Some of you got a sneak preview of this post because I accidentally pressed the wrong button. I didn’t make that many changes to it since republishing it; hopefully the Google Gods don’t penalize me!
Disclaimer: This post is regarding my family’s experience with food sensitivity testing. Although as a Registered Dietitian I often recommend clients receive food sensitivity panels and I help them interpret them, this post is not intended to substitute any medical advice.
So if you’ve been reading a while you know about Mr. Hungry’s food sensitivities.
So here at HH you will often see me commenting about egg, yeast (bakers and brewers), gluten, or dairy free for Mr. Hungry. (You can find out more about food sensitivities vs. allergies vs. intolerances in this post.) Mr. Hungry has always had a weak digestive system, but we always attributed it to unhealthy or spicy foods. The few months before getting the food sensitivity panel the symptoms started to escalate despite eating really healthy. He ended up having to get an endoscopy/colonoscopy. His colonoscopy showed no significant results, the doctor told him to add turmeric to his smoothies and follow up in 6 months. He also said” be careful because you may develop an IBD condition in the future.” That comment has always floored me, how can you say something like that but not tell him what to be careful of????
Receiving the Results & Adjusting
After a month or two of reviewing food sensitivity panels with my clients at the gym I started to see first hand the great results they were having. I finally insisted that he join Life Time (you had to be a member to get the test) and get the test done. After the test results came back I was literally in shock, it was the most sensitivities I had seen in level 2 and 3 combined (by the way it’s still in the top 3.) The things he reacted to were all common inflammatory foods, nothing weird, well except pea protein, but the combination of eggs, dairy, yeast and wheat was a lot to take in. My frustration immediately shifted from I don’t know what to feed you to I don’t know if I know how to feed you. At first we both had trouble remembering all of them, being that it is my job I got it a little quicker than he did. He would seem to forget that dairy included cheese, yogurt and milk, in his mind dairy meant milk. I was working crazy hours at the gym so I wasn’t really cooking meals for us on the regular. We were still eating healthy, but using more convenient foods.
His meals became:
- Breakfast: Brown rice protein shakes or walnut balls
- Lunch: Salads with lunch meat, nuts/seeds, and high fat dressing
- Dinner: corn tortillas, avocados, grape seed mayo (the only one we could find without eggs or pea protein), and whatever protein we had
I tried to keep things varied, but honestly he ate that over and over and over and over again… I kind of feel bad about it now, but it worked, so no regrets. I now knew the frustrations my clients faced. I didn’t have time to research vegan (for eggs and dairy) baking or risk trying something only to have it fail. We really only focused on the level 2 and level 3’s, it’s was quite honestly all we could manage.
The First 90 Days
I always tell my clients, “the first 90 days are the most important, the more you avoid those foods the better you should feel.” However, he isn’t my client, he is my husband. He also didn’t believe in the test results at first. So, in the beginning it was all about “just trying it to see if it worked.” He didn’t adhere completely; one can only stick to the above schedule for so long, but for about 30 days he avoided his high level sensitivities most of the time. We were both amazed at how much better he felt. Slowly he started to be able to tolerate the foods he was sensitive too as long as he kept them to a minimum and didn’t stack them. He started to “believe in the list.”
The more we thought about it, the more obvious it became. His sister has a sensitivity to yeast and dairy, she knows she doesn’t feel good after eating it. He is of Chaldean (Babylonian decent) decent, increasing his odds of developing an IBD condition and/or gluten sensitivity. The running joke in the family is that “eggs pass right through them,” a joke Mamma Shallal and I never understood (that doesn’t happen to us but it does happen to everyone related to his Dad – the Chaldean side).
Frustrations & Lingering Inflammation
During the holidays he ate pretty much whatever he wanted, and although he had some flares it wasn’t bad. At some point I started to get irritated, now that I’m actually cooking more real I felt like was going out of my way to come up with meals friendly to his sensitivities. So I would pour all this time into coming up with list friendly meals and it seemed like when he ate out he would just throw it all away. Now I know this is reverse thinking. In actuality, it was the fact that I was providing him with the right meals that was allowing him to eat out without any problems.
Last month he received a basic blood draw. Although he isn’t having symptoms very often, his body is still having a ton of inflammation. The thing about a large number of food sensitivities is that you should be able to heal them. Typical causes include yeast overgrowth and/or leaky gut. However, to do so, you have to be strict about your list for at least 60 days and follow a good supplement regimen, something only he can chose to do. Sensitivities shift, so around the 9-12 month mark it’s usually a good idea to get retested. So, at this point he may need to retest. (However, I have doubts about his list shifting given family history.)
My Wife/Dietitian Guilt
So now we are kind of at a place where we limit meals to no more than 1-2 sensitivities and he eats whatever he wants on the weekends. I do my best to make them completely anti-inflammatory but sometimes they aren’t. Like the last two weeks he has been eating the Aidells meatballs that are not gluten free. I feel guilty about that, especially because he has had some GI upset. Is that because of the small amount of wheat in the meatballs during the week or because of the pizza dough (made with yeast and gluten) dipped in cheese dip he had on Sunday? I know where I’m placing my bets. Or when I want some cheese in a recipe, and then he ends up eating it more than once, I feel guilty about that. Then he goes out and orders something like a Philly Cheesesteak and I wonder why I felt guilty. When I get frustrated about it, I remember how much harder it is for him. He has never had a problem with his weight, he is an intuitive eater with a crazy metabolism, but he still has to struggle with food. His food relationship is all about balance in trade offs, but not in the typical way it is for most of us.
We will keep limiting the foods he is sensitive as much as possible without stressing over it. I’d rather be frustrated trying to come up with recipes that limit his food sensitivities (and he will like) then be frustrated that I have no idea what will upset his stomach, like I felt before. I keep practicing with gluten free/vegan baking and Paleo-esque eating without the eggs; I’m getting better all the time! (Kelly from the Pretty Bee blog has been my saving grace, she posts all allergen friendly recipes. Her ebooks she sends you when you sign up for her blog mailing list are amazing.) We will keep monitoring his inflammation levels in his blood work and possibly get him another food sensitivity panel done in the future. The most important thing is that he feels so much better than he did before and he can usually identify what he ate to upset his stomach instead of panicking something might be really wrong with him.
My Dietitian Perspective
Mr. Hungry’s list has given me a totally new perspective. It’s funny because if you would’ve asked me two years ago whether those tests were valuable, I probably would have told you there isn’t any legitimate research to back them up. Fast-forward two years, not only has the testing immensely helped my own family but also a multitude of my clients. It has strengthened my thought process on the need for personalized diets, no one eating style or plan works for everyone! Nutrition is highly cultural, personal and adjustable, I now respect that fact more than ever.
[Tweet “How a wife & dietitian handles her hubby’s food sensitivities via @hungryhobby #glutenfree #dairyfree #yeastfree #eggfree”]
Thanks to Mr. Hungry for letting me share his story with all of you. He hopes that sharing may help someone else out there! PS he just joined Instagram as @Mista_Hungry (I couldn’t believe he named himself that)… I think I’ve created an IG monster. PS the video of Nala I’d never seen before till it was posted on IG. So that would be why she likes to dig in the grass now… that’s called a BUSTED via Social Media!