Friday, December 13, 2013

Do you need advice about how to eat gluten free? Please don't go to Reddit to get it...

I'm sure you have heard of the website Reddit. It claims to be "the front page of the internet". You can basically post whatever you want about anything you want. For some bizarre reason, most people write posts just to get "up votes" meaning that readers liked their post. The flip side is that you can also receive "down votes" if the readers don't like what you have posted. The comments people leave after a post are for the most part excruciatingly mean. The other Redditors will "rip you a new one" just for sport. You can post a picture of the cutest baby kitten and someone will come along and, a.) down vote your post or b.) tell you that your kitten is the ugliest feline on the planet. I can't imagine someone posting a picture of their human baby expecting to get a kind response. It will not happen. If you have a gentle, kind soul and are looking for a place to "toughen up", just go on Reddit. Post a comment about how you are looking for a few new friends and would anybody on Reddit be interested. Under the guise of being anonymous, these people (I use that term very loosely) will toughen you up in no time with their horrible comments. I found this all out by mistakenly going on a gluten free forum located somewhere in the bowels of Reddit. It seems the real problem is that posts and comments can be misinterpreted. Ask a simple question in a neutral tone and then you get a virtual slap to the face with their snarky replies. The icing on the cake..the snarky replies actually get up votes. Reddit is not the place to go if you are looking for good advice on how to eat gluten free or anything else for that matter.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What Your Waiter/Waitress Really Thinks About Your Food Allergies

I had the chance over this Thanksgiving holiday to discuss with a family member (who is a waiter at a very trendy and upscale restaurant) what he really thinks about those of us who have food allergies. He saw me bringing in containers of food that contained my gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nightshade free and shellfish free Thanksgiving dinner. I explained to him that I had prepared my very own feast the day before knowing that there would probably not be anything I could eat at my mother-in-law's house due to my insane amount of food allergies. I even brined and cooked my own organic non-gmo turkey! Here is what he had to say: 

Relative: Don't even get me started on the whole "food allergy thing". If one more person orders a meal, then changes the entire way it is prepared and what sides go with it...I am just going to tell them TO GO HOME! We have this lady who orders our grilled chicken strips, green beans and mashed potato dinner. She has the nerve to tell me to relay to the chef that she wants the chicken sauteed only in olive oil (extra virgin if you please), switch the potatoes to broccoli, replace the green beans with a salad (no croutons or cheese) AND make sure the meal is prepared 100% gluten free and is Paleo approved. I mean SERIOUSLY if your dietary needs are that complicated, do me a solid and STAY HOME! I know she doesn't really have food allergies...she just says she does so we will make her food that way she wants totally pisses me off!

(After his rant, he seemed to remember that I was in the room and nervously looked at me and said "Your situation is different because I know for sure that you have food allergies".)

 For once in my life, I was speechless. I couldn't decide if he was totally insensitive and clueless or totally justified for being frustrated with such a needy customer. I recently owned a restaurant and we offered gluten free options. We were ready and willing to accommodate those with dietary a certain point. There are only a few restaurants that I will eat at because I know they are able to accommodate my dietary needs without an attitude. But what if a restaurant is up front about not be able to safely accommodate food allergy requests? I personally do not even go into a restaurant that I can't eat at safely. For example, if my other family members want to eat at a seafood restaurant that specializes in fried food (no GF options offered and major cross contamination) then guess what I do? I. Stay. Home.

My relative said that the chef made the meal as specified and he (the waiter) brought the meal out to the table with a smile on his face. He and the chef always make comments about what a "pain in the ass" this customer is (behind her back of course) but they do in fact accommodate her. But what about the rest of us?  I can't decide how I feel about the comments made by my relative. I can see both sides of the conversation. Having food allergies, I would like all restaurants to accommodate my dietary restrictions, but I also know how unrealistic that request is due to the fact that I owned a restaurant. I know from personal experience how difficult and expensive it can be to separate a space in your kitchen to ensure safe food preparations.

In the end, it was a very enlightening conversation. I have read the complaints from waiter/waitresses about serving customers with food allergies on other websites. This was the first time that I had an opportunity to speak to a waiter in person and hear his honest opinion.   

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Pumpkin Pancakes

I have been dairy free for the last six months. Believe or not the hardest thing for me to give up was the half & half creamer I put in my hot tea every single morning. I tried different dairy free milks (almond, soy & coconut) but they just were not thick enough to really make my hot tea taste even remotely normal. Then I found So Delicious brand Coconut Milk CREAMER! Ohhh...I was so excited. It was just what I needed to start my day out hot tea with CREAM and sugar! 

About two weeks ago, I saw this at my local Whole Foods:

Be still my heart! PUMPKIN SPICE COCONUT MILK! It is a LIMITED EDITION flavor so you must go out ASAP and find it at a local grocery store. Here is my version of the recipe for pumpkin pancakes using So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk. The original recipe is printed on the back of the carton of the Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk carton. I chose to make my pancakes gluten free as well.

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Pumpkin Pancakes

1 & 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend
3 tablespoons sugar 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 very ripe banana, mashed
1 cup So Delicious Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used Canola Oil)
Extra vegetable oil for pan
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

**Note** I omitted the ginger and nutmeg that is in the original recipe because the Pumpkin Spice Milk has spices already in it. If you would like a super pumpkin spice tasting pancake you may add 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg when you are mixing the dry ingredients.


Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium size bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just combined (do not over mix). If adding nuts, fold them into the batter and set aside.

Lightly oil a large skillet with the vegetable (or canola) oil and preheat over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup increments of batter onto to skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes or until edges are lightly brown and firm. Flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Top with your favorite syrup...I used real maple.

I could fit three pancakes at a time in my skillet. I used a gluten free flour blend instead of all-purpose
flour. When cooking and baking with gluten free flour, you typically need to cook/bake things longer. I cut the middle of one of the pancakes to make sure it was done before taking off the stove. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Newbie Recipe Writer Seeks Your Advice!

Super short and sweet blog post tonight. I am knee deep in scrap pieces of paper. I am trying to gather them together for a cookbook. I never thought in a million years that I would be creating recipes much less trying to publish them. Prepping, cooking and baking are one thing but putting that new recipe into written form is another animal all together. I know there are different ways to format and write really good recipes and I am asking you for help.

Can you share with me what you think makes a great recipe? Do you like when the author gives you a "shopping list" first then lists ingredients in order of use and finally the preparation of ingredients? Do I really need the "shopping list" or does the reader get the "shopping list" from the list of ingredients? Do you like extra information about the recipe...where the idea came from? How important is a photo? Having a color photo for each recipe is very expensive so how do I pick which recipes get pictures (I am working on both sweet & savory recipes that are gluten free, dairy free and egg free).

I would really appreciate your comments and if you have a website that you think I should visit or you have a favorite cookbook, please let me know that too.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thanksgiving and The Spiral Ham of Death (a GLUTEN FREE adventure)!

 Photo Credit:'s the most wonderful time of the year. Yeah right...not really if you have food allergies. Everyone else around me can't wait for the holidays because they get to eat their asses off without a care in the world. No cross contamination to worry about and no hidden gluten ingredients to fear. This year for me the holidays mean that I either make an entire Thanksgiving/Christmas meal for myself or I politely eat my gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nightshade free pretzels while everyone else stuffs their faces full of all of my favorite foods that would put me in bed for days if I consumed even a bite.

I haven't decided which route I'm going to take (cook or starve) this year but I wanted to share with you something that ALMOST happened to me last Thanksgiving. I did not know at that time that I shouldn't have been eating dairy or eggs, so I was most concerned (obsessed) with gluten. I had already talked with my MIL about the Thanksgiving menu and made sure that I would have at least a couple things to eat. I was looking forward to turkey, ham, mash taters, sweet taters and corn puddin'. I knew I couldn't have the green bean casserole (made with cream of mushroom soup that contains gluten) and obviously the dinner rolls. I brought with me my own homemade GF gravy and my GF crackers to enjoy my SIL's famous Buffalo Chicken Dip.

It was Thanksgiving day and we were all in the kitchen loading our plates up with the goodies. I noticed that the ham looked different than in had in years past but I didn't put to much thought into it. We all sat down to eat and say the blessing. As I was about to put a bite of ham in my mouth when my MIL commented that this year she decided to buy and bake a spiral ham. I looked down at the piece of ham on my fork and I noticed the brown coating on the outside. I asked her about it and she said "It came with a packet of seasoning and I just added water to make a paste to spread over the ham. Don't's just brown sugar". No...she didn't just say "Don't worry" 'cause I am about to freak out. I wanted to throw down my fork and run screaming through the house "Danger...Danger...ALERT...ALERT". But what I really did was politely excuse myself back to the kitchen and throw everything off my plate away. I got a new plate and started over again...without the ham.

Just like in gravy mixes, gluten can hide in seasoning packets too. After eating and BEFORE everyone cleaned off their plates into the garbage, I rummaged and found the seasoning packet ingredients. It did indeed contain GLUTEN! It is so important that you think about every single thing that you put into your body BEFORE you consume it when you have food allergies. It is imperative when you eat out either at a restaurant or at someones house that you are able to find out everything about the meal. If you are to uncomfortable to ask, then you better a) bring your own food b) not eat anything you can't verify the ingredients. This might mean upsetting your MIL or getting funky looks from a waiter but this is about your health and you must be your own advocate. Trust me when I say NO ONE else will care as much about a seasoning packet that is just "brown sugar" than you. At the time, I had been eating gluten free for over eleven years and I still almost got "glutened" because I let my guard down.

I was almost killed (or at least my stomach) by a spiral ham, don't let this happen. Don't let "The Spiral Ham of Death" get you.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Note to Self: Never Attempt A Photo of Buttercream Frosting In Direct Sunlight!

I am in the process of creating gluten free & vegan recipes for my blog and upcoming cookbook. I decided to finally take the time to actually learn how to use my very expensive and hardly used Nikon camera. I called a friend who is a professional and asked if he would give me a few pointers. 

Above is my first picture after my first photography lesson. I bartered chocolate ganache (which is a fancy word for fudge) brownies for the hour and a half "how to take pictures of food for a blog" class. The cupcake (gluten free & vegan pumpkin pie) and frosting (also gluten free & vegan butter cream cheese) tasted fantastic but the photo is a hot mess. I mean literally a hot mess...the room where I was trying to take the photo was to warm for the butter cream frosting. As you can see the frosting is screaming "I'm melting" as it is sliding off the cupcake.

This is my second try after I got smart and put the frosting back in the fridge. I let the frosting get a little firmer before I tried icing the cupcake. Taking good pictures of food is so much harder than I thought. Now I know why there is such a job as a "professional food stylist" that assists the photographer. I am learning how to do both jobs along with preparing all of the food loving every minute of it. all I need is a "taste tester" of my recipes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rutabaga Fries Suck!

***Disclaimer*** I took this picture but I did NOT write the sign. I don't think Miss June or her lovely husband Mr. Jimmy (owners of this little veggie stand) have a dictionary close by...bless their hearts! It is rutabagas not rutabages

I saw this strange lookin' vegetable at a little road side stand and I thought to myself, WTF is a rutabaga? I bought one for a buck and brought this three pounder home. I did what anyone else would do when trying to figure out how in hell to cook this monster...GOOGLE it. Up came a recipe for Rutabaga Oven diggity! I read through all of the reviews and they got me excited! Here are a few:

*These are so good! Taste like a cross between a potato, sweet potato, and a carrot. 
*These were really really tasty and smelled wonderful cooking.
*I love rutabaga fries. I coat mine with smoked paprika and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I was super jazzed to find a replacement for regular french fries because I am supposed to stay away from nightshades (potato, tomato, peppers, eggplant). I followed the directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Combine rutabaga spears with oil, minced rosemary, garlic, and salt. Toss until evenly coated. Lay rutabaga spears onto a baking sheet, leaving space between for even crisping. Bake until rutabaga fries are cooked through and crisped on the outside, about 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes...I DON'T THINK SO! I ended up having to bake these suckers for over an hour. I also had to keep increasing the heat. I even had my oven on broil trying to attempt to crisp up these "fries". They NEVER got crisp and they ended up tasting like a spear of raw cabbage...NOT A CROSS BETWEEN A POTATO, SWEET POTATO AND A CARROT! Do not...I repeat...DO NOT make rutabaga fries in the oven. They might work fried in oil but I am guessing the taste will still be the same. They leave a bitter funky aftertaste in your mouth. 

I am looking for another recipe for that does not have the words "oven" or "fries" in the title. I want to give this vegetable another chance so let me know if you have a recipe that I can try. I have heard that rutabagas are good in soups and mashed up like potatoes but I am having my doubts. Will your recipe change my mind? I sure hope so.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

BEWARE of the Steaming Wands of Cross Contamination at STARBUCKS!!!

I used to start each day off right by poisoning myself. I put half & half in my hot tea (along with a shit ton of sugar) every single morning for the last twenty years. That was until this past June when I found out that I can't consume dairy. It seems that even trace amounts of it make me ill. I also cannot consume gluten, egg, shellfish or nightshades...I know right...major bummer.  By the grace of Whole Foods and the So Delicious company, I have found a coconut creamer that makes my mornin' tea taste almost the way it used to when I was sucking down the toxic half & half.

Enter into the mix...Starbucks. I usually only order sweetened ice tea but I received a half off coupon for an espresso beveridge. Hot Damn! I would never pay $5.00 for a tall caramel macchiato but for $2.50, let me just throw caution to the wind and go for it. Back in the day (this means before June 2013) when I would walk on the wild side and order a hot chocolate from SB, it would be with regular milk. I had yet to experiment with any other non-dairy product at SB. So when I went to my local SBux's with my coupon, I ordered a SOY caramel macchiato. I was giddy with excitement when the barista handed over my steaming hot cup of caramel heaven. I sucked that bad boy down and went about my merry way. My merry way turned into a mad dash to the bathroom where my intestines got insanely upset with me (this is my polite way of saying I had a blow out). I spent quite a bit of time promising the Food Allergy God's that if I found out what made me so sick, I would never ingest it again and warn others about this devil food/drink.

That freakin' discounted Starbucks drink was the only thing that I had consumed that I did not make at home. I was 20 days into a 30 day challenge of not eating ANYTHING away from home. My food allergies are severe and if I get sick from eating something I am not supposed to, I am sick for days (feels like I have the flu & stomach virus at the same time). I just couldn't believe a shot of espresso and soy milk could have done this damage. I even watched the girl pour the soy milk from the container. Please don't post comments saying "if you have such severe allergies, you shouldn't be eating or drinking anything outside you home". I get it...I knew better...but that GD coupon had me all "ohhh...I could get a soy's not dairy so I SHOULD be fine". Sometimes, I really want to just be normal and enjoy a coffee drink like the rest of our sleep deprived society.

When I was finished with the three days of confinement between my bed and the bathroom, I went on a mission to find out what in that drink had made me so ill. I called Starbucks directly and asked if  their brand of soy milk contained gluten because I know that some soy milks contain barley malt. The customer service agent said that Starbucks could not guarantee that any of their products were 100 % GF but the soy milk did not APPEAR to have any gluten ingredients.

So, I don't think it was something in the drink but what about how it was prepared? I started stalking different Starbucks around my part of town (one in a Target, one in a Harris Teeter and one corporate). More specifically I have been watching the baristas like a hawk (a very beautiful majestic stealthy hawk) and how they make the coffee drinks...especially the steamed ones. Guess what I found out? Sometimes the baristas DO NOT clean the steaming wands in between drinks. They go from a regular (dairy) caramel macchiato straight to a soy caramel machhiato using the exact same wand. It seems my tall soy caramel macchiato most likely was cross contaminated with regular (dairy) milk.

Another thing I learned is that the Starbucks staff can accidentally (or they are just to busy to clean them properly) mix up the pumps for the different syrups. The rumor on the street is that some syrups contain gluten so just be aware of that if you have severe food allergies. You might not want to take a chance on ANY Starbucks drinks except for maybe a cup of coffee with NOTHING in it.

It totally blows my mind how many other people with food allergies might have gotten sick from cross contamination at a Starbucks. I promised the Food Allergy God's that I would warn others about the devil drink that caused me so much agony but it turns out that it was not the drink but the steaming wand that brought me down. Remember this food allergy "buyer beware" tidbit the next time you feel the need for a caffeine fix.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When GLUTEN FREE is not enough. Do you follow a GF diet and still feel sick?

When I was told that I most likely had Celiac Disease and needed to cut out gluten from my diet (13 years ago), I did it COLD TURKEY. I never looked back and I didn't do any research on what else I could have done (testing, supplements etc.) to help me heal. This was a HUGE MISTAKE and if I could do it over again, I would do several thinks differently.

One thing that I didn't do that I regret is not getting an endoscopy and colonoscopy FIRST before I started cutting out the gluten . An endoscopy is when a tube is put down your throat and into the small intestine and tissue samples are taken. The samples can show loss of the villi and other characteristics of Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity. A colonoscopy would have shown any inflammation. It is so important that you get some sort of baseline testing so that you can, a.) see what, if any damage has been done and what steps you can take to heal the damage, b.) in the future see if all of the steps that you took made a difference.
Within weeks of going gluten free I did feel better. I was so sick before I cut gluten out that ANY improvement seemed to be a miracle. And even though I was feeling better, I still was having the same symptoms days, weeks, months and even years later. I was suffering from bloating and fullness after I ate. I was still burping and had major gas constantly. I would have bouts of crazy diarrhea and then full blown constipation. The stomach cramps would send me to the bathroom for hours and the migraines would debilitate me for days. Why was I still feeling this way? It's because I had my GLUTEN FREE BLINDERS on! I was so obsessed with eating gluten free that I failed to recognized that maybe I had other major food allergies or possibly another medical problem. I had already cut out SO MUCH from my diet. I really think I was in denial about how extreme my food allergies really were and that I might be suffering from something else all together. It was just such a major time suck already trying to find things that I could eat, the thought of cutting out anything else was just too overwhelming.

I have suffered many more years of needless agony and caused major damage to my gut because I didn't do an elimination diet of ALL the major allergens FIRST! So, the SECOND thing I would have done differently is make sure to take the food challenge where I would have eliminated the major food allergens (read here for list) out of my diet to find out what else I was allergic too
As it turns out, I found out this past June that I cannot eat dairy or eggs. I finally took the gluten free blinders off and did the full food elimination diet after an abnormal test result (read about that here). I do have other medical complications (an autoimmune type condition) that hinders my overall health and digestion BUT some of the other symptoms have improved greatly (burping, gas, bloating and constipation). It took almost twenty years to get some answers and a diagnosis.

The THIRD mistake that I made was not doing further research into what medical tests were available as well as holistic options. I really thought that cutting out the gluten was enough. Even though I was able to function, my condition still prohibited me from living a normal life. It took thirteen years for me to finally have medical tests done to narrow down my health issues and start taking supplements to heal my body. Now granted, there was very little information available when I first started the gluten free diet but so much has changed since then. There is a plethora of great information out there. There are books, blogs, websites and support groups that deal with Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, food allergies, testing for food allergies, supplements and SO MUCH MORE.

I really have no excuse for why I didn't take the time to research my own health except that I let life get in the way. I tried to band-aid my issues with eating strictly gluten free and it was not enough.
Do not make the same mistakes I did. Make sure before you start a food elimination diet you have diagnostics tests done. Commit to cutting out all of the major food allergens during you elimination diet and be your own health advocate. Read everything you can get your hands on about your health condition (whatever it may be). Be open to alternative therapies such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage and supplements (just to name a few). Most importantly, if you don't feel good and haven't for a long time, do not stick your head in the sand (like I did). Take charge of your health and do the work towards feeling better.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Are My Intestines So Lazy?


Back in June 2013, I had an abnormal test result. The test revealed that I did not digest my food properly. Believe it or not, I was not scheduled to see my doctor again until September. In between the test results and the upcoming appointment, I went on a very specific diet to determine what foods I could and could not eat. Read more about that here: (  I also did extensive research on what specifically I could be diagnosed with. I would love to say that I was totally prepared for what my doctor would tell me but I wasn't. Nothing prepares you for bad news. NO amount of reading, researching, constant self soothing, incessant talking to loved ones or Xanax can make the not-so-great news coming out of my doctor's mouth bearable.

 I finally got to see my doctor in the second week of September. He repeated what I had already known about my test result...that it was abnormal. I had really, really hoped that he would have said that it would be a temporary issue although in my heart I knew he wouldn't. After seventeen years of stomach problems the truth was in the test. My diagnosis was dysautonomia.

 Your autonomic nervous system is made up of nerves that control those “automatic” things you need to do to survive. A few of those necessary things include blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, and digestion of your food. Autonomic dysfunction or dysautonomia refers to problems with this autonomic nervous system.

I have several problems with my autonomic nervous system. The one with the most serious complications is gastroparesis and it involves the digestion of food. Gastroparesis is a condition in which the muscles in your stomach don't function normally. Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through your digestive tract. But with gastroparesis, the muscles in the wall of your stomach work poorly or not at all. This prevents your stomach from emptying properly. Gastroparesis can interfere with digestion, cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, problems with blood sugar levels and nutrition. I also have autoimmune reactions to certain foods and chemicals in certain foods which can cause severe migraines and flu like systems that can last for days.
There is no cure for gastroparesis. Making changes to my diet may help me cope with gastroparesis signs and symptoms, but that's not always enough. Gastroparesis medications may offer some relief, but some can cause serious side effects (permanent involuntary muscular contractions and abnormal postures, heart problems and spontaneous lactation)...I will pass on those meds, thank you very much. My doctor  recommended that I do not even attempt to take any of the drugs because of the high risk of side effects.
 So what's a girl with gastroparesis supposed to do?
  1. Find out what my body will allow me to eat. Currently, I do not eat: wheat, barley, oats, rye, shellfish, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), any dairy or eggs. What do I eat...that's a whole other blog post.
  2. Take supplements that help me digest my food, heal my gut tissue, boost my immune system and relieve the autoimmune symptoms.
  3. Plenty of sleep
  4. Reduce stress level
  5. Try not to freak out about having a non-curable condition (see # 4)
I am trying to stay positive but it is extremely difficult. I just want to cry and pout. Maybe just brood like my pet chickens do. I want to stay in bed for days. I want to scream "not fair" like a pissed off toddler. I want to get drunk on margaritas. I want to run away from all of it. Fight or flight...Fight or flight...Fight or flight.

Life is Short. Eat dessert first! (if you make it for me make sure it's gluten free, dairy free and egg free) ...and never, ever let anyone steal your dreams especially an incurable dysfunctional autonomic nervous system!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Two Weeks of Sorta Kinda Paleo

June, 2013

As I mentioned in my blog post (In Search Of Answers June 2013), I had to go on a very strict elimination diet. I was following what is considered a Paleo diet (meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts). What? Wait a minute...roots and tubers? Never in my life had I consider that some of the food I was already eating was considered roots and/or tubers. Both words did not sound remotely appetizing. I did some research (that means Google) and little did I know that yams, potatoes and sweet potatoes are tubers. Carrots, beets and turnips are root vegetables. Now I go up to perfect strangers and ask them when was the last time they ate a root or a tuber (not really but that would be hilarious to see what answers I would get).
As luck would have it the beginning of this food elimination diet happened to coincide with a road trip. I started on the diet on a Wednesday and the following Sunday I had to drive my son to his college orientation...a four hour drive away. After dropping him off, I was then driving into the mountains to stay for two days. The house is forty-five minutes away from ANY food store.

I'm used to "going without". I have been going without eating a lot of different things (anything containing gluten, shellfish & nightshades). Now I had to find foods that were also free of eggs, dairy AND could go on the road with me. This meant an emergency trip to Whole Foods. After about two hours of label reading and $100 later, I had one bag of food to take with me. I hadn't had a chance to really study the Paleo way of eating so I just had to go with what I could find. I was really happy that I had a Whole Foods in my area because there is no way I could have gotten enough to eat from Food Lion. I had bags of dried fruit, bags of nuts, raw nut & fruit bars, plantain chips, fruit leather (tastes better than in sounds) and raw coconut macaroons. I bought some fresh fruit to get me through the days before the trip (apples, grapes, bananas & oranges).

We left on a Sunday and headed north into the WORST traffic I have ever been in. A trip that was supposed to take four hours took almost seven. I preceded to eat everything I had bought at Whole Foods during those seven hours. At some point we stopped at an Arbies so that my son could eat lunch. Guess what I ate from Arbies...a "naked" baked butter, no sour cream, no cheese...NOTHING! Off their entire menu, a freaking potato was the only thing that wouldn't poison me. This diet was not getting off to a great start but I was determined to stick with it. We arrived at the hotel and I was so hungry, I could have eaten the delicate floral patterned comforter. We ended up in the hotel restaurant and the only thing I could eat from their entire menu was a "naked" bun, no cheese. I did ask if they could add some mushrooms and onions but had to explain in my best Spanish (that means numbers 1-6 and please & thank you) thank I would crap in my pants or barf on the table if anything got cross contaminated. They must have gotten the message from me pointing back and forth from my mouth to my ass because I had no embarrassing reactions.

I was able to make it through the two days at the mountain house by finding an awesome grocery store and stocking up with more gluten free, shellfish free, nightshade free, dairy free and egg free food. The biggest challenge with this diet was that most everything I could eat had to be prepared in some way. I had plenty of "snacks" that I didn't have to do anything to (just reach my hand into the bag) but lunch & dinner was a whole other story. The following week and a half before I could start introducing certain grains (rice, corn & soy) back into my diet I TRIED to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, fish and lots of nuts...more nuts that I have ever eaten in my life. Nuts became my constant companion. I was still working over seventy hours a week so preparing and cooking meals was extremely difficult.

 I had became obsessed with hummus and carrots during the two week elimination diet. The Paleo diet does not allow hummus (chickpeas = hummus and chickpeas are legumes not nuts) but as I stated before, I was trying the diet (Paleo) to determine further food allergies. Since I had been eating hummus without experiencing any funky reactions, I decided that I would keep it in my diet. I realized too late that I was a cheater...thankfully in this case there was no need for a divorce.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Six Letter Dirty Word

Most dirty words are four letters but I beg to differ. The dirty word in my house (actually just between my husband and me) is six letters...H-U-M-M-U-S. The mere mention of that word now makes me tense up. Let me set the record straight, I LOVE HUMMUS. Unfortunately, my husband does not love HUMMUS. We ended up having one of the worst arguments over it. It started with a question my husband asked me as we were lying in bed watching "House Hunters" or "Love It or List It" (I can't remember which). Here is my version:

Husband: How long ago did you eat hummus?

Wife: Why?

Husband: Because I can smell's coming out of your pores.

Wife: You know perfectly well that HUMMUS is one of the few foods that I can actually eat. You have told me at least twice before that you can smell the HUMMUS wafting out of my pores. I try not to eat it if you are going to be around but I was starving earlier in the day and you weren't here. I thought it was safe. (blood pressure and pitch of my voice raised <on a scale of 1-10> to a 5)

Husband: So it was earlier in the day that you ate HUMMUS?
(this is when I realized that my husband was trying to calculate how much longer he was going to have to smell my stinking HUMMUS pores...blood pressure and pitch was now at 8)

Wife: You don't get it do you? (blood pressure and pitch was now an 11+) You have no fu*king idea what it's like to be me. You don't know what it's like to only be able to eat like ten things without becoming ill. You sit there and stuff your face with whatever the hell you want and never think twice about me.

Husband: Let me just say to you that I will NEVER, EVER mention that six letter word me on that!

Wife: WHAT??? That's all you have to say to me...that you won't ask me if I ate HUMMUS? This is so much more than that and you know it!

Husband: Whoa...wait a minute...this isn't just about me saying that you reek for days after you eat HUMMUS?

This argument is when I knew I needed to start my "Food Allergy Extraordinaire" blog again. It really wasn't about the hummus. It was about feeling alone inside of my own head. If you don't have a chronic illness then you have no idea what it is like dealing with a body that is not cooperating. You have no idea what it is like to feel "less than" or "damaged". My husband is a pretty healthy guy. He can eat whatever he wants. We have been married nineteen years and as much as I know he loves me, even he doesn't really know what its like to be me.

I have been trying for the last three months to get back on here but I kept thinking that I needed to start from the very beginning of my trip down "the chronic illness from hell" road. This would mean going back over 17 years when I first got extremely ill. When I was down to eighty-five pounds and so sick I had to sleep sitting on the couch with my knees to my chin (think of a sitting fetal position) for months. I will get to all of that in future posts but for now I just need to write about what I have been through. Sometimes it helps to let it all out. Maybe my journey will sound familiar and you learn something that helps you. Maybe you have been through some of the same things and you can help me. In any case, I glad your here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Seventeen Year Stomach Ache and The Search For Answer

Please note that I started this blog back in June 2013 but was unable to finish writing and publish this blog post until now...October 2013. Most of you know that many, many things have changed since June of this year and I am now trying to catch you up on what has been going on. I am sick and this is my personal blog about the road to my physical, spiritual and emotional recovery. I am opening my heart to you. Letting you into my "heartspace" means that I will be showing you my vulnerable side. I am willing to share my life with you because my hope is to help others. If anything I write/post/blog about helps you or someone you know, it will be so very worth it. I hope you choose to walk beside me as I walk into the arena.

"Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don't exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be--a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation--with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly." -passage from Brene Brown's new book, Daring Greatly.

 Join me as I choice a life of daring greatly.
 June 2013

I don't even know where to begin. There is so much history. I have not felt good in over seventeen years. It has always been my stomach...always. Twelve years ago I started eating gluten free. Three years ago I stopped eating shellfish. Six months ago I stopped eating nightshades (potato, tomato, eggplant & peppers). Now I must stop eating dairy, eggs and all grains. I already do not eat wheat, barley, oats and rye. Now I have cut out corn, rice, soy etc. I will be eating what is considered Paleo (Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts). Why on earth would I do this to myself? It is the last piece of the puzzle in terms of figuring out what foods I am eating that are still making me so sick. I am trying the elimination diet where you cut out the major allergens. It takes a couple of weeks (at least two) to clean out your system.

I am starting this Paleo/Elimination diet because of an abnormal test result. I had to go through a test were I drink a small amount of radioactive water and then my stomach is scanned for forty-five minutes. A normal stomach will empty half the water into the intestines in thirty minutes. I never thought in a million years that the test would come back abnormal. All the other tests I have had came back normal (endoscopy, colonoscopy & blood work). I would explain to people that after I would seemed to just sit in my stomach until I would start to feel toxic. It turns out, that is exactly what was happening to me. My stomach does not digest solids and liquids properly. There are NOT a lot of options to fix my problem. The medical approach is a DRUG I take forever, a feeding tube or a stomach pacemaker. The holistic approach is a VERY SPECIFIC diet, nutritional supplements and cutting out as much stress in your life as possible. I am choosing the holistic approach which will require me to change A LOT of things in my life. I don't feel like I have a choice right now. I don't want to keep living a life of not feeling good.

So...what is Paleo? Some people call it a cult and other people call it "a diet". There is a very large group of people who consider it a "lifestyle" that goes beyond food. You can google the term Paleo and find out WAY MORE information than I want to personally write about in this post. Here is a link to one of the top experts on Paleo lifestyle. I originally learned about Paleo from a gluten free forum. People kept posting about how crazy the Paleo crowd was. Not only were they very harsh to non-Paleo's but would even turn on there fellow Paleo devotees. There was lots of talk about what food is considered true Paleo ( green beans?) and at what degree of a loser you are if you cheat and actually eat a potato. Getting past all of the controversy, what I did notice (that was very positive) from my research is that Paleo = gluten free. I didn't start on the Paleo diet when I first read about it but I kept it in the back of my brain.

I found out about the abnormal test result around noon on June 19th. I walked out of the hospital with the results in my hand and immediately immersed myself in the very restrictive diet. The next step was to get the appropriate foods into my fridge and pantry. So that meant I needed to stock up on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts & seeds and healthy fats. I have to avoid eating dairy, all grains, processed foods & sugars, legumes, starches and alcohol. The Paleo diet allows you to eat eggs but since I am trying this diet to determine what additional food allergies I have, I am cutting those out too. I have to avoid all the items listed above along with all the other foods I have already cut out.

Let me just say that I am used to only being able to eat certain things but this elimination diet takes my already limited menu to a whole new (restrictive) level. I have learned to live without being able to eat so many different foods in the last twelve years. Somethings are easy to give up while others...not so much. Now I have to give up one of my FAVORITE things in the whole world...CHEESE! Alas, I will morn the death of smoked Gouda, fresh mozzarella, crumbly Mexican cheese and even Kraft "cheese food" slices. It's a sad day in my refrigerator.