I thought that I had always eaten ‘healthily’. My mum always cooked meals from scratch and I carried that on throughout my adult life.
Since being treated for Asthma by a Homeopath & Herbalist when I was 19, I was enlightened further, then, more recently with my ‘ME’ I have become even more acutely aware of the affects certain foods have on me once I’ve consumed them.
To treat my severe asthma, Steven Kippax ( then training under his experienced and well regarded mother, Janet) put me on an ‘exclusion’ diet. The purpose was to remove any possible allergens from my diet for three weeks, then, very gradually, re introduce food and see what happened. From that day I totally gave up coffee and stuck rigidly to a diet of oats & water for breakfast, salads, lamb and pears for fruit. No sugar, no dairy and no wheat. This was washed down with regular doses of the MOST disgusting smelling and tasting herbal medicines.
Almost immediately my wheezy ness subsided, nose stopped running and I had more energy. We discovered that my student ‘fix’ of three or more yogurts a day ( my parents had leant me a yogurt maker) was exacerbating my asthma and so that was when I remembered the allergy test I had had several years earlier which had picked out milk as something I couldn’t tolerate.
As most people will agree, three weeks on any exclusion diet is hard enough, and so it’s all too easy to slip back into eating what ‘everyone else’ or you ‘always used to’ eat.
The following twenty years ( inhaler free) I would not have milk, processed foods or bread at home but would join in with everyone else whenever out.
During my thirties I found that I would have terrible upset stomach after eating Chinese or Indian food. It could also have been the alcohol and gradually my tastes changed from a cider, guiness & red wine drinker to only being able to tolerate champagne! By my fortieth birthday I could only manage one small glass of bubbly over an evening and by now was sufferering from almost constant nausea. Then,soon after, came the total collapse and diagnosis of ‘CFS/ME. ‘
Over the years I have learnt,and been advised by various practitioners, not to eat any wheat, dairy and sugar. This is hard enough if you’re able to shop and cook for yourself or live alone, but with a working husband and three sons and suddenly completely unable to boil a kettle let alone shop and cook, you fall into the hands of well meaning friends, family and eventually paid carers.
The latter became the easiest as they could each be instructed on what I could and couldn’t eat and were very good at making me eat Quinoa ( eeew) and became very imaginative with their salads and roasting of meat and veg. ( we removed our microwave which is a whole other story!)
So for the past four years I have been wheat, dairy and sugar free, substituting xylitol for sugar, a period of Goats milk & cheese for Dairy , until I reacted to that, so now I have coconut milk, and using a mixture of wheat free flours for baking and bread making.
In November, feeling rather pleased with myself with my abstinence, I was so pleased when my Kinesiologist said I could now tolerate cheese! Whoopie!! At last a handy and tasty snack and treat, I had SO missed Somerset Brie and Godminster’s cheddar.
This excitement was soon quelled when she exclaimed that the candida in my stomach had just got worse and REALLY needed to be sorted out.
Candida is one of those embarrassing conditions that conjures up some pretty yucky visions, however, when in the stomach there can be no obvious symptoms. I say ‘no obvious symptoms’ and yet candida symptoms list just about everything anyone with CFS/ ME or Fibro myalgia can suffer from, chronic pain- anywhere, fatigue, exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, bloating, IBS symptoms, and lots lots more.
Apparently ridding your gut of candida is like lifting a veil from your life, or in my case the lead curtain that has kept me so disabled for so long.
Apparently my body has been living with candida for so long that it thinks its ‘normal’ and so my immune system is not fighting it- at all. My body, in its craving for sugar was now turning rice into sugar and my occasional treat of fresh fruit or more dangerously, dried fruit was making matters worse.
I was to begin a three month candida starvation diet. No fruit,( except apples and pears) in any form, juice, fresh or dried and avoiding rice along with cows milk and wheat.
This started on December 1st, AFTER I had made a sugar and wheat free Christmas cake, mincemeat and puddings.
Before you ask, I did request Christmas Day off, but no, it had to be three months with NO exceptions. Joy.
Dr Sarah Myhill, the very well respected and successful doctor specialising in treatment of CFS & ME patients has done a lot of research on diet and also recommends that her patients stick to a ‘stone age’ or ‘Paleo diet’. Nothing new here for us, just a lot of discipline and support needed.
As before, this kind of restrictive diet is quite manageable when you’re dependant and house bound but once the veil begins to lift and you begin to re establish a social life, even with your kids and extended family things get tricky.
I’m writing this today from Austria. Before you ask, no, I’m not skiing! My parents, brother, his two sons and one of my sons are though. I’m taking in the sunshine, clean mountain air, and trying to explain at every meal time that I really cannot eat anything with wheat, milk or sugar in it! I’m drinking my own filtered water ( drink safe water filter bottle) and as a treat, weak black tea whilst everyone else has hot chocolate with all the extras, or warm ‘Gluvine’.
I had a huge success one lunch time recognising ‘Bolognaise’ in a menu and seeing chips. Speaking no German ( that is another story to follow soon) I explained that I’d like the bolognaise without the Spaghetti but just with chips.
Bemused looks all around! It was tasty, very cheap and filling.
So, not only have I now survived Austria but I can also say I’ve had three trips to France, resisting croissants, pain au chocolate and crusty baguettes.
I do feel a bit of a pain, being judged as a ‘fussy eater’, there have been occasions where I’m sure well meaning friends and family have ‘sneaked’ a ‘treat’ in one of my meals. Yes, I do notice. The last occasion resulted in two days with severe upset stomach after eating some veg that had had brown sugar sprinkled on them. I’m sure this was an honest mistake but it does make one even more ‘fussy’ just checking.
Last night in our hotel a fish dish with ‘cheese potato pokets’ was presented to me. I was immediately suspicious of the ‘pokets’ as they looked very much like those MacDonald apple pies. After questioning I was assured they were fine, however they had to replace the fish as that did in fact have flour on it! I would not have noticed that and could have spent a night in pain and today, at least in bed.
Well, only one more day to go, resisting Austrian temptations and enjoying the fabulous Infra red sauna here that I have all to myself as everyone else is out skiing!