February 2018 Focus Area: Food/Fuel
I’m pretty confident that I have a high pain tolerance (for example, I poured nearly boiling hot water on my finger the other day and barely muttered an “ow”. I proceeded to finish what I was doing and then figured it would be prudent to run it under cold water), however, I get stomach pains that are so intense that my whole body will seize up. I also had an incident last year when I was traveling when I thought I might collapse (or be sick) on a sidewalk in a nice little neighbourhood in England. It started out with a little pain on my side and then radiated around to my back. I noticed it when I woke up that morning but thought I could ignore it and catch the train into London with my sister-in-law. Instead, the pain got so bad that I couldn’t follow what she was saying or keep up with her walking pace so I had to tell her to go on without me. I began overheating and had to strip my coat off, despite it being a cool day. I managed to find a little curb to sit down on because, by that point, I was in so much pain I could barely move. Thankfully I didn’t get sick and, after resting a bit, I was able to get myself sorted and find my way back to my family’s house.
On the days leading up to that incident, I had been eating some foods (namely dairy and wheat) in much higher quantities than I typically would at home. Upon returning home, my doctor sent me for some tests. Nothing came back conclusive, except that I am not celiac, so I am currently waiting to see a gastrointestinal specialist. Although my results for celiac were not positive (thankfully), my doctor wondered if I may have a sensitivity to dairy, or gluten, or something else and suggested I do an elimination diet.
The other issue I’m hoping to resolve, or improve, has to do with some lab results that showed my thyroid stimulating hormone and thyroid antibody levels to be mildly higher than where they should have been (without making this super long, I will add that there were some other symptoms which prompted the lab tests to investigate my thyroid levels). Given that there is a history of autoimmune conditions in my family I would prefer to control this through my diet rather than with prescription drugs (or, at the very least, postpone when I may need to start taking medication to manage it).
I wanted to start the year off by making changes to improve my health, so I was glad that Jenn also wanted to start the year off with a food/nutrition based pledge. In the past, I have focused on starting with productivity type resolutions (e.g., I’m going to clean and declutter the house) and then I burn out. My plan for this year is to focus on getting my health in tip-top shape first, and then later in the year when, you know, I’m feeling great and have lots of energy, I will be better able to tackle some of the other projects that never seem to get done, or at least that is the method to my madness.
The timing also works well since I have nothing planned that could really throw my diet off course. I’ve done elimination diets a couple of times before, however, it always seems like something happens, usually traveling, where it is too difficult to maintain a strict diet and I end up reintroducing everything at once. I do have a trip coming up in March so I would like to figure out what my food triggers might be before then. How nice would it be to be stomach ache free while traveling? Answer: *SO* nice! 🙂
I will follow the elimination and challenge diet as detailed below and I will keep a food journal to see how my body responds to the changes*. I also pledge to read The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, by Aviva Romm, MD, as I’ve been meaning to read it for a year now(!!) and this seems like the perfect time to do it.
I will have, at most, an 8-ounce coffee every other day and I will eliminate the following foods from my diet:
- Nightshade veggies
- Gluten and grains
- Processed Meats
- Soy, beans, and legumes
- (I might try to eliminate coffee altogether for the first two weeks, but we’ll see…)
I will systematically challenge my system by reintroducing the following foods:
- Non-gluten grains (February 15)
- Dairy (February 18)
- Nightshades (February 21)
- Alcohol (February 24, conveniently I will be celebrating a friend’s wedding on this day)
- Beans and legumes (February 27)
You’ll notice that I haven’t put a plan in place to reintroduce gluten, processed meats, corn, soy, peanuts, and sugar. These are things I don’t believe I will miss that much from my diet and/or I don’t want to reintroduce because, as I understand it, they are good to avoid if you have thyroid concerns. I may, however, continue the challenge phase into March and try reintroducing those foods, just to fully test if they cause a reaction or not.
MEASURE OF SUCCESS:
I will consider this successful if I stick to the diet, I have outlined above, one hundred percent. I am allowing myself one planned-exception-day**, for my friend’s wedding, when I know it will be more difficult to control my food options.
- The plan that I have set out above is a combination of this elimination diet by Aviva Romm and the recipes from this book by Dr. Frank Lipman.
- As noted above, I will also be reading The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, by Aviva Romm, to keep me inspired and further inform me on adrenal-thyroid issues. I may also use some of the recipes from her book during the elimination and challenge phases.
- Amy Myers MD, is another doctor and author who specializes in the treatment of autoimmune conditions so her page and book will be good sources for recipes as well.
* I actually cut out most of these foods in January, primarily because Jenn and I hadn’t totally decided on whether or not this blog would happen and I had already mentally prepared myself to do an elimination diet during the first month of 2018. I was also highly motivated because I had some killer stomach aches towards the end of 2017. From January 8th through 21st I followed a strict elimination diet and then, from the 22nd to 31st, I reintroduced a little bit of dairy (i.e., sheep milk yogurt, goat cheese, organic kefir), eggs, and nightshade vegetables. I also ate out several times from the 22nd to the 31st, although I did my best to keep to my diet, ordered lots of veggies and avoided gluten and refined sugar. So, while it may not be such a challenge to cut out some of these foods now, the challenge will be to maintain the elimination diet, prepare meals at home (a habit that I struggle with), and then to reintroduce foods systematically (something which I have never been able to do in the past). It’s also probably a good thing that I have mostly eliminated these foods for longer than two weeks, as it is generally recommended to do the elimination diet for at least 2-3 weeks prior to reintroducing.
**A planned-exception-day is an idea that I got from Gretchen Rubin’s blog. It is similar to a cheat day, except, that it must be planned ahead of time, so it is less impulsive.