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Adjusting to Food Allergies and Sensitivities
Elena Rosen

The few mild digestive problems I had before CFS were magnified when I became ill, but over time I have improved my digestion and this has had a big effect on the rest of my symptoms.

Pre-CFS, I was mildly lactose intolerant but now I can't eat any dairy at all. Also, I am hypoglycemic and have Irritable Bowel Syndrome [IBS] as well as many food sensitivities. I avoid dairy, wheat, refined sugar, nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), sulfites and preservatives.

To figure out all of the foods that didn't work for me I used an elimination diet. I cut out one suspected irritant at a time for a couple weeks each. Through logging I could see if my digestion was improving and if there was any effect on my symptoms.

It was only when my digestion began to improve that I understood how much of an effect it had on the rest of my symptoms. I've noticed an especially strong link between stomach problems and increased brain fog as well as low blood sugar and my NMH [Neurally Mediated Hypotension].

Because there are so many things I can't eat, buying ready made food or getting take out isn't really an option for me so I cook all of my meals. When I was at my sickest, cooking my dinner was the biggest task of my day. I quickly learned that trying to do all the cooking at once was too much for me. I would prep ingredients earlier in the day, then rest, then do the actual cooking, rest before and after eating and then clean up.

I cook mostly one pot meals for simplicity's sake. (Making a main dish and two sides with brain fog is a recipe for disaster.) I also try to make a meal with leftovers a few times a week so I can have dinner in the fridge or freezer if I have a busy day or just need a night off cooking.

It may seem tough but I've come to see cooking with limited choices as a daily chance to flex my creativity. Not being able to eat so many foods has led me to explore new foods and make some great discoveries (my latest find is celeriac). I've been forced to learn so much about cooking and nutrition and become a much better cook because of this experience, someone who actually enjoys cooking.
Note: Elena Rosen is a CFS patient from Vermont and a course leader in the CFIDS and Fibromyalgia Self-Help Program.