Yep, posts have been rather sparse lately. What have we been up to? Nothing. Really. OK, not really. We've been healing our backs, going through the steps of an elimination meal plan (more on that in a sec), and sticking pretty close to home.
Mr. Cut Off's back is doing much, much better. His sciatic pain has subsided, so he's catching up on some of his outdoor chores - like "making wood" with Buddy Marty. Actually, God made the wood; they're just slicing it up to burn this winter. They've been playing around with our new wood splitter. I say "playing," because I suspect that's exactly what they're doing. Boys and their toys, you know! Mr. Cut Off does assure me they always put "safety first." To reward themselves for all their hard work, they did a little fishing on Thursday and Friday. The original plan was to do much more of that this year, so I'm glad they're getting out on the water a bit. Mr. Cut Off has also been picking thimbleberries - for jam - and he's been throwing out some not-so-subtle hints about wanting a pie at some point. Thimbleberries freeze well, so that's all I'm doing with them right now. Why?
Well, my back isn't up to standing for hours on end in the kitchen while whipping up a big batch of jam yet, and we're working our way through a meal plan that doesn't allow thimbleberry jam or thimbleberry pie on our menu. The purpose of this meal plan? We both have osteoarthritis in various parts of our bodies - including our backs. I also have migraines and some known food allergies, sensitivities, and/or intolerances. Our doctor suggested this meal plan to see if we can figure out if anything we're eating could be contributing to my headaches and our pain. I've kept food journals in the past and have a handle on many of my migraine food triggers, but we decided to give this elimination meal plan a try. Why not, right? Maybe it can help.
The plan (Elimination Diet ©2016 The Institute for Functional Medicine) eliminates many foods that the average person eats most often including wheat and other gluten-containing grains, dairy, refined and artificial sweeteners, corn, beef, pork, eggs and soy - NONE of those things for 3 weeks.
Foods that contain pro-inflammatory chemicals (fast foods and processed foods) are also avoided.
Since I already know that citrus can sometimes give me a migraine, I'm also avoiding citrus fruits; and my doctor suggested I go light on tomatoes and other nightshade vegetables.
Oh, and did I mention eliminating caffeine? That's the really, really, really tough one! First we drink coffee. Then we do things. That's how we roll! Talk about destroying our morning routine! Ugh. (In full disclosure, Mr. Cut Off is cheating a little with his coffee, but he has cut back.)
Our doctor suggested 8 servings of protein per day (fish, wild game, poultry), and 7-10 servings of vegetables (non-starchy) per day - organic preferred - GMO free.
She also included more limited servings of legumes, dairy alternatives (like unsweetened almond milk), nuts & seeds (unsweetened and unsalted - no peanuts), fats & oils (no butter, just EVOO & weird ones), starchy vegetables, fruits (unsweetened), and gluten-free grains.
After 3 weeks, we slowly begin to reintroduce foods back onto the menu - one food at a time for 2 days - while sticking with the rest of the meal plan - in an attempt to see if we have any negative effects. After healing our guts (digestive system), the goal is to successfully reintroduce a large variety of foods to make sure our bodies get all the essential nutrients. Yes, this meal plan is supposed to help digestive issues.
We started the meal plan on Monday, August 14, so we've now started our 3rd week. What do we know so far?
- After looking over the meal plan, I had to spend time on the Internet doing some research before I could plan our menu. How much boneless, skinless chicken is 30 grams? How about 175 grams of melon? Exactly what is jicama? How about ghee? Teff? Forgive me, but I was a southern Wisconsin dairy farm girl for the first 12 years of my life. Mr. Cut Off and I don't have sophisticated palates.
- After studying the acceptable foods, I marked which foods we would actually eat - or could afford. (Have you priced halibut lately? Outrageous!) I then typed out an entire menu with our daily breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner options. We're finding it easier if we stick to the exact same breakfast, lunch and snacks every day. Our dinners vary a bit depending on which protein and vegetables we desire. We always include a salad, as it's a way to get a lot of vegetables at once.
- It was necessary to shop before we started the plan - using our menu to make the shopping list. Although we typically eat a salad with our dinner most evenings, and our salads are normally quite colorful with a variety of vegetables, we don't keep the larger quantity of fresh vegetables on hand that this plan requires. (Frozen vegetables and fruits are sometimes acceptable. Check the label for added sugar or other ingredients.) We also don't live in or near a big city with a health food store a few blocks away. We retired to the boondocks on purpose and don't want to drive to the store every other day. It's just too far away. Our normal practice has been to limit our main grocery shopping to about once a month. When we're in town on Sundays, we stock up on perishables. OK, we're making that work, but the Sunday shopping cart got a LOT more crowded.
- Meal prep and snack prep takes time and effort. Cutting up vegetables for several nights at one time helps. Since we normally have a salad with our dinner anyway, I'm used to doing that. However, I knew we'd probably skip our snacks if I didn't prep those ahead of time. Most of our snacks are vegetables and nuts. We purchased those little snack size ziplock bags (about half the size of a sandwich bag) and add a serving size of vegetables or nuts to one bag (i.e. 6 almonds = one serving. 5 baby carrots = one serving.).
- Salad dressing. Mr. Cut Off is a ranch man; I'm mostly balsamic vinaigrette (or french in restaurants without BV). Try to find a bottled salad dressing without gluten, dairy or soy. Not real easy. Find one that meets those requirements that doesn't make you gag? And gag again. And again. Impossible! And at almost $5 a bottle! Even my favorite gluten-free balsamic vinaigrette has soy. Major bummer. We forked out those big bucks for an organic ranch dressing for him and an organic balsamic vinaigrette for me. No bad stuff. No calories. No flavor. To be fair, there was flavor. It just wasn't good. At all! Mine was sooooo completely awful that Mr. Cut Off actually tossed it into the garbage when I wasn't looking. He knows how I hate to waste food and knew I would force myself to ingest it. Yeah, he felt sorry for me. Wasn't that sweet? Better just to stick to a little EVOO and a little vinegar - and I do mean "a little" - as in sparingly. Not nearly as much fun as our usual salads.
- During the first week, we had a huge salad every night that also included our protein and legumes. Even though we're salad lovers, that got real tedious - real fast. Remember, we can't use our favorite dressings, and "sparingly" meant a pretty dry salad when it was so large. We changed that up the second week to a smaller salad with our protein, legumes, and extra fresh steamed or frozen vegetables on the side. We like that better - although we sometimes get adventurous and put our legumes back on our salads.
- It's important to eat throughout the day - breakfast, lunch & dinner + snacks. That's also a hard one for us, as we're normally lunch skippers; but we're committed to putting in the effort and disciplining ourselves to do it.
- Eating out is not suggested. It would be hard to find anything to eat at our area restaurants. Honestly, why torture yourself by smelling and looking at the food you'd rather be eating at all the other tables?
- We did feel a little lightheaded at times during the first 3-4 days, and Mr. Cut Off also felt a bit nauseous. Since he's quite active, we upped his fruit from 2 servings per day to 3. That's allowed, as it's important to eat enough calories for energy and nutrition.
- You know how professional chefs advocate searing your meat in the pan or on the grill? They always tell you that caramelized meat is the way to go. Turns out that cooking at high temperatures and putting that crust on your meat or potatoes can lead to the formation of inflammatory compounds. We want anti-inflammation, not pro-inflammation while working through this plan. We shouldn't fry, broil or grill, but poach or steam instead. Slow cookers are good.
- Drink lots of water. We should all be doing that anyway, right?
When we begin to reintroduce foods next week, the plan suggests to begin with whatever you miss the most. I asked Mr. Cut Off what he was going to add first - even though I already knew his answer. Dairy! He's really missing that glass of real milk with his dinner and a bit of shredded sharp cheddar cheese on his salads. Me? I haven't decided yet, but it may be soy - just so I can use my favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing again.
Again, it's called the Elimination Diet (©2016 The Institute for Functional Medicine). I gave you a very brief overview here, but it's on the Internet if you care to google it. You can download a pdf copy and just print the 2-page food plan. If you're thinking about trying it, please discuss it with your doctor first. He/she can tell you if it's the right thing for you to do based upon your health and can also suggest the proper number of servings per food category for you. I am not a doctor.
We'll let you know how it goes.
All is well in the Keweenaw.