Tag Archive | food allergies

Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part II

Allergies word cloud

Three months after my food allergies were identified; I learned to live a life free of: apples, almonds, bananas, corn, all dairy including butter, all grains except rice, potatoes and soy.   Although I had made these changes, I didn’t learn about them in time for it to make a difference in my pregnancy. There I was, back in the office of Dr. M, my Naturopath, the doctor who had helped me identify my food allergies and MTHFR genetic mutations, copies A&C.

Though I was no longer pregnant, I was more determined than ever to get healthy enough to conceive again. In fact, the thought of having a baby to hold was what got me through most days.

I won’t say that I was excited about getting my results. I spent most days surrounded in a cloud of grief, my body still bleeding as my levels of HCG, the pregnancy hormone, declined.

At the follow up appointment, I was ready for the results of all my hard work.   Dr. M asked if I stuck to my diet. I replied I had, with the occasional unknown exception. I was bracing myself for bad news. I thought it hadn’t worked, I thought my efforts had left my values unchanged. I was surprised when Dr. M revealed the results.

proud-woman-in-red

“Your results certainly show you’ve been working hard. You’ve done as much in three months as some of my patients do in a year!”

I was so happy to hear something was working!

Although I was overwhelmed with grief from the loss of our child, this good news gave me hope that we might be able to conceive again one day.

It was two and a half months after our loss; and yet, my HCG levels had not yet hit zero; and so we were not allowed to try to conceive. Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, suggested we wait three months after my levels hit zero to avoid having sequential miscarriages. The idea of going through another loss was something I couldn’t even handle thinking about! After a D&C we waited three months before we even considered trying.

couple grieving

Those three months were a time of healing for us. We cried a lot. Sometimes we walked around as empty shells that just went through the motions of everyday life. We didn’t feel much other than pain. We did the best we could to put one foot in front of the other. Thank God, we had each other! I can honestly say I would not have made it through this time without the support of my amazing husband, Frank.

Just as we were getting ready to try again, I received a letter from Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, telling me he was closing his practice to help other doctors learn to treat patients with the respect and kindness for which he is famous.

I was devastated, again! There I was, about to get back on the TTC roller coaster, and my doctor was getting out of the NaProTechnology business!!! It was one of those moments that made me question my journey in life and whether I was following God’s plan for me or walking the path of my own desires and wants. I quickly reminded myself that while I am strong willed; I am not patient. The only reason I could have ever stuck on the TTC roller coaster after IUI, surgery for endometriosis, and a miscarriage would be because God was with me, giving me the strength to take each step down this path. I reminded myself of something I said to my dear friend, Jordan, a few weeks before she conceived her miracle baby: “God wouldn’t have gotten us this far, only to leave us here.” I wasn’t going to quit.

Still, I had a problem. I needed a new doctor. Thankfully, Dr. C had included a list of possible new NaProTechnology doctors in his farewell letter. I made an appointment for August and called Dr. C to request lab work. He authorized estradiol and progesterone levels to be drawn on peak plus 7, what we NaPro patients call 7 days after ovulation.

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

If you’re uncertain as to why my doctor ordered estradiol and progesterone levels, the short explanation is that based on those levels NaProTechnology doctors prescribe doses of ovulation assisting medications such as letrozole, to help compensate for any ovarian dysfunction. I was unable to conceive without this medication the first time, so I was fairly certain I would need to take the medication again.

The results of the estradiol and progesterone tests were very surprising. While I was previously unable to conceive without the assistance of medication, the initial peak plus seven blood draw showed that I wasn’t having this difficulty eight months after miscarriage. My post peak estradiol was 249 and my progesterone was 28.4. I was stunned. The test results showed my levels were above normal, they had reached the optimum range for conception. Other than my vitamins, I was taking no medications.

To put this in perspective, to conceive, the post peak level of estradiol should be above 120 and progesterone should be above 15. I had gone from sub-fertile to fertile!

My husband, Frank, and I were over joyed. It appeared that it would only be a matter of time before we conceived! We followed doctor’s orders, taking the vitamins, and mucus enhancers to compensate for the damage done to my cervix by years of birth control.

Month after month my peak plus seven blood draws continued to be in the optimum range. And yet we had not conceived. At my first appointment with my new NaProTechnology physician, Dr. R flat out asked why I was there with numbers like those.

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.