If you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while, you’ll know that I:
a) have a major sweet tooth
b) have a lot of food allergies, both anaphylactic and digestive.
The list includes gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, legumes, and a random handful of fruits and vegetables, so in the ten years since I was was diagnosed, I’ve given up most processed foods and gotten awfully good at creative substitutions. As evidenced by coconut milk ice cream and pumpkin orange cake.
Despite these fairly drastic dietary changes, though, I haven’t been getting better. I still have chronic fatigue and pain and mysterious digestive symptoms which suggested something else was going on. Which is why I found a naturopath who specializes in dietary issues and had a new test done – the Carroll Food Intolerance Test. Unlike previous tests, which checked to see if my immune system was reacting to foods I was eating, this one checks to see whether my body makes the enzymes needed to break down those foods in the first place. The thinking is that, without the proper enzymes, these foods are essentially toxins. They cause inflammation in the digestive system, leading to “leaky gut.” With leaky gut, stuff gets into your blood stream that shouldn’t be there, causing the cascade of allergic reactions.
As it turns out, I was born without two critical enzymes. The first is for digesting dairy proteins, which is not too surprising, since my mom told me once that even as a baby, milk made me sick. The second was for… you guessed it… sugar.
*cue the sound of crying angels*
This is good news and bad news. On the good side:
1) We’ve identified a puzzle piece we didn’t have before
2) We’re only talking about refined sugars, from sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn. Honey, agave, maple, coconut, and fruit sugars are totally OK.
3) If I totally cut dairy and sugar from my diet, my body should heal to the point where I can start eating a lot of those other foods again, making life a whole lot easier.
4) Diabetes runs in my family, so yay for preventative medicine.
On the bad side, as I discovered when I read the labels all over again, nearly every packaged food remaining in my house contains refined sugar.
I wasn’t shocked by the chocolate or the, well, baking sugars (of course sugar contains sugar, just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups may contain nuts). But spice blends? Tortilla chips? Vegetable broth? For the love of all that’s holy, why would sugar be added to broth? Or BACON?
And here’s the kicker – because of the extensive list of allergens I’ve already been avoiding, there were very few packaged foods in my house to begin with. Can you imagine how much sugar is lurking in the pantries of the average, non-allergy-ridden household? I suddenly have a whole new appreciation for the recent documentary Fed Up.
Over the next couple of weeks, Tech Support and I will be donating, trashing, and otherwise purging the sugar from our house. I anticipate much grocery store and online research for alternatives – I cannot live without chocolate or dill-flavoured popcorn salt, which contains both dairy and sugar – and much wailing and gnashing of teeth as I discover more favourite foods that are suddenly off the menu.
But if the total annihilation of dietary dairy and sugar helps – if my health improves and I can start eating beans and pineapple and broccoli again – it will be worth it.
Has anyone else had to give up a beloved food or ingredient? Anyone else going sugar free? I would greatly appreciate recommendations for safe products, helpful websites, or other resources as I navigate this new food minefield – please share in the comments!