A New Kind of Curveball

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The past few months, I've been suffering from intermittent stomach problems, especially after meals and especially after breakfast. I initially chalked it up to stress, as I've experienced a lot of change in my life recently. But, when things came to a head last week as I experienced some intense pain after three relaxing days, I knew it was time to seek some professional advice.

Based on the fact that my symptoms flare up after I eat and that they were especially bad after a weekend where I was more liberal with my choices and portions than I normally am, my doctor suspects that a food allergy or sensitivity is behind it all. As a result, she recommended that I do an elimination diet. This means that for a period of three weeks, I have to take out all potential triggers--gluten, milk, yogurt, cheese and anything else made with dairy, eggs, legumes, shellfish, most nuts, citrus fruit, nightshade vegetables (like tomatoes and eggplant) and soy. I should also try to minimize added sugar and caffeine and stay away from artificial sweeteners and alcohol. At the end of the three weeks, I'll need to reintroduce each potential trigger one at a time and see if I react to it.

My initial reaction to having to do this was not the greatest--I'm a "balance and moderation" girl and I bristled at the idea of having to do anything that involved the word "elimination". But having experienced some of the most intense pain in my life last week, I am willing to try anything that will make me feel better and, taking a calmer view of things, it's only for three weeks. I once did boot camp for six, so I can do this!

After throwing myself a little pity party over all of the things I couldn't have, I started to dig in and investigate what I COULD have and how I could make those things as delicious and palatable as possible. Basically, I'm left with meat and fish (apart from deli meat and shellfish), almost all fruits and vegetables, some nuts, seeds, rice, buckwheat, quinoa, oats and a few other non-gluten whole grains, sweet potatoes, olive and coconut oil (and basically all things coconut, including coconut milk and the unsweetened shredded stuff--never in my life have I felt more thankful for the existence of coconut, it's seriously been a sanity saver as I adjust), rice milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, agave syrup, stevia, herbal tea and small amounts of coffee and basically all herbs and spices.

There are different variations of elimination diets that are more or less restrictive, but based on what I had been eating most and what I had been eating prior to my most intense symptoms, these are my lists. The first few days of following this were a bit rough. I'm used to a "no-food-is-off-limits" policy when it comes to my diet and having to stay away from so many different things has been been an unexpected challenge, as has shopping. It's amazing how many things have ingredients you wouldn't expect--even chewing gum has soy in it and it took me several tries to find oats that didn't contain gluten. And although lots of products say that they MAY contain traces of different potential triggers, I thought it best to stay away from them as diligently as possible because I want to get this right. After all, the only thing that will get cheated if I don't adhere to this is my own wellbeing and I really just want to feel good again and not be filled with a sense of impending doom after each meal.

At first it seemed a bit daunting to keep my food choices so limited, but after looking up some recipes, a little experimentation in my kitchen and figuring out how to get my chocolate fix in, I'm finding I can actually still eat pretty well and enjoyably. Eating out will be a bit of a challenge, and I'm going to have to tackle that this evening, but I figure it will be good practice for me in the event that I do eventually have to avoid a certain kind of food permanently and will help me develop the assertiveness that might become necessary when eating outside of my strictly controlled comfort zone.

Another thing I've been wrestling with is the psychological component of all this. After several years working to get my portions under control, counting calories and focusing on things like getting enough protein, my doctor has advised me not to worry about those things and just make eating what I should and staying away from what I shouldn't my top priority these next few weeks. This is enough work in and of itself and trying to pile on other things on top of that are just unnecessary complications that could lead me to veer off plan. Given my past history of somtimes biting off more than I can chew, I'd have to agree with that, so I'm doing my very best to try to keep things as simple as possible and try not to stress out if I gain a few pounds in the process.

The other issue I'm grappling with is the possibility that my reactions have been psychosomatic. After all, I grew up listening to my grandfather saying that most illnesses were "mind over matter" and that if we really believed we were healthy, we would be. So, is it possible that one or two adverse reactions to what I ate caused me to develop a fear that resulted in phantom symptoms that merely mimicked my real ones? Sounds kind of creepy and supernatural and I'd prefer to think that what I've been experiencing is real, but it is, nonetheless, one of many thoughts that have been swirling around in my head.

However, the bottom line for me is that if doing an elimination diet makes me feel better and if, in the end, that means I do better to avoid a certain food group, this all will have been worth it. And if nothing changes, at least my doctor and I will know that we'll need to look for other culprits. In any case, I'm ready to start feeling better again and hope that this at least provides some answers and helps point me in the right direction!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    As an IBS sufferer, I doubt it is psychosomatic. For me, what has helped the most, is gas pills, with the pain when my stomach gets upset. 2. Knowing what things tend to upset my stomach. For me, it is high fat foods and dairy fat more specifically. IE my stomach was upset most when I went out to eat. There was one restaurant if I ordered my normal dish, I was fine, but if I ordered my normal dish and at the popcorn they put on your table before the meal, I was not fine. For me, the pain was intense after meals, like my stomach had a bad cramp that would come and go. The drive home, every bump would make it worse. Walking for some reason, seemed to help a bit, but gas pills helped the most. I would also say probiotics help me, so I do eat lots of yogurt. One IBS sufferer was to the point he could eat almost nothing, but probiotic pills helped him.

    Sorry to hear of all the things going on with the transition team. Still reading through the name comments post. Hope you are feeling better soon.
    2117 days ago
    Just checking to see how you are. My GI health has been much better since losing weight, but I am more sensitive to headaches now. I think I used to just nuke them with sugar. When I took physiology, I decided I must have had a combination lactose intolerance aggravated when I ate too much fat. Fat digestion alters the pH of the small intestine, and lactase (and, really, many enzymes) ave very pH sensitive. So I think that's what used to get me.
    2164 days ago
    Wow, a very very useful blog. I love the way you're thinking this through. For all who may have to go through this at some point in time, thanks - one just never knows. I do hope that you find a specific cause for this. emoticon
    2235 days ago
    Did you find the cause to your stomach pains? Hope you are feeling better now!
    2236 days ago
    I am so sorry for your pain. I hope this elimination eating plan can help you figure what is happening. You are facing your changes with courage and determination. You know that it is so important to find choices that you enjoy. Good luck.
    2236 days ago
    Wow. That's a load on your plate. (sorry - pun - sorrypun)

    I sure understand the worry that "it's all in my head" but then - your head is a part of your body too, so hey - it has a say over how you feel too. Your head may be saying "stop eating ______!" It's not good for you.

    But I hope you discover what is hurting your tummy - and just think of all the new recipes you're adding to your repertoire.

    I can no longer have pizza and wine - in fact I have to be very circumspect anytime cheese/tomatoes/wine are combined. I will be sick all night if I'm not. too bad. but no big deal.

    wishing you swift discovery and healing.
    2252 days ago
    I know you'll get this figured out and under control in no time! Temporary shift... back to normal soon!
    2253 days ago
  • F70176555
    Hope you find what is causing you so much pain! You have a great outlook on life and have come so far with weigh loss and maintenance! emoticon
    2254 days ago
    I know you will answers you seek...keep your chin up!!
    2254 days ago
    Good luck! emoticon
    2256 days ago
  • no profile photo CD14643906
    Hope you find the answer. I had issues like these, and it was my gall bladder. I had stomach and back pain, and upset stomach, especially after eating fat or spicy foods. It took a year and a switch of doctors to pinpoint it, then I had it removed.

    I've found sensitivities to foods arising as I get older. Many of us are probably sensitive to wheat and dairy, and we eat a lot of those anyway, fluffling off discomfort until it gets really noticeable.

    Feel better!
    2261 days ago
    emoticon Hang in there and find the culprit! You may actually find some new foods that you may enjoy. I've been dabbling in trying new things which actually makes meal planning adventuresome! Experiment and have fun! emoticon
    2262 days ago
    This definitely sounds challenging. I am not sure I would be able to find solutions/replacements. My thoughts are with you during this trying time. You seem to be handling it very well with a great CAN DO attitude. emoticon
    2262 days ago
    I'm sorry you've been in such intense pain. I went through that when my gallbladder went bad and the bile duct was blocked. Eating half a cheeseburger sent me to the ER and I ended up having my gallbladder removed immediately. Sure hope you learn the culprit quickly.

    I've done the elimination diet in an attempt to identify what's triggering my constant migraines. You have my sympathy - it's definitely mentally and physically challenging.
    2262 days ago
    This happened to me in my mid-20s and it turned out my body had just stopped making the enzyme to digest any heavy animal proteins. I am now in my early 50s and still can't eat meat of any kind. Flake fish is fine, but I don't like it that often, so basically I'm a vegetarian most of the time, and once in a blue moon, a pescatarian. Good luck with your elimination diet, and zeroing in on the offending item quickly. And maybe you'll get lucky and it'll be something that is treatable with enzymatic therapy and you'll be back to normal soon. Fingers crossed!
    2262 days ago
    I hope you feel better and can figure out what is going on. Elimination diets make me crazy, too, but you'll make it through and hopefully gain some insights!
    2263 days ago
    Not a lot of fun but if you stick with it you can get a lot of information about how your body reacts to foods. You will be amazed at what you find.

    And I have a really, really hard time believing that your PHYSICAL symptoms are all in your head.
    2263 days ago
  • DALID414
    Good luck in finding the culprit!
    2263 days ago
  • _LINDA
    So very sorry you are experiencing this :-( Kudos to you for focusing on the things you CAN eat, that very positive attitude will help you get through this!
    All the best with it!
    2263 days ago
    We are all in the same SPARK PEOPLE boat, right? Good for you for seeking help! For me it is the night shade! Especially unripe ones. Green peppers, green tomatoes, even green potoatoes. I just don't eat them & if by accident, I take a charcoal capsul to help absorb the toxins. I have to be care, charcoal takes away ALL the good stuff, too! BUT, it keeps me from feeling awful.... if they are snuck into something I don't usually eat.

    Thanks for your support to everyone one this amazing site!!!!! Hope you find the answer!
    2263 days ago
    The practical side of me says... "whatever it takes". If it's a black feather that makes Dumbo believe he can fly... or an elimination diet... if it works, who cares why?

    emoticon Good luck with your experiment of one!
    2263 days ago
    Tina, I hope you and the doctor figure out soon what's causing your problems. I had to do the elimination diet many years ago, and it's not fun. In my case, there were no food allergies, but it was a worthwhile step in figuring that out. I hope you start feeling better soon!

    2263 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4114015
    I know it sounds tough but I am hoping for you that it turns out so worth the effort and you find out exactly what is causing it! That is a true bummer!

    2263 days ago
    this sounds tough, and I'm glad that you are sharing with Spark folks. I really wish you the best as you try to figure out what could be causing this. An elimination diet sounds very hard, but looks like you are already sorting yourself out on what you can eat, which is a great :) Keep us posted emoticon
    2263 days ago
    I've learned to live with lots of stomach problems since I was young. I already know 'poison' foods for my intestine (as I call them), but still indulge in them even if afterwards I have to pay the price. I get some relief if I eat them with some enzymes and probiotics, but not completely.
    Best wishes in your search for relief.
    2263 days ago
    Good luck with the elimination diet! Woo hoo you!
    2263 days ago
    My first reaction would be upset to have to eliminate too, restriction is not my fave! LOL. But I love that you switched your focus to things you CAN have and are working to creatively work with them. That will help it not feel so restricted for sure! And once you get into the swing of it you probably will enjoy what you are making so much you won't miss it! LOL Or at least not as much as you'd think. That's usually how it rolls! At least you know how to creatively think towards food and you will find some new loves to enjoy in the meantime!
    2263 days ago
    Good luck on finding the food culprit...sounds like the best way to tackle the problem. You have my admiration!
    2263 days ago
    Good luck. Not easy for sure. Sorry!!
    2263 days ago
    ...I have had some issues as of late as well.....I am NOT ready to do all the hard work. I guess my pain isn't there yet. My daughter in law to be went on this and I have to say she was a real trooper. Me NOT so much. Trying to cook for a visiter while they were on this plan was rather taunting.

    I am also wondering.....NOT in all cases but ,,it seems to me that this is the new thing to recommend. My son's Dr. wants him on this as well.

    Good luck and please let us know...feeling icky...actually way beyond icky is NO fun
    2263 days ago
    You are doing this necessary elimination diet with a great positive attitude, and you have identified an army of healthy foods you are still allowed to eat.
    I hope you can identify the culprit(s) and get back most of your favorite foods once this is over.
    2263 days ago
    I know that feeling well. I've spend years and countless dollars trying to get to the bottom of my digestive ills. I have often thought I was overreacting myself, which landed me in the ER in liver/kidney failure, twice. While stress can certainly mimic symptoms of actual ailments, if you *know* something is wrong, trust you gut (no pun intended!). In my case, it turns out I have autoimmune disease (several, as they tend to run in packs, I am told). As once is treated, another pops to the forefront to be treated as well. Each time offering a little more relief and improving my quality of life back to "normal."

    I hope that you find the instigator and are feeling better quickly!

    2263 days ago
    Sounds complicated and tricky but worth it if it results in less discomfort. And, if you think that there might be some psychosomatic element, why not consider a "check-up" with a therapist as well?? That mind/body connection is very powerful!

    Having your gallbladder checked out: terrific idea too. My mum suffered from similar digestive problems for years, completely relieved with gallbladder surgery . . . and now the procedure is laparoscopic, not nearly so intimidating!
    2263 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/12/2015 3:02:33 PM
    This reminds me of why I eliminated meat from my diet. Back in 2010 I started getting serious stomach issues that would keep me up at night and would prevent me from putting anything inside my body for hours at a time, including water. I was tested for days at the hospital but they found nothing. I'd wanted to go vegetarian for a while but I hadn't researched it yet so I tried that when I left the hospital and I never got those issues again. This was obviously a mental issue as it's physically impossible for a human being to be "allergic" to ALL kinds of meat, so yes, I agree with your grandpa ;)
    I hope you find out what's wrong really quick! Eating is such an important and enjoyable part of life, it sucks when it becomes the opposite. I'm with you!
    2264 days ago
    Hi Tina, that sounds really nasty and I do hope you can get to the bottom of things fairly quickly.
    I have had painful digestive issues three times in my life: the first was due to stress where I developed a small stomach ulcer. The second was due to scarring after my appendix was removed ,which grew attached to my colon. The third time was again stress-related and I slowly became gluten and lactose sensitive. The good and bad bacteria in my gut were no longer in balance. I went on a limited diet for 3 months and now I can eat food containing gluten and lactose in small amounts. Wishing you a speedy recovery!
    2264 days ago
    Sorry you're having so much trouble. My daughter has GIRD that flares from time to time. There are foods that are usually fine that become intolerable foe a time. Many flare ups coincide with stress. I hope you find what the problem is. Hopefully it won't be a permanent change for you.
    2264 days ago
  • KONRAD695

    I have gone through the elimination before. It was part of my training, learning, and beginning weight loss in 2012.

    After you in it, it becomes much easier. So much easier. And you will become very creative with foods. One place to check out is bubblechild.com. She is a well trained chef from Portland, then New York, and now Paris. Her site has many postings, recipe's, and now videos. Please Please Please check her out. She has even replied to me a few times.

    There are a few things I have found out from my diet and speaking to others like me. An auto-immunity response sometimes takes time, even 36 hours to respond. One of my gluten responses is a cold like stuffy nose. Now in the middle of the eliminations diet, the response should be very strong. With nothing left in your system, you will find out quickly. There will also be many food you might react to that you don't have an allergy or immunity too. Mine was when I introduces dairy. It put me to bed for two hours in the fetal position. Now it doesn't bother me much, unless I overeat it. Some of the specific bacteria need for certain foods will die out during your diet. These can take some time to regrow, that was mine for lactose. One of the last things I found was what is heavy to my body. Most of this seems like common practice, but not true. Fish, eggs, poultry, beef, and ham are easy to me. Oils, fat from pork, and almost any flours. Most GF foods are densely packed processed grains that flood your system hard. The last thing- doses of simple sugars seem to help push my sensitivities.

    That's about it for now. Have a great week.

    2264 days ago
    Your concerns about psychosomatic causes are understandable, but as we progress through life our bodies change. Things we did for years that seemed healthy or harmless suddenly cause us trouble for what seems no apparent reason. At the risk of using the "O word" we have to acknowledge getting a little older (even if that's just being in our 30s, supposedly the prime of life). It's called life experience. Sometimes it feels as though our bodies are betraying us since we have tried so hard to treat them well. Still, we have to change and adapt. I agree with FUNLOVEN about checking the gall bladder; from what I understand they would not even needed an expensive CAT scan as a simple blood test can give you the primary indicators of gall bladder issues. Best wishes to you this new phase of your journey of self-discovery and health.
    2264 days ago
    I'm so sorry to hear you have had stomach problems! I hope they find your food allergies in the next three weeks. I know the elimination diet will be hard... but I know you can do it! Sending you lots of hugs and love! xoxo
    2264 days ago
    it seems to me that with the kind of whole foods you have left that are acceptable, weight gain is less likely - it may even surprise you! hang in there, the three weeks will be gone before you know it, and it will be great to come out the other side knowing what to avoid to avoid the pain in the future. emoticon
    2264 days ago
    healing thoughts & prayers for you that you can get an idea of what upsets you am sure you will be able to do it al the best
    2264 days ago
  • MBPP50
    I know that elimination diet will be hard but you can do it. I pray that it will result in finding out what the problem is so that you won't have to go through any other tests.
    2264 days ago
    If anyone has the stamina to withstand those food limitations, it is you!

    I have to say I am very surprised that they didn't order a CAT Scan to check out your gallbladder. From my healthcare experience that is the first place I would have looked before I jumped to the idea of allergies and food eliminations. Gallbladder attacks can be extremely painful and occur after meals as your body attempts to digest foods. Just a thought. I know you live in Europe and their healthcare system is very different from ours.

    Good Luck with this. Will be eager to know how it all works out.

    2264 days ago
    So, I guess you already tried to remember what you ate at those meals that were followed by the pain? Also, were you wearing any clothes that bound off part of your body? I have experienced severe pains if I wear something to tight at the waist.
    Also, constipation/gas has given me pain.

    Food for me was cabbage, beans, or something too acidic.
    Also, things with bubbles, like too much soda.
    That, in combination with something tight at the waist....Yikes!

    2264 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/12/2015 8:46:32 AM
  • GINA180847
    That is going to be interesting till you figure out what is causing the problem. Hmmmm!
    2264 days ago
    That sounds really tough - physically as well as emotionally. I hope you get some answers soon and that it isn't anything serious
    2264 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    Good luck with this. That is really annoying to not know and to have to eliminate foods but if it finds the food that is bothering you, then it is all worthwhile!
    I hope you don't have too much trouble finding other foods and recipes for the next few weeks!
    2264 days ago
  • no profile photo CD15145828

    I am hoping that your elimination diet gives you one food item that is a certainty, and not a love of yours, and you can stay away from it rather easily and then feel just great.

    Your grandfather would have been proud of me last night, lol, because I was investigating emotions and back pain. I came across a book that connects the two and hopefully will tell me how to overcome (theres a LOT of talk of repressed anger) and I feel that, after two years of chronic pain, if this can turn me around, wouldn't that be wonderful.

    Wishing you well!!
    2264 days ago
  • ALP1976
    Oh, I am so sorry, Tina! What an awful thing to have to go through! I am glad that you sought out your doctor for some professional advice... my husband has gone through a similar type thing he was diagnosed with acid reflux/IBS and it has been interesting watching him have to re-learn how to eat, which foods trigger him and what to avoid completely.

    I'll be honest, I think I would struggle greatly, but in the end, health is number one. I hope you can get it figured out. Pain like that is no fun! I will keep ya in my thoughts! Good luck!!
    2264 days ago
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