If you want to read how this all started, read this post written about 2012.
Now, onto 2013~
First, my mistakes:
- Since I love to cook and bake, I wanted to experiment making gluten free baked goods. This was a mistake, because it added too many variables into what I was eating. I thought if something was gluten free it would be fine to eat and so I began cooking and baking with millet, amaranth, tapioca and rice. In hindsight it would have been better for me to keep my diet as simple as possible.
- Another error I made was adding foods in too close together. If I had a problem, then I wasn’t sure which food caused it. I have since learned to be more patient and I wait for several days after a food challenge before determining if that food is OK.
I ended up losing quite a bit of weight on the elimination diet (15 pounds) and I was thin to begin with so I really needed to gain some weight. One of the foods I tested in February was pecans because (1) I loved them and (2) I needed the calories. So, I ate about 35 pecans. Two days later, I was housebound. Was it the pecans? Or not? That was a question that was always on my mind. Was food causing my symptoms? Or was it my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?
In March I challenged almonds; 65 of them to be exact, spread out over the day. The next morning, before I got out of bed, I knew I was in deep trouble. My heart was pounding. When I took my blood pressure and pulse they were both sky high (for me). My pulse was in the high 90s all day long. My BP was over 150/over 90 all day long. (A typical BP for me is 105-110/70-80.) I felt horrible; like I had the flu. My entire body ached. Several days later my neck got stiff. It was close to 3 weeks before I felt better again. Now, I suppose it could have been the flu and not the almonds, but I never get the flu. So, I *think* it was the almonds.
In May I was suspecting that rice was problematic for me, so I went off rice and got my starch from sweet potatoes and yams.
In June we traveled to Europe and it was impossible to be able to cook sweet potatoes, so I relied on rice cakes, some canned fruit (peaches, applesauce and pears) and occasionally cheese for easy to eat calories. By the end of trip, I really didn’t feel well. I told my husband that I didn’t care if it took 6 months, I had to figure this out and I was going back to eating very few foods and doing all my own cooking.
In July, I started my few foods elimination diet over again. I basically was eating yams, sweet potatoes, avocados, turkey, millet, broccoli, olive oil, carrots, bok choy, lettuce, beets and zucchini. I challenged white rice (2 cups well cooked white rice) on July 30th (Day 1). By the end of the day, my GI tract felt very bloated. The next day (Day 2) I woke up with a significant headache. The headache finally left around 5 pm on Day 3. The next couple of days I got my “red alert” symptom which can best be described as an internal feeling like something is really wrong. Kinda like an internal tension or a wired feeling. It’s a horrible symptom. I wondered if it was related to the rice. It was clear to me that rice was a problem because of the headaches I experienced. At that point I decided rice wasn’t good for me. I decided to also stop eating millet (which was the only grain I was eating at the time).
I had surmised that if a food wasn’t one of the top eight allergenic foods or wasn’t some of the other more problematic foods (eg corn, spinach, yeast, etc), it probably wouldn’t give me a problem. That idea was incorrect. I had been testing various summer fruits (which were all delicious) and noticed that I had much more fatigue. It dawned on me that my fatigue was similar to what I had in the summer of 2012 when I was juicing fruits and vegetables (trying to be super healthy). I came to the startling realization that perhaps my body wasn’t handling fructose very well. I wasn’t having GI issues….just a lot more fatigue. This didn’t happen with apricots and avocados (which are low in fructose) but happened when I challenged peaches, cherries and grapes.
With much sadness and a bit of horror mixed in, I went off all high fructose containing foods about the same time I went off all grains (towards the end of July). Surprisingly (very surprisingly), my brain fog cleared up in about one week. I was shocked! Could grains or fructose (or both) have contributed to my brain fog? Time will tell as I test them.
In October, we went to Hawaii. Since I was suspicious that grains, fructose and nuts were my biggest problems I thought I would eat some fish. I ate some mahi mahi and 2 shrimp (from a restaurant), then some ono, opa and salmon that I prepared myself. I ate these foods starting the afternoon of the 15th through the 17th. On the 18th I had such a wicked headache I had to be horizontal in the afternoon. The headache continued on the 19th and 20th. I was sure it was the fish; but I didn’t know if it was fish in general, the shrimp, or any one fish in particular. (This is one problem encountered when you add too many foods in at once….you don’t know which one caused your problem! To complicate matters, it could also have been cross contamination from the food eaten in the restaurant.) On the 21st I developed back pain and left hip pain that radiated down my leg. I *thought* it was because I had gone snorkeling and tweaked my back trying to get away from an eel. That was a wrong assumption. It was from eating fish! (I know this because the same symptom happened after I challenged peanut butter and brown rice later in the year and I had not gone snorkeling with those foods!)
About this time I was eating primarily coconut oil for my fat (and much needed calories). I had stopped eating avocados and olive oil for I seemed to have pain in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen when I ate those foods; and coconut oil did not cause me that pain. We thought I might be having gallbladder issues of some kind and coconut oil doesn’t need bile to be absorbed, which is why I was eating it. After I finished the jar of coconut oil, I had my lipid levels run. They are run annually and it seemed like a good time to run them. I was curious if the saturated fat in the coconut oil would affect my lipid levels. And it did! All my values were worse! In fact, my CHOL/HDL ratio was the worst since 2003. I was not eating processed foods, or sugar, or any other fat. I wasn’t eating anything that could affect my labs that way except the coconut oil. I learned that for me, coconut oil is not something I should be eating! Fortunately, I am now able to eat avocados again!
In November I challenged wheat. I ate 10 whole wheat cereal squares at 8 a.m. About an hour later I had a slight headache that went away. I ate 1/4 cup more wheat cereal squares at 10:20 and about an hour later I had a headache that went away. At 1 pm I ate 1/2 cup of the cereal and around 2 pm I had some GI bloat and another headache. (Note to self: in the future stop eating the food if this happens.) At 6 pm and 8:30 pm I ate a small whole wheat tortilla (whole wheat flour, canola oil and salt). At 9 pm my blood pressure was 20 points higher than it had been all day. (I had started tracking my BP and pulse in October.) By 10:30 pm my headache was so bad I was in tears. I had a headache on an off the next day, and slightly stuffy sinuses that day and the next. I believe the headaches were wheat related but I’m not sure about the stuffy sinuses. At any rate, I won’t be eating wheat again anytime soon.
On November 18th I challenged peanut butter. I wondered if it would be an issue for me since just breathing the peanut dust in a restaurant earlier had made me feel awful. I decided to eat 1 tablespoon 4 times during the day. This peanut butter was freshly ground, and was just peanuts. No salt or anything else added. I had a slight headache in the afternoon after having consumed 3 of the 4 tablespoons. I ate the 4th tablespoon and went to bed. I slept poorly due to GI issues and a bad headache. I lay in bed thinking to myself “All this pain for peanut butter which didn’t even taste good!” The headache lasted for 2 days and then I had left hip pain that traveled down my left leg (similar to what happened to me in Hawaii). I was quite surprised! The sciatica pain lasted for 3 days and gave way to full body pain on the 24th. On the 22nd I had a bout of tachycardia. (The number of my tachycardia episodes had decreased substantially since going on the elimination diet.) OK….no more peanut butter for me! That was crystal clear!
I was beginning to believe that food intolerance was truly an issue for me (call me a slow learner). Next, I wanted to try to make myself ill so I would know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was dealing with food intolerance as part of my illness. I thought I would challenge either almonds or brown rice. I chose brown rice because I didn’t want to go through the almond experience again and I was curious to see if brown rice affected me negatively like white rice did.
On 12/12/13 I ate 1/2 cup well cooked brown rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My blood pressure and pulse were fine the entire day. A headache started at 10:30 pm and was still there on the 13th when I woke up (note to self: stop eating the food if this happens). I told my husband that I know I should stop eating the rice, but I wanted to know, for sure, that food could make me sick. So I ate 1/2 cup well cooked brown rice again for breakfast, lunch and dinner. By 5 pm my blood pressure was 20 to 30 points higher than it had been all month. At 2 a.m. my head hurt so badly I could not sleep. I also had chest pressure. I spent much of the day in bed. The 15th I continued with headaches and spent much of the day in a recliner. The headaches continued until the 21st. The left hip sciatica pain started on the 17th and ended on the 21st. I now know that food can cause this type of inflammation, which amazes me. On the 18th my knees hurt as I walked up and down stairs. On the 22nd I was very, very dizzy…even when horizontal. I didn’t even want to go to sleep that night because I wondered if I would wake up in the morning. I wondered if the dizziness was a virus reactivating from all the stress my body was under due to the rice challenge. It took me a full month…until 1/14/14 before I felt as strong as before the rice challenge. I will never eat rice again!
You might wonder how I was feeling health wise throughout the year: was eliminating foods helping me to feel better? Yes, it was. Starting in July, when I really got serious about eating only my own cooking and only a few foods, I started to feel better and better. Each month I had a greater number of better days. That is, until November when I started challenging the more problematic foods like wheat and peanut butter. In December I did well the first half of the month, then totally fell apart after the rice challenge.
I didn’t feel perfect on my good days, just the best I had in the 10 years of my illness. I track how I feel on a calendar, so I have a fairly objective way to know if I’m improving or not. I also track my symptoms on the calendar and in my food journal. For information on how I track symptoms, you can see my book. (My book does not contain information on my experience with food intolerance or elimination diets…that is what this website is about 🙂 . )
As 2013 came to a close I was certain that food intolerance was part of my health issues. I also know that chronic viral infections are part of my illness. Perhaps what I’m going through, what I have learned, my mistakes and my successes can help someone else. I hope so. That is my hope and prayer and why I have started this website.