The Stomach Diaries: Part I

July 21, 2015

the stomach diaries: part i - drifter and the gypsy blog
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.

the stomach diaries: part i - drifter and the gypsy blog
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?

Leave a Comment

  • Is your diet by any chance something like the low FODMAP plan? I’ve had years and years of poor health, so much so my school nickname among my friends was ‘sickie’. I’d always eaten healthy, wholesome food, and was very active up until I went to university, but I was still ill all the time. I got every bug going and took five times longer than everyone else to get rid of it; I was tired and lethargic; for a few years I was vomiting every week with no seeming cause; terrible stomach cramps, bloating, IBS nearly constantly… In the last couple of years of my degree it got so bad I was barely leaving the house & when I did I was panicking constantly, and I struggled to do my degree. I finally got referred to a dietician at the beginning of this year, who set me on the strict elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet for 3 months. I’m on the reintroduction phase now! Whilst my anxiety, tiredness & pains aren’t much better, it’s made such a huge difference to my digestive system it’s unbelievable! I know how confidence sapping and anxiety inducing (and embarrassing) these kinds of issues can be, so I really hope you’ve found something that is beginning to work for you. (Boy, do I miss ‘easy’ eating though!)

    • Hi Laura, thanks for taking the time to share your story. I totally understand the feeling of diet-induced anxiety!

      Yes my diet is a bit like the low FODMAP plan (mostly in that it is quite complex / a lot of food is on the no-no list) but it’s a bit more personalized in that I can’t eat certain fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, etc. and I DO eat a lot of food that the low FODMAP diet says to avoid.

      I’ll go deeper into my initial visit with the nutritionist next week and & follow up visits / what I’m currently doing / eating in the weeks to come. 🙂

      xx

  • 2
    Camille

    Eight months ago I went to the emergency room for severe pain in my abdomen. I honestly thought it was my appendix bursting. But it wasn’t & many test later still no answers. My gastrolosist decided to give me an endoscope & colonoscopy. My endoscope showed that I have unusually high amounts of white blood cells. He wondered if I had food allergies. So I went to an allergist & was tested & I cannot begin to list how many allergens I have! So much so my doctor asked if I was from another planet.

    Of course all the things I love to eat (mainly chinese) I am learning to live without. I eat at home way more, which is something I always been wanting to do. I’ve notice a difference in my body too. I still have times when I’m exhausted but that’s probably the days I eat what I shouldn’t. I’m not as bloated & I have been losing weight. I still have skin issues but I was told they should eventually go away. Monthly I go in to have a treatment for some of the allergies they can cure & it’s a hassle. But I look forward to a time when I won’t have to deal with it anymore.

    Thanks for sharing! I look forward to reading next weeks post. It’s nice to be able to share common experiences.

  • My issues with food intolerance didn’t start until I was in my 40’s. I’m so sorry this started at such a young age for you! It’s NO fun and it’s very difficult to get proper care.

    Like Camille, I ended up in an ER in so much pain — but my doctors thought “heart problem” — that amounted to no answers and a HUGE bill. It was actually quite by fluke I discovered that it was certain foods that were triggering my pain. Such odd foods too! Like you, grains, seeds, certain veg/berries. OY. All those foods you should be eating, but now cannot!

    I look forward to reading more about your treatment, I’m always looking for ways to live life better while balancing this huge list of “no-no” foods!

    Oh, one thing that helped me immensely was Aloe Vera. Not sure if that will help you or anyone else. But it’s been such a HUGE help to me during flares that I feel compelled to tell everyone about it. 😀

  • Thank you for sharing your story! You are not alone! For the last 3 years I have had health issues that seemed to never get solved. I had so many tests done, and finally last year they figured out it was stress related ( I had some major life things happen and it took a toll on my body). I eat plant based and I also follow a less restricted Low FODMAPS diet, since even some fruits and veggies are triggers for my intestinal pain and bloating. It does help a lot mixed with other supplements.

    I glad you’re finding solutions and I look forward to hearing about how things are improving for you!

  • Oh man, I am so sorry to hear this but so happy for you that you are on the right track and feeling better! I’ve had chronic disorders my entire life including digestion problems, severe incurable acne (and I mean literally not curable — I have tried every internal and external solution known to mankind), trouble sleeping through the night, and high stress. I’ve tried everything – from topical and pill treatments, to things such as yoga, cleanses, and acupuncture. Years ago I became aware of eating organic and eating seasonal, but it wasn’t until I saw a nutritionalist who helped me develop a targeted diet that I saw any real improvement of my chronic problems of nearly 20 years now. I know now that we are what we eat — I can immediately see and feel the difference if I slide off my eating plan. It was hard to get started, but the good news is that it gets easier to be healthy as the time goes by — your body forms the habit, and even better your body (which likes to feel good) begins to crave the things that you now know are good for it, rather than the crap. I’m so curious to hear more about your consultation and diagnosis — thank you so much for sharing this! Wishing you all the best!!!
    XO
    Jessica

  • I have some form of lactose-intolerance. It is not enough to show up on blood tests, but sometimes when I eat or drink “big” amounts of dairy-products my stomach hurts. Sometimes I don’t react to it at all, but a few times I have laid on my couch in pain. It can be something else in these products, but I try to mix lactose-free products and normal products so that it does not evolve into a full intolerance.

  • wow micaela! i feel like a lot of this could have been written by me. I too get eczema, although only on my hands, but I have always felt it is due to stress. I never even knew that your diet could have an affect on that.
    Also, I have HUGE issues with bloating. I look like an actual 6 month pregnant woman after I eat, even if it is the tiniest bit. But like you said, I just always felt like thats how my body digests food…
    I too am a vegetarian for ethical reasons, so I don’t eat any meats, and very rarely do I consume dairy. However, I am not gluten-free, and this post has really got me thinking about looking into it.
    I mean, it can’t be normal to constantly have insane bloating and an upset tummy.
    Thank for this post doll. It was very thought provoking. I look forward to hearing more about it.
    xx

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