Celebrating an Abrupt End…

…to the elimination diet! Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the elimination diet. I ate tasty foods and finally felt “uninflamed”, deflated, and great!  Then came the food introductions.  Some went well, some not-so-well. Each “not-so-well” introduction sets me back at least a week to ensure symptoms and inflammation subsides. I started noticing nearly every food reintroduction brought with it eczema (that I’ve NEVER experienced before).  Seriously, I wouldn’t wish eczema on my worst enemy.  I can handle it on my fingers, my forearm, my elbow…heck I even sanely managed the itchy bumps between my big toe & 2nd toe.  But after “potato day” it’s developed on one of my ear lobes and behind the ear and I’m about to lose my mind. 

After some consultation with my nutritionist we decided to stop the elimination diet.  While it’s somewhat easy to maintain (and I may need to do it again), it’s difficult to uphold a normal lifestyle (taking my own food to restaurants, travel is impossible, social life takes a hit, etc.) and it’s so disheartening to limit myself so strictly to only cause myself inflammation with each new food (and drag out the process). 

So, the next steps include the following:

  • probiotic daily (I use this one & drink a bottle of kombucha
  • Continue with 5000 mg of Vitamin D (reduces inflammation)
  • Castor oil packs 
  • Take L-Glutamine (1500mg daily) to repair my immune function & the GI tract (more on this in a minute)
  • No gluten, no dairy. Forever. 
  • Make appointment with naturopath (countdown to September 23rd! And no, this isn’t hippy medicine) 
  • Food/chemical allergy/sensitivities blood test

So there we have it. These days, living gluten-free & dairy-free (especially after an elimination diet) is not terribly difficult. And, thanks to the elimination diet, it’s so very easy to avoid sweets & desserts. Even after just one slip I’m quickly reminded how gross I feel (for DAYS!) after I eat sugar, oils, dairy, etc. Not worth it. 

Back to the L-Glutamine…I started getting suspicious when foods I ate never had negative reactions to (like eczema, hello) started causing issues (eggs, potatoes, peanut butter, etc.).  Yes, all of these foods can cause inflammation and are common eczema-causing foods. However, I had previously done some reading on Leaky Gut Syndrome and had some light bulb moments. Asthma, ulcerative colitis, interstitial cystitis (cause unknown but thought to be autoimmune), sinus/allergy issues, food intolerances, etc. All are symptoms of Leaky Gut. Especially having food allergy/intolerance reactions to ALL recent foods…the wheels started turning. 

I’ll keep you posted with my food adventures and PhD adventures (I owe you an update!) until my naturopath appointment.  I liked a lot of the aspects of the elimination diet so I will continue most of them and continue to eliminate the following: sugar, oils (aside from olive & coconut), dairy, gluten, nightshades, preservatives, sweeteners. But don’t think I’ll be eliminating peanut butter or almond butter.  I will go to my grave with a jar of peanut butter.  

“Revoking” Week/Elimination Diet Update

To recap Week #6 aka “Revoking” Week (I had to revoke eggs, peanut butter, almond butter, & milk) since the unfortunate eczema outbreak: The eczema slowly subsided this week, leaving only scars where those darn itchy bumps once lived. I still have 1 or 2 tiny bumps trying to ruin my fun but they certainly aren’t having much luck like their predecessors. So, this is good news, right?  Sort of. I’m ecstatic to be done with the maddening itching on my hands, elbow, and in between my toes (seriously, this location almost drove me mad). However, based on my little unofficial science experiment, that means 1 of the 3 foods (probably not milk since the eczema had well started by the time I added it) are causing allergy or intolerance inflammation.

Weird, since I never experienced this symptom before (my entire life!) when eating these delicious foods.  But after 3 weeks of an allergy-free diet, the allergens & histamines in my body vanished. It’s quite possible I’d been dealing with a very mild allergy for years but my body never got a break from this allergen (whatever it is) so it was in chronic inflammation/”fighting mode”.  With a 3-week vacation and suddenly being introduced to said allergen again, my body said “oh, hell no, not YOU again”. So, in 2 weeks (remember, 21 days to rid your body of allergens/histamines) we’ll determine who the culprit is. *sigh*

Ok, moving on…since Week 6 was an impromptu “Base Diet” week with only the new additions of tea & buffalo, it was a pretty quiet & uneventful week.  Yesterday (TMI – can’t say I didn’t warn you) I had some tummy issues that left me eating rice with salt & chicken. My digestive system is still a little shaky today so I’m planning to wait 1 more day before adding hummus (trying desperately to sneak in more protein varieties). Potatoes will likely be added on Friday.

Oh, and today is my last vacation day before weekends cease to exist.  Less than 2 weeks until August 1…I’m sure my Student Affairs & Educator friends are feeling it! Ready or not…

Just Kidding, Negative Ghost Writer, Nope…

That whole “Yay for eggs, peanut butter, & almond butter!” thing?  Forget I said that.  It didn’t happen. All 3 are off the table temporarily, again.  Sigh. Boo-hoo. Wtf. 

But seriously. WTF?!  The eczema (looks like nettle stings: I don’t have pictures, not because it looks gross but because it’s VERY difficult to see…the bumps are the color of my skin) I seem to be experiencing on my left elbow, and parts of my hands & fingers can be caused as a reaction to a food allergy or intolerance to eggs, peanuts, and/or milk.  I will preface that this so-called eczema was not diagnosed by a doctor.  Unfortunately, it’s been self-diagnosed with the help of my mad Googling skills and my degree-certified nutritionist (whom I trust more than doctors).  Because the initial occurrence on my elbow seemed like a little insect bite, I can’t exactly recall the date of onset or if it started with eggs or the nut butters.  The fact that it’s “spreading” to my hands indicates an inflammatory response that’s not responding to any OTC anti-itch creams for 2+ weeks. I’m really glad I have a good sense of humor because I am still managing to laugh about the freak-of-nature body I have that likes to do things the complicated way.  (Seriously, I was a breech baby…I like to make things difficult).

As recommended by my nutritionist, I’ve added apple cider vinegar to my diet (I pretend I’m drinking a hard cider on the beach and it’s not so bad) and dab the vinegar onto the affected skin. Yes, I’m the one reeking of fermented apples. It’s my new perfume.  

I’ve had about 6 hours to sulk, listening to Simon & Garfunkel and sad country songs.  It’s not the end of the road for eggs or nut butters…just a very sad temporary pause that might lead to permanent removal.  But for now, I have hope. 

I think I need to add wine to my diet ASAP… 🙂  

 

Elimination Diet, Week 5, Reintro Week 2

Week 5 was a big week.  Huge. Foods on the list: peanut butter & milk. Yes, I’d already added almond butter (which was lovely).  But peanut butter speaks directly to my soul.  Peanut butter & I go way back.  

The results?  Peanut butter tastes better after 4+ weeks of withdrawals than I ever remember.  It was perfect, made me feel/stay satisfied, and caused no symptoms. 

Milk on the other hand…I need to try, try again. As I’ve mentioned, I am supposed to add foods in their simplest forms. I would have loved to have had cheese, yogurt, or ice cream to reintroduce dairy, but preservatives & additives are not allowed.  I used to drink several glasses of milk a day. I loved it. I still love it, I just don’t love what it does/did to me physically & psychologically. I added milk to my morning smoothie, had a glass of milk with my afternoon snack of almond butter & crackers, and had another cup of milk in my blended frozen banana “ice cream” after supper.  Each time I consumed it, I got a headache (sinus-like) with sinus pressure behind my cheeks, eyes, & back of head.  The pressure made me feel slightly fatigued & weak, and I was more irritable (weepy, quick to anger, etc.) than I’d been for months.  Even today, 24+hours after my first serving of milk, my legs felt heavy during my run, I was easily irritated at all things, and have been exceptionally tired & emotionally fatigued all day. 

I realize many other factors could have contributed to these symptoms and, for the sanity of myself and family, I am certainly planning to try milk/dairy again in a few weeks to see if symptoms reappear.  I still have my fingers crossed.  

A recent development also seems to be a potential mild case of eczema on my left elbow and sides of some of my fingers.  This is potentially a symptom of a food sensitivity (which would be devastating since that means eggs, peanuts, or almonds/butters are culprits) but I am trying not to let my worry-wart mind get the better of me.  It’s too busy trying not to itch the skin off my elbows and fingers. ARGH! 

What’s on the list for next week?  Depending on my nutritionist’s recommendations regarding the google-diagnosed eczema, hummus (plain), potatoes, and pork might be on the menu 🙂 

Elimination Diet: Day 5 – Week 3 & Reintroduction Phase

So…Days 5 through 21 were SSDD in the elimination diet world.  Some days were “hangrier” than others and eventually the diet became my new normal.  I’ve even started getting excited for certain meals that I’ve grown to love.  Except for one thing:  rice.  I haven’t touched rice since mid-way through Week 2.  I just can’t.  I’ve latched myself like a leech onto sweet potatoes and I can’t get enough.  So those have become my “carb” of choice for savory meals.  I’m pretty sure only half of the roasted sweet potatoes make it into the storage container since I pick them right off the roasting pan.  Hashtag: Obsessed. 

I only had 1 or 2 severe toddler-like melt downs as the result of hanger.  One hit on a Friday night as I was driving home from returning a few things to various stores (I didn’t have anything ready to go for supper and was extra hungry that day) and all I saw on the drive home were pizza deliveries EVERYWHERE.  Naturally, I felt a pinch of rage, jealousy, bitterness, & envy. Those emotions on top of hunger created a monstrous reaction. 

As the end of Week 3 wrapped up and I started planning which foods to add to my “reintro” phase, I started feeling a little nervous.  I’ve been feeling so good I was afraid to test the waters.  What if one of the foods sends me into an inflammation spiral or flare?  Eventually I came to my senses that any “issue” would resolve itself in 1-3 days since I had been building a 3-week foundation of anti-inflammatory food & healing my intestines. 

Here’s how reintro goes, until I’ve added ALL the foods:  Eat new food at all meals on Day 1, note any and ALL symptoms (tiredness, headaches, mood, intestinal symptoms, etc.), back to base diet for Day 2 & 3 (continue to note symptoms), if all is good this food can be added to my base diet (if not, try, try again) & start the reintro of another food.  I can’t even tell you how long this will take…

My first food choice? Many assumed it would be something absolutely wonderful: chocolate, bread, coffee (!!!), etc.  But no, I chose eggs. Snooze, right? But really…my body has been NEEDING more substantial calories, fat, & protein. If I have to “snack” on chicken one more time, I might do something so bad I don’t even know what it is yet. Eggs are filled with vital nutrients to keep us full, heal our bodies (yay, choline!), and build our muscle. Plus, eggs give me 1 million options (really, I counted) at every meal.  Turns out, eating 7 eggs in one day causes a sulfur build up that may or may not result in bloating & gas.  But (good news), in moderation, I tolerate them just fine 🙂

Also next on the list: tea.  Not coffee, but black caffeinated tea.  I have LONGED for coffee.  My office is just steps from a Starbucks.  I see people sipping the delicious-ness every. single. day.  However, my body has really brainwashed me and I knew coffee would be too much, too fast. Still, even in Week 5 and as far out as I can see, coffee won’t be introduced for a while.  Coffee is a little harsh on the digestive tract…even in those that don’t have IBD issues. So it’s still on the “Foods to Add” List. 

Other foods I’ve tried thus far include almond butter & bison. Please notice how random my food reintros are: but I’m to be adding foods that I suspect caused little to no problems before this diet began.  Bison, a much lighter (& tastier) version of red meat, did not cause me the nausea beef has so it was added early.  And believe me, it tastes great at every meal. While it’s definitely more of a “treat” than a regular diet option, I’m glad it’s back among the yummy weekend supper options.

Almond butter is still up in the air (the symptoms I was experiencing could have been caused from a myriad of other things) so I’ll try it again this week or next. I can’t live without nut butters (probably moreso than coffee) so it’s just GOT to work.

One thing’s for sure: there’s no way I could be training for any race during this diet.  If anyone has, I applaud you. While I can complete workouts and generally feel that I have more energy & recover more quickly (inflammation is bad stuff, mk?), I run out of steam quickly during a run. I’ve been maintaining 10-15 miles each week but it hasn’t been pretty.

Stay tuned for a recap of Week 5 (after Week 5, obviously)…