After years of living with common, though problematic inflammatory-type symptoms, like acne, endometriosis, exhaustion, and periods of hair loss, I finally decided to get to the bottom of these health issues. Many blood tests, several different doctors appointments, and a sonogram of my thyroid later, I found out that nothing was wrong. Huh?
I was very gratefully that all the tests came back negative, but where did that leave me? I most recently met with an integrative medicine specialist, a doctor who combines eastern and western medicine and treats patients primarily through acupuncture and diet. A kind of medical Sherlock Holmes, who puts the pieces together to try and understand what is happening in your body. He explained that many foods can be responsible for the types of inflammatory symptoms I was experiencing and that eliminating them all from my diet over the course of a 3 week period and then systematically adding them back in, I could hopefully identify the foods that were causing me to feel lousy and maybe contributing to some of my symptoms.
Okay. Sounded doable. Until I read the list of foods “not allowed” . . . gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, citrus, shellfish, nightshade vegetables (like tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, and mushrooms), peanuts, and sugar. What was I supposed to eat? Air? The first few days were brutal. I foolishly decided to start over Memorial Day weekend. Not only were the BBQ’s torturous for me, but I was so busy with the kids I didn’t have a chance to cook anything that I might enjoy. I was miserable and starving. I ate fruit in the morning, had grilled chicken with lettuce and cucumbers and balsamic vinaigrette for lunch and more grilled chicken or fish with veggies for dinner. Did I mention I was starving?
I went out for a birthday dinner with some friends over the long weekend. Reservations at the Italian restaurant were made weeks earlier and I figured no problem, I’ll find something to eat. Instead I cried. They ate linguini with white clam sauce, fried artichokes (yes coated in flour first), and sautéed soft shell crabs. Three of my all time favorite dishes. Followed by cappuccinos and tiramisu for dessert. How would I survive for 3 weeks?
So I came home and made a plan. I started to get creative with the foods I could eat. Pasta (brown rice) Pesto (dairy free) and Diced Chicken, check. Pan-fried Sea Bass with Bok Choy and Garlic Oil, check. Curry Cauliflower Soup, check. Turkey Burgers, Veggie Burgers, and Millet Burgers, triple check. Spinach Smoothies with Frozen Bananas, Coconut Milk and Almond Butter, check. Vegan Cheesecake made with Almond Butter and Cashew Cream, check. I was already feeling better.
I found some great websites that offered lots of good ideas and new ways of using foods. I love oh she glows, minimalist baker, oh my veggies, and detoxinista. There are also lots of great cookbooks available by Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, Terry Walters, and the Blum Center for Health. Plus two local restaurants that cater to people with dietary constraints, Organic Planet in Greenwich, CT and Andy’s Pure Foods in Rye, NY.
Next was a trip to Mrs. Green’s, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I bought gluten free flour, brown rice syrup, brown rice cereal, dates, almond meal, avocado oil (my doctor recommended that I use this for cooking as olive oil tends to break down at high heats), coconut oil, almond butter, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I also bought hummus, dried/crunchy chickpeas, and chips called Plentils, as well as bean and rice chips from Beanfield.
I am now 2 weeks into the elimination diet and feel pretty good. I feel less bloated (lighter somehow), slightly more energized, and proud that I am doing something great for my body. It’s like a spa for your insides. I have also learned that is not just eating the foods that you are “allowed”, but putting food into your body that will nourish you and make you feel your best (I tried making fried artichokes with frozen artichokes, gluten free flour and grape seed oil. They weren’t crispy, but they were beautifully fried and tasted great. Only I didn’t feel good after eating them. I think it was just too much oil and that didn’t feel good in my body anymore). Over the next few weeks I’ll share with you some of the great recipes (others too) I have been working on that meet the needs of this diet. I am eager to continue on this journey and see where it leads me. Thanks Dr. Joe!
2 large bunches of basil (about 4 cups), cleaned, dried, and stems removed
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1-cup olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the sliced garlic and a pinch of salt. Pulse 5 or 6 times until garlic is minced. Add the basil and pine nuts and pulse again. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil. Taste and season with a bit of salt. Store in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator.
* Easy to add brown rice or gluten free pasta, shredded rotisserie chicken, peas, and fresh mint.