We live in an age of food sensitivity. With so much variety of foods available to us, so much modification and so many artificial ingredients, we don’t have to look far for something that makes our tummies rumble in a bad way. Unless you are Andrew Zimmern and have guts of steel, there is some type of food that makes you sick.
Growing up, I had a very poor diet. The food we ate at home was relatively healthy but we went out often for fast food. Because I lived in the deep suburbs, the food establishments available to me were mostly chains. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Papa Gino’s, Dominos, D’Angelos, Dairy Queen, Friendlys, I ate from them all and on a regular basis. And although I was a very active child, I gained weight quickly as a teenager because of my poor diet. In my late teens, I suffered from daily bouts of nausea and I developed hypoglycemia. During my college years, my hypoglycemia was at it's worst due to poor eating habits and I regularly had really bad drops in my glucose levels. My hands would get sweaty, I’d feel faint and I’d get so sugar hungry that I would have stolen a lollipop from a toddler just to get a sugar fix. I drank coffee to wake me up in the mornings and then would chase it with a bottle of orange juice to offset the insulin spike the caffeine caused and to balance it out with more glucose. But it didn’t work. Both my insulin and blood sugar crash when they are spiked too high, so I would eventually need another sugar fix later on.
It wasn’t until into my late twenties that I figured out how to deal with my hypoglycemia. Three decent meals, healthy snacks in between meals to keep my insulin and glucose levels steady and very limited amount of caffeine. I gave up coffee and switched to tea. I didn't give up caffeine entirely because it helps a lot with speeding up my lazy digestive system. Although I had control over my hypoglycemia, it wasn’t the end of my food problems. I started to develop sensitivities to a whole bunch of different foods. I’ve been tested for hypoglycemia (I have the reactive kind) and for Celiac Disease (I don’t have it) but have not been tested for anything else. I know I have a lactose sensitivity but a lactose intolerance test would hurt me financially (my health insurance can’t confirm that they would pay for it) and physically (fasting would trigger my hypoglycemia). So finding out what foods make me sick has really been from trial and error.
What foods make you ill?
Coffee – The broth of Satan. I drank enough coffee during my college years that it ripped a nice whole in my esophagus in the form of an ulcer. When I stopped drinking coffee and the ulcer closed up. Also, the caffeine in coffee is so strong that even the weakest coffee would spike my insulin enough for me to have a low blood sugar crash. While I love the taste of coffee, I had to give it up permanently and develop a love of tea instead.
Cheese – My belly swells up like a balloon making me look 4 months pregnant and then I release so much gas it’s a wonder Carlos still wants to marry me! I’ve had to cut down cheese quite a bit. Younger cheese like fresh mozzarella and cottage cheese don’t affect me as much as aged cheeses. The deadliest and most delicious cheese bomb is an Asiago Cheese Bagel with Cream Cheese and Broccoli and Cheese Soup. This was a regular meal I would have when I used to work at a Barnes & Noble with a Cafe. If I eat that now, I know I would be in a world of hurt.
Milk & Yogurt – Same as cheese, I’m very sensitive to anything with lactose. I just get too gassy, I bloat and I’m often in pain. I’ve switched from Milk to Almond Milk and my stomach has thanked me for it. I’m grateful to Green Valley Organics, a company that produces lactose free Yogurt, Cottage Cheese and Kefir. Because of them I can eat Yogurt again.
Sweetened Condensed Milk – I recently discovered that my favorite indulgence gives me gas, bloat and migraines. A big wallop! While it's so delicious, a 24 hour migraine makes it not worth it at all. I think it's fine mixed into something else but eating it straight is a big no-no.
Muffins – I know this is strange right? Muffins seem so innocent but they are really evil. But they sit in my stomach like a brick and the density of carbohydrates from the flour and sugar gives me a headache.
Desserts with too much sugar – I can handle cookies, cakes, tarts, pastries, etc. but if the baker who made them added to much sugar, they’ve packed my bags and put me on a train to headache city.
Big Meals – If I dare to eat past the point of satiation, I will be plagued with stomach discomfort and nausea for hours.
Social Meals – This is very odd but if I talk a lot during a meal, I will most likely experience a couple hours of nausea afterwards. Something about talking, chewing, eating and swallowing doesn’t do my stomach any good. Possibly because my diaphragm is working overtime keeping the food down so it doesn't come up while I'm talking and laughing. But if I want to hang out with friends, it’s inevitable we’ll go out to eat. I try to eat slowly, talk less and try not to eat past the point of satiation so that I don’t get the nausea.
Red Meat & Chicken – This is new. Lately any type of red meat has been sitting in my stomach like lead and it takes my system hours upon hours to digest. I get very grossed out by chicken so I think I may have to go Pescatarian full-time starting soon.
Pizza and Sandwiches – Too much bread and sometimes too much cheese. Again, they sit in my stomach like lead and sometimes they make me want to go to sleep. Talk about a non-energizing meal! If I really want either of them, one slice of pizza or a half sandwich paired with a salad will be just enough not to tip the scale into stomach discomfort.
Take Out Asian Food – Unfortunately, a lot of take-out food from Chinese and Thai restaurants are loaded with sodium and MSG. Sodium results in bloat. All the sodium makes me super thirsty and I have to drink a few glasses of water with makes my already full stomach very uncomfortable. I’m trying to make my own versions of take-out Asian food at home. I try to stick to things like Sushi or Steamed dishes when I do go to Asian restaurants.
Soup - For the same reasons as Take Out Asian food, most canned soups or soups you get at restaurants are loaded with sodium. I make my own at home or I get them at restaurants I know to not be heavy handed with the salt shaker. I've had to give up the delicious Panera soups because they are all salt bombs.
I’m grateful that I have some food sensitivities because it does help prevent me from overindulging.