First off, I want to say thank you for everyone who participated in my poll last week! It’s always interesting to hear what people really want to read about, and it seems that there’s a big interest in nutrition and food related posts. Since I don’t want this blog to be all about nutrition though, I think what I would like to do is try to get in at least one nutrition/food based post and at least one strength training/fitness per week. Sound good? Mmmmkay.
Today I want to talk a little bit about everybody’s favorite topic: food intolerances and GI issues.
I have had a number of GI issues and trouble with food for the past several years. I can remember exactly the day that it began, which is really quite strange. I started feeling sick after a dinner of salmon and quinoa one night (about 5 years ago), and my stomach has not been the same since. Coincidence? Possibly, but that doesn’t really matter. Whether it was something in that meal that triggered it, or just bad timing, that’s when it began.
The truth is, I went through a myriad of medical tests for about a year, including a colonoscopy (otherwise known as the worst day of my life), CT scans, blood testing, stool (ahem) sample testing, elimination diet, etc. only to come up with a diagnosis of… nothing. I was finally told it was probably just IBS, which is really just a diagnosis of exclusion when they can’t find anything else.
The worst part of this was the frustration of not knowing what the heck was all of a sudden going on with my body. My doctors went through several differential diagnoses, ranging from Celiac to parasites, but nothing came up positive. The elimination diet didn’t really tell me anything except that tons of gluten/wheat makes me feel like crap, but that a little bit is ok. Also, glasses of milk aren’t great, but greek yogurt and most cheeses are fine (lower lactose content). This has meant a simple and delicious switch to almond milk, and eating far less bread products. Easy peasy.
Over the years though, through the use of a food journal on and off, and some serious detective work on my own part, I’ve figured out certain foods that make me feel not so great. On this list currently are apples (with their peels), grapes, quinoa, and beer. (Yes, beer…. and it’s not a hangover I’m talking about with this one). It’s a weird list, but it’s true.
I actually recently realized that I have been absent mindedly sabotaging myself over the past couple of years. Although I’ve been careful to avoid all four of the things mentioned above (unless the apples are peeled, then I’m fine), I recently just gave in and had an apple, because I really love them and I had missed them. That apple turned into an apple almost every day for about a month, just because. And no, of course I didn’t bother peeling them. You can imagine that I haven’t been feeling too great lately, huh?
But then something happened. There were a few days in a row where I didn’t have any apples, and I also didn’t have my usual breakfast of a yogurt bowl (with PB, banana, raisins and cinnamon).
On those few days, I felt excellent. Better than I have on consecutive days in the past couple of years (seriously).
Did you catch the seemingly obvious ingredient in my usual yogurt-bowl breakfast? Raisins. I’ve been eating raisins almost every single day in my breakfast for at least 2 or three years. Before I was putting them in yogurt, I was putting them in cereal.
What are raisins? Grapes, of course. Of course I know that raisins are grapes, but for some reason I just haven’t thought about it, and never connected it in my head. I think I just figured that a few wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I’ve been eating foods that I know irritate me every. single. day. No wonder I’ve felt like crap by the afternoon, by the time my body has some time to try and digest them!
There were actually a few days where I thought it might be the peanut butter that was causing all of this irritation, and took it out of my diet completely for two weeks. Those were some dark, dark days.
So anyway, I haven’t had raisins (or apples) for a couple weeks now and I’ve really been feeling relatively great. (Surprise, surprise!) I still don’t feel perfect all of the time, and I know that I still have some sensitivities that I need to figure out, based on my stomach’s reaction to a few recent meals. I have a feeling it has something to do with fruits and veggies with edible peels (apples, grapes, pears? eggplant possibly?), but again, this is just a hypothesis based on what I already know.
My long winded point is this: some may have some cut-and-dry food sensitivities such as dairy, eggs, gluten, etc. But we are not all cut from the same cloth, and we certainly don’t all react to foods in the same way. There is no diet out there that tells you to avoid apples, grapes, quinoa, and beer, but I know that that works for me. It is well worth your time to figure out what works for you as an individual, even if it takes you years to do so. Don’t avoid certain foods just because others do, and don’t keep eating certain foods when they make you feel crappy, just because others say that it is “ok”.
Take other people out of the equation, and listen to yourself. Listen to your gut, literally, and it will thank you.
Readers: Do you have any food sensitivities that seem strange to you? Do you ever knowingly eat foods that you know you are sensitive to just because you really want it? Have you ever followed an elimination diet?