I have food allergies. This is nothing new for me; my whole life I've been allergic to yeast, mould, & lactose in foods. But in the last couple of years, the list of restricted foods has grown even further: sugar & high carbohydrate foods, most grains, legumes, starches, & processed foods. The list is loooong. What I can eat is rather short.
I didn't always have such a restricted diet, though I have lived on self-imposed restricted diets previously. I was vegetarian twice for various years. The second session evolved into a pescatarian regime, after requiring fish oil for mental health (oil tablets just didn't cut it. The reflux was nothing less than unpleasant). My vegetarian diet was heavy on grains, bread & pasta. A change in my life inspired a change in my diet, & I was suddenly a meat-eater once again. & heavily ate sugar-laden products. All of this has lead to where I am today.
I cut sugar out of my diet late last year (2009), when I found that anytime I indulged in sweets I was left in literal gut-wrenching pain. Sweets, chocolate, vinegar, beer - anything with a heavy sugar content had me in agony & feeling robbed of energy, with body aches, migraines, muddled focus, & simply feeling unhealthy. I cut out the junk & implemented more vegetables, meat, & nuts. But there were still negative responses occurring. I couldn't make sense of it. I went to a doctor & had tests done, but it showed nothing. 'You're fine', the doctor told me. But I knew I wasn't. I was only 30, yet I found carrying my own body weight around too much for my energy levels to bear. Something was wrong.
I finally got a name for it when out for lunch one day with a couple of friends. I was explaining my issues to one, & she suggested that I may have Candida. A friend of hers had recently been diagnosed, & she had been having the same issues I had. So I jumped on the net & read as much as I could find about this 'Candida'. Bingo, I felt like I'd hit the jackpot. So many of the symptoms associated with it I had. I felt so relieved at finally being able to understand what was happening with me. I read heavily about the diet that was required to overcome this illness, & my diet took another drastic change. A visit to a naturopath confirmed my suspicions, & further supplements were added to my daily regime.
Suddenly almost everything was cut out. Vinegar, gone. My beloved homemade sugar-free peanut butter & cashew nut butter was out. No more little bits of bread or crackers or chips. & my most loved of all foods, cheese, was sadly shut out. I felt... stripped. What the hell could I eat? I was now munching on lettuce, cucumber, celery - anything green that wasn't going to make my stomach feel like it was punching me from the inside & leaving me huddled in a ball for hours. Now I couldn't even enjoy carrots dipped in hummus. What the hell? But if it meant that I could overcome this & eventually bring those foods back into my kitchen, then so be it.
But boy, what a journey it's been. Eating out or at friends has been a trial. Always carrying a bag of vegetables could get tiresome at times. Explaining over & over & over that no, I wasn't on a low-carbohydrate diet out of some shallow desire to be part of a trend but merely to avoid pain became (& still does at times) rather repetitive & boring. Trying to get people to understand, especially my mother, who would always look worriedly at me because of the weight I was losing. This isn't a choice, Ma! This isn't to restrict or punish myself in any way, this is so that I feel better, feel healthy, feel able to do the things that I love.
It's not that I don't enjoy my diet either. I eat the healthiest I ever have. The restrictions can get tiring. Not being able to just grab something 'quick' can be a bummer at times when I just couldn't be bothered. But I also see it as a challenge. I now get creative in the kitchen & try to make new & exciting creations (for me, anyway) that I would never have previously considered.
So, after much scouring of the web for sites & blogs about anti-candida & gluten-free diets, recipes & lifestyles, I've decided to create my own. On the posts that will follow, I will share my own experiences, my own trials in the kitchen as I try to create foods (particularly baked goods) that I can no longer enjoy in their traditional form, but to rather recreate them in a new way. I will share when there are those days when anything I eat causes discomfort, when I can finally reintroduce a certain food, when I discover something new that doesn't react negatively within me. & when I just feel like sharing with people who understand, in this rocky path of trail & tribulation that is living allergy-free.
My days from now on (as they have been the past six months) will forever be sugar & gluten-free. While I cannot yet consume all the foods that are allowed on a gluten-free diet, the day will come when I can, & I will be happy to share the discoveries I make along the way. So to anyone who may happen to read these words & be travelling their own food journey in a similar way, I say welcome. Much love, hugs & support.