30 April 2007

Modified Elimination Diet: Week 3

Wrapping it Up
It is Monday at the end of week three, and so the modified elimination diet comes to a close. The third week was a breeze, having had ample time to adjust to abstaining from the forbidden foods. I have lost more weight this week (for a grand total of thirty pounds), but I am assured this is to be expected from the elimination diet. I believe this trend will stop once some of the eliminated foods find their ways back into my diet.

Elimination Diet Dinner of the Week
This dinner was a big hit! One night, I was particularly craving something with a bit of Mexican flare, so I whipped up the following dish.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ large sweet onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Button mushrooms, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 can black beans
Sea salt
Pepper (optional)
2 large golden Yukon potatoes, cubed

Here is what I did:
On stovetop, heat up can of black beans on low-medium heat. Stir occasionally.

Place diced potatoes in baking dish. Pour olive oil over potatoes. Flavor with salt & pepper, and also some green pepper & cilantro if desired. Stir so potatoes are well coated. Place in 400 degree oven. Cook until potatoes are soft.

In a large saucepan, heat up one good pour of olive oil. Once hot, sauté onions, garlic, green pepper, & mushroom. Cook until onions are translucent. Remove from pan.

Add more olive oil to the hot pan. Cook up diced chicken breast. Once cooked, add onion/garlic/pepper/mushroom mixture back to pan.

Add tomatoes & chopped cilantro

Cook on low heat until entire mixture is warm.

Serve chicken mixture over oven-roasted potatoes and top with black beans.

I wish I had thought of it earlier, but some slices of avocado would be delicious on this. As it was, I could only eat about half of what I served myself. Very filling!

Non-elimination diet modifications (thanks to Jordan): put black beans & chicken mixture in a warm tortilla, top with sour cream, salsa, and your favorite cheese blend. Add a few squeezes of fresh lime for extra flavor!

Appointment with the Naturopath: The Moment of Truth
I met with the naturopath again today; what a fantastic appointment! He asked how I was feeling and I told him that I felt nothing short of marvelous. He was thrilled that the diet agreed with me so well and that I was feeling so much better.

He went over my recent blood work with me, and the results were quite revelatory. As he suspected, my thyroid levels are very low. I also have a low red blood cell count, am severely anemic (normal iron levels in women are 12.0 g/dL; my level was 3.4 g/dL), and have lowered adrenal gland function. My calcium levels also leave something to be desired. So all this explains the lowered energy levels throughout the past year, and why, as digestive tract heals and I better absorb nutrients from my food, I feel more energetic.

Because I tolerated the diet so well and based on the results of my blood test, he is almost certain I have a gluten sensitivity (but not a full-blown allergy). He said that in people with gluten sensitivities or intolerances, the villi in the small intestine (little “fingers” that come out of the small intestine, see diagram below) that absorb the nutrients become flattened, making it difficult to absorb nutrients from food or from supplements. As it is, the body tends to have more difficulty absorbing iron than any other nutrient.

He believes that as my digestive tract begins to heal, my absorption of nutrients will improve. He also postulated that because of my multiple bouts with acid reflux, my digestive system was already in a state of stress and somewhat damaged, and a gluten sensitivity just made it snowball from there. I will know how sensitive I am for certain once gluten is reintroduced into the diet.
Until then, I am to continue with the Intestinal Repair formula and three new supplements have been added to my regimen. I will be taking an herbal tincture three times a day to support adrenal function, a supplement once a day to support thyroid function, and a liquid iron supplement to increase my iron level (the liquid form is better absorbed by the body).

He was thrilled that I stuck to the diet (apparently many patients do not) and I literally thought he was going to leap out of his chair when he learned about how much better I’m feeling, and that I am improving daily. I told him of the weight loss (14 pounds since I started the diet) and he advised this is completely normal. What a relief! I expect I will have no problem gaining this back once eliminated foods are brought back into my diet. :o)

As the diet is at an end, I can start reintroducing foods at my leisure. He suggested I do it in groups, allowing one day of rest between groups. For example, he suggested I have a dairy day: have milk, yogurt, cheese. The following day would be a day of rest. The following day, I could add a new group of foods. He said as I haven’t had any of these things for nearly a month, I will know almost immediately whether I tolerate them well or not. He said if I do choose to add gluten back, to try it last (if at all). He believes that once my digestive tract has had ample time to heal, I may be able to handle it on a very limited basis.
I will return to his office to see him in a month so he can gauge my improvement after foods have been reintroduced, and after the additional herbal medicines have had a chance to do their work.

At the end of our visit, he advised me that he does this diet once every year: he begins it at Lent and concludes it on Easter Sunday. He said, "This diet is hard enough, I don’t know how Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness!" But what better time to do it? How remarkable that my naturopath loves Jesus and practices this diet as a spiritual discipline!

After battling uphill for a year, it is an immense relief finally to have made progress. Praise God for blessing me with renewed energy and health! Many thanks to all who have read this series of posts, who have encouraged and prayed for me, and to those who have offered insight and suggestions. It is much appreciated!
Another Health Update: I received a call from my doctor's office today. The results of my annual exam showed abnormal (pre-cancerous) cells. I go in to have a biopsy of the cells taken this coming Friday. I have a feeling that the state of stress my body has been in certainly could be a contributing factor, having had an obviously compromised state of health for the past year.
Please pray that this is something that will resolve itself & clear on its own as I become healthier & stronger. Please pray also that I would not be overly anxious about it, but just trust that God has this all under control.
Thank you in advance for your prayers!


  1. Oh, my dear Kirsten. This is both good and sobering news.

    So, are you also saying you've been tested for Celiac's (you mention there was a blood test)? I would probably just wait on the gluten. I have two friends who have Celiac's and even a crumb in the peanut butter jar can have adverse effects. You seem to be in such a delicate situation. Why court more disaster by reintroducing the gluten? And the precancerous. So sorry to hear that. Again, I might look into a cancer-prevention type diet right away (which would probably mean vegetarian).

    You are in my prayers, most definitely.

  2. Hello Laura. Thank you for your kind & encouraging words!

    I have not been tested for Celiac, but a sensitivity to gluten is the most likely culprit for my trouble based on how I responded to the diet. Apparently, there is a whole range of sensitivity from mild reaction to full-blown allergy. I doubt that I'll add gluten back at all (he said it was up to me whether or not to do it) since I'm still healing from the serious damage done to my digestive tract & don't want to take the chance of it becoming any worse.

    I've actually been in the process of "easing" myself into a vegetarian diet, eating meat just a few days a week. Today's news is reason enough to jump in with both feet. I held to a vegetarian diet for a couple years in high school/college, but became anemic (again, with the anemia) so reintroduced meat at the advice of my physician. Since so many more options are available (and I have a bit more knowledge), as well as having wonderful resources like you at my fingertips, I'm not too concerned about that becoming the case again.

    I've always been so healthy until this past year, so running this gauntlet of health issues has been a very humbling & sobering experience.

  3. What amazing, uplifing news -- but then how my heart leapt with surprise and fear when I got to the end of your post and the abnormal cells. I truly hope it's as you said: a result of a very hard year on your system.

    Kirsten, thank you for continuing to share all this news with us. It is such a joy to walk through this with you and know the reality of your world. Bless you, sweet friend.

  4. yes....thanks for continuing to share. am glad you have had such positive effects with the new diet and supplements. and i WILL pray that those will continue and that your body will be whole and healthy.

    where did they find the pre-cancerous cells?

  5. Thank you, Christianne & Blue! I, too, am encouraged that the diet has shown me where I need to cut things out and as an added bonus, I am feeling great for the first time in a year.

    Yesterday's news was definitely a blow. The pre-cancerous cells were found in my uterus as part of my annual exam. I had no indication that anything was amiss in that area, but that is par for the course with these things, apparently. My mom encouraged me though, saying that I have always been responsible & gone every year like I am supposed to, so hopefully this will be cleared up and "nipped in the bud".

    I am beginning to feel like I am sporting a big bullseye wherever I go. Sometimes I wonder, what next? I must seem - especially for those who are just "meeting" me through Blogger - that I am a walking health issue. The first 28 years of my life were exceptionally healthy, but now ... well, I never really was in control now, was I?

    And so I lean on the mercy & goodness of the Lord...

  6. Kirsten, you don't strike me as a walking health issue in any way. I know I knew you before Blogger, so I can't speak for how newbies have perceived you, but reconnecting with you after 7 years has been a blessing because it has revealed your beautiful heart in ways I never knew of you before. All the things related to your health have been shared with details that make it clear this has been a VERY confusing ordeal that you have done everything possible to correct. You are a seeker of truth, and I love that about you.

    About the walking bulls eye -- now THAT is something I can relate to! Unfortunately. But you are never outside the grasp of God -- He uses all things to ever conform us more into His likeness. This may sound trite, and I hate trite, but I have come to experience this as true so far in my short life.

  7. Thank you for that encouragement, Christianne. What an answer to prayer. I was just expressing these thoughts to Jordan last night & here, you answer those thoughts beautifully.

    My mom told me that I did take that week off for spiritual retreat after all - the bullseye makes sense! And I agree about how God uses these experiences to conform us more to the image & likeness of Christ. I remember praying something along those lines on my retreat ... I guess those prayers are being answered! :o)

    I am surprised about how peace-filled I feel. Not flippant, not ignoring reality - but just knowing that God has me in the palm of His hand & He will not let me fall. I am just resting in the knowledge that despite sounding trite & Christian-ese, He really does have this all under control.

    Thank you again for encouraging me. You are such a tremendous blessing to me!!

  8. Oh, gosh. I assumed the precancerous cells were in your esophagal lining, as sometimes happens with GERD.

    Okay, so you have been in my prayers and will continue to be, and don't hesitate to ask anything on the nutrition side. I love answering those kinds of questions.

  9. OK, I see where you were coming from now! :o) Thankfully, my esophagus is perfectly healthy. While these particular "abnormal" cells are not good news, I am assured it happens frequently and they usually end up healing on their own within anywhere from 10-24 mos. It's just going to be something to keep an eye on.

    So I'm on the lookout for gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian recipes! A few of the dishes I've cooked have matched that description, but I'm always on the lookout for new ideas and inspirations.

    I think I'm going to look through the recipe posts on your Green Inventions blog. Any books you can recommend?

  10. That is so interesting (is it okay to be interested in such news?)

    Most of my recipes are gluten and dairy free. And, of course, if they're not, it's easy to leave out an ingredient and add another in its place.

    Take a look on the Green Inventions side bar for book lists. There's one for raw and one for vegetarian.

    And I'm still thinking of you in my prayers.

  11. Thanks, Laura! Your Green Inventions blog has already been such a fantastic resource and I think I'll be utilizing it frequently in the coming weeks as I adjust to the "new normal" in my diet.

    Thank for your continued concern & prayer. I am greatly encouraged by the support I am receiving!

  12. Hi Kirsten,

    I finally checked back here after a few days and didn't realize you had left such a sweet comment in return. You are more than welcome for the encouragement -- I believe these things come from the heart of God through the body of Christ to others, so ultimately, thank Him! :)

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