You Can’t Eat What?

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?

11 thoughts on “You Can’t Eat What?

  1. Artichokes. Too much wheat, especially whole wheat. Butternut squash (and maybe all winter squashes). Whole broccoli florets. Red wine. Beer. Most beans.

    My list seems to be fructan-based, mostly, though it’s not ALL fructans for me. And I suspect apples are an issue (I’ve never tried peeling them), but I don’t eat them enough to worry about it.

    After I did some more testing this year (endoscopy, breath tests, more elimination diets), I just decided I was done with trying to slap a diagnosis on this. It would be easier, yes, but I can live with just knowing which foods to avoid.

  2. I only started noticing it after coming back from Afghanistan, during my deployment I blamed it on DFAC food, but once home? And I kept having bubbly belly by lunch?  I knew something was up.  I ate oatmeal every morning, I love it.  Recently I embarked on a 30 day green smoothie challenge and replaced my beloved cereal in the morning.  It only took a few days to realize – something was missing.  My bubbly stomach.  Out with the oatmeal.  I had a sandwich for lunch, whole wheat subway 6 inch with oil & vinegar.  I hadn’t had one in a while and was tired of salads.  Bubbly stomach all afternoon.  It seems to be wheats, but not all.  I can have beer 😉  But wine? Wine disturbs my sleep – I think its the sugars?  Even in a dry red there are sugars.  I’m slowly trying to realize what foods cause what reactions.  My mom has serious sugar issues which makes me wonder as I grow older what may change up.

  3. Extremely interesting, A personal explanation nicely written with common sense and tact.
    “We” are different: I eat everything I’m hungry for- I listen to what my body tells me. Apple peels are hard to digest – chew them more. So you never woulda guessed it’s this simple?
    Note : Azithromycin will unbalance you if you need it to get rid of a three month cough, and you will tend to digest your own lower GI. Do the checks you need ? Probiotic might work wonders for you.
    Too much of anything- vitamins – vitamin enhanced cereal – back off a little.
    Just a little more spinach or kale– amazing what it does to your eye exam retina color / health.

  4. I am glad you’re feeling better and doing what you’ve found what works best for you! I’m not so sure I could call it a diet since I wasn’t having “issues” but I pulled sodas first then a majority of processed foods and it makes an incredible difference! I have more energy, more everything really!! I hope your success continues!

  5. I actually have crazy sensitivities to fruit as well. However, my sensitivities manifest into urticaria and not digestive problems :/ I also used to wonder why I didn’t enjoy juicing or making healthy smoothies as much as other people did. I realized that consuming fruits = consuming too much sugar for me, personally, and I actually feel better consuming a lot of candy versus eating fruits. I know they are supposed to be good for me, but I definitely limit my intake. When you are trying to be healthy, it seems like a good idea to grab a fruit for every snack. Guess it’s not always the case. And beer-beer is awful as well! No matter how much I love it!
    Anyhow, I know you’re trying to say we need to pay attention to our own bodies, but sometimes paying attention to other people’s experiences can be insightful. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Fantastic post. Thanks for the honesty about your own issues. It makes me feel a bit more normal. 🙂

  7. Some foods used to make me ill to the point of diarrhea and throwing up (i.e. corn and red beans) but the impacts have become tamer as I grew older. I would sometimes take a medication before eating these things to help me digest them, but some other times I’d just get sick and not complain because I know I’ve done it to myself.

  8. OMG YOU AND I ARE THE SAME! I have SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many digestive issues. I cannot eat anything. It’s crazy! I mean, I do not have a large intestine so that has something to do with it, but I also have food intolerances and crazy IBS! You would think that with no large intestine, I would be able to …. GOOOOO but nope! NADA. NOTHING! It’s ridiculous. So I feel for you, 10000%
    I listen to my gut all the time though, and it’s always screaming and crying like a 4 year old!

  9. I went through bouts of digestive issues- ironically whenever I travelled overseas they disappeared- which highlighted to me that it was something in my day to day food choices. A while back I developed a food insensitivity to oats- Mainly due to eating it as my main carb source and often multiple times a day. After going cold turkey for a while, I introduced it back in normal proportions and now can enjoy it several times a week!

    Beans or legumes tend to make me feel bloated, especially chickpeas! I think thats a common one though amongst alot of people!

  10. I went through the whole battery of testing too with numerous doctors– one who was SO convinced I had appendicitis he tried everything to operate on me– except for colonoscopy, at that point I drew the line unless they could give me some solid reasoning for it, which they couldn’t. I’m much the same with Gluten- I avoid it, but if I eat some here and there it doesn’t seem to bug me. Oats- if I eat consistently, are not good. But I can have them every once in a while. Quinoa is also often a no-go for me. I’ve been adding back dairy here and there, and it seems good. Don’t drink milk anymore though, where I used to drink it every day. I also do my best to avoid sugar… my best varies from week to week lol.

  11. Hi again, sometimes I can work on one building project and reflect on things I notice about foods and “the ability to digest” . Something for any and all to test : I’m suggesting you weigh all the possibilities :0 Oh, My, it’s a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Jump start your stomach ten seconds after you start eating – ten seconds before you start eating- two minutes before you start eating.

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