Friday, July 6, 2007

Working my way through this allergy thing

In a way, I guess this gluten-free thing can (at least at times) be a back-to-basics kind of meal planning system. After all, it has only been in relatively recent history that people have relied on regularly having flours—and wheat flour specifically—to get them through meals. If I just rely on alternate flours, which can be as good as wheat or more authentic than wheat in a recipe . . . but not commonly, I can have as flour-y a life as ever, but there are catches to that:

1. If I consistently rely on the same flours over and over on a day-to-day basis, I’m likely to develop an allergy to those flours as well. It’s much better for the sake of allergies to eat a diverse diet that does not include the same foods day after day. (I have a book coming from Amazon that delves into this topic in greater depth–this process is called having a rotation diet.)

2. I’m likely to be disappointed, often, with the quality of previously-consumed-with-wheat-flour baked goods, as they will not resemble my memory of what they should be like.

3. A lot of gluten-free flours are low in fiber. I eat a lot of vegetables, so fiber is not my biggest concern, but I don’t want to be eating nutritionally bankrupt foods very often either.

4. If I eat good-for-me whole grains, like millet, that are gluten-free, I will get fiber and learn to eat something new without delving into previous expectations of how that food should taste and what the texture of the food should be.

All of that said, of course I don’t intend to give up baked goods entirely. It’s going to be a balancing act. I think ‘balancing act’ is my favorite phrase lately to describe everything–my job, exercise, healthy lifestyle, simplifying, healthy eating, and now gluten-free eating, as well.

I came home half a day early on Tuesday. I’ve been working too much and was antsy to be away from there long enough to make today count, especially since I worked last Saturday and will be working this coming Sunday.

I came home after going back to the salad restaurant Dressed for another meal. I had intended to eat soup at work—Dan looked at the ingredients and thought the soup I packed was fine for my allergies—but it turned out to be tomato-based. Oops. (I HATE that I found out I’m allergic to tomatoes right as the tomato season kicks in. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods!) I went to Dressed for lunch, ate a Cobb salad with no egg, and came home . . . where I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not want to go to sleep. Last week, I went to my primary care physician and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but something is. I am getting headaches every day, and all I want to do is sleep.” I also told her that my balance was off, that I had scared myself falling down the stairs, and that I wanted to be certain nothing was really wrong. She ran a bunch of tests, but she told me she thought maybe my years of sleep problems were just finally catching up with me. This is my third day with no headache, though, and it was so miraculous to get home yesterday and not climb in to bed to take a three-hour nap and wake up still tired. (Yes, I know taking naps can sometimes make you more tired, but in the last couple of months, I have come home so tired I can do nothing but sleep.) I don’t know if all of this is attributable to allergies, but from what I’ve read, all of those symptoms can be—including my sleep problems! Someone from the town where I grew up who has the same allergies emailed me to say that, among other issues, her nightmares had stopped when she did an elimination diet. Isn’t it strange that food allergies could cause such diverse reactions in our bodies?

Speaking of which, other than the typical symptoms of allergies like nasal congestion, here is a list of some of the symptoms that allergies (some environmental, some food) may cause:

  • headaches and migraines,
  • abdominal bloating or cramps,
  • frequent diarrhea or constipation,
  • eczema or other skin problems,
  • painful swelling of joints,
  • unexplained mood swings,
  • depression or anxiety,
  • swollen hands, ankles, feet, eyes, face,
  • unexplained weight gain or loss,
  • constant fatigue.

Fascinating, I think.

Oh, and because there is a doctor at our church who swears by gluten-free diets for the treatment of a whole range of illnesses (gluten increasingly being a problem due to the enormous increase in gluten that is found in the strain of altered wheat grown 90% of the time these days), here are the symptoms of gluten intolerance and/or celiac disease:

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorbtion e.g. low iron levels
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Fat in the stools
  • Aching joints
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Head aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability and behavioural changes
  • Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
  • Cramps, tingling and numbness
  • Slow infant and child growth
  • Decline in dental health

Undiagnosed for long periods of time, food intolerances have been found to contribute to diabetes, bowel cancer, anemia and osteoporosis.

As far as allergies go, you have to find a doctor who will do a blood test for IgG (not just IgE) if you want to find out whether you have latent/delayed food allergies. And you have to find a doctor who uses a good laboratory that is careful about their food samples and runs tests to replicate findings.

The tests for gluten intolerance may be a bit more complicated. The doctor at our church sends off stool samples to a particular lab for testing.

Now that I’ve brought up stool samples, I think I’ll write about food in a separate post. On to that now. . . .


totegirl said...

haha! Thanks for that small consideration!

So, I thought about you and ran right over here to tell you that I read in Prevention magazine that kefir may help with food allergies.

Sela said...

In response to Catch #2, I thought I'd share a recent experience with you.

I'm very lactose intolerant, and when I initially started avoiding dairy in October, I tried a soy-based "ice cream." It was palatable, but it wasn't ice cream. The texture was wrong; the sweetness was wrong. It reminded me of brown rice for some reason.

Fast forward to about a month ago, when I was absolutely dying for something chocolate. My husband brings home peanut butter-chocolate "ice cream," and it was perfect - exactly what I wanted and exactly like ice cream.

And it was, of course, exactly the same product that I had rejected six months earlier. I did think that I'd adjust eventually; I just didn't think that eventually would come so soon.

ArleneWKW said...

Allergic to tomatoes. Now that really sucks. With regard to the wheat, it seems like you are discovering a lot of interesting alternatives.

Salma Gundi said...

Everywhere I go lately, I see gluten-free products - and I think to myself, "I wonder how Veggie P is doing."

Hope you have time for an update soon and that all is going well.

jen said...

I have eczema and have always wondered if it's an allergy. I talked to my doctor about an allergy test but because my symptoms are mild, insurance won't pay. I'd love to know what it might be.

Interesting post.