Recently I was inspired to take an ALCAT test to check for food sensitivities that may be hindering my immune system. It has been two years since I broke out in dry psoriasis on my right hand and no amount of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, super supplements, Epson salt soaks, natural creams have touched it. Google tells me that psoriasis is an “over active immune system,” so I was curious as to what I could possibly doing to stress my body out so much. Turns out at least part of the answer was…eating!
And it wasn’t like I was eating junk either. Nope, it turns out eating many of the healthy foods I consume daily was sending my immune system over the edge. (How these sensitivities develop is for another article.) What the ALCAT test aims to do is identify any foods that are causing an inflammatory immune response (i.e. inflaming my gut and allowing it to leak various food particles, toxins, and pathogenic strains into my bloodstream), and give me the tools to temporarily eliminate them thereby allowing the gut to heal. In short, by giving my system a break and creating an internal healing environment, I may be able to fix my skin. Turns out this approach has been proven to work for most autoimmune disorders and also for asthma, obesity, IBS, migraines ADD and ADHD, and arthritis. Made sense to give it a try!
When I got my ALCAT test results back the short of it was many of my go-to foods were a problem. Turns out I am severely intolerant to apples, beets and chicken. What? I’m a trainer; and what trainer doesn’t preach the apple and peanut butter snack? Besides you may have read of my love of beet Kvass, and you may know me as the girl who always has a huge pot of chicken stock on the stove to use in all my grains and soups. How do I just cut these out? Exhale. After a deep breath, I thought I could handle that…but then the worst part: reaction to casein, whey, gluten, gliadin and Candida. Translation: no dairy, no grains and no sugar. UGH! Longer exhale.
This is Going to be a Long Six Months
As I write this it has been a long TWO months! Following the rotation diet is one of the most difficult and time consuming culinary endeavors I have ever embarked upon. But here comes my competitive voice within myself: I can totally do this! And so far, (with the occasional grumbling and complaining, a few too many rice cakes, and tears fought back when walking past a Starbucks), I have. And here are some of my tips and reflections I would love to share with you:
My first observation, which happens to be my biggest struggle with all of this, is that food simply has to be simple. Whatever I eat has to be prepared in my kitchen, unfussy, and unprocessed. I love food, and I love cooking with complex flavors, spices and textures…but for this season with so many restrictions it is just better to be basic, and I have found that basic, although boring, is still satisfying. And come to think of it, the idea of whole, recognizable foods is not a bad idea. Isn’t that how most people ate throughout human history, you know, before all the degenerative diseases of industrialized nations?
My Sweet Tooth
Really…let’s be serious. I am a girl with a sweet tooth, so what do I do? We’ll, I try to find something on my approved foods list that is my escape hatch—something that will satisfy the craving and not get my gut into trouble. I would share all my recipes with you, but unless you are off sugar like me, I can pretty much guarantee that my stuff would taste totally bland. My taste buds have adapted to a much less intense ‘sweet’ so much so that I am sure my first cupcake off this diet will send me into cardiac arrest! But who knows, maybe this article will inspire you to go off sugar and you will enjoy the following recipe as much as I do!
Here is one thing I’ve come up with that I call my “total bliss” (it’s basically hot cocoa). Try some out yourself and see if you can’t satisfy your own sweet tooth.
- 1 cup of coconut milk (unsweetened) or unsweetened hazelnut milk
- 1 TBS raw cocoa powder
- 1-2TBS of coconut nectar,
- dash of sea salt and
- dash of vanilla extract
In case you want an alternative:
I also found this website that has given me almond coconut cookies (pictured) and chocolate cookies. The pancakes and the coconut bread aren’t so bad either! Try them out!
My Beloved Bread
Darn gluten—the dreamy stuff that makes yeast rise, bread products gooey and irresistible. Unfortunately gluten is very difficult for an imbalanced gut to break down and this undigested starch feeds gut pathogens. This can cause the lining of the small intestines to become inflamed and damaged. When this happens on top of being in gastrointestinal distress (i.e. bloating, cramping etc.), the body is not able to absorb nutrients. Thus it made sense that ALCAT took me off of the stuff. If you have suffered from digestion discomfort in the past, simply going off gluten for a few weeks may help you! Avoiding gluten means no:
So what grains and starches can you have eating a gluten free diet? Well, in light of healing the gut, as little as possible. The following grains are gluten free and can be consumed in moderation:
- brown rice
In case you want an alternative: As for starches, potatoes, beans, arrowroot powder, coconut and nut flours usually do a nice job of providing a carbohydrate kick and a substitute for most baked goods, and according to ALCAT should be eaten on rotation one at a time every 4 days. This means all day, I get to eat as much quinoa or as much sweet potato as I want…which is why I was the lame girl who brought her own yam to brunch on Father’s day when everyone (except my husband) else ate hazelnut glazed sweetbread! Hey, it was better than feeling sorry for myself (although, there may have been a little of that).
No Dairy – Are you Serious???
“I could never live without dairy!” is the response I hear when ever someone asks me about what foods I have to avoid on this “diet” (well, unless you are consuming raw dairy, you shouldn’t be eating it anyway…but that too is another newsletter article all together.) Avoiding dairy is hard, and there isn’t a day that has gone by when I haven’t craved it. Here are some great dairy alternatives I have found:
In place of butter I am using ghee which is butter without the milk solids. It tastes creamy and I enjoy it wherever I use to use butter…which was on everything!
In case you want an alternative:
- Coconut milk –creamy, rich in healthy, saturated fats and lauric acid. I drink it in my smoothies and use it in my hot cocoa drink!
- Coconut water (use instead of dairy in protein smoothies)
- Almond milk
- Hazelnut milk
- Rice milk
- Hemp milk
What AM I Eating?
Typical meals include:
Yam: boiled or baked with nothing but a little sea salt
Beef: ground patty, plain just a touch of salt
Turkey: ground or whole and simply pan sautéed in ghee or coconut oil
Beans and rice, lentils and millet: prepared separately, soaked, boiled in water, adding perhaps some salt and pepper
Nuts: raw, soaked and roasted or dehydrated.
Fish: pan sautéed in just coconut oil with a touch of sea salt
So as you can see, there is no “dash of this” or “smothered in sauce” or “dredged in flour” or “sprinkled with cheese” happening…and you can imagine there is no restaurant that serves anything I can eat (probably because no one would order it!) So I am back in my kitchen, boiling my gluten free grains by the bowl-full, soaking my beans and lentils by the vat, steaming veggies and eating fruit…and dreaming of being social once again…you know, the occasional restaurant thing. I am so ready for my babe to take me on a date. The end of month 6 can’t get here fast enough!
The Good Parts – How It Has Helped!
For about 2 weeks after I started following my test results I found the psoriasis on my hand to basically disappear and my bloated gut shrunk significantly! Now from what I’ve read and the ALCAT nutritionist I’ve talked to, I am in what I believe to be a detoxifying phase of this whole experience and as you might know, with detoxification can come some pretty unpleasant side-effects. In other words, things can get worse before they get better. Stay tuned to hear how my journey continues—more reflections to come.
After hearing my experience I know what you may be thinking…“Um, no thanks,” or perhaps, “Wow, I’m not sure I’m ready for that,” or maybe even, “I think I’d rather not know.” Truth is, your results may be as limiting as mine, or they may not be. For me, deciding to do this test (and to act on what it said) was not a light decision. I knew it might cause a bit of an upheaval in my routines. It did. But my thinking is/was, if I am going be a good steward of the only body I have, and if my underlying belief is that a dysfunction in my body (in this case my hand) is an indicator that I am out of balance somewhere, then I don’t know how I could live with myself if I did not act on whatever knowledge I have to help bring about the healing my body is looking for. If I aim to coach others on what it takes to be healthy and I am not willing to take my own advice and put myself in situations that stretch me, then what business do I have recommending things like this to others? Sure, this ALCAT test was not an easy pill to swallow, but in the end, I think whatever I learn from it will be worth it. Maybe it would be for you too.
One last thing I feel compelled to share with you is about supplements and what I am taking by the fist full in order to help my body with this incredible task of healing. I went to a great Naturopath and, among other things had my body tested to see what supplements/nutrients my body responds well to.
Anti-inflammatory plants: I choose one of the following to take for a month and then I will switch it up.
- grape seed
- green tea
- Omega 3 fatty acids (currently taking borage oil)
- GLA (gamma linolaic acid)
- Vitamin B’s (complex)
- Glucosamine and chrondroitin
- MSM and SAMe
L-Glutamine (to help curb sugar and carb cravings)
Digestive enzymes (to be taken on an empty stomach before eating in order to aid the body in breaking down the nutrients in the food