an ultrasound or during an endoscopy, but no such luck.  Truly, I am glad I am healthy, but that may have just been easier.  It was determined that I might suffer from bouts of gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), and that I also might have IBS.  It was also determined that I had developed food sensitivities and an intolerance to many foods that might be causing a lot of the problems. I ran out of money waiting for a doctor to find the cure (and patience) and decided to play Nancy Drew on my own.

Problem #2: My reactions lack consistency.
There are certain foods that give me an almost immediate reaction, every time.  That makes it really easy to never eat these foods again.  The rest of them give me a delayed reaction, some of them depending on quantity, and the rest depending on what else I happened to be eating that week. The reaction may be the next morning, or days later, and it may only happen when paired with certain foods (but again, it's not the same reaction every time).

What I have figured out:
#1: I've learned to pick my battles.  
I do not question the seasoning anymore but make note of it if it specifically is mentioned on the menu. I do not cook with any questionable seasoning (i.e. paprika and tumeric), but I do incorporate sesame on a semi-regularly basis. I said goodbye forever to dairy and egg, and actually, aside from small moments of weakness (i.e. I'm hungover), I honestly do not miss either one.  I can eat the "maybe" vegetables but I make a point to not eat them on a daily basis.  In other words, I will buy 5 mushrooms for dinner so there isn't a contained in the fridge to eat all week, or buy just large portabello mushrooms that will be consumed in a single meal.  Wheat has been a bit of a hard one. I do not cook with it, and actually really enjoy gluten free soy sauce, gluten free rice pasta (I have been really happy with all of them), have found gluten free bread I really love (Schar from Fresh and Easy), and even gf flour tortillas (Rudi's).  I love asian inspired dishes however, so I make concessions (perhaps far too many) on regular soy sauce when we are at a restaurant, as well as the occasional pizza crust (provided there is no dairy in the sauce or the dough). I find the treat of a quarterly slice of vegan pizza rewarding and worth the possible problems following me the next day.  I have yet to find a gluten free pizza crust that tastes remotely like pizza, and most gluten free products still contain eggs anyway.

#2: I definitely suffer from occasional gastritis, caused by an excess of acid in my stomach.
After Thanksgiving, when I had had a lot of wine, coffee, and spicy foods, I was literally nauseous after every meal for several days.  I have also had major stomach pain (like someone lighting my stomach on fire) after eating certain foods, and only a combination of pepcid and prescription stomach pills can alleviate it. This puts me in check immediately, since these feelings feel awful and are a good indicator that I'm making too many dietary concessions and bad decisions.  I haven't had pain that bad since this all began 5 years ago, and am certainly not in the position to go get a bunch of medical tests done again, so it makes me remember to behave. :)

#3: I definitely have IBS, albeit a mild form of it.
When my gastroenterologist suggested I might have IBS,  I didn't want to hear it, since I was focused on my food intolerance list and didn't think I could handle another list of foods to eliminate from my diet.  However, now that I have completed the first year, I have realized she was probably right. Many of the foods on both lists are actually duplicates of each other, and while I cut out a bunch of foods initially, almost all of them have been reintegrated to a certain degree, and I still am not always feeling great.  So clearly, the mystery has not been solved.  Then there are other foods like cruciferous foods (cabbage, broccoli, etc), garlic, and quinoa, on the list for IBS triggers, and I thought these were a load of crock. Honestly? How can broccoli and quinoa, foods that are so nutritiously dense and good for you, possibly hurt someone? Well, the answer is, a LOT. They are tough to digest and if your stomach is at all irritated, you are going to be punished. Quinoa has been my toughest food lately, which makes me very sad. :(  (It's also loaded with protein and I love that!) The part of IBS that isn't so mild, is the stress trigger. Still working on that. Alcohol is also a trigger, so I have cut out most hard alcohol (especially juice mixers) and stick to wine/gin, which even then sometimes gives me trouble.

As for the protein... Still eating fish, and still not eating a ton of nuts and beans.  I have been making a huge effort to integrate them into my diet again, but the moment my stomach gets even mildly irritated, I have to cut them back out again. This is tough when I'm in training.  What I have learned, canned beans are out (super hard to digest) but if I soak and slow cook, I do pretty well.  Nuts are good but in small quantities.  Cannot be combined with other iffy foods (i.e. don't put in the quinoa and steam up a pile of broccoli to go with it).

Throughout the year, I have definitely noticed the knots and inflammation in my muscles have tremendously improved.  My stomach issues are more poignant and obvious when they happen, so even the delayed reactions are easier to pin-point.  I have been able to pin-point almost instant neck and head pain after eating gluten, so by cutting that out I have had less problems there.  I have been feeling better, and I feel that I am on the right track, so I must be doing something right. :)

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