My husband, God love him, is the healthiest freaking person on the planet. For real. Sick twice in the past 12 years we have been together. One of those times is when we both got the death flu. I thought we had Ebola for sure. Twelve days later, looking on par with the grim reaper, I finally recovered. Two days into the Ebola death flu, my husband was out of bed and back to his sparky self. He literally did a hop, skip, and a jump clicking his heels together as he exited the room.
Welcome to my life.
Same goes for food. It’s morning in my house, and by morning, I mean it is around 11:30 a.m. and I have just woken up. The first thing on my mind, literally like a half a second after waking is: I need to shove food in my mouth.
Food. It’s all I think about next to napping. I whip up some breakfast and join Lovebug (this is hubby’s nickname, so prepare yourself). Lovebug is midway into devouring waffles with a crap-ton of syrup on top, a Snapple Ice Tea, and he has two “side dishes” nearby – a bag of beef jerky and soggy movie theater popcorn literally left over from two nights ago.
I on the other hand am about to ravish my bone broth and kale salad (see picture above). Nope, I am not pissed however about this obvious cruel trick life has played on me regarding food. Ten years ago, I may have been! But not today.
Today I literally look at his plate and think, Gross. That stuff would kill me.
For many of us with chronic illness, food has a major impact. I get it – some of you aren’t ready to hear this yet and I think I know why. In 15 years, I’ve interacted with a lot of people with illness who have heard the unwanted remarks:
If you would just eat this (insert random new food product here), you could heal yourself.
If you would have just tried this new diet, you wouldn’t need all that medicine.
When I heard comments like these from completely healthy people who have never lived with a horrid chronic illness, I would literally shut down. But…when I started to hear it from people who have been through the same war as I have been through, something changed. These were people living each day with chronic illness, similar symptoms and were somehow seeing a change. I wanted that change.
I’ve always been amazed at the human body. A chemistry major in college, I enjoy researching how things work and what happens when certain substances, etc. interact. So how was food impacting my life? About seven years ago, I was beginning to see the immense benefit juicing was having on my body and it was time to clean house as far as food was concerned.
Food and Chronic Illness
The truth was, the food I was eating was literally making me sick – on top of already dealing with Lupus. Here’s what I know. I’ve had severe food allergies since I was a baby. First, I was allergic to breastmilk and several milk alternatives after being born.
Then there was the first time I was given seafood – lobster and scallops – around the age of four. That resulted in a thrilling night of anaphylaxis, a long hospital stay and a diagnosis of asthma and severe allergies. Allergy testing was completed at a young age and the results were about ten pages long. Basically it told me I should live on water and iceberg lettuce.
Fast forward to 30 years old and I felt it was time to figure this whole food, lupus and autoimmunity thing out. I went through more allergy testing. This is always a great place to start, as you may not be aware which foods or substances might be giving you issues. Next, I was tested for gluten sensitivity. Certain foods and gluten turned out to be major triggers in my body, which was sending an army of soldiers on defense any time these substances were being consumed.
After you see an allergist, you may want to consider elimination diets (and banning highly allergic food permanently. A closed throat sucks). With elimination diets, you basically withhold certain foods for a period of time and see if any reactions occur when reintroducing these foods. Reactions can range from eczema and rashes, to stomach aches, itchy throat, inflammation, etc.
While there isn’t a specific diet for Lupus and chronic illness patients, I believe there are recommendations that should be considered:
- This study from Registered Dietitian Amy Brown at the University of Hawaii has a lot of info on diet and Lupus, plus a recommended beneficial diet list. Also see page four, Table 2 where food elimination diets are mentioned. She offers a detailed list of harmful vs. beneficial dietary options that I found very useful.
- Here is an interesting Dietary Nutrition article that has great insight into gluten autoimmune issues, anti-inflammatory eating and diets, the power of Omega’s on autoimmune disease and more.
- One of my favorite books that advises on ways to relieve symptoms of a wide range of illnesses is The Prescription for Natural Healing. It has been a main stay bible of sorts in the food and natural healing world for many years. It offers great insight into diet and lupus.
For me, food choices today typically consist of daily juicing (for maximum nutrient availability not weight loss), smoothies (made with hemp, pea, almond, etc. – no whey, gluten, diary), daily bone broth consumption, fermented/probiotic rich foods, salads, fruit, coconut/avocado oil, limited nightshade veggies, and many raw and/or plant-based food options, etc.
Moving Forward with Food
But seriously, enough about me. How should you move forward? Well, if you are financially able, I would suggest seeing an allergist for food/substance testing. You can also also work with a nutritionist once you have your results. In addition, you may also want to inquire about gluten sensitivity testing if you feel symptoms after consuming glutenous foods. There are a lot of “diets” out there and in this area, I think you need to find what works for you. Don’t jump on the paleo, cabbage soup, raw, gluten free or whatever diet just for the sake of it. Do some research on your symptoms and potential food/diet benefits, get testing done if possible, try eliminating certain foods you suspect might be bothering you and most importantly, keep a journal!
I have a free ebook on this site that contains my five top tips for living well with a chronic illness. In this book, I go into the specifics of journaling. I can’t stress enough how important it is to track your reactions and progress. This is especially true when it comes to food and supplementation.
Well it seems I have blabbed enough about food and chronic illness in this post. I imagine your eyes are bleeding by now. And, a cup of bone broth is calling my name…
Want more in-depth help in this area? Inquire about my Wellness Consult or nutrition coaching sessions. I look forward to chatting with you soon!