Tigers and Strawberries–A Probable Change of Focus

I’ll just spit it out.

I have been ill–for a while, although for the past few weeks, it has been worse. And, luckily, my doctor has probably figured out what is wrong with me and has narrowed our focus down to three possibilities, all of them necessitating diet and lifestyle changes.

One, that we know for certain is that I am allergic to wheat, and likely have been my entire life. It is only recently, however, that my digestive system has started acting out every time I eat wheat, so most of the symptoms I have had which can be caused by sheat allergy, I have only assumed were nothing more than general environmental allergies and malaise related to my sleep disorder.

The truth is, it is probably the wheat allergy that is causing the chronic severe joint aches and pains, the constant sinus problems, and the new in ability to digest much of anything involving wheat.

The other possibility is that it isn’t just a wheat allergy–which was diagnosed with a skin test that had a very dramatic positive result.

It could be celiac disease, which is gluten intolerance that causes specific antibodies to attack the small intestine and essentially reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Today, I just had a blood test to see if those antibodies are present in my blood. The final, definitive diagnosis would come from a biopsy of tissue from the small intestine. If it is celiac, then I have to avoid barley and rye as well as wheat, and I will have to become very aware of what I am eating, because the only way to return the small intestine to health is to stop eating all gluten, to allow the villi to grow back so that nutrients can be absorbed again.

Celiac disease would explain why I am losing weight even though I am still eating well, and in fact, am hungry all the time. (When I first started losing weight, I thought it was the Welbutrin, as did my doctor. Then, I started exercising, and so that could explain why I was losing weight. Then, I stopped exercising and still lost a lot of weight. I am just glad I was overweight to start out with, because if I hadn’t been, I probably would look really ill right about now.)

The third possibility, which I think is the most serious, and is also a strong one, is type II diabetes. My Mom’s family is riddled with diabetics, so there is precedent. I will say that I have had glucose tolerance tests several times over my life, including when I was pregnant with Kat, and I have not shown any sign of having high blood sugar, so it is likely that this is not the culprit. However, to be sure, I had another glucose tolerance test done this morning.

So, we will see. If I am going to be living wheat or gluten free, I am going to have to change what I cook at home, and perforce, this blog will change somewhat. I don’t mind it–I can learn stuff that will help other people with their cooking, just within a narrower context than before. And if it is diabetes, then I will share with readers whatever it is I learn to cook in order to keep myself healthy.

I will come back to the blog soon–it is ironic–I had actually almost given up on writing Tigers & Strawberries, because I felt like I had said all I needed to say, and I was more interested in doing rather than writing. But now, if I am going to be doing kitchen experimentation for special diets–well, I have a reason to keep on writing.


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  1. I’m so sorry you’ve been so ill, and I’m glad you’re on top of things and getting tested so that you can find out what the culprit is. I’m thinking good thoughts for you!

    Comment by Amy J. — April 21, 2009 #

  2. Hope it all goes well, and that you find a good reason for your illness. Best of luck.

    Comment by Amie — April 21, 2009 #

  3. Oh, Barbara. How awful for you.

    While I’m sorry you’ve been so ill, I have to say I’m very interested to see how you’d handle a wheat-free or diabetic diet.

    Comment by Jan — April 21, 2009 #

  4. HI.
    love your blog. Great recipes.
    my girlfriend was diagnosed with celiac over a year ago. It certainly has changed the way we eat at our house. We too like to cook a lot of Asian, hooray for gluten free tamari !! I hope you do well dealing with you health issues, and look forward to continued reading and future recipe ideas !
    — jeff

    Comment by JEFF — April 21, 2009 #

  5. My thoughts are with you in this time of uncertainty and I ope you can begin the road to good health and feeling well soon.


    Comment by KCatGU — April 21, 2009 #

  6. I myself have celiac and have had it for (well diagnosed) 6 years. I for one, don’t wish it on my greatest enemy but can not deny the fact that I’d be so excited to see all your reciepes in their gluten free glory so I can learn to make some of them for me and my family.

    Comment by Meagan Bryant — April 21, 2009 #

  7. I’m very sorry to hear you’ve been ill. I have enjoyed reading your blog for quite some time, and I often plot out how I might convert some recipe or other to make it wheat/gluten free. My beloved went to a wheat- and gluten-free diet a little over a year ago, because she had been suffering classic celiac symptoms, despite testing negative for the disease years ago. The improvement in her health has been amazing, and she has completely lost her life-long lactose intolerance. However, once on the diet, her system became hypersensitive to accidental wheat exposure, so even a crumb of breading or a trace of “modified food starch” in something will cause her almost immediate problems. We have become fanatical about reading labels, and restaurant menus are full of landmines, and I’m looking forward to reading your gluten-free recipes here. Best wishes for improved health!

    Comment by Cecy — April 21, 2009 #

  8. So very sorry to hear that you’ve been ill.
    I’ve been GF for the past 2 1/2 years. I feel much better without it. Actually at this point I mostly miss two things – a chewy pizza crust and really, really good sourdough. That’s about it.
    Some things, like pancakes, are better when they are made with GF flour, IMHO. Of course it may be because I never liked things like that before because they’ve always made me ill. I just avoided many things of wheat most of my life.
    I have a lot of immune problems that are probably related to not changing my diet sooner in life. However, you are much younger. You should do well. Like I said, I’m far better now.

    Comment by Jehannamama — April 21, 2009 #

  9. Sorry to hear this. Best wishes from over here.

    Comment by The Bad Yogi — April 21, 2009 #

  10. Good luck!! Cooking & especially baking, are such different worlds when done gluten free. It will give you a chance to learn & explore food all over again. I too had the life of feeling sorta lousy most of the time. After a million doctors, it was an alternative practitioner who suggested removing wheat (and a few other things) to see if it helped. I don’t appear to be celiac, but wheat definitely contributes to my yuck feeling and like you said, I never realized it. I think I ate so much of it there was never a time for my body to be away from it so I could make the connection. There are some GREAT blogs out there for gluten free ideas. That helped me get started and I’m sure you’ll find your own path quickly.

    Comment by Zebe912 — April 21, 2009 #

  11. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, but if it’s coeliac disease that really won’t be a problem for you. My dad was diagnosed at age 40 and eats far better 20 years on than he ever did 20 years earlier. Wishing you all the best.

    Comment by Trig — April 21, 2009 #

  12. So sorry you are ill. Wishing you the best.

    Comment by Dolores — April 21, 2009 #

  13. I’m sorry to hear that your health has not been good, and I hope that, whatever the reason, it’s found and resolved soon. Feeling yucky is no fun, I have my own complicated set of food issues so I know that firsthand. I’m looking forward to hearing the results of your tests and how you approach food from that point on. I’ve enjoyed Tigers and Strawberries for three or four years now, I’m looking forward to more of whatever you have in mind.

    Comment by Kristi — April 21, 2009 #

  14. I know where you’re at. Actually, lots of us in the blogworld do! Check the gf blogroll on my left sidebar – there are lots of us out here who’ve made this journey, and post fab recipes to share! Good luck.

    Comment by gaile — April 21, 2009 #

  15. I’m so very sorry to hear you have been ill. At least getting a definitive diagnosis will start you down the road of feeling better. And there are so many amazing foods still open to those with celiac. As you know from the wealth of the blogosphere, there are inspiring stories every day of people who have launched into better eating, or new avenues of food exploration, after the diagnosis.

    Mostly, I just hope whatever avenues you take lead to improved health and energy. And I love your blog for you – your perspective on food and life – so will happily keep reading regardless of what focus it may have.

    Know that there are many of out here wishing you well. Take care!

    Comment by Diane — April 21, 2009 #

  16. None of those possibilities sounds like much fun. I wish you all the best in pinning down the issue and healing. No matter what you cook or write about going forward, I know it will be delicious and/or interesting, so I will always be a reader!

    Comment by Alexis — April 21, 2009 #

  17. Oh Barbara, I’m so sorry, what a nightmare.

    Hope everything turns out OK.

    Comment by Fernmonkey — April 22, 2009 #

  18. i’m so sorry to hear you’re not well. i hope you get a definitive diagnosis and start healing soon.

    you’re a terrific cook and writer. i’ll be an eager reader of your approach to special diets.


    Comment by nancy — April 22, 2009 #

  19. I don’t write often here but I wanted to tell you that I wish you will soon get better.
    I like to read your blog, especialy the post aboute Kate, it’s fun to see her grow, and that’s from someone who doesn’t like kids as a rule.

    Comment by Plume — April 22, 2009 #

  20. I agree with the above poster– sorry that you’re ill but interested to see what you’ll do with diet constraints.

    With your incredible skills. you’ll be a treasure to all allergic eaters.

    Comment by wwjudith — April 22, 2009 #

  21. So sorry you have been feeling ill. Hope that you find out what it is, and it is resolved, whether it’s by diet or other method, easily.

    Comment by Christine — April 22, 2009 #

  22. To echo the chorus, I’m so sorry you’ve been ill! I hope you and your doctors are able to figure out what’s causing it so you can find ways to work around it.

    And FWIW, I’ll be interested in reading whatever you have to write, regardless of the ingredients you’re using.

    Comment by Lexica — April 22, 2009 #

  23. I’m sorry to hear about your medical condition. I’ve always loved your blog and can attribute it as my introduction to asian cooking. I hope all goes well and we see things pick up!

    Comment by Edwin — April 22, 2009 #

  24. Don’t you dare stop blogging…..it’s one of my favorite reads!

    Comment by helen — April 22, 2009 #

  25. So sorry you have been feeling ill. Hope that you find out what it is, and it is resolved, whether it’s by diet or other method, easily.

    Comment by sandla — April 23, 2009 #

  26. Long time reader and lurker… Barbara, I hope whatever the problem is, you will have a definite diagnosis soon so that you can make the changes you need to feel better and be healthier. There are some really great gluten-free food blogs (I like Gluten-Free Girl) and I’m sure you will bring an interesting perspective to it.

    Comment by Yulie — April 23, 2009 #

  27. Celiac is definitely tough, but even in the last 5 years, gluten-free foodstuffs have REALLY come along. I have.. 4? 5? friends who are Celiac or otherwise gluten intolerant. It’s astounding – and the few symptoms you mention do match up with a couple of them. The crazy thing is that there so *many* strange reactions people have, but it all stems from the same problem. Thankfully, there’s much more gluten awareness now, and lots of places do a terrific job of trying to accomodate.

    Comment by Lynette — April 23, 2009 #

  28. It sounds so familiar – I was diagnosed with celiac in 2003 after I started losing weight during a horribly stressful period of my lif, continued to lose it after I bought a bike and started exercising a lot, and continued to lose it rapidly after I stopped exercising. It got scary. That on top of some…uh… interesting symptoms turned out to be celiac related issues.
    Restricting one’s diet is hard – and it’s exhausting to have to think about everything you put in your mouth, but in all honesty, for me the diagnosis was absolutely a relief. I wouldn’t go back to my “before”.
    So…good luck through this difficult time. And my thoughts are with you.

    Comment by Natalie — April 23, 2009 #

  29. I’m sorry you’ve been sick. I went through terrible digestive problems last year, which seemed to take forever to diagnose, so I really feel for you.

    Once the ultrasound, CT, colonoscopy had ruled out the more serious conditions, I did an elimination diet, and felt MUCH better after being off wheat for about 4-7 days. So I went GF, and was attack-free, until I ate peas, OMG the pain.

    Meanwhile, celiac bloodwork was negative (I also didn’t have weight loss, and joint pain). I did more research, and found an informative site about IBS that listed food triggers, which seems the main one is insoluble fibers (whole wheat has that). I did another elimination diet, this time differentiating between processed wheat (no insoluble fiber), and whole wheat. I tolerated the processed just fine, but had an attack within 1 hour after eating whole wheat. So much for health recommendations about whole wheat LOL

    My A1C (3 month blood sugar average — it’s a tad more complicated, but that explains it well enough) was borderline for Type II Diabetes when all this started, although my FBS was normal.

    I had my GP do a follow up A1C after I’d been off wheat a few months (I had been eating GF pasta, baking mix, but not nearly as much as before), and my A1C had dropped to well within normal limits.

    So, if your tests show you have celiac, and your A1C is a little high, don’t substitute other high glycemic GF flours right away, and see if your A1C comes down after 3-4 months. By that time, hopefully your digestive woes, allergies, and joint pain would have stopped too.

    Comment by Shreela — April 23, 2009 #

  30. I’m so sorry to hear that you have been ill. I gave up wheat and cow dairy at the behest of a friend who is a fellow MS sufferer. The first month was brutal as I went through withdrawal symptoms and detoxing. The final results have been fantastic, and it has been worth the struggle to adapt. I have 3 times the energy and so many more good days now.

    When I do get a bit of wheat in my diet by accident, I get the worst hangover…

    I’m looking forward to your new ideas about recipes. Thanks for one of my favorite reads.

    Comment by Denise — April 23, 2009 #

  31. Oh my… As someone with no serious food allergies or prohibitions, I can’t even imagine what such a change in diet would involve. However, I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with creative, yummy solutions that are delectable in their own right!

    Would it matter what you cooked for others? Or is that something dependent on the severity of the condition (assuming it’s the wheat thing)?

    Comment by Maria P. — April 24, 2009 #

  32. I’m not much of a commenter (never!) but want to say that I’m sorry for your ill turn of health! (Also, I’ve never thanked you for your S Potato Pie, which I LOVE!)

    Strangely, I’m going through much the same thing (wheat, oats, corn are nogo for me) and FWIW, once I realized that and cut WAY down on those in my diet, I feel *much* better! I’m hoping you’re feeling better soon!!

    Comment by Crystal — April 25, 2009 #

  33. So sorry to hear you’ve been having these health issues. I hope you can get a definitive diagnosis so you can adjust your diet and get back to feeling well again. Hugs and healing thoughts to you in the meantime.

    Comment by Kalyn — April 25, 2009 #

  34. So much of your story resonates with me. I was a cookbook author, creating bread and pasta recipes before I knew that undiagnosed celiac disease was wreaking havoc with my body. I was dx’ed with celiac late in 2001. As an autoimmune disease, celiac is often linked with diabetes; the fact that your family suffers with diabetes indicates a genetic predisposition. If I can help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me through my blog. I’ve been blogging gluten-free recipes since 2005; and gluten-dairy free recipes since 2007 (celiac damage caused multiple food allergies for me). Take care- good luck with your diagnosis. And again, contact me any time. Warm regards, Karina

    Comment by Karina — April 25, 2009 #

  35. Hope you are better by now. It might be good to eat just plain foods for a while .you most probably have beent rying too many different recipes .I have had trouble recently trying too many different non -alcoholic drinks. A ridiculous range of colourfulmixed juicesMy system has probably just given up .Foods and drinks are probably like medicines -onecannot take all medicines in a short space of time One’s Doctor would probably prescribe one or two or three medicines at a time Too many different dishes ,recipes or drinks might kill one off sooner or later

    Comment by Maureen Fylan — April 26, 2009 #

  36. I can’t recommend Shauna Ahern at Gluten-Free Girl highly enough. I don’t have any health issues with wheat, but I’ve been reading her blog for ages, and she is a great writer with fabulous recipes (she has a cookbook out as well, but I haven’t seen it). Blessings!

    Comment by Becca — April 26, 2009 #

  37. I’m sorry to hear that you have not been feeling well, I hope some clarity comes into focus soon regarding your health problems. I really do enjoy reading your blog-your stories of asian cooking, cat blogging, local eating have enriched my knowledge of cooking and my weekly media diet-I am already looking forward to buying a wok according to your recommendations! Keep well and best regards.

    Comment by Deanna — April 26, 2009 #

  38. I love your blog! Thankyou!!

    Comment by tuki — April 27, 2009 #

  39. I’m glad that you’re getting to the root of the matter. I hope that your health improves. Thank you for the kimchee recipe! Cabbage is supposed to be very healing for the digestive tract. (That’s how I found your site.)

    Comment by Joanne — April 27, 2009 #

  40. Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Best of luck figuring it out and figuring out what to do about it in a delicious way.

    Comment by Bard — April 29, 2009 #

  41. Sorry to hear about your illness Barbara.My mother had the same thing I think.It was difficult to diagnose at the time.What a nuisance it sounds.At least you are taking it in the right spirit. Can you eat sorghum and buckwheat?

    Comment by Jyotsna — April 29, 2009 #

  42. I don’t have any food intolerances, so I don’t know what I’d do if I had to switch to a restrictive diet like that!

    However, if anyone can deal with it, you can! I think your new gluten-free recipes will be very intersting.

    Comment by Neohippie — April 30, 2009 #

  43. I’m reading this a bit late, but just wanted to let you know that many of us are recovering on the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet from many different illnesses. My son is healing from autism and lots of people with what you describe. GAPSdiet.com and GAPSguide.com have lots of info and the food is amazing once you learn to switch. I think you would do fantastic on it. There is also a Yahoo group for support.

    Comment by Millie — June 18, 2009 #

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