Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Professional Redraws My Map on the Search

Five days after my last post I had an appointment that would change my life. I don't necessarily mean this in the grandiose way that one usually means such a statement, but I mean it literally: it changed every single day of my existence since then, very often framed the course a day would take and has brought me, personally, to a brand new place in my health, in my path toward better health and has altered my search for sustenance dramatically. The appointment I had was the first one with my nutritionist.

I had always wanted to go to a nutritionist, but I consistently talked myself out of it (especially since my insurance didn't always cover the people I was interested in seeing). I figured that there was enough information out in the world about what the "right" foods are for us that seeking professional advice in this part of my life was both superfluous and financially wasteful. And yet, nearly every single year of my life I would come back around to this thought, "I should go see a nutritionist..." but never would. Then, last Spring I got the most terrifying sickness of my life, more terrifying than my Crohn's disease diagnosis and it absolutely dwarfed my Pseudotumor Cerebri in terms of scaring me to my core - from April 22, 2010 through May 22, 2010 I battled Antibiotic Associated Colitis, more commonly known as "C. Diff." I wish this on NO ONE and I pray that it never happens to me again. The sheer terror of it came from the fact that I knew, since I was not in the hospital and, therefore, not even hooked up to an IV, I was completely malnourished. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. I was terrified to eat.

When I finally recovered I was still terrified to eat. It took three different treatments to make the C. Diff. finally go away and my doctor said I may get it again. After a discussion like this I knew it was finally time to seek professional help in terms of my consumption. I made an appointment to see a nutritionist I had long wanted to see that came highly recommended by many coworkers.

As I got ready for the upcoming appointment I became more and more excited wondering what she would say, what she would find and what she would suggest. I knew a number of other people over the years that had gone to her and had come out with extreme diet restrictions; I was ready for whatever she wanted to take away, but I had one food in my corner to determine whether or not she a complete fraud: gluten.

Nearly every person I had spoken to that had seen this women suddenly had gluten sensitivities or allergies. I was beginning to wonder as I spoke to more and more people leading up to my appointment if this was her panacea for all patients. I discussed my concerns with my husband, "I'll do whatever she says, but if she even tries to take gluten away from me I am going to have a ton of questions!" He agreed with me (so sweet when I am ranting) knowing that gluten foods like white bread are my "safety" and "go-to" foods when I am having a flare up from IBS or, now Crohn's. In fact, when I had C. Diff. the only things I would even try to eat were gluten-filled foods! I knew my body - this woman couldn't try her little gluten trick on me!

The doctor is homeopathic and uses kinesiology, not blood tests or anything, so it is an interesting examination and one that I could also feel safe questioning in the end(if the need arises), unlike cold hard science. After examining me, the doctor and her assistant concluded that my body

  • was completely toxic (that was not surprising considering the cocktail of drugs I had to take each  day),
  • had minimal evidence of any vitamins in my system (some were missing completely), 
  • showed a sensitivity to dairy as I had suspected, but more than anything
  • had an extreme sensitivity to GLUTEN
I think I actually laughed when she said this. She actually went on to explain that the gluten wasn't only affecting my digestive system, but also my head (What?! I was thinking she would say ANYTHING to get me off this gluten!). Since I had a sensitivity to it my body was creating histamines on overdrive every time I ate it and that could be leading to some of my congestion issues (Wait... what? She was starting to break me down with this argument now). I waited politely for her to say, as all good doctors do, "Do you have any questions?" when I responded, "Yeah. Just one..." and went on my diatribe about gluten and how bread has been saving me from severe stomach attacks. I have to admit, my argument was not as impassioned as I had planned after all of her justifications, but I still didn't understand how it could have been helping me if, according to her judgement, it was actually the cause of my problems. Then she said something that made so much sense I wanted to cry, she said, "Maybe it has been acting like a band-aid for you - stopping the attack temporarily, but ultimately just hiding the bigger problem until it comes back." I was done arguing. I would try it. Maybe she was right, and if she was - how much time I wasted unintentionally hurting myself... what a heartbreak!

The last step to my appointment was to sit with the assistant to go over what I could and could not eat and to get a menu of ideas that could work for me. I did not feel intimidated by the undertaking of a gluten-free, dairy-free diet especially since we had started eating a lot more fresh veggies and examining what we were eating anyway. However, when I sat down to discuss the food I discovered how much gluten I actually consumed in a day. The assistant asked me to go through a normal day's food. I was originally only worried about dinner (NO MORE PASTA!!), but I quickly learned I was a gluten-addict!

  • Typical breakfast on a work day: A bowl of cereal -- GONE: gluten & dairy!!
  • Typical lunch on a work day: A Subway sandwich (so happy that Subway came to our school!!) -- GONE: super gluten!!
  • Typical dinner: I can avoid it, but I do love pasta... "I am half Italian-American!" (I actually said this to her as if this should somehow grant me some magical powers.)
After that, the assistant exhaled and brought out my cheat-sheets; one for dairy-free eating, one for gluten free eating and the last for just plain-old healthy eating. They have all been extremely educational.

This has been extremely helpful. I was very surprised to find dairy as a hidden ingredient in so many things! I am a complete nut when it comes to reading food labels now - WHAT a headache.

I found myself having to do more research about gluten at home, but at least this was a starting point. 
I think most of us know these, but it is nice to have them all in one place, in our faces as a constant reminder. Knowing them and FOLLOWING them are two entirely different things.

In the end, I was thoroughly surprised by my results at the nutritionist. It has been four months and nothing has changed - no new restrictions and none of my restrictions lifted: I am living gluten and dairy free and it has changed my life! I do feel much better, I have lost even more weight (which I needed to, so don't worry that I am wasting away) and because I have to look closely at what I am eating I now look closely at everything I eat. I don't cheat because I don't have to and, more than anything I don't want to. I know I probably won't get C. Diff. if I have one piece of pizza, but I believe my body is still healing and some day, hopefully soon, I would like to invite a little one to live in there for nine months - I have to spruce the place up!

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