No Gluten, No Dairy, No Sugar… Diet Restrictions as a “Cure” and What Happens When You’re a F*cking Foodie?!

Okay, first off, I’ll apologize for the language. I don’t want to turn anyone off from this blog because of it. I’m passionate, in general, and also about food. I grew up in a household where my (white) parents cooked from an authentic Chinese cookbook and would take us out to eat dim sum, sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian food on a regular basis. We ate fondus while watching the Oscars, and for birthdays we were allowed to pick a nicer restaurant to go for dinner. I’m not blaming my parents for my love of food, on the contrary, I’m thanking them. I will eat anything put in front of me, because I might as well try it. (Last summer, I went to a Mexican restaurant in Kensington with some friends and we had grasshoppers. They were mixed with peanuts, and honestly, just tasted like peanuts).

IMG_0731Sushi from my recent trip to New York City.

The first time I heard that diet changes were good for things like chronic pain, and in my case, lupus, was in some literature on the subject I was reading not long after diagnosis. It seemed hard. Impossible. So I ignored it, like I did much back then (I say that like it was a millennium ago, in reality it was about a year). The second time was when I started seeing a naturopath. She had me give up gluten and dairy for a month. And I did… for just over two weeks of it… I pretty much felt like I was going to die (yes, it’s easy to be dramatic sometimes) because I went from eating whatever I wanted (ALL THE DELICIOUS FOOD) to having very strict rules of what I could and could not eat. As much as I love salad, living off it does not make me happy. I didn’t necessarily notice a change with the amount of pain I was in during the few weeks I maintained the diet, what I did notice was that my stomach was a lot calmer after I ate. In that sense, it took away a certain kind of pain.

b52f35c7ecdda3f6f1607ef19b1e9e12Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/fibromyalgia/

Here is where the problem presented itself: I love food, all food, too much to completely cut something out. I realize my naturopath could’ve also suggested more to be cut out. A lot of people with lupus and other autoimmune conditions also cut out sugar or go on “paleo” diets. I suppose if you’re a picky eater anyway, or just not crazy about food it’s easier (though I have a feeling even then it’s not easy since most first world food is centred around sugar, dairy, and gluten). I have a friend who is just finishing up chiropractic school who also suggested a diet change of cutting all of this out. Not forever, just for now. As much as I appreciate that this totally might work, I’m sure any foodie who is reading this will understand that it is incredibly difficult to think it, let alone do it.

37B16E3D00000578-3764034-image-a-1_1472514961306Paleo Diet: image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3764034/Could-Paleo-diet-save-heart-attack-Just-8-weeks-cave-man-lifestyle-dramatically-cuts-block-arteries.html

So where did I go? What have I tried instead? As my mother has always said “moderation rules the nation.” Cut back. If you can cut it out, then do it, cut it out. If you’re like me and can’t cut it out, just have less than normal. Switch from milk to almond or soy milk, save cheese for special occasions, eat gluten free cereal, limit the amount of sandwiches and bread consumed, drink less soda and instead have more water. Don’t eat fast food (not something I was ever really prone too) and stay away from all the greasy things (I’ve eaten bacon only once since December). It’s all healthy living anyway. The amount of caffeine consumed can also have a huge effect (I’m saving this one for another post), so alternate between coffee and herbal teas rather than just have coffee. These are all things I’ve been doing for the past seven months. They help. Overall, I’ve been in less physical pain (and this is probably a combination of many things, including diet), and my stomach is certainly happier after a meal than it’s ever been. The best part is, I can still eat all the interesting, ethnic foods I love, as long as I balance them out with meals that follow the more “pain free” suggestions out there.

IMG_7721Remnants of a delicious Middle Eastern tapas dinner in Toronto.

I’m including an article that a friend sent to me. It’s a good read, and everyone should check it out.

Infinite Variety Abrev current copy

References:

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/11/anti-inflammatory-diet-can-relieve-pain-age/

https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/complementary/diet-patients-chronic-pain

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20309924,00.html