Today is Twitter Blog Action Day #BAD11 – The topic is #FOOD. I learned about this event very late in the game but wanted to add my voice.
Food, at its best, should be all positive for all people. It can be nourishing, a delight to the senses, comforting and refreshing.
There are so many angles on how that can become not true for an individual… hunger, eating disorders, lactose intolerance, non-food additives, food allergies/ sensitivities and the like.
It is Real!
For the record, there are an amazing number of us struggling to deal with food limitations. There may be an equal number of people who just can’t believe this is really an issue. After all, typical food is good for us, yes?
Peanuts – Nothing to mess with!
One mother told me a sad story of her peanut-allergic son’s teacher not “getting” it. This mother was told to be in charge of snacks in that classroom for a few weeks until the teacher could figure out what to do next.
My experience with teachers is that they are really caring people. I can only imagine that this particular one was not aware of peanut allergy yet, and perhaps busy caring about other real needs of the classroom. In any case, that child was at risk of problems outside his control (and his mother’s control) until the system could catch up to his needs.
Peanut allergy can be deadly. Society must learn to listen and believe. If you know someone who has trouble breathing after eating something, or tingling in the mouth or the lips after eating something, call 911 if it’s happening right now. If you want information on the subject when it’s not an emergency, contact the The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
Gluten and Wheat
Some people are physically unable to process gluten, which is a component of wheat, rye and barley. Some of those people also do not tolerate oats or dairy products.
Some of these people are diagnosed with Celiac Sprue, some are not doctor-diagnosed but would go back to eating gluten only “over my dead body” as one woman told me last week.
These people can react to a mere bit of wheat flour dust on their otherwise “clean” food. They are understandably afraid to eat in restaurants in case there is some of that “cross-contamination.”
I know many people who suffer with this. If they eat the wrong thing, they can feel really unwell for several weeks while they build up their system again.
If you know someone who has some of these concerns, they can contact the Celiac Sprue Association for more information and support.
My Food-Allergy/ Sensitivity Story
I can only share my own story – that of food allergy/ sensitivity. I’ve been hungry for long stretches, because I was afraid to eat. Every time I ate, I got sick in different ways. I started to see food as my enemy.
I have had well-meaning friends suggest I should just DECIDE that the foods wouldn’t bother me any more. This is a lot like saying I’m making it up. I invite you to live in this body and say that again. I am well, healthy and strong now (at age 52) but it took a 20-year journey to get here.
WE MUST BE HEARD. If it’s real to us, it’s real.
I try not to complain much, because this is something easily treated by lifestyle choice. I’d much rather deal with that than a medical procedure. It’s very inconvenient to not be able to eat what others do. It’s not life threatening for me.
The First Discovery
I learned in 1991 that if I ate mold and yeast foods, I got spots before my eyes for no apparent reason. I was foggy in the mind, almost like I was stoned. I wanted to work. I would sit at my desk and ask myself why I couldn’t do what I knew how to do, and wanted to do.
I inappropriately talked about my focus issues to anyone who would listen. At a lunch with a large group of folks one Easter Sunday, a man I’d never met before suggested I give up yeast, mold/aged foods, caffeine and sugar. It had done miracles for him when he had similar symptoms.
I was desperate enough that I tried. I went 3.5 years without any of those foods. I was able to go back to caffeine and sugar, but yeast/aged foods still make me foggy.
I’m not tempted to go back. I like having full use of my brain.
Several years later, I found myself increasingly weak. It happened very slowly, until I realized that climbing stairs was really too much effort… for me, a dancer, only 30-something years old.
It got so that I was only willing to climb the stairs to our bedroom once a day. All day, as I found things I wanted to take upstairs, I’d leave them at the foot of the stairway. When I went to bed, I took them up at the same time. More than one climb a day seemed too hard.
A friend who had been really sick and having anaphylaxis (breathing difficulty from allergic reaction) from foods, found an Environmental Doctor who turned around her life. She recommended him to me. I went. His nurse, Karen, was WONDERFUL.
She found that I was sensitive to all but 2 of the foods tested that day. I could not tolerate corn, yeast (yup), potato, egg, milk. I could still eat wheat and soy.
The craziest reaction? Potato gives me the BLUES. I immediately wanted to weep when they tested me for potatoes. (I know someone who got very angry with one food reaction. I wonder how many children have behavior problems in school because of undiagnosed food incompatibilities.)
After just FOUR DAYS of giving up all of those foods and related foods, I found myself taking the steps, two at a time, without using a railing. Four days and my life turned around! It was a miracle to me.
Let’s Not Argue over Words
Some people tell me this is not real allergy. True, I don’t stop breathing with those foods. However, if I eat corn or a corn product, I go to bed and feel like I have the flu for a day or two. If I eat yeast bread, I feel foggy and am not safe to drive for about 4 hours.
I don’t care what you call it. I call it poison.
Since the first discoveries, I’ve had a few changes. I started eating a lot of wheat tortillas because I could no longer eat corn.
After a year or so, I got so that wheat weakened me and made me ache if I ateÂ it regularly. I can still eat a small portion no more than once a week.
After 5 years of not eating egg or milk, I find that I can eat fully-cooked eggs without trouble (cooking does change the chemical makeup of foods… I also can eat cooked apple but not raw).
I am now able to now tolerate organic milk products if they are not aged. This means that milk, home-whipped cream (if the cream is preservative-free) and some ice creams work for me. Yogurt and cheese still do not work for me because of their relationship to the yeast/mold category.
The Last 10%
I spent about 7 years working with that doctor and his wonderful, amazing allergy nurse. However, I kept getting hives and I could not pin down what it was from. The doctor was stumped.
He had me log every single food I ate for 6 weeks. I had a chart I put on my wall where I wrote everything I ate. I was not to eat a food again for 3 more days, so that I could rotate and pinpoint how my system reacted. I tracked herbs, everything. Every once in a while I could only figure out a few foods left to eat for that 4-day round… maybe perch and beets or some such thing. I ate foods I did not really like, in order to have more choices. It was like having an extra part time job with no pay. I was miserable.
I found out in that six weeks, that I can’t tolerate wild rice. I’d never eaten wild rice before, but I’d tried it to increase the foods I could rotate! The rest of the data left me just as clueless as at the start.
A Little Boost
During this hives-every-day time, I told my wonderful OB-GYN nurse that I was breaking out in hives a lot. She said that a lot of folks get hives from fruits, and I should see if giving those up would help. She suggested pineapple, banana and strawberry as common culprits.
I found that eating no fruit at all did really help. One day I had a tiny bite of a gorgeous local peach, knowing that it might be the last peach I ever ate. It was INCREDIBLE, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I had hives for 4 days. Never again, but the evidence was clear as a bell.
It did not seem fully healthy to eat no fruit. However, it seemed every one I tried did not work for me.
The Old, The New
My Environmentalist retired. My insurance wanted me to go to a “regular” allergy doctor, and so I was assigned to someone. He turned out to be a real gift, assistance with that last 10%.
He tried to test me for 40 things using the standard scratch test. The tests did not work properly on me… my body was just not able to respond in a standard way.
I had to go back and test only 10 items at a time. This time he found out some amazing things.
First, I reacted to a whole bunch of foods that I *never* eat. I somehow just didn’t enjoy eating them so I didn’t. This included most fish, cucumber, green pepper, celery (imagine being allergic to celery) and a few other vegetables. This let me know that my body did have some instinct since childhood, where I had a gut “knowing” to not eat certain things.
Second, I reacted to another bunch of foods that I had totally overused. In lots of cases, they were foods I had been encouraged to eat in abundance, thinking that they were healthy. I’m here to tell you that even healthy foods can become an overdose of sorts.
The big ones: Cinnamon, Ginger, Garlic (yes, it’s the hardest one to give up), and tree nuts. I can have seeds but not almonds, cashews and the like.
In addition, he was able to isolate a few fruits I tolerate well. What is ironic, is that they are commonly allergic fruits for others. I can have strawberries, grapefruit, and dark cherries (but not sour/pie cherries). I’ve found since that I can also have cooked apples, cranberries, lingonberries, and rhubarb – which is not technically a fruit.
I do miss peaches and raspberries very much. I am SO happy to not have hives every day, though! I’m really OK with a short list that works. I know my body is happy to have a few fruits in my rotation after a year without.
Grateful for 2 Docs, 2 Nurses
That last allergic-food discovery (problem spices/ acceptable fruits) has given me my life back. I almost never get hives, and if I do it’s because I ate at a restaurant and there was an ingredient I didn’t anticipate. We eat at home most of the time.
When we eat out, it’s at carefully chosen locally-owned spots where I can chat with the cook (not the server, who often is sure they know how the kitchen works but usually misses something in the translation).
The Good Part
I’m an artist. I make a living figuring things out. I got very tired of not being able to eat treats. Since most Gluten-Free baked goods have Corn, Potato and/or Xanthan gum… and I can’t have those… I could not buy most limited-ingredient treats in the grocery store.
I already knew how to read labels, but reading did not find me much in the way of snacks. I started to experiment in the kitchen.
I learned that flax seeds, chia seeds, applesauce, oil and sweet white rice flour were sometimes good substitutes for eggs, depending on what I was making.
I learned that adding vegetable matter like pumpkin, applesauce, crushed tomato and such, can help a baked good from drying out too fast (a problem with someÂ non-wheat flours, particularly teff).
I learned how to bake with flours I hadn’t used before: buckwheat, brown rice, sweet white rice, teff, even chickpea. I learned what did and did not work when mixing them. Actually, I learned about what didn’t work most often, but I learned.
I have shared a lot of recipes on my blog, since I started it in 2002. You can see that at first I did bake with wheat and now I do not. However, some of the recipes are easy to adjust for whatever your needs are. My LynnH’s EasyÂ Pumpkin Soup recipe is a perennial favorite on the blog, and can be adjusted as needed.
I invite you to try some of the 30-plus free recipes I have posted here on my Recipe Archive.
If you or a loved one has food restrictions, I did issue a Holiday-Friendly Dessert cookbook last November. It’s called “I Can Eat These.”
If you are interested in the cookbook, it is available in PDF ebook or Spiral-Bound paper format. Click the appropriate variation’s link to learn more.
Right now, I’m working on another cookbook for this holiday season. It will be more bread-related items and portable food for days on the road. That is, crackers, pizza dough, energy bars, pancakes and more. I hope to have it done by the 2nd week of November.
My pizza dough recipe (no wheat, no yeast) will come out in the next week on this blog. I’m in the middle of writing the post, with many photos to help make it easier for my readers.
If you are interested in hearing from me about my cookbooks or other food news (including free recipes), please join my email list for updates. I don’t send out a lot of information, but I’d love to share goodies with you when they come up!
Thanks for tuning in. I’m grateful to have a voice, to maybe speak to or for those who are still suffering and in need of support. I’m listening. I know you’re not making it up.
Hang tight. Keep searching until you figure it out. It worked for me.