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Archive for the ‘food sensitivities’ Category

What did your mother tell you?


“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

My mom did at least.

I think that’s something that most of us have trouble with. Not when talking to others, but when talking to ourselves.

The hardest part of feeling terrible all the time is the feeling that I’m letting the rest of the world down. All the things I could be doing and accomplishing if I could just buck up, force myself off the couch, move faster, pay attention longer.

But I can’t. I just can’t.

Apparently there are people who are content to sit around and do nothing, even though they are mentally and physically able. You hear about it now and then. But I have to wonder, is that true? Are they really mentally able? Because if they are, it is unfathomable. Who could possibly choose to do that?

I put every effort into trying to maximize what I can accomplish. I eat the best I can, I do research, I force myself to accomplish things. If it takes everything I have to accomplish what must be done and leaves me no energy for what I’d like to do, well, there we are.

But when I look at people who just stop off at the grocery store because it is a nothing little task, I could cry. If I had done this and that differently. If I could just. I want so much to be able to do that again.

And I take all the blame on myself. It’s all my fault. No shifting blame to the doctors who let me go 15 or 20 years with undiagnosed food allergies and a thyroid condition. No blame to the government that gave me all kinds of horrible advice about how I should eat that caused horrible consequences. Only a brief harsh word about genetics.

No, it’s all on me. I should be better. I should be different. I should fight harder.

I promise, if I had anything else to fight with, I would.


When food can’t be trusted

With a title like that, the first thought might be dieting and weight loss. I’ve certainly felt like that many, many, oh so very many times in my life. But this is worse than that.

Let’s talk about food allergies.

Food allergies are exhausting.

Have you ever gone to a scrumptious buffet, and left hungry, not because of any will power or intentional self sacrifice, but because there was nothing you could safely eat?

How long does it take you to figure out a restaurant to stop at after a busy day?

Once upon a time, when I was young and callous, I knew a woman who ‘claimed’ to have food allergies, and she was allergic to a great many basic staples. And I thought she was making it up. Or at least fussing over No Big Deal. We took to calling her “one of those people who doesn’t eat food.”

And now, of course, I am one of those people, and I want to go back and give my young self a talking too. She didn’t mean to be unkind, exactly, but it was so far outside her experience that it didn’t seem real.

Perhaps you are one of those people. If you are, please give me a minute to explain.

Have you ever traveled to a place where it wasn’t safe to drink the water? And you not only had to find bottled water everywhere, you had to remember to always have a bottle in your hotel room so you could brush your teeth? And you had to remember to only eat vegetables that had a peel, because greens and things like that are washed in the local unsafe water?

It’s a little like that.

Any time you eat out, especially at a new place, it’s like spinning a roulette wheel. Especially when your allergy is something ubiquitous like gluten, or something deadly, like shellfish or peanuts. You can order carefully. You can tell the server to ask the kitchen. You can hope that the server will actually ask, and the kitchen will both know and answer honestly. And it’s still giving the wheel a big old spin.

The more allergies you have, the likelier you are to have a problem with something.

I have a lot. My options are limited. I have a very short list of local restaurants that I’ve vetted, taking the risk of feeling awful for a full week to see if it’s safe. My poor husband supports me in my quest for safe food, but I know he loves business trips where he can just go eat without having to study the menu, call the manager, and pray.

I usually just eat at home from my short list of reliable, sensible food. Which means an awful lot of cooking from scratch. No convenience foods.

I’m a better than average cook, but there are so many times when I really, really can’t face my own cooking, but there aren’t really any better options either.

I suppose this can be classed as a first world problem. Much like dieting, it’s about being faced with food you can’t eat, instead of the much harsher problem of there being actually no food. I’m not confused about that.

But since we (I at least) live in first world environments with computers and internet and ridiculous amounts of food, it’s a very real problem.

It makes me tired.

What if depression isn’t in your head?

This morning I came across a fascinating article from The Guardian discussing a new theory about depression. What if depression is a side effect of inflammation?

The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.

There are a number of experiences in my own life that make me really, really want to see more research on this possibility.

In my early 20’s I had a horribly stressful job with a crazy boss. I spent several years on anti-depressants.

I have always had a tendency towards depression. At some level, I was able to manage this without additional medication by watching my diet and supplementing regularly with Vit B6 and Vit D both of which are known for an anti-inflammatory effect.

Everything got much, much better once I got my thyroid properly treated, and inflammation is both a cause and an affect of low thyroid.

Food allergies and possibly one of the biggest and most misunderstood and undertreated causes of inflammation in my opinion. I only have to go a little overboard on dairy to start sniffling and wheezing again, and asthma is a leukotrine inflammation response, among other things.

Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky gave an amazing lecture on depression which is available on YouTube in which he discusses a lot of diseases that cause or are associated with depression. A quick review shows that many of those conditions are also associated with inflammation.

Obviously it’s too soon to say anything for certain, but I can say that this one rat is going to spend the rest of the dreary dark season experimenting with increased use of turmeric and staying carefully on top of my vitamins.


It isn’t just french fries.

I am really conflicted about this ad:

On the one hand, I am utterly appalled at what passes for healthy eating in this country. Our food supply is a nightmare. Refined, mutated, depleted, it can be difficult to get adequate nutrition. It genuinely astonishes me how many adults don’t know how to cook. Not even anything fancy, but how to make a meal out of basic ingredients. Add in a low-fat bias and we’re pretty much doomed. Teaching kids how to make a healthy meal and how to enjoy one is an important parenting step that isn’t always getting the attention it deserves, for many reasons, some unavoidable like economic inaccessibility of quality ingredients, and sometimes just because.

So yes, teaching our kids about healthy nutrition is really important.

But this PSA? It’s all about fear tactics, and it leaves out so much.

The blame for weight issues is always assumed to be food choices and nothing else. And that tunnel vision makes me so angry!

Sure, many people eat badly. Plenty of them are thin too, and no one feels it necessary to emotionally manipulate them into self loathing.


That’s right. In my experience (personal and direct from friends) every time a fat person fails at a diet program, they hate themselves. Because ‘everyone’ knows that if you just stick to your diet, you’ll lose weight. So if you don’t lose weight on your diet, it’s a personal failing. The medical profession really compounds this by being condescending and skeptical. Because even though I’m a well educated, intelligent adult, I can’t be trusted to watch my own calorie count. If the diet doesn’t work, I must be lying to myself about what I’m really eating.

I could go on about this for quite a while. I have a lot of hostility on this subject saved up.

But back to that ad.

It shows that poor guy who has been overweight his entire life, and pretty much suggests that he’s fat because his mom fed him fries as a kid. Because it’s the only thing that makes him stop crying.

You know what I’d ask a parent if they said only one food would make their kid stop crying?

“Have you checked in to food allergies?”

The problem with reducing everything to the calories in/calories out model is that there can be a LOT more going on, and it makes life very unpleasant for those who can’t figure out why, and don’t have the time and energy to chase after possibilities. We need society to be a little more open minded about causes and a little less judgmental.

Ok, and feed our kids fewer french fries, that’s true enough.

When they get it.

In my years of pursuing health and trying to learn about my body I’ve tried an awful lot of things. Some work, some don’t, and some only work for a while, and then stop. And it took me years to figure out when it was time to buckle down harder, and when it was time to back up and choose another direction. I wrote about the difficulty in fighting dogma a while back.

When you’re out on the fringe (of anything, health and nutrition for this discussion) it is such a relief when you get to share ideas and options (and new recipes) with someone who gets you. Understands your perspective on health, understands your need to find your own way no matter what the mainstream says, understands that people are not interchangeable machined parts. Unfortunately, sometimes (often really) you get caught up with someone who feels that they own the One Truth, and there is no discussing with you, they just talk at you. So frustrating. They put so much energy into finding a great alternative solution for themselves, and yet they can’t believe that their perfect solution probably isn’t perfect for everyone. Because if solutions were one-size-fits, said practitioner would have followed the instructions their doctor handed out and wouldn’t have made doing something different their life’s work. They get so caught up in their own dogma that they forget that they started out helping people.

I bring this up because last week I went to a ladies business lunch where I have made a number of good friends and I got to sit and brain storm with an amazing food educator.

 My friend Elaine teaches people about raw food and alkaline diets. She doesn’t start with a major overhaul. She starts with a list of foods that would be spectacular for you and helps you find a few that you could add to your diet. Starting small and practical. But if you say “yeah, I know flax can have all these benefits, but I happen to be horribly allergic” she doesn’t say “are you really sure you’re allergic” and she doesn’t say “it’s really really good for you”, she says “oh, how about chia seeds?” or other options.

Elaine understands that I am healing multiple health problems, and I’m not ready (and who knows, may never be) for her program. That doesn’t stop us being friends, or helping and supporting each other. She never makes me feel bad for not jumping on her bandwagon, because what she really really wants is for me to be as healthy as possible. Whatever it takes for me. She had to find her own solution, and she did a fine job, since she’s a 2 time, no chemo cancer survivor. (I’m impressed. How’s that for some qualifications?)

My point here is, if you get the opportunity to work with people who really get that you are a unique individual, make the most of it. They’re rare these days. But don’t let anyone tie you to their bandwagon if it doesn’t fit.

Constant Vigilance!

Yes, I’m a Harry Potter fan. I also think that if there are things out in the world trying to kill you, you should pay extra special attention.

Not actively trying to kill me, I admit, but life with food allergies does not allow for sloppy habits and you have to be completely aware of what you take in.

Recently I tripped up. I have really excellent insurance, I believe I’m mentioned. During my last doctor’s appointment I got a prescription for hydrocortisone to replace the over the counter product I’d been taking. The OTC worked very well but it’s pricey and a prescription covered by my insurance is not.

Now I had a problem with a different supplement that we prescribed and that caused some estrogen dominance issues that I’ve already written about. It made me feel limp and foggy-brained. While I was limp and foggy-brained, I didn’t notice that I was also starting to have stomach issues and feel weak and sore. Once my head cleared, I didn’t really notice that I still physically felt pretty poor until I started having issues with muscle weakness that caused problems climbing stairs. I live in a house with 3 floors, so that I noticed pretty quickly. I got on the scale and discovered that I’d put on 15 lbs in about 5 weeks. That certainly got my attention.

I thought about my eating habits, because that’s always the first place we want to blame in weight gain. Nothing there had changed in 5 weeks. Google suggested that muscle weakness goes back to adrenal fatigue, so I upped the dose of my new meds just a little. With an over the counter supplement that your body has to convert to an active hormone, there isn’t any way to know for certain exactly how much you’re getting, so maybe the dose wasn’t quite right. Oh, hey, that made things worse! So back to Google I went.

After some searching and asking around on the patient advocacy groups I frequent, I found my answer. My new medication is actually poisonous. Ok, not exactly poison, it’s made with corn starch, to which I am very sensitive. It was causing a serious feedback loop where I was getting my adrenal support, but also needing more to combat the allergic reaction, which caused me to need more cortisol…plus the actual reaction to the corn, which is digestive distress, oh, and an all over body ache and muscle weakness.

Aren’t I lucky that I still had a bunch of my OTC cortisol on hand? 2 days off the prescription and I was feeling much better. Now it’s a week later and I’m almost back to feeling the energy and enthusiasm I felt right after I got on the new thyroid meds. So after an 8 week detour, I’m back on track and making forward progress.

My point here is, do you research, pay attention, and don’t trust anything without checking it. Seriously.

And we’re waiting…

Sometimes I think the hardest part of having health problems isn’t the actually feeling bad part. That’s very draining, but you learn to deal with it and it becomes an unpleasant constant.  What is really hard is the waiting.

I spent a lot of time waiting until I could find someone who would diagnose and treat me. Then I waited to see how the treatment would work. There was more waiting after I moved to find the right new doctor who was more interested in health and well being than test numbers.

With every doctor’s visit and blood test and medication change there is a hope that this time maybe things will be changing and feeling better might be just around the corner.

Sometimes it is, but often I find that no, that was another tiny but inconclusive step. Or sometimes it is a step backwards.

Right now I’m waiting for my body to recover from the corn starch in one of the medicines I hoped would make me better but made me worse instead. I forgot for a minute that I have to check everything, all the time, and I got caught. Something new. Not just body aches and an unhappy gut, but this time the inflammation caused tendonitis in my elbows of all things, usually only a problem for tennis players, which you might guess I am not.

I see very clearly why modern medicine has become so focused on the quick fix. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I really, really want one. Cold medicines that mask all symptoms, a pill for every headache, it just lets you get on with your life. There isn’t a whole lot of discussion of possible side effects. That advil is hard on your kidneys and disrupts your potassium balance. That not resting your body when it feels ill stresses your immune system that is already fighting to keep up. There is almost no attention given to what might have caused the problem in the first place.

I’m not really going anywhere in particular with this today. I was just sitting at my computer, planning my day around sore elbows and wondering how much energy I’ll have to get things done and thought I’d share some thoughts.

I’ve learned a lot about patience. I learned resourcefulness. I’ve learned tenacity. I’m not quite sure why I need quite so much of all those traits. I’m sure they’re all very valuable and will serve me well.

But some days, many days, I’d trade it all to feel joyful and energetic and strong.

I hope I’m on the right path to that, even though I seem to be taking the scenic route.