Seriously, What Can I Eat?

This is a total rant. Nothing of value here other than ranting, so if you don’t feel like reading a rant, skip this. (Of course, you can check the post for the awesome salad dressing recipe found within, but don’t bother reading anything else if you don’t want to read a rant.)

I’m getting sick of this. No, really, the whole contradiction thing when it comes to what foods are good for you and which aren’t. From one side, I’m told X foods are bad for you, eat Y foods. From another I hear A foods are bad for you, eat B foods. Problem is that the list each gives me pretty much cancels out the list the other gives. Any way I can survive, you know, without food?

As you may or may not know, I’m fighting it out with GERD right now. The cause? Unknown, though a weak gallbladder seems to have something to do with it (EF was at 19%, for those of you know what a HIDA/CCK is). So for the past two months I’ve been doing EVERYTHING under my power to completely change my life. I’ve cut out most meats (eating only the occasional fish); I’ve cut out just about every grain except buckwheat. I’ve cut out coffee, chocolate, citrus, vitamin C supplements, ice cream, sweets, cheeses, garlic, onion, red peppers, spicy foods… and these are only those I can remember! Was it hard? Yeah, at first, but it got easy afterward. It’s not always easy — temptation comes in many forms — but I’ve been disciplined enough to hold my mouth. My caloric content has, unsurprisingly, been lowered to probably around 1900 or so calories per day. And, for the most part, I feel good. Except, of course, for he occasional chest and throat burning.

Today, I went to my acupuncturist, since I decided that before cutting out my gallbladder I’d try to strengthen it. When I first saw her, she said that it looked as if my liver was too strong, and my stomach and spleen weak, which was causing all the heartburn. (And because they work in tandem, a strong liver means also, in my case at least, a weak gallbladder.) Today’s meeting, however, was our third, and she decided it was time for an intolerance and allergy test. Alright, I was game. We did the test, and it came out that I’m either allergic or intolerant to the following items: Acidic items, oat, vitamin B, coffee, birch, ragweed, bermuda grass, cow’s milk, and poison oak.

Obviously, I’m not about to eat any birch or poison oak, but let’s look at the list of foods: acidic items, oat, vitamin B, and cow’s milk. Keep those in mind as I continue.

She also recommended that I start eating yellow-ish foods, such as squash, pumpkin, and corn. and that I should avoid cold foods. The spleen hates cold, she says. “Try warm or hot drinks.”

Problem: I only like cold drinks. In fact, most of my food isn’t even cooked, it’s raw. And because I can’t really eat anything heavy, I tend to rely a lot on foods like smoothies and yogurt. Both of which are now out of the question. Oh, and did I mention I don’t like hot drinks? (I’ll make an exception for some teas, but it’s not so much that I like them as much as it is that I can stand them.) Quite literally, a third of my daily meals just went out the window.

As for the other foods — the corn, pumpkin, etc — I told her it wouldn’t be a problem, I’ll just add them to my salads. I then chose to share with her a little salad dressing recipe I’d cooked up which is just phenomenal:

3 parts olive oil
3 parts “balsamic” vinegar *
1 part honey
1 part turmeric
salt to taste.

* Balsamic here refers to the stuff you get at the supermarket for $3/bottle. If you’re able to get the real stuff — from Modena — that’s fine, though you may want to dilute it a bit with water or another vinegar, maybe red wine vinegar or even apple cider vinegar, though that’ll add an acidic feel to it.

“Oh,” she exclaimed. “You shouldn’t be having acidic foods.” I asked her what I should be using for my salads. “Maybe you can try some Thai peanut dressing, or ginger dressing.”

Alright, not a problem. I would simply have to research those. Not a problem. Really. Not a problem.

When I got home, I started doing a bit of research into what foods I should be eating and what foods i should be avoiding. That’s when I discovered that foods like corn, which I should be eating, are acid forming, which I should be avoiding. Also balsamic vinegar and olive oil are both acid forming, as are fish and eggs, but that’s something to keep in mind more than it is truly pertinent information.

I decided then to start researching salad dressing recipes. What could I have that didn’t have oil or vinegar? Turns out it isn’t either ginger or peanut dressing, bot of which contain not only oil and vinegar, but also garlic, which I have to avoid because it weakens the lower esophageal sphincter (LES. A weakened LES is the cause of GERD).

OK, so what then, eat the salad without dressing? Sorry, but it isn’t going to happen. I can bend my taste buds to my will just so far before the chef side of me, the one that harkens back to my family’s long tradition of people who are good in the kitchen, decides that it needs flavor in order to live. And I tend to agree with that side. I’ve already given up meat (which I like), and coffee (which I love), and chocolate, and onions, and garlic, and pepper, and spicy foods. I’m about to give up cold foods, which pretty much will bring my culinary satisfaction level from high to medium, but I’m not sure if I can continue giving up things without starting to suffer from malnutrition.

Now, I know, people will say “Well, if you look at it everything will kill you”, and that’s true. Difference is, will you allow it to kill you right now, or will you want stave off death for a few years? In my case, the GERD brings the possibility of an untimely death (following a life of chronic pain) a very real, very frightening possibility. But if I want to get better, what the hell am I supposed to eat?

Mood: Utterly, confused and frustrated. And hungry. Don’t worry though. I’ll figure it out. I’ll just have to do it during cold food withdrawals.

6 thoughts on “Seriously, What Can I Eat?

  1. Maybe at the end of it, the point is to eat a little bit of each at a time. Rather than say having acidic dressing in large clumps and a larger meal, you take them in smaller portions.

    If memory serves me right, even if you eat all the foods you’re supposed to eat, the reflux gets triggered because of the amount you eat as well. More food = more stomach acid.

    So yes, you can probably break a few rules here and there in regards to chocolate or acidic foods, just take them sparingly and in small amounts. Then take that surgery in the end. 🙂

  2. Well, as for the amounts, you’re absolutely right. Small amounts. Thing is, I’ve already been doing that. Acid’s better, but certainly not gone. Now chocolate… no. Even small amounts weaken the LES, which makes the GERD worse.

    I think last night I just needed to vent. I’ve gone through all these changes recently and to be told I have to be more stringent, even when I’ve brought the diversity of my meals down to a point where eating out becomes next to impossible, is frustrating, to say the least.

    For now, though, I have a list of questions to ask the acupuncturist, like whether “acidic” applies to foods as they go in, or into what they transform. and whether room-temperature water is considered cool if the room is 75-degrees (F).

  3. Acupuncturist? Well…I’m going to go out of a limb here and say, why not ask a doctor about it? I know acupuncture has its uses because I’ve tried it before, but complementary medicine like that only goes so far.

    To go all the way, medical expertise would give a better answer.

  4. Actually, I’ve already gone to a gastroenterologist, had an upper endoscopy which confirmed GERD and gastritis. Also had an ultrasound of the gallbladdrr/liver/pancreatic region and a HIDA/CCK which revealed the gallbladder problem. Thing is, since I’m working with multiple medical systems, I have to do the best I can to navigate between the two. In points of overlap, in regards to what I can/can’t have, I look first at what I’m not supposed to have, from either, then I look at what’s left. Unfortunately, what’s left is very, very narrow as of this time, and I guess I’m simply at a point where I don’t underwstand the rules. Frustration comes forth when the part of me that has no patience (“I want X now!”) meets the perfectionist part of me (“If you’re going to do something, do it right”) and meets the disciplinarian (“If something is under your control then you have 100% responsibility over it.”)

    The western doctors want to (a) pump me full of PPI’s (60mg/day of Prevacid is a pretty high dosage) and (b) start removing body parts (“The gallbladder’s a pretty useless organ”). Problem is that I have biliary dyskinesia, and the first protocol is the removal of the organ, since there haven’t been many studies as for WHY billiary dyskinesia (in people without gallstones or polyps) occurs. Some studdies suggest an autoimmune problem, other infections, and yet others biliary sludge, not to mention the possibility that the ultrasound may have missed tiny stones (and I’ve considered requesting another ultrasound for that purpose). If there are other problems which may be down the road and can be dealt with now, then I’ll go for it. (Note: I used to have a hiatal hernia, diagnosed about 10 years ago. I had acupuncture done for months to work with it. It worked. The hiatal hernia is gone, as confirmed by an upper endoscopy.)

    In this situation, I prefer at least the attitude of the eastern approach, which says “We think we can cure your gallbladder and acid problems using nerve stimulation and diet, without the need to remove bodyparts.” Of course, the western approach works much faster, mostly because the eastern approach takes better care of understanding the long-tern implications of an action. Problem with the eastern approach is that (and maybe this is just perception) there’s currently less standardization and regulation, less of a bar for someone to work on you than with western medicine, and therein lies inherent danger.

    I told myself I wouldn’t consider any sort of surgery until the end of the year. For now, I’ll try herbal methods, exercise, losing weight, yoga/aryuvedic medicine and acupuncture/Chinese medicine to see whether that keeps me from having to start removing parts from the package. At the beginning of next year, depending on how I feel, I’l likely ask for another HIDA/CCK to see whether my chosen methods have worked. If they haven’t, and if I’m still having heartburn problems, then I’ll reconsider taking the gallbladder out. Frankly, though, I don’t care to risk the possible side effects of gallbladder surgery, particularly the small but still present chance of damage to the vagus nerve.

  5. J to the C, Gnorb!! I do not envy you. How absolutely confused you must be!! I have absolutely no advice to offer except to tell you that you know what really helped my health? Juicing vegetables. But you know, I really don’t want to confuse you any more than you must be.

    I know what you mean about western medicine being more symptomatic and just covering up signs rather than going to the root of the problem, which is what eastern medicine tends to be like. I’m all for that. And I love the yoga/ayurvedic stuff. I think the more we understand our bodies the more we’re in tune with them and can feel what’s happening. 🙂

    In the end, good luck with everything! Crazy!!

  6. “Juicing vegetables. But you know, I really don’t want to confuse you any more than you must be.”

    Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Hadn’t thought about it. I’ll try it out. And thanks for the well wishes.

    On a bright note, I’ve realized that buckwheat is still on the menu (it’s not particularly acidic and doesn’t contain gluten, which I tend to avoid), which means PANCAKES ARE STILL ON THE MENU!! WOOOO!

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