Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mindfulness? Or just not caring?

Well, it has been a while.  Every time I come back to write, it feels like a lifetime, that so much has happened since the last time, and I hardly know where to begin.  And then I look at the dates.  It has only been three weeks.  How much could happen?  My internal life has a different sense of time.  I have become aware of every little thing going on inside me, attuned to every physical and emotional detail (and now and then a mental one too).  Every day feels like a long journey.

Speaking of awareness...Last time I wrote about the new opportunity of stress management classes, hoping that would renew my hope and help overcome my disappointment with the fish oil fiasco.  I went to the first meeting a couple of weeks ago, and there is another one tomorrow.  The workshop is focusing on mindfulness.  When I started, I wasn't sure what that meant, but the doctor recommended a few books.  I started reading Mindfulness in Plain English (Gunaratana) this week, and I have to say, I'm ambivalent.

Mindfulness seems to focus around the idea of meditation (vipassana) that increases one's awareness of reality, insight, truth, to the point that one breaks the constant cycle of behaviors based on desire and fear.  Grasping/Aversion he calls it.  We want what we want, we avoid what we don't want, and we act accordingly.  The right way to live "mindfully" is being aware of these desires/fears, but not needing to act on them.

Ok, here is where I have a problem.  Doesn't that imply not really caring about anything?  Like most of my life up to this point has been meaningless drivel?  And maybe it has been.  But I cannot imagine a life where I don't act to avoid the bad stuff or (and more importantly) act to make things better, not just for me but for the people I love.

Here's what gives me hope and makes me want to try it.

"Meditation is called the Great Teacher.  It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly but surely, through understanding.  The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant, the more compassionate you can be.  you become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher.  You are ready to forgive and forget.  You feel love toward others because you understand them, and you understand others because you have understood yourself.  You have looked deeply inside and seen self-illusion and your own human failings, seen your own humanity and learned to forgive and to love.  When you have learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic.  An accomplished meditator has achieved a profound understanding of life, and he or she inevitably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical love." (15)

Now that's a worthy goal.  So I'm going to try it.  But this little voice inside me says, "but what do I do with myself right now?"  Just sit and breathe?  The transition is hard.  It's hard to look forward to each day when you know that it is such a slow process.  I have not always had great staying power.  I just hope I can make it through the beginning until I can actually see some progress.

For now, I'm just going to watch my daughter dance and be happy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hope, Disappointment, and Renewal

A couple of weeks ago, I got a blood test done to test my ratio of Omega 3s versus Omega 6s, with an eye to taking fish oil to help with many of the issues I've been dealing with, but especially depression and inflammation.  I had heard so much about the benefits of fish oil, how it is supposed to be a miracle cure, and I was so hopeful about it.  Of course my test results showed an unhealthy ratio, so I was advised to take 8 capsules of highly purified fish oil per day.  My doc testified of his own drastic improvement in health since he started, and I was so excited to begin.

I hope that fish oil can really help others.  As for myself, it instantly gave me a sore and scratchy throat, nausea, a cold sweat, and fishy reflux.  Talk about disappointment.  I so wanted it to work!  I get tired of having to think so much about diet and food and symptoms.  I guess I was just hoping for a cure-all so I could avoid the stress and hard work.

Ahhh, such is life.  I gave the pills to my husband, and he is taking them without any side effects.  As it turns out, I may be allergic to all those fish I reacted to on my food sensitivity (IGG) test after all.  I made salmon for the first time since I started this diet a few days ago, and I had the same reaction as I had to fish oil.  

The IGG test seems to be a little worthless.  It was right on some things (salmon--high test sensitivity, high real life reaction), but wrong on most others.  I had a low test sensitivity for dairy, but every time I drink milk or eat cheese (or ice cream, heaven forbid!) my ears stop up, my throat gets sore, and post nasal drip begins.   I tested highly reactive to rice, almonds, lettuce, olives.  I have had no noticeable real life reaction to these things.

It's frustrating and disappointing when things don't work the way they are supposed to.  Test results unreliable.  Miracle cure works for everyone but you.  So where is the renewal?

Well, every time something doesn't work, another opportunity avails itself.  Today I am starting a class on stress and the mind-body relationship.  I am trying not to get too hopeful, because I know things are not going to change overnight, but it's a step in the right direction.  Gaining the skills to get rid of some of the stress in my life will be a valuable thing.

Somehow, life stopped being fun when it was supposed to be.  The things I have chosen to spend my time on have become stressful obligations instead of enjoyable projects.

So my short-term goal is to actually enjoy the holidays.  Novel idea, right?  I'm still trying to think of ways to make that happen.  Any ideas?  Hopefully the stress reduction class will help lighten things up a little.  Long-term, well, I'm still thinking about that.  But I do, once again, have hope.  As my dad used to say, what's the alternative?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Healing body, new symptoms

Things are starting to get interesting over here on the old rotation.  Lately I've noticed that my symptoms seem more immediate and more specific.  I've been at it long enough that I've tried things a couple of times before ruling them out, and the results are...well, interesting.

In the beginning, I felt everything in my mouth.  Different parts of my tongue would hurt depending on which foods were being eaten and which taste buds were being used.  After I ate whole foods for a few weeks, the sensations changed.  Everything went backwards and down.  It was my throat that started to hurt if I ate something I was sensitive to, and my ears would be a little sore and itchy.  Post-nasal drip, swollen glands, sore throat, all that.  For a couple of weeks, I was just plain sick.  I think I might have had a pretty bad case of bronchitis, but I thought it was just food sensitivity, or else my body would just fight it out with time.  So I didn't check it out.

But now, everything has moved down into my chest.  If a food doesn't agree with me, I start coughing almost immediately.  Or else I feel heartburn/reflux.  For instance, tonight I made bulgur wheat for the second time this week.  The first time, I felt an immediate tickle in my chest.  My vocal chords and windpipe began to coat with mucus and the coughing began.  I wasn't sure what it was at first, but then I remembered that I had tried a wheat beer a few days before and started coughing then, too.  So now I have a wheat issue.  Same thing happened again tonight.  BOO!  I wasn't noticing a wheat sensitivity before last week.  My theory is that as the toxins are leaving my body, it is healing and able to respond in different ways.  I do know that I cannot tolerate any type of crackers

I have noticed issues with dairy, too.  The mucus production and sore/swollen throat is worse with dairy than wheat, but it doesn't make me cough.  Weird.  I tried grass-fed, organic, fat-free milk with some organic spelt flakes for an emergency breakfast this week and didn't have nearly as much of a reaction as I have to, say, cheese.

Another interesting factor seems to be dosage.  I have been eating carrots without reaction for weeks, but I ate half a bag of baby carrots this week and my mouth was sore.  Then again, I also ate a lot of hummus at the same time, so which was it?  I have noticed the amount of one food I'm eating making a noticeable difference in my reaction.

The body is really fascinating.  I was so overwhelmed at first because I couldn't tell what I was reacting to, but slowly, things are starting to make a little sense.  Does anyone else notice their symptoms changing over time?  I hope this means that my gut is starting to heal and can tell the difference between healthy foods, foods I'm sensitive to, and foreign objects.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Good food is good (Pork tenderloin with pears)

The last few weeks have been so crazy busy that the diet has really suffered.  Yesterday, the book fair committee spent the day at school setting up, and we open this morning.  It's a really fun project, probably the least stressful because I have a lot of help and I get to spend my days around two of my favorite things--kids and books.

But the diet suffers.  Over the weekend, my son's birthday party once again had hot dogs (two ways--mummy dogs, and beans and franks), cookie cake, ice cream, chips, the works.  Luckily I had the presence of mind to boil some eggs and defrost a pork tenderloin so it would be ready last night because by then, I needed it!

While we set up yesterday, I pretty much forgot to eat.  I had brought community snacks, but mostly stuff leftover from the party that I wasn't supposed to eat--chips and salsa, crackers and hummus, grapes, trail mix (with m&ms) etc.  Salsa and hummus I can usually handle, but not the bread products and not grapes.  Trail mix is healthy without chocolate, but only palatable with it!  So I snacked all day.  I did start with my 2 boiled eggs, so at least there was a decent protein foundation.  But eventually I was so hungry I gorged on crackers and hummus and grapes.

By the time I got home, my throat was hurting and I was run down.  The pork tenderloin had cooked all day in the slow cooker and smelled so good and wholesome I wanted to cry:

2 small pork tenderloins
2 pears
Salt (generous amount)
1/4 cup of water

I was in such a hurry the morning that I didn't have time to brine the pork, but it was still very good.  Just put the tenderloins in the slow cooker and salt them generously.  Slice two pears and sprinkle them on and around the pork.  Put about 1/4 cup of water in the pot (or less).  Drizzle a little olive oil over the whole mix and cook on low for about 8-9 hours, or on high for 5-6.

When I got home, I sliced and boiled a couple of potatoes, sauteed some spinach in olive oil with garlic powder, salt and lemon juice.  Great meal.  I felt so good afterward knowing I had put good things in my body.

Now what is the plan for today??? Take some leftovers with me.  Have a decent breakfast before I leave the house.  Take some healthy snacks this time!  Carrots work with hummus just as well as crackers, and there are other fruits besides grapes!  And I can come home to eat if I need to.  We do have some breaks in the day.  Tonight...fish, I think!

If anyone is reading this, how do you manage to eat healthy during a really busy week?  Does bad food make you feel run down?  How do you know when you need a cleansing meal?  What is your favorite cleansing, yet filling and tasty, meal?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Perfection

Is there really such a thing?  Of course not!  So why do I try SO HARD???

I am a stay at home mom.  I made the choice several years ago when I was a teacher.  I loved teaching--high school English--too much, really.  Having two children of my own made me take a good look at what I was putting my time into.  I think I had the potential to be a really good teacher, and I had the potential to be a good parent, but my perfectionism got in the way of both pursuits.  Many an afternoon was spent trying to make the perfect test or plan the perfect lesson, and by the time I picked up my children from aftercare and got home I was so mentally exhausted that I could not really be available.  And that just depressed me.  But being a parent also kept me from perfection as a teacher.  I just didn't have the time to spend grading and regrading paper after paper to give the students the writing experience I thought they needed.

Ugh.  Just thinking about it tires me out.  The choice was obvious:  my 2 kids over 150 other kids.  But am I the perfect parent now?  What does that even mean?

Progress, not perfection.  That's the mantra, right?  And I have made progress.  Going into my fourth year, I still have trouble structuring my time and feeling like what I do is valuable because it is not quantifiable.  I'm around more.  I serve lunch at school.  I go to all the parties.  I plan really elaborate birthday parties.  I lead the Brownie Troop for my daughter.  I'm really good at helping with homework.  I run the Book Fair at the school.  I do a lot of dishes, but it's never really enough.  I plan our family vacations (down to the second if I can!).  I'm not particularly good at organization or cleaning or having any control over a group of 15 second graders, so more often than not I feel like a failure even after I have worked my heart out.

It's not all intellectually stimulating, but emotionally, on the whole, rewarding.  If you ask my kids, they would probably not hesitate to say I'm a great mom.  But they are not teenagers yet, so take that for what it is worth.  They have been so patient and understanding with my health issues.  They keep saying, "Mom, when is this diet going to be over?"--mainly because they really want to share their Halloween candy with me.

And just when I should be slowing down for my health, I have been trying ever harder to prove myself to them because I really don't want to disappoint them.  I just threw a huge Halloween birthday party for my daughter, complete with a haunted house and treasure hunt, and it just about gave me a nervous breakdown!  It's an 8 year old's birthday party!  Thank goodness my husband didn't obsess over it the way I did and helped me see it from a different perspective.  I saw the party through on Saturday, and on Sunday basically collapsed.

The whole perfectionism issue was gnawing on me all weekend, though.  When the kids came in to ask me to do yet another project, I finally just said, I'm tired.  I'm not supermom.  And I think they are adjusting to the idea.  For the first time, Mom is admitting that she can't do everything.  And isn't that a healthy thing to teach them in the long run?  I'm not perfect, they are not perfect, and expectations need to be appropriate and healthy.  Compassion is key.

I'm certainly not doing this diet perfectly!  Mummy dogs and cauldron cookies are not on the non-processed whole foods list, I'm pretty sure.  I need to get back on the wagon, but in the meantime, compassion with myself is really important.  I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!  Thank you Stuart Smalley!

Have an imperfect day, and revel in it!


Monday, October 25, 2010

A weekend with the family...and Cranberry and Apricot Bulgur Wheat

I just returned from a trip to celebrate my mother's birthday--a big one, but I won't tell which one!  My entire family--my mother, brother, sister and their spouses and children--were in attendance.  It was quite a party!  The 6 kids were all running around the house screaming, the adults sat around the dinner table catching up, and all around it was a lovely evening.

Of course, my biggest concern before the trip was food.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  My biggest concern was having to explain my issues with food.  Every time I thought of it, I started having these dialogues in my head.  I am the youngest sibling, and have spent half my life looking for my family's approval.  The other half has been spent bucking the system and doing things my way as much as possible, so I don't always get their approval.  It's an odd dynamic.  Anyway, the dialogues (in my head) always ended up with them calling me crazy and saying I'm going off the deep end, and me getting angry and defensive and self-righteous.

This only happens in my head, however.  No one has ever said anything cruel or offensive to my face.  This is me, manifesting my own internalizations and fears from so many years ago they are not even worth remembering.

I recently watched The Secret and the most thought provoking piece I took from it was that we truly create our own reality by our thoughts and expectations and attitudes.  When I expect my family to disapprove of me, I will somehow make it happen by doing something worthy of disapproval.  Drinking too much, saying something I shouldn't, being whiny and defensive or otherwise insecure.  This time, I decided for myself that I didn't need to be defensive.  I have nothing to be ashamed of in terms of my health choices.

I believe in the power of positive thinking.  So I visualized myself doing what I needed to do in terms of food, not stressing over it, and my family being kind, understanding, and respectful.  And you know, they were.

I was very lucky in that my sister in law cooked a beautiful meal full of fresh ingredients, nothing processed except the bread, which I could do without.  I made a side dish of bulgur wheat, cranberries and apricots that was pretty darn good, and everyone took some and complimented it and respectfully asked about the food and its benefits to me.  I thought about having a beer (not ready for grapes yet), but in the end, I really enjoyed the evening without it.

This is a big change for me.  Usually, when I'm with my family, the wine is a-flowing.  And I usually end up having one too many.  And I do something obnoxious and continue the cycle of shame and disapproval.  But not this time.  Am I growing up?  Finally?  This time, I didn't make it about me.  It was about my mother.  We all did our best to make her night enjoyable, and she had a great time.  A successful weekend.

Creative positive visualization is a good thing.  Too bad there is often a time delay.  Do you think if I visualized my house being clean I could open my eyes and it would be clean?  Ha ha!  But I CAN make it happen, one way or another.

As far as food goes, my biggest challenge right now is trying to eat food from different families every day.  Nightshades are a problem.  If tomatoes aren't on the plate, then potatoes probably are.  And I love 'em both!  Another thing I found this weekend--the less I obsess over what I eat, the better I feel.  Food that might be problematic, such as dairy (little bits of cheese in salads, a little ice cream on a dessert) didn't bother me as much.  I did have a gigantic headache after a cup of coffee, so I need to watch that.  Otherwise, stress plays a great role in my healing process.

Here is the dish I made for my family, served alongside Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon, boiled potatoes, fruit salad and green salad.

Cranberry and Apricot Bulgur Wheat

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp olive oil

I found a steamer so I used that, but you could probably boil it all together.  Put water in bottom of steamer.  Put cranberries and apricots in steamer basket and steam for 5 minutes.  Add bulgur to water and cook for 5-10 minutes on low heat (until tender and water has been absorbed).  Add steamed fruit to bulgur, add spices and oil, mix well and serve.  Great breakfast leftovers too!

Enjoy!  Visualize (with your taste buds, somehow) how good it will be!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Next Tuesday

It's been a week, and what a whirlwind.  I think I've had every food in the book since I last wrote.

It's really not fair--I have this blog set up called Notes from the Rotation, and I'm settling into a groove, even creating recipes for the first time in my life, and then my nutritionist goes and changes it all on me in one fell swoop.  Last time we met, she listened to me whine and cry about how hard it was to go to Commanders, and she hesitated only slightly before saying something along the lines of..

I think we should start from scratch.  You're too stressed, and your adrenal glands are going to suffer more than you would from the food sensitivities.

So now what do I call my blog?

To be fair, I'm still on some semblance of rotation, but I get to decide when to have what.  Honestly, it's a little more freedom than I was ready for.  She gave the green light for foods I tested positive for sensitivity.  But I think I was supposed to rotate them in slowly, not try them all at once in one meal.

I have to laugh at myself, and be gentle.  TMJ is raging.  I'm sick again.  Another sore throat, fever, ears hurting, still coughing from the last time, and a little queasy.  Could one serving of corn do that to you?  Everything is so confusing.  So tomorrow is another opportunity to get it right.  Or at least, less wrong.

What I am now supposed to be doing is an anti-inflammatory diet plus avoiding known reactive foods.  I'm not totally sure what that means.  I'm looking at a lot of different sources, and anti-inflammatory has many different parameters, depending on who is writing.  Do I not eat any of the "sensitive 7"--dairy, soy, eggs, sugar, corn, wheat, peanuts?  Or just avoid dairy and soy because they have given me trouble recently?  These questions are nearly as stressful as the limits I had before, but life is MUCH TASTIER!  

Live and learn.  Still got a good 40-50 years of living to do if all goes well.  That's longer than I've been alive now, so figuring it all out slowly is okay.  But figuring it out is necessary, or maybe I won't have all those years.  I just want to feel good!

Sorry, no recipes today.  I'm too confused for that.  Just thought I'd update the blogosphere on where I'm at.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Supersensitive (turkey with plum and sage)

My throat has calmed down some after a few days and being more strict with the diet.  But now I am wondering, does being supersensitive to food translate into being supersensitive to other non-food seasonal allergens?

I noticed my throat pain fluctuated in intensity and changed from being sore and inflamed to scratchy and mildly annoying.  Then my nose started running and eyes watering, sneezing, mild but deep cough (does that even make sense?).  I started to think, "This feels like what I see on a Claritin commercial."  I have never suffered from seasonal allergies before.  Please don't let it be starting now!  And I have 2 cats!  Am I going to start sneezing whenever they are around?

Is this food, seasonal allergy, bacterial infection, virus, or just toxins being released from my system?

On a happier note, I have a terrific turkey recipe that works wonderfully with this diet.  It's so simple, but better than most Thanksgiving turkeys I've tried, and made in the slow-cooker!

This is a Day 3 Recipe, and here's what is available that day:

Proteins:  Soy, Tofu, Tuna, Turkey, Edamame
Starches/Grains:  Lentils, peas, oats, bulgur wheat
Vegetables:  Broccoli, Cauliflower, Watercress, Arugula, Avocado, Tomato, Alfalfa
Fruits:  Apricot, Plum
Dairy:  None
Nuts/Seeds/Oils:  Sunflower Seeds (not oil), Avocado Oil
Flavor Enhancers:  Sage, Basil, Chocolate, Cayenne

I'm still fine tuning it, but the basics are:

2 turkey tenderloins
2-3 plums (any kind) chopped in large chunks with peel
A few sprigs of fresh sage (or dried--but don't overdo it!)
Salt
avocado oil
water

Rinse the turkey, coat with avocado oil and then rub about a teaspoon of salt all over each tenderloin.  Sprinkle each side with some sage, and place in slow cooker.  Add a little water to the pot, about 1/4 cup.  Then dump the plums on top.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours.  

It might be good to brown the tenderloins first.  I haven't tried that yet.  Plus, I might brine my turkey next time to see if I can get it EVEN MORE moist.  Since I can't have sugar, I'll have to use plums in the brine (and sage too).  That could be very good.  I'll let you know how it goes.  It has worked wonderfully for my pork chops.  (That recipe is for another post).

I love it when my food makes me happy AND healthy!  Onward and upward!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Busy and sick (boiled or sauteed shrimp)

This week, and especially the weekend, has been a doozy.  Between dealing with my health and attending a celebration for almost every person or organization I know or am involved with, let's just say I've been busy.  Last time I wrote, I was determined to follow the diet more strictly, but that's proving more difficult if one actually has a life.  I'm really trying, but so impatient.

I did okay for a couple of days.  On Day 2 (Bovine Day as opposed to Chicken Day 1) I have the following options:

Proteins:  Grass fed beef, Lobster, Sole, Shrimp
Starches/Grains:  Wild Rice
Vegetables:  Asparagus, Carrots, Fennel
Fruits:  Apple, Cranberry, Lemon
Dairy:  Yogurt, Cheddar cheese
Nuts/Seeds/Oils:  Butter
Flavor Enhancers:  Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon, Parsley, Dill, Cumin, Coriander, Cinnamon, Fennel

It's a nice day with plenty of good choices except that the proteins are all a little high maintenance.  I have to go to Whole Foods to get grass fed beef or sole, lobster...well, that's just ridiculous.  But maybe I could have it at a restaurant if I was out, steamed with lemon and butter, so that's nice.  Then shrimp, well, I live in New Orleans and we are picky about our shrimp.  I got it at whole foods last time and it wasn't that good.  So the seafood markets are better for that (or the farmers market).  And then cooking the shrimp is tricky.  You have to time it just right.  I boiled some fresh from the farmer's market last night for 3 minutes and it was a tad overcooked.  But check out this recipe for boiled shrimp that was pretty flavorful and stuck to the diet without using Zatarain's or store bought shrimp and crab boil:

1 lb of fresh shrimp in shells
1 lemon, sliced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cumin, coriander, parsley (or to taste)
1 1/2 tbs butter
1 tbs salt
Water to cover shrimp

Melt butter, add spices, saute a little, add lemon (squeeze slices to get a little juice out before setting in butter), then add enough water to cover your shrimp.  Add salt, bring to boil.  Add shrimp for about 2 1/2 minutes.  Drain quickly.

VARIATION:  if you can find shrimp already peeled and deveined, even better.  Reduce the spices, butter, lemon to taste (especially the salt--the shrimp will absorb everything more easily without the shells).  Saute the spices in butter, add lemon, sprinkle the shrimp with salt, add them and saute until just pink on both sides.  It is tricky getting the timing right, but yummy when you do.

Served it with steamed asparagus and carrots.  It was delicious!

Having said all that, getting to that point yesterday was a victory of grand proportions.  Last day 2 I started getting a sore throat.  At first I thought it was the fennel I had slow cooked.  Or maybe the dairy I had eaten (plain yogurt with cinnamon and apples).  I have had throat problems with dairy before.  Anyway, the sore throat was better the next morning and I continued the next day as well as I could.

Day 3 is nice too--lots of vegetables and grains I like, and then that night Day 4 began. Pork is on it, but I didn't have anything defrosted, so I decided to let the rest of the family eat leftovers and I would bake a sweet potato and eat some deli ham.  It is nitrate/nitrite/antibiotic free but it does have some sugar and "natural flavor" whatever that means.  It's better than the bacon I ate last time, but still not quite in line with the diet.  Anyway, the sore throat came back and it's been with me ever since.

But that was nothing compared to this weekend!  One event after another and very little time to prepare snacks to take with me.  Went to a birthday luncheon for some dear friends on Friday at Commander's Palace.  This was a scary adventure and I dragged up all my courage to the surface to ask Commander's to accommodate this diet.  I called ahead and offered to fax a list of the things I could have either on Day 4 or day 1, since I was on the cusp.  I was told they were sure they could accommodate me as long as they had the proteins I needed, which they did.  Just give the list to the table captain when I got there and he would take care of me.

Truth is, they had never seen anything like this before, and I don't think they took it very seriously. They basically just looked at the menu and said, you could have this without this, this, this, and this.  I ended up having the leg of lamb, roasted sweet potatoes, green beans, sauce on the side, no spinach, no bleu cheese.  It was delicious, but the first thing I noticed was all the pepper on everything.  I specifically said, salt, no pepper.  Who knows what kind of oil it was all cooked in or what other spices were in there.

By that time I had watched all my girls drinking their 25 cent martinis, eating their appetizers and discussing dessert, and I was starving.  I ate every bite.  And left before dessert.  I did enjoy the event because of the company, but was sad that the experience was less than it could have been.  And my sore throat was worse than ever.

I came home, made myself a couple of hard boiled eggs and left for a pre-army/tulane game party with some of my husband's friends.  The food there looked lovely, and I ate grapes.  Even that was a stretch.

Came home from that, had another hard boiled egg, some quinoa, and left for the amusement park for the kids' back to school night.  Ok, there was no food there I wanted anyway, so that was okay.  But needless to say, I was exhausted.

The next morning (yesterday) I went to the farmer's market after a little breakfast.  Seems safe enough, right?  This adventure had mixed success.  First, I found lots of vegetables I needed, cheddar cheese AND grass fed beef, naturally raised pork, and fresh shrimp.  Plus Isabella, my daughter, had a ball trying all the samples.

They had pralines to sample, and milk, and natural popsicles, and homemade jams, and I just couldn't resist.  I didn't try the pralines, but I had a little chocolate milk sample and finished Isabella's mango popsicle.  Okay, it could have been worse.  But for the rest of the day my head felt stuffed up, my ears felt pressure for the first time in days, and my throat just kept hurting.  I got a rotisserie chicken that I nearly devoured whole from the grocery.  It was mislabeled, so who knows what was in it?  It said plain whole chicken, and that it only had rosemary and chicken.  but that wasn't rosemary, and I saw some paprika in there too.  But, too hungry to resist.

I took some chicken and a peach to the army/tulane game, and once I got home, still exhausted, I made myself the boiled shrimp described above.  Back on the horse!  Today we have a school picnic (they provide the food)  I can only hope that they will serve burgers which I can have, though I doubt it will be grass fed beef.  I'll bring some snacks, I guess.  At least this is more casual and I won't feel I'm missing out too much.

This morning, my throat is scratchy but not too sore anymore.  Am I sick, or is this the allergies acting up because of all the little cheats?  I don't know.  Just have to keep going.  I know that even the cheats are "healthy" cheats and I am better off than before.  Just gotta keep going and do my best.  Hope this week will be a little calmer.  I could use some rest!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Mouth Knows--or--BACON IS MY NEMESIS (Red beans)

I have been bad lately.  In my boredom and impatience I pushed the envelope a little too far.  And this time it didn't have anything to do with Brownies.

Have you ever tried to make red beans without onions, or garlic, sausage, or most of the spices one would normally use?  Or rice for that matter?  Here is what I have to work with on Day 1:

Proteins:  Chicken, Egg, Sardines
Starches:  Kidney Beans, Lima Beans, Quinoa, Rye
Vegetables:  Kale, Cabbage, Green beans
Fruits:  Raspberry, Peach
Dairy:  None
Nuts, Seeds, Oils:  Peanut, Sesame
Flavor Enhancers:  Rosemary, Oregano, Coffee

In the beginning, I also had bell peppers to work with, but we switched them to Day 4 due to an alarming lack of color on that day.  (You'll see when I show you--everything was orange and brown!)

I should also mention that I start my rotation "day" at dinnertime.  That way I can eat the leftovers for lunch the next day, provided they are safe and I don't react to them.  But as I am eating Day 1, for instance, I may be planning for or even already cooking Day 2.  It's hard not to mix them together during that process.

So what's the point of cooking kidney beans without all that other stuff?  I caved this week.  
First I put a little kombu seaweed in them to soften them.  Kombu is nowhere on any of my lists.  Didn't get tested for it, it's in a food family all by itself, so basically, I have no way of knowing whether I'm reactive to it or not.  I'm not supposed to add any new foods for a month.  Cheat number 1.

Then I put orange bell peppers on top, and chicken on top of that.  (and of course, lots of sea salt)  Bell peppers are, as I said, a day 4 food now, so I was cheating a little on that too, trying to extend day 4 a little into day 1.  Cheat number 2.

Then, after it had cooked a little bit, I panicked.  "My family is not going to eat this!  It needs more flavor!"  So I found some bacon in my fridge.

"Oh, bacon, it will be fine.  It's a Day 4 food, but since I didn't have it this time on Day 4, I should be able to extend it to Day 1, no big deal.  So it has a little sugar, a few nitrites, a few nitrates...how bad could it be?  I'll put a couple of pieces in too add some flavor and I'll take them out before we eat it.  In fact, I might have a few pieces right now since it is technically still day 4..."  Cheat number 3.

Aaaaaand it's back to square one.  The sad thing is, I didn't even use the spices that were available to me that day.  Oregano would have given it a nice flavor.  I have a little oregano plant right outside and it is delicious.  Rosemary--probably too strong.

How did I know this was a bad idea?  Well, after putting the bacon in the beans, and THEN deciding to eat some as a snack (I snack constantly during the day), my mouth was in pain almost immediately.  My throat started scratching, I started coughing, then my throat, my tonsils, the sides of my tongue began swelling and throbbing.  I looked at my beans then and said to myself, this is not going to be fun.

I assumed the pain would eventually go away, and took a "well, now I know" attitude and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to eat the beans that night for dinner, and just enjoy the flavor, knowing my throat would probably be a little sore afterward.

Two days later, my throat still hurts.  Like I'm getting sick.  But that can't be possible with all the vitamin C I'm taking!  Live and learn, right?  Only now I don't even know whether it is just the bacon because the next day I decided I needed some coffee--hey it's on my list for day 1--but..."I can add a tiny bit of sugar and a tiny bit of milk to make it palatable.  How bad could it be?"  (Cheat numbers 4 and 5.)

The answer is, I don't know.  Because it was already bad after the bacon.  I don't know if I'm reactive to the milk and sugar, or one or the other, if they exacerbated the problem, or I had no reaction to them at all, because I was still hurting from the day before.  Weirdly, the coffee actually seemed to soothe my throat a little, which makes things even more confusing.

Then last night I made apple fries and sprinkled a little truvia on them.  (Cheat number 6) Afterward I felt full and groggy, but my stomach still felt hungry.  And my throat was still hurting. So what is that about?  The truvia?  The milk?  The sugar?  The bacon still?

Ahh, life on a rotation diet.  I can't get away with cheating.  I am supersensitive to anything not on my list, it seems, and it always manifests in my mouth first.  No processed food means NO processed food, not even a little bit.  Single ingredients are best if possible.  If not, at least start out with single ingredients and combine them  at your own risk.

Most food tastes better in its natural state.  I can't think of a better way to prepare vegetables than steaming. Of course, beans don't really work that way.  At least not for me, not yet.  But next time I make them, here's what I'll probably do.

2 cups dry kidney beans in the slow cooker
4-5 cups of water.  (6 is too much--still working on the measurement for that).
Peanut or sesame oil--about a tablespoon
Add some sprigs of fresh oregano or a teaspoon or 2 dried
Add salt to taste and to soften beans

Cook on High for 2 hours if possible, then

Set chicken right on top--skinless boneless chicken breasts work fine, but a bone would probably give it more flavor.

Cook on low for 6 more hours.

My beans turn out wonderfully in texture in the slow cooker--best I've ever made.  Just fine tuning the flavor now and balancing that need with the need not to have a sore throat!  The mouth always knows.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What the heck is a rotation diet anyway?

Hmmm...It all started with pineapple.  That was about ten years ago.  It stung every time I put it in my mouth.  Oh, I could eat the canned kind, just not the good so beautiful and juicy and sweet and fresh kind that always looks so appetizing to me.

That went on for a while--a few years, actually--and (just sneak a taste now and then, but never too much!) I pretty much ignored it.  Until strawberries decided to hop on board.  Now, that's just not right.  How could those gorgeous delectable little red treats be painful?  Then it was the perfectly almost ripe banana.  Then the kiwi, then grapes.  Then, at its worst, until about a month ago, every time I took a bite of food, I experienced mouth pain.

I know I'm not alone.  Give a shout out if you have food allergies!  Or sensitivities!  Woohoo!  But, the thing is, I didn't really.  FINALLY, I went to a holistic MD who really took the time to investigate my full range of symptoms (thank you Dr. Sebastian!), and she had some insights into why I might be feeling drained of energy nearly all the time, suffering from anxiety and depression for most of my life, enduring chronic joint pain (not to mention mouth pain).  Maybe...just maybe...it was food.

Ok, she also came up with a few other things, too, like adrenal gland issues and generally weakened cells.  But in the process, she gave me a food sensitivity blood test.  When it came back, we were both a bit flabbergasted, because it said I was highly sensitive to almost everything in my diet that was healthy.  Let's see, just off the top of my head...onions, garlic, olives (there goes italian food), lettuce, spinach, cucumber, mushrooms, corn, (there goes salad), salmon, crab, potatoes, rice!  And these are just the +3 foods (highly reactive).  Beets and goat cheese at +2, and a whole bunch more that were +1 (mild sensitivity).

And fruits, ALL fruits except for blueberries, were just fine.  WTF??

Wheat, meats, cheese, beans, milk, coffee, chocolate, sugar, and all fruits had either no or very low reactivity.  What kind of diet is that?  I can eat all the fattening or sweet stuff but I can't have a salad?  I spent a few months simply trying to avoid the +3 foods.  Actually, it was kind of tasty, but  I didn't really feel that much better.

At the time I got my results, my doc suggested a rotation diet, and gave me some literature on it.  Even now, I don't completely understand it, but here goes.  In a rotation diet for food sensitivities, you have to eat certain foods only on certain days, and every four days you can repeat foods.  This is to avoid eating too much of any one food family so your system won't begin to react to it.  At least I think this is basically right.  Feel free to comment with any further insight, please!

Admittedly, I did not understand it at the time.  I sort of half-ass tried it.  But I would move things around, and try different food combinations.  I would look at foods that weren't anywhere on the list and say, I guess I can have this!  My ignorance was my enemy then.  I eventually gave it up.  Plus I travelled to Ireland over the summer.  How can you go there and not eat potatoes?

Once the kids went back to school and I could breathe again, I knew I needed to see a nutritionist.    For one thing, the mouth pain had not gone away, and in fact was worsening, and it didn't have anything to do with food sensitivities.  According to the test results, fruits were not reactive at all.  Plus I started feeling weird pain around the base right of my ribs.  Isn't that where your liver is?  I got worried.

When the nutritionist returned my call and I gave here a simple run-down of what was going on, she said, "Oh, you have a leaky gut."  Just like that.  Like she'd seen it a million times, and she knew exactly what I was going through and what to do about it.  Do I trust her?  Coming from a family with two traditional MDs, I'll admit I was hesitant.  But then, I just felt relieved to get a confident answer from someone.

I saw here about a month ago, and we discussed all these issues.  Turns out I may not even be allergic to any of those foods!  (But I might be so let's go slow)  Apparently, with a "leaky gut," my cells don't fit together too well in my intestinal wall and stuff leaks through into my bloodstream.  My immune system can't tell the difference between healthy food and foreign objects so it's in a constant state of inflammation, and that's probably why so many foods showed up on the blood test as highly reactive.  Unfortunately, from what I've read, NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories like Advil) just make it worse--too much probably caused it in the first place.  So there is no miracle cure.

I am on so many supplements now I need 3 pill cases to fit them all in.  These are to heal the gut and the mouth pain (which is probably a vitamin deficiency).  Plus, I'm totally off bread and most sugars, off all processed foods, and on a strict rotation diet.  This is to deal with the food sensitivities my body is perceiving, and possibly candida.

I'm doing it.  I'm actually putting in the work and making the sacrifices.  And guess what?  My mouth doesn't hurt every time I eat.  That's the positive side.  Plus I've lost about 4 pounds.

It was incredibly hard at first.  And still incredibly boring.  I love food.  I really even love most of the food I'm allowed to eat.  But not being able to eat them in the combinations that I want (or at all) is so frustrating!  To top it off, my jaw has been killing me for a week.  Chewing on nuts and seeds and raw fruits and veggies all the time has taken it's toll.  I miss bread.  And brownies.

Some days I'm either just not in the mood for what I get to eat that day, or I'm afraid to eat it because my jaw will hurt if I do.  And then I get really low because I haven't had enough to eat.  I have a lot of mood swings.  There have been times of tears.  Serious, hard tears.  But then, the good times seem a little cleaner and purer.

I have no idea how it will all turn out.  The purpose of this blog is to record my symptoms, progress, and recipes for a food rotation diet.  Maybe it will help someone else out there.  This stuff is hard and I've been changing my food habits for five years.  I'm just now at the point of being ready for this strict diet.  It's true, I've had a couple of lapses.  (Stupid brownies).  But I'm working on it and will share the wealth if there is any.

I just really want to feel better.  In the next blog, I will start recording some of my recipes.  The creative juices had to flow for some of these.  Here's to getting healthy!