Thursday, March 6, 2014

Getting Clean

Usually when you hear someone say they're "getting clean" they often are referring to getting off their drug/s of choice. We don't often associate food with being a drug of choice. We know there are people addicted to food, and we all have our favorite foods that we sometimes crave, but few of us can relate to being addicted to certain foods. I have many friends and family members who are either vegetarian or vegan. I've often told M, "I could never be a vegan. I mean, there's bacon after all!"

All that said, I've spent the past week searching for vegan versions of dairy products so I could follow doctor's orders. I've known for a couple of years I am allergic to a whole host of items, such as wheat, potatoes, dairy, beans, latex/fruits (avocados, bananas, kiwi, cantaloupe), airborne pollens, dander, etc. I even got off wheat and dairy last May for a whole month prior to surgery. Right after surgery, however, I went back to my bagels with cream cheese and hot buttered bread. I knew I was allergic. I knew it was bad for me.

The dairy caused all sorts of sinus and breathing problems for me. The wheat caused me to retain pounds of excess water, caused wheezing, and worse, horrible arthritic pains. You would think anyone in their right mind would avoid something that caused them so much pain and health issues. You would think, but I didn't. I downplayed the discomfort and health problems. As far as I was concerned, the bad was worth the taste of the foods.

I went to see my allergist a little over a week ago. My constant nasal drainage and inflamed sinuses were really annoying M. Not to mention, my increased snoring. I went in with the idea that I would ask the allergist to remove the inflamed cysts in my sinuses and call it good.

He asked me, "are you still consuming dairy?" Um, yes.
"Are you still consuming wheat?" Yes.
"So what do you expect of me?" Um, surgically remove the cyst?
"It will come back. You are consuming poisons for your body. Anything I do surgically, you will undo with what you're eating." Can you prescribe any nasal sprays?
"Yes, they will cost you a fortune each month, and you will still have sinus problems."

He gave me one of those looks your parents give you when you're doing something incredibly stupid, so stupid, they shouldn't have to point it out to you. Then he said, "get off the dairy and wheat and come see me in 6 weeks."

His tone had a finality of "or else." I sighed, wheezed as I got off the examining table. I'd gotten off them the year before, I could do this again, but what was really dawning on me for the first time was that I couldn't just get off them for 6 weeks. I had to make this a permanent change. Give up buttered bread?! Cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, milk on my morning cereal. I grew up in the heart of farms and dairies, they were a part of the fabric of my life. I couldn't imagine giving them up, not when I already had so many other food allergies. What would be left for me to eat?
Here I was faced with life and my allergies catching up with me.  I couldn't continue as I had, consuming things that were bad for me and affecting my health.  Yet how do you change a lifetime habit, and one that you're surrounded by daily?  How would I deprive myself of things everyone else around me was consuming with such pleasure?  Life's not fair.  How many times have I learned that in my life?

So I began switching things out.  Might as well go cold turkey so I wouldn't be tempted to backslide.  First I had to give up the staples of my breakfast.  One of my "go-to" meals is Shredded Wheat with milk.  I could no longer eat either.  I'm perfectly happy with steel-cut oats with coconut milk, but that takes preparation and time that some mornings I just don't have.  So I needed to find a cereal without wheat for those mornings when I was pressed for time.  Go look at the cereals in your grocery store aisle, about 90% contain some sort of wheat product.  There are the gluten-free Chex cereals, I never cared for them or how they got soggy in milk.  Granola was my option, even there I had to find a granola that didn't contain wheat.  I also enjoy toast, bagels, pancakes, and waffles.  Luckily I could go to the health section of the grocery store and get gluten free items such as those.  Although even there you have to be careful.  There is a difference between a wheat allergy and a gluten allergy.  Some items that are gluten-free still contain wheat.  I'm allergic to a different protein in wheat, not gluten, which is why I can have other grains that contain gluten.  *sigh*

The next issue with getting gluten-free items to substitute for my breads, is that often gluten-free does not also mean dairy-free.  Remember, I've got to get off that too.  So on the weekend I experimented with making my favorite bread recipe with wheat-free flours, coconut milk and vegan butter.  It was a success, but I don't have time to be waiting for dough to rise and making everything from scratch everyday.  I was please to find a very few items that were labeled wheat-free and dairy-free at our local grocery store, but the number of items could be counted on one hand.  I couldn't find any dairy-free cheeses.  There were vegetarian cheeses, which surprisingly contained casein, the very protein in milk that I'm allergic too.  Son of a bitch!  This was not going to be easy.

I reached out to my vegetarian and vegan friends and they gave me pointers where to find items.  M and I took a day trip to the big city across the Bay to stock up on items that could only be found at Whole Foods grocery store.

So this is the new path I am on.  It's not easy.  It's annoying sometimes, like the other night when I had to go to a dinner party and there was not one item, not one, that I could eat.  Everything either had dairy, wheat, or both connected to them.  I was starving by the time I got home a few hours later and had dinner alone, M having already eaten at the party.

The good side is I'm not retaining excess fluids in my body.  I can breathe really well with no need for drugs or my inhaler.  I can move around and not be in constant joint pain or feeling like I'm bruised all over, and I have lost 6 pounds in 7 days, even though I'm stuffing my face (it seems) trying to find things to satisfy my hunger. 


CyberKitten said...

That's a heck of a challenge you have there! I will *seriously* keep my fingers crossed for you....

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I've gone two weeks now with only one day falling off the wagon. We had a fancy dinner last night and I was good and used my wheat and dairy substitutes while everyone else had regular stuff. Yay me!

CyberKitten said...

[looks impressed]

William Stachour said...

Best of luck to you. As you know, I have my own challenges. Surgery didn't fix everything, but it's a tool that I must use. But the struggle is still there, every single day. So I feel a bit of your pain.

Good luck and be strong! And if you fall off the wagon, forgive yourself and get back on. :-)

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Bill, thanks, I've been doing well, allowing myself to go off the wagon once a week, if necessary, and am still sticking with it.

William Stachour said...

Great. That's my struggle; knowing how to get back on when I fall off the wagon. My surgery helps, but the problems are still there and the demons still haunt (as I knew they would). I look at it like an alcoholic faces their issue: each day is a new day, and we must try, try again.

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