Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Does She Really Have a Food Sensitivity or is it an Eating Disorder?

I'm sitting here eating sautéed salmon with cabbage and kelp noodles. Except it's sautéed sole, which doesn't taste nearly as good to me, but is more affordable than wild salmon. What I really want to eat is pizza. Thick crust pizza with pesto and tomato sauce, oozing with mozzarella... I actually have a slice of gluten-free pizza with my own crust in the freezer, but it's in there so that someone else can eat it. It's next to the homemade gluten-free chive bread. Again, waiting for someone else to eat it. My freezer is full of things that I've baked, but can't eat. There's a loaf of molasses brown bread on the counter. Gluten and dairy free. It's good. Really good. It's sitting in a container that says, "Please help yourself." It's a recipe I'm working on for the cookbook, but I can't eat it. In the fridge is a $7 container of sunbutter. I bought it so that I could have a quick snack on hand for those days when I'm running short on time. Actually, I bought it so I could have a quick snack, period. A snack that doesn't take work. But after eating it for three days, I can't deny what's going on. I'm having a reaction to it.

What happens when I have a reaction to food? What doesn't happen? It changes all the time. Sometimes I get bloated and gassy. That's the least of my problems. I've been dealing with that my whole life, and I always thought it was just normal. If that was my only problem, frankly, I would eat whatever I wanted. But it's not. I also get itchy around my jawline. I get this strange feeling like I've suddenly developed a double chin. For the record, trying to explain that feeling to a doctor is very difficult, and the only two people I've ever met that knew exactly what I was talking about are gluten-free friends who also have various food sensitivities. What else? I get headaches, deep, pulsing pain in my temples. My jaw becomes tight and I find myself grinding my teeth more at night. I know this because I wake up with teeth clenched and a creaking jaw. This relented in the five months from January to May when I was eating an extremely strict diet, but has gotten worse as my willpower has waned. And there's more. I get depressed. I have intense mood swings that leave me in tears. I feel like it's hard to think straight and my thoughts are being pushed in every direction through a crowd of juggling clowns. Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt. Simple tasks suddenly seem like monumental hurdles. And I get tired. So tired I can barely keep my eyes open. So tired I need to take a nap at 6pm or I fall asleep waiting at the curbside while I pick up a friend at the airport.

Both of these things happened to me today. I struggled to stay awake while driving to the airport, fell asleep in the car waiting for my friend to get her bags, and promptly took a nap when I got home. I had to force myself out of bed at 7pm to eat dinner. Maybe it was the sunbutter I ate. Maybe it was the slice of molasses brown bread I allowed myself to have last night. Maybe it was the mooncakes I attempted to make today for Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free. They were gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, sugar-free, and xanthan/guar gum free. I thought they would be fine. But as I finished eating one, I could feel my jaw tense up and begin to tingle. Within minutes, I felt like I was going to fall asleep. I slept a full eight hours last night and did yoga this morning. I was feeling good. It wasn't stress or not taking care of myself. It wasn't in my head, and it wasn't psychological. It was something I ate.

Sometimes my reactions happen immediately as they did today. Sometimes it happens a few hours later. Sometimes the next day. That's what makes it so hard to pinpoint what I'm reacting to. Although at this point, there are so many things on my list, it's almost not worth trying to figure it out anymore. Now it's more about making sure I stock up on the items I know I can eat, and pray I don't develop sensitivities to those as well. These days, it's a lot of fish, grass-fed beef (because the thought of eating factory farmed beef is worse to me than the thought of being broke), vegetables, fruit, and seaweed. Luckily for me, I can eat tons of kelp noodles, nori, and seaweed salad, and feel great. Even luckier is the fact that I love and crave these foods.

So why am I telling you all this? I'm in a bit of a catch-22 these days. I've never hidden the fact that I struggle with bingeing. Bringing that to light was one of the reasons I started this blog. If I begin to fall back into old patterns of bingeing, I talk about it. I go to counseling. I journal about it or write about it here. I don't try to hide it. Down that path lies only more bingeing, and I've dealt with that long enough to be sick and tired of it. I will be the first to admit that I am recovering from an eating disorder. Binge eating may not be as understood as bulimia or anorexia, but it's equally destructive and possibly more prevalent (but underdiagnosed). One of the things I've learned is that when I restrict a food, I begin to crave it. I know this. I want what I can't have. The problem right now? There are a lot of foods I can't have. My naturopathic doctor wants me to go back on the diet I was on for five months. I felt amazing. But I couldn't eat anything. No gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, high-amine foods (like bananas, chocolate, avocados, tomatoes, and more), dried fruit, sweeteners in any form other than stevia...the list was long, but I'll leave it at that. There were foods I had to avoid that were traditionally "binge" foods for me, like cheese and sugary sweets. But there were also a lot of healthy foods I had to cut out like avocados, tomatoes, and bananas. I want to eat everything in moderation because I know that's what's best to keep me from bingeing. But I can't. Because that's not what's best for my body, and when my body is out of whack, my mind gets out of whack. And when my mind gets out of whack, it all begins to spiral downward...

People ask me if I've ever tried just eating what I want and not worrying about it. People ask me that a lot. Sometimes I can see the question just hovering in their eyes, but they refrain from saying anything. Yes. I've tried that. That's actually what got me where I am right now. From January through May, I stuck strictly to my diet, and I was feeling better every day. For a number of reasons, I decided to try a few foods I'd been avoiding, healthy foods like almonds and avocados. I felt okay, so I allowed more foods in. Before I knew it, I was eating everything again (except gluten). Before I knew it, my headaches were back, and I had a few new symptoms as well. Sore throats, ear aches, and yeast infections (actually that last one wasn't new, I just forgot about it earlier). Oh and did I mention weight gain? Seven pounds in a month. And believe me, I wasn't bingeing. I was just eating foods that caused inflammation in my body.

I've been feeling worse and worse, but continuing to eat foods that I shouldn't. I still eat healthier than most people I know. I'm eating gluten and dairy free. I don't eat any processed foods. All baked goods I eat are homemade. To most people, my diet looks unnecessarily strict. Yet in my eyes, I'm failing because I've been eating eggs, nuts, and unrefined sugars like honey. I've been eating high amine foods like canned tuna. I know these are healthy foods, but my body can't handle them. And as long as I continue to eat foods that I'm reacting to, I won't be able to calm my gut inflammation down long enough to heal.

Here's the thing. Being on a strict diet is difficult for anyone - and I'd like to make clear that when I use the word diet, I am not saying that I'm trying to restrict the amount I eat, simply to avoid foods I'm reacting to. Being on a strict diet as a food blogger, cookbook author-to-be, and graduate nutrition student is especially difficult. Add to that my history of binge eating, and I can only tell you that it's exhausting. I want to go out to dinner with friends. I want to be able to go to a friend's house for dinner and know I won't pay for it later. I want to be able to come home after a tiring day and grab an Amy's meal from the freezer. Hell, I want to bake a loaf of bread and be able to eat a slice without feeling sick later. But I can't. At this point, the best thing I can do for myself is work my way back to my strict diet, and hope that my doctor can help me to heal my leaky gut. The best I can do is hope that I can eat a more normal diet someday.

So now, here is the real reason I'm writing this. Yes, eating like this is hard. It's a struggle to stick to the foods that make me feel better. It's even harder when I start getting looks. If you have a food sensitivity, then I'm sure you know the look I'm referring to. The one that says, "Oh come on. It's all in your head." The sideways questions that are really trying to ask, "Are you sure you don't have an eating disorder?" Well actually, yes I do. And I'll happily talk with you about it. But that's not what's going on here. My food sensitivities are real. My symptoms are real. And my struggle to deal with it is real and not helped by your belief that it's in my head or that I'm being silly by refusing to use the same cutting board that's been used to cut regular bread. I try not to get angry. Because I know how it looks. I can see from the outside how crazy my diet must look, and sometimes I even have to ask myself if it's in my head. Then I eat something, have a reaction, and am reminded of the truth. It's not in my head. And then I do get angry. And I get sad. And I feel even more isolated.

I tearily confessed my concerns recently to The Assistant. He admitted that more than one person had asked him if I had an eating disorder. I wasn't surprised, but I was frustrated and upset. This was about a month ago. I'm still frustrated. I'm still upset. It still makes me cry to think about it. It bothers me that I can't make people understand what's going on in my body or how I feel every time I eat something as innocuous as an egg. Frankly, it sucks to have to tell a friend, "Sorry I can't eat that," and then watch the look on her face that tells you she thinks you have an eating disorder. It sucks to not be able to eat the food, it sucks to have to watch her eat it, and it sucks to know what she's secretly thinking. It sucks equally hard to give in, eat the food to feel normal for a few minutes, and then pay for it the next day by waking up depressed, bloated, gassy, or any other of my reactions. Take your pick as to which one I'll end up with. Maybe one, maybe all.

I've noticed there are two prevailing beliefs about eating disorders and food sensitivities. One is that food sensitivities don't really exist and that the best way to heal from an eating disorder is to allow yourself to eat whatever you want in order to take the supposed power away from that food. This is the view espoused in Intuitive Eating, a popular book that I both agree and disagree with. The other view is that certain foods can be physiologically addictive in the same way that alcohol can. This is why we crave them, and the only way to stop that craving is to stop eating the food. Of course, there are shades of grey in there, but those are the two ends of the spectrum as I've seen them.

When I first started really dealing with my bingeing, one of the ways I learned to deal with it was to allow myself to eat whatever I wanted in moderation. If I wanted dessert, I had dessert every night. I stopped telling myself that there were "bad" foods or that I was bad if I ate something rich and decadent. It worked. Sort of. When it came to certain foods, especially those with sugar, the cravings didn't go away just because I stopped restricting those foods. If anything, the cravings got stronger the more I ate them. It was around this time that I began having headaches and suffering from depression. Since then, I've started to believe that "everything in moderation" only applies to some people. The people for whom the cravings are purely psychological. But for a lot of us, I believe there's something else going on. Something real and something insidious. Something that can only be cured by abstaining from the food altogether. Now, I know some of you will agree with me, and some won't. And the literature is inconclusive at this point. But right now, here's what I believe for myself:

I believe that I have a "leaky gut" and until it's healed, I will continue to be sensitive to a large number of foods.

I believe that eating those foods causes a myriad of symptoms, not the least of which is depression.  This is not in my head, and no matter how much yoga I do, how much sleep I get, or how much I smile, eating foods I'm sensitive to is going to lead to emotional problems.

I believe that sugar (and for me, that includes honey, maple syrup, and most other sweeteners other than stevia) is the major cause of my mood swings, and abstaining completely is the only way they will stop. I've seen this happen. They've gone away when I stopped eating sugar, and always come back within three days when I start up again.

I believe that I simply have to learn to ignore what other people think and do what's right for me. But I urge you, if you know someone who has to eat a certain way for her health, to have compassion and help her follow her plan. To have faith that she knows her body best. To think twice before assuming that her problems are in her head. I know that disordered eating is real and can often be masked as food sensitivities. But I also know that food sensitivities are real, and can be confused for disordered eating. If you're reading this, you probably know that too. I realize I'm preaching to the choir. But I felt it needed to be said, or at least I needed to say it. To stand up for myself before strengthening my resolve to get back on my strict diet and back on my road to health and healing. 

I realize at this point that there's so much more I have to say, but this post is long enough as it is. But there's more: my thoughts on stress and inflammation, Intuitive Eating, Women Food and God, orthorexia, and more about my own health and recent testing and bloodwork I've had done. I'll let you all go for now, and just to throw another thought out there, I'm leaving you with a link to something I read while in the middle of writing this post. Despite everything I just wrote, this helped me to put it all in perspective... Remembering 9/11.


Margarita said...

It's definately not in your head. Have you considered a fructose malabsorption problem? My friend, my daughter and I have similar issues, including some nasty allergies, and we are going to try kefir grains,(fresh not dried). I have researched extensively, and believe they will help enormously to heal the damage done from years of food reactions. Remember the people who believe in you when you get "those looks". Stay strong.

alea@myrealfoodlife said...

i know exactly how you feel. there's nothing worse than when everything you do makes you sick. for me, things too heavy in fibre, citrus, eggs, dairy, etc... the list goes on forever.

when i'm feeling awful i find broth with chicken helps - and often some rice. simple stuff. i knonw what you mean about making a great GF baked good, trying it, getting sick ,and then having to get rid of it after all that time ,money and effort. i totally get it. *hugs* and the moodswings- that happens to me whe i eat any grain at all, or sugar. i get this profound sadness that just sweeps over me to the point of being incapacitated. its awful. i have found when things are ba, my most helpful plans are t ostick with the GAPS diet and then stay as paleo-style as possible afterwards, going easy onthe fibre.

just, wanted to say hi. i love your blog, and was touched by your post. you aren't alone. xoxo. alea

Cristina said...

I am right there with you, Iris. I have very similar symptoms and get the headaches, gas and depression. I recently did the LEAP blood testing and am sensitive to a lot of foods that are considered healthy, including salmon, scallops, chicken and honey. Tapioca flour, a main stay of gluten free baking, is out as well. My only safe sweetener is maple syrup. I react badly to salycites so while I can eat apples and grapes, dried apples and raisins and even balsamic vinegar give me wicked headaches. I have also felt like a freak and had the same kind of bingeing and emotional turmoil you are describing.
I have looked into the GAPS diet, done a strict candida regimine, take MSM for inflammation and glutamine for my gut. I have also struggled with and come to the conmclusion that I may never, ever get to throw an Amy's or any other microwavable meal in the microwave ever again. And I have an odd love\hate relationship with food.
I have struggled, raged and mourned and I thank you for your honest posts as they have been very helpful to me in trying to put all of this in perspective. I have come to the conclusion that not all foods are healthy for me despite the fact that 99% of nutritionists will tell you that everyone can (and should) eat everything. I try to keep perspective as I labor over food prep, that I am honoring and loving myself. And when I get the headaches, weight gain and depression (all symptoms of food sesitivities), I also have to walk it back to my shortlist of safe foods and then I feel healthy and sane again.
Again, I am right there with you, babe. It's a quest, not a destination.

saxifrage said...

Oh, Iris. I feel your pain, my dear. I've been trying to be more lax of late with my diet and it isn't always pretty. Just the other day on the camping trip I decided to loosen up and eat something I normally wouldn't, hoping my carefree attitude would prevent a reaction from occurring. But alas, within minutes of indulging I was in a fog, with a searing headache and an overwhelming need to retreat from everyone else's company and be alone, in the sunshine, where I could calm down the undeniable inflammatory response happening in my silly little overly sensitive body. I couldn't even bring myself to tell anyone what was happening because I didn't feel like dealing with the looks, the questions, and the unspoken suspicions of psychological instability somehow being connected to my seemingly strange dietary restrictions.

It's so hard for people who don't experience these symptoms to understand what we go through, but we know it's real. Just hang in there... One day our guts will heal, and in the meantime, know that you're not alone in your struggles and frustrations. And boy do I ever miss your baking! Much love ;-)

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Oh, Iris, I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a super big hug right now ... both to let you know that you will get through this and to thank you for this post! Even some of my dearest gluten-free friends do not get the "there can be no moderation" thing when it comes to certain foods for me. I'm not even talking about binge eating necessarily (although give me some foods and I will eat them until they are gone), I'm just saying that even a small amount of certain foods can make me crazy, make my body react very badly. When I hear the "everything in moderation" or "it's all about balance," and people dissing a food plan that leaves out certain foods completely (like grains, even gluten-free ones), I often want to scream. If they can leave out high fructose corn syrup and other fake stuff, why can't I leave out grains, etc. if I've determined that makes me feel better and takes away cravings, joint pain, etc. completely? I don't want to hear their logic on why it should work such and such a way. It doesn't. It never has and it never will. At least not for me. I am finishing up the new book Sugar Nation and one point that was made in the book was that many folks succeed on low-carb diets for weight loss and sanity (my word) is because they remove the offending foods and they don't replace them with something else (i.e., crappy low-fat or sugar-free substitutes). I read that and thought "exactly!" When I take out certain foods completely, I become a different person. I can think again, all the time, not just on good days. I have boundless energy. I lose weight effortlessly. I have zero pain of any kind. It is incredible. BUT I still miss those foods or the idea of them and the possible creations from them that I can make. And certainly being a food blogger wanting to share great creations all the time makes it more challenging. Also, I will say that it's probably an age thing, but I really don't care what others think any more. At least I have that blessing. If they think I'm obsessed with food because I won't indulge in this or that or because I try to create healthier versions (like refined sugar-free versions, etc.), so be it. Enough rambling, but please know that I'm right there with you (and incidentally, I can't do sunbutter either ... whyyyy, huh?) and wanting to be at the right place again to eat what you know you feel best on and getting there/being there can seem like thousands of miles apart.

Love and hugs,

Tanya said...

Girl, I have been where you are! It's NOT all in your head (and yes, I know the looks). And I know a lot of people (mostly online) who are there now and totally understand, too!
Have you considered corn and all that it's in?(something like 85% of foods) That was one of my 13++ food allergies and was hands-down the most difficult to avoid. I still avoid most of it due to GMO's that I'm convinced are a cause of this allergy epidemic(I get looks for that, too) If you want more info, I will more than gladly give it to you. I have written extensively about my allergy story on my blog that people started begging me to write as I told them of my experiences: www.livinghealthyinthemodernworld.blogspot.com
I hope that helps you!

m.greenwood said...

Oh my gosh....THANK YOU for writing this! I, like you, have multiple food sensitivities- I was diagnosed with Celiac disease at age 45 and have in the last 2 years of being exceptionally careful (bordering on paranoid) to avoid Gluten come to the realization (now at age 47) that I have had an severe allergy to wheat my whole life and multiple food sensitivities. (including Dairy- Lactose and Casein). My mother informed me that when I was an 8 month old baby she was feeding me cream of wheat cereal and had to rush me to the emergency room for anaphylactic shock- they asked her what she had given me and then told her "not to give that to her anymore". She stopped giving me cream of wheat, but as I grew continued providing food with wheat (Wonderbread and pasta were staples). It explains a lifetime of unexplained chronic illnesses. Many friends do not understand how I could have eaten theses things before and now I can't. I get so sick it puts me in the hospital. I try to explain that I have been sick most of my life and only now, in the last 2 years have I truly felt amazingly good. I have healed, and when (on the rare occasion in the early days of being gluten free) I had been "glutened" it started with a tingle in my jaw, then down to my clavicles, then the arthritis pain, then flu symptoms (fever-migraine, all of it) then the horrible pain (of my small intestine swelling shut) requiring hospitalization and many awful anti-inflammatory drugs. Hence the paranoia regarding food. I do not eat at people's houses (even if they "get it" and do their best to ensure Gluten free food- if it's a "shared" kitchen- NO WAY!) I do not go out to restaurants, even those with a Gluten Free menu (just not worth the stress of the chance I'll get sick) so, I make everything myself. My two children (ages 14 and 12) were diagnosed with Celiac and Dairy allergies shortly after I was. They have adjusted amazingly well (feeling really good and healthy works!) other kids don't really give them any difficulties, I think it's more the adults who do (Home Economics teacher who just does NOT get it at all). It's hard to be "different", but boy oh boy, it's worth it to feel GOOD. I don't worry about insulting people anymore, I (nicely) give them a quick explanation, answer any questions they have and bring my own meals when in a social setting. It's just the way it is, the way it has to be. If they don't get it, that's their problem. I feel AMAZINGLY healthy, and those that have known me for a long time have admitted that I have changed so much (for the better) I look great, have more energy and radiate health. there is no questioning that part of it!

ChefJulia said...

Iris, thank you so much for writing this. I know exactly where you are coming from. I too have a long list of food sensitivities-the biggies of course are gluten, dairy and all sweeteners, but I also am sensitive to things like peaches, pistachios, shrimp, blueberries, mustard, tomato, and the list goes on and on. Going out is so hard. Especially when people have high blood sugar or a dairy sensitivity and think they know. They don't know. They don't know what its like to eat something you think is safe and then a few minutes or an hour later be a gassy or painful mess and wonder WHY?!?! And that the reaction isn't going to be immediate. They vary.
Your post was really important to me and I appreciate it. Thank you again.

Alta said...

Iris, this was a great post. I too have struggled with these issues (many of us with hard-to-pinpoint food sensitivities have) and there are days when it's really tough. I am glad you chose to share here - I hope that helps remind you that you aren't alone in this struggle! It's not easy to stop listening to what others say and focus on healing yourself. Many hugs to you. I can't wait to see you next month!

Alta said...

Iris, this was a great post. I too have struggled with these issues (many of us with hard-to-pinpoint food sensitivities have) and there are days when it's really tough. I am glad you chose to share here - I hope that helps remind you that you aren't alone in this struggle! It's not easy to stop listening to what others say and focus on healing yourself. Many hugs to you. I can't wait to see you next month!

Wendy said...

I am there with you as well. I am on month 7 of gfree and think I am having issues with some other items. I need to look into the testing as well as begin a food journal/feeling journal again. I am just now getting the feeling that some think it is all in my head...or a fad diet. I have one particular "friend" who has no comment anymore when I mention something gfree. I have begun limiting my discussions with all now. I so wish I had a group here to meet with and chat with in person. The internet is great, but limiting in some respects.

Hang in there! You are not alone! Always love your posts.

Shari said...

Exactly, even my husband gives me "the look"...as in "crumbs on the counter can't possibly be a problem" or "but they say they can do gluten free...as they reach the same gloved hand into the veggie container that they used on the wheat tortilla".

Adrienne @ Whole New Mom said...

Hi Iris.

I don't have time to write all that I would like to....but...

Just last night I was at an outing where there were "free of everything" muffins, but I still couldn't eat them b/c there was sugar in them. One of my long time friends (who suffers from Manic depression, by the way), said, "Oh - I'm sure you can eat those and the chocolate chip cookies b/c so-and-so here is always so careful." I felt the condemning looks. I can't eat sugar. None.

Then there was the group of women whom I recently heard of who started a club. To belong you must:
- drink coffee
- not be on a special diet
- not be one of those "skinny pretty people".

I guess I should be flattered, though right now I'm carrying a few more pounds than normal and have not been sleeping well, so skinny and pretty I do not feel that I am.

Anyway, I confess that I used to judge others too and I do think that some people hide their disorders behind convenient "intolerances". However, for others of us, these things are real.

Thanks for sharing.

By the way, I am working on all of my issues w/ Nutritional Balancing. some of my issues have gotten better. I am hopeful for the future. I would love to talk w/ you about it sometime (I get nothing from the provider for referrals. Just one hurting person trying to help others.).


Katie said...

I was going to mention fructose malabsorption as well. If you think you have a leaky gut have you tried the GAPS diet? I know of people who followed it (for years until their gut was healed) and rave about it. Hope you find answers.

Eric said...

Are you on supplements, and have you tried isolating those? I ask because I had a multi-year intolerance I thought I would never be able to isolate, and it turned out that I have a terrible reaction to artificially derived ascorbic acid AND various binders used in making supplements in pill form. Once I switched to supplements derived from pure vegetable sources without binders, all my intolerance problems went away (well, except Celliacs lol). Just a suggestion, nice blog and good luck.

Little Me said...

Iris, I have very little food sensitivities compared to the others who have posted, but I just had to reach out and say thank you for sharing your story. I don't have any suggestions or answers (I'm sure you've heard them all), but I just wanted to tell you that I understand. It's taken my husband and my family years to understand my sensitivity to gluten and even he now has to limit his intake. I totally know "the look".

I think you're doing right by yourself by not worrying about what others think, take care of yourself the best way you know how, only you know what's best for you.

Take care, Faith

Anonymous said...


You are so not alone. Your feelings touch me deeply. My life is all that too. :(

Your symptoms ring true for
"Reactive Hypoglycemia" This is what the trouble is, for me. That and, Histamine Intolerance and, Gluten intolerance. Now put all that together, and check out how many safe foods are left. Not many.

Leaky gut aside, most of the commentors sound like they should check out "Reactive Hypoglycemia" too.

No it won't be what is wrong with all of us. But, it will be for some. Knowing does'nt improve your food restriction. But, it does give you a since of how to control issues.

All here feel, and know your pain.


Suzanne said...

I'm definitely in the same boat as you. Fortunately I haven't had to explain it to a lot of people and avoid doing so if possible. However, my husband has seen first-hand the change that occurs with me when I eat something I'm sensitive to. Depression and anxiety are my most debilitating symptoms. Sugar's definitely the worst for my mood.

Right now I'm doing the Whole30 (basically a very clean Paleo diet) and feeling great. I am starting to wonder if I'm sensitive to nightshades though and may cut those out as well. I'm trying to focus on what I can eat. Fresh berries with coconut milk and sweet potatoes with coconut oil and sea salt are my favorite treats right now.

Cassie said...

You have no idea how many people you've helped with this blog! Just this past Friday night I completely ignored all of my friends texts and calls because I didn't want to try to explain to them AGAIN why I don't want to hang out or go out to bars because I felt so sick! The depression is definitely something I have issues with whenver I have anything I can't eat...i.e. gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, peanuts...and so many more! The day one of my friends said he thought it was all in my head I just wanted to explode! I can see it too when people don't say it but think you're just making it all up. It so hard when everyone else just wants to go out for lunch or dinner or drinks and you're torn between going and probably getting sick and being miserable, or staying behind and being left out of everything that's going on and their lives. Its sort of like an invisible wall is put up between you and them when they don't understand! I wish there was like a special community of people with a bunch of food sensitivites :/

Courtney said...

This post is so in-depth and vulnerable and perfect for those who suffer as you do to read. So many people just don't "get it," and it's comforting knowing that some absolutely do.

I'm sorry you're struggling so much with this. I hope it gets better/easier/more acceptable and you start feeling more like you. Best wishes.

Katy said...

Iris, I'm so sorry you have to deal with all of this. I am sure this program plus cookbook plus blog is making you insane!

I know you feel you're preaching to the choir on this point, and from reading comments, it seems so; BUT, putting the awareness out there gives others incentive to talk about it with non-choir members, etc, etc, so it definitely is worth posting, and it gave ME a better idea what you have to deal with.

I think people WANT to think it's all in your head because they feel overwhelmed just thinking about it all. They want you to be able to eat and like the same foods as they do (I know this from being vegan). Hopefully you choose to surround yourself primarily with people who accept and empathize, and that will give you the strength to deal with the world at large, whilst dealing with the issues food presents to you.

Stay strong and keep exercising your creativity! It's a great asset in dealing with life's crappy sour lemons...

Amber said...

Hello Iris

Thank you for your honest words. This post really resinated with me, as I'm sure it did with most alternative foodies. I have to avoid most foods due to both a compromised immune system and digestive system...I'm also a slim gal so I always feel self-conscious turning down food. It's a pain in the ass! But there is no other choice, well, there is but it's a choice of pain and suffering...and who in the world would choose that?! It's important to process these feelings and where else than this great community of people that understands exactly what you are going through. You are a beautiful, creative and inspiring soul. Thank you again for this authentic post! Be Well, --Amber

Trishy said...

Hi Iris,
My son also has masses of sensitivities. Sometimes I think it would be easier if it was an allergy so that I wouldn't have to explain it all the time (not that I want him to have allergies). He is currently gluten free, dairy free, soy free, low amine, low glutamate, no nasty additives and low salicylates.

Salicylates may be something that you may not have considered, but things like honey, molasses, stevia and a huge range of fruit and veg are really high in them and the symptoms can be as varied as any sensitivity.

Fingers crossed you get to the bottom of it. Life with sensitivities can be incredibly isolating.

trish x

Barb said...

Thank you for your honesty. It can't have been easy opening your life to us all. I am so lucky to only have to avoid gluten because of celiac disease. I try to avoid refined sugars because they make me binge the foods that contain them. It's like I'm some other person. There's no stopping myself. I hope you find the right eating plan for you. Try to ignore those that give you the "look." They're not your friends at all.

Mac said...

Right there with you: frustration, leaky gut, and missing the time when eating was easy. I have faith that we will each find a solution eventually...!

Nicole @ Special Diet Creations said...

Yours was a very brave post and I'm so glad you had the courage to write it. I got chills up my spine when I read of your "double chin" reaction. I used to get the same thing -- a strange puffy sensation around my eyes and face and under my chin especially within seconds of eating certain foods -- and I got the same dubious looks from people, including doctors, when I tried to explain it.

Once I got off all grains, dairy and cane sugar and followed the SCD for a year my body healed but I know how it is to struggle with deprivation at the sight of long-loved foods. And yes, the "it's all in her head" looks were and continue to be part of the ebb and flow of life for me. All I can say is, you're not alone and I hope you heal both emotionally and physically. I believe that you will. You are in all of our thoughts.


Maggie said...

Iris, bless your lovely heart for sharing all this. As you can see, many of us can relate.
Sometimes the voice inside my head says, Maggie are you sure all of this delicious food makes you feel that way? Or do you simply have a bad relationship with food?
But yesterday I started my day with a gluten-free, refined sugar-free apple crisp. I thought it would be fine. I felt like crap all day. My back was sore, I had (still have ) a headache, I was grumpy and tired...you get the idea. It was crazy. The taste of that crisp is NOT worth the symptoms. I wonder what others say too. But frig, all that matters is how I feel! xoxoox to you lovely Iris xoxoxoox
ps And I saw on twitter that you have Abraham Hicks on your side, you'll be fine :)

Laura said...

Wow! I feel like you're really lucky to know all of the things that cause reactions for you! I've managed to figure out that I'm lactose sensitive and allergic to wheat, but I'm still having issues like being itchy all the time and after reading this post, I'm thinking I have a heck of a lot more reactions than I know! I have that weird jaw itch thing, random headaches and lots of other problems that always seemed mild-- and normal. I wouldn't even know where to start to find out what bothers me and I sure can't afford lots of tests to find out either-- I've been let down by doctors too many times when something funny is going on and they can't give me a diagnosis. Did you figure things out on your own, or were you tested? Oh, and one of the things that I get really ignorant and rude comments about is that my daughter goes completely insane if she has any artificial food coloring. People act like you must be nuts to think so and that you might as well say they have an infectious disease than suggest they might be sensitive to food coloring. People have said how mean it is that I don't allow my 2-year-old to have jello and candy and other CRAP!! When the truth is that the way she reacts and tries to hurt herself would be child abuse to allow it to continue!!!

Laurie Miller said...

I am so with you on everything in this post. I had bulimia when I was in high school and I used food to control my life. I developed my food sensitivities after taking multiple rounds of heavy antibiotics for intestinal infections like giardia, e-coli, dysentery, and cryptosporidium which I got travelling overseas. I had a RAST test 10 years ago that told me I was allergic to dairy, shrimp, citrus, sugar, and garlic.

Recently I started having anaphylactic reactions so I went to see a new allergist. She did a skin prick test and said, you're not allergic to anything! You have GERD! Here, take some Prilosec and then in 2 weeks, resume eating everything! I was so angry and confused. I don't care if you call it an allergy or sensistivity or disorder. I know what makes me sick and I know how to eat to be healthy, and to hell with anybody who wants to tell me it's all in my head. I have defriended friends on FB over this. I'm that pissed.

I'm tired of trying to make people understand that I'm not just being difficult when it comes to my crazy diet. I get so depressed having basically no support. I go through phases of eating things I know will be bad for me, and then cleaning up and eating clean. Even trying to eat clean though is so impossible that I usually end up eating an offending food about once a week anyway. I'm just tired. I seriously want to stop eating.

I too do yoga to get exercise and deal with stress in my life. It pains me when I can't do some moves (downward dog, for example) because my reflux is really bad that day because of something I ate. Yes, I am taking Prilosec now but it doesn't solve half my symptoms. I believe I have leaky gut syndrome too. I continue to gain new sensitivies. This year it has been corn, potatoes, bell peppers and onions. Most nights my stomach is bloated in excess of 44 inches. By morning, I am skinny again. It's so weird and frustrating.

I feel controlled by food. I hate it but I have to eat it. Nothing sucks more than trying to eat out and the only thing you can order is steamed veggies, grilled fish without any seasoning and a salad without any salad dressing. I have to pay money for this??! Eating out is no longer about delicious food; it's about enjoying somebody else's company, somebody who can eat anything they want off the menu and actually enjoy it. Why can I not do the same?

seeks said...

Iris, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You summarize not only some of my own food reactions (who'd have thought an itchy jaw?) but also the despair I sometimes feel when I have to explain my limitations or pass up a meal option yet again. Well-meaning friends and family just don't seem to get it. But it has been so gratifying to start feeling healed, when I find and abstain from allergen culprits. To not have yeast infections running my life, upping my anxiety, and making me miserable. So, stay encouraged, please. You have been, and I am sure you will continue to be, a source of immense inspiration. <3

Eryn said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Iris. I often feel frustrated when I eat "much better than most people", but still have symptoms if I don't eat extremely cautiously (and quite frankly, inconvieniently to the life I would like to lead- occastional eating out to save time, etc.). There was a period of where it was like the better I ate, the more sensitive I was. My body was an amazing machine, rejecting things at will that were somehow "not good for me" at the time.

The isolated feeling you mentioned is a big culpret standing in the way of health and healing. And for that, I thank you! Personally, you inspired me by this post to keep on keeping on :)...not just for my own good, but for my family (who also struggles), and others who are out there who struggle with the same thing.

Amy said...

I'm sure it's not all in your head. I have issues with food, but even though it bothers me I still have hard time eliminating the foods that bother me and like you said since it doesn't necessarily happen right away, I don't always see that what I am putting in my mouth is going to make me feel miserable and I sometimes eat way more of the foods I shouldn't since it doesn't affect me immediately. Eating the way need to eat is so difficult to maintain even though I know it will make me feel better!

Lobug said...

I so understand what you are going through. I hate the looks and the pitying and the "it's all in your head" garbage.
I've had allergies since birth- and food allergies that have increased since age 17. It stinks.

I have hope, though. I recently started seeing a naturopath- and read the book "The Yeast Connection Handbook". It's been 2 weeks, and I can tell I'm improving already. Granted, your issue may be something utterly different- but it might be worth looking into....

Hugs and best of luck to you.

Morri said...

Your words couldn't get any closer than this. I hope you don't mind, but I featured you in my lastest blog post: http://mealswithmorri.blogspot.com/2011/09/honesty-health-and-stew-beef-enchiladas.html

Cara said...

This was a beautifully written post! I am so glad that I stumbled upon it. I relate to so much you are saying and feel like you are opening my eyes to the reality of my food sensitivities. I get the "look" a lot, except people have decided to actually tell me it's all in my head. But truth be told, Dr. Spock was right when he said, "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." Thank you for the reminder to trust myself--there are a few issues that I need to sort out in my own diet and you have brought them to focus. I will be forwarding this to my friends.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I recently stumbled upon your blog because about a month ago I started the anti-candida diet and was/am having trouble adjusting to all the things that I couldn't eat. I'm so sorry to hear that some of the people around you aren't being as supportive as they should be. I've been very lucky because most of my friends have been incredibly kind and understanding. Just hang in there. There are definitely understanding people out there and, as you can see through the comments you've gotten, we're willing to make our voices heard to try to change the stigmata bit by bit.

The Healthy Apple said...

YOU are amazing and such a strong woman. I can relate to the terrible comments I receive from people as well as the pain from parastites, pathogens, C-Diff Colitis, dysbiosis and leaky gut. I just wrote a blog post about this as well because we need to help others know that they are not alone.
Thank you for this beautiful piece. Can't wait to meet you at the Dallas Gluten-Free Expo.

MsAmpuTeeHee said...

I just wanted to leave you a note and thank you so much for your post. And your honesty.
I've suspected I've had food sensitivities for years, specifically sugar, and I've had too much fear to do anything about it (even with all the suffering). I'm now working with a new doc who doesn't think I'm insane for being so sure my skin issues (and migraines, and anxiety, and and and...) are related to sugar consumption. He's taken some tests, but while we wait for results, he suggested I stop wheat/dairy/sugar *to start*. (hence stumbling onto your blog by way of dietdessertndogs).

In reading your post, I'm just blown away that people wouldn't be more supportive...but then of course I know it's totally true. People do some really funny things when faced with a person who does something differently. I know this because people already look at me funny and give me unsolicited advice and opinions because I have a visible disability. People like friends and family, people like complete strangers. And daily. It's crazy!

I'm hoping that 7 years of being a gimp and working hard to wrap my brain around the ways people already treat me differently is going to help me once they start treating me differently for eating differently, too. I'm really hoping that. And I'm going to keep hoping that. Because it seems better than worrying my food issues are going to be the next new isolating factor in my life.
Anyhow, thanks so much again for writing. I'm usually pretty quiet (lurker!), but I'll be over here following along ;-)
Good luck, and thanks again :-)

christine said...

oh Iris, you poor girl. I know people think I'm crazy not eating wheat - but I see my stomach swell, and I feel the pain it causes,so I don't want it. Well, that's not true - I used to bake bread, cookies, cakes etc and loved it - I'd go back to eating wheat in a second if my body would allow me to.

So, I know just a little of what you're going through. I'm vegan too, but that's my choice, so I'm happy to deal with comments about that.

Listen to your body as you are doing, and keep it happy. What else can you do, really?

I wish you the very best of luck. Be strong x

noosh. said...

You put into words so much of what I have been feeling recently!! I have been struggling with so many new food intolerances since my daughter was born and it's been so difficult to figure out what is bothering me. grains are a big no, and I'm finding even after cutting those out I'm bloated again after most meals still. I finally just took an IgG blood test the other day so i'm nervous and excited to find out the results. not putting all my eggs in that basket, but at least it might point me in the right direction!
I definitely understand the frustration of not being able to eat all of these things that were once "safe"! probably one of my most frustrating things is that people who can make gluten free things for me and are excited to know what to make are again asking the same old "but what CAN you eat?!?!" i wonder myself a lot. good luck with your journey, and know i'm struggling along with you :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I recently figured out I have a tannin allergy, but yeah, try to explain that to people! Being gluten-free and vegetarian seemed bad enough, but now I can't have tea?

But you're right, the not knowing is the worst, the will this food hurt me wait. Why can't we just eat things like everyone else?

You're so encouraging though, & it's good to know our weird food sensitivities are not in our heads, and never mind what other people think!

Be strong,

Chelsea Mae said...

Hey, your blog is amazing, I really enjoy looking and drooling over the recipes!
In terms of your constant struggles with symptoms, I know exactly how you feel!! I am vegan, gluten intolerant, soy makes me feel sick, and I hardly ever eat white starches, but seem to often feel sick!
Have you heard about food combining?
Its the idea that when you mix certain things together, ie starches and protein, acid fruits and sweet fruits, fruit and starches etc, that because the body digests these things at different pH levels and breaks them down very differently, when they are put together it causes fermentation, slow digestion, bloating, gas, pain etc... alot of the time people dont know they have these affects, because they cant feel them. But sensitive people like us really can feel it and it is so bad for you, anyone!
A really good book on the subject is "The natural way" by Mary Anne Shearer. It totally revolutionised my life and health and while I sometimes fall off the lifestyle, it really works. Mainly because it is science, and thats just how the body functions! We just dont get it sometimes!
I hope this helps, really want you to get better, know what it feels like when you feel you're doing everything you possibly can!!

Thanks again, Chelsea

Just Kellie said...

I am new to your blog, but let me say how much I absolutely LOVE it.

After I read this post, I felt even more grateful I stumbled across it.

I'm a recovering bulimic and know how challenging it is to be healthy and fit without seeming disordered and obsessed.

I too have many of the same symptoms you mention here. A lot of things make me gassy and bloated, specifically gluten. I also experience the itchy, tingly jaw line and chin when I eat avocado, banana, and especially kiwi. I've also noticed that if I'm catching a cold I will have the same feeling the kiwi gives me. Interesting.

Anyway, I wanted to convey how much your recipes and research are helping ME with my own eating disorder, and also helping me to figure out how I really need to be eating. So, I thank you.


Jen DeMoss said...

It was so great to read this. I swear when you mentioned the strange jaw feeling/double chin I just wanted to whoop with joy (and a little sadness) that someone else has those inexplicable feelings surrounding certain foods. And I want to say that I support you--considering that food is one of the few things we intentionally put into our bodies, it's not a big surprise that it can have such an enormous effect. I find it tiring as well to prepare all of my food and put up with comments about my restrictions, but when I feel lousy from eating out too much I know it's worth it to be a slave to my stove. Keep up the good work and cheer!

Jen D.

Sharon Mackey FL said...

I am 43 years old and I finally found someone that knows exactly my story. Thank you. i get so pissed off that I wont eat for days and the itchy jawline is just maddning. I keep thinking its a parasite of some kind I also am constantly battling candida and am always tired. I work out but nothing helps and I have such stiff joints.
A thousand thank yous just knowing I am not alone gives me hope.

Alexandra Brewer said...

Oh my god, thank you, thank you THANK YOU for writing this. Two months ago, my body suddenly stopped tolerating most foods, and for two months I've woken up every morning horrified by the ever-changing parade of horrible surprises that my body had for me. I've gone from "You gonna finish that?" to "I can't eat that," always with an apology. I've lost ten pounds off of an already thin body and it is so, so frustrating to be judged in this way.

So thank you, for voicing the things I haven't been able to.

Sandra Merrikin said...

I, too, have multiple food sensitivities. I have been told that a lot of the problem is emotional so I try to eat something not on my list and wind up with symptoms. Even though I am off a LOT of foods, I still have symptoms. If I cut out any more food I won't have any rotation available. As it is now I'm afraid I'm not getting enough nutrients. I am seeing a naturopath and she has helped me but doesn't want me to quit eating any more foods consequently I feel tired, achy, foggy and unwell a lot of the time. It's been nearly 4 years for me. I was hoping to be able to start adding foods back into my diet but that's not working.

Iris said...

Hi Sandra,

Since I wrote this, I've become a certified hypnotherapist, and I've used self-hypnosis to successfully add back in many of the foods I had to avoid. You can read more about what I'm doing over at www.yourfairyangel.com or e-mail me (iris@thedailydietribe.com) if you want to talk with me more about that.



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