Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gluten Allergy (Me) & Coffee Test

Gluten Intolerant - Who Me?

Well what do you know! It looks like I am allergic to or responding unfavorably to gluten or wheat when ingested at a pretty minute level. Here I thought I was just going along with this elimination diet to support my daughter. I can tell you, I have not ever even suspected I was gluten intolerant. I have eaten some form of pasta and/or bread and/or baked good every day, well, since I was born, practically. I mean, I love my carbs. I've heard before that people who are intolerant of a food usually crave it, but wow! I did not see this one coming. Also, what I did not see coming: my reaction. I didn't really have one.

It was a slow realization, and I'm not 100% positive it's actually the case. My daughter and I finished up the first phase of our elimination diet where we were restricted from eating most foods a few days before we left for a mini family vacation. I admit I did sneak a few vegan cookies that had regular flour, and ended up with a small case of diarrhea, which is exactly what happened to me during our gluten testing phase. The last day of our vacation I felt a cold coming on, and I was coughing and had diarrhea for the better part of three weeks. A nurse I went to see called it an upper respiratory infection and said it would clear itself up in about a week or 10 days.

It was somewhere around the 2nd week or a few days into it that it occurred to me that perhaps these two symptoms were not related. I was at a friends house talking with a bunch of wonderful ladies about our kids with special diets and working to fill our children with healthy foods and avoiding parabens and other toxic health hazards. My friend told me a story about her son who, as it turns out is gluten intolerant, and they figured it out because he has temper tantrums when he eats gluten. She said even one piece of taffy that likely contained a small amount of wheat was enough to upset his system - sometimes for up to a month.

I think it was the next day that it occurred to me that since we've been off the elimination diet (but still keeping to a gluten free/dairy free/soy free diet) that my daughter had been displaying more emotional issues. More complaining, more - unhappy. No large tantrums or displays, but for sure not as even tempered as she was before. I thought about it, and thought perhaps I was also less even (although I'm always such a delight, its hard to tell, really.) :)

So I started thinking, what are we eating more of now than before? We aren't eating any gluten directly. But once I started reading the packages in the pantry for chips, Trader Joe's peas, and other snacks (how quickly they returned to our pantry!), I realized these foods are made in facilities that also process wheat.

Once the idea landed on me, I thought, okay, and moved all the products that were new to another shelf in the pantry so we wouldn't accidentally eat them. My daughter was nearby when this idea hit me, so we both decided together that we had been more grumpy and we should try eliminating these foods. I didn't really think much more about it. Thank goodness the diarrhea has subsidised as soon as I stopped eating those foods. I know, TMI, but I've saved you from having to hear the story from me in person, so that has to count for something.

I'm planning to make an appointment with my daughter's Naturopath to see about getting tested and to double check whether I might have something similar to "leaky gut" like my daughter, which does cause damage to the body.

Coffee Test

I started drinking coffee this week after months of being off it. I've been staying up late and getting up early, so I thought I'd give it a try. I completely love it. For a while I'd been phasing off coffee because I thought I was reacting to the acid in it. While that may be true, I decided to test coffee because it occurred to me that maybe I was reacting all that time to the soy milk without realizing it. For sure I can tell that on coffee I'm very awake during most of the day, and I feel the energy crash in the evenings. I prefer the evenness of no coffee, but I think I'll keep it around a bit longer because I'm enjoying it. I think, however, that 1 shot instead of 2 may be better for me to start with. I've been really hungry and a bit shaky on the current dose.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Let It Go? Oh!

Don't you love it when the universe conspires to help you just when you need it most? That happened to me a few weeks ago. It was the first day my daughter and I were coming off the elimination diet to our less restricted current version of the ED: gluten-free, soy-free and whole milk cheese-free.

I was beginning to freak out about the idea that we could eat sugar, chocolate, non-organic foods, corn, and all the things we were restricted from eating for 13 weeks. Worried that relatives and friends would start offering us foods that I deemed unhealthy and we wouldn't have any reasonable excuse to avoid it, then our downward spiral into unhealthy eating would return. We had become such healthy eaters during the ED, I didn't want to lose that. I was sure that something had to be done, and quick, to avoid our almost certain doom. I know, such drama! But that's really how it felt.

I had some neighborhood ladies over to my house and we had the whole evening to just chat. I started picking their brains about what they do and how much thought they were giving to organic foods and avoiding sugar, junk foods, hydrogenated oils and the like.

They said, well, we do our best to provide healthy balanced meals at home, because we know when the kids are outside the home, they may eat foods that aren't so healthy. That part, they said, they just had to decide to let go. I said, yes, that's what I thought, I should make sure my food at home is organic, healthy and balanced. But, I pressed on, what can I do? The same information was repeated, yes, we all agreed that between activities, school, parties, relatives and friends houses that the kids were getting a lot of junk food, and so just provide as healthy food as possible when they eat at home. Just let the rest of it go.

I sat for a moment, pondering. Struggling. I was still thinking, yes, yes, I understand, but what can I do? Yes, okay, let it go. Oh! Then it hit me. Oh! I have to Let.It.Go.

Wow. I was really struggling to control this area of our life. I have noticed that letting go has been the key to freeing up other areas of my life, but it had not occurred to me to apply it here. What a freeing realization once it hit me, though. Thank goodness for good friends!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Massaman Curry, Spring Rolls & Peanut Sauce

I rolled up some yummy spring rolls made of rice noodles, carrot, lettuce & avocado. I made a few for the kids without the lettuce. For dipping sauce, I mixed up a few TB of peanut butter, coconut milk, water, a tsp of brown rice syrup and salt. It was really delicious!

I then made a coconut soup. I loosely followed a recipe for Thai Massaman Curry, which is my favorite curry dish. I put some oil in a pan and heated with garlic and onion, then added chopped potato, carrots, peas, and coconut milk. I didn't have all the ingredients. I didn't even have Massaman curry paste, so I used the only ingredients I had that are in massaman curry paste, cinnamon and cumin, and a little salt. I brought it to a boil as in the recipe, then let simmer for 20 minutes.
It was delicious! Both my kids ate dinner, although my 2 yr old just picked through the spring roll, dug out the avacado and dipped that in the peanut sauce. They both liked the soup.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Diagnosis: Leaky Gut

We went to appointments with my daughter's Naturopath and Dermatologist last week, and here's what we discovered. They think what's going on is called "leaky gut". I have to say here that I haven't researched it that much and my understanding is what I could glean as my 2 year old son screamed during the appointment, so it might not be 100% medically accurate, but it's in the ballpark.

First I'd like to mention that my daughter had a full blood panel done about a year ago and the test did not detect that she was allergic to anything. She didn't even register as possibly allergic to anything.

The theory is that a chain reaction was likely caused by eating soy (which we have eaten TONS of since my daughter was little). Her body couldn't completely digest it or started developing an allergy to it because of how much we ate. Her body then started reacting by causing a rash and stomach aches. I think this started happening when she was about two and a half. It then took us about 2 and a half years to figure out that it could be a food allergy. At some point my daughter's body crossed over from reacting to just the protein in soy to all proteins without us knowing it. By the time we got to the elimination diet, her body was treating all proteins as an enemy, which is why she reacted to all foods we introduced (and some we didn't intentionally introduce) with the exception of sugar and chocolate. Most of the remaining foods she reacted to were acidic, which was making the problem worse.

As an aside, apparently when people are allergic to a food, it's the protein in the food they are reacting to. So, with a lactose intolerance, its the milk protein, same with peanut allergies, it's the protein that people are reacting to.

The good news is, there's a plan to treat her. Yay! We're on a modified diet for the next 6 months. Her diet has changed to allow all foods back with these few exceptions/modifications:

No Soy
No Gluten
No Whole Milk Cheeses
Once a week: foods she reacted strongly to, such as acidic foods and black beans (& most proteins).

In addition, she has been given two medicines to help her gut heal: digestive enzymes and intestinal support. The way we'll know if it's working is that over the next 6 months the rash and stomach aches should start to disappear. The doctor mentioned that we might do the elimination diet again once we think the gut has been restored to normal.

This diagnosis makes so much sense to me, I think it's going to work. It feels great to have both doctors agree on the treatment plan as well. Hooray!

If you want to read more about Leaky Gut, I just found a site that explains it pretty well.

Here's an excerpt:

Problems of Having Leaky Gut
Leaky gut is a condition that can directly lead to many other specific disease states, or indirectly aggravate or worsen other conditions. You may have leaky gut and not be aware of it. Many food intolerances and sensitivities are a consequence of a leaky gut to some degree. You may just feel run down, out of energy, have many food and chemical intolerances, or a multitude of other seemingly unrelated problems. Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome may include:

• aggression • anxiety • asthma • atypical sensory reactions • bed-wetting • bladder infections • bloating or gas • chronic joint, muscle, or abdominal pain • confusion • diarrhea or constipation • fatigue • fevers of unknown origin • fuzzy thinking or ‘brain fog’ • indigestion • memory problems • migraines • mood swings • nervousness • poor exercise tolerance • poor immunity • skin rashes

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wk 13, Day 3: Nut Test

Since we have an appointment with my daughter's Naturopath in a few days, I decided we should just head right into the "peanut/all other nuts besides the cashews we've been allowed to eat" test and see if there's a reaction.

I spread some peanut butter on rice cake for a snack today, which was awesome, and made a peanut sauce for my beans and rice which was yummy (peanut butter, coconut milk, water, rice vinegar, coconut aminos, maple syrup).

My daughter joyfully spread peanut butter on banana at lunch, and I made her a peanut butter smoothie after dinner (rice milk, 2 TB peanut butter, half frozen banana, protein powder). She loved it. A half an hour later she was in bed and said she was really hungry, so I warmed up some rice and pinto beans she didn't finish at lunchtime. When she crawled back into bed she said her stomach hurt. I'm not sure if she ate too much, or, more likely, her gut is reacting to the proteins. After just one day, her rash appears to be getting worse.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wk 13, Day 2: Corn Test Results

We finished testing corn and I have to say the test was inconclusive, and here's why. My daughter was very emotional during our corn test. As far as physical reactions, she had no rash the first day, a rash the second day, and a clearing rash the third day. Her biggest emotional outbursts happened on the first and last day (complete meltdown on the last). This brings up an issue I've been putting off dealing with for years and I can see am going to have to address in the next few weeks. I hope.

Here's the thing. Somewhere into the first day of testing it occurred to me that I wasn't sure if I bought organic corn or not. I was at Trader Joe's and I saw "fresh corn" and got all excited we could eat it. I fed the corn to my daughter, not sure if it was organic. It sure was tasty. On the second day, I was feeling pretty sure that it was indeed not organic, but continued eating it anyways. I mean, I bought it, so we should eat it, right? Then my daughter's grandma stopped by with 2 very ripe, non organic, ready to eat right now mango's, which is my daughters favorite fruit.

When we started this ED, I was introducing at least one new fruit and one new veggie each week (not for testing but for variety), but as we proceeded and my daughter continued reacting to the new additions, it became clear that I should stop introducing new foods and just stay contained in a small arena of fruits she did not appear to react to, which for us turned out to be bananas, apples, grapes, and blue/black/straw/raspberries.

Now, on this same evening, my husband came home with an unopened full platter of non organic fruit that was leftover from a work party. I had already peeled and fed to my daughter an entire mango and now was allowing her to eat strawberries, more mango, cantaloupe and grapes. It bothered me, first because they were not organic, second because they were new fruits and I knew there was some chance they would cause a reaction, negating the corn test. However, my feeling that I have already restricted my daughter so much and after all, it's just fruit, so come on here people, I should just let her have it overrode my gut reaction. I am actually concerned I'm causing her food issues because of all the restriction.

So, I let her eat all that extra fruit, and her skin reacted that day with a rash. The last day of our corn test, I bought organic corn, removed the non organic (and unusual) fruit and my daughter's rash started to dissipate.

I clearly have an issue about saying no when other people offer yummy foods to my daughter. Obviously it's not always healthy foods like fruit, sometimes it's sugar, or just too much of one kind of food. How do I make sure she maintains a healthy diet but allow her to eat random foods sometimes? Like, snacks at school, after-school activities, and family, school and friends birthday parties? I don't know how to balance letting her eat occassional goodies with healthy foods when it feels like goodies are offered all the time. I know there must be a way to do it without making her feel deprived but also not to her health detriment. This is bothering me now because we have an appointment with my daugther's Naturopath in a few days, and there's a chance we will be phasing off the ED, except for some foods. Lucky for me, I bet she can help me figure this out.

For the corn test, my best guess is that my daughter did not react physically to the corn, but emotionally something was definitely happening. Whether that was due to quinoa earlier in the week, non-organic foods, extra fruits or actually the corn, I don't think I can say for sure. Maybe this is one of those foods that my daughter's Naturopath mentioned earlier when she said not all reactions to foods are allergic reactions.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wk 12, Day 7: Corn Test, Part 2

We've started testing corn again, but this time just plain corn. We did have a few tortilla chips with dinner tonight, but the only other ingredients listed on the chips were oil and salt, so I thought it would be okay.

So far today, I've had a slowly progressing headache. Over the past few days my daughter has been overly emotional. She's been saying things like, "this is the worst smoothie ever", or "the worst day ever" and having crying outbursts and sensitivity for things that normally would not cause such over-reactions. I'm just not sure if these are corn or quinoa related outbursts. Hopefully the next few days of testing corn will help us figure out if we're reacting to corn or not.