FODMAPS and Autoimmune Protocol eating – a dieting minefield.

I have no idea where to start with this post. Do I start with the fact I’m having a new flare, despite ‘clean’ eating? Do I say that I’m glad my mini-meltdown from yesterday is over? Do I explain that despite thinking I was ready to reintroduce old foods, I may have to eliminate new ones?? Maybe that last one is a good place to start. It was the cause of the mini meltdown anyway and I need to start thinking of solutions, not dwelling on things I have no control over.
So here it is. I think that I am reacting to FODMAPs. Many IBS sufferers will be familiar with this acronym. Straight from Wiki:

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates and monosaccharides which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, including fructansgalactansfructose and polyols. The term is an acronym, deriving from “FermentableOligo-Di-Mono-saccharides and Polyols

I had a little flare after eating cabbage and then a huge flare yesterday after eating a whole globe artichoke the night before. Yummy fresh, wholesome artichoke. Now added to my ‘can’t have’ list.  Great.
On this occasion, there was nothing else that could have caused this flare other than the offending green ball. When I thought cabbage may have caused a flare,  I asked for some advice on the Facebook page The HS Diet Connection and I was told to consider FODMAPS. Now, I had heard of them before, but any elimination diet is overwhelming enough and when I started the AI protocol and looked at FODMAPs I just ignored the latter and focused on the AI diet. I was a bit overwhelmed as it was and I think that trying to cut out FODMAPs would’ve tipped me over the edge.I have been doing the AI diet since February and although it’s been hard, I don’t feel as daunted by a new regime as I did back when I started. I think I am ready to make a change. From today I will spend a ridiculous amount of time (that I’ll never get back) researching various internet resources on FODMAPs and familiarising myself with new recipes in order to fully embrace this new food lifestyle.

I did a basic search and found this beautiful table, produced by Aglaée the Paleo Dietitian, which stopped me spinning off the deep end and gave me a good place to start. Her site is stacked with info about all the variations on the Paleo diet and has been a great place for me to start with this new look at foods. The following picture is used with her permission.

There are a few things that I am confident that I am ok eating. Well cooked onions, garlic, sweet potato and sauerkraut have all been my good friends over the past few months and I think I can tolerate them fairly well. However, this might be the completely subjective view of a person in denial. We’ll see. For the purpose of staying sane and still being able to eat more than just chicken and carrots, I am reintroducing some of the old foods that are ok on the FODMAP chart. Starting with eggs.
So, today has been a new ‘Day 1’ for me. I feel a bit lost again and a bit sick of it all. Just when I thought it was safe to leave Google alone for a while, I have to start at the very beginning of a new way of eating. Life could be worse I suppose. There could be no Google at all and then I’d be moaning about that.And to get through it all, once again, I am playing the ‘glad’ game, remembering to be grateful for all the amazing stuff I have – although right now, I’d probably trade it all in for some Lindt 85% dark chocolate!

Autoimmune and Paleo eating. The family approach.

My oldest daughter, Ty, asked me what it is like to be a parent. I said that it is the best job in the world, but it can also be the worst. I know she understands that statement, even though it sounds harsh. One minute she makes my heart feel like it’s fit to burst with pride and love and the next, I am tearing my hair out trying to deal with a stubborn ‘teenager’, who refuses to do as she’s told. Lately it’s been more of the former and part of it has manifested from her approach to how we eat now. We have become more united and she has shown me strength of character – beautiful independent thoughts exude from her. To explain though, I guess I’ll have to go over a little of how our eating habits have changed in our home.

When I set out to eat a Paleo diet, I spent hours doing my usual research and my mind floated dreams of us all eating pile of vegetables and fruit, good protein; dreams of eliminating bread, pasta and all the ‘bad’ foods from our household. I had no idea how I would implement it, nor how it would pan out. I read about several different approaches to applying ‘the changeover’ at home; from the extreme, who ban everything and take a blanket approach within their household to those who made the changes for themselves and left the family to eat as they were before. There was not a great deal of in between, but maybe people think others don’t want to read about people, who (like me), go through waves of eating styles in their home based on the ethos of eating Paleo and more sustainably.

So I introduced Paleo to the family and let them decide. Mr B backed me and from day on. Our main meals were strictly non-processed and free from grains, rice, white potatoes and pasta. There was no more take-away pizza, no more beautiful mushroom risotto, with white wine and parmesan (Ty’s favourite) and no more spaghetti bolognese. Ty understood the changes and although she was a little reluctant, she soon became a massive fan of vegetable tagine and sweet potato with prawn Thai style soup. I carried on buying her any cereal she liked; I also bought bread, butter, milk and cheese. When Ty started school over here in September, she ate school meals – carb-laden and although sometimes reliably sourced and organic, for the most part just a lot of processed food.

At Christmas, family and friends sent tons of chocolates, sweets and biscuits from the UK – a lovely idea, but not great for a family who were trying to develop a new way of eating. I encouraged home baking, as I always have, and emphasised to Ty how great it was that we could see what ingredients she was putting in her sweets. I gave her constant and well-deserved praise for the beautiful cakes and cookies she made.

When my HS got worse, I decided to take the autoimmune approach and eliminated everything I needed to –  no cheating at all. The family was subjected to more meal changes; no tomatoes, spices, chilli and eggs. Cooking got a whole lot harder and we had to get more creative. There were a lot of roasted vegetables, roasted chicken, pork. More sweet potato chips, stir fry broccoli, onion and a constant struggle to try to get leafy greens into our diet. A trip to Ed’s family went really well – everybody accommodated my changes and even though there was the usual chocolate, milk and pancakes for everyone else, together we had amazing main meals – simple but delicious fish and chicken dishes and organic vegetables. We encouraged Ty to eat how she wanted and explained that being at Nanny’s on holiday was a good time to indulge, if she wanted to – and she did. As the diet continued I found I had a reaction to red meat and so homemade burgers, BBQ steak and ground beef were off the menu. More changes, restrictions and struggles, but we kept looking for more recipes.

One day when I was writing a shopping list, Ty said to me that she didn’t want any more sugary/chocolate breakfast cereal.  She told me that she wished to be healthier and have more protein for breakfast. It helped that the paediatrician in New Orleans had told her that protein was an important part of her breakfast – funny the things kids remember. She said she was going to start eating omelettes instead. She decided that to do this she would shower the night before to allow herself time to cook breakfast. And she did. She cooked mackerel omelettes everyday for a longtime. As she became more confident in using the hob, she took a bigger interest in cooking. She started reading my recipe books and writing lists of ingredients for me to buy. She then started baking alone. From the weighing of ingredients, peeling and cutting fruit to using the oven.

Since then she has cooked apple crumble, cakes, upside-down apple and walnut pie. She made an amazing BBQ sauce from a Paleo cookbook and I often find her with her head in a recipe book, plotting her next bake-off. She tries hard to eat like me. She asks how much protein is in her food. She eats large helpings of salad with her dinner, without even being asked. She still eats sweets if she wants to, but they are never bought by me. My Mum asked if Ty would like some sweets and I suggested she buy Ty some silicone cupcake moulds. Ty loves them!

She’s back on cereal now, but it’s organic muesli, instead of Coco Pops. She has tried soya milk instead of cow’s milk. She talks about how different foods make her feel. She has an awareness of her diet, that last year even I didn’t have.

So this is how we do it in our house. We don’t all eat the same, but there are no special allowances when it comes to our main meals together. We try new foods and recipes often and we encourage baking – even if it is nowhere near Paleo. We cook together and eat together and this is one of the parts of our lives that has made us closer. Ty still drives me insane and is as stubborn as a mule, but she is educated, objective and very considerate. I am proud of my daughter and her approach to eating, even if it is not the same as mine.

Zero pressure = increased motivation.

Hangover. Day 3.

Wow. This is not good. How did I used to suffer this pain all the time? I am 3 days into recovery from my ‘binge’ on Saturday and my HS is horrible! I have new spots, pain and all over discomfort. It hurts to sit down again – well, it always hurts a little to sit down, but right now? Horrible! I am taking paracetamol again – just one in the morning and one at night to help me sleep. I am having to completely strap all my wounds up, to stop the pain that I am getting from the chaffing. there are so many unmentionable side effects from a flare, I am just going to stop right now!

Monday was a complete right off. Now that was due to the wine hangover. When did it get so hard to overcome a night of drinking? I guess I didn’t feel so bad Sunday, because I was still buzzing a little from the lovely evening we’d had the night before, but Monday was a different story. I was tired, in pain and just one thing after another went wrong – I even locked myself out and had to break in by climbing through the neighbours’ gardens – not an easy feat when you are suffering a big HS flare!

The good news is I’m coming out of it though and I know it will get better than this. Before, a flare like this would have really gotten me down, as I would have had no clue as to how to reduce the pain again.   I wouldn’t say I feel completely in control, but at least I know that by staying on the right food path, the inflammation will slowly subside. Even though I am moaning now, I know that the reality is that this pain could be 100% worse right now. My ‘golf ball’ has not swollen back up to a golf ball since I started the AI diet. All the HS spots I have right now have done a complete cycle over the last three days and at the risk of sounding icky (which we always do with this disease!), all are leaking nicely!

So it’s been a tough couple of days, but I am still feeling positive. The worst thing I can do is start thinking about what I haven’t/can’t do when I’m in pain. This morning I put zero pressure on myself to achieve anything and it worked; no expectations for me =  increased motivation. In the end, I managed to bake bread for the rest of the family (which always makes you feel like you’ve achieved something doesn’t it?) and ended up doing a lot of washing and housework – success!

As far as the diet goes, I am pretty keen to start reintroducing foods in a controlled way soon. I hope I don’t trip myself up again and manage to stay on the right path!

Good food, good wine, good cheese. Hangover.

Hangover Day.

I had a fabulous evening with friends last night. It was a perfect end to a not so perfect week. Last night I ate most everything I am not supposed to, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a conscious choice and almost certainly swayed by the fact I was having a flare up anyway – what’s a couple more days pain once you’re in it?

I have three suspects on my flare list. Number one – gluten. Straight forward, right? You’d think so. But it was an accident. I was making pasta for the kids – they don’t always eat everything I do – and I cooked the carrots in with the pasta. When I dished up, I absent-mindedly ate a few of the carrots. Oh. There’s gluten in the water and probably soaked all the way into my otherwise innocent carrots. What an idiot. So, instead of having a lovely piece of homemade flatbread with garlic infused olive oil and parsley, the olive oil dripping down my chin, whilst I savour the moist, hot, doughy piece of heaven….I got carrots. Idiot.

Number two: Lady’s time of the month. Boo. ‘Nuff said.

Number three: Walnuts. A conscious decision to have walnuts, as I had already started to flare from either Suspect One or Suspect Two. Ed made an amazing dinner of organic chicken breast, filled with pesto, with a side of sautéed cabbage and paris mushrooms. The pesto recipe came from my Well Fed cookbook and it happened to include walnuts. It was delicious. Walnuts may not have been the culprit, but as I was on a downward spiral already, who knows?

So there we go. By last night, I had already flared up pretty bad. My decision to slowly reintroduce foods was thwarted again, by an accidental ingestion of gluten, damn hormones and well, a slippery slope from there. So, last night we had this:

An appetiser of julienne cut raw carrots and radishes, with a creme fraiche and chive dip (I didn’t have dip). Then I made the aforementioned flatbread, dripping with roasted garlic infused olive oil and parsley, cooked on a pizza stone ( I had a bit of this – first time I’ve had flour in three months).

For main we had marinated a huge rump steak in olive oil, salt and pepper in the morning and left it all day. The same with two duck breasts, skin on. We also had pork strips, just ‘nature’. Just an hour or so before dinner, we squeezed the juice of a Sanguinello orange (blood orange) into the duck marinade.

These were cooked on our BBQ and seared with a salad of rocket, iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced fennel, sliced radish and diced cucumber, with a Sanguinello, lemon and oil dressing. The combination of all the meats and the salad, especially with the citrus dressing was amazing! I probably enjoyed this food the most, despite the other food indulgences. There’s nothing quite like grilled meat with an amazing salad.

My other downfall. Wine and pudding. Ty had made an amazing apple crumble and once I started tucking into this, I helped myself to quite a bit! It was probably nothing compared to the portions I would have had before, but I guess there is no such thing as a ‘good’ sized portion of flour, butter and sugar! We drank 3 bottles of quality red wine and finished off with some organic Brie and Tommes cheese. Heaven.

I woke up at 4.30 am in a bit of stomach distress and with a headache. I had one (usually prohibited) ibuprofen, lots of water and went back to bed.

So, here it is. Hangover Day. But this morning I feel good. I had a great night. I didn’t beat myself up about what I ate and today all I am craving is salad. I am not in hideous pain (yet!) I hope I stay on course and that my flares go as quickly as they came. Roll on beautiful Sunday!


Wobbly wagon wheels.

Finally the HS swelling is going down – recovering from my red meat, salmon, vinegar experiences has been pretty tough. I guess it’s like falling off any wagon after doing so well, picking yourself up again is a challenge. I have been more careful again, apart from the odd coffee and a couple of small glasses of good white wine this week. I have been taking my Serocytols medication and occasionally remembering to take my magnesium and other homeopathic remedies. I have been gorging on fresh coconut, which is probably not a good thing. Is there a recommended daily allowance for coconut?? I really should Google it up. Aside from that though, my face has cleared up and I feel good. I am going to try duck breast on the BBQ this weekend and see if it affects me. I am feeling more in control and ready to start a more structured reintroduction of foods.

I have been reading more and more posts about people finding diet has helped them improve their HS. It’s fantastic to hear it from so many. It’s a tough disease and sometimes it seems all you ever read is negative comments from people. I have to remind myself that the pain can take you into a dark forest, where even the strongest of us lose sight of the light. I am grateful that my journey is mostly positive and I have the support to keep on battling this disease in the most natural way possible.

They don’t call me Sporty Spice.

I have never been what I class a sporty person. As far back as I can remember, I admired those with a lean physique. No ‘bulging hips’ or pot belly, the ability to run and run for ever, to push themselves no matter what. As a kid, I quit ballet at age 5. My reason was that I thought I couldn’t point my toes properly. Everybody else’s feet looked beautifully arched, whilst my flat-footed ‘point’ just didn’t look the same. I never told my Mum why I didn’t want to go anymore – I didn’t want to admit that I was a failure. Later in life, she told me the ballet teacher was sad to see me go, because I had been one of the best in the class. It turns out, like most things in life, being ‘sporty’ is about perception as well as how well you perform.

Since then I’ve been a rower, I’ve attended boxing training, I’ve been a gym member and even took a GCSE in PE. I still never truly felt sporty. Then in 2007, I started running. It was a revelation to start running at my own pace and find that I could run and run for many miles. So long as I kept a reasonable pace and did not compare myself to others, running gave me freedom and a new-found confidence in myself. Later, when I worked in a prison, we would work out and run up to 4 days a week in our lunch hour – perfect! No need to get up super early, nor go to the gym after work. Plus, it was a good break from our desks in the middle of the day. The prisoners were locked up and the Gym instructors were free to show us how to use the different weight machines and teach us the rules to sports like badminton, tennis and volleyball. They had folders and folders of exercises we could do on the gym mats, using weights and the fit ball.  They take us through gruelling circuit training – challenging us to keep up with them. It was fantastic and the only downer for me was I was unable to take the spinning classes, because of my “ingrown hair abscesses”. I kept up the training and running until I was 24 weeks pregnant – not all of it, just the occasional run by the end. Two years on and a stay-at-home-mum, my activity levels have plummeted. I am not free to exercise whenever I want, but if I really wanted to, I mean, if I was really dedicated, I would do something to get started. Anything.

So, I finally went for a run. Today I am feeling good pain. Not the usual soreness of open wounds or swollen skin; not kick-your-butt-back-to-bed pain. No, this is good, healthy, it-hurts-my-hamstrings-to-get-on-and-off-the-toilet kind of pain. My legs ache, as does my torso and I am physically worn out. It feels great!

I ran a fairly short distance – about 4 km/2.6 miles – but it felt good to finally get out there again. My average time was about as quick as it used to be when I was fit – I was pretty shocked. However, it’s not because I am miraculously athletic after such a long time out of the saddle. It is because I am the lightest I have been since I was around, I don’t know, probably 9 years old. Since following the autoimmune protocol diet, I am carrying an average of about 35 pounds/15.8 kgs less than before. I shouldn’t be surprised by this basic science, but I am easily awed by so many things in life.

My HS didn’t flare up, nor did it cause me any pain during the run. The area was a little more swollen in the evening, but no more than when I have been walking a lot.

I may not be Sporty Spice, but I have spent a good part of my life doing sports and enjoying them. I don’t think I’ll ever have a lean physique, or a six-pack, but my body can do sports just as well as the next person. If I don’t run again for a while, or my time drops, I am not a failure. I am somebody who cares enough to take care of their body, when time (and HS) allows. I just need to remember the quote: No matter how slow you run, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.

Organic does not mean wild. Lesson learnt.

I’m five days back into my diet and seem to have made another little faux pas. Today I have swelling and pain again – boo! I think it’s either the apple cider vinegar, or the organic smoked salmon.

Organic, but from my research, still toxic??

Before I made a dressing for my beautiful, pressure-cooker steamed artichoke, I need to find a substitute for balsamic vinegar after my last experience left me a little inflamed. I had read quite a few different sites yesterday on the effects of apple cider vinegar and they all seemed very pro this type of vinegar on the autoimmune protocol (now I’m wondering if I had been reading ‘Doc’ sites or just blogs…hmmm?). Now I am having another little look, there appears to be a huge debate over the quality of apple cider vinegar and what effect it can have on you.

I had had a bit of a flare last time I ate organic farmed salmon, but I had forgotten about it. So now I am trying to do a little bit of research, so that it stays in my brain. I must remember not to be lured in by the organic-ness and I remember why I should not be eating farmed fish.

It’s all about keeping the Omegas 3 and 6 in balance apparently. Now, there is so much sciencey stuff attached to this and I would love to spend my days immersed in the ever elusive search for the perfect balance of fatty acids in my system, however, I have ‘home’ stuff to do (and a life that doesn’t just revolve round me).

I did do a little research, and as with most things food related, I wish I had never opened the flood gates! I found so many articles on how farmed salmon is ridiculously dangerous for the ecosystem and how the labels for organic fish have much lower restrictions than those on farmed animals. There is quite a comprehensive article on the The World’s Healthiest Foods site, explaining all the science behind the imbalance of Omega 3 and 6.

This article about Canadian salmon is interesting, ‘Demystifying “organic” farmed salmon: Is there such a thing?‘ and obviously a little Googling it up produces a plethora of the ‘whys’, ‘whats’ and ‘wherefores’ of eating salmon. An article here gives a bit more background into what we should be eating and steers the topic away from the eco/ethical debate, focussing on the health issue more.

Back to my search for the ‘perfect salmon to meet my Omega ratio requirements’, I found another little article on Balancing Omega-3 and Omega-6. It doesn’t talk about farmed salmon, but does give an insight into how the imbalance affects people’s health.

After trying not to get too sucked in by the whole salmon debate online, as I do try to limi my exposure as to why eating anything that has a pulse makes me a bad person. Thus, I have managed to skim the surface of farmed vs wild salmon and the many reasons I shouldn’t eat it farmed.

I found a little fact sheet that summed it up with this:

Don’t eat wild Atlantic salmon and farmed salmon. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California recommends wild Alaskan salmon as an alternative, while the UK-based Marine Conservation Society suggests organically farmed Atlantic salmon.”

With my apple cider vinegar debate still looming, I think a little more eating experimentation will have to occur before I can make any confirmed conclusions between the salmon and my HS flares. In the interests of health and general eco-equilibrium of world balance, my conclusion is that I should probably just eat wild Alaskan salmon once or twice a year (preferably when I’m near Alaska to minimise my carbon footprint). Perhaps this is my cue to start looking for a wild, line-caught fish oil supplement….