I have written a lot about food on this blog, but I have said very little about the food sensitivities that drive my eating decisions every day. Since this past week marked a major turning point in the way I approach those food sensitivities, I wanted to provide you all with some context as to how I reached this stage.
During my junior year of high school, after experiencing months of stomach pain and fatigue, a doctor recommended that I be tested for food sensitivities. When the results of this immunoglobulins test (or IgG) came back, the results were pretty shocking. I showed sensitivities to gluten, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, can sugar, and a host of other relatively common foods. Needless to say, the steady stream of cookies, pizza, and PB&J I was accustomed to came to a grinding halt.
Though it took me about six months to completely overhaul my eating habits and learn how to manage the multiple sensitivities, I was able to completely eliminate those foods from my diet. The difference was remarkable: I felt the healthiest I had ever felt and my symptoms were all but gone. I won’t say it was easy to get to that point (I cried in a grocery store once…no big deal), but my family helped me adopt a “sink or swim” attitude about the entire situation- and I just kept on swimming!
By the time I started freshman year at GW, I was quite comfortable with handling my sensitivities. Somewhat ironically, I found it easier to manage my diet in college because living away from home put me completely in charge of what I was eating. I sailed through freshman and sophomore year (without beer or pizza- impressive, right?), but began to notice renewed symptoms just before junior year. The fatigue and stomach issues came back strong as ever, and I decided to have another IgG test.
The results to this test were a blow to my already restricted diet. I showed new sensitivities to soy and peanuts, two foods that I was eating very regularly. Soy was tough in general, and I was in more than a bit of denial when I realized I would have to let go of peanut butter! But I was able to cut both foods out of my diet relatively quickly, and once again I noticed an immediate difference, especially as the fatigue subsided.
Over the past few months, it began to feel as if this cycle of testing, eliminating foods, feeling great, and renewed symptoms had once again come full circle. But instead of opting for another IgG test, where I would simply find out what foods are likely to cause reactions, I figured it was time to get to the bottom of this food sensitivity issue. I realized I had a lot of questions about my food sensitivities and plenty of symptoms to boot, but very little answers amongst many self-concocted hypotheses.
I’m all about context, so thank you for letting me indulge in that back story! So here’s the good part, about where I am today: A few weeks ago, I visited a phenomenal gastroenterologist to start this journey of finding some answers about my food situation. She then recommended me to an allergist who I saw for the first time this week, and he was also very helpful. The doctors know one another and are taking a bit of a team approach to finding out what is causing my issues, and I feel very fortunate for that. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first time that I will have a consistent allergist to see about my food sensitivities- but I think it’s already paying off.
My appointment with the allergist was almost three hours long. The most interesting part of the entire visit was that I was tested for food allergies via skin pricks on my arms, and the results showed no allergies. I wasn’t entirely surprised by this, and am grateful that the tests came back negative. But what this means is that finding the underlying problem will require more time and effort than a simple blood test. The process all begins with the title of this post, and my current reality: the elimination diet.
If you click the image above, you can see a photo of the sheet I was given to me by the allergist to instruct me through the first two weeks of the elimination diet. I need to stick to these instructions for two weeks, and can then incorporate a “new” food once every three days. The idea is to get me to a baseline point where we can begin testing what foods are causing a reaction through my consumption of those foods. The prospect of trying foods I haven’t had in years and not having a reaction is incredibly exciting, though it’s also somewhat scary to think about having a negative reaction. But, I am trying to develop as objective of a mindset as possible before I start genuinely testing some of those questionable foods.
So what does a girl do upon finding out about her elimination diet? I ended up going right to Whole Foods after my doctor’s visit, and I couldn’t help but to fantasize about being able to eat so many long-forgotten foods again. Chocolate? Almonds? Eggs? The idea of eating those kinds of foods is incredibly exciting to me. But I will have to be patient before I can even test whether or not I can have those foods again. So for the time being, I decided to test out the first meal I dreamed up for my elimination diet: potato chip crusted chicken (a variation of this recipe):
For the record, it tasted amazing. I just coated the chicken in a little olive oil, dipped them in the crushed chips (which were cooked in olive oil themselves), and baked them for about an hour. Pete liked it a lot, too, so I think this will definitely be a repeat recipe! I have also learned how to roast beets and have developed an obsession with kale chips during the first week of the elimination diet. Between trying these new foods and already starting to fell better, I am feeling incredibly optimistic about what lies ahead.
Stay tuned for continued updates on the progress of my elimination diet (I promise to never, ever write a post this long again!) and let me know if you have any recipe ideas for me as I continue this journey!