Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thank Goodness I Like Vegetables

I realized just how much my lifestyle has changed over the past few years when a recipe for a weekend dinner party called for sugar, and I didn’t have any. Nor did I have artificial sweetener, artificial sweetener that looked and tasted like sugar, or anything else sweet, save the maple syrup we bought for when my niece slept over several months ago.

On the one hand, I felt a bit domestically delinquent. We usually had some on hand for company, but beyond that, isn’t sugar one of those staples every kitchen needs? Then again, we don’t usually have flour of any kind, either.

As I’ve written before about the evolution of my gluten-free life, I’m more the “explore naturally gluten-free foods” type of girl than I am someone who looks for gluten-free versions of “normal” food—but I recognize that’s just personal preference and that each person needs to do what makes the most sense for his/her circumstances.

Lately, it seems like celiac disease is popping up everywhere. Of course, there’s a certain celebrity’s newly published book stirring up a lot of comments, but there’s more to it than that. The other day at Gluten-free Girl, Shauna mentioned how many new products and companies are now on the market offering gluten-free baked goods, mixes, etc. In my own area, I’ve recently discovered that restaurants like Papa Razzi and Charley’s offer gluten-free accommodations, and I love hitting up regular spots like Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse, which has a GF menu and strict cross-contamination measures.

What’s more, the amount of people around me who know what celiac is or have just gotten diagnosed with it is growing.

“Do you think it’s like food allergies, where more and more people get celiac now?” someone asked me.

“Honestly? I’m no expert, but celiac is so often missed because it is so tricky to diagnose. I think the reason more people are now told they have it because awareness has grown; patients think to ask their doctors about it, and doctors think to check for it, even when “classic” symptoms might not be there,” I said. These are people who may have suffered for years without knowing why.

Anyway, all this is to say that much has changed since I was first diagnosed five and a half years ago. I can’t believe it has been that long. I’ve learned how to make a lot of new foods, I go out to eat without fear or hesitation, we’re growing our own vegetables in our yard, and I’m even in a supper club whose members view the challenge of GF cooking as a good one.

But now there’s a wrinkle. No, it’s not dairy; I cut that out two years ago. No, it’s not processed food; that went out the window a long time ago.

I’ve mentioned before what an soul-crushing, lung-battering winter I had this year. (Okay, maybe slightly dramatic, but it was Not. Good.) As a result of that seven-month siege, I am on a very aggressive, very long-term suppressive course of rotating antibiotics. I don’t talk about it much because there are so many strong opinions about these medications out there, and yes, they are overused by people with colds and yes it’s a problem…but for people like me, they are, quite literally, a lifesaver. Not only do they save lives in acute infectious situations, but they can also help slow down irreversible lung damage. If it’s a choice between several weeks a year as an inpatient and trips to the ICU and suppressive treatment that actually gives me some quality of life and helps control the many infections I get, it’s a no-brainer.

But my aggressive treatment is not easy on the body, most notably the stomach. As evidenced by lots of GI issues and a lovely film on my tongue, my long-term use of these meds has given me candida, an overgrowth of yeast in the intestinal tract (it happens when meds kill the healthy gut bacteria) that spreads throughout the body. Lovely.

The treatment? Well, coming off the meds isn’t an option right now, so I’m trying to follow the candida diet, which essentially means eliminating all sources of sugar, yeast, and fermentation in the diet. Now, clearly I don’t eat a lot of sugar but it’s more complicated than that: naturally occurring sugar in fruit is out; vinegars, salad dressings, honey, tomatoes, white starches…all out. The list goes on, trust me. Again, not the biggest deal since I don’t eat some of this anyway, but if you’ve read Life Disrupted you know how I feel about my honey mustard dressing.

Now, my lunch of green beans and chickpeas is a bit sad and lonely.

“Um, so what do you eat?” a friend asked, knowing I limit animal protein to once a day.

The list is short.

When I was first diagnosed with celiac, I never went through an angry stage or mourned all the things I couldn’t have; I was ecstatic there was something wrong with me I could actually fix. (This doesn’t happen often in my world.) I’m channeling that sentiment to this latest dietary challenge—I feel pretty crummy so if taking these steps can improve things even a little, it’s totally worth it to me.

But if you have any pointers, I’m listening.


Anonymous said...

oh wow. i'm sorry laurie. if it helps i thought your tongue looked a-okay when i saw you (though the bar lighting may not have been the best :) but i do feel for you and your tummy. i do not have any pointers except that i'm on the same page as you in that people freak out when they hear about my diet and wonder how life is worth living (or even possible) without coffee but that i totally am all about doing things that make me feel better. there was a great blog post i just read by a nutritionist about not letting other people drag us down or making us feel badly about doing what is good for our bodies (ie. the office workers feeling guilty they are eating donuts or feeling self-conscious about ordering special foods at restaurants). you do what you need to do and hopefully you'll feel better. AND i hope you can eat all of your fav yeasty foods in the future. ps. at this point you could probably be a nutritionist...


Laurie said...

Ha, thanks Audj! In the light of day it's unpleasant film but hopefully getting better three weeks into the candida diet. Actually the last time I had alcohol was the champagne we had :)

I totally agree with you (and have always been impressed with how you handle your dietary constraints)about just doing what we need to do and not getting mired down with other people's issues about it.

Tough Cookie said...

I have candida as well, and I am a raw vegan, so I was scared of no fruits. My alternative medicine/naturopath doc swears that natural sugars are okay... just to limit them and stick to berries and green apples. He's very well known and respected, so I am with him on this one. The only time I have issues is when I am PMSing and slip up with regular sugary treats.

Kairol Rosenthal said...

One of the big ways in which my body was rebelling prior to my cancer diagnosis was rejection of so many kinds of foods - my diet kept getting smaller and smaller - no sugars, no vinegar, I couldn't digest veggies for a very long time too. Here are my big suggestions on how to cope:

1. Do not categorically wipe out food groups. Experiment with different kinds of fermentation and sugars. It is possible that not all will have the same affect on you.

2. Watch out for health food freaks. There are plenty of people who put themselves on very restrictive health food diets by choice and not out of necessity. Many of these folks bombarded me with their fear of food thinking and it was totally not helpful. Their goal was to impose restriction in their diet, mine was to find some freedom and it sucked having people treat me like I was killing myself just because I wanted to try to introduce normal foods back into my life over time.

3. Slow roasted carrots with lots of olive oil and sea salt will begin to taste like candy to you.

4. Every acupuncturist I have seen has been great for my gut, and they tend to look down upon food restrictions and extreme diets. It was great to have their understanding, support, and encouragement towards broadening my pallet of food, slowly and over time.

5. What do your allopathic docs recommend you do? Is there no med to counteract candida?

Hang in there! I feel for you big time.

Also, check out my blog post today - I thought about you when I was writing it.



Emerald Arts said...

I'm anaphylactic to wheat and gluten and have issues with Salycilates... immune systemic response to them.

Sometimes the thought of never being able to eat a cheeseburger or a Mars Bar is pretty sad face, but it doesn't make me feel as bad as when my dog died, or when I used to spend agonised nights where my legs didn't work properly and throwing up every half hour.

To have an answer after that kind of scary is the greatest kind of relief, but to be honest, I think that you should definitely say bugger the psuedoscientists!

As for making food tasty when it is so restricted, the best advice I can offer is to eat food as fresh and as simply prepared (grilled with rice bran oil, bathed in herby aromas).

*big hugs*


Laurie said...

Thank you for the tips--very helpful, and affirming!

Hey, if it makes me feel better, it's so worth it :)

Tough Cookie said...

Hey, if you feel good, then who the heck cares what people say and think?!?! Go you! for taking the initiative to create health! I had been indulging in vegan cookies, but when my yeast infections came back, I realized I'd rather forgo my fave treats than deal with recurrent infections again. They are so freakin' horrible!!!

Tough Cookie said...

Oh, and I am noticing that it's not zero sugar for me, it's a certain amount of sugar I need to stay below. Don't know what that amount is to the number, so I just keep it to a minimum and stay away from desserts. It takes experimenting, so don't feel too upset about depriving yourself just yet because it may be the same deal for you, too. Good luck!

Jeanne said...


I have been on the anti-candida diet (twice, for several months each with no cheating either time) and I know how challenging it is. I give you kudos for your discipline in modifying your diet in order to get healthier!

As you may be aware, probiotics are very important when taking antibiotics. (They help keep the intestinal and other flora in balance).

In addition to intestinal tract candida overgrowth and overgrowth in the mouth as you've described, the nasal passages can also be affected.

I cannot tell you how much probiotics helped me with recurrent problems following lots of antibiotics for strep throat that occurred every year for 5 years straight in my 20s. Then a doctor suggested that I take a particular probiotic supplement. (There are a great many to choose from).

I've never had strep throat since and I'm now 40. Interestingly, coincidence or not, it was when I started the probiotics that I stopped having strep throat and then stopped needing antibiotics.

This was in the early 1990s long before commercials started hitting the airwaves for yogurt products containing active yogurt cultures (which contain live bacteria).

Let's just say that you'd have to eat an awful lot of yogurt to possibly get what you can get from probiotics supplements! (Besides that you said you don't eat dairy anyway).

I'm pretty sure there are probiotics that are dairy-free. I just checked the bottle of the type I use now and it says no soy or wheat but it does have some goat's milk.

Again, though, I'm almost sure I've seen dairy free probiotics. I get the type that need to be refrigerated. There are others that have a stabilizing agent in them and don't need the fridge.

I have the ultimate respect for people who can follow the type of stringent diet you do in order to improve their health.

I have various dietery restrictions due to my illnesses and I know it can be a challenge but it sounds like you have adjusted well to the changes you've already made.

Best of luck to you with your dietary changes. I know it's tricky!


Cure Candida said...

What other testing have you tried? Muscle Testing or EDS? Are you only sensitive to Gluten? If you haven't already then you really need to do EDS testing, although I guess I really shouldn't say seeing as I haven't read your book yet you may have done all this and more.

I'm sensitive to Gluten, Dairy, Sugar, Corn, Soy etc, etc and at first I suppose it was a bit of a drag, but now I don't think twice about Wheat or other allergen based foods. I simply don't even associate them with food in my brain. A great deal of it is through conscious association.

Anytime I ever use to struggle I would just think about how badly I would feel afterwards with congestion, digestive pain and brain fog.

I can't touch most fruits or foods but somehow I get by. I just eat a diet high in unprocessed foods so I know exactly what I'm eating. I eat lots of veggies as well as superfoods, drinking teas based with superfoods both greens and mushrooms helps incredibly in reducing inflammation when I do have a reaction. I also muscle test anything new I introduce into my diet. I HIGHLY recommend using it if you don't already.

There's also a device popular over in Europe that comes out of Germany known as a Bi-Com which is supposedly the most powerful way to eliminate Celiac sensitivity. I've used similar devices and seen results but have yet to use it mysefl.

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