Note: This is Part 4 in my series of posts about YorkTest Program’s Food & DrinkScan, a Food Intolerance Test. You can find the earlier parts here:
A few days after I received my results, it was time for my first call with one of YorkTest Program’s Registered Naturopathic Doctors, Dr. Michelle O’Neill. She took me through my results chart and helped me to understand that I didn`t need to eliminate all of my main AVOID (RED) items immediately, specifically Cow Dairy, Yeast and Lentils, and advised that it would be best (and easiest) to start with the worst offender, cow dairy. Cow dairy was the top item on my AVOID (RED) list and therefore was the food that my body was fighting the hardest against. I was slightly surprised as I thought that by only including lactose-free milk, yogurt (the amount of lactose apparently reduces during the fermentation process) and hard cheeses (apparently also lower in lactose) that I had things under control. Clearly not!
Dr. O’Neill was so easy to talk to and asked what my current diet consisted of, so we could work together to pinpoint the key sources of cow dairy. From there, she walked me through potential substitutions for cow dairy and I was so happy to hear that I actually had options!
The plan – eliminate all sources of cow dairy for two full weeks and see if I felt any different. Dr. O’Neill was quick to point out that it would require a lot of willpower and planning ahead to make this work, as many of my daily food and beverage choices would be affected. She mentioned that in addition to the straight and obvious sources – milk, yogurt and cheese – I should look out for modified milk ingredients and related ones such as whey and casein when making choices.
She was quick to point out that although cow dairy was off limits, I could try goat, sheep or buffalo dairy instead. Almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk and other non-dairy sources were also easily available now at my local grocery stores. I was not only happy to hear that I had options but I was also looking forward to exploring new foods and beverages.
I decided to start Week 1 properly the following Monday, as I not only wanted time to prepare but I felt that my best chance at making this work was to start with a full week ahead of me. I sat down to make a list of all of the items I consume regularly with cow dairy in them and I realized just how big that list was. I was regularly consuming milk, plain yogurt, fruit yogurt and having cheese. Just as I started to pat myself on the back for having such a short list, I realized that many of my beloved sweet snacks, specifically chocolate, usually contained cow dairy as well….yikes! As painful as it sounded I knew I had to do this for the sake of my health. I was sick of feeling tired and having an upset stomach pretty much all the time.
I knew the only way to make this happen was to plan my own meals and cook at home as much as I could for the next two weeks, so that I could control the ingredients. I also knew that I would have to think of every food and beverage choice to make sure that I wasn`t putting cow dairy into my system. This was going to be fun and scary…
I headed to the grocery store and probably spent a good hour and half going through the aisles (this is not unusual for me, I love browsing in grocery stores), reading packages and filling my cart with the items I needed and wanted. I picked up the following alternative products to try:
I spent the first week eating the following items (not all at once of course):
- English muffins with almond butter and/or jam
- Breakfast wraps with egg, goat cheese or Daiya cheese and veggies
- Oatmeal made with almond milk and fruit
- Coffee with almond or soy milk OR a Starbucks Soy Americano Misto OR a soy latte
- Rice with veggies and tofu
- Quinoa with veggies
- Pastas with veggies and Daiya cheese
- Wraps with egg, goat cheese and roasted veggies
- Vegetarian maki rolls (Japanese)
- Indian curry dishes, all made without dairy
- Homemade soups
- Chocolate almond milk (heated)
- Homemade frozen ice pops
While I enjoyed the challenge of Week 1, it was also exhausting. After eating whatever I wanted that was lacto-ovo vegetarian for so long, I had to stop and think about everything I was putting in my mouth. This sounds simple enough, but when you look forward to having a small coffee with one cream and one sugar every morning, taking it away is rough. I’ll admit, on more than one occasion, I poured cream and sugar into a cup and was just about to add coffee before I realized what I was doing and had to throw it out.
Dealing with the food situation was okay, partly because my husband was away on a business trip and I didn’t have to cook for both of us that week. I also didn’t have many social engagements to deal with, which was a blessing as I’m sure that I was getting a little testy with some people : ) Week 1 helped me to realize just how much food I used to put into my mouth without thinking about it. Being a vegetarian is pretty easy once you get used to it but taking away the dairy and eggs just made it harder. For someone who loves food, it was a great exercise in restraint for sure. I wasn’t sure if I was exhausted because of the amount of effort or from what I was eating, so I asked Dr. O’Neill for her thoughts on how I was feeling. She advised that it was common for participants of elimination diets to feel tired in the first few weeks of making changes to their diets, as the body works to adjust.
By Week 2, I definitely noticed a change in my system as I did feel less bloated and wasn’t experiencing as much discomfort in my stomach. It was quite amazing to feel these changes as I had lived with my symptoms for so long that they started to feel normal to me. My pants started to feel a bit looser and the heavy feeling that used to drag me down all the time was lifting. I wondered at first if it was psychological but my stomach symptoms had clearly subsided! It was truly surprising. Now what was I going to do?
Stay tuned for my next post in the series – YorkTest Program’s Food & DrinkScan, a Food Intolerance Test – Part 5 – Product Reviews and changes I’ve made
Disclosure: In exchange for writing this series of blog posts, I’ve received a free Food & DrinkScan and enrollment into the program. The opinions expressed are my own.