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Archive for the ‘Candida’ Category

Today I got my newsletter update from celiac.com. Included was this incredible article about a study whose results were recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Long story short: your gut health can be negatively affected by a gluten-free diet. BEHOLD, UNIVERSE! This is major news in my world! It validates what I have been thinking the past few months: that I have something wrong with my gut that is causing (at least in part) my arthritis/joint pain. Call it candida, call it bad bacteria, whatever. The point is that when I go off-roading from the SCD (which is mostly an anti-candida diet), my symptoms tend to intensify.

Since I don’t have any kind of diagnosis for my Mystery Illness, it’s nice to have some kind of Unifying Theory for it. And I’ll definitely be asking my doctor about this next we meet since she’s the one who told me about the SCD in the first place.

So I’m going to soldier on with the SCD because it’s the one thing I’ve found that improves things. I’m grateful to have something I can do that gives me some measure of control and actually seems to help.

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Food Allergy Article in NYT

Yesterday the NY Times published this fascinating and provocative piece about food allergies. I am glad to learn that the medical establishment is reviewing its protocols for food allergy testing, and especially, retesting.

I myself have had conflicting experiences with doctors–some who swear by the food allergy blood tests and others by the skin tests, which certainly left me feeling confused. My experience jives with what they say in this article, mainly that the ultimate test is whether or not I react to something.

That being said, however, when your symptoms are not bee-sting-full-body-throat-closure in nature, it can be more than tricky to determine what/if/how you’re reacting. It’s taken me ten years to get my rash to an even manageable state to be able to determine when I’m reacting. I’m still not 100% sure much of the time. As a result, I’ve had to accept that my experience with food allergies is a process rather than a series of lightening-bolt realizations. This article also helps me to hope that things that bother me now may not bother me so much in the future. I don’t anticipate eating a croissant ever again, but it would be very nice to enjoy a regular glass of wine someday. Dare to dream!

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You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…

Ooooooooohhhhhh…

See that girl, watch that scene, dig it, the dancing queen…

I sing as I jam. I am the Jamming Queen. Watch out for me at your next karaoke party.

Yes, I have been jamming. To Abba and to raspberries. Thus far, I have made raspberry jam and marionberry jam. Mmmm! Because it’s berry season here in Oregon, which is akin to strawberry season, which is to say folks got berries on the brain at the mo’. And there’s nothing that feels more like summer than sweating through a good jam session in the heat of July. Am I right, sisters?

I have the most fab cookbook called Putting It Up with Honey by Susan Geiskopf. I can’t even believe you can still get a copy, but you can! It’s from 1979 and pretty darn hippy-dippy. I picked it up at a yard sale years ago. But, wow! Jams, jellies, preserves, and chutneys, oh my, all made without sugar. Plus, some nice pickle recipes like watermelon rinds, okra, and mushrooms.

I’m going to explain a basic recipe, which is my somewhat improvised version of Geiskopf’s recipe. But you really should buy this book if you are:

a) into jamming

b) want to jam without sugar

c) want a good preserving reference book

MJ’s Riff on Geiskopf’s Raspberry Jam

4 c raspberries

2 c honey

Makes about 3 cups or 24 ounces of jam.

  1. Wash the berries. Put them in a saucepan and crush lightly. Bring to a boil and cook about 15 mins.
  2. Add the honey and bring back to boiling. Susan says to boil at 220F for 5 minutes, but I never quite got there myself. So I just cooked it down until it passed both the spoon and plate tests. (Spoon test is when the mixture falls off your wooden spoon into distinct droplets; plate test is when a dime-sized spot of the liquid dabbed onto a plate does not easily dribble when you tilt the plate.)
  3. Take off heat and whisk for 6 minutes.
  4. Pack into sterilized jars and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Here are the berries looking lovely in the pot:

Love that red!

Love that red!

Here they are boiled to oblivion yet charming in their little jars:

Me so cute!

We are so cute!

Feel the beat from the tambourine! Oh yeah!

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Sitting here this holiday reading Alice Medrich’s amazing new book, Pure Desserts. Man, oh, man. Sometimes it is painful to have these food problems. I love to read cookbooks, but it’s come to the point where maybe I shouldn’t. Mainstream cookbooks, that is.

My fantasy is that someone like Alice Medrich will get celiac disease and become allergic to eggs and dairy (not that I wish this on anyone, mind you). To deal with the situation, she focuses her amazing genius and talent on creating an incredible tome like Pure Dessert for the food-allergic. For example, Butter Sugar Flour Eggs morphs into Oil Agave Sorghum Egg-Replacer. Yes! That is my fantasy!

I’ve read a lot of the vegan and otherwise allergic cookbooks that attempt such recipes. But what I’m talking about is something more accomplished and inspired.

My all-time favorite GF cookbook is Healthy Gluten-free Cooking by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney. Close seconds are The Best Gluten-free Family Cookbook and 125 Best Gluten-free Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt. Even so, you have to pick and choose from these if you have more than just a gluten allergy, which most celiacs I know do.

I know this cookbook doesn’t exist and I’ll just have to continue experimenting and modifying recipes, which is fine. But it would be nice, in my lifetime, to sit down and crack open Oil Agave Sorghum Egg-Replacer. It would be nice to drool over the beautiful photographs and beat a path to the kitchen to make something decadent and delicious.

In the meantime, I have Alice Medrich’s sherbet recipes to experiment with this spring. Thankfully, I’m still doing fine with goat milk.

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I figure since it’s Chinese New Year I should write a little about my experience with the Chinese witch doctor, a.k.a. my acupuncturist/herbalist. Before you get your panties in a twist over my calling her a witch doctor, you should know that at this point, I think she’s probably a deity, and for whatever reasons, she’s chosen to hang out in Portland, Oregon a while to heal Western medical casualties like myself.

I also want to say that I am a science-(read Western)-minded person. I’ve often thought I should have become a doctor.

My story is that I’ve been sick for ten years with an overall immune response which manifests primarily as an all-over body rash, but has also included things like ear infections, conjunctivitis, arthritis-like symptoms, joint pain, mouth sores, constipation, outer-stratospheric PMS, and things I’ve probably just forgotten about by now. There were times when walking around the block was a challenge because my rash sores were so painful.

I think you get the picture, but just to be clear, when I say “rash” I mean a serious, sometimes debilitating rash, not a little poison-ivy-like skin disturbance or something that drives you crazy. I mean something that you want to kill yourself over.

From the beginning, I thought my rash was due to food allergies. But you know how smart doctors are. One in San Diego told me rashes weren’t related to food. I begged for a food allergy test and I was skin patch tested for the big eight. Not surprisingly, nothing was positive: guess what, your skin and the insides of your intestines are two very different places. I experimented with eliminating several different things. I fasted. I kept food diaries, but I just couldn’t figure it out.

Many, many, many doctors, cortisone creams, antibiotics, steroids, and years later, I was diagnosed with celiac disease (three years ago), specifically dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). Pretty nasty stuff. You don’t want it, trust me. Naturally, I stopped eating all gluten. I continued to stay away from soy and I went through dairy-free periods just to see what would happen.

The spring after the celiac diagnosis, I started getting these weird liquid-filled blisters on my hands. Strangely, I had never had any DH rash on my hands ever. So this sucked. The blisters were really itchy, but not as itchy as the DH rash. So I tried to ignore it. Also, DH can take a couple of years to fully clear out its evil little antibodies from the skin layers. I figured that was what was happening…just a little DH antibody clearing. No problem.

In the last year, this thing with my hands got completely out of control. This past fall I started to get all these weird new symptoms, like waking up totally achy and swollen, like I had arthritis. My hands were like balloons and the rash was gnarly. Deep cracks in my skin made it tough to type (a tragedy). I had the worst PMS and UTI ever in the history of the universe. Needless to say, I finally woke up to the idea that this was not just the DH clearing, it was something entirely different.

I went to the doctor and got food allergy blood tested. That came back showing reactions to dairy, eggs, garlic, and almonds. I stayed away from those. I stayed away from all the big eight. I stopped eating all grains and all sweets; every time I ate those I had UTI pain. I got tested for candida and it was negative. I continued the “candida diet” because it made me feel better (I’m still on it, more or less).

When the candida test came back negative, my Western doctor told me she just couldn’t help me anymore. Enter, Chinese witch doctor.

Me and needles don’t exactly get along. We have a long, sordid history together, the details of which I’ll spare you. The idea of getting poked all over with needles sounded like as much fun as a square dance in a chemical spill.

But I went to see the witch doctor and I’m so grateful I did. She has me drinking the nastiest poo-water known to mankind. She calls it “herb tea,” which I think is really quaint. I boil up these twigs, roots, and tree bark in water and choke back the resulting decoction three times a day. At first I went to see her once a week and got poked all over with needles, but now that I’m improving so much, I am seeing her every other week. I’ve seen her a total of five or six times now. She cleared my UTI and constipation right up, but the rash is more stubborn. I figure I’ve had this rash a long time so I have no expectation it’ll disappear overnight.

In the meantime, I’ve learned that my hand condition is called pompholyx or dyshidrotic eczema. This is a great site for sufferers, which also contains my all-time favorite (Western) medical rant. The person who runs this site is a genius because she or he figured out that putting 40-volume peroxide on the rash makes it feel a hell of a lot better and heals the wounds faster. I’ve been doing it only for a day now since I just recently discovered this site, but so far, so pretty darn good. If my fingers fall off as a result, that’ll be just as well.

The overall immune response may be pre-lupus or any other of the multiple immune disorders, though I never have had the face rash that is a dead ringer for lupus.

Or, of course, I just have too much heat in my spleen and lungs, and my First and Second Burners are all messed up.

Tonight I told the needle-poker that my rash first started on my right hip. She said:

“What was happening in your life then?”

Me: “My boyfriend had just died, suddenly and unexpectedly.”

Dr: “Hmmm. Your right hip is where your meridians are for your gall bladder, which is the site of all emotions. So something traumatic happening in your life like that…it would make sense” (okay, I’m paraphrasing because her English isn’t the greatest).

Me: “Yeah. I think that is what started all of this.”

What I know is that my Chinese witch doctor has the best bedside manner of any doctor I’ve ever seen. She actually strikes me as a real “healer,” someone who actually wants to heal people (vs. drive a fancy car and live in a big house). She seems to genuinely care about whether or not I’m improving and about my overall health. I spend at least an hour in her office each time I see her. I get a conversation about my health, noting any changes or improvements, my pulse taken, my tongue examined, and my body poked with needles, all for the bargain price of $100, which includes herbs to make the “tea.”

The best part is that I’m getting better.

Happy Chinese New Year, Doctor C. May you live long and prosper.

P.S. I found this great article about how to heal pompholyx with Chinese medicine. Scroll down on the page to the article by Mazin Al-Khafaji.

Chinese Herbs in Pot

The “tea.”

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I’m not sure how my body can have the nerve to ask me to give up dairy. Get out the violins, but how dare it? Have I not given up ten years of my life to food allergy insanity? Have I not given up gluten, soy, and sulfites for the past three years? And for what? To now suffer joint pain, swollen, rashy hands, and an ongoing, albeit mild, rash all over my body? So that now I have to try giving up dairy for starters? No! No! No! It’s unfair. Un-fucking-fair. Because it wasn’t bad enough to have been struck down in my prime—when I had finally begun freelancing as a restaurant critic for one of the better weeklies in town, or that I was finally earning enough money to afford a steady diet of the city’s best bread, pate, cheese, and crème brulee. Forget that I had never been to France and now have no reason to go. What’s the point? Everyone knows you only go to France to eat. I can hear people speaking French on television or buy some Pimsleur CDs. And I just don’t want to be one of the Special People. One of the people you meet at parties that rattle off like a train schedule all the things they’re allergic to until you’re wondering if they’re making it up and living off tree bark and native snails. I recently overheard a list that went something like this: wheat, chocolate, eggs, corn, MSG, preservatives, caffeine, beef, sugar, alcohol, dairy, vinegars, citrus, fish, and most nuts. And don’t get her started on “cross-reactivity.” Hell, no, I won’t. In fact, she’d just had pine nuts that very morning and she’d had a migraine ever since. As she talked she had a maniacal gleam in her eye as if there were a part of her that enjoyed the shock value, the sacrifice, the glory. That is not what I want to be.

I want to be M.F.K. Fisher or Julia Child, enjoying all of Mother Nature’s bounty, in moderation, with intelligent, well-mannered friends discussing art, beauty, love, and philosophy whilst in warm and tastefully decorated environs. Preferably overlooking a lake. In Europe. Instead, I’m on this path to the convent of Our Lady of Food Sacrifice and Virtue, where I’ll be digging snails and cultivating the tree bark. But it won’t be a choice I’ve made myself, like a real nun. It will be this body-imposed prison-of-being that shackles me like some poor motherfucker on a chain gang. Even as I write this my knuckles swell and little blisters bubble to the surface. And didn’t I already go through this once, no, several times? Aren’t we done with this yet? What will there be left for me to eat?

And doesn’t the universe understand that I don’t want to lose weight? That I don’t want to take up less space in the world? And that you can’t maintain your weight on cabbage and Udo’s Oil Blend? I thought the Universe was all-knowing? What is my brain going to do without all this food? It’s going to shrivel up like bad fruit, neglected and left to rot. There won’t be anything feeding the damn thing. It’ll be like that pumpkin the neighbors left on their porch through November until it fell in on itself, its destroyed face and defeated, sad lump with one eye still peeking up at the sky like a melting wicked witch. Yes, that will be my brain. Not on drugs, and not on food.

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