If you have ever been tested for food sensitivities or allergies, you know the test results can be life changing. At first glance, those changes can appear to be cons when you think about all of the things you can no longer eat. But in the long run, the changes that can occur have a positive affect on your overall health that far outweighs any food you have to eliminate.
A couple of months ago, I urged my husband to get tested for any possible food sensitivities. Over the past few years there have been a couple occasions where he had developed hives during and after eating. Some of his other symptoms included fatigue and joint pain. Our naturopath also decided to do other testing as well to give us the big picture of what was going on in his body. I knew this was something we needed to look into, but I also feared the results. My gut knew there were changes ahead, I just didn't know to what capacity. While chit chatting with a friend, I remember telling her I would die if he couldn't have nuts, coconut, or eggs. We use a lot of those things so it would definitely pose a challenge in the kitchen.
Result day came and I just had to be there by my husband's side, eager to get to the bottom line. While I can say I have definitely seen worse results, there were a few things on his list of items to avoid that did not make me happy. If you are unfamiliar with the food testing process and results, basically your blood is tested to see how certain antibodies react to a variety of foods. The results are then broken down into different reaction classes starting with zero and going up to reaction class six. The higher the number, the stronger the reaction. A few of my friends have had this testing done and their doctors have recommended eliminating any food with a reaction class of three or higher. Our naturopath, on the other hand, went hard core and wanted my husband to eliminate anything that showed a reaction. So that meant eliminating foods in reaction classes 1-6. Some of these food items are easy to avoid and go without. But others have made life challenging, especially when it comes to traveling. Our family frequently travels for both business and pleasure, so this was an issue we needed to figure out quickly.
A few big hitters that my husband needs to avoid are eggs, almonds, and cane sugar. I don't use cane sugar in my cooking or baking, so this really isn't an issue at home, but holy cow cane sugar is hidden in everything! That is especially true of processed foods, but sometimes that is not the case. Restaurants often add cane sugar into their cooking. So you really need to know your ingredients and ask a lot of questions.
His reactions were as follows:
Class 1- egg yolks (chicken)
Class 2- amaranth
Class 3- egg white (chicken)
Class 4- none
Class 5- almonds (wahhh!!!)
Class 6- none
So as you can see, the list isn't too terribly long, just a handful of things that will no doubt make life difficult. His other blood work results showed some issues that needed to be addressed and our naturopath felt that eliminating these foods should produce improvement with those problem areas. So we started his 6 week elimination diet and I immediately felt overwhelmed. As I went on a long walk with a friend to vent my stresses, she was quick to encourage and remind me to focus on what he can have, not what he can't have. It was really good advice that a needed to hear.
At home, most of this was an easy fix. We swapped out his chicken eggs for duck eggs. Avoiding almonds has been a bummer because I use almond flour so much. But at least he could have coconut flour. I have also started using more buckwheat, teff, and oat flour. No blueberries made me sad, but now we use more raspberries and blackberries. The real challenge though is traveling.
Anything that is packaged is most likely off limits. You really have to research and read labels. Soy, sugar, and eggs seem to be everywhere! The best thing to do is prepare your own travel snacks and pack extra in case your are unable to find adequate food options. Our first thought was to find a good protein type bar. Go Macro provided us with two options. Cashew Butter and Cashew Caramel fit his guidelines. One of the ingredients is brown rice syrup. I normally don't use brown rice syrup, but in this case, we needed to make an exception. Go Macro offers a simple list of nutrient rich ingredients. They produce a variety of other bars so browse their website for other options.
Another simple bar that works for him is Cashew Cookie Larabar. It has only two ingredients: cashews and dates. They are delicious bars that are great for traveling as well. My personal favorite is their organic superfood flavor of turmeric, ginger, and beet. Of course this is off limits to my husband due to the almonds, but it's my go-to. So if you can have almonds, check it out!
Amazing Grass is a whole food supplement that comes in single serving packets that easily mix well with water, juice, or beverage of your choice. It's a good option for getting some necessary nutrients in a fast and convenient way. Again, read the labels for ingredients you need to avoid. My husband can't have all of the flavors, but there are a few he enjoys while traveling.
As you know, I am big on turmeric. An easy option to get turmeric in our diet while away from home is from these single serving packets by Mega Food. This Daily Turmeric Nutrient Booster can easily be mixed into water, juice, or smoothies. Due to the cranberry and blueberry extracts, these are off limits to my husband. He takes a turmeric supplement instead. Mega Food has several other products to explore. They cater to a variety of needs and only use non-GMO ingredients.
We also like to travel with Artisana single serving squeeze packets. You can get a boost of protein from just one packet. Stir it in a smoothie, put it on top of your morning oatmeal, spread it on a muffin or toast, or eat it right out of the packet!
We always pack some homemade granola and a variety of nuts to take along. My husband loves pistachios! Thank goodness that was not on the list! So I mix up some cashews and pistachios for an easy travel snack. Eat them raw or roasted. We also take a container of homemade granola with us. You can eat it by the handful and it provides you with a satisfyingly crunchy snack. Or sprinkle it on some fresh fruit or yogurt for a trusted add-in to your morning breakfast. If nuts are off limits to you, make a mixture of seeds and add a little dried fruit and coconut in there to bring out a variety of flavor and texture.
I pack all of these items in a lightweight BPA free plastic container so things don't get smashed. Keep a few items on you during your flight or drive for easy snacking. This method provides is with a "food survival kit" should you be in a place where there are no other safe options. This is especially helpful with international travel. Of course there are numerous other options out there but these are some of our favorites.
Prior to arriving at your destination, do your homework on restaurants in the area. Chances are you will have pretty good luck finding several restaurants that cater to people with food allergies or sensitivities. If you are struggling with this, just remember to stick to whole food choices. When it doubt, omit any sauces offered with your meal. View your menu as a list of ingredients rather than feeling limited to the description offered. For example, if fish is on the menu with a miso-glaze sauce, you know you can't have the miso glaze due to the soy and sugar. So request that the fish be simply grilled or pan seared to your liking and omit the sauce. If you see vegetables on the menu, but they are prepared in a way you know won't work for you, request a plate of plain steamed vegetables. Most restaurants will be more than happy to work with you on this so don't be afraid to speak up.
Many condiments should be avoided or carefully investigated for their ingredients. Since my husband can't have sugar, he needs to avoid many sauces. As a result, I make several of our own at home, but we also have been fortunate enough to find some great alternatives. One meal in particular has been a bit challenging while traveling and that is breakfast. Eggs are in everything! And most restaurants don't use duck eggs. Fortunately he can eat oats so steel cut oats are a great option. Buckwheat groats are good as well, just a little tougher to come across. Chia pudding works in a pinch. If need be, you can even buy your ingredients and make some chia pudding in your hotel room. Just store it in your mini fridge the night before and breakfast is ready in the morning. Vegetables and breakfast meats are great options for him so we try to look for those possibilities.
Is this a lot of work? Yes it is! But it is totally worth it. My husband went back to our naturopath a couple of weeks ago to get some blood work re-tested after his 6 week elimination. To our surprise, within just 6 weeks, his numbers had already made a huge improvement! So what does this mean? The elimination is working. His body is responding better to what he is eating and therefore allowing his body to function in a more healthy and optimal way. The plan now is to continue on with the elimination ad get re-tested again in another 6 weeks. It has been so encouraging to see the hard work and discipline pay off!