Elimination Diet Update

Hello eveyone! Memorial Day Weekend is always an interesting holiday. It signals the beginning of summer and grilling out and pool parties, but it’s also a day of remembering those who have bravely served our country. I’m sending a lot of love and thanks to those who are presently serving and those who have served in our military (including some members of my own family). We wouldn’t be here without you – thank you for your bravery and your service. You deserve a lot more than a weekend holiday!!

I am incredibly lucky to spend Memorial Day weekend with a great group of friends. We rent a house on Martha’s Vineyard and get to unplug and enjoy each other’s company – biking, grilling, shopping, playing games and going to the beach – we really get to have a weekend filled with great times and make great memories. I’m incredibly grateful that these people are in my life, and many of them helped me through the hardship during my melanoma diagnosis. They are truly my New England family and I love them to pieces!

Thank you to all the members of our armed forces for your dedication and bravery

And we all had a good time. A little TOO good of a time, you might say. So good that my husband and I are definitely feeling the repercussions. There is nothing quite like a weekend filled with lots of grilling and eating out to make you think about your diet choices. My husband has been sooooo incredibly good about watching what he eats to help with his reflux, but he TOTALLY fell off the wagon this weekend.  It’s so hard to stay vigilant with lifestyle changes when you’re surrounded by lots and lots of things that remind you of how you used to live. My husband is Italian, so food is a big weakness for him (and for me!)

So I thought I’d do a follow-up to my elimination diet posts (you can see the first post here, my week one post here, and my week two post here).

To my amazement, he’s COMPLETELY off of any reflux medication.  This is a HUGE step – he was previously on 2 prescription “Prilosec” pills a day. If he stays true to his diet, then he doesn’t reflux at all – his coughing was drastically reduced to the point that he and I would both forget that he had acid reflux.

And doing this diet helped us to realize that he has 2 sign of reflux – one is the coughing that we had previously noticed, but another was burping. Yup, that’s right – when he ate something that made him burp, sure enough the next day he’d be coughing. And this sounds strange at first, but it actually makes sense – when you burb, the air brings up little molecules of your stomach contents, which is mostly acid.

So what made him burp? Here’s a list of the things that we found were triggers:

1 – GARLIC

2 – Carbonated drinks (club soda, beer)

3 – Yeast

Garlic was by far the worst offender. I had never even thought of this before going on the diet, and I’m a HUGE garlic fan, so I would add it to meals ALL THE TIME and not even realize that I was the one CAUSING his reflux!!!! How awful, right?! It was as if I was slowly killing my husband like a “Forensic Files” episode but I didn’t even know it!! Needless to say, I quickly cut out the garlic from my recipes and his coughing became less noticeable immediately.

No more garlic for us!

Carbonated drinks completely makes sense, but what about yeast? That was a strange one, and we discovered it due to process of elimination. I had used a store-bought chicken broth for soups and a chicken dish and he was burping up a storm. The only new ingredient in the broth was “autolyzed yeast extract”. BINGO! I don’t understand why, but I don’t need to – just knowing his triggers is what this whole elimination diet was all about.

Other things we noticed that also increased his coughing, and we think this is likely due to their highly acidic content:

1 – White wine (well really, any wine, but white was much more noticeable than red)

2 – Pasta Sauce

3 – Canned tuna

4 – Pickles and olives

5 – Wine and cheese nights. EVERTYHING in the typical “wine and cheese” appetizer evening made for a rough next few days. Seriously – who doesn’t live for wine and cheese?!? I love these nights, but unfortunately we’ll have to tone it down a bit.

All in all, the diet was COMPLETELY worth our time and all that home-cooking energy. It was a couple months all-in, which seemed like forever at first, but the time flew by rather quickly once we got used to the routine. We both learned so much about what triggers his reflux and what to avoid. I highly recommend that everyone with any types of food sensitivities take the time to do an elimination diet – what have you got to lose? It’s only a couple months of your time and it can improve your quality of life dramatically.

Take control of your life – and your gut – and go for it!

Week 2 on the Elimination Diet

Has it really already been 14 days?!  Wow I can’t believe it! The past 2 weeks have only been sliiiiightly torturous.

OK, OK, really, it hasn’t been bad at all! I promise!! It’s actually gotten much easier as time has gone by. The cravings have lessened and it seems easier to “throw” a meal together. I’m not as anxious about how the meal will turn out – having a select few foods makes it easier to master what works best at mealtime. My husband and I haven’t gone to bed hungry once in the past 2 weeks.

And to top it off, he’s lost another 2 pounds and is coughing much less!! He’s down to ONE Prilosec every other day and only coughing about once a day! A HUGE improvement for his coughing. At first, he was skeptical and thought it was a fluke. But 2 weeks later and consistently coughing less has convinced him this is a step towards FINALLY finding the dietary culprit.

I’m not sure how or why, but I think simplifying mealtime to focus on nutrition rather than purely about taste makes it easier to me. There’s much less of a work up throughout the day to create something delicious at dinnertime. My husband no longer asks about dinner while eating his breakfast (his usual MO) and I rarely even think about dinner until close to 6pm. Being this restrictive is really just simplifying.

The week 2 meal planner and shopping list

And not just simplifying the mealtime routine. It simplifies my grocery shopping, too. I no longer wander the aisles, wondering if I have this or that in the cupboard to make something that I haven’t done in a few weeks. Since I use the same things every day, I know what I need and how much. Decision making has become MUCH easier for shopping and meal planning.

It also simplifies the daily routine. Breakfast is no longer a struggle of “what do I feel like today?” I have 3 choices – chia seed pudding, coconut rice porridge, or sweet potato hash with turkey sausage. Having only 3 things really makes mornings so much easier!!

And to make YOUR lives easier, here are 3 recipes to help you get through your own elimination diet.

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Chia Seed Pudding

I found this recipe online at PopSugar Fitness a while ago, and dug it back up for this diet. It’s great for a fast on-the-go breakfast. You can find the recipe here.

 

Breakfast Maple Sage Turkey Sausage

I created this one because every kind of breakfast meat was FILLED with preservatives and icky stuff. I’ll definitely use this recipe FAR beyond the elimination diet. The “sausage” is easy to make, tasty, and once cooked keeps well in the fridge. I usually make a batch at the beginning of the week – they usually get eaten within a few days!

1 lb ground turkey

10 fresh sage leaves – chopped

2 T maple syrup

1 T “Jane’s crazy mixed up” seasonings (or your own mix of salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders, and celery salt)

1 T poultry seasoning

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Mixture will be slightly sticky (due to the maple syrup). Form small amounts into ‘links’ by rubbing turkey between hands. Cook links in batches in non-stick pan, turning to brown on all sides. Refrigerates well for about 5 days. Incredibly tasty when served with…

Maple Sage Turkey ‘Sausage’
Yummmmmmy!

 

Sweet Potato Hash

A super easy recipe that takes less than 10 minutes to cook in the morning. I chop all the ingredients at the beginning of the week and refrigerate in separate containers. I also pre-cook the mushrooms (2 packages of sliced white mushrooms) in olive oil at the beginning of the week so I can use them for breakfast or dinner whenever I need them. Super tasty and filling!

1 T coconut oil

1 C shredded sweet potato

2 T chopped onions

¼ C cooked mushrooms

Melt the coconut oil in a pan on medium setting and add onions. Stir until covered in oil and beginning to brown. Add sweet potato and mix in with onions. Allow sweet potato to brown slightly, stirring occasionally. Add in mushrooms, stir all hash ingredients together and allow sweet potatoes to brown. Serve once sweet potatoes are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes in total.

 

Hope you enjoy the recipes! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Week 1 of the Elimination Diet

We’re almost through the first week on the elimination diet, and we’ve survived! Using lots of creativity and LOTS of prep, I think I’ve also made this week as easy (and belly-filling) as possible.

I really thought the first week would be filled with random cravings and terrible hunger pangs to make me want to stray. I’ve always found it hard to say ‘NO’ to cheese and bread. And tomatoes. And chocolate. But I’m surprised to say that the only thing I’ve REALLY craved is a glass of wine with dinner. I’m sure my liver could use a little detox, so I’m OK with holding out for another couple weeks. 🙂

So far, the absolute hardest thing about the elimination diet is finding food while traveling. I’ve learned that I can ‘pack’ a breakfast to take with me – a chia seed and powdered coconut milk premixed in a jar that I can carry onto a plane. The night I arrive at my destination, simply add water and refrigerate and voila! Chia seed pudding! Most hotels also have fruit in their breakfast buffet, so add in fruit for a protein and fiber filled breakfast that’s pretty darn tasty.

Chia seed pudding after soaking overnight

But lunch and dinner are difficult to find on the road. I can’t carry food into the OR with me…and most foods on the list need to be refrigerated. So I’m looking into the best options for me while traveling and I’ll report back.

And my husband is happy to report that in the first week, he’s lost 4 pounds! I never even THOUGHT about weight loss with this diet – I was much more concerned with getting his acid reflux under control. His weight tends to fluctuate normally, but he’s never lost 4 pounds that easily in 1 week before. All these good-for-you fruits and veggies apparently are helping his waistline AND his esophagus.

As for the MOST IMPORTANT symptom that we’re hoping to help…his cough…I’m super excited to report that it HAS decreased in number per day and intensity!! When we started the elimination diet, he was on Prilosec twice per day. He’s down to 1 per day in the morning and we will take it to 1 every other day as of tomorrow.

Weaning these medications can actually cause even MORE acid production, so we have to take it slowly in order to let his body adjust. I’m hoping he’s completely weaned from the meds with no cough by the time we start to work foods back into the list.

I want to warn you that I’m not being AS strict as some lists out there. Since we’re doing this for acid reflux rather than a food allergy, I’m allowing some seeds and nuts (specifically chia and flax seeds and almonds) and some vinegars (apple cider and balsamic) as well as maple syrup. I’m also allowing green tea because – really – green tea is nothing but good for you!!! I know that some studies show that caffeine may cause reflux, but really, I just KNOW that no matter WHAT we do, my husband will never give up caffeine. So honestly, cutting the caffeine down to just green tea is practically like cutting it out 😉

Download this cute meal planner here

I’ve attached our meal plan for the week with the shopping list. Most meals take less than 30 minutes to cook (not the roasted chicken, obviously, but the leftovers are well worth it!) I’m hoping to make a meal planner involving less chicken next week because I think we’re both about chickened out this week. And I’m writing up some of my favorite recipes from the week – so stay tuned!

The Elimination Diet

I HATE the word “diet”. Nothing is worse than that word. Saying diet is voicing a symbol of restriction – just the sound of it makes me cringe with yearning for a plateful of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. It makes me think of heroin-chick models of the 90s who need to eat a burger STAT. Nothing good can come of a diet….right?!

And yet, I’m doing it. I’m going on a DIET.

OK ok so before I whip myself with a wet noodle, I’ll explain myself.

My husband has been battling acid reflux for the past many years. His only symptom is a chronic cough. His voice sounds like he’d been out partying the night before, but never once has he have the feeling of heartburn. His symptoms never went away…the catch in his throat, the hoarseness, the coughing…was it a chronic cold? Pneumonia? Lung cancer? What could it possibly be??

Doctor after doctor, medication after medication and finally a GI doc did a scope and we had a diagnosis. He found that his esophagus was “like a Florida sunset” – red, inflamed, and angry due to constant acid reflux. This reflux was going allllllll the way up his esophagus to his vocal cords and causing his chronic cough.

Silent symptoms of Acid Reflux. Courtesy of: http://www.doctoroz.com/article/silent-reflux-epidemic

So we tried the classic medication for reflux. A proton pump inhibitor (aka PPI – something similar to Prilosec) twice a day. Everyday. For the rest of his life.

And it worked!! But we didn’t like this as a long term solution. The doctor suggested he take calcium supplements as a PPI can inhibit your absorption of calcium. We figured this CAN’T be good in the long run. So we tried to ween him after a few months.

But the cough came back.

So we tried to take out the highly acidic foods from his diet.

And the cough came back.

And then we tried a glycemic index diet that was described in a book titled Heartburn: Fast Tract Digestion by Norman Robillard.

And the cough came back.

Back to the point where my husband is on the pills again twice a day. It progressed to the point where it is embarrassing to be with him coughing all the time. People look at him as though he’s contagious in public places.

So I looked into the most drastic thing we could do diet-wise where we could potentially find the culprit foods. An elimination diet fits the bill.

Soooooo what the heck IS an elimination diet??  It’s just that – you eliminate ANY potential allergen or irritation causing food for a few weeks and slowly work in other foods to see what’s causing the symptoms.  Foods such as: gluten, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, beef, alcohol, caffeine, citrus, legumes/beans/peanuts, nightshade vegetables, and anything processed. It sounds pretty simple in concept, but in reality?

courtesy of: https://wholelifenutrition.net/articles/elimination-diet/free-elimination-diet-resources

What the heck do you eat???

In a lot of ways, this is probably the simplest diet you could ask for. Chicken, rice, and veggies are going to be staples for the next few weeks. But eating the same thing every day in this household is NOT an option.

So I’m going to have to get creative with recipes and finding ways to keep the husband’s belly happy throughout this journey – there has already been one breakdown (OK I admit it was me having a fit when I realized that I couldn’t have eggs for breakfast and there are VERY limited options in the cereal aisle!)  I’m sure there will be plenty more to come.

I know this won’t be easy. But I’m hoping it’ll be worth it in the end. If this is what it takes to find out the culprit of my husband’s reflux, then I’m there 100%. I want him to be happy and healthy, and I’ll do anything I can to get him there.

Keep following for recipes and grocery lists – coming soon!