Depression and Antibiotics Linked

The other day I recalled reading something about intestinal flora and moods, and the possibility that an imbalance can cause depression. For me, this would make a lot of sense. Two years ago I had pneumonia and was on some really strong antibiotics. In the past year, from surgeries and other illnesses, I have been on antibiotics five times! This would explain my lack of appetite and food craving changes, not to mention the constant influx of depression.

During my research, I learned that the first antidepressant was an antibiotic, back in the days when tuberculosis was a big thing. The next thing I learned was that antibiotics can affect a child’s brain development. There have also been studies that antibiotics may contribute to types of psychosis and is associated with anxiety and depression. Due to antibiotics killing off all of the bacteria in the body (both good and bad), it really messes with the good bacteria responsible for sending signals to the brain.

I truly think this is another link between the horrible and constant depression I’ve experienced over the last couple of years, mostly because I just don’t feel like the same person I did three years ago. It was easy for me to bounce back out of anything, especially a relationship gone awry.

I have noticed that I definitely feel better both physically and mentally when I ingest probiotics regularly. Besides taking probiotic oral supplements, I make kombucha, which is a natural probiotic drink. However, I haven’t made any in the past few weeks and have been relying on the probiotic capsule. Now that I’m finally off antibiotics again, I’m going to continue with probiotics and see how this fairs with my mental health.

Eating Alone & Depression

I have a lot of work to do with myself. Writing down my thoughts has been extremely therapeutic for me, and the more I write, the more realizations I have – the patterns, the negative thoughts that were ingrained into my system that I didn’t even know existed. I’m doing my best to pinpoint the things that have been causing depression and doing whatever I can to lift my spirits.

Whether you’re an adult or a child, eating alone all the time can be depressing. When I was trained to be a home health care aide, we were told that it’s important to eat meals (or at least sit) with our elderly clients, because they tend not to eat as much when they’re alone, and they’re happier eating with other people. What is it about eating alone vs eating with others that somehow determines our happiness? Studies have found that people enjoy the general social aspect of eating with others. The only times I didn’t eat alone throughout my adult life was when I was in the army, married or had a boyfriend, or when my daughter was young and I had a regular schedule. Studies show that people who share meals with others tend to eat healthier and live healthier lives. I suppose that would explain one of the reasons I have been depressed for much of the past six years.

Except for eating at my grandparent’s houses or with my father when I was a child, I often ate alone growing up. If I didn’t eat alone, I was usually separated from the adults, or dinnertime was so miserable I’d opt to eat alone. It was either literally get yelled at for breathing or something else that is considered normal to anyone. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my book, Unheard:

“Since dinnertime is dreadful, I hate evenings. Even when I am starving, I prefer eating by myself. I hate looking at him and watching him sit with his head tilted down towards the plate and scraping the food from his fork into his mouth without ever looking up. I try to speak and make normal conversation; he makes a point to say something to upset my stomach or tells me to shut up and eat. He finishes his food, gets up without excusing or cleaning up after himself, trots into the living room, lights a smelly cigarette, watches TV, and drinks beer. I guess he thinks it was a woman’s job to keep quiet and clean up after him.”

When something is “normal” for a child, they don’t always realize it’s not normal or healthy as an adult. I knew that what was happening to me didn’t feel right, especially when my friends did “normal” things, like eat with their families. I have never purposely separated myself from eating with others as an adult; it’s just that I don’t exactly have a choice when I’m single.

My daughter visited me a couple of weekends ago, and for the first time in a while, I cooked up a delicious shrimp and pasta dish. It was the first time I’d cooked a meal for anyone other than myself in months, and it was nice to share. When I was regularly dating, I cooked more than I was taken out, and I was perfectly happy with that, because I was happy. I realize that some of my happiest times are when I’m cooking and sharing meals with others (not being expected to, but wanting to), and that hasn’t happened regularly in two and a half years. (If you follow my blog, you’ll probably guess with whom.) I’ve also been more depressed in that two and a half years than ever, and I eat alone almost 100% of the time.

I try to take myself out to eat for lunch or dinner just to be in a social outing, even if I’m out alone. However, eating out gets expensive, and I feel that I can cook better than what is served in most restaurants. Plus, I love sharing my culinary skills with others. Like the studies have shown, it’s the socialization that I’ve been missing at mealtime and probably another reason my friends keep telling me I need a boyfriend. *eyeroll*

A Date with a Cheapskate Unchivalrous Military Man

I’m really about over meeting anyone from dating sites anymore. I know I keep saying this, but I did pay for three months of Match and one month of another dull site and wish I’d just bought myself a nice dress and taken myself out to a really nice dinner instead.

This time I ended up meeting with a military guy that lived about an hour away. Now I have said to my friends that I am done meeting military men, because I’ve been married to them and have dated them throughout my life. Most are great guys, but their mindset is not compatible with mine. But I’m a sucker for trying anyway.

We agreed to meet at a halfway point, so I suggested a sports bar that I’m somewhat familiar with. I’d already eaten, so I wasn’t hungry when I arrived. He’d arrived early and had ordered food. Mr. Cheapskate didn’t even ask if I wanted anything, but the bartender gave me a menu and I ordered a beer. Physically, Mr. Cheapskate was decent looking, even though he was a little on the short side, and in good shape for a 50-year-old. The conversation went pretty smoothly – we had a lot of things in common, and we actually talked for about 3 hours. I thought that even if it doesn’t work out romantically, if anything, we could be friends.

In the meantime, I ordered a chocolate martini, because I wanted something sweet. Mr. Cheapskate asked for the tab, and I asked if my two drinks were on there as well. Yes, they were, so I said, “What do I owe?” – because that is one way to test where this is going (another date or a friend zone). Mr. Cheapskate said to just pay the tip ($10) and thanked me. I figured $10 was probably about the cost of both of my drinks, but whatever. When we were leaving, Mr. Cheapskate did not open the door for me, and he mentioned he was parked directly out front. I’d parked down the street in a lot. I could tell that Mr. Cheapskate almost let me walk alone but finally asked me if I wanted him to walk me to my car. “Of course,” I said, “it’s dark out and I’m not that familiar with this area”. So we walked to the lot, he hugged me and unexpectedly gave me a kiss. It was okay but a little awkward.

Mr. Cheapskate wanted to see me the following evening, but I hadn’t slept well and was too tired. Plus, I would have to drive an hour to his area, and I wasn’t about to do that after not sleeping, so we planned for the following evening. Unfortunately, the same thing happened, because I had terrible insomnia and back pain for three days. So we planned for New Year’s Eve. I had no interest in going anywhere, because I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with crowds, drinking, or driving. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I’d be paying my own bill and really couldn’t afford to anyway. I said I was just perfectly fine with lighting a fire, grilling burgers and hanging out for more good conversation. He suggested going to a sports bar… and I said I’m not hanging out at a sports bar on NYE (with shitty food that I might end up paying for).

On that day, Mr. Cheapskate was texting and calling me. I had literally just woken up and was cooking breakfast and doing dishes and couldn’t answer the phone. I was also catching up on the things I didn’t accomplish due to my back pain the previous days. He didn’t leave a message and tried calling about five minutes later. And about 10 minutes later, a “No Caller ID” showed up. I wasn’t sure if it was him being sneaky or a telemarketer, but I was annoyed and ignored the call.

When he was on his way over, I had another “No Caller ID” ring, and when I answered, it was Mr. Cheapskate. Now I was thinking oh great, he’s one of those types that does that sneaky shit, and we only had one date! At that point I was starting to regret asking him over. Prior to his arrival, he’d asked if I needed anything. I said I didn’t (I’m always prepared). When he arrived, Mr. Cheapskate arrived empty handed. Sure, I didn’t need anything, but the decent gesture is to at least bring your own booze or something, right? So I was a little more than slightly annoyed. Then he said, “Wow, look at all this food you made… I didn’t realize you were doing that. I should have brought something over.” Well, yes you should have, I thought, and I already told you that I just wanted a simple night of grilling burgers and a fire. Guess you weren’t listening?

The first time Mr. Cheapskate used my bathroom, he left my toilet seat up. I had probably already decided deep down inside, but I definitely decided right then this will be nothing more than a friendship. I’m not going to train a 50 y/o man to put a toilet seat down.

The rest of the evening went okay with conversation, but I started to get bored quickly. I put Mr. Cheapskate in charge of the burgers and the fire, since it was the least he could do, and I figured most men like doing that anyway. He overcooked the burgers (cooked them to the way he likes them, not the way I said I liked mine), and I ended up having to take over the fire and doing the entire cleanup. He’s not a big drinker, but Mr. Cheapskate did manage to drink half of my beer – and because he’s not a drinker, they really hit him hard. (I drink strong beer with high AVB.) So as the night went on, he got louder and talked over me – there went the conversation. He wasn’t obnoxious, just annoying. And the more he talked, the more I realized his accent, his voice, his build… and more reminded me of Dodger. It was almost a deja vu. (At least Dodger bought his own beer.)

Eventually, Mr. Cheapskate fell asleep on my couch, thank god, so I left him there and went to bed. As soon as I got comfortable and started to fall asleep, he walked into my room and invited himself to sleep in my bed. I told him no, you’re snoring, and I won’t be able to sleep. What did he do? He still got in my bed! I was pissed! Not only did he disturb my rest, now he thinks it’s okay to just take over? I don’t think so! So there I was in bed stewing at how rude he was and now wide awake. Within minutes, he started snoring. I shook him and said you have to go back in the living room, you’re snoring and I can’t sleep. He went back out and left me alone. By then it was probably 3am, so I was super pissed that he was not only ruining my sleep, I wanted to get up in the morning and take a nice beach walk to start my New Year out.

For the rest of the night, I heard Mr. Cheapskate in and out of my bathroom, so doors were shutting all night. I got up around 6am to pee and peeked into the living room. He was sleeping on my floor – which is tile but has a throw rug. I was thinking wtf is he doing on the floor? I didn’t care and went back to bed. When I woke back up around 9am, I felt like crap for not sleeping all night. He was still on the floor, and I woke him up, because I needed him to leave so I could start my day.

I guess Mr. Cheapskate couldn’t handle my beer very well. He thought he had food poisoning. I said well it’s not my food, I ate the same thing, and I’m fine. He said he was up all night spinning, puking and had diarrhea. Nice. He really was in bad shape, and I couldn’t get rid of him until about noon. My entire morning was shot, and pretty much my day, because I was too damn tired to do anything once he left. On top of that, I realized he definitely puked and shit all night… it was all over my toilet, even puke running down the side (I had cleaned my bathroom the day prior) and he had pee spots on my tile floor. How fucking gross!

I really expected more from a military man, because I have found them generally to be more chivalrous and courteous and cleaner. But this one really floundered. He messaged me the following day that he was feeling better but still not that great. And then he messaged me that night saying “goodnight” but I didn’t answer. The following day I got another “No Caller ID” call and didn’t answer it, and I don’t plan on seeing him again – friends or not. And now I have learned how to block these “No Caller ID” calls!

Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatique Syndrome – Eating Habits – Part 3

In my first blog on this topic, I discussed how I had been diagnosed with these strange illnesses and how massage helped many of the problems. In my second blog entry, I discussed the food allergies I discovered and took control of.

Now I will discuss more about my eating habits. I grew up eating and loving Chef Boy Ardee and Spaghettio’s. In fact, I would have eaten it every day if I was allowed to – or anything with tomato sauce for that matter. Vegetables were nothing I would touch, unless it was a tomato or maybe a cucumber. Even as an adult, my eating habits didn’t change much until about a year or so ago when I was sick of feeling sick five or six out of seven days a week. So I began educating myself.

First, I started by finding out what may be the cause of aches, pains, and general feelings of discomfort. I began visiting health food stores and talking with others just like me who made some suggestions. One of them happened to mention the link between the pH in the body and the growth of disease. It reminded me of taking those little litmus test papers in school science class, but I was now beginning to understand what that was all about.

Balancing the acidity vs alkalinity in my body took on a whole new meaning of eating properly. I started to take notice of how my body felt when I craved and ate too much pasta. Without knowing how to fully describe it, I would say heavy, like a wet rag, and slightly achy – whatever it was wasn’t normal. I had no idea that pasta is considered acidic. Also, my love of tomatoes hasn’t died… add those to the pasta and what do you get? More acid in the body. My beloved morning coffee = more acid. So you get the picture. I was a walking body of acid. One conversation started to change that, however.

Having no idea what foods or drinks I had been consuming were acidic in nature, someone had informed me of taking an all-natural drink powder made with all organic green vegetables. Apparently, the powder is supposed to balance the acidity in the body and make it more alkaline. It wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth it when I discovered that this powder worked. The name of what I take is called Green Superfood, and it’s made by a company called Amazing Grass, runs for about $28 in the health food store for a 30-serving supply. One tiny scoop mixed with water looks pretty gross but the flavor really isn’t bad. I drink that if I tend to be consuming too much acidic food or drink and have noticed a huge difference in the aches.

Beating Fibromyalgia and CFS, Allergy Tests – Part 2

Sometime around 2002 someone finally convinced me to get tested for allergies. Thankfully, I had insurance so the visits and tests were covered. I discovered through an allergist that I was allergic to grass, ragweed, pine, and milk. The pine allergy would definitely explain much of the misery I felt in 1997-1999 because I lived in northern Florida in the middle of a pine forest! As I had stated in my last blog, this is when the joint popping and cracking issues began.

Basically, I could do nothing about the environmental pollens because they surrounded me. I was given various allergy medications, such as Claritin D, which helped relieve stuffiness and post nasal drip, but did not fix my issues with the aches. Being sensitive to medications, I noticed I started feeling “loopy” (although some people might agree that is just my natural state, lol) after taking it. I felt as if I had the flu about 5 days out of each week. I was completely and totally miserable and hopeless. Exercise seemed to do nothing to help with any of the symptoms either, however, I also noticed a huge correlation between the allergies, the amount of sunlight I received, and the fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.

Being a Florida girl, I grew up on the beach and the times when I did not get enough sunlight I noticed a difference in the way I felt. There were certain times when I would go for days without going out into the sun for at least 20 minutes, and I noticed if I did not go out at least every other day, by the third day I started feeling ill again. Anytime it rained, which is inevitable in a hurricane-fixated state, I could feel a huge amount of pressure in my joints.

I was eating better than before, but still not that well. Cutting milk out of my diet helped with phlegm and digestion issues, but I had a habit of eating bagels and cream cheese for breakfast or donuts because it was easy to make and I had a 45-minute drive to work every day. My diet consisted of that of the average working American, and we all know what that means.

Eventually, I decided to move to a more tropical area that wasn’t laden with trees and grass, which was a huge help on the environmental allergies. It really did make a difference, and I also started chiropractic care. The combination helped, but I was unaware that I had developed more food allergies over the years. In 2007, I had another series of tests and found out I was still allergic to all of the prior tested things, in addition to cedar and (of all things!) corn! (See blog about corn allergy here.) Corn was just about in everything in my diet, which meant having to completely change the way I was eating. That meant no more fast food, and it also meant that most things packaged in a box, can, or bag were also off the list. Even the things I thought were healthful contained corn ingredients of some form or another. I started feeling relief as soon as I cut those things out of my diet, and I could tell immediately when I ate or drank something that had a corn ingredient in it.

Unfortunately, I had to move away from the tropical area and back to the grass and trees. At least I knew what made me feel yucky and I am still learning to control it.

About two years after the corn allergy was discovered, I started to feel as if I were eating something else that wasn’t being nice to my system. I went back to an allergist and discovered through more tests that I now had an egg allergy. I had been eating eggs for breakfast almost daily! It was disappointing, to say the least, but cutting eggs out of my diet really has made a difference with the digestive issues and muscle aches I’d been having. Substitutions for eggs were a challenge as well.

Since all of these food allergy discoveries, I would say that it piqued a newfound interest in learning how to eat right. In my next blog, I will discuss in what ways I am educating myself on proper eating habits.

Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Part I

Shortly after my twenty-first birthday, I started noticing that I wasn’t feeling well most of the time. After visiting the doctor and coming back with normal blood work results, I was relieved that nothing “bad” showed up, but at the same time I was also disappointed that there was no explanation for my symptoms. The doctor I was seeing at the time diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disorder that I hadn’t ever heard until then and knew nothing about. At the time, there was no internet access or much written information on the topic, but I did manage to find others that had the same problem. The more I learned about this incurable, debilitating disease, the more convinced I was that the doctor was wrong in his diagnosis. Since there was no exact way to test for this ailment, I convinced myself I didn’t have it. In my mind, I told myself there is no way in hell I’m going to give my life to this horrific disease.

Some time during some earlier college years I visited the doctor that had known me since I was born. (His office visits were only $30!) I kept having throat problems with swelling and chronic bronchitis. He shot me up with some sort of steroid, and I found immediate relief with the swelling issues. He suggested that I probably had allergies and suggested that I quit smoking (yes, I used to have that nasty habit!). At the time I had no health insurance so I wasn’t able to get the necessary testing done, but I did quit smoking for good. Shortly afterwards, I moved away to attend a university; in the meantime, my old doctor retired.

Fast forward about five years later. I was a full-time college student and single mom, and I regularly worked out at either the school’s gym or at home. One day at home I was lifting light weights with my arms. As I lifted one arm, I heard a snap that sounded much like my shoulder came out of its socket. It hurt but not bad enough to see a doctor, so I figured I’d just pulled a muscle. But the unexplained snapping and popping continued with each and every joint in my body, along with flu-like muscle aches and hasn’t stopped since 1997. Several doctor’s visits over a few years without any results, I finally had somewhat of an answer three years later.

Another highly controversial syndrome among the field of medicine, fibromyalgia was my next diagnosis. The only problem that I found was that even though the known “pressure points” of fibromyalgia were supposed to be painful to touch on the person, for me it brought relief. Again, I was not sure that I was properly diagnosed, but it was something that I could work with as far as the treatment went. By then, the internet was becoming popular and it was easy for me to find information on the topic.

Massage was a huge relief for the muscle aches. I’d been seeing an excellent but pricey massage therapist who later told me she took insurance. When I learned she accepted my insurance and to find out more about it, I immediately contacted my insurance company and was told that massage is covered if written by a physician as a prescription. I was thrilled! I immediately went to my doctor (who had been trying to put me on pills that I refused to take) and told him of the great news about massage therapy with my insurance company. But he refused to write the prescription! He wanted to shoot me up with cortisone shots and give me more prescriptions. He told me that massage is only a temporary relief, that it may last only about a week and was a waste of time. I was furious with him because we obviously did not see eye to eye when it came to holistic healing vs meds that harm the body (not to mention that they are also a temporary relief and not a cure-all). So I marched out of his office and found a new doctor that believed in massage therapy.

That was just the beginning of beating fibromyalgia.

Today I still have the same muscle aches and joint popping and cracking without any explanation for it whatsoever. I have found ways that relieve these issues, however, and I have noticed what makes them worse. I am also convinced that all of these symptoms are related to allergies and stress.

Backtrack to around my twenty-first birthday. Stress was an understatement of how to describe my life at the time. I was a new mom, going through a divorce, and working full time. My body was still adjusting to the birth of my daughter and my diet consisted of mostly microwavable foods – many with starches and sugars that I now know contributed to many of the health-related problems I was facing. To top it off, I was a smoker.

Less Allergies in Hawaii? Not.

OrangeBloss_wbI don’t understand why people think that when you move to certain areas you have less allergy problems. It depends on what you’re allergic to. I just had more tests completed and a new list has arisen, in addition to my old ones:

*oranges
*mustard
*brewer’s yeast (goodbye, beer!)
*molds
*dust mites
*weeds
*mesquite
*eucalyptus (tree, not sure if it’s the same as the plant)
*cats & dogs (no, I will not be giving up my babies)

On a scale of 1 to 5, each of these rated as a 1, the lowest. So it’s more like a 20% allergic reaction. A combination of these things increases it.

The orange allergy explains why my face keeps breaking out. I recently purchased a new line of skin care from Avalon Organics – all include orange. I loved the way it made my face feel at the beginning, but after a week or so my face was breaking out big time. When I applied lotion to my neck I itched until I wiped it off.

Dust mites is something that never showed up on other allergy tests, either. However, I’ve always had a suspicion, because when I’m in a dusty area my face and nose itch. Of course it doesn’t help that Idiot Neighbor is creating more dust.

As far as the cat and dog allergy, the doctor said that frequent vacuuming and laundering will help that.

So between the noise pollution, the new allergies, and the stress of moving in general, I’ve been pretty miserable the entire time here. This is not what I consider paradise.

Making Homemade Suet Recipe is For the Birds

I can buy bird suet at the store on sale for about $1.50 a block. After looking up recipes, I thought why not make it myself?

I tried out those recipes and they did not seem to work well. Combining leftover coconut oil was a bad idea – it melted as soon as the sun hit it, melted all down the side of the tree, leaving a treat on the ground for the dog. Some recipes suggested using Crisco, which I did, but learned to combine it with peanut butter so it stuck together better. Other recipes suggested going to the butcher and asking for gross things.

Without measuring a thing, I scooped a few spoonfuls of Crisco together with a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, lightly melted it on the stove, and threw in a bunch of bird seed. Using recycled aluminum Chinese takeout pans, I poured the batter in each and stuck in the freezer. Within a few hours, they were ready to place in the suet cages. The birds love them, especially the downy woodpecker that likes to fly by each day.

**Note: In humid weather conditions, it’s important to watch these carefully, as mold can occur.

Wishful Thinking – Coffee and Chocolate for Breakfast

I was having a hormonal moment this morning. Remembering that I had chocolate cake in the freezer, I thought about how great it would taste with a cup of coffee. It’s been forever since I’ve eaten an unhealthy breakfast, but today I needed that comfort food.

Smiling from ear to ear, I open the freezer, and pull out Amy’s Organic Chocolate Cake (just found it in the store the other day, I’ve never tried it). I’m all excited about eating cake, which is something I never eat because of the contents. Anyway… I look at the cooking directions… and it says: “Thaw cake in refrigerator for 2 and a half hours”.

My dreams were shattered. How badly I wanted this chocolate cake with my cup of coffee this morning. I guess I will have to wait until lunch.

Living With Corn Allergy is a Pain in the Maize – Ingredients and Solutions

I wanted to reblog this, since it seemed to have gotten lost when I transferred everything from my other blog.

Most people don’t understand the impact that allergies can wreak on someone’s life. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a corn allergy. On one hand, knowing why I was having the health issues that were occurring was a huge relief because it gave me the choice and the power to change and control it, and I have adjusted well. On the other hand, it has made going out to eat and being a guest at places much more difficult for others because choices are limited. My biggest problem has been other people who don’t have food allergies or understand the effects they can have on a person.

How did I find out I was allergic to corn?
Everyday I brought my lunch to work – usually a turkey sandwich, carrots and dip, a snack, and Gatorade – and everyday after lunch I started to feel like I was coming down with the flu. Many other times I would eat or drink something and have an overall feeling of not feeling well. I was sick of being sick, and all of my blood tests had come back normal. There was no reason for me to be feeling so badly. I had a gut feeling that it was something I was consuming. I was given a series of allergy tests, and when the doctor said corn was a culprit, I was shocked.

Who is allergic to corn? I thought to myself. After much research, I found many others just like me.

Mixed drinks? Fuggedaboutit. Almost all drink mixes contain corn syrup.

Ingredients 

Being aware of the allergy, I knew to avoid… well uh… corn, popcorn, corn starch, corn syrup… all of which seemed to be listed on every food and/or drink label in our kitchen. A change of diet was necessary, and the next shopping trip for groceries took about twice as long as usual due to having to read every label. But that didn’t seem to solve the problem.

There were those “other” ingredients that I’d never taken a second consideration to because, like most people, I was simply uninformed. I found out the turkey in my sandwiches contained corn, and the bread I was eating contained corn. Since I couldn’t continue drinking my beloved Gatorade, my husband purchased some Crystal Lite powered packets that I could add to my water bottle at work. I enjoyed about half of my first bottle, and all of a sudden I began to cough and choke and wheeze. I knew that it was something in the drink, but we didn’t see any ingredients labeled as “corn”. That’s when Google came to the rescue.

I began Googling every single ingredient listed on the packet, and there it was – maltodextrin. I had never even heard of it before. It was corn derived. Then I learned more – dextrose is corn derived and so is just about anything with “dex” in it. It wasn’t until I had a “sugar free” Coke Zero and about choked to death that I learned the caramel in the soda is made from corn. I started doing some heavy research and found some wonderfully informative websites about the lists of ingredients to avoid, which unfortunately, seem to be in almost everything made in America.

Not only did I learn what ingredients I had to avoid, I also learned quickly how each of them affected me. Not everything with corn caused me to choke or cough or wheeze – that was mainly the maltodextrin or “dex” based products. When I accidentally drank something containing corn syrup (including the high fructose version), I found a sudden change in my overall body – almost the same feeling people get when they’re coming down with the flu, but slightly different and with a rapid heartbeat. I also noticed a sudden change in my personality – irritable, withdrawn, and I was even told my entire face changed. Even after only three sips, my body tells me something is wrong. Regular corn and popcorn made my throat itch. And worst of all, most of the allergy meds I was taking contained… you guess it – corn. No wonder I was so miserable!

How has this affected my life?
Going out to eat is almost impossible. Basically, if it’s a chain restaurant, I have to avoid it. Other people do not understand and insist there isn’t corn in the food because steak and mashed potatoes don’t contain corn, right? At my own house they don’t – that is partly correct – but the preservatives that are used are usually corn based. And you aren’t getting the best meat at chain restaurants, so what do you think they are feeding the cows before they become steak. You got it: corn. Unless the food is made with basic scratch ingredients, most restaurant food contains some derivative of corn. You know that California roll in your favorite sushi restaurant? The krab (not real crab) contains corn.

Fast food is out of the question. At first I thought I was safe with eating at Panera, especially when I specifically asked someone if their bean soup contained corn and was told no. When I started the coughing/choking after a few bites, I asked to see the ingredients. Surprisingly, contained corn oil.  Although I was never a big fan of it, I do sometimes miss a nice hot burger from BK or a Taco Bell taco… and I really, really miss Doritos and Coke. The only corn-free soda I can drink is soda water and Sprite Zero, which no restaurants bother to carry. With most breads, ketchup, and BBQ sauce containing corn syrup, eating at BBQ’s is a challenge. Since most people do not cook from scratch and are not aware of corn issues, eating at other homes is an issue for them. And don’t get me started about the movie theater – I am only safe drinking their water, as long as it’s not Dasani!

Just say no to corn chips.

Solution
How do I handle all of this? Simple. I eat the way people used to eat 100 years ago. I eat fresh foods, and I eliminate products containing corn. I cook everything from scratch. There are very few packaged products that I enjoy AND can tolerate. Amy’s Lentil Soup is one of them. I found organic ketchup that tastes exactly the same as regular ketchup but without the corn, and I use it to make my own BBQ sauce – which I take with me to BBQ’s now.

At first, I didn’t think I could live without “regular” food, but once I became used to not having all of the junk ingredients in my body, I started to feel like a new person. I am now completely aware and sensitive to anything that seems foreign to my body.

Unfortunately, corn isn’t the only food allergy I have, but it has become the most problematic because of it’s many derivatives. Hopefully food manufacturers in the U.S. will take notice of the many corn allergy sufferers in this country and find new alternatives to use. One day I dream of safe fast food to eat!

Vegetarian Beans Without Meat! (Really)

(**Note: An article in Forbes about Kobe beef being sold in the U.S. as not being actual Kobe has raised a lot of issues about consumers being lied to. Not only is it unethical for companies to claim something on a label that is completely false, but it is outright fraud and should be treated as so by the U.S. government.)

Sometimes labels can be so truthful that I find myself laughing out loud in the grocery store. As a matter of fact, there was a man standing next to me wondering why I was doing so and taking a picture of this can of beans. I told him what I saw, and at first he didn’t get it until I repeated, “It’s a can of beans with no meat.”

If you saw a label like this one you’d laugh, too! Who do they think they are kidding? Do they normally sell canned beans with meat?

Unfiltered Fresh Ginger, Ginger Ale – The Best Thing for Nausea, Digestion

Whenever I stumble upon a great product, I feel the need to share it with the world so that everyone else can enjoy it, too.

Having a corn allergy is the pits, but it has forced me to try new things. Since I am unable to drink regular ginger ale from the grocery store due to its corn syrup content, I found some natural products from the health food store. The one I’m raving about here is called Fresh Ginger, Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost. Strange name. Great flavor.

FGGA comes in a clear bottle, and at the bottom of the bottle sits about a half inch thick of real ginger. You do have to tilt the bottle to get the good stuff. The flavor is amazing! Being a ginger lover helps. The ale is a little costly, but so much better than the junk in the grocery store. The company has flavored ales that I have yet to try… and their website has some tasty looking drink recipes.

http://www.freshgingerale.com/

Jim’s Organic Coffee – Witches Brew X – is the Best!

I love a good cup of coffee, and Susanna does not play well with others without one. I tend to like the darker, robust coffees and Cuban coffee, but hadn’t been quite satisfied with everything else in the grocery store.

I recently discovered Jim’s Organic Coffee in my local health food store. I tried a sample of the “X” blend, also known as Witches Brew, to see if I would like it. Whoa! It is the BEST coffee I have tasted! It’s clean, not bitter like a lot of coffees. Although the beans are relatively black, this coffee is surprisingly light after brewing. And I find myself using less creamer, which is good for the waistline.

Check out Jim’s website and see if you can buy this locally. It is well worth it!

http://www.jimsorganiccoffee.com/

Alternative Foods for Corn and Egg Allergies

Having food allergies can put a real cramp in making dinner plans with friends because most people don’t understand the seriousness of food allergies. Sometimes planning an outing is difficult, so I must be sure to bring some of my own bread, ketchup, or Vegenaise. It took some getting used to at first, but now I am used to it. It’s the other people around me that have the problems. 🙂

I often get asked what I do when going shopping or out to places that serve food that I can’t eat. It’s taken some time, but luckily, there are some great products out there I have found.


Ketchup – Most ketchups contain corn syrup. I found an organic store brand (Publix) that does not. There are many others becoming available, mostly in the organic food sections.

Mayonnaise – Since mayo is made with eggs, there is no way around it. Most mayo also contains corn syrup. I found Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise – it’s lighter but pretty much the same consistency of regular mayo, and it’s made with grapeseed oil. It’s not as flavorful as regular mayo, but it does the job.

Bread – Most store bought breads contain corn syrup or another form of corn, so I try to stay away from them. However, fresh bread does not last long without preservatives, and I don’t eat it every day. Pepperidge Farm Whole Wheat Deli Flats are excellent, as is Toufayan Whole Wheat Pita Bread.

Sports Drinks – I used to love Gatorade before I found out about the corn allergy, but I had to give that up, too. Living in Florida, it’s important to keep hydrated, and sports drinks are a great way to do so. So far, Powerade Zero is the only sports drink I can find that does not contain corn ingredients.

Chips – Obviously, corn chips are out of the question, and many regular potato chips contain corn oil. Two great brands are Stacy’s Pita Chips and Kangaroo Pita Chips. I also enjoy the salted Genisoy Soy Chips.


Cheese – I also have a milk allergy, so ordering pizza is a crisis. I have found, however, that some of the more expensive deli cheeses (not the name brand packaged kinds) are okay. Someone also suggested that I try raw cheese or organic cheese, which I did both, and was able to enjoy them in small amounts.

Tacos – Since tacos are generally served on tortillas and other corn-related foods, I either substitute a taco shell by wrapping up the ingredients in a large piece of lettuce or take a whole wheat tortilla and lightly singe it in oil for about 30 seconds (enough to slightly harden it) and use that as the shell. It’s healthier both ways and still tastes just as good.


Pre-packaged foods – I’m generally out of luck with anything pre-packaged, even when it comes to canned soups. However, one of my favorite canned soups is Amy’s Lentil. Many of the Amy’s brand foods are safe, as long as I read the ingredients.

If your grocery store doesn’t carry these products, ask them to. All you have to do is go to the customer service desk and put in a request. Most of the time they listen.