May 3, 2011

Screw "Wonder Woman", You Can Call Me "Whole Grain Girl"

Hi guys! This entry is going to be a bit different from the rest. I usually don't get too personal on my blog as I like to concentrate on the issues at hand, but today I'm going to discuss my health as it plays a part in how I'll be eating and cooking for awhile. I'd also like to open up a dialogue and see if anyone here has similar health problems and/or suggestions for how to cope. So dim the lights... pull up a big pillow. Let's sit in a circle, hold hands and talk this thing out.

I've been struggling with acid reflux (aka GERD but that name makes me wanna upchuck) on and off for awhile now. I first noticed it last May and tried to control it with over-the-counter meds and antacids, but didn't have much success. When I went vegan in November it magically went away overnight. I was shocked, amazed and so happy to be done with the problem for good. But it reared its ugly head again in March and hasn't gone away since. This is more than just a little heartburn: I wake up everyday with the taste of acid in my mouth, my teeth are sensitive from the acidity, it has affected my breathing, it makes me nauseated and afraid to eat most foods and it generally screws up my overall quality of life. I completely cut out the foods that are the biggest offenders for acid reflux (tomato based sauces, chocolate, coffee, etc.) and took some Zegerid and Prilosec, but still didn't see much of a difference.

I was referred to a gastroenterologist who decided I should get an upper endoscopy done to rule out any serious problems. What a fun way to spend a morning! I had to swallow meds to numb my throat, have a sedative pumped into me by IV and the doc proceeded to shove a giant plastic tube down my throat and into my stomach. He took the little camera and investigated my insides, made some notes, and the whole thing was over in about 15 minutes. I then spent the rest of the day feeling like someone on the first day of Celebrity Rehab - major sedative hangover. So after all that I hoped I'd at least get some answers, right? RIGHT?!? No. Still no reason why I suddenly have acid reflux around the clock when a year ago I'd never had it a day in my life. Just a few benign polyps and some erosion in my esophagus from where the acid has already caused damage.

The doc said to take a double-dose of Prilosec in the morning and another one in the evening and to supplement it with Vitamin D and calcium pills daily because it has been shown to cause osteoporosis. And also to eat foods rich in magnesium as it depletes magnesium levels for some reason. And that it's a relatively new medication so all the long-term affects are still unknown. I smiled, nodded my head and thought to myself, "You've gotta be kidding me." Modern medicine at its finest.

I left his office feeling defeated. Don't get me wrong, I know my problems could be worse. There are plenty of people out there who are so severely ill that they have to take medication everyday just to be able to get out of bed. But I have this voice inside saying, "That's not for you." I am only 30-years-old and the thought of being tied to a medication for the foreseeable future has my heart and wallet in a tizzy. I know there's gotta be a better way. So I'm setting out to find it.

This weekend, I picked up my copy of "The Kind Diet" (a book that was instrumental in my becoming vegan) and re-read some of it. Those of you familiar with it know that Alicia Silverstone divided it into three parts - one for those just flirting with veganism,  one for those who have gone fully vegan, and one for those who want to be, as she calls them, "Superheroes." The Superhero plan is based on the principles of macrobiotics, but leaves out all animal products so it's still vegan. On this plan you concentrate on whole grains, vegetables, and protein and leave out most sugar, processed and refined foods, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers). That stuff is okay in strict moderation, but the point is to eat clean, healthy foods as often as possible. Her book and web site have story after story about people who have had great success battling all kinds of illnesses following the Superhero diet.

Normally I'm not a believer in diets that claim to have such amazing benefits, but it's not like she's suggesting I eat nothing but steak and ice cream all day, right? It seems that the foods recommended just make sense. Everyone feels better when they concentrate on whole foods, vegetables and protein. My suspicion has been that processed foods are the culprit in my case. Since I'm a vegan, I feel like I generally eat pretty well, but this article on The Huffington Post caught my eye today. I URGE YOU TO READ IT. It shows you how even a breakfast of cereal and yogurt can contain a TON of additives, preservatives and dyes. And a Subway sandwich can contain 40 different additives, preservatives and dyes! FORTY! Even when you think you are being healthy, you are ingesting so much stuff that you just don't need to.

So I have decided to give the whole Superhero thing a try and incorporate some of the principles into my diet.  I figure it can't hurt and if I feel better as a result I will be one happy girl. I planned out my weekly menu on Saturday and during my trip to Whole Foods on Sunday I was shocked at how little I had in my basket during checkout. I've already seen how getting back to basics can be a big relief on your budget! 

As far as my menu, I will be posting some recipes as I go, but here's the run down: I am starting everyday with a cup of miso soup. This is a nice way to introduce your body to food in the morning and gets your insides prepared for digestion. It's a really lovely alternative to coffee or tea, better than I imagined! My breakfasts are focusing more on whole grains and less on processed foods and sugar than usual. (Goodbye organic cereal with almond milk and whole wheat bagels with peanut butter! Hello to wheatberries and steel cut oats!) Lunchtime has been mostly leftovers or some type of salad. And dinner is a combination of grains like brown rice, lentils, barley, quinoa plus protein in the form of tempeh, tofu or beans and lots of veggies. There are even some desserts that can be called Superhero, but I'll try to keep those to a minimum. Last night I just had a tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter and it was more satisfying than you'd think :-)

It's only been two days, but I do already feel some effects. It could be in my head, but I've had more energy, fewer body aches, more focus and even (dare I say it?) less acid reflux! Maybe I'm onto something here... I certainly don't anticipate that I'll be able to eat this cleanly 100% of the time. But even if I can do it 80-85% and have the occassional treat or meal at a restaurant, I shoud be ahead of the game.

I hope you enjoy the recipes I create on this new journey and I'll continue reporting on the effects that eating this way may (or may not) have. I'll continue taking the meds for now, just because I don't want the acid to cause any further damage, but depending on how things go, I may try to ween myself off of them. Keep your fingers crossed for me! And if you have any remedies or suggestions you'd like to share, please do so!



  1. I love having the GoRaw granola for breakfast! I love using raw vegan recipes once it's summer time. It's awesome for detoxing and eating fresh, live foods! Green smoothies are also life changing!

    Love your blog!!! Good luck on going superhero!

  2. Hi Organic Grown Girl - Like the name! I haven't tried GoRaw granola yet, but I definitely will give it a shot. I have been eating the new Ezekiel cereal for breakfast and it's soooo good! Very minimal processing so it's pretty darn healthy. I agree that once summer strikes I just want fresh, raw foods, too! Hope to post quite a few more recipes in that vein very soon. Thanks for your kind words! xo