Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Food, New Life: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free

So at the end of last year I noticed that little by little my quality of life had started deteriorating over the last couple years.  At first my allergies went out of control manifesting themselves in strange new ways that made me feel hopelessly out of energy and on the verge of narcoleptic. I would sleep for hours on end and still wake up feeling exhausted.  On the rare occasion I had energy an activity as little as doing the dishes caused me to seek my bed again.  After I learned of my allergies I spent a fortune on allergy medication, encasements for all my bedding, an air purifier and HEPA vacuum and vigilantly washed my bedding in hot water once a week in hopes that my allergies would improve.  The allergy medication helped immediately.  I felt functional again but not good.  On my best days my energy level was an 8/10 but I always felt like I had a fog over my mind and my quality of life.

Since my body was so occupied fighting my allergies my immune system became weaker and my ability to fight off viruses and infection became way below normal.  And again I added more medication to the routine but I often felt like I was fighting a war against my body.  Arcade Fire's song title "My Body is a Cage" felt all too real to me.

I've been lactose intolerant for years but my digestion started to get worse no matter how many Lactaid pills I popped, it didn't seem to be enough.  I feel like for as long a I could remember feeling bloated and uncomfortable was normal and I thought I was like everyone else and I began to wonder if it was something else besides dairy that was making my stomach upset.  First my blame went to cabbage, then chick peas and broccoli and part of me suspected gluten but I was unsure and partly in denial.

Finally I started thinking that maybe what I felt wasn't normal and having to pop multiple pills a day for various ailments wasn't natural.  What would the long terms effects of all these drugs do to me?  Finally I decided to do something about it and take my life back into control.  I was sick of only treating the symptoms and wanted to get to the root cause so I went to a Naturopathic Doctor.  I learned that while I can't control my external allergens, my internal allergens could be controlled by watching what I put into my body.

After a 96-Food Panel blood test against the most common allergens/foods I learned a lot about what I needed to avoid.  Turns out a lot of foods have been causing my body to freak out but the major ones were gluten, dairy and eggs.  I also had to eliminate cranberries and almonds in addition to reducing tomatoes, soy and garlic.  I think it's the foods on the reduce list that make me possibly the saddest, but since they are not for the eliminate list - I am trying to not use them in my personal cooking but if they happen to be in food I eat while I'm out, I'll live with that.

I felt relief knowing that perhaps there is an answer to how my body was feeling and although I love food, I've learned as my friend Karen says, "Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels". So instead of focusing on all that I couldn't have I try to focus on what I still can have and I view everything else as poison.  Maybe it sounds drastic but in order to make my quality of life and health a priority, drastic measures were needed.

Armed with a list from my naturopathic doctor I hit the grocery stores determined that food will still be enjoyable, delicious and healthy.  Fortunately thanks to the support of many friends who are also gluten-free, I've been figuring things out.

It's only been 1.5 months and I haven't gone hungry yet.  Surprisingly, I can feel the difference already.  My immune system is stronger, my mind is clearer, my body seems to bounce back better and digestion is in a place that I never remembered or knew that it could be.  Although I may be able to re-introduce some foods to my diet, I feel so good lately that I'm not sure I'll want to - although may have to add back garlic and tomatoes in full force one day!

Anyways here is one of my fave recipes for breakfast that I've modified for Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal with Toasted Pecans.
Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal with Toasted Pecans

Recipe adapted from Nourish Network to be Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free:
1 Cup of Gluten-Free Steel Cut Oats - I used Bob's Red Mill + water to cook it.
1 cup canned pumpkin (half a 15 ounce can)
1/2 cup rice/coconut milk
3 tablespoons brown sugar (Reduce or use agave if too sweet for your taste)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon allspice)
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and crumbled (optional)

Boil water and cook 1 cup of GF steel cut oats according to the directions on the package.  Add pumpkin, rice/coconut milk, sugar, spices to the pot.  Combine into oatmeal stirring until thoroughly heated through - maybe 5 minutes or so.  Serve with some toasted pecans on top and enjoy!  It's almost like eating pumpkin pie in a bowl for breakfast!


shana said...

I'm glad you are feeling better!

susan said...

You should check out! I just started looking because I'm going on a low carb diet, and she has a bunch of great recipes with no gluten. Some might still need adjustment for your needs, but could be some good ideas!

Erin said...

Awesome! Thanks for your suggestion Susan I will definitely check it out :-)

Shelly said...

looks yummy!

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