A bit of a timeline. Five or six years ago I became aware that my body didn't react well to eating carbs (eg pasta) with protein (eg meat sauce). I weaned myself off of certain carb+meat heavy foods and thought that would be the end of it. I tried a few different eating combinations over the years in an effort to get more energy and nutrition out of what I was eating. In the last year and a half (since I moved back to Vancouver - coincidence?), a series of symptoms that I would consider 'noticeable' have appeared. Things like rashes on my lower arms or across my stomach, headaches, energy/mood swings, and at the worst point, a shortness of breath (!!). I don't know if I never noticed some of these before (though the rashes/breathing were new developments), but I started to pinpoint that they would be most acute after eating certain foods. The main culprit was wheat, so I started to steer clear. However, a lot of the symptoms would appear almost at random. I resolved to deal with it - but life has a habit of getting in the way. After my recent vacation, I made a conscious decision to be more protective of myself. I seem to spend a lot of time looking after other people. So, it was time to get some answers and guidance to look after me. A couple of questions I had:
- what was the underlying cause for these (seemingly random) symptoms?
- was my conversion to vegetarianism having a detrimental impact on my health? Was I getting the nutrients my body needs?
I debated going to see my GP. Don't get me wrong, he's thorough, listens and approaches healthcare collaboratively, but my appointments are ten minutes long. I wasn't sure I was going to get what I needed going that route, and others' experiences of nutrition issues and GPs have been less than glowing. I did a bit of research and decided that I needed to seek someone with less of a medical angle - and discovered that there are wonderful people called Registered Holistic Nutritionists. In particular, I arranged to meet with Jennifer Trecartin, who is the RHN behind myedibleadvice.com. Her practice is based at Bar Method, which almost put me off when I arrived, surrounded by a bunch of ballet bunnies in Lululemon gear!
The first thing that struck me about Jennifer is that she is radiant - if this girl was drinking her own Kool-Aid, I wanted some too. After a friendly and animated case history, I submitted to a fairly exhaustive round of non-invasive food sensitivity testing, which resulted in a report of foods my body likes and does not like (a bit of an oversimplification, but you get the drift). The end of the report also summarises which essential nutrients I am lacking, and how my major organs are functioning. The good news? I'm alive and my approach to nutrition is overall quite good. The not-so-good news is that my system isn't processing a lot of foods I've been relying on to fill my vegetarian plate.
Not surprisingly, wheat products (especially beer) are true no-go foods. Dairy is largely out, except for some of the harder cheeses (goat's milk / cheese appears to be okay). Among the surprises: white rice (jasmine / basmati are okay), corn in all its many, delicious forms (hasta luego Mexican), eggs, and most of the nightshade family of vegetables including potatoes red and white. Ironically, the results showed that while my heart and soul have trouble digesting meat, my body certainly doesn't (with the exception of duck, salmon and halibut). Even more ironic? I should avoid tofu and soy products. There goes the name of this blog, then.
The test results showed a lack of vitamins B5, B6, and folic acid - nothing surprising for a new vegetarian who is just learning to love lentils. Liver, kidneys and gall bladder are reported to be in a 'compromised' state. Insert drinking joke here, but the end result is that I should be downing a whole lot more kale, spinach, and brown rice. Yay.
If I am to live by these results, I will be a wheat- and corn-free almost-vegan. In my mother's words, 'Well what the hell are you going to eat?!" Thing is, I've been feeling (sporadically) like absolute crap for the better part of a year. Despite loads of exercise, I'm not shifting excess weight. Symptoms I have never had before in my life have become a daily occurrence. I don't sleep more than three hours without waking up (and as an early riser than can sometimes mean getting less than 5 hours' sleep a night). Bottom line - a lot of what this test had to say MADE SENSE. Maybe there's a reason I have hated raw tomatoes since I was a small child. Or that I didn't eat eggplant until I was in my 20s. At any rate, I thought I owed it to myself to go with the results of this test and evaluate how I felt after a given period of time. Jennifer and I agreed that three months was reasonable.
It has now been just under a week. With the exception of some vodka (tee hee), half a tin of tomatoes and an accidental-hidden-wheat incident, I have stuck to the plan religiously. And you know what? I FEEL FANTASTIC. My body is working properly. I am 100% asymptomatic. My brain feels like it's running on overdrive - memory, sensory perception. I keep checking for a magic spider bite. That the change is so dramatic in so little time has me wondering if I'm starting to feel vegan powers up in here.
In answer to my mother, I'll post separately to show a couple of the recipes I've been digging into to 'keep me alive'. In truth I'm loving every f***ing minute of this, grinning a mile wide. You are what you eat, apparently.