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Archive for March, 2012

The Fungus Among Us…or….A Case of the Yeasties.

soft, yet deadly

The queen of foodie-dom (that would be me) is back from her annual Winter break, and just in time, so it seems!

The tide is turning for this hopeful foodie –  with mucho review opportunities coming out the ying yang, plus lots of friends popping their dreary little Winter heads out of the woodwork eager to be tasting recruits at every restaurant and eatery I nosh at (and then write about).

Since all of this good stuff is happening I thought it was high time I go back to basics and elaborate on what all this writing is about in the first place.  Yes, it’s time for me to go all 12-step meeting on you and share my story – what it’s about, why I’m here, and what fungus really, really means to me.  I’m sure this will change and evolve over the years (most hopefully for the better) but right now here is where I be (and what a wonderful place to sit and share for a while).

I would like to say it started a few years ago with symptoms akin to a faxed memo from my digestive system telling me exactly what was going on with my body and what I needed to do to make it better.  In reality (that sarcastic little sucker we all love and adore) it was more like this: after years and years of strange bodily occurrences, that included anything from prego-like bloating, rosacea on my pretty little face, and horrible gastritis through the better years of my high-school experience (that made the one bathroom in our house a very scary place) to more frightening symptoms like thrush, brain fatigue, swelled joints anywhere from my knees and shoulders to my fingers, and general full body pain, I started to realize at about the age of 23 that this body of mine was falling apart way too fast and that it wasn’t just serious stress (a huge factor, but not the only culprit). Something obviously had to give.

Going to all of the various doctors was frustrating and embarrassing – the internist looked at my thrush and, although nicely, demanded an HIV test.  The GYN – completely stumped at the chronic occurrences of infections of the bacterial and candidic kind – threw up his hands when I told him I suspected I might have a systemic condition, lamenting that he was only a specialist who knew but so much about the connection between systems in the body (he also hysterically questioned my nightly habits, even asking at one point if I had an intimate inter-species relationship, since, to him, every GYN issue had to be sexually transmitted).  This, of course, did wonders for my self esteem and faith in the Western medical community. I went to the library and logged onto the ‘net, looking for information everywhere I could.  The alarmist sites made me never want to eat again, while other sources left me confused about what was truly healthy and what wasn’t.  Well-meaning extremists tried the motherly routine, “Well, if you really care about your health……” which left me envisioning a life of brown rice and ground turkey for the remainder of my existence.

I finally had the wherewithal to try a little experiment that bloomed from eating a brownie during a pretty nasty case of thrush.  Sugar, all signs pointed out, was the culprit.  I decided that even though I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth I would cut out all added sugar, plus fruit, for a whole month.  This was a challenge, since I made way under what was considered even paycheck-to-paycheck, but a change I actually looked forward to.  It was a small beacon of light in a dark tunnel of not knowing.  Cutting out sugar just for a month cut out my depression, the foggy-headedness, fatigue, and most of that horrible bloating.  I still ate lots of pasta (not knowing at the time about the white flour/broken-down sugars connection) and yogurt (since I read something about “good bacteria” found in dairy cultures) but not any milk and cheese, and noshed down so many veggies it wasn’t funny.  I refused to cut out meat, so I didn’t (that “only ground turkey” thing was still fresh in my mind and I was determined to rebel against it by eating as much cow as humanly possible).

Living like this for a month was the switch that made the light bulb above my head go from zero to a thousand watts in a nanosecond and was the beginning of a whole-life change for me.  Although it took about two years, I was finally able to afford to see a naturopathic doctor in my area who confirmed my suspicions: Systemic Candidiasis: a condition involving the overgrowth of candida, or yeast, cells throughout the body, most-likely caused by the overuse of antibiotics when I was a kid.  One gigantic elimination diet and two years later did I realize the other huge underlying cause of this condition – a severe allergy to the fungus kingdom, including all types of molds.

So let’s recap: after years of sickness, strange symptoms and stumped doctors, I discover I have a mold and fungus allergy that, when not properly managed, can cause a full-system condition known as Systemic Candidiasis (which, in other words, really messes me the eff up).

Here are the following foods I’ve discovered (through much toil and trouble) that I absolutely cannot eat:

  • yeast-leavened bread
  • mushrooms
  • wine
  • beer
  • any mold-aged cheeses (blue, brie, gorgonzola and the aged-so-long-it-actually-gets-moldy parm)
  • any vinegar other than the plain ol’ while distilled kind
  • any food that is fermented using a yeast strand or ‘mother’

These are the foods I need to be extra careful with and/or eat only in moderation:

  • any baked goods or pastas made with bleached flours or grains
  • any grains that aren’t considered ‘whole grains’
  • dairy products, due to their high sugar breakdown
  • alcohol, even the super-distilled kind, due to the sugar breakdown factor
  • sweets of any kind including fruits high in natural sugars
  • any foods that are susceptible to mold due to their growing conditions/time between picking and actual eating – oranges, melons, corn, peanuts and a whole bunch of etceteras I’m constantly discovering along the way

That folks, in a coconut-sized nutshell, is my story. It’s a little bit of hard work, but that’s why I write this blog, pick the brains of every chef I meet and continue to believe that I can have allergies and still eat like a fiend – a healthy-for-my-special-diet fiend.  I’d pass along the basket for donations, but someone keeps putting rice loaf in it, convinced that I have celiac disease (I don’t, but often do eat gluten free, just for the whole grainage and the cute little bunnies on Tinkyada brand rice pasta that I like so much).

Yours in sugar-free goodness,

Cellina The Hopeful Foodie

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