My Body: Food Allergy Haven?

I can’t tell if I’m feeling so fragile and precious lately because I’m chumming up to the latent hypochondriac in me or because I really am fragile and precious. It’s tough to say.

It’s coming up to 2 whole months without dairy in my diet. The time, she flies! Not eating dairy has done wonders for my body (and especially for my skin, heaven bless me). I’ve noticed a real difference in terms of my energy levels (not so sluggish), my respiratory tract (not so phlegmy- sorry to be nasty), and my complexion (not so marred by acne anymore!) But, you know… I was expecting more of a change in my digestion. Again, sorry to be nasty, but I was hoping that eliminating dairy from my diet would spell the end of a lifetime of uncomfortable bloating and the occasional full-on abdominal distention at night. Alas, to my shock and disappointment: it hasn’t. Not completely, anyway. What gives?

As the weeks have gone by without butter, cheese, yogurt, and milk chocolate, I’ve noticed that my body seems to be sensitive to an astonishing range of other foods, too: complex foods, acidic foods, cold foods, starchy foods, soy foods, fibrous foods, fatty foods, food combinations, foods by themselves, etc., etc. Any fledgling aspirations of becoming a raw foodist are quashed when a simple salad nearly does me in, and things that didn’t seem to bother me before (e.g. my precious almond butter on a Ryvita cracker!) no longer sit well in my stomach. Chocolate is still OK in moderation– thank goodness!– but everything else is upsetting my diva of a digestive system.

I’m wondering if perhaps there is something larger at play here?

My best friend from high school was diagnosed with celiac disease a few months ago, and many of her symptoms were similar to mine. I also know people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, or general wheat sensitivities. Not surprisingly, many of them have/had symptoms similar to mine, too. I’m definitely not fishing for a lifetime of special foods and dietary restrictions (am I?), but you know, I’d also like to put an end to my uncomfortable/painful/awkward/unladylike digestive symptoms, too. My Baba had colon cancer when I was young, and if I can avoid that in my own lifetime, I’d be willing to give pretty much anything a try.

I don’t eat a whole lot of wheat right now, but I do eat a fair share of grains (some of which– barley, rye, oats– contain gluten or gluten cross-contamination). And raw food? Since when does a cucumber wreak havoc on my system? Things that do feel good to eat include brown rice, quinoa, and all sorts of blanched/lightly steamed vegetables: asparagus, snow peas, my all-time favourite kale, bell peppers, collard greens, green and yellow beans, and broccoli. So until I figure out what the heck is going on with every other food the planet has to offer, my menu is pretty much set. Mmmm…. kale!

Does anybody care to offer up an armchair diagnosis for my plethora of digestive symptoms (or, conversely, to tell my hypochondriac ass to give it a rest?) Obviously, I’ll be checking in with Dr. Fabulous to see what he thinks, but in the meantime, all of this is giving me some serious food for thought…

14 responses

  1. I’ve always read that if you start messing with your diet – like seriously messing with it – you should see a doctor or naturopath. Let me know if you want my naturopath’s name, she’s really great.
    The problem I had with eliminating wheat was that it took away the “delivery system” for other foods I needed. Like I wanted a veggie sandwich or saw a great soup loaded with good stuff but it had pasta noodles in it….
    Maybe you have a weird allergy like you’re allergic to a preservative and it’s really common. Or you don’t tolerate sugar well? There are blood tests you can do through a naturopath but they are expensive. It might be worth the cost though.

    • Wonder if I am the only one who sees a resemblance between Dana and the girl in the Lotto 649 commercial ? Riding a horse etc. after ‘winning’ ….. . .

      • Yeah, the only difference between the lady in the commercial and me is… oh, around 40 million bucks! 🙂

        Though I have already won the partner lottery… that’s why I look so content and blissed out in this picture.

  2. I found growing up my Mom taught me a few things that make sense now, but was totally “old wives tales” when I was a kid. It didn’t make sense to me “scientifically”, but hey, if it works, it works. As my boss says, Chinese people have tested this out for thousands of years, while western science (in comparison) is rather new. Who would you trust?

    Anyway, Traditional Chinese Medicine could help you out. It’s not necessarily any food type that is giving you issues, but groups of foods, in terms of heating or cooling your body. Have you ever looked into the types of foods you eat based on your organ system? For me, I know that when my liver gets attacked (or is too strong) by my spleen (weakening the stomach), I have a lot of digestive issues. My body is naturally colder (not enough fire or heat), so I should avoid “cold foods” that aggravate or make it harder for my stomach to digest foods. Veggies are fine and dandy, but they must be lightly cooked, almost never raw. Here’s a quick run down the system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zang_Fu

    • Thanks, Mary! My acupuncturist is also certified in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and she is always harping on my ‘dampness’, spleen, and liver systems. My digestive fire is weak as well. I already know that raw foods are not my friends (even if it’s hip to be raw these days!), but I’ll definitely have to look into food combinations more. She (my acupuncturist) wrote down a list of foods that help to combat dampness, but it would also be good to know if any food combos should be avoided in particular. For the record: my acupuncturist was also one of the first people to tell me to come off dairy, because dairy SERIOUSLY contributes to dampness, coldness, and a weaker digestive fire. I listened for a while, fell off the wagon, but am back on the non-dairy train again! 🙂

  3. Yeah, dairy and I aren’t friends either, but only cold dairy. I don’t really drink milk and haven’t in a very very long time. Cheeses are fine, as long as they aren’t straight out of the fridge or cooked/melted in yummy things. Or only small helpings of ice cream during the summer.

    It’s best to eat seasonally too. So don’t go eating strawberries and watermelon now when naturally, they wouldn’t be harvested time of the year. They are naturally cooling foods and if it’s already so cold, then it’ll make your body colder!

    I know I have a book somewhere (or my Sister does) and give details on foods in relation to TCM. Remind me and I’ll look it up one day for you if you want.

    Also, ask your acupuncturist about which foods to eat, not necessarily avoid, but which ones help promote good things for you. Or how to prepare it because it’s not necessarily avoiding a type of food altogether.

    Have fun!

  4. Llna, L’il Miss Health and Body Care is here to help!
    You have “weakened digestive fire” and it sounds to me like you could take some digestive enzymes. Like, a lot. Enzymes are the things that make everything in your body happen, not only digestion- muscle repair, cell replacement, breathing, thinking, etc.
    My fave brand is Future Formulations “F” formula (I seriously gulp 360 enzyme pills every 2 months). Prairie Naturals “Fibrazyme” is also jazzy and great for vegetarians.
    You’re not drinking anything before or with meals, right? Because you got to keep your gastric juices strong and undiluted to do their job. If you eat as fast as Mother, it’s too fast. Chew chew chew your food!! Taking 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar 10 mins before eating can help. It’ll help with your stomach acidity but keep the rest of you super alkaline, which is what you want. ALKALIZE OR DIE!!, as that crazy book I have says.

    Finally, when your digestion is compromised it can mean that your intestinal villi (spelling?) are compromised. Basically your small intestine is a thin long tube with jillions of hairlike villi pointing inward and filling it. They only allow one molecule of food or friendly bacteria to pass at a time, so they can extract and deliver exactly what they need to the bloodstream. When your digestion is not good or you have a food sensitivity, it can mean that your villi are HURT AND SQUISHED to the side of your intestinal walls, so whatever can just mow on through and cause autoimmune/allergy/food fermenting inside/bloat stuff to wreak havoc on you.

    My fave villi-regenerating tonic is “KefiActive” brand Kombucha. It’s a REAL kombucha ancient Japan style, not like the crap ones you find in drinks in the cooler section of stores, and it actually rebuilds yr intezztines as it helps you digest food. It makes me digest LIKE A QUEEN, and I got some for free initially but I seriously consider it an essential now. And you only need 4 tsp a day! I just take a tsp in a small amount of water before eating, and it’s like magique.

    Anyhoo, yeah, get those allergy tests! And, maybe consider cutting down on grains a bit- if you eat a ton of them, even the good ones, they could be acidifying you and causing inflammation of your innards. Blah blah blah– eat more kale!!

    XO

  5. PS- I toooootally empathize with the colon cancer scare train of thought! My heart goes out to Baba…

    – 2 tbsp. ground yellow flax each day. You can take it a bit at a time, ’cause all at once is truly xxxtreme. The lignans and oils in flax also protect specifically against breast and ovarian cancers.
    – TOOOOONS of water to flush out the flax. More water than you think you should be drinking.
    – L-Glutamine is an amino acid that repairs your intestines and keeps them strong. It’s one of the most common amino acids, but you can also supplement with it if you’re worried. It comes in capsules and powder.

  6. I would go so far as to say that how our guts feel is the measure of our degree of happiness and contentment more than anything else.

    Having said that, I also believe one has to be completely holistic in considering our physical, emotional and mental facets all working together and hopefully complementarilly and in synchronicity.

    My experience has been that all three elements are most in harmony when I have been most physically active. Nothing gives me energy, appettite, digestive functionality, enthusiasm, sense of well-being and vim and vigour more than after a good work-out, of any kind.

    Apply to you, Dana ?

  7. Thanks so much, everyone! Hooray for digestion! 🙂

    Most of this is stuff that I am at least marginally aware of (or, in some cases, already do- apple cider vinegar and eating in season, I’m talking to you!). But Wenz: I’ll have to follow up with some enzyme things and maybe try some Kombucha. Good times.

    As far as the grains go, it’s not like I’m eating a bucket load of them every single day. I average about 1/2 cup of cooked grains every few days or so, and I’m hyper vigilant about the amount of fluids I take in before/after eating. It’s hard to get as much water as I think I might need on a daily basis, because I’m always trying to leave an hour before AND after each meal to let my gastric juices do their thing. Everything is so complex!

    Anyway, thanks again for all of your thoughts and suggestions. I know digestion isn’t the coolest topic on the planet, but I really appreciate your input! xo!

  8. Oh the GLUTEN! All of your symptoms sound familiar! Try eliminating and cutting back. Keep track of what you are eating and how you feel throughout the day for a month or so and see how that goes. If any patterns turn up you might want to talk to your doctor.

    • I’ve been tested for celiac but came back negative– my doctor (who is AWESOME by the way) thinks I might have non-celiac wheat/gluten sensitivities. A little bit of everything…

  9. Pingback: Baby Steps to Better Health | zona pellucida

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