Hey, gang. You may have noticed my blogging schedule has been a bit off lately. There have been a lot of changes happening in my kitchen, and more recipes failing to thrill than I’ve experienced in many years of cooking. I’m feeling like a novice again as I tackle an “elimination diet” to try to suss out food sensitivities that may be contributing to my inflammatory autoimmune conditions.
Research suggests a strong correlation between gluten sensitivity and Sjogren’s Syndrome, so I’ve got my eye on wheat and other gluten-containing grains. Other common food allergens related to inflammation include dairy, corn, and nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and white potatoes. Right now, I’m on week three of a two-month diet which eliminates all of the above. And I’m still off added sugar — I’m pretty sure that’s a necessary, life-long commitment.
Cooking without wheat/gluten, corn, dairy, or nightshades has been a real challenge for me. I have to do a lot more thinking about each meal, and my go-to cooking techniques don’t always hold up in this strange new culinary landscape. So, please bear with me as I dip a little deeper into research and recipe testing. (I can promise I’m putting the final tweaks on a pumpkin tart recipe that is low-sugar, dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, and so tasty that the Gent’s first bite elicited the response “<expletive> <expletive> this is a REAL dessert!”)
Julie Daniluk’s new book Meals That Heal Inflammation (2012) has proved to be a gem, not so much for its recipes (which I haven’t tried yet) but as a guide for approaching the elimination diet in a sane and sensible way. If you’re struggling to revamp your diet and commit to a healthier way of eating, I definitely recommend checking it out.
Since starting this elimination diet, I’ve already noticed a significant difference in how I feel. My joint pain has completely disappeared. During yoga practice, I’ve been enjoying a surprising — but welcome — increase in strength, flexibility, and stamina. My overall energy has also dramatically increased. I feel good. Really good. In fact, some days I forget I have a chronic illness at all — and that in itself blows my mind. So, even though it’s a pain in the patootie, I’m sticking with the plan until I’ve deduced which dietary culprits have been aggravating my inflammatory conditions.
Going out to eat during this two-month elimination period seemed impossible until my friend Laura found a curious restaurant in Minneapolis called Ecopolitan. This gluten-free, vegan, raw foods joint caters to bereft foodies like me. Nothing on the menu contains the most heavy-hitting allergens (wheat/gluten, corn, potato, and dairy), and most items can be made nut-free upon request.
The Gent and I headed to the Twin Cities last weekend so he could run the Surf the Murph 50 Mile Trail Race, and Laura was coincidentally in town for a concert. While the Gent was tackling the endless hills of a 10+ hour run, Laura and I met up for lunch at Ecopolitan.
Laura ordered the Red Onion Avocado Pizza, a crisp flax flatbread topped with olive tapenade and veggies. I indulged in a hearty helping of Savory Casserole, thinly mandolined zucchini with mushrooms and other vegetables bound by a creamy avocado and cashew sauce and accompanied by mixed greens with garlic-tahini dressing. Heaven! We both sipped Sweet Beet juice from the raw juice bar: a spicy blend of beet, kale, carrot, apple, and fresh ginger. I miss that juice. I may even be pining for it.
Our visit to Ecopolitan prodded me to remember that healthful food can be delicious, comforting, and even indulgent — just the inspiration I needed to get back into the kitchen and keep on learning this new way of cooking.