Thursday, November 14, 2013

Of Diets and Nonsense

I have written about food and food allergies off and on here over the years, but it's been a while, so I must be due for another post in that vein.

Over the years, I have had times where I felt like the bulk of my waking hours were spent engaging in activities related to food and cooking - shopping, meal-planning, meal prep and research. While I enjoy cooking a great deal, every once in a while I feel as though I have been treading water for a long time and I'm just so tired.  I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there about which foods are healthiest and which ones I ought to avoid.  A year or so ago when the information about arsenic in rice came out and even the FDA (who I generally don't put much stock in since I'm fairly convinced they are tucked neatly in to the pockets of many major food corporations) got on board, I was thrown. As a family of gluten-free folks, this was alarming. We eat rice a lot, especially brown rice, and brown rice is purported to contain more arsenic than white rice. Add that to the 'dirty dozen' list and the research coming out about what GMOs and livestock fed antibiotics do to us and I don't even feel like eating ever again.

As I have refined our gluten-free lifestyle, I have gradually moved from using things made with simple starches (white rice flour, potato flour, tapioca starch) to creating my own whole-grain flour blend thanks to a tip from Shauna Ahern, aka Gluten Free Girl. And last year, at the urging of my naturopath, I eliminated most of the grains from that flour and substituted seed flours such as quinoa and amaranth and nut flours instead.  Of course, the story truly begins with my naturopath who has repeatedly advised me to go on a Paleo diet. All of this came about when I started having some strange symptoms that we couldn't pinpoint. Severe PMS symptoms, aches in the muscles between my ribs, and trouble taking a deep enough breath. We finally tagged the latter symptoms (along with some left side chest pains that radiated into my armpit - SCARY!) to an excess of gas in my upper GI tract that seemed to be cyclical with my periods.  The doc did some research and discovered that there is some correlation of all of these symptoms with an imbalance of estrogen (too much) to progesterone (too little). We have known about, and treated, my progesterone deficiency for several years now, but these pains were making me nuts. I was fairly certain I was having a heart attack several times a week, despite the fact that physical exercise didn't exacerbate the symptoms and they literally disappeared for 10-14 days every month for no discernable reason.

My doctor believes that all of this is a response to my adrenal glands being stressed from food allergies and liver stress from years of food allergies and inability to process B vitamins.  She recommended I eliminate all grains, legumes, dairy and sugar from my diet.

She continues to recommend that every time I see her.

I can't do it haven't done it.

About two years ago I went off dairy for a month. It was doable, and other than losing about 10 pounds and discovering that every other kind of milk tastes nasty in my latte, nothing changed.  I was thrilled to head right back to the dairy aisle every week.

I keep hearing about the Paleo diet (and I have a few cookbooks based on it), and the TQI diet (also known as the anti-inflammation diet), and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I have heard the amazing stories of recovery and honestly believe them.  But there is this quiet voice in the back of my head (and a really loud one attached to Bubba) that says, "Nope." That voice also says, "everything in moderation."

That voice in my head also takes on a slightly petulant whine when it reminds me of how good I already eat. I cook 90% of our meals here at home with organic, non-GMO ingredients. I make my own flour blend and use very little sugar, instead substituting local honey. Every dinner that hits our table has a balance of protein and vegetables with a little starch in the form of rice or GF pasta or potatoes from time to time. We do not have cookies and ice cream stashed in the pantry and breakfast is generally yogurt or fruit and granola or toast with nut butter - not pastries. On the weekends, we eat more decadently, mostly because Bubba is in charge and he does love to grill or smoke red meat, but it's lean and grass-fed.  We drink lots of water, very little juice, no soda, and 2% milk with no hormones added. We love cheese in this house. Probably more than we should.  But we don't eat fast food and we don't have prepared snacks or meals with preservatives in them unless we are really in a pinch.  The kids have potato chips maybe once a month and I never do.  My biggest vice is the glass or two of red wine I have while cooking dinner several nights a week. Yup, I'm petulant. A whiny baby, "I eat better than most everyone I know, why do I have to give up dairy and beans and sugar wine, too?"

I know that comparisons are BS - everyone's body reacts differently to different things and what is good for me may not be good for someone else.  I know that I'm being a whiny baby. But I still can't bring myself to limit my diet so severely. I am worried that limiting myself to a diet that uses only nut flours to bake with or coconut oil to cook with might end up making me prone to problems with those items, simply because I have over used them.  I am also unsure whether the symptoms I am currently experiencing have more to do with the freight train called "Menopause" that is hurtling toward me than any food I might be eating.

The problem is that I can't find any answers that convince me one way or the other. My naturopath is urging me to try and see what happens, but turning my life upside-down like that for a "wait and see" outcome seems crazy right now.  The last few MDs I've seen have either told me flat out that the ND is nuts and I should just take Prilosec for the rest of my life to combat the gas symptoms and deal with the PMS because 'it's on the normal range of the spectrum' for someone my age or they have shaken their heads in confusion and ordered blood tests that show nothing.

Yesterday I ran into a friend who is embarking on the TQI diet because her doctor did it and had amazing results for her back pain.  It got me thinking again about where to go from here and I have to admit I just don't know.  I have my annual physical scheduled in three weeks with a new MD and I'm past the point of even entertaining the thought that she will find some smoking gun. I am simply hoping that she won't pooh-pooh the fact that I see a naturopath and maybe, just maybe, be willing to consult with her to see what they can come up with between the two of them. I just hope they don't add any more vitamins to the mix because the list of the ones I'm already taking is setting me back a pretty penny every month.

Is it supposed to be this hard?

4 comments:

Carrie Link said...

It does seem ridiculously hard. I can't wait to hear what Michelle says. I want no part of the Paleo diet, but I do have a friend that had 17 symptoms, 15 disappeared and 2 were managed when she made the switch. She was so into it she became a nutritional consultant and thinks it's the be all and end all. That being said, no, thanks.

Jan said...

I'm in a similar boat and the most I can face up to is to do it "whole hog" for maybe a month and then put it in the rotation: 3 or 4 days w/no grains, etc., then 3 or 4 days allowing them. It's just hard for me to believe that eating only meat and green vegetables is better than having legumes and grains once in a while.

Deb Shucka said...

It is hard to be different in a world where we're overwhelmed with images of things that are fast and shiny and really bad for us. I think moderation with anything is an answer. Anti-inflammatory eating works for me, and I know that especially well when I eat otherwise and my body turns against me. :-)

I hadn't heard of TQI - a new place to explore. I hope you find peace with all of this, but in the meantime, I'm so grateful for your willingness to share the struggle so many of us live with in one form or another.

fullsoulahead.com said...

I hear you sister. There is this little thing called life, right? Don't we get to live it a bit?

You are doing an amazing job. AMAZING. I don't think you are whining. Eating practically nothing is unsustainable and zaps the joy right out of life. Have you tried a medical intuitive?

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