Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nutritional Healing Update

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” ~ Michael Pollan

It has been about two and a half weeks now since I made some radical changes in the way I eat. A lot has changed and I have to say it has been quite the journey so far. A few close family members and friends have been a great support in this HUGE learning process and I am grateful. I have also received a lot of questions and comments regarding what I am doing so I thought I would do a blog update on how things are going and post some helpful information I have learned along the way thus far.

Since starting this new way of eating, I have been better able to define exactly what it is I am trying to do. What is that? Well to start with, I am completely gluten and dairy-free (including casein). I am soda and fast food free. I have drastically reduced my refined sugar intake and have reduced my processed food intake. I am working on the artificial sweetener thing which at this point is only in my gluten/dairy-free flavored waters; which I have cut back on. I am eating semi vegetarian and trying to focus mostly on whole foods.

At this point, I think I am past the nasty withdrawal phase of eliminating dairy, gluten, and refined sugar. And yes, if you spend some time researching this, you will find that all three can be addicting. I say I am through the withdrawal because despite being on a large amount of steroids (which for many of us causes excessive sugar/food cravings), I am no longer willing to sell my soul on an hourly basis for a loaf of garlic bread or a regular chocolate chip cookie. Not that I don't desire something like that once in a while, I do. However it no longer consumes my thoughts. It is a very freeing experience and I am sure at some point, I will blog on food cravings and addictions.

I think it is too soon to say if I noticed a difference in my autoimmune symptoms, as that can take several months and it has been all of two and a half weeks. I am in the throes of a very difficult time with my Sjogren's syndrome which is bringing up new significant issues. I am also on a hefty dose of steroids (orally and intravenously) which, as some of you know, can help a whole host of problems in addition to the ones I am taking them for. This can make it difficult to distinguish if the steroids are helpful or the diet. I did start the diet and the increased steroids at the same time BUT that being said, I have absolutely no issues at all with my sinuses or allergies; which have plagued me before I ever knew I had an autoimmune disorder and are exacerbated by the Sjogren's. Those issues are completely gone at the moment. Prednisone is also notorious for causing weight gain and swelling. I am no longer bloated, have no swelling, and the scale this morning says I am down seven pounds despite not being able to exercise or get much physical activity at all for that matter.

Right now, that's all good enough for me to keep going.

One of my strengths in this whole process (in addition to some amazing support) has been my outlook on what I am doing. It's a challenge and I am viewing it as such. Yes, it sucks sometimes, but I just stop and think about the good things I am doing for my body and my future. Not to mention my fiance's health; which is good, but I would like to keep it that way! I make it a challenge to eat plentiful and well without being deprived. It means a lot of cooking, browsing the stores, and reading. Not to mention planning! One of my goals is to make food pleasurable, without making it the enemy.

I have discovered a whole world of foods and tastes that I never knew existed and I have to say, that is exciting! I have had a notorious reputation amongst my family and friends for being a very finicky eater and never in a million years did I think I would eat foods like, lentils, beans, hummus, kale, and yes, even tomatoes. But I have to say that are very few foods I have tried that I hated or wouldn't try again in a different way. The image that comes to my mind with that statement is Chuck and I standing at the kitchen counter trying our first vegan cheese slice by a company that shall remain nameless for now. I knew when I sliced it that it was going to be sketchy! Sure enough, we each had a piece in our mouth and as I was chewing it and trying not to vomit, I saw my 6'2" fiance lean over and spew the nastiness right into the trash can without hesitation. It was a hysterical moment I will remember when I am ninety.

As I am eating more natural and unprocessed foods, taste has become a new experience. I know this sounds bizarre, but I taste food differently now. When I do eat meat, I enjoy it so much more because it is not smothered with dairy, bread, or preservatives. I am learning quickly the value of a fully stocked spice cabinet and I am purchasing fresh herbs on a regular basis for the first time in my life. It's pretty neat.

I know as the weeks and months progress and I attempt to get through this current autoimmune crisis, I will be eating out more in public and the challenges with that will likely increase. But I think I am building a good foundation at a time where it is important for me to play an active part in getting well. Changing my diet may not cure my autoimmune illness and it might not even help, it but in the end, I think it will make me healthier in so many other ways. And I have spent enough time being sick. I have things to do and a life to live.

One bite at a time.

The following is a list of processed/packaged foods that I have found helpful in transitioning to a more plant based, whole foods diet. In an ideal world, processed foods will not be part of my diet but I cannot sit here and honestly say that at some point, I will be eating completely processed food free. I just don't know, I am trying. Meanwhile, these are healthier, not to mention delicious alternatives.

Cedar's Garden Vegetable hummus
Cedar's Lemon hummus
Mediterranean Snack Company Rosemary Lentil Chips
Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
Tofutti fake sour cream
Food Should Taste Good Lime tortilla chips
Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato tortilla chips
Late July Organic Sea Salt snack chips
Daiya shredded cheddar cheese
Enjoy Life Seed and Fruit Mix
Organicville salad dressings and condiments
Earth Balance natural soy free butter spread
Unsweetened soy milk
Soy yogurt
Sunflower butter

I have indulged a bit on Amazon in the book department. Since I am not typically a big shopper, this probably has our mailman wondering what the heck is going on since he has been here several times over the past two weeks. God bless Amazon gifts cards!

These are the books that I have read and found incredibly helpful and informative. There are a few more behind them just waiting to be explored.

The Pure Kitchen by Hallie Klecker
Gluten-free, dairy-free, and low sugar recipes. She does a nice job in the beginning of the book explaining what a pure kitchen is. I particularly like her approach to using substitutes for sugar and the two recipes I have tried so far have been great.

Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
This book just rocks. Written by a cancer patient who has a tell-it-like-it -is approach, she had me at the first politically incorrect word she used. I read an excerpt to Chuck, while I was waiting to have an MRI done, and he laughed out loud. I learned an astounding amount of information about the pitfalls and dangers of gluten, dairy, etc. Some may find some of her approaches radical; I find it holistic and informative.

The Happy Herbivore and Everyday Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon
I liked The Happy Herbivore recipes enough to buy the second book so that is a good sign. I bought the first book before I knew I was going dairy and gluten-free which many of the recipes are not, but substitutions are not a big deal. Then I delighted to see that Everyday Happy Herbivore listed recipes according to allergies like gluten and dairy. There were also suggestions about substitutions. Both books have helped me enter the vegetarian world much easier.


  1. than ks for mentioning my cookbooks!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story and mentioning The Pure Kitchen. Keep up the great work! :)

  3. For that sweetener....have you tried truvia or I believe stevia is the same thing. Tastes just fine to me. As I think I have mentioned before my daughter is on this same diet but minus soy as well. Soy can mess with ones thyroid and we already have thyroid issues lurking here. And unfortunately since you have one autoimmune illness do keep your eyes out for a little known thyroid autoimmune problem called hashimottos thyroiditis. I am not saying you will get it but as with all these autoimmune illnesses they like to party on. And I love that food is now a social event in your family. I think we have lost sight of that very important thing. And I love that you are making your food beautiful in presentation as well. I love to dress up my food with fun plates and accessories to stimulate my visual senses as well. Cook on!

    1. I have not tried stevia but I have become a big fan of agave. I also have been learning about the soy situation especially because I was substituting my milk and yogurt with soy. I am also hypothyroid and on medication which is why I am trying to be more cautious but I do get labs every six months. Originally the hypothyroidism was thought to be from radiation cancer treatments to my neck which damaged my thyroid but now my endocrinologist is suspicious of Hashis because of the Sjogren's business.However treatment is the same and I really would have needed to be tested before this current med regime.

  4. I love that Michael Pollan quote. I always try to keep it in mind when I'm at the grocery store. Glad to hear that you are exploring new foods!

    1. I have read some of his books. Fascinating stuff!

  5. You are doing extremely with your change of the dietary system. I wish you continued success in the days and weeks to come. It sounds like it is already working for you. Hope it continues to do with with the health part. I enjoyed you blog and keep us posted. Harriet

  6. I've become a huge fan of the Steamfresh line of veggies from Birdseye. The added ingredient? Water. That's it. It's a great go-to item for me, especially for lunches at work. I add some blueberries, some roasted chicken, & a bit of light salad dressing & I'm good to go. Good luck - I'm proud of you Char

  7. Julie Dalke KalafarskiFebruary 1, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    I enjoyed reading this blog entry. My family and I have been making similar changes to our life regarding food. Since July we have dramatically reduced our processed food consumption. Particularly refined sugar and flours. I had just turned 40 and have battled my weight all my life. I decided it was time to change. I was fortunate not to have any health problems at the time but I wanted to prevent the big, preventable ones down the road. As a result, I have lost over 60 pounds and my hubby is down 40! It has been wonderful. We both feel better than we ever have in the past. I have done much research on the link between health and what you put into your body. Six months ago I would have never touched hummus, flax, sweet potatoes, beans, etc. Now, I can't imagine not eating these foods. I enjoy hearing about your journey!

  8. Wow Julie, that is great!! I know it is such a journey and I am glad that you are your family have found your way there!

  9. What you are doing takes a lot of courage and self control. SOOOO happy for you!!! And thank you for sharing your journey with the rest of us...still holding back, ever so hesitantly!

    1. Thank you for the support Theresa; god knows I can use it! Holding back is OK. To be honest, I was contemplating this full blown dietary change for a long time before I did it; mostly fear and doubt on my part.

  10. Hi Christine,
    Congratulations on your dietary changes and more importantly, sticking with it! I have tried, to no avail, to educate the people around me but they either don't want to listen, are too stubborn and stuck in their ways, or don't think it's worth the effort and/or money. I guess their health isn't worth much to them if they can't be bothered to make even slight changes. But then again, these are people that don't have an autoimmune disease so they pretty much take their health for granted.

    I found "The Kind Diet" by Alicia Silverstone to be a great go-to book for both recipes and ways to change your eating habits. Unfortunately, I can't eat any soy products or beans so going vegetarian is not an option for me. When I do eat meat (pork, chicken, or fish) I balance it out with double the cooked vegetables. And I'm trying to cut out starches but I'm finding that to be a hard one.

    Good luck and most of all good health to you! Carry on! rebeca.

    1. Hi Rebeca!

      Thanks for stopping by to check out this post.At some point I am going to blog about that very subject; people taking their health for granted and not being able to make changes for the better. I have to think about it more though first because as a person who spent a lot of years abusing my body, I know that it can be a very complex issue. And you are right, I think those of us with autoimmune disorders do have a different perspective. But wouldn't it be wonderful if we could be the catalyst to help people change before THEY become sick?!?