Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Friends Zone: Allergy style

Who hasn't heard of the Friend Zone?  I'm not talking about Ross and Rachel here, the Friend Zone is the place in a relationship where both parties are comfortable, it's that point in time when you don't really move forward because you have reached a defining level in your relationship.  Some people feel it's inescapable.

Today, this struck me as the perfect metaphor for food allergies, and even chronic symptoms.  I've reached the Friend Zone.  In allergy-speak, this isn't a terrible thing.  It means that I'm comfortable managing my diet around my needs.  I don't even stress about food events, or beg for a carefully footnoted ingredient list.  I already know that answer; and it's no.  No food prepared outside of my kitchen at this time.

But it's also a danger zone.  I'm taken aback by food offers from new friends and acquaintances.  It means that I have my safe food list, my comfort foods, and I'm not constantly trying to expand.  In short, it puts me in a rut.  Same old foods, prepared very similarly.

Likewise, when it comes to symptoms, there is a Friends Zone that isn't so great.  Kind of like an annoying neighbor who thinks you're best friends and you want to be polite to.  Or are forced to put up with.  They become so ingrained in our lives that we take them for granted and stop trying to change things.  We accept them as an inevitable negative part of life.

Recently, I was talking to a woman who has a teenage son with food allergies.  He's in a double friends zone; choosing to put up with symptoms and assuming they won't get worse.  I hope, for his sake, that they won't.  But I also couldn't help but wonder if the problem could be too much Zone.  A boring diet, no longer pushing to adjust and expand, coupled by an acceptance that this is just the zone.  What we know, what we grow used to.

As someone with food allergies, I don't want to be stuck in a zone.  Maybe I'll choose it now and then, but I don't want to be stuck with symptoms I can't explain (they're either related to hidden allergens, or caused by damage done by prolonged GI reactions).  I don't want to presume that my diet must be boring and bland, while "normal" people enjoy "normal" diets full of spice and pizzaz.

So, while I fully intend to adjust my diet this summer in search of answers, I've also decided to yank myself out of the Friends Zone.  Insist on spicing it up.  Add a little pizzaz.

If nothing else, I'm gonna sip my ginger water from a champagne flute once in awhile.  It feels inspirational.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Corn/allergen free Nausea Remedy

Lately I've been struggling with stomach issues.  I don't know if there's some low level of corn exposure (Although I suspect some environmental issues that I am having trouble mitigating); but there is definitely something not right going on.  I've lost weight, my digestive tract is out of sorts, they've pointed out that with my low weight some of my internal organs and the loops in my colon are being dragged downward with gravity and probably aren't helping anything.  Even though that's supposed to be a symptom free kind of thing.  It's "nothing to worry about".  But the nausea...the nausea drives me crazy!    

Anyways, a friend suggested a very simple recipe that has been a true gift.  It doesn't cure me, but like the queasy-beads dh gave me for Christmas, it definitely takes the edge off.  

Bonus: Entirely allergen friendly.  Unless you are allergic to ginger root.  

Ginger Water:  

1 piece of ginger root

This is simply an infusion.  Mr Violets is awesome, and peels and dices a whole ginger root for me at a time so we can keep it in the freezer.  We take about 1/2-1 tsp and put it in a teaball.  Place the teaball in a 32 oz glass water bottle.  Fill with filtered water (room temperature or cold) and keep it in the fridge.  It's ready to drink after about 24-36 hours.  The tea ball/ginger need to be removed after day 3 or it starts to get bitter.  You can add honey or sugar, I'm loving it plain.  I imagine a bit of lemon or mint would go nicely, too.  

I don't know why I never thought of it before!  I've made tea, and chilled tea, but it isn't the same.  This is a lighter, more refreshing drink.  It's just so nice to have something to sip that isn't water! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I was at the grocery store when a woman commented that she's trying to eat more healthfully, and wants to try meatless mondays.  The trouble is she just doesn't know how to make anything vegetarian taste good.  (She was studying a pack of soy hot dogs with a rather suspicious air)

I told her I thought the best thing to do was to start simple, and focus on foods that don't require fake meat to taste good or be "normal".  Maybe try vegetable lasagne instead of a meat version.
(How do you make it without meat sauce? -- the question seemed genuine.)
Or split pea soup? (Mmm, she thought she might have a hambone at home...)
Er...A lot of mexican food is actually traditionally meat free and low dairy...just use refried beans (You don't add ground beef?  She interrupted, scandalized.)
Um...Vegetable soup?  (Her trick is to use beef stock instead of vegetable boullion)

Well...what about a nice dinner salad once in a while?  (This seemed to puzzle her, so I continued)  You know...really jazz up a green salad with whatever extra veggies are in your fridge, dice a tomato and add some nuts or a sprinkle of canned could even chop up a hardboiled egg for protein.  But focus on the variety of veggies...I trailed off as her eyes lit up.
(And a bit of bacon crumbled on top!  That sounds divine.)

She then thanked me for my ideas.  She didn't realize there were so many vegetarian options out there.
I think I missed something...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

I'm one in a million.
Statistically insignificant.
But irreplaceable.  Invaluable.  Priceless, unique.

Sometimes I find myself banging my head (lightly) against the wall as I'm trying to get through red tape.  It's not that I want to be treated special.  It's that my situation just doesn't jive with "normal".  But whose does?

I have a corn allergy (No one knows the odds on that one), I'm 1 in 133 gluten free.  I'm living on a limited income in a high cost of living area.  I'm mommy, wife, employee, online support advocate and girl scout leader.

One in a million.
Statistically insignificant.
But I matter.  I'm the only me.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

I've dropped below a BMI of 18.  According to most information on the net, this is considered serious and may have some health risks.
According to the entire medical system I currently have access to, they'd rather see me skinny than overweight so they aren't concerned.  Even given my symptoms, which are deemed "functional" although they seem decidedly the opposite.
I've been advised to begin drinking soda, maybe snack on some potato chips.  Eat ice cream between meals.  Anything high in fat or sugar to help put the pounds back on.

I can't help but think that this is what's wrong with society.
It's not that I have anything against junk food in general.  I think it's great for special occasions.  But I know my body is not suffering from a sugar deficit.  And I know that there are minimal nutrients in food like potato chips.  And I was advised months ago, due to blood work, to lay off the sugar and fast food (that I don't eat).
I'm frustrated that pointing this out, respectfully, makes me seem obstinate and argumentative.  It seems to make the medical professionals I'm consulting for support respond in a defensive, dismissive manner.
I get that calories are important and it's easier to get a lot of calories from junk food, but maybe our doctors and nurses and nutritional consultants need to be looking at more than simple calories.  I read more and more articles online where nutrition is a focus.  People are looking for superfoods like kale and chia seeds to cure all woes.
In my opinion (as a not so healthy feeling probably not average American without a medical degree) we need to be seeking balance.  We need doctors and nurses and nutritionists who are more concerned about whole health and can look at a bigger picture, rather than 15 minutes stuff it in a box and move on to the next patient.  None of us are truly text book cases, and we'll make a lot more progress as a society if we think and put pieces together properly.

Otherwise we're just trading out health problems.  And I'm not sure I really prefer type 2 diabetes over "Huh, that's weird."  I'd rather get to the root of the problem and fix it.  Or at least not add new issues to old ones.  I've got a life to live here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nausea is the worst

I feel bad for saying this, even for thinking it.  But truly, some days nausea feels like the worst symptom.
I know there are people who have it worse.  I count my blessings nightly, kiss my kids and walk the dog, I say a silent prayer of thanks for what I have.
But I can't help but think that nausea is still just...miserable.

I have my allergies relatively under control.  My symptoms are new and probably "functional" which means, while I by no means am fully functional, my body technically has nothing wrong that needs treatment.

Whether your diagnosis is functional abdominal something, or IBS, or something more specific, the queasies are never fun.  They impact every area of your life, from baking to eating to socializing.  They may even impact your ability to work normally.

If you, like me, are struggling with stomach woes this year, just know that you aren't alone. The episodes are (hopefully) transient and short lived.  I won't say it could be worse because that doesn't help me.  But at least it isn't the end of the world.

For anyone else out there who is struggling, you probably have already had a list of recommendations that don't work.
I'm not going to say that there is an easy fix, or a one size fits all solution.  There isn't.  But, here are a few (corn free, gluten free as always) options that help take the edge off for me:

Ice water:  Something about really cold water makes it stay down better.  Small sips.  Sometimes pressing the glass to your wrists between sips helps, too.

Cold compress:  A cool compress on the wrists, inside the elbows or at the nape of the neck can be soothing.  And of course, if you're having those awful hot flash false fever things that sometimes accompany nausea, a cool cloth on the forehead never hurts.

Hot tea:  Depending on the day, hot tea can be soothing.  Small pieces of ginger can be simmered in water for 10-20 minutes to make ginger tea, or you can steep anise seeds for a licoricey taste.  Stir in a touch of sugar.  If you have a safe milk product to stir in, ginger tea tastes better with some creamy texture.  But if you don't, that's perfectly okay too.

Motion Sickness Bands:  Those little gray bracelets with a marble in them?  They work.  Not like magic, exactly, but they definitely help take the edge off.  The only trouble is that they can get stretched out and then they don't work nearly so well.

A brisk walk:  Yeah, I know, that seems counter intuitive.  But I find that a bit of fresh air (especially cold air) can really help calm things down.  Our hyperactive dog helps with this one a lot.

Dry food:  You know how pregnant women snack on saltines all day long?  And little kids get bits of dry toast when they're recovering from the flu?  Neither of those work with Celiac Disease.  But slightly toasted day-old rice or rice flour pancakes seem to settle much better than the fresh version.  I think it's a combination of the texture and the blandness.  Not appealing when you're well, but there are times when you would rather a few calories slip past your sensory network.

Broth: A perennial favorite, homemade broth gets a few precious calories in alongside some important nutrients.  Chicken broth, veggie broth, bone broth...whatever you prefer, get the ingredients into your crockpot before bed, and you'll have hot broth at your fingertips all day long.

Calm music, or a favorite movie:  There's comfort food, and there's comfort food for the soul.  Whatever your spiritual comfort food is...plug it in, curl up with a warm blanket and put your brain on autopilot.  If you can close your eyes to appreciate it, all the better.

You'll note that I don't mention books.  I love books.  I'm a voracious reader.  You can tell I haven't been feeling "normal" by the number of books I go through, just as you can guess my state of mind by the number of items I bring home from the library.  But I have to be careful, reading too much can exacerbate stomach issues.  Someday I'll get a smarter device and listen to recorded books...Occasionally I'll pick up a recording of Jane Austen, and while I find it hard to follow the story when I'm not feeling great, I do appreciate the soothing tone of the narrator.

I wish there was a miracle cure I could offer.  I'd love to wave a magical wand and cure us all of persistent stomach "issues".  But until then, the best I can do is tell you that you aren't alone.  And hope that I'm not alone either!  :P

It's especially challenging to deal with health issues during the holidays.  Try and focus on what you can do, not what you want to be able to do.  The holidays are a time of love and well as forgiveness and understanding.  The people who matter will understand.  The people who try and hold it against you don't matter.

Enjoy your holiday, embrace the calm moments and accept the queasy ones.  You only get one today, don't put it entirely on hold.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Potluck Power: Corn allergy edition

Life with a corn allergy leads to a lot of obstacles.  Food is everywhere.  Most people don't even realize how often they snack, or accept a drink, munch on food that isn't homemade.  But where there is socializing, there is food.  And for those of us with food allergies; there is tempatation and risk.
For some people with food restrictions, the risk is minimal.  For others, it's big.
And then there are those who are just beginning...they don't know how big the risk really is, and that makes it seem like a looming obstacle.
Luckily, you don't have to eat food that you don't provide.  Really, it is that simple.  There is no reason whatsoever that you would be forced to eat a meal that you don't have control over, so let that risk go.  You get to choose what goes into your body.
Once I learned that trick, social situations became infinitely easier.  (Especially once I figured out that I didn't need to explain to every single person at a party exactly why I wasn't eating.)

The next obstacle was just as hard if not harder:  What to share.
Obviously, I'm not talking about words.  I've already stated that I learned not to overshare.  Oversharing is bad, it loses friends and creates judgement.  It leads to a nasty neverending cycle of self consciousness, negative self talk and isolation.

Once I started to be social again, I didn't like showing up at parties, especially pot lucks, empty handed.  But what could I share?  My diet was/is so limited.  I was used to friends and strangers' appalled faces, and questions like "what do you eat?"
Food.  The answer, dear reader:  I eat food.  I just tend to know what, exactly, is in it.
This is a rarity in some circles.  And the lack of unpronouncables in the ingredient list is a distinct turn off to some individuals.  It was definitely a deterrent to me.  What if they miss the polysorbate 80?  What if they notice there's no MSG?  And, potentially the most unforgiveable of all, how will it possibly look appealing without the aid of yellow #6?

My fears were misplaced.  I started slow.  I ensured there were no known nut allergies and brought my old fashioned peanut butter cookies.  The recipe calls for 1 jar, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of sugar.  I add chocolate chunks and a touch of rice flour.  It's rich, creamy, and I've had folk ask if they can bring a few home wrapped in a napkin.  This, as you can imagine, was the ultimate compliment.

For a more savory dish, I've had success with roasted sweet potatoes.  It's a simple recipe involving sweet potatoes, onions and sometimes carrots, beets, parsnips and/or garlic.  I've roasted brussel sprouts, too, but people are still suspicious of their green-ness.  (Those brave souls who try a few always take seconds or thirds, but the first bite seems to take an awful lot of courage.  After all, they're brussel sprouts.  They've had a bad rap every since the Beaver's days.)  Of course, with this recipe you need to be careful where your dish is placed and that serving utensils don't get mixed up.  Cross contamination is a concern, and I sometimes find myself hovering protectively over the food...totally negating the normalcy of sharing food.

Then I wanted something sweet, but not too sweet.  Something that could pass as a brunchy food.  I wanted to bring carrot cake...but I don't have a good frosting.  Besides, frosting would turn it into a real dessert.
Solution?  Carrot cake baked into loaf pans.  I get lots of positive feedback, and the sugar content is significantly lowered.  Plus, I can turn the leftovers into peanut butter sandwiches.  If there are any leftovers.  Which is rarely.

Final risk taken?  Chebe bread.  It's made from a mix.  I sometimes add garlic and  spinach or diced bell peppers.  I roll it into small rolls to make it less intimidating to potluck snackers.  It gets rave reviews and lots of questions about ingredients and what I do to make it taste so much like "real food".

Potlucks are no longer terrifying.
I still have to worry about cross contamination, and environmental sources of corn (Did someone recently pop corn, is there cornstarch in the air?) but I've managed to feel successful at the end of several potluck type situations.
There's just something satisfying about being able to share what I eat, and finding out that other people don't find it nearly as bland and depressing as they seem to think they will.
I won't pretend I don't feel awkward about my dietary limitations, because I do.  And the point of this blog is to be honest and support anyone else in the same boat.  But I realized that the only way to help others accept my restrictions and see past them is to act normal.  Which means pretending that it really isn't a big deal either way if I can eat the food they offer, or if they taste my offerings.

Once I started pretending, I realized it was true.  Especially once I discovered that I had perfectly respectable dishes to offer.  My diet is different, but not inferior.  What we eat while we talk is really irrelevant.  The fact that we're talking, and the contents of our conversation, that's what matters.