Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Road Less Traveled

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck

I have had a lot of questions about how my new found eating plan has been going so I figured I would blog about it rather than updating my Facebook status several times more a day than I already do. I know, I am working on that. What can I say? It's winter, I have been housebound way more than usual, and even the dog gets sick of listening to me after a while!

So I have been going strong since the day after Christmas with eating healthier and getting back on my green smoothies. I wrote about my intention to further expand this in my previous blog entries: Patient, Heal Thyself and Nutritional Healing.  Last week I started the whole gluten-free, dairy-free, semi vegetarian, no soda, minimally processed foods, reduced sugar business. And yes, I am pretty much making it up as I go along since this is not a specific "diet" plan so to speak. Rather, it is a hodgepodge of what I currently think to be in my best interest health wise.

I will be frank. It has been difficult, very difficult. But not more difficult than my Sjogren's Syndrome related health issues over the past few months and especially over the past two weeks. I am glad that I started to detox from all the Christmas indulgences the day after the holiday. It gave my body a chance to adjust to being off caffeine (which I was off of until the holidays) and processed sugar. I truly believe that there are certain foods that I am addicted to and the big ones are sugar and fast food. I also have found it amazing that once I have gone through that detoxification process, I crave the bad stuff so much less. Past experience has taught me that once I have more than a treat or two in a week, all bets are off because my body seems to then want it more and more.

One of the biggest challenges has been that I am doing this all at a time when I am taking a dose of steroids (prednisone) that I have never had to take at this dose (50mg a day) for this long a duration. Prednisone is notorious for causing excessive hunger, weight gain, cravings and menstrual difficulties which can in turn produce hormonal changes that affect all of the previously stated issues!  But I am resolved to not let that be a barrier for me. In addition, if my nutrition changes help my autoimmune disorder, then hopefully the prednisone will someday soon be a thing of the past. I know I need to give the nutritional plan at least three or four months before I can make a decision about whether it is working for me or not.

Another huge challenge for me has been figuring out the whole gluten-free/dairy-free situation. It is not that difficult to figure out one or the other but the two combined gives me a run for my money. Gluten and the hidden protein of dairy, called casein, are in an unbelievable amount of foods and personal care products.Think about anything processed: condiments, sauces, bread, pasta, beer, drinks, salad dressings, baked goods, cold cuts, marinated meats, hot chocolate; foods in restaurants; I could go on and on! I am not sure how diligent I need to be with the gluten in the personal care products such as  lotion, makeup, shampoo, etc. but I am going to err on the side of caution. My thinking is that if I am putting myself through all this, get it right the first time. As luck would have it, a lot of the personal care products I use because of my Sjogren's are gluten-free anyways...thank god!

I have found many ways to make this whole process easier. The internet has been an invaluable tool as has my social network of friends and acquaintances who have trail blazed before me. I love the fact that I can type in "is Heinz ketchup gluten-free?" and get an immediate response; most of the time! Certain stores like Trader Joe's, which I have always loved anyways, do a huge part with training their employees in helping you out. I found out today that they even have a bulletin board with different allergy food lists so that you can take the list around the store in order to make life easier.

I have also learned two valuable things; I must cook at home most of the time in order to accomplish this great nutritional feat and I must speak up for myself without worrying what other people are going to think. At home I have complete control over what is in my kitchen and more importantly, what goes in my mouth. When out in public, especially at restaurants, I have to ask as many questions as I need to and be proactive about bringing my own food as needed. I have been blessed with a very supportive fiancee whom although I do not expect to do this exact plan with me, is more than willing to eat whatever I make. I have successfully divided up our cabinet in sections for foods that are allowable for me and then not allowable in order to make the process easier for both of us. As a matter of fact, as I am writing this, he is giving me a break from cooking and whipping up a pot of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian chili for tomorrow and the next couple of days.

I so love this man.

I know restaurants and socializing will end up being my biggest struggle with this whole way of life but I think it will get easier with time. I don't want to avoid social situations just because I don't think I can participate. I had my first restaurant meal at Pizzeria Unos the other day with my mom after a very long day. We were both famished after my doctor's appointment and I had left my car in their parking lot so she could drive the rest of the way to Hartford. I had done a little online restaurant research and thought I might be able to get a decent, safe meal there. I was not disappointed. They had a separate gluten-free menu and the waitress was good at helping me figure out how to avoid the dairy. It was quite an enjoyable meal with my mom!

As I go through the next month or two of meeting with doctors and undergoing medical tests to try and sort some new things out in regards to the Sjogren's Syndrome, I know that I am doing everything in my power to hopefully help heal myself. I am taking one day at a time, one hour at a time even. I am discovering a host of new foods that not only did I not know existed, but that I actually enjoy. It is  exciting doing such a positive change for myself.

It makes me feel empowered.

It gives me some peace.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images


  1. It's a great feeling to have control over something! Great post.

  2. OK, here daughter does the glueten and dairy free thing. Here favs are: almond milk, if you like creamer then try So Delicous, cheapest gluten free cereal is Chex - rice, cinamon, honey nut but these are not organic, Gleenys Bars are good - we like almond and cashew, Enjoy Life Foods - the entire brand is good and is gluten and dairy free, she loves Food Should Taste Good has good chips specifically the sweet potatoe chips, So Delicous also makes ice cream in cocoanut milk, quinoa is a good gluten free grain. Hope this helps some. And almost every restaurant now carries a gluten free option. Just google them and call and ask what they offer in the way of gluten free options. Good luck on your quest. It is definatly doable and enjoyable at the same time. You recipe list will grow and grow over time.

    1. Thanks for the info. Deb! I have discovered the great glory of Food Should Taste Good Chips...especially the sweet potato! And I am in in love with quinoa...thank goodness! I will check out the other suggestions.

  3. I am so impressed with you, Christine! I, too, am addicted to sugary and "bad" foods! And, the times I have cut them completely out of my diet, the cravings DO go away. Congrats on your findings and I wish you Bon Appetit!

  4. Hi Christine,
    What a happy coincidence! I personally know Becky Povich and when I mentioned to her that I was starting a blog for Crohn's awareness she immediately sent me the link to yours. And then you commented on mine and here we are!

    I had never heard of Sjogren's before today much less that it was an auto-immune disease. It just goes to show how many of these diseases are out there and go unnoticed unless you yourself are suffering from it. Although we don't share the same disease I believe we share many of he same issues that come with chronic illness.

    I applaud you in your quest to eat well. I began my quest in March 2010 when I started doing acupuncture. I do not eat red meat, anything processed, and I've never had a sweet tooth so I was fine giving up the sweet snacks. I love Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and shop there quite often. If you're ever looking for a quick snack try Amy's Frozen Foods or Annie's. They both cater to healthy eating and make gluten and dairy free foods. Should you ever need to vent/scream/or cry just let know and I'll be happy to lend a shoulder. And thanks for following my blog!

    1. Hi there! I agree that there are a lot of common issues in the autoimmune world. I also have been doing acupuncture; I think for a little over a year now. Although it is not a cure, it has helped quite a bit with some of my symptoms. I hope you are finding the same thing! I am also a big fan of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and I don't think I could do this eating well thing without either of them.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!