Friday, July 23, 2010

Soy is Suspect

Something has still been getting to me.

I have been feeling much better lately but every so often I relapse and couldn't figure out why.

Last week I was having a bowl of gazpacho and some herb flavored Mary's Gone Crackers and about 30 minutes into the meal my hands broke out in that familiar red rash. I was so confused because the crackers are gluten and casein free, I read the ingredients list over and over and couldn't think of what could be causing my breakout. It freaked me out a little bit.

Then a few days ago I was eating some Mint Chip Coconut based ice cream and about an hour later I was having stomach pain. Again I was baffled. What could be bothering me?

It was time to check my food log. I have been keeping a pretty detailed account of everything I've eaten this summer. I also write down if I feel I have had a reaction and the severity of the reaction. I skimmed through the log checking the ingredients of all the things that have been bothering me lately. They all contained Soy.

I did some research and found that a lot of gluten/casein intolerant people also have trouble with soy. I've decided to cut it out of my diet just for a month or so, see how I feel and then try to slowly introduce it back into my diet once I feel like my digestive system has had a chance to heal. Soy is a difficult food for the body to break down and since going gluten/casein free my diet has been pretty soy heavy, especially because I choose to stay away from red meat. I think I probably just over did it on the soy.

I've tried to be soy free today and feel pretty good so far. I hope this is the solution to my stomach troubles!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hooray for sesame seed paste!! :)

I've found a new love.


My sister is doing a dietary cleanse this week. Because of my recent dietary restrictions, I can definitely empathize with her. She has cut out all gluten, dairy, eggs, peanut butter, corn, soy, red meat, shellfish and refined sugars. She also has very severe allergies to all tree nuts, coconut, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds. So what's a girl to eat?

Well, being the wonderful sister that I am, I decided to experiment this morning to try and come up with a delicious, healthy, high-protein breakfast that would taste good enough to be a dessert and stay in line with the limitations of the cleanse.

Here's what I came up with:

Tasty Tahini "Ice Cream"

-1 banana (frozen in chunks)
-1 T tahini
-1/4 c water/ rice milk
-2 scoops protein powder of choice (optional)
-1 tsp raw blue agave nectar

Mix up all the ingredients in a blender until it reaches a smooth, creamy texture. Enjoy!

This really turned out great! The tahini adds a subtle rich, nuttiness that compliments the banana nicely. It is also a great source of omega 6 &9 fatty acids, calcium, B vitamins, and protein. I'm planning on eating it again tomorrow after my morning workout! :)

For more information on tahini and it's multiple health benefits check out these websites.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weight Loss and a Song

So I hadn’t really noticed how severe my weight loss was until my Dad showed me this video he took of me performing last summer.

My face is so much fuller in this footage, my arms look thicker and there is a glow in my eyes that I haven’t seen in a long time. I forgot I used to look like this.

I guess since it all happened so gradually I never even noticed my body changing. Sure, I knew I seemed a little thinner, my jeans were looser and my chest was smaller, but I never saw how drastically different I look now. I can see why my family was so concerned when they picked me up from college. The video really startled me. But it was a good reason to treat myself to a little coconut chocolate ice cream. Yum!

This song is called "October Snow". I wrote it my freshman year of college. The song was inspired by the custodian who cleaned my hallway. I'm an early riser, so I got to know the cleaning staff pretty well. I was always up when they were mopping the bathrooms. Our custodian was a very sweet woman who would always smile and say good morning to me but she had a deep sadness seeded in her face, a heavy tiredness. I wrote "October Snow" hoping to bring out what seemed to be her story, a story of loneliness and isolation. I think sometimes we overlook people, people who work hard, just because they are foreign. So many immigrants feel secluded because they are not always respected in the way that they should be. People are just people, we all go through hardship, and we all feel joy. We are all basically the same. I hope this song is a relatable, human narrative.

"October Snow" Lyrics:

The girl with the brown paper bag kicks the leaves on the ground
To watch them separate like the waves of Sinaloa
Her shoulders slouch and round and fold her body inside out
As October snow collects on her scalp
And weaves it’s frozen fingers through her hair
She wears her powdered sugar crown
A little less often now
A little less often now
Feeling two-dimensional she wraps her arms around herself
And tries to squeeze the noise out of her ears
Stuck in a Chinese finger trap the more she moves the more the world reacts
And tightens its grasp
She runs her frozen fingers through her hair
And stares into the sky
Stretching with her eyes, she wishes that her feet weren’t anchored down
And she sees angels dressed n ragged clothes
Hanging on a laundry line
Their flimsy angles frantically flip in the wind
Pinched by clothespins
And she says “even they aren’t free to fly when they please
Tethered to that twisting string
If I were an angel I would wear my wings like a shawl on these cold autumn days
Cause Mexico seems so far away
So far away”
The girl with the brown paper bag kicks the leaves on the ground
To watch them separate like the waves of Sinaloa
Her eyelids trace the ground
A refuge for her doubt
She wishes that her feet weren’t anchored down
And weaves her frozen fingers through her hair
She weaves her frozen fingers through her hair
She wears her powdered sugar crown
A little less often now
A little less often now

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I am so stupid.

My mom and I spent hours in the kitchen this afternoon. My best friend was coming over for dinner and I wanted to make her something special that we could all enjoy.  So I flipped through “The Flying Apron’s Gluten Free and Vegan Baking Book” to find the winning recipe: Italian Mushroom Apron Pockets. Delicious. We made our own gluten free, vegan dough; we sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, beans and spices in olive oil; we formed the dough into rounds filling each with marinara sauce and the vegetable mixture; we turned each round into a beautiful pockets and brushed the tops with oil and oregano; then my eyes caught a little green label on the back of the marinara sauce jar. Allergens: Contains Milk.

My heart sunk. How could I have missed this?
At first I denied that there was anything wrong. I can try and eat it right? It’s only a tiny bit of Parmesan. How bad could it be? But deep down I knew I shouldn’t test it. I have finally started feeling better. I would just make myself a leftover chicken taco.

I guess I should start at the beginning.
I have been sick all year. Since I started my sophomore year of college I have lost twenty pounds, dropping from 102 to 82 pounds in seven months. I was constantly nauseous, achy and short of breath and I developed an itchy red rash all over my body. I was depressed all the time and felt so sluggish, like I was walking into a windstorm. Everything seemed like a chore. The only thing I enjoyed was writing music and even that felt harder than usual. I just couldn’t concentrate on anything.

My parents said it was stress, probably related to my scoliosis (I got a back brace at the start of this year) but I knew my back couldn’t cause this. Something was wrong. I thought I was losing my mind.

Through trail and error I began to realize that my symptoms were food related. At first I thought I was lactose intolerant so I cut out all lactose from my diet, but after a reaction to some lactose free rice cheese that contained casein (a protein found in milk) I discovered that it must be casein intolerance. I stopped consuming anything that contained even trace amounts of casein and immediately started feeling better but was still not feeling one hundred percent. A few weeks later I had a reaction to soy sauce. At first I thought there might be milk in the caramel coloring but after a reaction to some Italian bread a few days later I suspected gluten. I have since removed all gluten from my diet and that has seemed to help a lot. My stomach symptoms have cleared up, my rash is gone and I finally have energy again. Of course there have been accidental cross contaminations but on the whole I am much better and have started gaining weight again.

I am still in the process of trying to get some sort of a diagnosis. I think I have celiac’s disease but so far all of the tests have come back negative. I’ve had 18 vials of blood drawn in the past month and still no definite results. After going on a two-week gluten challenge (I had to consume gluten again for the tests to be accurate) I had an upper endoscopy but that also showed nothing. It’s pretty frustrating sometimes but I am certain that gluten and casein are the problem; the doctors just haven’t found it yet.
I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as the diet is working. I am getting stronger and feeling better and that is all that matters. I don’t need to know what to call my problem as long as I can solve it.

I have started this blog to share my stories and thoughts as I go through the process of being diagnosed. I will also be posting allergy-friendly recipes, talking about general everyday life things and linking to my music. I am a music composition major in college and through all of this music has been the only thing that has always brought me peace and calmness. It is my stability, my love, my way of expressing myself and reaching out to other people. I hope this blog will inspire people who are struggling to keep holding onto their passion through hard times. Things will get better, they are already starting to.