Monday, January 21, 2013

Food Allergies? Food Sensitivity? What's Going on?

     For the last few years, I've been having trouble eating. It's not that I didn't want to eat, or that I thought I was fat, or that I wanted to be skinnier. I would have a little something for breakfast and eat a full-sized lunch in the school cafeteria, but when it came to dinner time, I couldn't eat a normal meal. I was usually fine if I only had a little bit of food at dinner time. When I tried to eat a normal-sized meal, or went out to eat (where no meal is "normal-sized"), that's when the problem occurred. I would have intense stomach pains, stabbing at my gut, to the point that I could not sit up straight. All I could do was lay down and relax, and hope for the pain to subside. At first, it seemed, that my family just thought I was being dramatic. Some family members even laughed in my face and said that the only reason I complained about my stomach hurting was so that I didn't have to eat.
     After about a year of this, I finally went to the doctor. It was worsening, and I began to have other digestive issues. I was prescribed some medicine commonly known as Prevacid, just with a higher strength. It sort of worked... sorta didn't. I still had lots of issues.
     A few months ago, I was talking to a sort of councilor. He discussed with me the possibility that what I was going through was either bad "food-mixing", pairing the wrong foods together to work well in my system. He also discussed with me the fact that many people have stomach problems based on an internalization of feelings. Now this hit me right at home. In addition to giving me advice on my stomach problems, he gave me more advice on many other aspects of my life. He was a very kind person and his messages seemed genuine. So when I ate dinner that evening, I decided not to take my medicine, and I haven't taken it since. The problems did improve somewhat, but every time I went out to eat, and on days when we ate lots of different foods, such as Thanksgiving or cookouts, I would feel terrible. Even on Christmas, I had to lie down after dinner.
    All the while, my mom had been having issues as well. Hers were pretty different from my own, though. Her esophagus would push food back up the wrong way WHILE she was eating. She would wake up every night with indigestion. She had medicine as well, but it didn't work. It got to the point where she has to have surgery if this problem doesn't improve. That's where our supposed solution comes in. An Elimination Diet. My mom, being a Dietitian, talked to many people in her workplace. I believe she found out that around 2/3 of people who needed the surgery that she did, tried an elimination diet, and didn't need the surgery anymore.
     So, she got me on board to do it with her. On January First, the two of us eliminated the top 8 allergen foods from our diets: Dairy, Gluten, Soy, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Eggs, Fish, and Shellfish. I chose to also eliminate tomatoes from my diet, because as a child I was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, nuts, tomatoes, and eggs. Now this may make me sound incredibly stupid, but I ate ALL of those things ALL the time anyways. I didn't care for the longest time. It didn't seem to have any effects, so, because of my love of food, cooking, and trying new and different things, I ate them anyways. That very thing could have been my sole problem. BUT, allergies change. My allergies as a four-year-old child could very well not be the same as my allergies as a seventeen-year-old.
     You may be wondering, as have all of the people I have shared my new diet plans with, what can you eat? My new diet consists mostly of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Sometimes it can be bland, which really stinks when you are me, and have a passion for flavor.
     So for 6-8 weeks ( I have chosen to do 6, while my mom has chosen to do 8), I cannot eat any of the mentioned foods and ingredients. At the end of the 6 weeks, I choose one allergen per week and add it back into my diet. Then, I must examine how they make me feel. I am starting on week 4 (woo! halfway through!), and I have already chosen the first food I am going to add back in. DAIRY. It sucks not being able to eat cheese and butter and sour cream and yogurt and pretty much any sauce in the world! But I am hanging in here! It seems that I have lost a little weight, although that was not my intention at all, but what can you expect when you are eating so much healthier? And skipping out on so many extra carbs!
     So, as you are wondering what I can eat, I am going to provide for you three recipes that I would eat on a typical day.

Blueberry Oatmeal
     1 cup water
     1/2 cup oatmeal
     1 tablespoon of sugar
     1 tsp vanilla extract
     2 tablespoons Rice Dream milk
     a handful of blueberries
Follow the directions on the container to cook oatmeal in water. Stir in the remaining ingredients and enjoy!
The rice milk is completely allergen free! It works well as a milk substitute in recipes such as this one, to pour into cereal, ect. I like to drink it like I would milk, but my mom can't stand the taste!

Most fruit juices are allergen free! Although, most salad dressings are NOT. I made my own honey mustard dressing by mixing equal portions of honey and mustard. I like mine with more of a mustard flavor so I add extra mustard. If you like yours sweeter, add more honey! You can have very different tasting dressing depending on you proportions! Its kind of a trial and error thing. Beware of restaurant honey mustard. It is almost never allergen free! It almost always has some sort of dairy product mixed in to make it creamy! My salad has crunchy iceberg lettuce, mixed with baby spinach leaves for nutritional value (i don't like baby spinach alone). I chopped up celery, cucumbers broccoli, and mushrooms for the toppings, then added some shredded chicken pulled off a rotisserie chicken we ate for dinner the night before.
Bun-less Hamburger
For dinner I had a bun-less hamburger topped with lettuce and Vegan brand Mexican Style Cheese shreds. I cut it up and dipped it in mustard so that it wouldn't be dry. I drank a glass of water, and had an apple and some green beans for my sides. 

This Vegan brand cheese doesn't taste all that great on its own, it has a sort of off taste. But melted and mixed in with other flavors, such as mustard or another sauce, it tastes just like cheese, and it does melt and stretch like cheese. Unmelted it is a little powdery tasting, so watch out for that! 

This is my menu on a typical day! I swear by mustard, because it is the one condiment I can safely eat! Whether it is brown spicy mustard or yellow mustard, it should be allergen free! 

Stay tuned to hear more progress on my diet, and see what my final results are! I plan to post some good recipes that I have tried that are completely allergen free in the next week or so! 

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