Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Next Steps

So, clearly the next thing to do on the quest for health is to examine our diet. We've been talking about this since Saturday, trying to figure out what is the best thing.

After much research, here are our options (alone or in combination): dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, macrobiotic.

(disclaimer: I admit that I go between being sort of anything-goes and rather-strict. In any case, I do try very hard to use/eat real ingredients -- if I'm going to use butter, I'm going to use butter, you know what I mean? -- however, I'm also totally on-board with a gradual shift towards any of these diets/philosophies, keeping in mind that it's for Terri's -- and my -- health)

We already do the first three on and off. We have a hard time giving up dairy and wheat. And sugar. But I really feel like we'd both feel SO much better without those three things. I hear lots of good things about macrobiotic, but that involves learning lots of stuff. However, we're pretty good at learning stuff, so we're definitely investigating. Here are some thoughts on each:

Dairy-free: I can easily do this. Well, relatively easily. I do like cheese. And butter. But I'm fine with Earth Balance and I can do without cheese (I guess...). I also like ice cream, but I recently saw some coconut-milk 'ice cream' that looked pretty good. I think this is probably the easiest of all the options. Terri likes her milk, but I think we could wean her off that. We recently discovered coconut milk in a carton, like soy milk. It's pretty good, actually. Kind of expensive, but would be fine for occasional use. We're also fine with soy or rice milk. Lots of CFS folks are dairy-free and I know it's a pretty common thing to do to try and remedy GI distress and also as an energy-booster.

Gluten-free: I wouldn't even really consider this except for all the talk in the CFS community that this helps many people with their GI distress. Also, I suspect that even though all the tests I've had never indicate any problem with wheat or gluten, that wheat/gluten has a bad effect on my stomach. I try to stay away from it (baking is the exception) usually and I feel good without bread/crackers/etc. We have no idea how this would affect Terri, since she hasn't tried it yet. However, lots of people say this has made a difference to them, so it's worth thinking about. I know that an actual gluten-free diet is pretty challenging, so this one might take some easing into or maybe we just try for a most-0f-the-time kind of solution.

Vegan: So if we go dairy-free, we'd pretty much be vegan. I do use eggs for baking but I know there are easy fixes for that. I rarely use honey, etc. I think this would actually be pretty easy for us, if we could figure out the dairy part. I like veganism for eating and as a lifestyle (choosing products not made at any animals' expense), but it would take awhile to figure all that out. However, like I said, if we do go dairy-free, it's just a few small steps to go vegan, so we'll think about that. What's the health gain, aside from the dairy-free? Actually, I'm not sure, except that it's good for the critters, and we like that.

Macrobiotic: This is a dairy-free diet, but not necessarily gluten-free nor vegan. However, it is pretty much sugar/processed/additive/etc. -free, and that's good news for CFS people. It's also one of those miracle-diets where people have amazing stories of health recoveries when they follow this diet. I know this would take some learning to get all the yin/yang balancing stuff, and we'd have to decide how to tailor the diet to us (apparently, it depends on where you live since most of the food is supposed to be local) and fiddle with it so that we like it, but I think actually we'd do fine on this. We like grains and veggies, and I've always wanted to try it. I got a couple of books from the library and my mouth was actually watering reading the recipes, so I think that's a good sign. I think we would feel good on this as long as we got enough protein from tofu, etc. I'm not opposed to fish every once in awhile, although I'm incredibly picky about fish and generally do not like it unless it's ultra-fresh and someone else cooks it. However, I'm looking at all the options.

So, clearly all of these could work in tandem in some sort of configuration. We're going to keep investigating. Terri is gearing up to try and go dairy-free (with the possible exception of milk in her tea in the morning, which she loves).

Changing our diet and getting rid of chemicals in our home will be a long process, but I think we'll have good payoff. I have a feeling we'll just sort of try all four of these things and find out what works best for us. I always like experimenting with food, so I'm happy to fiddle around with all this. Plus: new ingredients! Fun!


Tammie said...

this is interesting stuff. so much of this involves big lifestyle changes. i do a lot of these on and off too but can never make the long term commitment.

ive toyed with the idea of going gluten free, just to see if it would have any effect on the occasional tummy issues i have, but it seems difficult and so many of the gluten free foods are much more expensive than their gluten-y counterparts.

does macrobiotc eating involve a lot of raw foods? is it the same as a raw diet or are they two different things?

good luck with all of this...i cant wait to see what finally works for you both.

Mimi Lenox said...

The diet thing is tricky. I long ago stopped eating red meat and substituted salmon. I totally gave up sugar and carbs this summer (except for the occasional ounce of cola to ward off migraines). I've lost weight with little effort and feel much better. One step at a time. Dairy is next. I know the coffee creamer will never go (ha!) but I seriously love cheese. That will be a battle.
I admire your tenacity!

Daphne said...

I think we're going to experiment with macrobiotic. It involves going dairy-free, which I think is a good idea in any case. The first step is basically just adding whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc.). This is easy; we already eat lots of these. It's just a matter of making it an every-day thing. Then, once we're comfortable with that, we work on other stuff. I'll post updates.

Macro doesn't involve lots of raw foods -- it's mostly *whole* foods. It's a balancing diet. Basically lots of whole grains and veggies, with some sea vegetables and fish thrown in. Desserts are okay. Dairy and white sugar are to be avoided. I was reading a lot about it yesterday and I actually think it's right up my alley.

Matt said...

I think we've talked about it before, but good reads on this are Michael Pollon's books "Omnivore's Dilema" and "In Defense of Food". The first investigates it more, the second gives some simple rules and explanations.
As far as why some people react to wheat and other foods (legumes being a big one), a good author/researcher on the subject is Loren Cordain. I've read two of his Paleo books, and I liked the science behind it, not necessarily the diet book part. But it does make a lot of sense about dietary questions. Lately I've become much more leery of soy products, as most of them are just that: products. One of the big parts of cleaning up any diet is leaving out more processed foods, and even though soy has a rep as a health food (deserved or undeserved), it's usually used in the processed form. Tofu may be an exception, since it's fermented soy, but it is still different from it's original state. Just some thoughts.

Daphne said...

Matt: I agree. Also, I was thinking last night that if we had our own chickens, I would definitely use those eggs. And if I had a goat, I would make my own goats-milk cheese. I don't have any problem with that.

I think soy milk in cartons is almost as gross as milk. Somehow rice milk seems okay. I might investigate making our own. Or almond milk.

Mimi: cheese is a hard one! I figure if it's just a treat, then it's fine. I like the idea of extremity, but mostly I like moderation.

Kate said...

Oh, I definitely want to read Michael Pollan's books. I'm on a waitlist.

I admire what goes in to adhering to each of these diets, I don't think I could do it. You'll have to keep us updated on how it's going.

And can you keep chickens? It's relatively common here, even in the city. I have friends who have three chickens who just started producing, and they are in egg-heaven. I think their eventual plan is to try to produce as much of their food at home as possible, which I admire.

teabird said...

I used to eat at a macrobiotic restaurant in the East Village, and I can tell you that the food was delicious, and never made me sick. Considering my digestion, that's HUGE. It was a traditional macro place - cooking as if it were in Japan - but it didn't matter.

I'll be so interested to see what you discover and how you feel!

Stefanie said...

Good luck with your dietary changes! You know I am all for vegan :) Since you like cheese you will be craving it for a while. James had that problem way back when. But now the only thing we miss is the texture really. And we have found different kinds of "cheese" you can make from nuts, one a nacho cheese and the other one that is sort of I'm not sure what, cottage cheese I guess only a little thicker (I know cottage cheese isn't really cheese but that's the only thing I could think of). It's spicy and great dolloped on pizza.

As for ice cream, if you ever see Oatscream, give it a try especially if you can get it soft serve.