August 29, 2009

Suckage, or, Apparently my life just isn't complicated enough

My health (and life, for that matter) is like an onion: layers upon layers upon layers, with multiple hearts (personalities) deep within, each with their own succession of layers upon layers.

My waxing and waning chronic illnesses from three tickborne infections (TBI) is one layer (well, three). The organ malfunctions caused by long-term infection another. Add another couple of layers for the bizarre and generally untreatable endocrine and immune system problems. Then there's the occult lungworm layer (Cryptostrongylus, in case you want to read a bit about it), sinus Staph., and environmental mold sensitivities.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, so had to total revamp my diet to exclude all things with gluten in them (and you would be amazed at the things food product manufacturers put wheat and gluten in). Eating the available gluten-free (GF) bakery and pasta products isn't really an option, since they are made from plants that I need to limit because of them being high on the glycemic index (rapidly raising blood sugar, which I also need to be careful of). So, I revamped my meal plans so that they do not include glutenized grains. (At least I am spared the problem faced by parents of celiac and autistic kids on GF diets who also need to be wary of gluten in school supplies.)

(Instead, I have to wear gloves to avoid direct contact with photocopy and laser toners and documents copied/printed with them, and inks used on newsprint, and newsprint paper and paper bags, since they all contain these chemicals. Hey! You knew there had to be something, right. Oh, and I can't be around scented felt-tip markers, or papers on which they were used.)

So, I adapted. Lots of leafy greens, vegetables and fruits in my entree salads, with protein from tinned fish, or chicken, or lite dry salamis, and feta or bleu cheeses. My favorite summertime salad is baby greens tossed with fresh coarsely chopped peach, torn prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella. How about a lovely heirloom tomato, fresh from the field that morning (thanks to our Saturday farmers' market), with sliced sweet onion and bleu cheese crumbles? Or my favorite omelet, stuffed with a mix of cream and goat cheese and chives. A favorite hot weather breakfast or lunch was Greek-style nonfat yogurt mixed with my own trail mix (pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, unsweetened coconut ribbons), ground flaxseeds, and fresh or frozen berries. Mmmmmm.....

Many of you have already figured out where this is going, haven't you...

Last week, I found out that a significant portion of the gut problems I've been experiencing for the year and a half is not only due to opportunistic infections caused by the long-term TBI, and the cleaning out of the beneficial flora as a result of my first (and probably my last) colonoscopy in March 2008. No, it is due to my now being casein intolerant as well as lactose intolerant.

Most people, when you say "dairy intolerant" or "dairy sensitivity" or "dairy allergy", think you're talking about lactose, which doesn't seem like such a big deal (if you are sensitive or intolerant, which is different from being allergic, as the latter can cause death, just like peanut and other true allergies), because, hey, you can just take one or two lactase pills as you take your first bite of dairy, right? Voila! No gas or bloating!

If you are just lactose intolerant, then yes. you can take the lactase (enzyme which breaks down the sugar lactose).

If, however, you are intolerant of or sensitive to the protein casein, there is no pill to take. If you eat foods containing casein, it is like eating foods containing gluten: the proteins damage the villi lining the intestinal walls and make the walls permeable. These protein chains can slip between the cells of the gut wall where they start a free-fall ballet through the body, causing a host of symptoms ranging from acute overall inflammation, joint pain and impaired range of motion, weight gain, swollen/enlarged abdomen, and fatigue, to name a few of the more common ones that significantly alter one's quality of life.

As I started researching casein intolerance and casein-free (CF) diets, I came across discussions that made it apparent that people who develop gluten sensitivities quite often go on to develop casein sensitivities.

Usually, I'm the outlier, my test results or reactions to treatment protocols, etc., generally falling well outside the standard deviation. This time, I'm finding myself closer to the center of the pack.


Before you kindly suggest I can substitute soy cheese, soy 'margerine' (read the margerine labels next time you're at the grocery store - almost all have some type of milk-derived ingredient!), soy yogurt, soy milk, and soy ice cream, well, well, you knew there was going to be a well, didn't you?

Soy is goitrogenic - it binds iodine which makes it unavailable to the thyroid gland to use in doing its job. Consume enough goitrogenic foods, and you can cause hypothyroidism (the same goes for iguanas as it does for humans, so don't get snarky with me: deprived of cheese and my favorite chocolate, I am a dangerous woman and you do not want to piss me off right now. Maybe later, okay?).

I already have hypothyroidism, as did my parents. However, theirs was/is easily treated with appropriate medication. Since my endocrine system is also being affected by all the TBI toxins and all the other craziness going on in there, I am not so easily treated, and at this point can only keep the worst of the symptoms at I steer clear of consuming soy on a regular basis.

Since I also have to keep my consumption of root veggies down, that leaves (er, no pun intended) things like brussel sprouts (steamed and tossed with butter and Parmesan - crap! another favorite dish out of my life!), broccoli, and cauliflower - which are also goitrogenic. I'd rather have them (okay, so I'll roast halved sprouts tossed with olive oil and seasonings) than tofu, TVP, or even chilled salted edamame.

So, there you go. Just when my life starts to fall into a comfortable routine, something else comes along and smacks me upside the head.


I have almost 100 MB of recipes stored on my computer, many of which can be consigned to the virtual rubbish heap since so many contain the now verboten ingredients. Well, I won't actually delete them (one can hope, right?) What I have done is started a new subdirectory for GF & CF recipes, as I once again revamp my diet. I've already joined a GFCF email list with a recipe archive available to members and nonmembers. If you know of anyone starting down this same path, you might like to pass the information on to them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can totally do this. My spouse is avoiding gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. Feeling great! Fortunately coconut and nuts are not a problem and eating paleo seems to suit.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Thank you... It's been a couple of weeks, now, that I've had time to, er, digest all the new information. Joining the GFCFRecipes list was a great move, as I learned a lot and was able to put my own situation into perspective after reading what so many of them are dealing with, especially the moms dealing with multiple food and chemical sensitivities in their kids, on top of all the regular kid stuff that challenges the parents of perfectly healthy kids.

I made a pan of GFCF brownies for a friend's birthday the other night, using Betty Crocker's GF Brownie mix. Instead of frosting, I melted the dairy-free (no lactose or casein) Guittard Semi-Sweet chocolate chips on top.

So, I'll get would just be nice if the Universe would stop slapping me upside the head every year...!

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Knot said...

Hey, Melissa! Sorry to hear that you have develop more complication! I can relate to being really sick all the time. It's terrible for anyone to go through any serious illnesses.

Anyway, I was watching Food Network last night. The show is called Good Eats. Anyway, Alton Brown was saying parsnip is probably the healthiest vegetable in the world. He put grated parsnips in muffin batter with some almonds and baked it. He said it's one of the most delicious muffin you'll ever eat since when parsnip is cooked it becomes much sweeter and have very good taste. Another interesting thing he does with parsnips is: he use the vegetable peeler and make thin strips of parsnip lengthwise and deep fried them in oil like potato chips. He said it supposed to be really good and a really good way to get kids to eat vegetables. I thought you might want to give it some try. Looks like parsnips is not just for iguanas anymore! lol

5:09 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Hey, I stopped thinking parsnips were just for igs when I had some heavenly pureed parsnip at Spago many, many years ago Since then, I do roasted root vegetables (parsnip, turnip, sweet potato, carrot) - roasting brings out the sweetness in all of them - and I love pureed veggies for soup. Cream soups are yummy, too, except now I have to find a gluten-free flour blend that will work well with coconut oil or other dairy-free butter substitute, coconut or almond milk, or broth, instead of making it with flour, butter and cream.

Do try the fried parsnip chips if you do any deep frying.

My third attempt at making coconut milk yogurt came out okay - more like yogurt than firm tofu (batch #1) or kefir (batch #2). I mixed some tonight with some satay sauce and mixed the yogurt/satay sauce into a mixture of brown rice, tuna and celery. Not exactly a balanced meal, and not exactly the comfort food-memory of tuna noodle casserole, but it was quickly made and hit the "eat something besides fruit or candy before your blood sugar bottoms out" spot.

Time to move Mikey from his nest on the couch back to his warm and toasty room..!

11:05 PM  

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