Tag Archive | allergy

Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part I

It’s almost a year after we conceived and our lives are forever changed. How could they not be? In one moment we were given everything we ever wanted, only to lose it a few weeks later. The weeks which followed our miscarriage were filled with the most raw, indescribable pain we had ever experienced. There was nothing we could do, we just held on while my body went through the process of losing our child. We were hopeful that things would happen naturally and at least I’d be able to avoid surgery. That was not to be. My body took forever for my HCG levels to decline. I ended up in surgery almost four months after the loss had begun.

couple grieving

Shortly before I learned I was pregnant I made an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor to investigate food allergies. Thanks to Dr. C, my first NaProTechnology doctor, I knew that I had a grain allergy; however I was suspicious that there might be other allergies which were keeping us from conceiving.

By the time of my first appointment, I was already pregnant. It was Christmas time, and we had received the best Christmas gift ever! There was nothing else would could ask for!

My appointment happened to be on Christmas Eve day, I went with the thought that good nutrition would be important during my pregnancy and whatever knowledge she gave me would make my pregnancy a healthier one.

At the appointment, my Naturopath, Dr. M, explained that there were two types of allergies: IgE allergies, the kind that result in anaphylaxis; and IgG allergies which are sensitivities and cause a high amount of inflammation in the body. When there’s inflammation in the body, conception can’t happen since reproduction is the first thing the body shuts down when it’s in distress.

She explained that by identifying the food allergies and removing them from my diet, my pregnancy would be easier, and my baby would be healthier. That was enough for me! My husband, Frank, and I had tried to conceive for almost three years; there was nothing that I would not do to ensure we had a successful pregnancy.

Pregnant woman rubbing her belly

I was a bit surprised to learn that there wasn’t any different in what she had planned for me than had I not been pregnant.  I still had to do the blood draws, identify the allergens, then return in two weeks to get the results and make a plan to get healthy. We celebrated Christmas and rejoiced in knowing that we would soon be parents. I ate even more than usual at Christmas dinner; as I wasn’t sure which foods would be off my plate after my allergy tests results came in.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­ Before I ever thought of visiting a Naturopath; I learned that I had an allergy to grains during my first visit with my NaProTechnology doctor in October of 2011. At first I wasn’t very sure about that, but since I had gained 24 pounds in a year, and no other doctor or nutritionist could explain why, I figured I might as well try to get grains out of my diet and see what happened.

It was hard, but I lost ten pounds, and found more energy than I’d had in a while.

Even though I had eliminated all grains from my diet, I still hadn’t lost the 24lbs of weight which I gained without any dietary changes. Deep down I wondered if I had missed something.

Since my, friend, mentor, and NaProTechnology sister: Jordan, conceived her baby after working with a naturopath, I figured it was one more thing I could at least cross off the list. If it worked, our prayers would be answered; and if not, we would know that we had done absolutely everything possible to make conception happen.

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 long list

After the New Year, my Naturopath presented me with the list of foods my body was reacting to; and I nearly hit the floor! I had been eating these foods forever! Because grains had already been eliminated from my diet, I was relying more heavily on other foods, and boy did my allergy results show it!

When a person is not allergic to a particular food, their sensitivity results will be below 2.0, any result above 2.0 indicates an allergy which is causing an inflammatory response.

My test results showed that I was allergic to:

  • Apples
  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Corn
  • Casein (the protein in dairy—good by cheese and butter!)
  • Egg whites
  • All grains except rice & barley (no wheat, no oats, no sorghum, no amaranth, quinoa, teff, or any other grains)
  • Potatoes
  • Soy

After the doctor scraped me off the floor, I didn’t know what to say. How could I be allergic to these foods and not know it?

Dr. M had also done another test, CRP, which showed that the high levels of inflammation in my body were actually putting me at a higher than average risk of a heart attack.  I also learned I had a genetic mutation which needed to be treated through diet and supplements.  I have two copies of the MTHFR mutation, one A and the other C.  Dr. M explained that my healthy habits of exercising 3x per week, and abstaining from all grains had helped us to get pregnant despite these defects.  But there were still some effects of these mutations, such as constant fatigue, which I did not have under control.

There was no way that I was going to stand for all that, I was going to learn to live without those foods and take the supplements she prescribed no matter what! After discussing my already grain free diet with Dr. M, I explained that I had already developed my own recipe for grain free bread, and that eating it made me feel normal. Although it contained eggs, she gave me permission to continue eating it if that was my one and only cheat.

She explained that my health would not improve over night, but by  following her treatment plan, we would decrease our chances of miscarriage, and increase our chances of having a healthy baby.

Grain Free Thanksgiving 2013

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in.  Between the infertility and my grain free lifestyle, gatherings of any type can be summed up in one word: awkward!  This past Thanksgiving is a great example.  We went to my mother’s house for dinner.  It’s our annual holiday there and for reasons that can be addressed in another post, we don’t play “holiday hopscotch,” bouncing from one location to the next.

couple in car

I have an allergy to grains, so I made sure to review the menu with her before our arrival. Specifically, I cannot eat: wheat, rice, oats, corn, or any corn products such as corn syrup and corn syrup solids, barley, quinoa, wild rice, sorghum, teff, and all other grains.  Eating even small amounts of these foods causes me to become ill with a stomach ache that I can only equate to the cramps one gets with the flu.  The one exception to this is white flour.  If I accidentally ingest a small amount of white flour, I don’t get the full blown reaction.   White flour is highly refined and so dissimilar from whole grain wheat, I only get a bloated belly, gain a pound, and the stomach ache goes away within a day.

confused cook

Let me be clear, I know my dietary needs are difficult for the average host to manage, that’s why I take such care to review my allergies with them and ask what I can bring to help with the meal.  If I’m lucky, my host will understand or be somewhat sympathetic, he or she will laugh a bit when I explain that the five staples of my diet are: meat, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, and wine.  From there, we usually problem solve a bit and arrive at a menu which all can enjoy.  I ask that he or she make a vegetable that I can have, and usually I bring a bread, a salad, and or a dessert that is grain free but can be enjoyed by all.

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chcolate chip cookie bars

This was not how Thanksgiving went!  My mother was very offended when I asked to review the menu with her.  I explained that I was aware that she’d be making stuffing, but that over the past year or so I’ve found grains lurking in the strangest places and so I have to be aware of what I’m eating.  We figured I could eat the turkey but not the stuffing. I asked about the sweet potatoes she makes with a maple syrup glaze which used to be my favorite.   Her maple syrup had a corn syrup base and she wasn’t interested in using organic syrup in its place, instead she said she’d make me a baked sweet potato.  This is like watching your friends eat chocolate while you eat a chocolate flavored rice cake, it’s torture.  The rest of the meal was pretty much out as well, her cranberry sauce contained corn syrup, and once again, she wasn’t interested in purchasing or making an all-natural alternative.   We went over the appetizers; there wouldn’t be any of those that I could eat, and same with the desserts.  She wasn’t serving soup, and our conversation ended with her telling me, “I don’t know what you can eat besides the turkey and the canned vegetables, bring whatever you’d like, don’t bring too much because no one else will be interested in eating that stuff.”

question marks

Whether I’m cooking grain free or not, my food is always devoured by all.  Typically, I bring a potato skin casserole, a dessert, and maybe a soup if I’m feeling adventurous.  I’ve served grain free versions of these to grain lovers and received accolades, there’s no reason to assume that people wouldn’t enjoy them.  Rather, I think she was upset that I wouldn’t be eating her food.  Someday, I will be able to explain that my grain free diet is not a choice, but a must in my life; as for now, it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

I decided that I’d bring the foods that I needed to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.  That meant: soup, roasted carrots, my usual potato skin casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, grain free chocolate chip bars, and grain free stuffing.  I found some grain free crackers on vitacost and brought those along with me as well so I could at least enjoy the cheese plate while others were feasting on stuffed mushrooms, and all other kinds of grain based goodness.

Thanksgiving table

So, after appetizers, it was straight to the meal. There were no courses; it was everyone grab everything you want and eat quickly so we can get this cleaned up.  I’m my mother’s only child, I’m the extra set of hands to follower her around and assist as needed.  In particular, I was in charge of setting up the buffet .  We squeezed all the food we could onto the sideboard table.  Of course, there wasn’t any room for my food, which was relegated to the kitchen, and remained in the mini slow cookers I had brought it in.  As everyone served themselves from the buffet, I went into the kitchen and helped myself to the grain free goodness which I prepared.  Low and behold, a line of guests followed me to enjoy the soup, cranberry sauce, and carrots that my mother said no one would want to eat.  I can’t blame the guests for not touching the stuffing, it’s not perfected yet, but it was something. On my way back to the table, I also stopped at the buffet table and took some turkey and some butternut squash, which I was assured was safe.

Mid-way through the meal, I felt uncomfortable. Could it have been because we sat down to eat everything at once and I’m not accustomed to eating so much food so quickly?

dishes

I continued to eat my meal, and helped with the cleanup.  When the meal had been cleared and packed away, it was time for dessert, and I still wasn’t feeling well.  I sipped coffee and nibbled at my grain free chocolate chip bars which the grain lovers raved over.  I still didn’t feel well, but I figured my emotions had kicked and the crumby feeling in my stomach had quite a bit to do with the crumby way I’d been treated that day.

Dinner ended.  We were thrilled to go home, our obligatory holiday at mom’s now crossed off the list for another year.  We took care of our fur babies and went off to bed.  In the middle of the night, I awoke with a terrible stomach ache, the one that lets me know I’ve inadvertently eaten corn.  I had the nasty stomach ache, the obnoxious gas that goes along with it, and of course the bloated abdomen that is often called a “grain baby”.  Somehow, despite being so careful with all that I ate and only eating my foods, turkey, a sweet potato, and butternut squash, I had ingested corn and my body was mad!

 

 

It was a rough night.  In the morning, the symptoms were in full swing.  Typically, when I ingest corn, no matter how much, my body experiences discomfort for about four days.   There’s nothing I can do about this.  I just have to drink plenty of water and let my body do what it does.  I did however call my mother and try to determine the source of the corn.  She made no apologies for the illness I was experiencing and was adamant that the foods I had eaten did not contain corn.  I had to disagree with her. I’ve made a fair amount of mistakes with my grain allergy, and I’m familiar with how my body reacts to wheat, rice, and corn, the grains which are most commonly included in foods that one would assume are grain free.

I thought perhaps she had put some maple syrup in the butternut squash, she hadn’t.  I asked if she had cooked the sweet potato in the same baking dish she used for the potatoes candied with maple syrup, she had not.  I was not giving up. I know how my body reacts to corn and this was a corn reaction.

wheat belly

While I was out mom called and left a message, saying that it must have been trace amounts of wheat from the stuffing in the turkey broth which I used to make my gravy.  No way, I only bloat and gain weight from wheat, I do not awaken in the middle of the night with pain.

corn II

I returned my mother’s call and explained that the wheat in the stuffing was a good thought; however, this was a corn reaction without a doubt.  She was adamant that she did not use corn or any corn products in the stuffing.  We reviewed the ingredients list and found the culprit.  She had used sweet Italian sausage in the stuffing.  She couldn’t say that it was all natural or organic, and every sweet sausage I’ve ever found that wasn’t all natural or organic has contained corn syrup solids or corn syrup.

sausage

Since it was a day after Thanksgiving she asked if I was “better” now.  I explained that it was going to be at least four days before anything close to better happened.  I’m not sure what we’re doing for Thanksgiving next year, but I know I wish that I had made her give me an ingredients list for everything she was making that day!  I could have avoided the pain, sleeplessness, and the four pounds I gained from the small amount of corn in the gravy and the turkey.

Grain Free Cheeseburger Pie

IMG_0522[1]My goal as an amateur grain free chef is to create meals that don’t taste like they’re grain free and can be enjoyed without guilt!  I’ve made cheeseburger pie for my husband and friends many times.  Each time it’s served, it’s admired first for its appearance and then for its taste!

This recipe is an adaptation of a dish a friend’s mother used to make for us when we were young girls.  All we needed was cheeseburger pie, movies, the remote, and life was pretty good.

Eating a grain free diet means lots of veggies, and sometimes, not a lot of fun.   But every once in a while, we need comfort food!  The ooey, gooey, bubbly, creamy taste of cheese is something that can’t be beat.  This recipe is a grain free version of the amazing gooey goodness my friend’s mom made years ago, and goes together in less than an hour from start to finish.  If you’re looking to save time, the ground beef can be cooked, frozen, and thawed when needed.

1lb ground beef/turkey
1c shredded cheddar cheese
1c my grain free flour blend A
1/2 onion chopped
2 eggs
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard
2Tablespoons relish
1 cup milk
1tsp baking powder

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Sauté onion and ground beef until no longer pink. Transfer to a deep pie plate or casserole, stir in condiments, and 1/2 cup cheese.  In a small mixing bowl mix flour and baking powder.  Scramble eggs and milk and mix into dry ingredients.  Mix well and pour on top of ground beef.  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.

Waking up from surgery

I enjoyed a nice long nap during which my surgeon removed the endometriosis that was strangling me from the inside.  I awoke to a blurred image of my surgeon telling me that I had stage I/II endometriosis and that it was wrapped around my blury docovaries, tubes, colon, and intestines.  I was pretty woozy and it felt as if I were dreaming.  After an hour or so, the nurses decided I was ready to head up to the same day surgery recovery unit and asked if I had any food allergies before they ordered my meal ( I was not allowed to eat anything after lunch the day before and I was pretty hungry).  I tried to explain that I have an allergy to grains and soy, but I don’t think I was very articulate as I was still a bit woozy from the anesthesia.

The nurse thought I said I had a gluten allergy, so I tried to explain that gluten is the protein in wheat and that while I have a gluten allergy, I’m also allergic to the proteins in all grains including those in corn.  Looking back on this, I probably sounded like a drunken nutrition professor as I tried to explain it all.  The nurse and I weren’t able to work it out so she decided  the nurse in the recovery unit could deal with this and sent me upstairs.  At least I got some ice before they sent me up.

In the same day surgery recovery unit, I was blessed to have the best nurse ever, Marlene.  The transport up to the same day nurse & patientsurgery recovery unit made me a bit nauseous, so when Marlene asked if I wanted to eat, I refused because of nausea.  Marlene wasn’t having that.  Within a minute she had some anti-nausea meds in my IV and within 5 minutes I was hungry.

Like the nurses in the recovery room, Marlene asked if I had any food allergies.  This time I was able to explain myself much better.  Marlene understood, but she had some difficulty explaining it to the folks in the kitchen.  Finally, she gave up and went down to the kitchen herself.  When she returned, she brought chicken, green beans, broth, and potatoes.  She was a God send.  After she brought me dinner, she helped me dress and got me on my feet.

After I was up and walking for a few hours and had passed all the usual bench marks for discharge, we headed back to our hotel.   After covering my incisions with gauze, I went right to sleep.  The next day, I awoke without eyelids, okay not really.  Because of all the IV fluids, I was swollen and bloated beyond belief and truthfully, you couldn’t see my eyelids they were hidden inside my puffy face.

In addition to being puffy from fluid my body was bloated with the gas they injected into my abdomen.  The gas moved around and it was a bit painful.  Thankfully, included in my post-operative instructions were some hints on dealing with the pain from the gas they injected into my abdomen.  The paperwork suggested that drinking tea and walking around would help the gas stay in my abdomen.   Well, I drank tea like no one ever had before.  In those first 24 hours I must have drank at least 14 cups of tea and walked 5 miles around my hotel room.  It worked; the IV fluid made its way through my body quickly, the gas stayed put and within 36 hours it was gone.  Truthfully my first 48 hours after surgery couldn’t have gone better.