Raising Elves

As wild as nature. Myself, parenting and natural remedies blog.


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Social difficulties experienced with food intolerance/sensitivity

I first noticed a sensitivity to wheat about ten years ago. I’ve had several different tests, conventional and unconventional bar the rigmarole that goes with going through the public health system and have been on and off it ever since.

When I am on wheat I am unwell, swollen, have IBS, gain weight (and cannot lose it regardless of efforts), depression, anxiety, lethargy, period pain, moodiness/anger, poor skin. When I am off it I am well and without all those symptoms.

After I had Elf three years ago I was diagnosed with two further intolerances- potato and tomato. I had also added asthma and acute joint pain to the list of symptoms.

I had started eating wheat again during that pregnancy at the advice of a dietician (with whom I handed over €200) who refused to accept the possibility that I had a food intolerance (without any testing- not even a food elimination diet). I was delighted. Thrilled at the thought that I didn’t have a food intolerance and followed her diet sheet to the letter.

Of course, by the end of the pregnancy all my old symptoms had returned and added more on the list. When Elf was about four months old I decided I’d had enough of being unwell and went back off the wheat. Within three weeks I had lots of energy, was feeling better and had lost half a stone in weight. That’s a lot of weight to lose in three weeks, for me.

I spoke to my GP about it and she advised that I trust my body. When I told her I was having difficulties socially, in that many people didn’t believe that I had a food intolerance and challenged me a lot or constantly offered me foods that I couldn’t eat and I had to repeat myself over and over to them, she advised that I just say ‘It doesn’t agree with me’. Nobody can argue with that.  

Many people do not believe in or understand food intolerance and conventional medical isn’t really very interested in it. I am lucky to have an understanding GP but many people do not.

The thing is, for health professionals, there is another side to food intolerance. In the area of eating disorders, it has become common for some to fixate on food groups as part of an eating disorder and use food intolerance as a reason to avoid it. Some people have convinced themselves they have a sensitivity when maybe, just maybe, it really is psychological. 

How do you determine the difference?

I wish wish wish that it was psychological.

Pintrest

Pintrest

When I first read about the link between food intolerance and eating disorders I tried the ‘mind over matter’ approach and returned to eating wheat. I convinced myself that it was all psychological and a control issue rather than a real food intolerance. Within six months I had gained two stone, had IBS, was depressed, moody and just not myself. My skin was in bits, I was bloated and had lots of uncontrollable cravings. My diet didn’t really change all that much. I went from rice cakes to bread, spelt pasta to wheat pasta, GF/WF treats to regular treats.

The thing is, when I look back, the times I have gone back on wheat came out of a particularly negative social situation whereby I was interrogated or treated negatively over it. Because person A, B or C didn’t believe me, I didn’t believe me. Because person A, B or C thought it was all in my mind, I thought it was all in my mind. 

But it’s not. 

I can understand the flip side too. This issue has plagued me for ten years now and at the beginning it was a huge part of my identity so I talked a lot about it. So, I kind of brought it on myself. I don’t talk about it anymore. I just say no thanks when I am offered something I can’t eat.  When I go out for meals I ask for the coeliac menu rather than make a fuss. 

So, over the last decade, I have gone back on wheat three times for an extended period. Each of those three times I have become depressed, moody, lethargic, fat, bloated, IBS’d and just plain and simple physically, emotionally and mentally miserable.

It doesn’t matter whether I have been tested by all the tests out there (I got them all done with the hopes that one of them would come back negative), whether every person on the planet doesn’t believe me or whether every doctor, dietician or scientist laughs in my face about how stupid I am to, God forbid!, trust my own body over their opinion- at the end of the day I have to live in this body and have come to accept that my body will never be able to tolerate wheat. 

Sometimes, I do eat it. Every few months I get fed up avoiding it and I might eat something delicious like my MIL’s apple pie or an O’Brien’s sandwich. I eat it, suffer a few days and then recover. I guess that’s the easy part of having a food intolerance rather than an allergy- it’s not life threatening to eat a small amount on occasion. 

Tell me, have you experienced social difficulties in regards to your eating habits?


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The excitement of food

I do think that Elf eats a very healthy, balanced diet but for so long now she would not veer away from familiarity.

Breakfast: Toast with either peanut butter & jam or Philadelphia cheese and non stop fruit until she was full. Lots of berries. Maybe an eggie cup or two boiled quail eggs which we call ‘mini eggs’ (Much easier to eat).

Snack: Usually raw peppers or crackers with either pb&j or philly. Maybe a biscuit.

Lunch: A sambo. Tuna, ham or cheese. And raw peppers or raw carrot.

Snack: Natural yogurt/raisins/slice of ham/slice of cheese

Dinner: For months it has been mashed potaoes, frozen peas and either fish fingers, fried cod or chicken. Or blended stew which we call ‘Brown soup’.

If she was still hungry after dinner she’d either a slice of toast or more fruit. If she didn’t get a biscuit earlier she might have a ginger nut for dipping in to her Dad’s tea.

She used to love love love spag bol, lasagne, fish pie and different kinds of soups, pasta, porridge. Not anymore.

I think this cancels out the lack of sensory play theory

I think this cancels out the lack of sensory play theory

I’ve tried everything from a star chart to bribery. The star chart worked well in other areas but we still didn’t get her to enjoy new foods. Dinner was becoming stressful even though I know she has a good diet.

For me, the difficulty has been in bringing her out. Knowing, as you sit down in a restaurant with family that she won’t eat off the menu so we just order her chips and tomato sauce.

To think that at age one she ate a Spanish omelette by the beach in Ibiza. No more.

I was wondering when it would end and I could start cooking again. I tried everything- even wondering about her sensory development and her dislike of certain textures.

On and off I started using the kind of textures she didn’t like in her mouth to play with. Letting her mess around with basins of cooked, cooled porridge and rice. I had read about it on an occupational therapists blog, about how important sensory play is for developing a good appetite for different textures. I was wondering if maybe I didn’t let her play with her food enough when she was a baby.

Elf never really put things in her mouth as a baby and I always thought that was a good thing but… maybe it has effected her. Maybe not. Maybe I’m thinking too deep.

But isn’t it a good idea? Letting them play with the food they are afraid of- away from the table.

Anyway. This week something has shifted. It could be as simple in that she has taken a developmental leap (she has also only recently mastered cycling with stabilizers) or that sensory play I tried has done something. Although I must admit I didn’t do it frequently so maybe not.

This week, she has added fine beans, cauliflower, Nature Valley granola bar, lollipop, raw broccoli and pasta to her diet. She kept asking for spaghetti bolognese and I made it but she didn’t like the sauce so I have to try another recipe. But she tried it three or four times!

That is a hell of a lot of food to add in a couple of weeks, isn’t it?

I’m so excited.

I’m excited that life is going to be a little easier now that I won’t have to say to people ‘Oh, she won’t eat pasta’ or whatever food is on offer and feel like they are judging me thinking that I am making this stuff up.

I am excited that I might soon enough be able to order her real food when we eat out.

On other thoughts relating to food, I am thinking about trying baby led weaning with the baby. Have you done this? What do you think?

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No tomato ‘tomato’ sauce- divine!

I may have mentioned that I avoid tomatoes. I have three diagnosed food intolerances- wheat, potato and tomato.

Wheat, I can deal with. I have been on and off it for ten years and basically when I am on it I am sick, have IBS, depression and become overweight. When I am off it I have no IBS, no depression and regular weight.

I developed the additional intolerances after Elf was born- when I eat tomato I get diarrhea and more specifically- joint pain. When I eat potato I get really really bad joint pain.

Before I got pregnant the second time round I cheated. I used to eat the odd bit of potato or tomato and then just take some ibuprofen in the days afterward to reduce the pain and the inflammation. 

Since I can no longer take the anti-inflammatory and have still been cheating I am now lying in bed at night aching in my ankles, left knee (why only the left?) and now, more recently, in my right wrist. 

You wouldn’t believe how little of it I’ve been eating. It would literally be about five homemade chips dipped into tomato sauce or a tablespoon of mashed potato. Or it might be wheat free bagels made with potato starch. Despite this, my joints ache as if I had eaten a whole plate of mash or a lovely spag bol.

I miss tomatoes the most.

I have been resenting making dinner because I pretty much used passata every evening before I got diagnosed.

I have replaced the wheat with spelt- no problem. I can live without potato- no problem.

How on earth can I live without tomato or even begin to think about replacing it?

What about spag bol? Literally the easiest dinner ever to make. What about a meat pie? Lasagne? Homemade spelt pizza? What about soups? Even stew! I even put a tin of tomatoes in my stew. I used to make tomato based chickpea curry.

Now. I just make the same old sh*t week in week out… until…

Until I mentioned it on a facebook group and got the most marvelous recipe for no tomato ‘tomato’ sauce!

I was actually given this ages ago but was so skeptical that I didn’t bother trying it. Plus, it takes a significant amount of time, so…

But now I am desperate. I don’t want to be in pain anymore. I don’t want to go back to living on ibubrofen after the baby is born just to eat a bit of tomato. I mean, I really need a reality check- obviously my body is rejecting it for a reason so taking ibubrofen to mask the pain is not doing me any favours.

I wish wish wish with all my heart that these stupid food intolerances would just leave but I guess for now I just have to face reality- if I eat it I am in pain. It’s my choice.

Some people avoid the nightshade family for a variety of health reasons so this sauce is a good alternative.

Also, it is absolutely DIVINE! It really tastes gorgeous. Now, I noticed that it didn’t taste the same as a tomato based sauce but it is divine in it’s own right. I made a little lasagne for one lastnight using this sauce and spelt lasagne sheets. I just wanted to cry with delight for about two hours afterward.

Anyway, here is the link to the original ‘Nomato’ recipe that I was given.

You’ll find my recipe below:

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Laura’s tomato free ‘tomato’ sauce @myinternalworld

  • 6 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 fresh beetroot
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 stock cube (I used beef)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of paprika (do not add this if you are avoiding nightshade family)
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1.  Grate the carrots, beetroot and celery. Finely chop the onions.
  2.  Saute the onions in the olive oil.
  3. Add the grated ingredients and mix well with the onions.
  4. Stir in the water with stock and add in the garlic, herbs and paprika.
  5. Stir on and off on a medium heat for five minutes.
  6. Blend.
  7. Use what you need and freeze in batches.
  8. Just add to the pot direct from freezer when using it.

I plan on making a flavourless version of this so it can be used as a passata style base for other sauces such as curries etc. 


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Childhood memories and Aunty Anna’s buns- gluten & dairy free

I christened today ‘Misery’.

We had one of many tantrums before we even left the bed this morning. 

Then the rain never stopped and I discovered that my wet gear no longer fits over my bump.

Then in between tantrums the Elf grettled and growled- Klingon was the only language spoken today.

Despite all this I decided I was going to be positive and kill Misery with kindness.

Then I broke my favourite china plate.

Then Elf fell.

Then my neighbour decided to tell me all about the rugby even though I told her I don’t watch sports and couldn’t give a fiddlers fart if Ireland were playing.

Then I got locked out of the house.

Misery won.

***************

Before Misery won, I set up the kitchen like a cafe and played ‘I can cook’ (Elf’s favourite tv show).

I emptied the shelves and found the makings of some buns and even a bit of topping.

I was reminded of our Great-aunt Anna’s baking. Every Sunday we would go to Nana’s for tea and Aunty Anna would fill the table with freshly baked apple tarts, jam and coconut buns, chocolate buns and real top quality ham for the sambos. I used to set the table, carefully choosing the china and designing where they would go. Anna taught me where everything goes. Mam tells us about how growing up only the men were allowed the meat and the women got the cheese because ‘Men need their meat’. Aunty Anna started bringing the ham to tea so that we could all have some. That was her solution. That was the kind of person she was.

Aunty Anna is so fondly remembered in our family. She never married nor had children. She baked for Heuston station until her retirement. She was very intuitive and was known to arrive at our door unannounced only to give my Mam a few bob (on the very day my Mam had prayed for help). Anna’s house smelt like baked goods- all the time. My Mam nursed Anna as she was dying. She slept in our living room until she passed on. It hit us all hard, especially Mam as they had a very special bond.

I’ve never been able to recreate her baked goods. I don’t know if that is because of ingredients or just her years and years of getting to know a recipe without having to measure up. I decided to make an alternative out of whatever I found in the press to keep Elf occupied and to provide myself with a little bit of comfort on this miserable day.

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                                      Aunt Anna’s jam & coconut bun (credit: @myinternalworld)

 

Of course, these will taste a million times nicer if you can eat regular flour and butter but as I avoid wheat and Robotman avoids dairy I had to adapt. Also, these were just remnants of what I had up in the press- seen as I couldn’t go out. Normally, I would halve the sugar and add stevia. I would use all coconut oil or just pure butter if Robotman wasn’t getting a look in.

  • 150g Doves Farm white self-raising flour blend
  • 1 tsp GF raising agent
  • 150g butter (I used the last 50g of coconut oil and the rest was DF margarine I found in back of the fridge)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g caster sugar (I had 25g caster sugar, 25g granulated sugar and 100g soft brown sugar)
  • 5 tbsp rice milk (or normal milk)
  • Paper cases
  • Jam, desiccated coconut, chocolate for the topping
  1. Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. I use the blender as the coconut oil is very hard to beat (or else I melt it first) 
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sieve in flour and mix thoroughly. Lash in the milk.
  3. Half fill paper cases.
  4. Put in pre-heated oven (180’c for a fan oven) for 15 minutes.

I would prefer these with less oil and would definitely avoid using the margarine next time. I literally only keep it in the fridge for emergencies. I would also prefer less sugar and I must say they were gorgeous with the soft brown sugar.

The toppings give them the nostalgic flavour.

I still haven’t worked out what Anna did with the jam but I just can’t repeat it. Her jam was always thin, sweet and seed free. Maybe it was catering jam from her job, I don’t know. I just boiled 1tbsp of strawberry jam with a little water and some icing sugar. This definitely thinned it out and gave it that cake sweetness. I then just topped it with the desiccated coconut.

I had to melt the chocolate for the Elf. She only likes chocolate ‘sweets’. She doesn’t even eat the bun- she just licks the chocolate off. Now come at her with a pack of cheese and onion crisps and she’ll lick the foil clean. 

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You’re supposed to leave the chocolate to cool. Ours didn’t last that long.  Can you spot Elf’s finger? (Credit: @myinternalworld)