Monday, April 13, 2009
Food Allergies and Me: an asthma odessy (part 3: goodbye to sugar)
On March 2nd of this year I went sugar free and began a true elimination diet/detox. I already don’t eat gluten and dairy, but for 3 weeks I also eliminated eggs, soy, citrus, peanuts and nightshades while consuming a protein shake with nutrients that are specifically supposed to support detoxification. It was very boring—I ate mainly yams, greens, salad and protein shakes every day for almost 3 weeks. Peanuts got reintroduced a week early when Marc and I went out for Phad Thai. Over time I learned was I’m fine with eggs, citrus, peanuts and nightshades, but I am NOT fine with sugar. Sugar makes me a crazy person. The more I eat, the more I want. It causes wild mood swings, makes me overly emotional, and if I consume it in high quantities, I wake up feeling hung-over. There is a particular brand of gluten-free brownie mix that is so bad that within a few hours of eating them I am inevitably on a mood-roller coaster. (Needless to say I don’t buy those anymore). What I can tolerate is small amounts of agave nectar.
Agave is a sweetener made from a cactus (the same plant used to make tequila). There is some debate amongst the natural health community about how “natural” agave really is due to the amount of processing required to extract it from the plant. I admit that many of my Bastyr classmates regard agave with some scorn and would definitely recommend honey or maple syrup in its place. However, honey, despite its healing properties has a very high glycemic index and it gives me a tremendous blood sugar spike. Maple syrup is somewhere in between agave and honey for me. Agave nectar is often recommended for diabetics because of its small effect on blood sugar and low glycemic index. It can be used similarly to honey since it is a liquid sweetener like honey. However, it does not behave like sugar in baking and it definitely requires some trial and error to get things to come out well. Elana at Elana’s Pantry does beautiful things with agave.
The inclusion of some small amounts of agave helps retain my sanity and makes it so that I can still sometimes have treats, like yesterday’s chocolate pie and a personal favorite, Coconut Bliss, which is ice cream made from coconut milk and agave. It also means that when I buy a pint of coconut bliss I’m happy eating a small serving and don’t feel impelled to eat the entire pint in one sitting like I used to with a pint of Ben and Jerrys or even Rice Dream.
Over the past two years I’ve learned that I am very allergic to gluten and dairy and intolerant to more than a smidge of sugar. What I do eat: grass fed organic meat and poultry, wild fish, eggs, legumes, LOTS of veggies (especially greens) fruit, almond and soy milk, nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oil, and non-gluten whole grains such as quinoa, rice and millet. It’s been a long road figuring out what works best for my body and to some extent it’s still a work in progress, but I have come leaps and bounds from where I was even just a year ago and I continue to experiment and challenge my limits every day.