Food accommodation

I know a lot of people with rigorous food preferences/allergies/intolerances/religious restrictions/etc. I am starting to think that I should paint a grid inside my cabinet so I can track who is gluten free/dairy free/vegetarian/allergic to tomatoes and potatoes/ allergic to corn/allergic to soy…. It would be a complicated grid.

I was thinking about this as I talked to a friend yesterday who is vegetarian, gluten free, and dairy free. He always causes me to think about my food choices in more detail. I try hard to do it from a consciously evaluating point of view and not from a defensive point of view.

This week he said something I found very interesting, “I’m not sure if I am actually allergic to gluten but when I eat it I have urgent, painful diarrhea that causes me to need to run to the toilet eight times a day. So I don’t eat it. I don’t care if I’m actually allergic.”

That… That made me think very hard. Huh. It isn’t normal to run to the bathroom with diarrhea eight times a day? I try very hard to accommodate my friends who have different dietary needs. It’s a big deal to me that people should be loved and fed in the ways that are appropriate for THEM.

We had some completely different friends over earlier in the week and that meant accommodating a vegan and a vegetarian with diabetes. H’okay. Guess what? The dinner we prepared for them had me dealing with violent, burning, painful diarrhea for over a day.

So uhm… Hm.

This morning I lay in bed and I got really really angry for (what I believe to be) the very first time about my food needs not seeming as important as the vegetarian/vegan/allergies in my social circle. I don’t know very many people with anaphylactic allergies. I know people who get sore butts, mostly.

I try very hard to ensure that I’m not damaging anyone else’s body. But when I go over to the home of a vegetarian or a vegan there is little consideration for how their food will effect me. It’s my problem.

All of a sudden this morning I felt lots of rage about that. I don’t think I’ve ever felt angry about this before. I don’t think I have ever seen it as an injustice before. This morning, as I lay in bed unable to sleep all of a sudden I felt violently full of rage. Why in the hell does everyone else’s ass matter and mine doesn’t!?

I have no idea what to do with this sudden burst of new-thing-to-be-pissy-about. Probably I won’t do anything. I’m not going to start demanding that vegans supply meat for me at their parties.

But I’m wondering if maybe I should stop going to dinner at their houses. Because I’m kind of tired of it not mattering that my body does not process vegetables well. It causes me terrible pain for days. Yes yes yes, they are “healthy” and EVERYONE should GO VEG!! Or obviously you are a piece of shit who doesn’t care about anyone but yourself and certainly not the POOR LITTLE ANIMALS. WHAT KIND OF MONSTER ARE YOU!?

Uhm, I’m the kind who lived with terrible malnutrition for decades and now I can’t digest vegetables. And fuck you.

I don’t think that people who are gluten free need to buy “regular” pasta when I come over. I don’t think dairy free people need to buy me cow milk. I don’t think that vegans are required to cook me meat. But when we are ordering pizzas?…. Then I feel kind of shit on. Because the pizza you will order means I either get to have horrible diarrhea for days or I don’t eat.

I haven’t felt pissy or defensive about this in the past. I’m not sure if this will last longer than today.

Having relationships is really hard. How do we all manage to be respectful of one another and the varying needs that their bodies have? I don’t know.

That said, the friend who came over yesterday has a wife who can cook the best vegan food in the world. If I could finally narrow it down to a handful of vegetables that are the “trigger” foods (I think a food diary is coming at some point) she would be able to feed me vegan food that didn’t hurt me.

I have done a lot to narrow the range of triggers for my terrible diarrhea. I get way less of it than I used to. But apparently eating cauliflower soup, pasta with tomato/garlic/basil/carrots, and salad is not ok. I knew the salad would be pushing my luck. I ate very little of the raw veggies. I ate like two pieces of lettuce and three cucumber slices. Mostly I ate cooked stuff. Supposedly cooking the vegetables should make me better able to process them. These are all food we eat on a regular basis and I don’t always have the terrible burning diarrhea.

A lot of the reason I haven’t tried harder on food diary stuff is it is very discouraging. My “triggers” clearly move around. It is much more important how much stress I am under generally. Clearly tomatoes aren’t always a problem. Clearly potatoes aren’t even usually a problem. (I have weeks where I eat potatoes daily and don’t have a diarrhea problem.) Alcohol is fine if I am under basically no stress and horrifying if I feel even a little bit of anxiety to start with.

Fuck all food forever.

It doesn’t help that I’m in a phase where basically all food is revolting and nasty and I feel sick all the time. Running is fun. I hate weather changes. My poor intestine.

I do my best (I’ve been slipping) to eat humanely sourced meat. I can afford it and I think that is the ethical choice given my financial resources and my physical dietary needs. I slip when I’m buried with every other part of life and I don’t have the spoons to deal with sourcing “better raised” meat.

I know that it is sad that animals have to die so I can live. I agree that it is not “fun”. I agree that it isn’t “nice”. But my alternative is to live with horrifying pain or kill myself. If you don’t know what it is like to have diarrhea for months in a row then you can’t really talk to me about my food choices. Also: no doctor has been useful in this process. I’ve tried going in to talk about it and I’ve tried asking for advice. I wasn’t told much useful. I was told to do my own food diary and figure out what to eliminate. When I asked about bringing in the diary to talk to them I was told that there wasn’t much they could do. Maybe I should have insisted on talking to a nutritionist? An intestine specialist? I don’t know how to advocate for myself on this issue. Doctors are not out checking on patients to find out how they can be most useful. You have to walk in knowing what to tell them to do. I don’t know what to do.

I’m feeling overwhelmed. And this one little piece jumped out at me this morning. Interesting to think about.

11 thoughts on “Food accommodation

  1. Shelly

    I have one of those painful diarrhea type allergies with artificial sugar. I think I get a lot of benefit from the popularity of “all natural” diets. It looks trendy to listen to my body.

    I think that a food diary will help a lot. Maybe you can track both food and stress level. I doubt an allergist would help you but maybe an intestinal doctor would be a good starting point.


    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      I think it is funny that I get more comments from talking about poop than anything else.

      The problem with the food diary is… I forget. I basically have to cut my normal activity load by 60% and that… that’s hard.

  2. WendyP

    I have some strong food aversions. I have never made myself eat the food I’m aversive to enough to find out if I’m allergic or sensitive or what the deal is – I just know I don’t like having that food in my mouth, not no way, not no how. And it’s mostly around fruits & vegetables. This makes it very difficult for me to eat at other people’s houses and still be a Good Guest. I have no problem cooking/preparing these foods for other people. When we have them at our house, I make a normal-looking meal and go heavier on the foods I can eat (either for the meal overall, or for my plate). But it’s tough to do dinner at their house. It also makes traveling… interesting. I can almost always find something I can eat on a restaurant menu, but it has definitely affected where we go on more than one occasion. It’s definitely not ‘months of diarrhea’, but it does affect how others see me.

    For what it’s worth – after years of having… ‘issues’, M finally figured out that his body does not process lettuce and lettuce-related greens well *at all*. He has ugly intestinal issues from it (but spinach, somehow, is okay). My sister discovered in the last 10 years or so that she cannot have tomato products and milk products within a couple of hours of each other. She can have one or the other just fine – just not tomato sauce on pasta followed by ice cream later that night. Otherwise she has some nasty issues as well.

    Is it possible to arrange at least a conversation with a nutritionist to find out if a full-on appointment would be worth your time and energy?

    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      I think that part of what is so hard for me on this issue is I have worked *so hard* to get through my food aversions. I have forced and forced and forced myself to eat food that I genuinely find repulsive to try and acclimate myself to “healthy” food. And some of it sometimes makes me sick.

      It’s worth a shot. But I feel like without a few months of food diary it would be a waste of time and food diary stuff is… complicated.

  3. K

    I would suspect that other people will start respecting your dietary needs when you get more vocal about them. I ask someone the first time they come over. If something changes between that visit and the next one, they need to speak up, because I probably won’t ask again (unless I’m otherwise aware that something has changed). And for that same reason you can bet I speak up when we find a new trigger food. I know it’s frustrating when I start spelling out for other people what we can’t eat. And there are parts of it that may feel embarassing or frustrating for me in having to constantly do it. And there are definitely times I don’t do it and just accept the consequences.

    I think a food diary is a good idea, but then you knew that. Once you have some ideas, it may be that an NAET practitioner would be a good next stop for you, for more testing. Possibly a naturopath. I’m at the point where I feel like it’s mostly just not worth discussing with an MD unless it’s life threatening.

    And I can eat some lettuces, but not others. Raw spinach is guaranteed to send me running for the bathroom, but cooked is fine. There’s nothing wrong nutritionally with avoiding raw veggies.

    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      I worry in writing about this stuff that people will feel like I am saying they are being consciously malicious. I don’t think that. I don’t think that other people think, “Ahhh garlic will make Krissy sick. Tons of garlic! Ha ha ha!”

      I think I partially feel so angry because I don’t know how to talk about these things and advocate for myself and I feel helpless and stupid and like I can’t fix anything.

      I can’t figure out my feelings about raw vegetables. I think I have stood too close to many raw vegans and I have inherited a deep loathing for myself because of my food needs. 🙁

  4. Michelle

    I wonder if you get chronic stomach ulcers like I do? I poured a lot of money into figuring out my digestive issues, including a few years with a GI doctor, endoscopy, colonoscopy, and some other thing where I ate radioactive eggs. What’s worked best for me is a food diary, cooking my own food so I can experiment and add or remove individual ingredients, and a daily proton pump inhibitor (I take omeprazole, but other people are successful with stuff like TUMS or ranitidine). I also have to change my diet whenever I get especially stressed: If I am stressed or upset I can’t have any veggies except potatoes and soy sauce, no alcohol with hops in it, no peppers, and nothing even remotely oily. When I had months at a time like that I stuck to very cooked meat, white rice, soy sauce, benefiber, green or herbal tea (instead of black) milk, plain yogurt. bananas and honey.

    I have anaphylactic type reactions to something in Thai food, and a good friend of mine here has similar reactions to anything with sulfites, which is a huge list of almost everything. What we both do for dinner parties etc. is get permission to bring our own food to gatherings, and/or eat ahead of time, and bring our own utensils and plates if necessary. Its trickier if your friends are vegetarian/vegan for moral reasons and don’t want animal products in the house. If you can’t eat ahead of time and aren’t able to bring your own food, for whatever reasons, I think it is totally reasonable to decline those invitations.

    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      Ulcers were one of the few things they checked for when I was a kid. They didn’t see signs of it when I was younger than 10 but I have no idea at this point.

      The problem is I can’t see how I can do a food diary and live my life. I just can’t do an elimination diet with everything I’m carrying. It is too hard.

      That poop graphic is awesome.

    2. WendyP

      I totally understand about having difficulty eating at people’s houses (see my comment above). My solution has been to either host the meal in question or to have the meal at a restaurant, where I’ll look less weird for having something different or for ordering it a special way. It’s a rare friend I’ll inflict my food issues directly onto.

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