I was very negligent in blogging last year. Part of the reason for that is that there was so much happening that I had trouble processing it all in order to write about it, as I mentioned in my last attempt to catch up in October.
Another stumbling block for me has been deciding what direction I want to take with this blog. When I first started, I was writing a lot about therapy as well as my regular “life” stuff and health topics. Over time, I gave the URL to several people I’ve met in real life, and that’s fine, since I made most of the more personal posts into private posts. I began therapy again in October, though, to finish some work I began in therapy in Florida. I will probably do some blogging about my therapy experiences again, and will likely make those posts private, along with any others that feel very personal to me. That way, I can also continue to blog about the other topics that were of interest to the people I gave the link to.
So, if you are someone who followed my therapy posts last time and you’d like to read any of the private posts, please feel free to drop me an email (lifeischangeblog [at] gmail [dot] com) and I’ll share the password with you if you don’t have it anymore. (Also, even if you weren’t a prior reader and you found this blog while searching for a specific topic and then landed on a private post, please email me and let me know which topic and post[s] you are interested in and I’ll share the password with you.)
So, here is Part One of an overview of my 2012 – January to May:
January: I had blood drawn for the ALCAT Food and Chemical Sensitivity / Intolerance Test. (For anyone who doesn’t already know my history with being gluten free and struggling to figure out what else I must be intolerant to: click on the image at left to catch up.)
I’d been hearing and reading bits and pieces about ALCAT for a few years. I asked my gastroenterologist about it, in fact, in 2011. His response was not unlike much of Western Medicine’s reaction to much of Alternative Medicine’s methods: he said it was “hocus-pocus”. Another of my doctors, whose opinion I respect, also didn’t have a high opinion of ALCAT after she did some reading about it.
I read so many comments on various health-related discussion boards, though, from people who’d had the ALCAT test done and found that it gave them the real answers that they needed, so I decided to give it a try.
February: I got the results of my ALCAT test. I must say that it was helpful in the process of determining what I am actually intolerant to, but not in the way that one might think. The thing I’m intolerant to was one of the things that the ALCAT test said I didn’t react to.
The results are broken down into four categories: Severe Intolerance, Moderate Intolerance, Mild Intolerance, and Acceptable Foods, color coded as red, orange, yellow, and green for Acceptable Foods. They give you a rotation diet with the results.
The first shocker was that I did not react to wheat, rye, or barley. It said I’m not gluten intolerant. Once I recovered from the gut-punch-like shock, I went through several hours of surprise, disbelief, joy, overwhelm, relief, denial, and hopelessness, mixed with some panic, plain old fear, and varied other emotions that popped up from among the swirl of emotion I consistently have about food, and then I moved on to study what the test said I did react to.
It showed reactions to: bell peppers, brussel sprouts, cherry, eggplant, grapefruit, lime, paprika, peach, banana, cayenne pepper, cow’s milk, fig, goat’s milk, honey, mango, olive, orange, soybean, tapioca, trout, almond, amaranth, apple, artichoke, asparagus, baker’s yeast, beef, black pepper, black/green tea, blueberry, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, cabbage, carob, carrot, chicken, clove, cocoa, cottonseed, crab, duck, fructose (HFCS), garlic, ginger, green pea, haddock, honeydew melon, hops, lamb, lobster, malt, mushroom, onion, oregano, pear, pineapple, pinto bean, pistachio, psyllium, pumpkin, sardine, sesame, snapper, squash (yellow), turkey, and walnut.
It said I didn’t react to: beet, black beans, black-eyed peas, butternut squash, cauliflower, celery, chickpea, cucumber, iceberg lettuce, kidney bean, lentil bean, lima bean, mustard, navy bean, radish, spinach, string bean, sweet potato, tomato, turnip, white potato, apricot, avocado, blackberry, cantaloupe, cranberry, date, grape, kiwi, lemon, papaya, plum, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, pork, veal, egg, clam, codfish, halibut, oyster, salmon, scallop, sea
bass, shrimp, sole, tilapia, tuna, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oat, rice, rye, wheat, basil, bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin, dill, mint, nutmeg, parsley, sage, thyme, cane sugar, caraway, cashew, coconut, coffee, flaxseed, hazelnut, peanut, pecan, safflower, sunflower, and vanilla.
The doctor gave me a quick explanation of the results and said to eat the foods in the green category, rotate the foods in the yellow category, and then start rotating foods from the orange and red groups after 3 and 6 months, respectively. (You can see his writing on the results page – click the image at left to see the pdf of all 6 pages of the results.)
The doctor said I had Leaky Gut Syndrome and recommended that I take a powder supplement twice a day for about three months, while following the rotation diet.
The paperwork that came with the results didn’t really explain the rotation diet very well, in my opinion. (The cost of the test does include a 30-minute consultation over the phone with a nutritionist at ALCAT, but I wanted to wait and call after I’d had a chance to compile a list of intelligent questions, to make the most of the 30 minutes. I wound up not calling, so I can’t say if they may have been able to clarify anything for me or not.)
In the meantime, I scoured the Internet and tried to find others who were on the ALCAT rotation diet. I found very few, and very little information, and some of the information I found contradicted other information. In fact, information in two sections of the paperwork that came with the results contained some contradictions. They contradicted themselves.
SS and I went over whatever information we could find, to decide how to approach this thing, but first, before beginning the diet, I had fun. Well, no, to be accurate, first I was paralyzed with fear that I would keel over, or at the very least be doubled over, if I ate gluten. After so many years of avoiding the stuff and having real symptoms that really seemed to be gluten-related, I was understandably afraid. But, with SS’s moral support, I decided that I would take a week to learn about the rotation diet and make lists of stuff we would need to buy and change at home, and in that week, I would enjoy some foods I hadn’t had in so long.
The first night, of course, was the McDonald’s night. That had been my addiction for so long, and so it seemed fitting to have it first. It’s funny, to me, when I hear someone talking about dieting and eating right, and they say that after being away from a particular junk food for a long time, you lose the desire for it, or it doesn’t taste as good if you have it again after going a long time without it. I don’t know. Maybe that is true for some people, but I’m here to tell you that I never lost my taste for McDonalds, or Papa John’s pizza, or a whole bunch of other things, and it tasted amazingly good to me, after five years of not having it.
So, we had McDonald’s, and Papa John’s, and I ate Arnold 12 Grain Bread again, and we had donuts from a donut shop, and while I did react to the stuff, my reactions weren’t any worse than the reactions I’d been experiencing and trying to figure out all along. No worse, no better. I’d been feeling like hell most of the time for a long while by then.
During that week (after I stopped saying that I wasn’t going to attempt the diet because it was too complicated, too confusing, and probably was BS anyway), SS and I did some shopping and label-reading and got ready to start the diet. (Bless her heart, she did it right along with me, with only a few exceptions.) We decided just to avoid everything that wasn’t in the green category until I was able to feel better for a stretch of two to three weeks, and then decide where to proceed from there.
Well, I began the rotation diet, and kept a chart on the fridge to keep track of the rotation part. Most of what we read said not to eat the same food more than once in four days, but some of what we read said two days. Because of the limitation in combinable foods (i.e. many items that I could have were things that aren’t generally eaten alone, and it was tough to find combinations of foods without repeating any of those foods in four days), I made up a chart for a two-day rotation. I called them my “wheat days” and my “corn days”. On wheat days, I would have wheat, barley, and/or rye, and on my corn days, I’d have corn, oats, and/or rice. I included rice on corn days because my only options for something that resembled milk were coconut milk (which I would have on wheat days) or rice milk (which I would have on corn days). That’s one of the reasons I didn’t try to create more than a two-day rotation. It was hard enough to avoid combinations of grains as it was, in the foods we were buying, and my non-wheat days were difficult because it was very hard to find wheat-free (i.e. gluten free) products that didn’t contain tapioca or soy and didn’t combine corn and rice.
March, April, and part of May: I was on the rotation diet for 12 weeks, and during that time I never had even one week without reactions, let alone a few weeks. I don’t think I was reaction-free at all during that time, in fact. I progressively felt worse and worse as the time passed. I had more fatigue, more depression, more physical pain, and I was all over the place focus wise, as if I hadn’t even been taking my meds (I even counted the pills in the bottle once because I was sure I must have forgotten to take them – I hadn’t). I also found that my compulsion to eat was at an all-time high. I could have potatoes, the ALCAT chart said, and so I would eat a whole bag of potato chips before bed. SS found some cookies that didn’t have any of the ingredients on the yellow, orange, or red lists, and so I would eat those cookies until I was stuffed or they were gone, whichever came first. Corn day? No problem. I would eat most of a bag of tortilla chips. I felt powerless to stop. I was miserable every minute I was awake, unless I was eating. Somehow, the act of eating made me numb to everything else I felt, and the moment I stopped eating, my misery was back. So I kept eating, until I went to sleep. By about week 8 or 9, I felt like I did five years ago, before I was gluten free. I was reminded of how often I used to feel suicidal simply because I contemplated living the rest of my life feeling the way I felt on a daily basis, with no hope of feeling better.
I started having anxiety about grocery stores. I couldn’t even go into a grocery store without melting down over how few foods I could eat, and SS began to do all of our grocery shopping while I either stayed home or cried in the car.
I was really struggling with the rotation diet, and I signed up on a health forum that had a thread about multiple food sensitivities, hoping to find some helpful info. Someone mentioned oxalates, and I did a lot of reading about that and attempted to follow a low oxalate diet while still adhering to the ALCAT rotation diet. That made things even more limited, and in my case, didn’t help anyway. Apparently I don’t have an oxalate problem.
I also began reading more about IBS, which I was diagnosed with back in around 2004. I was surprised to find that the symptoms of IBS are much more complicated than I had been aware. I’d thought Irritable Bowel Syndrome was more or less a term created to describe chronic diarrhea, constipation, or a fluctuation between the two, but it encompasses a lot more than that.
One evening, I drank a strawberry soda that SS and I both thought was a diet soda. We’d bought it several months earlier and neither of us looked at the label when I drank it because we were both so certain it was diet. I was on the floor within an hour, in agony. We had no idea the soda was the culprit until the next day when SS was at the store and read the label as she was getting ready to buy more soda. It, of course, contained high fructose corn syrup, which was on my yellow (mild intolerance) list.
I began to think, again, about fructose, and I remembered having heard of something called Fructose Malabsorption, and I found connections between that and IBS. I requested a hydrogen breath test to find out if I had Fructose Malabsorption. The breath test came out negative, although I did react to the soda they had me drink prior to the test.
I began to wonder seriously if I had somatization disorder. Nothing else added up to me anymore. I was just about ready to go back into therapy at that point, if that were the case, because I didn’t want to keep battling whatever demon was causing me to always feel so unwell.
I pretty much fell into a heap at that point. I made the decision to go off of the rotation diet and eat a balanced diet of whatever I wanted until I could figure out the next step. And then I remembered a post I wrote in April of 2011, Hmmm . . . Corn Allergy?. It is still consistently one of my most-read posts. I re-read the post and allowed myself to consider it. I’d avoided considering it all that time because the thought of giving up all corn and corn-derivitives just seemed too daunting to even attempt. Corn is in everything. I’m not kidding.
I talked to SS about it and we went over the clues, one by one.
- The HFCS in the soda was, of course, corn-derived.
- I’d been eating more corn (binging on it, in fact) in the 12 weeks of the rotation diet than I had ever eaten in that stretch of time before.
- I asked myself, “What about the fact that I felt so much better initially after going gluten free?” Even that made sense, because I’d stopped eating out for a long time, then, and I was eating mostly the same thing every day, and the particular gluten free foods I was eating happened to also be mostly corn free or contained very little in the way of corn-derived ingredients. As time passed, I started trying more gluten free processed products, and I also started having more of what I thought were “glutenings”.
It made sense. Enough sense that it was worth trying to live corn free for a little while, as a test.
Finally. Finally, finally, finally, I am able to go for a stretch of time without reactions! (I think the longest I’ve gone, now, is about two weeks, but we’re still learning and I still make mistakes occasionally.) The thing is, every time I have a reaction now, I’m able to figure out the cause, and it makes sense.
So, I’ve been corn-free (other than making mistakes) for about eight months now, and we’ve learned a whole lot about it. It can be done. It just takes a lot of learning and a willingness to do things differently. I wasn’t kidding when I said corn was in everything. It really is, or potentially can be. From the iodide in iodized salt, to some plastics and paper cups, rubbing alcohol, anything with vanilla extract as an ingredient (the alcohol used to extract the vanilla flavor from the bean is often corn-based), and anything with ingredients like citric acid (I know; it’s rarely made from citrus fruit as the name would imply), xanthan gum, cellulose, or “natural flavors”, corn can be lurking everywhere.
I’ll be sharing a lot of info here, soon, on corn-free products, tips, and advice!
More of my 2012 recap coming soon . . .