Supplement Shopping: 5 Tips for Savvy Shopping!

We are a pill popping society, and we know it. It is what Americans seem to love to do. Recently, there has been a lot of press stating that perhaps we should not be taking multi-nutrient supplements at all. Further stating they may actually be harmful to our health. I have even had patients come to my office telling me that their physicians have told them to stop taking supplements altogether.

The wise approach, however, is most likely somewhere between constantly popping supplements and never taking a supplement. It’s best to be a savvy shopper, as there’s no sense in making poor supplement choices that may hurt you and your wallet.

supplement fact label

Supplement Fact Label

Who might benefit from supplements?

People that would benefits from supplements include: those with nutrient deficiencies, women of childbearing years, or the elderly on certain medications. People with low calorie intakes and those that skip entire food groups might also benefit. While it is always best to have your nutritional requirements met through a healthy food selection, appropriate dosages of supplements can “supplement” your diet by filling in the gaps.

The bad news on supplements

The bad news about supplements is that overdoing dosages can be harmful to your health. Many people have the “if some is good, more is better” mentality. The truth is that scientists have documented upper limits of safety, and beyond those limits you are putting your health at risk. Mega doses of supplements are actually categorized as drugs, and excessive amounts of supplements can cause symptoms ranging from nerve damage to liver failure.

Another little known fact is that just because you can purchase a supplement at a store, doesn’t mean it is safe. Supplements sold in this country have virtually no regulation in terms of safety. Under current law, the FDA is responsible for taking action on unsafe supplements already on the market. But, it does not need to screen or pre-approve a supplement before it gets to the store shelves. This means you need to be a savvy supplement shopper if you decide to take supplements.

Here are 5 tips to help keep your supplement selection safe:

  1. Look at the Supplement Fact label (example in above photo); choose a multi-nutrient supplement that does not have very high percentages of nutrients (around 100% Daily Value (DV) would be safe). If many nutrients are 200% or higher, consider selecting a different supplement.
  2. Look for the USP symbol or text on a label.usp logo on a supplement lable
    The USP symbol or text means that the supplement will dissolve in your digestive system, and the ingredients are guaranteed.
  3. Supplements with added ingredients such as parsley, alfalfa, and herbs offer no added health benefit to the consumer. There would be too little added to the supplement-best to just eat the parsley!
  4. Don’t let terms such as “stress relief”, “time release”, or “natural” drive your brand selection. These are only marketing terms!
  5. Because there is no regulation on supplements prior to arriving on the store shelves, consider purchasing supplements that are name brands. These companies are more likely to have their own internal high quality control standards, as they have a reputation to be protected, which can also ultimately protect the consumer.

If in doubt about whether to supplement or not, a registered/licensed dietitian can assist you! And remember, you are still getting nutrients from foods that are fortified, like cereals.

What are your thoughts about supplement use and safety?

 

 

10 Easter Egg Food Safety Tips

Easter Egg Safety: Keep it fun to hunt and safe to eat!

Keep your Easter eggs safe to eat

The egg hunt is on! Families all over the country will buy, dye, and hunt for eggs in the next few days. After the egg festivities, plan on eating the eggs as a snack, breakfast, or add to a salad during the upcoming week. Just remember to handle and prepare them correctly.

Nutrients in an egg.

A hard boiled egg has only about 80 calories, but is rich in many nutrients, including protein, phytochemicals, many B-complex vitamins, and vitamins A, D, and E. If eggs are from chickens fed an omega-3 rich feed, the hatched eggs will also contain omega-3 fatty acids which we need more of in the American diet. Another nutritional perk of eggs hatched in 2019, is they are significantly lower in cholesterol. Today’s eggs have an average of only 180 mg. of cholesterol, down from about 220 mg. cholesterol in years past!

Here are ten tips to keep those eggs safe to eat after Easter

  1. When purchasing your eggs, make sure there are no broken or dirty eggs. The shell keeps the inside of the eggs free of bacteria and a broken shell can allow for bacterial contamination.

  2. Be sure to check the date stamped on the carton. Avoid purchasing eggs which are stamped with a “sell by” date close to the purchase date.

  3. After purchasing, refrigerate eggs immediately at 40° or less.  Avoid putting eggs in the refrigerator door, as temperatures will be inconsistent and may not meet temperature guidelines.

  4. For eggs already in your refrigerator, you may safely use them for both coloring and eating even if the sell-by date has already passed. In fact, they can be safely eaten 2-4 weeks past that stamped “sell by” date. If your eggs are typically stored in another container in the refrigerator, and you have no idea how long they have been there, it is best to pitch them and start with fresh eggs for coloring if you plan on eating them.

  5. Consumers should not wash egg shells prior to hard boiling.  When the chicken lays an egg it has a protective film coating to protect the inside of the egg. Washing the shell can actually remove that protective film, and hasten the likelihood of bacteria moving into the egg.

  6. Cook the eggs thoroughly.  Place your eggs in a pan of water and bring to a boil. Just as water boils, remove from the burner and cover with a lid.  Let eggs remain in the hot water for 9 minutes for medium eggs and 15 minutes for extra large.

  7. After cooked, refrigerate the eggs within a 2-hour period.

  8. Use a food safe dye so you can plan on eating your Easter eggs!

  9. Do not plan on eating Easter eggs which have been placed on the ground.  This becomes a perfect recipe for making you ill as the bacteria from the ground can enter the cooked egg. Stick with the plastic version for egg hunting in the yard.

  10. If you are hiding real Easter eggs, pick clean areas to hide them inside your home. Bacteria lurks there as well.

    Leave cooked Easter eggs out for no more than 2 hours.  Safely eat your leftover Easter eggs for up to 7 days.

Do you do anything special with leftover eggs?

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake Roll: A Versatile Holiday Recipe

IMG_3109(1)

Cake ready to serve.

I have been making this sponge ice cream roll cake for over 4 decades. It has become a favorite holiday recipe and even the in-laws and grand kids ask for it each holiday. It was passed down to me from an Aunt and I hope my own daughters eventually make it to keep it in the family. For now, they will assume it’s my job!

  Here’s what I like about it:

  • I love that it can be made in advance of the holiday. Whip it up and put in the freezer.  I’d say it could freeze for months, but it will most likely never last that long.
  • I call this a chameleon recipe because it can be changed so many ways to suit dietary needs or taste buds.  You can use a gluten free flour mix and make it a gluten free recipe. After cutting out most wheat, I have used gluten free baking flour for this recipe and no one can tell the difference. I still get a treat and no one is the wiser. You can also use lactose free ice cream and make it lactose free as well. You can even modify this recipe and make it a vanilla roll or put a different flavor of ice cream in the roll. There’s pretty much something for everyone.
Chocolate Ice Cream Roll Cake (about 10 servings, 
depending on your greediness)

Ingredients:

6 eggs, separate the egg whites into one bowl and the egg yolks
into a second bowl
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. cocoa
4 Tbsp. sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
confectioner’s sugar-have at least a cup to spread on foil
and use to wrap up the roll
About 3 cups of ice cream

Get Ready to Bake

Preheat the oven to 325 ⁰. Grease a 15.5 x 10.5 jelly roll pan with vegetable spray. On top of that, insert a piece of wax paper onto the pan and spray that as well.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and add ½ tsp. cream of tartar. Gradually beat in ½ cup sugar. Set aside.  Beat the egg yolk until thick. Add ½ cup sugar. Mix the cocoa and flour and add to the yolk mixture. Mix and then add the salt and vanilla. Fold the egg yolk mixture gently into the egg white mixture.

Spread in the well greased jelly roll pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, just until the surface springs back when touched lightly with finger (be sure to avoid over baking as it will crack while rolling up).  Loosen the edges with a knife and then immediately turn upside down on a large sheet of foil that is sprinkled with a generous amount of confectioner’s sugar. At this point, layer your ice cream on top (don’t wait for it to cool). I usually put at least a quarter inch of ice cream across the top, but it can be more. If the sponge cake starts to stick on the foil, just roll some confectioner’s sugar on that as well.

IMG_3106

The warm sponge cake topped with ice cream and ready to roll up.

To make this a vanilla roll, I just replace the 4 Tbsp. cocoa with 2 Tbsp. of flour (so a total of 6 Tbsp. flour) and follow the rest of the recipe.

~200 calories, 8 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein~ Happy Easter

 

Without Wheat: Blueberry Streusel Teff Muffins

I decided to finally try using the teff flour I bought months ago. Muffins always seem like a forgiving baked product to start on, so teff muffins it was. It seems as though a lot of the available recipes require another flour in addition to the teff flour. The teff flour can make a drier product so a recipe that has sweet potatoes, bananas, applesauce, and berries would seem to be a good fit. I took a conventional recipe and modified the flours.

1/4 canola oil
1 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 cup teff flour
1 cup Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten free Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup frozen organic blueberries, thawed and well drained

Streusel Topping:
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Heat oven to 400º . Mix the streusel ingredients into a bowl and set asside. Generously grease or spray muffin pan. Mix the milk, oil, vanilla, and egg together. Stir in both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt until moistened. Fold in the drained blueberries. Divide batter in 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the streusel topping on top and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the pan immediately.

These muffins, as is the case with all muffins, freeze well for a quick grab start to the day or easy snack. 

Yeild 12 muffins: Each muffin has 199 calories, 6 g fat, 30 g carbohydrates, and 4 g protein

If you are looking to experiment with another wheat free flour, try my buckwheat muffin recipe.

Have you used Teff flour in a baked product?

6 Kitchen Staples to Foster Healthier Eating

A “healthy” kitchen is a pretty straightforward path to healthier eating.  Who doesn’t care about healthy eating?  I think most people would like to make better food choices, but end up floundering for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes there is no healthy food in the house, they are tired, not motivated in the moment, or just too tired to care about eating a healthy diet.  It’s important to keep in mind that a healthy meal does not need to be labor intensive and time consuming.  Keeping some staples around can simplify the process of carrying out healthier eating. Here’s my list of 6 staples and what you can do with it.

Vegetables

Everyone knows vegetables are important to a healthy diet.  The problem is that even though people know this, they are not going out of their way to eat enough.  I have not really figured out why, but I think it is because there is a bit more labor required in order to eat most vegetables.  You know, scrape, clean, cut, etc.  The “work around”  is to prep some for the week, and bag them up.  For instance, if you like peppers, cut a few up for the work week and put your portions in Ziploc bags for the week.  You will not need to stop and chop, just grab your portion.  Don’t forget you can also drink your vegetables by stocking low sodium V-8 juice which is full of nutrients like potassium and vitamin C.

Fruit

Yes, it is good for you.  No, it does not contain too much sugar and is ok to eat even if a diabetic.  While we do not have a ton of choices in the Midwest right now, every store has a nice variety of bagged organic frozen fruit.  Keep it on hand to use as a smoothie.  When I am hard pressed for good nutrition on the run, I love doing the smoothie trick.  Want to increase the protein?  My trick is to add 1/2 cup of cottage cheese to the mix which boosts the protein to 15 grams.  Smoothie recipe.

Grains

Despite all the negative comments regarding carbohydrates, grains are an important part of a healthy diet.  Grains provide fiber and B vitamins.  They can be dished up differently for different people. Whole grain pasta, crackers, and cereal can keep in the cupboard as a staple side dish or even eaten as an occasional entrée.  I frequently have sheepish clients say they eat cereal for dinner.  Guess what? I have done that as well topped with a fruit such as a banana or strawberries.  As with the vegetables, planning ahead and freezing some grain based foods also works to foster a healthier diet.  I make wheat free muffins and gluten free waffles which are then frozen for later use.

Milk or milk substitute

I’m lactose intolerant, so I keep lactose free milk in my kitchen.  I also enjoy kefir for my smoothies.  If you don’t want to drink cow’s milk, you should still have a milk alternative in your kitchen.  Milk alternatives are typically fortified with calcium and will have a similar calcium content to cow milk. Options are: almond, soy, rice, hemp, or the now popular oat milk.

Eggs 

Despite the new bad press, an egg is a wonderful package of nutrients for very few calories.  Eggs have high quality  protein and the cholesterol content of eggs has been declining. Today, eggs such as EggLands Best Eggs have omega-3 fatty acids and are a source of vitamin E.  An average egg has only about 180 mg. of cholesterol.  If you still want to decrease your dietary cholesterol while eating several eggs, consider mixing a whole egg with an egg substitute like Egg Beaters.

Frozen Meals

Yes, I mean a frozen dinner.  I can pretty much guarantee that a Healthy Choice or Kashi brand frozen meal is going to be a healthier option than heading to your local fast food joint.  When time is tight or energy is already spent, having a few of these on hand can save the day.  Many frozen dinners are now lower in sodium, fat, calories, and preservatives, but high in flavor.  Don’t forget, you can freeze your own meals as well.  Double up your recipe, and freeze the other half.

Do you have more tips for fast healthy eating?

Without Wheat: I’m Learning!

Buckwheat muffins with chocolate chips

Buckwheat muffins with chocolate chips

Breaking up with wheat can be hard to do 

Personally, I REALLY enjoy eating whole grains. And, I ate a ton of wheat. Deciding to live a wheat free life may be due to a wheat sensitivity. Or, perhaps it’s a personal decision to pull back because you need or want to be gluten-free (products labeled gluten free are also wheat free). Whatever the circumstances, there are definitely some grain alternatives out there for those that love whole grains.

Keep in mind that two of these grains noted here are not gluten-free, only wheat free or differing in the gluten profile. Barley, rye, wheat, and oats that are not processed in a dedicated gluten free facility are not allowed on a gluten free diet. For those choosing to live without the ubiquitous wheat found in standard grocery stores, the challenge is to find alternative products that may be better tolerated.

Here are some other options:

Rye

Most commercial store brands of rye bread actually contain wheat. For instance, Pepperidge Farm rye bread notes: unbromated unbleached enriched wheat flour as the first ingredient, followed by water, then rye. To find a rye bread made entirely of rye flour, you may need to go to a bakery. In the Chicago area suburbs, there is a little bakery that only uses rye flour. For those going “wheatless”, breads using only rye flour are a delicious alternative. Don’t assume every bakery uses just rye flour, you will need to ask the staff.

Spelt

Spelt is an ancient grain. According to one bakery website (kolateksbakery.com), spelt needs more steps to harvest and then bake, so it fell out of favor and eventually took a back seat to our now popular wheat. Spelt is technically part of the wheat family, but it possesses a different gluten profile. Those with a wheat sensitivity may be able to tolerate spelt better than wheat. I found this bakery’s Tata bread to be very “normal tasting” and almost reminiscent of whole wheat bread days!

Buckwheat.

Here’s an actual gluten-free alternative. It’s actually not a grain, which is why there is no gluten! It’s a type of seed called a pseudo-cereal. I’m trying to get in the kitchen a bit more making my own wheat-free alternative foods, because so many of the commercial mixes are just way too high in sugar and calories. Here’s a great buckwheat muffin recipe:


1.5 cups buckwheat flour
¾ cups oatmeal (use gluten-free oats for a GF diet)
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup skim milk or milk of choice
2 tbsp. oil of choice
¼ cup applesauce
1 mashed banana
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup chocolate chips

Combine ingredients. Mix until moistened.  Bake at 350º for 18-20 minutes. Yields 12 muffins. 150 calories per muffin; 5 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat

There are other grains to try such as Teff which is gluten-free as well.  Anyone else have experience focusing on these grains along with great recipes?

 

Better Aging: 5 Tips to Make it Happen

So, do you want to look your age?  This topic can get pretty dicey as we push through the decades.  I have one friend that says she’s earned her wrinkles and intentionally sports her gray hairs. No more hair coloring for her!  I think it’s certainly a personal decision. I also think that if we implement diet and lifestyle strategies that make us look a bit younger than our real age, we might reap some positive health benefits.  After all, our health has to be our top priority as we get older. Better health usually means a better quality of life. We want to be able to enjoy our second 50 years, right?

Here is my top five list:

Wear your sunscreen.  This is a huge point and it’s never too late to start.  Anti-aging dermatology procedures are pricey. They are almost all self-pay.  If you can protect your skin early in life, it will help your appearance in your second 50 years.  When I was in graduate school, I had a strange rash that brought me to the dermatologist.  She told me at that point to never go in the sun again.  I followed her advice (for the most part), and now that I have a Medicare card, I am so glad I did.  Wrinkle removal is expensive and time consuming, prevention is much easier. The health benefit: lessened skin cancer risk.

Exercise when you can. We all know we should be moving our bodies more, right? For some, it is easier said than done.  Lots of us have knees that hurt, but even for osteoarthritis, the current recommendations are to work through it and just keep moving.  Options for lessening joint stress while working out include using a stationary bike and an elliptical.  If you are able to move, you really should be sure to do so.  After counseling thousands upon thousands of clients over my career, it never ceases to amaze me how much younger the exercising crowd looks in middle and later life.  The health benefit:  weight management.  And, weight management can help diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and hypertension.  And, this is only a partial list!

Manage Your Weight.  Again, those people that are at an appropriate body weight always seem to look younger.  For women in particular, weight gain seems to happen easily during menopause when our estrogen levels decline.  A common “sign” of middle age in both women and men is the increased fat in the abdominal area-known as visceral fat.  This pouch does not need to happen with a healthy eating plan matched to energy requirements and limited in alcohol.  The health benefit: losing this visceral fat will lessen inflammation and decrease your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Sleep.  It can be difficult to get enough sleep. It seems like each decade brings its own sleep issues.  I know of so many seniors that will fall asleep but cannot stay asleep.  Getting up at 3:00 AM is not ideal, and many of us already did that when we raised our kids.  Tips are to not overstimulate your brain before bed.  Get off the iPad or phone if it is too stimulating before nodding off. Try to set a routine and stick to it most of the time.  Discuss sleep issues with your physician.  Lastly, a little melatonin (3-5 mg) may be helpful.  We make less as we age, so this supplement makes sense.  The health benefit: you just feel so much better, it’s like magic!

Eating Well. Don’t give up on a healthy eating plan.  Consult with a nutritional professional if you are totally confused about what you should be eating to maintain or improve your health.  There is just so much information out there that is often incorrect or not correct for you as an individual. Most nutrition health care providers would suggest a diet high in fruits, vegetables, with the appropriate amounts of whole grains and lean protein.  Some supplements might be in order as well, depending up your individual circumstances.  For thoughts on those supplements:  5 Dietary Supplements for Baby Boomers!

 
For those of you in your second 50 years, what else can you add?

Tapping Into Tap Water: Fluoride for All?

Water is our most important nutrient.
Water is an essential nutrient.

For most of my life I never really thought much about fluoride or my drinking water. My teeth are in pretty good shape, and the only time I thought about fluoride was when I taught a college level nutrition class. The text books noted the “benefits” of fluoride in preventing tooth decay, and then always showed the classic brown spots on tooth enamel due to overexposure of fluoride.  We discussed that fluoride was delivered to municipal tap water in the Chicago area (our location) and that bottled water was not typically fluoridated. While it may have natural fluoride, fluoride is not typically added to bottled water.

Fluoride not an essential dietary nutrient. 

For the last 70 or so years, it’s role in public health has been one of preventing tooth decay.  Once teeth have erupted through the gum, fluoride added to the tooth surface plays a role in preventing tooth decay through remineralization of the weaker spots on the tooth enamel as well as controlling the amount of acid that bacteria of plaque produce.  I remember routine fluoride treatments given in the dental office because I had great dental insurance and it was covered.  And, of course, there is lifelong use of fluoridated toothpaste.

Fluoride for all in the same quantities?

For the municipalities that deliver fluoridated water, there is no choice in the matter. If you want to avoid ingesting fluoride in the Chicago area, you must find a means to remove it from your tap water or stick with purchasing spring water. Preset fluoride levels are “one size fits all.”

According to a recent article in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (2018), these points should be considered:

  • Current evidence clearly suggests that the protective mechanism of action of fluoride is mainly topical.  In other words, we do not need to be ingesting fluoride to reap the dental benefits.
  • 1% of the population appears to be highly sensitive to fluoride (yes, I am in that 1%).
  • Certain subsets may be particularly vulnerable to ingesting fluoride: the elderly, diabetics, the malnourished.
  • Once added to water, would the fluoride levels be problematic for those that drink a large amount of water? Those individuals might include manual laborers, diabetics, and athletes.
  • Interestingly, on the international front, most European countries have rejected water fluoridation. Only Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom practice water fluoridation.

While the debate on fluoridated water continues, you can help protect your teeth by:

  • Choosing a healthy diet low in sugar will help prevent tooth decay. Emphasizing fruits and vegetables will stimulate saliva production to help rinse the sugar away.
  • Avoiding cavity promoting foods like sugar, sticky foods (like raisins), and soda will help prevent tooth decay.  
  • If indulging in sugary foods, try not to do so all day long. Best to splurge and then brush, instead of exposing your teeth all day long.
  •  Apply that fluoride through toothpaste, mouth rinse, and in the dental chair.

My last comment will be that in the concept of “clean eating”, I see no reason to be putting fluoride into my digestive tract.

Where do you stand on the issue of ingesting fluoride through tap water?

Probiotic Primer: 5 Purchasing Tips

My father lived in an assisted living facility a few years ago.  The assisted living physician ordered the probiotics for him.  I remember the doctor sitting at his desk writing the order and at the same time quipping that “all probiotics are the same!” The comment took my breath away because this was only a few years ago, and most health care providers should know that probiotics are not all the same!  There is plenty of research available on how probiotics are both similar and different-and there is plenty to consider when purchasing a probiotic.

2 popular probiotics

Bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract are flora.  A healthy functioning gastrointestinal tract has a healthy balance of bacteria.  Occasionally, that balance of bacteria becomes unbalanced due to antibiotic use, illness, stress, or even a poor-quality diet.

Research on the health benefits of probiotics is vast.  Researchers are evaluating how probiotics may affect mental health, lipids, weight, and various GI conditions.  Even our pets are taking probiotics!

 Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when making a probiotic supplement purchase:

Packaging

Probiotics need to be alive to be effective in your body. If they are dead on arrival in the bottle or purchase package, they will be useless to your gut. Take a good look at the packaging. Many probiotic strains need to be refrigerated to stay alive, or they may be sold in blister packaging to assure viability. If the product needs refrigeration, be sure online shippers are shipping the product with dry ice during warm weather to protect the product. With blister packaging, there is no need to refrigerate. Keep in mind that the companies selling the probiotics are doing their own regulation, so you might want to use a name brand product to help assure the organisms are alive upon purchase.

Dosages

Potency is usually noted on the label as CFU which stands for “colony forming units”. The recommended intake for probiotic supplements varies by the strain and intended therapy. For general use, take supplements that have a CFU of at least 1 to 10 billion. Higher dosages are still deemed safe and are often found in many reputable brands.

Strains

Contrary to the thoughts of my father’s former physician, bacterial strains do matter.  For instance, for antibiotic-related diarrhea, it may be advisable to start taking a common drugstore brand such as Culturelle which contains Lactobacillus GG. Other research suggests that it may be even more effective to take a probiotic with multiple species of organisms. In adult women with IBS, Bifidobacterium infantis has been shown to reduce pain, bloating, and bowel movement difficulty. For cholesterol reduction, Lactobacillus reuteri may be therapeutic for LDL-Cholesterol reduction.

Dosing

 If you are taking probiotics for overall wellness, keep in mind that the organisms only survive for a few days to weeks, so it is necessary to keep taking them. Speaking of surviving, some probiotics have an enteric-coating to ensure stomach acid survival and intestinal delivery.

Food

 Many foods also contain probiotics. Think yogurt, kefir milk, and kombucha. And, nutrient dense foods are usually great sources of prebiotics-the food probiotics use. Those microorganisms need their own fuel and fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the fuel of choice for probiotics.

Has probiotic use helped your health? Share your thoughts!

My Food Sensitivity Journey: A Dietitian’s Personal Perspective

When I was 40 years old, I became very ill-so ill I headed to the emergency room. The doctors said something was going around and I should go home to rest.  And rest I did! In fact, for at least a week I was barely able to move.  I followed up with my primary care physician who proceeded to do a complete medical evaluation.  All tests came back negative.  So, I rested some more and tried to pretend that I felt normal.

Is this healthy for me or not?

As time progressed, I mentioned my fatigue issues to every physician I saw, and the responses ranged from “You have medical conditions that cause fatigue- IBS, fibromyalgia, asthma”, to “You seem OK, you aren’t acting tired now”, to “You are the healthiest patient I’ve seen today!” My energy levels continued to wax and wane. Sometimes I was near normal and other times I needed to drag myself to bed. Fatigue was my partner in life, and although rest didn’t solve everything, I was often tired enough that I simply could not move. My goal became to get through the day as a functioning person and carry on with my commitments as best I could.

Later in Life

During the second 50 years of my life, it seemed that my energy levels were worsening. I figured at this point I was functioning at less than 50% of normal. Then, last year, a college friend asked me about food sensitivity testing as she was considering going that route due to ongoing headaches and IBS symptoms. I told her I had mixed feelings about it, but said that maybe we could go down that path together.  I am so grateful that I took that path as my life has actually changed course.

Food Sensitivity Testing is Controversial

Some medical “experts” question accuracy of any food sensitivity testing process and the clinical relevance to a patient.  For those practitioners that feel it may help a patient, there is controversy as to the best test to use. I used the Alcat test which evaluates how your white blood cells react in contact with various foods, chemicals, and food additives.  Based on your white cell response, your reaction to various foods, additives, and chemicals is assessed on a scale of non-reactive to severe.

It’s important to keep in mind that food sensitivity testing is different from allergy testing. With an allergy, there may be an immediate response. With a food sensitivity, the response in terms of symptoms may be delayed by days so it does become difficult to determine what foods may be problematic. In my case, I would never have been able to succeed by just eliminating foods speculated as often problematic because one of my severe responses was to fluoride. Turn on the tap water and there is fluoride.  Grab coffee at a restaurant, there is fluoride. Grab that toothpaste, there is fluoride. That is just one example of how the testing can help you come up with a customized eating plan just for you.  I would never have been able to determine that something found in my water was a contributing factor in causing my fatigue, muscle, and joint pain.

My Life has Changed

Today, I still look OK but I also feel pretty good!  I am now able to work with a trainer, and regularly work out on a treadmill and elliptical. I even have competitions with my active grandchildren to see who can get the most steps in a day!  My energy level is far more consistent, and when I’m tired, that’s all it is tired. I’m not fatigued to the point of being unable to move.  I have come a long way from the fatigue that has haunted me for the last 25 years.  I am so thankful that I was able to access testing. It can be very challenging to make the necessary dietary changes but, it’s worth the effort if your life changes!  My only regret is waiting so long.

Do you have a personal story to share about your food sensitivity testing experience and outcome?