2011 Resovolutions, Part 1: GFCF, Meet HAES

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

So. In the interests of turning over a new leaf, I’m going to try to be as un-grody about this as I can. Today is my four-month gallbladderversary. Yep, I celebrated last Labor Day by emergently having my gallbladder out. I had intractable stomach pains that weren’t going away no matter what remedies I gave them, called the advice nurse, who told me I’d better see a doctor pronto. Since my regular doctor was off that day, I went to urgent care, described my symptoms and history, and it took them about ten minutes to figure out that my gallbladder was on fire and it needed to come out right away.

And I have to tell you, these folks should get some kind of medal for treating a fat chick decently. They weighed me, because they had to for general anesthesia, but never gave me any crap about it; the closest was when the surgeon told me that my gallbladder might be hard to get to because of my “build” (which could have referred to my splendiferous hooters as much as anything else). But they didn’t have to cut me all the way open, thank the elves and faeries, and this doctor had pretty obviously done this operation enough times that he could do it in his sleep, so really, everything went down like guacamole.

Until I had to start eating solid food again. And then, as ever, I started to discover that many of the foods most enjoyed by the northern half of my body made my southern half threaten secession.

As you know if you’ve been reading here a while, I’ve had stomach problems pretty much my whole life, and they only got worse after the surgery and never seemed to get any better. About 16 months ago, I wrote about possibly changing my diet to figure out if I could isolate potential triggers. I got great comments on that post, and a couple of folks suggested I try an “elimination diet” — that is, for a few days only eat a few things I know for sure are safe, then gradually re-introduce the questionable ones until I zeroed in on the culprits. I finally tried that, and sure enough, I found that the old autistic bugaboos gluten and casein were giving me the lion’s share of the trouble, so I cut those out.

Yeah, that’s right, MY INSURANCE BLAAARGH folks, I actually did give up most of my favorite foods (soy sauce! I practically swam in that!) for better health, so I don’t want to hear any puling from the VIP seats that I’m self-destructive and don’t take care of my fat self. Pizza, pasta, cheese, butter, milk chocolate, ice cream, yogurt, bread — all of it went, or at least the gluten-and-casein-full versions of them. I told myself that I could eat anything I wanted; I just had to be prepared for what might happen if I did, which was basically going to be the Disneyland fireworks display, only not in color.

You see, I’ve pretty much had to plan my entire life around proximity to an unoccupied toilet. It’s terrible. I have IBS-A (anybody wanna cure that already?), which means I alternate too fast and too slow, and that gives me very little margin for error when it comes to what I eat, and also limits the kind of medication I can take for it. I just had enough. My goal was, no more having to drop my library book or my cooking or my browsing in a store to race to the crapper, no more dirty looks from salespeople when I stunk up their bathrooms and didn’t buy anything because nothing looked appetizing anymore, no more stomach cramps, no more straining, no more uncontrollable fart attacks in public, no more sweating and praying while on the bus or train or in a car that I would make it to the next bathroom on time. And when I say “no more,” I mean no more than the average person; everyone has that stuff happen a few times a year, but not a few times a week (or sometimes, a few times a day).

Gluten-free, by itself, is a pain in the butt, but it can be worked around. I got wheat-free tamari (including little packets to take to sushi bars), found some cool new recipes, including one for red velvet cake that my wheat-eating partner said he liked better than the kind I used to make with wheat and dairy, and he doesn’t blow smoke up my nethers about things like that; he actually ate more of the stuff than of my prior recipe. For me, no dairy is the real pisser. So I didn’t tell my mom I was doing this, and she has never in her life sent me food (other than tea), and what did she send us for the holidays this year? A fruit and cheese basket from Zabar’s. OH MY FREAKING GOD. You can find (or make) gluten-free baked goods that taste great, but I’m sorry, nobody is ever going to find a decent casein-free substitute for luscious Camembert and extra-sharp cheddar. I actually ate a slice of Tofutti mozzarella and some Daiya cheddar after trying that stuff, and I wanted to cry — but alas, even with Lactaid, real cheese goes down like spackling paste.

And yeah, I knew all about orthorexia and nocebo/placebo effect and the dangers of restricting too much for no good reason, and I really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just doing a number on myself about this, because eliminating entire categories of food really is a big deal. It’s expensive and a pain in the ass to eat this way, and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. No longer can I just “grab something” just anywhere — convenience store, fast-food, pizza — and eat on the run. I must have contingency grub with me everywhere I go, lest I be somewhere the treyf ain’t safe. Most restaurants are now off limits for me if I want to avoid the possibility of asplodey, and the asplodey-proof places are more expensive. (Hawthorne Fish House, I love you to death, but really, $16 for a small basket of oysters and chips?). And make no mistake about it; with GF and CF products, there is price-gouging, and I pretty much have to prepare every meal from scratch now. There’s no way in the world I would do this without getting something — or several somethings — out of it.

Did I? Tune in tomorrow and find out.

23 Responses to “2011 Resovolutions, Part 1: GFCF, Meet HAES”

  1. AcceptanceWoman Says:

    I can’t wait to hear what you got out of it!
    Hopefully, a calmer gut.
    I’ve come to some sort of truce with the med I’m taking and I’ve been able to eat somewhat normally (for me) again.
    Reading this makes me want to cook for you.
    (I had a really tasty tofu cheesecake the other day that made me want to make some)
    There’s a GF Vegan dessert place in my ‘hood…

  2. meowser Says:

    Oh man, I am so there. I’m so happy to hear from you, I’ve been thinking a lot about you!

  3. AcceptanceWoman Says:

    I am fond of iced desserts made with coconut milk. Hella expensive, though. But, I have an ice cream maker, and I’m not afraid to experiment with it.

    • meowser Says:

      I had a vegan chocolate shake at Dick’s Kitchen last week, and it was made with coconut milk ice cream. Yum. But yep, hella expensive is right!

  4. Bri Says:

    I had similar problems to you before I had my gall bladder out and have had the same problems as you since I had it out. It is horrible. I know where eveyr toilet in town is, and then some. I get it when I eat, when I don’t eat, no matter what I eat – up to 10 times a day. It isn’t fun at all. I just don’t know if I can totally change my diet like you have…

    • meowser Says:

      Oh, dude, I don’t blame you. I don’t know how I’d do this if I didn’t work at home. (And I don’t know about the grocery options where you live, either. In Portland, they’re a lot better than in most of the U.S., but I don’t have a clue about other countries.)

      But if you’re getting it regardless of what you eat, or even when you don’t eat, maybe it’s not the food. With me, it was pretty overwhelmingly tied into food encounters, especially the first few hours after getting up.

      • Bri Says:

        Yeah sometimes I get it from drinking water in the morning! I know that sometimes eating something will set me off, other times the same food gives no after effect at all. I do try to avoid dairy (or be handy to a bathroom) because I know that often sets me off. I don’t eat a lot of fatty food anyway so that isn’t too much of an issue for me. I have a feeling I should try the gluten thing…maybe I will work up to that… I am glad you have found something that works for you though! Yay for bathroom liberation!

  5. MadamQ Says:

    Blended avocado also makes a great creamy non-dairy substitute, especially if you can’t do soy. Like in this chocolate pie, also gluten-free:

    http://sweetrosie.wordpress.com/2008/03/02/allergen-free-chocolate-avocado-tart-recipe/

    And cashew cream is fantastic too, and easy to make assuming you have a food processor.

    I find a 50/50 mix of almond meal and rice flour (or any other GF flour) makes a pretty good 1:1 substitute in baking cakes and slices/bars.

    • meowser Says:

      Wow, chocolate and avocado? I’d never have dreamed that up. Cooking blogs FTW!

      No food processor. I do have a blender. But tight kitchen space means not many gadgets.

      Almond meal is killer expensive here, even more so than some of the other GF flours. But I’m sure it’s delish.

  6. the fat nutritionist Says:

    Congratulations! Therapeutic restriction is something that can be SO HARD to negotiate when you have issues about restriction from past dieting or whatever. But it sounds like you’ve done an amazing job. You even used one of the strategies I’ve used with people who can’t eat gluten — to not make gluten-containing foods ILLEGAL, NO EAT, but to make it a cost-benefit analysis that turns the whole issue into a real, honest-to-goodness choice that the person gets to make.

    It’s not a fun choice, but it’s important that it gets to BE a choice, rather than a directive from some irritating authority-figure.

    Anyway…hi. I like you. Glad to hear from you :)

    • meowser Says:

      Same here, TFN! And thanks!

      Yeah, when I was phasing the stuff out (and boy, you do have to do it little by little when it’s both gluten AND dairy!), the thing was, I didn’t want to be like one of those Atkins dieters who has nightmares about eating pizza. So instead of saying, “Wow, that looks tasty, but I can’t have it,” I ask myself, “Is it worth the three-ring circus in the digestive tract? Because that’s what I’m looking at here.”

      I’m sure that if I had some four-star chef who wanted to make a meal just for me, with ingredients of xyr choosing rather than mine, I’d just take some Imodium and Lactaid and pray for the best, because that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I go to New York and am surrounded by great pizza and great bagels on every street corner. But for crap pizza and crap bagels? Easy decision.

  7. O.C. Says:

    Hey, y’all, I don’t have many of the other challenges you have, but I did have some pretty bad GI symptoms after I had my gallbladder out. But after about a year, POOF, they went away completely! I’ve heard similar stories from other friends. So, not to say that everything’s gonna be roses and bunnies, but some of the new troubles you’re seeing MIGHT get better over time, so hang in there.

    • meowser Says:

      From your fingers to Demeter’s ears! (Or would that be Hestia’s?)

      • Karen Says:

        I have a fairly reliable digestive system, but did have a long stretch of constant problems after my gallbladder was out. After a bit of testing, my doctor theorized that something was making my liver squirt out too much bile (& not able to store in GB) and that might be why every meal went right through me. I eliminated all fiber from my diet – eating only baked chicken, eggs and plain yoghurt for a few weeks. I’m a huge proponent of finding out what works for my individual body.

  8. Susannah Says:

    Oh honey. Lord I feel for you! I am fortunate not to have the IBS attacks the way you do, but I have IBS which combines quite neatly with a tore-up stomach* to make it quite difficult for me to enjoy my food. And I was born to enjoy every tasty food substance, oh yes.

    * I used to have an iron belly, until fibromyalgia and endometriosis came on in the same year. My docs wouldn’t give me narcotics- hell, it was months before I found someone who would treat me at all- and taking the max of ibuprofen every day really will destroy your stomach lining.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more. Good luck!

    • meowser Says:

      No kidding about the ibuprofen! I also, thanks to PCOS, had cramps so horrible I wanted to yank my uterus out and flush it down the john. And before I went on the Pill, which knocked the pain down to a manageable level, I took so many NSAIDs every three weeks that I practically rattled when I walked. I’m sure that didn’t help my belleh much either. (Nowadays when cramps come on, two ibuprofens knock it right out. Pre-pill, they’d have done diddley.)

  9. Pokey Says:

    I thought I would pass along a link to a book I found extremely helpful. This book is the first one where I have ever heard someone talk about Gluten Intolerance in terms other than Celiac. That Celiac is not the end all be all of gluten issues. I hope it may be a helpful resource to you as well. I’ve done GF in the past, and it can be a real pain in the arse. I highly recommend Udi bread though. It’s the closest thing to real sandwich bread you can get w/o the gluten :) Good Luck

  10. Rachel Says:

    I started getting gastrointestinal symptoms way back in my Junior year of High School. Alterating diarhhea and constipation, foul gas, painful abdominal cramping, the works–everyday, all day, within 30 minutes after every damn meal. In my sophmore year of college, I finally went to a student health doc who told me I had IBS and that there was shit-all they could do for me except try some gut-relaxers and probiotics. Which did nothing. Two years later, I developed gallstones, and had my gallbladder taken out. The diarhhea and cramping party got worse. But alas, it was just IBS and nothing we can do about that.

    So I lived with it all through college and beyond, up until last year, at the age of 31, when a naturopath heard my complaints, gave me a specialized test for food sensitivities, and informed me that I was gluten intolerant. And yanno what, within TWO DAMN DAYS of eliminating gluten, I was symptom free.

    to this day I’m still mad at my ignorant doctors for misdiagnosing me with IBS without first testing for food intolerances. Sadly, its far too common.

    I am very glad I found out about my gluten intolerance, and yeah I miss the convienece of “normal” food, but I know better now, and its just not worth it to eat gluten–gluten wrecks my health and my life.

    Congrats to you Meowser on taking that step towards feeling good again!

  11. AndyJo Says:

    Hi Meowser!

    I completely and absolutely empathize with you!

    I don’t have the IBS thing, or the gluten/casein issue, but I DO have issues with my digestive system. Have had them for more years than I care to think of (I’m 50 and I remember having issues since I was a child).

    I had my gallbladder out 5 years ago. It took a while to figure out what I could or could not eat. Pork and I are undergoing a messy divorce (kind of like you and cheese). We cheat with each other occasionally, but I always feel awful afterwards. Heavy beefy stuff like steak? Ouch — and lots of… Well… You know. Too much cheesy stuff? Ditto. Catfish? For some reason I can never eat catfish again in any form. Go figure. Very fatty fish (like especially fatty salmon)? You guessed it. Full fat ice cream? And the beat goes on.

    For me, the good news was that, after a while, I am at the point where I go through only about 1/4 to 1/8 of the amount of Gaviscon I used to, and I can actually get through a shopping trip without… What you described ever so charmingly. I do take Prilosec which keeps me from the “festivities” (shall we say) from the odd random cookie, but it won’t work if I go for the steak. SIGH!!!

    I have to tell you, I have talked to many people who have had their gallbladder removed and each has a different experience and “can’t” foods list. Our bodies are each so different!

    I wish you well! I feel GOBS better and I hope you do too, and that you continue feeling better!!!

    –Andy Jo–

  12. JeanC Says:

    My sympathies. Having to change the way you eat is a royal pain in the ass, and as you say, expensive. I’ve been doing the gluten free for a few months now. Going out to eat is no fun now, pretty much can’t do Chinese anymore and can’t have my favorite dishes at any other restaurant I used to go to (no more biscuits and gravy at Tam’s WAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!).

    Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I have several friends who are Celiac/gluten intolerant, so I have support and recipes. We also have a couple of stores that carry quite a few of the GF pastas, mixes and such for a reasonably decent price (tho still more expensive then the wheat based varieties). Hubby has discovered he loves brown rice pastas, better then the regular ones, so he isn’t feeling deprived of lasagna LOL! I do want to invest in some Kitchen Aid pasta attachments and start making my own to cut costs a bit. My firends and I are looking at investing in large quantities of GF flours and then splitting them up.

    I do like having constant abdominal pain and a few of the other problems, but now that I am eating way more whole grain flours and legumes, I find I am burping A LOT! And not little lady like burps, I am talking some pretty good room shakers :P Oh well, I guess it is better to burp a lot then to be in pain (not too mention the joint pain I had in my fingers has gone away).

  13. JeanC Says:

    That last paragraph should read “I do like not having constant abdominal pain…”

  14. notblueatall Says:

    Oh man, well written post! I laughed, I winced, I almost cried…I have friends with similar issues and I feel for ya! I will surely be tuned in, for a good long time! Thanks for this.


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