{How This Blog Became Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Mostly Vegan } Answering Reader Questions

by Valerie on July 18, 2009 · 5 comments

Update June 2010 on How This Blog Became Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Mostly Vegan – I had originally named this series the Detox Diet Diaries, but my experience with these changes in my diet, while incredibly positive, has made me decide I really do not like the concept of  a detox diet.   It is ironic in that the diet my naturopath put me on was incredibly helpful, and a year later, it has become clear I have non-Celiac gluten intolerance, as well as a strong dairy intolerance.  I continue to avoid all dairy and gluten, as well as other problematic foods such as corn, but have grown to really dislike the concept of “detox” – the term promotes the concept of a quick fix, which is just nonsensical.  I firmly believe that the vast improvements in my heath are based on the long-term changes I made, and want my posts on the experience to convey this.    
I was so happy that when I posted the first two installments of the Detox Diet Diaries last weekend that so many of you asked such great questions through comments and email- and also I can’t thank you enough for all the supportive comments. {If you are wondering what I am talking about here is a little background: The Detox Diet Diaries recounts my story of doing a detox diet for health reasons and to isolate food allergies which may have been a contributing factor to some of my health problems. This diet involves real food. I am not on the Master Cleanse, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cleanse, or Oprah’s cleanse, nor are my posts on my diet a way to support their actions. As I explained in my background post, I am doing this under the care of a naturopathic doctor}.

I got many great questions, so this post will be long. And please feel free to ask more questions. Without further ado, here are answers to all the questions I received this week:

Has the detox diet helped with your energy level?

In short, yes. very much. I do think, though, that part of the reason I feel such a difference is that I started at a very low energy point. I say that both subjectively {i.e. in comparison to past times in my life} and objectively, namely based on some data points in my blood test results. A friend of mine who is considering doing such a detox diet made an excellent point to me last week: she is less likely to feel such a dramatic difference so quickly considering certain things I was borderline deficient in are things her bloodwork showed she was very much in the normal range for.

How long have you been on this detox diet?

I am now at the end of week 7 of this diet.

I should note, however, that I cut out most dairy and white wheat flour {along with a couple of other things} 3 weeks before I started the detox diet itself. In those 3 weeks, I already saw an improvement in my energy levels. I tried removing those few things from my diet more as an experiment, and also to see if I even had the self-discipline to consider a stricter detox diet.

What about the rest of your family, did you have to cook separately for them or did they support you?

It’s just husband and I {we don’t have any children} and husband has been so supportive and helpful. He’s definitely been a big reason I eat such a variety of things – if it was up to me, I would likely eat a lot more raw veggies rather than actually cook them.

We split the meal planning, food shopping and cooking between the two of us, so when it became clear I had to do this restricted diet for my health, he and I discussed how to incorporate it into our lives without (1) him feeling like he was on the diet too, (2) me feeling totally lonely on the diet and (3) us having to cook two meals, ie one for him and one for me, all the time.

The main solutions we came up with are:
1. making grilled vegetables and/or salads we can both eat, but then making different proteins. Since husband does not like fish, that means usually steamed or grilled fish for me and grilled chicken or sausages for him.
2. making a pasta sauce we can both eat, but making two kinds of pastas (mine has rice flour while his is regular durum semolina pasta) – it only means one extra pot that way.
3. vegetarian tacos which he likes and i can eat (I use rice tortillas and he uses regular tortillas) – we often make those, and sometimes he adds a bit of chorizo to his if we have some leftover in the fridge from another meal, but sometimes he just eats the vegetarian version.
It helps that before this we were already doing some of this type of balancing (ie i had been losing weight successfully without making different meals for myself, but making some modifications compared to his meals) before – but honestly, he’s been very supportive and understanding
Also – there have definitely been times where he wanted to eat out at a place where there would be nothing for me to order, so instead he gets the dish as takeout and I just just eat whatever i was planning to eat for myself – it’s worked pretty well overall.
Do you eat out?

Yes, but I did not for the first two weeks. I could have, especially as my doctor and I discussed what I could order and what to emphasize when ordering and making substitutions. But, honestly, it was just easier to cook at home. Those first two weeks coincided with two weeks of late nights at work, so I would just bring lunch and dinner and several snacks to work every day anyways.

Now, I do eat out occasionally, probably about once a week or once every other week. I made sure to know that the restaurant has something I can eat before getting there. Aside from my now-defunct Starbucks habit, prior to this diet I ate out about once to twice a week. I very rarely bought lunch, as at my job getting away for lunch can be hard. I always brought lunch with me to work even before the detox diet, mainly because that was the only way to ensure I would be able to eat lunch.

So, prior to the detox diet, I only ate out for dinner and brunch, and only once or twice a week, so I don’t feel a huge difference in terms of being more limited. That said, ordering is still a pain, especially in terms of making sure to emphasize that I cannot eat any dairy. It’s really made me aware of how much butter restaurants use in their cooking – things you would assume have no butter actually do {grilled fish is a prime example of that}.

Did your doc say anything about buying “regular” produce versus organic this detox?

She very much emphasized organic over regular. At a minimum, she emphasized buying organic for the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, but ideally to buy as much organic and local as possible. I am lucky in that a great farmers market with an emphasis on organic produce is a few blocks from where I live every Sunday, so husband and I stock up every Sunday, and sometimes hit Whole Foods mid-week as well. Eating organic and local was something I did even before this detox diet, so I did not find myself making huge modifications to meet the requirements of the detox diet. Sunday morning market-time is an ingrained part of our routine, no matter how much sometimes neither husband or I want to be getting up early.

That said, the doctor’s recommendation of eating organic as much as possible has had me rethink where and how I eat out. So now I really focus on going to restaurants that put an emphasis on organic or, if I am at a restaurant that does not emphasize that, I order dishes that have fruits and vegetables that are the least-contaminated {i.e. dishes with broccoli if I am at an Asian restaurant}.

What about cookbooks – did you just make recipes up as you went along, or have you been using a few cookbooks in particular?

I used a number of cookbooks and food blogs. I also am lucky in that I have cooked for a long time so have a pretty good sense on how to substitute certain ingredients etc – so I also used a lot of my existing recipes and cookbooks and made substitutions or just omitted things.
I am working on a list of resources I used to adapt my cooking and will post that in the next couple of weekends.

What about spices? Were you told to give up irritating spices like hot pepper and mustard? Or encouraged to eat more “anti-inflammatory” spices like turmeric?

The doctor definitely emphasized anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and cumin. I asked about hot pepper, mustard, ground pepper {as they are all part of my everyday eating} – the basic answer is that eating hot peppers is fine so jalapenos, serranos and habaneros are all good things in their fresh form. Not just fine in fact, but a good thing for my health. What I needed to eliminate were things like Sriracha, which is spicy but also chockful of preservatives. Boo.

It’s the same issue with mustard – i.e. cooking with mustard seeds and peppercorns is fine {as is grinding them myself to use in cooking} but the key is to really watch the labels on things like mustard and hot sauce and pepper sauces because they are often made with distilled white vinegar and/or preservatives, both of which are things that I cant have.

I looked, and even my beloved organic Roland mustards have white vinegar, sigh – I did find an organic grain mustard made with apple cider vinegar which I have been using, and husband found me a habanero lime hot sauce made with apple cider vinegar.

Finally – I was also told to avoid spices like cheap black ground pepper {you see it in fast food places} and things like Montreals spice mixes – apparently they are all processed in less than optimal ways – I never ate the ground pepper, but I did look at the Montreal spice mix we have because husband loves it {I very rarely eat it} and sure enough, it has partially hydrogenated oils.

This news about white distilled vinegar is completely unexpected. People talk about the benefits of apple cider vinegar all the time, but never about the facts of what it is replacing and why. Any idea where balsamic vinegar falls in this issue?

Yeah, I am still working on understanding the why of white distilled vinegar being so bad for one’s health? The fact it seems to be in everything {and its derivation from corn and/or wheat} is reason enough for me for now, though eventually I do want to understand more about the “why.” Apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar and balsamic were the three I was told to focus on eating, but I was also told that wine and sherry vinegars are fine too. I eat a selection of all of the above, though I do eat apple cider vinegar every day.
Do you miss Starbucks?

This question came from a friend of mine who knows me in real life. Yes, I miss the iced green tea, the chais and the lattes. Not to mention the reduced fat blueberry and cinnamon coffeecakes, the biscotti {even though they really were only ok} and the egg sandwiches. I also miss the raspberry scones, though I don’t think I have had one in years.

Why can’t you drink green tea?

Green tea is full of antioxidants but still has caffeine, and because of my specific health issues, my doctor emphasized the need for no caffeine.

Is the detox diet hard?

Yes and no. The first few weeks I really felt like I was doing some sort of food prep ALL THE TIME. Worse yet, when I wasn’t doing food prep, husband seemed to be doing food prep. It does help that the diet has been more about substitutions for me and taking healthy habits and making them even healthier and optimal for me. The one fast-food habit I had, Starbucks, was something I had cut down to 2-3 days a week instead of every day before this all even started.

So yes, the diet can be time-consuming and completely annoying. It can also feel isolating at times {i.e. ordering out at a restaurant} and a little lonely {I don’t know very many people my age with restricted diets} but, overall, it’s not hard. It’s all about context – when I think of something being hard, I think of surgeries and never-ending sinus infections and a 2 week-long stomach flu and having no energy all the time {for the record, this was a selection of my experiences over a number of years, not all recent}. Compared to all of that, the detox diet isn’t hard. It’s work, yes, but I view it as an investment in my future.
Disclaimer: I am just a regular person posting about my experience doing a detox diet for health reasons and, ultimately, to isolate food allergies that may be the underlying cause of said health problems. I am not a medical professional or nutritionist. Please do not use information from these posts to do your own detox diet. Rather, seek advice from a doctor, naturopath or nutritionist to determine what the correct course of action for your health is.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
General Disclosures & Disclaimers

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kiki July 19, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Thank you so much for writing a dedicated post on reader questions. Reading real answers from a real person on a program like this is much more useful than the canned routine from a diet prescriber like a doc or naturopath. In this case, you know that the person's answers are born from their own real experience, rather than second-hand from a study or other people. I hope you'll consider making this sort of post a regular feature in your detox diaries!


2 Ivy July 19, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Thanks so much for replying to all our questions.


3 The Cape House July 19, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Thanks for all of this info. Spending a few months living and eating consciously has been on my list of things to get around to. It is helpful to hear about what others have tried.


4 fresh365 July 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Very interesting! It is really amazing to see how food can effect energy levels, headaches, etc when you start paying attention!


5 drriftwood July 21, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Thank you for your informative posts. Food/Diet can make soo much of a difference. I've been trying to increase my intake of raw foods/fruits etc and it makes a lot of difference. I feel like trying out a detox diet- at least for a trial period. I mostly cook at home and have considerably reduced the frequency of eating out- so this might be doable. (Potato chips used to be my weakness- now I hardly ever eat them- so I feel anything is possible..:). And the healthier I eat- the less I seem to crave junk food. Except once in a while..lol)



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: