I think it’s about time I talk to you about my health. I’ve alluded to my sensitive tummy issues here and there and you may notice that my recipes are always gluten free and vegan. Though I’m not vegan–I’ll eat eggs, honey, & drink bone broth every once and a while and I take daily fish oil supplements–I naturally gravitate towards a diet filled with fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts & seeds. I’m also lactose-intolerant, so that’s that. I haven’t eaten meat or fish in seven years as a personal choice due to animal cruelty and to lessen my environmental impact on the world.
My entire life I’ve had eczema. Really bad. As in I remember coming home from preschool one day with bloody, oozy rug-burned hands because the eczema on my hands was so itchy I was started rubbing them on the rug. My mom would take me to the pediatrician and the doctor would write me a prescription for heavy duty steroid-laden ointments. The doctor would tell me, “Don’t use the ointment for more than two consecutive weeks.” Otherwise the steroids in the ointment would thin my skin and my body would develop an immunity to the prescription. The ointment would usually work its magic, but my eczema always found its way back: on my legs, behind my knees, on my arms, behind my ears, on my neck, on my hands, inside the crooks of my elbows… My mom would take me back to the pediatrician and the doctor would prescribe another ointment for me to use. It was an endless cycle.
Every now and then, well-meaning friends would cringe at my sore, rashy skin and ask me if I had ever tried a gluten-free diet. I scoffed at the idea. Maybe it was because being gluten-free wasn’t much of a ‘thing’ at the time or maybe it just wasn’t on my radar but I ate anything and everything and I felt fine… or at least so I thought. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had issues with bloating. When I was super young (around 4 years old), I thought that was just the way my body digested food. I thought my stomach was naturally shaped like the underside of a bowl. It made me self-conscious, yes, but that was life and I sure loved food. My mom fed me wholesome food, like chicken and bread and rice and vegetables and fruit and milk. I loved it all. I saw how picky my peers were with eating. I saw how they would take three bites of a sandwich and be “full.” I thought that maybe my problem was I loved food too much; maybe I was a glutton and my body was punishing me for eating so much.
One day in elementary school, I accidentally skipped lunch. I noticed how flat my stomach looked and how good it felt not to be bloated. I noticed how my stomach looked more like the other kids and I didn’t feel pins and needles when I tried to take deep breaths. I really wish I hadn’t realized this because it made me want to eat less. I knew I had to eat and I still really loved eating, but every once and a while, I’d treat myself to skipping a meal. I call it a “treat” because it was the one time I felt like my body was normal. And that felt good. Rewarding myself with intermittent fasting lasted all through middle school and high school. I didn’t realize the havoc I was wreaking on my body and my mind.
When I was 13, I moved from Connecticut to California and magically, my eczema vanished shortly thereafter. For a few years, I lived eczema-free. I still had weird bloating issues, but that was standard for me since I thought that simply was the way my body digested food. About four years ago, I noticed my body really wasn’t feeling good. In addition to feeling bloated after every meal, I felt weak, my muscles ached, my face broke out and I felt more anxious than ever before. I knew something was wrong. I remembered the recommendations I’d gotten to try going gluten-free, so I gave it a whirl. I didn’t feel phenomenally better, but I did feel less bloated. Even so, a good majority of my issues remained. A few months later, I tried giving up dairy. I felt better, but not completely healed. This state of in-between healing went on for the next three years.
A year ago to this day, I decided to see a nutritionist. She ran a skin scratch test and multiple blood tests on me to determine what was irritating my system (which were a lot of things). Currently I’m on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, as well as avoiding certain fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
I don’t want to make this post too long, so I’m saving the details of my initial & follow-up visits to the nutritionist / current state of health & diet for next week and the few weeks to follow.
Don’t get me wrong: I live a very happy and fulfilling life. I’m grateful that my health issues are fairly easy to work around and they aren’t fatal. It could be much, much worse. I’ve always alluded to but ultimately skirted around this issue of food intolerances / my overall health on the blog. It was time to open up with you guys since this is such a prevalent part of my life.
Do any of you have food or environmental intolerances or allergies?