Friday, June 29, 2018

Time to get creative

When I face a challenge, I find it best to 1) pray, 2) stay hopeful, 3) get creative.

If you read the last post, I bet you're not salivating from reading the list of ingredients I had to work with for the first part of this elimination diet...BUT I think you may change your mind after consuming with your eyes some of the meals I've eaten along the way. It's taken time, thought, and some research, but I'm settling into a new normal (albeit ever-changing as I start adding in new foods every three days or so).

As a reminder, here are some of the ingredients I had to work with:

Let's get real here: not everything tasted good or looked good! I'll share the good and the bad. Let's start with...a real bad one:

Looks like styrofoam and beans, doesn't it? So, I've actually NEVER tried tapioca before...EVER. I came across a product called Wrapioca on Thrive Market (it was a free add-on), and it claimed you could use these tapioca+water pearls to make a wrap by heating them in a dry skillet. Unfortunately, I never figured out how to get the Wrapioca to wrap and ended up making more of a styrofoam textured (and tasting) tostada (after this picture, of course, which was a complete cooking fail). can only get better, right?

I hope so! Here is a winner meal with the red kidney beans:

Steamed zoodles with red kidney beans, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt.

Ready for another visually-challenged meal?

Ground lamb and basil meatballs with steamed zucchini and a dash of salt.
This one tasted better than the styrofoam and beans, and I had an idea in my mind I ended up using later (stay tuned for a future post...), but it is definitely still lacking in presentation. At this point, though, all that mattered was I could stomach the food!

Here is an improved lamb meatball meal:

Ground lamb and basil meatballs on a bed of lettuce cushioned by sprouted quinoa
and sauteed mushrooms (I was able to add mushrooms in after the initial 7ish days).
This one was a feast to both my eyes and my stomach!

By this point, do you think you could make do with kidney beans, ground lamb, quinoa, and zucchini? It's possible, and I'm living proof!

Next up? Cod, green beans, bok choy, a *coconut* wrap (much improvement over the Wrapioca), and a few more ingredients. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Rotation, rotation, rotation

Picking back up where I left off...

Thankfully, there are a number of "green" foods I enjoy. It's not an incredibly broad mix (120 foods and 30 chemicals tested is not really all that many when you see the list), but it is do-able. The lab provided me with a 4-week diet (which Susan later split into two, thankfully allowing me a bit more variety) which started with a strict, limited diet for the first 7-10 days, followed by gradual, systematic reintroduction of all the green foods. The goal is for me to ultimately test all the green foods once I've calmed my system down with the strict 7-10 day limited diet and wind up with a reasonable long-term *rotation diet of green foods. After 3-6 months, I can attempt to add back in untested items and some of the yellow items and see how my body responds.

*Rotation. This word stuck out to me big time in the literature I received along with my results. I don't know about you, but I am a creature of habit. I've always had my go-to meals and snacks, eating the same thing at the same restaurants and the same snack routine at night. Easy to plan, easy to shop for, easy to prepare. 

According to research from doctors who specialize in treating food sensitivities, patients often unknowingly eat their reactive foods at almost every meal, which is why they are always sick! Doctors also noticed that some food sensitive patients develop new sensitivities if they eat non-reactive (i.e. "green" list) foods too often. What's a girl to DO?

Well, in order to prevent new sensitivities from developing, doctors came up with a method of limiting exposure to the same foods while still providing a balanced, varied diet. Hello, rotation diet. Although research is still mixed, it seems the best results are experienced when we follow a three-day rotation diet. Basically, I received a chart with all my green foods split out among three days with the goal of not eating the same food two days in a row. Below is a picture of the original rotation diet I received.

The problem with this plan is the testing center did not incorporate that I am gluten free and dairy free due to the other tests, so I need to rework the plan with those things in mind. 

But first, I need to make it through the 7-10 day limited diet and then reintroduce all the green foods I can eat, which will take almost 4 months. This is where it gets fun. I'm going to show you some of the meals I came up with using the limited ingredients I was given for the first part of the diet plan. Here's a teaser list of ingredients, and I'll let your imagination run wild with possibilities (haha) then come back next time and show you what I came up with. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

MRT test results

Okay, I'm back...refreshed and ready to share the results of my MRT test. After receiving the results, I worked with Susan Linke, a Certified LEAP Therapist (CLT). Check out the videos on her website where she describes food sensitivities, testing, and the healing diet protocol. I've included a few of her notes below since she articulates so clearly.
  • 60-80% of your immune system is in your gut. Your immune system is as unique as a fingerprint, and what it determines is “friend or foe” is different than anyone else’s. You can have an immune reaction to just about anything except salt, baking soda or carbonated water. You can react to “healthy” foods like salmon, apples, cinnamon, vanilla, bell peppers, celery and even olive (oil). You can even react to chemicals – naturally occurring chemicals like solanine (found in potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, etc), or stabilizers like guar gum, carrageenan or laboratory produced chemicals like BHA and BHT added to cereals, nitrites added to lunchmeats, citric acid, etc.
  • Food sensitivities have unique characteristics such as delayed reactions and dose dependency. For example, although some reactions occur shortly after consumption, you can also react to a food 72-96 hours after eating it, often making it hard to establish cause and effect. In addition, unlike allergies, food sensitivities are dose dependent. For example, you might eat 1/2 cup of strawberries and feel fine, but if you ate 1 cup you might not.
  • What is LEAP? LEAP stands for Lifestyle, Eating, And Performance. It is an effective protocol that combines the Mediator Release Test (MRT) with the skills of a Certified LEAP Therapist to produce a patient-specific anti-inflammatory diet designed to lower inflammation, and by doing so, reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
  • What is MRT? The patented Mediator Release Test (MRT) is a blood test that measures your immune reaction to 120 foods and 30 chemicals. We use those results to identify a safe list of foods to eat that will not trigger inflammation, so your symptoms can improve.
  • Most patients experience significant improvement within the first 10 days on the program. Symptoms then continue improving during the next 4-6 weeks.
Super-interesting, right? I had NO idea our bodies were so very unique and complex. God created us in His image, and yet made each of us unique... but learning this information gave me a whole new level of understanding how differently we were all created. I thought I ate a pretty healthy diet, and I did...but perhaps not the best diet for me

Some of my favorite foods I consumed frequently, if not daily, included:
  • sweet potatoes smothered in almond butter
  • sweet potatoes or butternut squash with coconut oil and cinnamon
  • raw almonds
  • almond milk
  • avocados (I like them even just straight out of the skin!)
  • roasted cauliflower
  • honey balsamic roasted cabbage
  • scrambled or hard boiled eggs
  • kale chips or kale salad
  • fresh pineapple
Guess what foods showed up as reactive/inflammatory on my MRT test? (see foods highlighted in yellow and red below)

Depressing, right? Yes and no, I guess. It was so hard to think of giving all these foods up without knowing whether I could ever have them again, and yet it gave me hope to think I might feel better if I did. My goal in all of this testing is to figure out how to be the best "me" God created me to be so I can serve Him and my family.

The results came back in categories of chemicals, beans/legumes/nuts/seeds, vegetables, fruits, flavor enhancers (spices, etc.), seafood, dairy, grains, meats/poultry, and miscellaneous with the following three reaction types:
  • Green: lowest degree of reactivity
  • Yellow: reactive/inflammatory (must be strictly avoided)
  • Red: highly reactive/inflammatory (must be strictly avoided)
Here are my fruit results just to show how the results are displayed.

Within each of these three categories, there was also a spectrum of results. So within the green category, I could have anywhere between 0.0 - 1.9 degree of reactivity. This means the higher the green number, the closer it is to becoming a yellow, reactive, inflammatory food for me and the lower the number, the safer it is.

Okay, that's enough information for now. I will share more specifics about the diet in a future post. For now, happy eating!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

It was time

Have you ever convinced yourself you're not sick when there really is something wrong? You make excuses:
  1. I probably ate something unsettling - I'll feel better in a few hours.
  2. Yeah, I don't feel good, but I can't go to the doctor because...(work, busy, finances, don't like needles, afraid there actually IS something wrong, etc.).
  3. Maybe other people feel the same way, and I need to just tough it out.
It's easy for me to list the excuses because I've made them all. I can't even pinpoint the time when I started experiencing discomfort because it was a subtle, slow, downhill slide. All I know is the symptoms increased to a point where I could not brush them aside any longer. 

In January of this year, I finally decided it was time to take action. I reached out to a friend of mine who is a P.A., and she recommended a G.I. doctor. Being a fairly meticulous note-keeper, I gathered all of my notes on symptoms, along with medical history, and prepared for my first appointment.

While I could sit here and type out a wordy dissertation on all the events that occurred between the first appointment and today, I think it makes the most sense to list the highlights - for your sanity and mine.
  • 11 vials of blood to test for celiac disease and other levels
  • 2 fat malabsorption tests
  • Endoscopy and colonoscopy
  • Bone density test
  • Parasite test
  • EnteroLab test for gluten, casein, soy, and egg sensitivities
  • Breath test for SIBO
  • MRT blood test for food sensitivities
Curious about the results? Here we go...
  • Test: blood tests for celiac disease and other levels
    Results: high liver and kidney numbers; negative celiac blood panel
  • Test: fat malabsorption
    Results: 2.5x normal
  • Tests: endoscopy and colonoscopy
    Results: no significant abnormalities but indications for further testing
  • Test: bone density
    Results: osteoporosis (ongoing from early college)
  • Test: parasites
    Results: negative
  • Test: EnteroLab test for gluten, casein, soy, and egg sensitivities
    Results: non-celiac gluten sensitivity (G.I. doctor said the gluten results were high enough to say "celiac" if it makes things easier), and sensitivities to casein, soy, and egg.
  • Test: breath test for SIBO
    Result: negative
  • Test: MRT blood test for food sensitivities
    Results: sensitivities to so many foods I eat on a regular basis
It's overwhelming, isn't it? I think it's time to take a break - just typing it all out is exhausting! I'll come back and go into more depth on the MRT test results and how they have changed my life so far.