I’ve been struggling with gut issues for years now. And before you jump in to tell me I should see a doctor, I have. Many. Again and again. I’ve had two GI workups, complete with endoscopy and colonoscopy. I’ve been tested for celiac and intestinal parasites, tried the FODMAP diet, had a gazillion lab tests, tried probiotics and digestive enzymes, you name it. I’ve also done food elimination trials, and I keep coming back to some frustrating conclusions. I do best when I eliminate all gluten and dairy, and cut waaaay back on sweets. Before you say keto, I don’t seem to tolerate the high fat foods recommended by keto, so I’m proceeding with caution here, trying to find something that works for me.
This is the part where I make the pouty face, drum my heels, and cry, “I don’t wanna!” when it comes to making these changes permanent. See, I love bread. No, seriously. I’d rather eat bread than cake. In fact, if Marie Antoinette had ever said. “Let them eat cake” (which is disputed, BTW), I’d have chopped off her head too. I can’t imagine a meal without bread or cereal in some form. And compared to the light fluffy goodness of real bread, gluten free products (at least here in the US) taste nasty. Like they have sand mixed in them. Also, I’m on a sodium restricted diet because of my BP now, so why is it that most GF products are LOADED with salt and excessive seasonings? Did I mention I also suffer from acne rosacea, and that all of these things are made worst by certain foods?
I love bread so much that part of my love of Lucy Lawless’s new crime show, My Life is Murder, stems from the fact her character makes bread as a way of dealing with her personal issues along with solving crimes. And that Lucy Lawless is hot. And I want her boots. Her kind of nosy interference is a helluva upgrade from Angela Lansbury’s Murder, She Wrote!
Of course, the answer for me is a very plain diet, such as bowls of fish and rice with some sort of leafy greens added. And when I stick to it, I feel better. No, scratch that. I feel almost like a human being again. No heartburn. No bloating or belching. And much less pain. As an added benefit, when I maintained strict adherence to these dietary restrictions, I lost almost ten pounds in one week. I believe at least some of that was due to decreased inflammation.
So why can’t I maintain it? For one, it’s a LOT of work. You have to shop often, and buy fresh. There’s only so much I can make in advance when most of what I’m eating is steamed. My food bill has tripled, and I’ve lost the convenience of easily portable items to take with me to work. And I’ll be honest, there has been days when I’ve skipped lunch because I couldn’t face another meal fit for a Buddhist monk.
There’s also the fact I love bread, remember? So what’s a gluten-loving girl to do? Well, I can keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is explore my gluten-free options for those times when nothing but carbs will do. I’ll eat Udi’s white sandwich bread if I have to. Nature’s Promise makes decent Cinnamon Thins Cookies (I can’t find a link, which means they’ve probably stopped making them) that taste a lot like snickerdoodles and have the crunch I like in a cookie. Mama Geraldine’s makes GF cheese straws that are hard to tell from the real thing. Van’s Say Cheese and Perfect 10 crackers aren’t bad, if you can tolerate the salt. Betty Crocker makes a good GF brownie mix if you add nuts to it to cut some of the sweetness. But all that’s really exchanging one kind of bad-for-you carb for another. I need to expand my cooking skills (weak at best, lethal at worst) and experiment with other greens besides kale.
But I can’t help but wonder why I can no longer eat the foods I love.
I suspect the answer may lie in The Good Gut Diet, which is a book detailing the importance of our gut biomes, and how so many of our health issues can be traced back to problems with our microflora. Now, mind you, I’ve tried digestive enzymes and probiotics, and sometimes they seem to help a bit, but according to Dr. Gerard Mullin, we need to do more than supplement our gut bugs. We need to reset them.
I like the idea behind this. That we do a restrictive diet for a month, then take steps to recreate a healthy biome, then gradually move to a maintenance plan that doesn’t say you can never have certain foods, but that you eat them sparingly. The hardest part for me will probably be the restocking of the healthy biome bit. I’ve read ahead, and I LOATHE the fermented foods they recommend during this phase, sauerkraut, yogurt, kim chee and the like. Pretty much if it contains vinegar, I’m going to turn my nose up at it. And please, yogurt is milk you should have thrown out weeks ago.
But since this seems to be the best chance I have of getting my life and health back, I’m determined to give it a try. It’s impacting everything: my ability to work, enjoy my time with my family, write. I’m the sort of person who gets up out of bed no matter what and goes until she drops, but I’m getting perilously close to dropping now, and I want to feel better again.
The irony about Lucy Lawless playing a crime-solving baker? Apparently she is HIGHLY sensitive to gluten and describes it as ‘death’ to her. So I guess I’m not the only one who can no longer eat the foods I love.