My body decided it hates food. My mouth disagrees.
October 28, 2011 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Food allergies have taken away my staples. Please help me eat! Gluten, dairy, and grain free (maybe Paleo) people, this means you.

I've been developing and discovering food allergies and intolerance left and right. Right now, I know I cannot eat any gluten, soy, corn, rice, or dairy products. Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, etc) are off the menu too. Even quinoa and sunflower seeds have not been kind. Except for the soy and corn, which I've known about for a few months, cutting out the above is all new to me, so I'm often stumped on what to eat.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can afford a dietician; I'm already paying for my allergist out of pocket.

I'm concerned that I may be loading up on the same foods: mainly sweet potatoes, cassava, meats, fruits, and occasionally homemade almond milk.

Any cookbook or blog recommendation? I'm not looking for "yay, stick with the program" weight loss ones. Eating any of the above puts me in a lot of misery and I'm not concerned about my weight or falling off the bandwagon. I need more lifestyle help. I thought about getting Elana Amsterdam's Almond Flour Cookbook but I'm afraid I'll load up on too much almonds. Plus, almond flour is expensive!
Most gluten free blogs and books don't help since they rely upon other grains I cannot eat. Plus, going to regular food blogs or my favorite cookbook is depressing since I can't eat most of it.

So, what should I eat and where do I go for recipes?
posted by Neekee to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Sweet potato noodles are great!

Plantains and cooked green bananas are a nice staple.

Cassava flour is a staple in some African countries and in Brazil. That would be probably a learning curve to "get" them if you're not from those regions. Some dishes:
Fish Pirão

Another product of manioc/yuca/cassava (why so many names?) is tapioca starch. You're in luck if you can eat it, there's a whole culinary world out there from this staple: noodles, buns, breads, cakes, puddings, dumplings, crepes. Popular all over Asia, Africa and parts of South America.

Good luck!
posted by TheGoodBlood at 8:56 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

What does intolerance mean? Reflux? Stomach pain? Brain fog? Anaphylaxis? Swollen glands? All of these have specific remedies (that sometimes work) that don't necessarily involve changing the food you eat.

Generally, make sure you're eating fatty meat. As your body adapts you'll need less carbs.

Eat meat stock, bone broth, etc. Your intestines will be healthier and will keep more bad stuff out of your bloodstream.

Eat omega-3 rich foods. I get weird reactions to some oils, but I am able to tolerate flaxseed oil with added vitamin E to mitigate rancidity and added DHA and EPA. (Whole foods). This will make your immune system less reactive. Avoid stuff high in omega-6's, but not completely. They are essential too.

Learn Buteyko breathing from a non-quack. Over time it makes your immune system dramatically less reactive.

Consider HCL with added Pepsin as well as other digestive enzymes. Build up slowly, back down slowly, don't become dependent on them, but explore them to give your body a break. This is especially if you have some form of reflux.

Treat probiotics with caution. Give them a shot but note that they make some problems worse. The solution is not more but phasing them out after a period of time.

Fiber is not necessarily your friend. Google "low residue" diet.

The main thing is expanding your definition of "meat." If you up saturated fat, gelatin, etc. from meat stock, then fruits and vegetables become sources of nutrients rather than calories. I personally can handle brown rice cakes and some Lara bars which are my convenience foods.

Put a lot of energy and attention into not being hungry. Otherwise your intestines can't get what they need to heal and it's a vicious spiral. YMMV.
posted by zeek321 at 8:58 AM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Finally, make sure you're eating carbs. Otherwise your body cannibalizes lean tissue to make glucose, and that includes lean tissue like your intestines. Again, vicious cycle.)
posted by zeek321 at 9:02 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recently discovered chia seed, which is high in iron, calcium, fiber, and fatty acids, and is delicious (at least to me). I've been using it as a beverage, but it can be used in a lot of other applications -- looking for recipes with it might be useful.

Other ideas:

Salmon in foil packets with lemon, pepper, potato slices, and veggies like green beans. Roasts quickly right in the packet.

How are you on eggs? Pavlova or other meringue-based desserts might be a nice change. This recipe has only egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. Some egg-based custards or puddings might also work with almond milk, although I know that doesn't solve the almond milk problem.

If you can justify buying an ice cream maker, I know there are some sorbets and granitas that would work for you in The Perfect Scoop, including fruit sorbets and granitas. It also has a chocolate sorbet I've heard good things about that uses only sugar, water, Dutch-process cocoa, semisweet chocolate (dairy-free), and vanilla.
posted by pie ninja at 9:03 AM on October 28, 2011

When you say that you've been developing and discovering food allergies and intolerances, what do you mean specifically? What symptoms manifest?

Playing whack-a-mole with symptoms can go on endlessly. If you've got some underlying condition (e.g., a persistent infection or overgrowth of bad stuff in your gut), getting that identified and treated can make a world of difference.
posted by dws at 9:09 AM on October 28, 2011

Paleo is definitely your search term for recipes - your off-the-menu stuff all falls into paleo's "forbidden" foods. There are tons and tons of sites with paleo (or primal, that tends to include dairy) recipes out there - for high-concept stuff, there's The Clothes Make the Girl (she'll have a cookbook out soonish I guess, too), and everyone's buzzing about Paleo Comfort Foods, but what I usually do is just put [main ingredient 1] [main ingredient 2] [paleo] into google and generally find something interesting.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:11 AM on October 28, 2011

Are you off all grains, or just the ones you mentioned? If not, look into GF oats, millet, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, and sorghum. In addition to tapioca, try arrowroot or potato starch. You might have better luck with quinoa if you wash it or get it pre-washed - the saponin content is supposedly a factor there.

Chestnut flour is tasty and versatile, but also expensive and seasonal. I haven't cooked with either hazelnut meal or coconut flour, but they are probably worth a try.

Coconut butter (not just oil) works great for dessert baking in place of dairy butter. And there's always Crisco.

Can you eat eggs? How well do you handle seeds and seed derivatives? Hemp milk might make a nice change from almond milk. You can make an egg replacer for baking with flax meal.

Also you didn't mention many vegetables in your list of foods you're focusing on. Be sure to get some greens in you. Winter squashes are a good source of grain-free carbs. Try new varieties of meats and fish. Duck? Buffalo? Venison? Goose?

And finally - you can really go down the rabbit hole quickly trying to figure out food intolerances on your own. If you can at all manage it, a consultation with a nutritionist who can set you up with an elimination diet and food diary will be a great help.
posted by expialidocious at 9:29 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're lucky that squash is in season now and they keep all winter long. Make squash soup, or dice squash up and stirfry it.

Cook a spaghetti squash and use it in place of spaghetti, literally. A good sauce of stewed tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and basil seems to fit in your diet.
posted by lizbunny at 9:31 AM on October 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for your answers so far! These are great, please keep them coming! Answering your questions:
I'm keeping a food diary and it's helped immensely.

My symptoms vary from severe headache, allergic rhinitis, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, muscle pain, constipation, and reflux. Gluten, soy, corn, and dairy give me all of the above; other foods just a combination thereof. Corn, anything in the Brassicaceae family (cabbage, mustard, horseradish, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, etc), and lentils will give me anaphylaxis, although luckily I've never had to use an EPI pen yet.

Side note: eating dairy, even a little bit, sent me on a massive carb eating spree, not pretty, along with the other symptoms. Stupid opioid effect!

I have been eating some veggies, but not nearly as much I should. *looks embarrassed*

I've only had one consultation with the allergist, seeing him again next week. Will try to get a referral to a gastroenterologist, since most gluten issues happen in the intestines... right?
posted by Neekee at 9:51 AM on October 28, 2011

Response by poster: oh, and the anaphylaxic reaction to foods is developing fast. Horseradish took a few years, cabbage and arugula just a few months. Hence why I went to the allergist.
posted by Neekee at 9:53 AM on October 28, 2011

I'm concerned that I may be loading up on the same foods: mainly sweet potatoes, cassava, meats, fruits, and occasionally homemade almond milk.

Based on this I'd recommend experimenting with vegetables -- stuff like spinach, kale, collard greens, cauliflower (the cauliflower rice thing is magical!), broccoli, squash, okra... the list goes on. I love green beans and peas, too, but they might be off the menu for you.

Part of the key for me has been not bothering with all the almond/hazelnut/chestnut/etc flour recipes. They're expensive and they taste like crap, so I just decided that I don't need to fake eating carbs that badly. I'd much rather make something like meatza (yeah, dairy, but you could do this and sub something for the cheese) instead of an almond-pizza, for instance.

One thing that made a huge difference for me is Indian food. Most Indian dishes are naturally grain-free (if you omit the rice) and very low-carb, and India's strong vegetarian tradition will help you figure out tasty ways to add more veggies to your diet. Check out Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, or 660 Curries.
posted by vorfeed at 9:55 AM on October 28, 2011

Whoops, I posted before I saw the Brassicaceae thing. Still, that leaves a ton of vegetables you could eat, and they're really a boon for low-carb eaters. I eat more fresh veggies now than I did as a vegetarian!
posted by vorfeed at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2011

I'm glad to hear you're going to see a gastroenterologist, because this sounds like it could be something other than food allergies, like celiac or SIBO. (Your symptoms really could all fit under adult celiac, just fyi. :( If it is celiac, it can be that your gut needs to heal before you can eat things like rice again... but I'm digressing.)

Some ideas about what to eat: "whole foods" cooking blogs will be your friend along with the paleo sites. Winter is setting in where I am, so I'm thinking nourishing veg based soups maybe with chicken or served alongside some baked fish. You might try eating blander foods too if your stomach is particularly unhappy.

What about raw veg? A simple salad with bell peppers, carrots, cucumber and a homemade vinaigrette, maybe some avocado--could you tolerate that?

Can you eat fruit? Baking some apples or stone fruit with some sugar and cinnamon might be a nice treat to mix it up.

Here's an example of what I mean by whole foods blogs:

All of these recipes would still need to be altered by you, but even without all the ingredients you can't tolerate, they'd still be really tasty and nourishing.

Another idea, is there a natural foods or co-op chain near you? Sometimes the people there (or even their websites) can be good sources of ideas. Here's an example of a recipe finder, check out their "special diets" link:

Best of luck!
posted by purple_bird at 11:39 AM on October 28, 2011

Kelp noodles. I get mine at Whole Foods. I stock up when they go on sale. Spaghetti squash is good for twirly fork noodly experience too. The textures don't resemble real pasta, but when you're in a pinch like this, sometimes it's enough.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:52 PM on October 28, 2011

Mark's Daily Apple is often recommended - his paper Cookbook is great, and I think he also has an ebook with more good recipes.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 5:55 PM on October 28, 2011

A couple more good sites:

Chow Stalker
Nom Nom Paleo
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 5:56 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I too have a long list of food sensitivities. The thing that helped me the most, in the beginning, was making a list of all the things I could eat and then making sure that I always had as many of those things as possible in stock.

Good news is that the less I eat something, the less likely I am to react to it when I do cheat.

Reducing stress and other allergens has also helped a lot.

This isn't a life sentence. I have improved so much over the past 15 years. Try to stay positive, make your list of what you can eat and know that it is just for now. Your body may recover enough for you to add certain foods back in.
posted by myselfasme at 7:19 PM on October 28, 2011

Brassicae allergy makes things more difficult because canola oil is frequently used in food and cooking. Vegetable oil where the type is not specified is also problematic. If you haven't yet stopped eating out, doing so may improve your symptoms.

Given corn and rice and quinoa are out, amaranth and millet aren't strong possibilities but they may be worth a try when you've got your diet reliably down to not causing symptoms. Winter squashes aren't in a family you've mentioned as a problem for you.

Keep eating what you know you can eat, from trusted sources, and gradually make simple additions to your diet. If you get a reaction, look at what you've consumed or inhaled lately even if you don't think of it as food. It will take time and the health benefits are well worth the trouble and expense.
posted by thatdawnperson at 6:55 AM on October 29, 2011

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