Update on 1/30: I’ve now moved my original post to it’s own page so it’s easy to find.
Seriously. But with great change comes great reward, so I’m sure I will post about those changes too. This all started in October, when I found out I had to cut gluten, soy and dairy from my diet. Completely. WHAT??? And don’t get me started about losing wine.
How did I even get here? I’ve always been a fairly healthy eater, trying to eat organic when I can, smaller portions, all of that good stuff. But I’ve had a rotten stomach since I was an infant – mom will happily tell you her shoulder smelled like vomit my entire first year. Sorry, mom.
Two years ago, I was living in Seattle and just feeling sluggish, run down, exhausted. My memory wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, I had constant headaches and just general blahs. I just didn’t feel smart anymore. It could have been the lack of sun, missing my friends and family, the stress of a new job, a mostly sedentary lifestyle…you name it. Maybe it was that giant student loan on top of a giant downtown Seattle rent 🙂
Enter Dr. Vo. I signed myself up for a primary care physician who was also a naturopath, figuring trying to fix my issues without popping a ton of chemicals couldn’t hurt. I blame west coast living and too many chats about nutrition with my BFF. After a zillion page questionnaire about my life and more than a few tissues full of tears as I walked through my concerns, I was sent on my way for blood tests. Standard, right?
Let me preface – I’ve been overweight my entire life. For a child who started her life continually throwing up, I’ve always managed to gain weight. Fortunately, all of the normal things that happen to chronically overweight people never happened to me – my glucose, insulin, any diabetic factor was great. Cholesterol is fantastic. Even my liver is in fine shape, which is awesome considering how much it works. What wasn’t fine was my cardiovascular risk.
When my blood tests came back, Dr. Vo was very concerned. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she asked me, “Christina? Have you been in a car accident? Are you covered in bruises?” If you’ve known me for more than five minutes you’ve probably seen me fall, run into a door, etc. Bruises are my every day, thanks to anemia, piss poor depth perception and general clumsiness, but I didn’t have anything going on out of the ordinary for me. One of the tests Dr. Vo ran is called hs CRP, which looks at cardiac risk and inflammation. Clinical acceptable range for this is 0.00 – 3.00, and I registered at 20.55. OFF THE CHARTS. No wonder she was concerned.
So if I’m not recovering from a physical injury, what’s the issue? Food. My body is trying to heal itself from a car wreck of food. Good grief. No problem, I thought. Dr. Vo gave me an anti-inflammatory elimination diet so we could get to the source. And then reality set in – I travel constantly, and I’m supposed to give up gluten, coffee (I live in Seattle!!!), dairy, soy, nightshade vegetables, all alcohol, red meat, eggs and a handful of other things I can’t remember anymore. I lasted two weeks.
Life goes on, and finally I hit my breaking point. After hitting a particularly low point, I listened to my friends and family, hustled myself to a chemical prescribing doctor and got myself on an antidepressant. With my family’s blessing, I was able to quit my job, take a few months of R&R, move back to Texas and take my time making a career change. Amazing what a little pill and quitting a job can do for a girl’s psyche!
The fact remained that I had gained nearly 90 pounds since I started grad school in 2009, and I didn’t have that weight to gain. The first 20 pounds came off pretty easily, thanks to daily walks, supportive roommates who like to cook and ramping down my restaurant time. After all, this girl was on a budget.
Time goes by, and I started a new job in August. I’m still not feeling like myself, but things are on the upsweep. On my October visit to Seattle, I checked in with Dr. Brown and my numbers are ran again. Guess what? My inflammation is still off the charts. Instead of doing an elimination diet, I signed myself up with an allergy doctor and also had an independent lab run an ALCAT.
Food sensitivities and food allergies are not the same, though they can have similar results. You might know someone with an iGe allergy that has to carry an Epipen, avoiding shellfish or peanuts like the plague. Or maybe it’s an allergy that causes rashes or hives. I get those same reactions without an actual allergy. Lucky me! I won’t need a hospital trip if I’m exposed to shellfish, but chronic inflammation can lead to all sorts of nasty things like cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and heart issues. And on a less serious note, I’m really bitter that my skin was better as a teenager than it is now.
Countless needles later (all over my back and giant patches on each arm – I should post pics) and all kinds of blood put into vials, I come back with a mesquite allergy and a whole host of food intolerances. For the next six months, I need to immediately avoid the following:
- Cow’s Milk
- Cranberry (but it’s so good with champagne or vodka!)
- Grapes (WINE?????)
- Black Pepper
- Goat’s Milk
I won’t even get started on the mild intolerances, which I’m supposed to “avoid when possible.” Seriously, all that’s left is meat, eggs and a handful of fruits and veggies. Not my favorites, though. Who has an intolerance to spinach?? This girl.
The same day I got my results back, I quit. I went straight from the lab to Trader Joe’s, and started a new adventure of label reading. I cleaned out my cupboards, took my wheat based vodka and Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches to friends in my building and called it a day. I got to have one last splurge before I was tested for Celiac, since you have to have gluten in your system, but aside from a couple coffees and glasses of wine, I haven’t voluntarily touched this stuff in two months. And thankfully, I don’t have Celiac disease. I puff up and my blood hates me, but my intestines are functioning just fine.
The result? My skin looks WAY better. It’s still not perfect, but it’s on the way. I’ve lost a few inches and I’ve lost a total of 45 pounds since leaving Nordstrom in March. I still have 45 to get back to my grad school weight, but it doesn’t seem as out of touch as it once did. It’s a whole ‘nother blog post and a handful of cocktails to talk about how I found myself there in the first place, but I’m glad I’m going in the right direction.
My allergy doctor told me that the ALCAT tests can be controversial, and to focus on the major allergens to see how I feel. Dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts are such major allergens that food companies are required to clearly label if the food contains these ingredients, which is a major help. Restaurants are really hard, because while it’s easy to avoid the obvious (bread, pasta, cheese plates) soy is EVERYWHERE. I hate being the girl that asks if chicken is seared with butter, vegetable oil or olive oil, but that’s just how I have to be. This is why you haven’t seen me in restaurants for two months.
At any rate, who loses weight during the holidays? This girl. And it’s because I had to change the way I ate. This time it finally clicked.