Before I go into this guide for cooking, I want to share a little bit of my background as to why food allergies and sensitivities are a big part of my life. My story begins in 1992, when I was merely 4 years old and contracted the food-borne illness, E. coli. My case was severe enough that they transferred me from our local hospital to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh for a total of 21 days combined, four blood transfusions and a very close call to pancreatic failure. A nurse from Children’s (who knew a family member) had shared that my case was not looking hopeful and that I may not survive. My family and I still thank God today for the miraculous healing I experienced that late October. Our doctor had told my parents, because of the E. coli, I was very likely to experience digestive problems as I grew up – and indeed, I did. In high school I was diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), acid reflux, lactose intolerance and Candida. I remember keeping a notebook of which foods were safe to eat and which foods were not. I was never a fan of side effects to medications, so I did my best to eat smart and seek a functional medicine approach, unless I had no other option.
Fast forward a few years into my twenties and my stomach issues became more tolerable. My husband and I met in 2010, married (St. Patty’s Day) in 2012, had our son in 2014 and daughter in 2016. Sometime after our son was born, my husband began having some serious digestive and fatigue issues. We both feel that we may have experienced food poisoning during that time, and that it had a significant effect on his condition. We sought medical advice from our PCP, who sent him to a number of specialists, where we eventually learned he has SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth – methane). This condition has only recently been recognized in the medical field, so after multiple failed treatments through a medical doctor, we began seeking functional medicine doctors and treatments. Through this we then learned he suffers from Adrenal Fatigue, a gluten sensitivity and tested highly positive for a garlic and cod allergy. I have no doubt in my mind that God put us together for a reason – because we’ve both gone through some hardships physically and emotionally due to our health; and because of that we can empathize with one another that much more.
So how do we go about meal planning for our family of 4 on a weekly basis, who has a multitude of food allergies, sensitivities and unpredictable ups and downs? First and foremost, I’ve always found it most helpful to focus on what we can eat and build a menu around those fundamental items. We live off of one income, so we do our best to stick to a weekly grocery budget. Our favorite places to shop (and save money) are Aldi and Vitacost.com, with the occasional purchases from Target, Giant Eagle and Amazon. Most specialty food companies provide store locators on their websites, which is such a nice feature. We have also utilized a multitude of Young Living essential oils to provide additional nutrition in our daily lives.
Here are some of our favorite resources we have found over the past few years, dealing with everything from Low FODMAP diets to gluten sensitivities, cleanses and beyond.
1.) The Clean Gut Cleanse – www.cleanprogram.com
My husband and I both read the “Clean Gut” book by Alejandro Junger, MD a few years ago and it helped kickstart his elimination of some of his health issues. I admit, the kids and I did not strictly follow the cleanse written out in the book, but my husband did and we still use some of the recipes and suggestions from it to this day. Their turkey chili is always a hit with our guests and their morning shakes are something the kids and I drink every morning without fail. This is a perfect resource to begin with for someone who is ready to combat the root cause of underlying health issues.
2.) Bethany Ugarte (lilsipper) – www.lilsipper.com
Something I absolutely love about social media is the opportunity to connect with others who have experienced similar health issues as you, and have done their research along the way. Bethany Ugarte (aka – lilsipper) is someone my husband found through his SIBO support group, and who has a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to boot. She is always sharing tips, tricks and recipes for IBS, as well as several other food sensitivities. She isn’t afraid to talk through food labels, hidden ingredients and bring truth to popular health fads. Lastly, she has a knack for sharing some simple, amazing recipes that make sensitive tummies rejoice.
3.) Autoimmune Wellness – www.facebook.com/autoimmunepaleo
When you suffer any health issue, it is so important to find a community in which you can learn and share. The Autoimmune Wellness page on Facebook has been a wonderful community for my us these past few years. In addition to recipes, this page offers encouragement for people who are dealing with ongoing health issues. I know for a fact, having a community like this (across the world) has benefited our health journey immensely.
4.) Food Matters – www.facebook.com/foodmatters
Another fantastic resource via Facebook is the Food Matters page. Food Matters is a documentary available on Netflix, whose tagline is, “You are what you eat” and it provides excellent background on the food industry and how we can improve our health by embracing a healthier lifestyle. Their website www.foodmatters.com as well as this facebook page provide a wonderful number of recipes, tips and guides regarding natural health.
5.) Ancient Nutrition (Dr. Axe) – www.draxe.com and www.facebook.com/ancientnutrition
If you’ve never heard of Dr. Axe, here’s a quick description from his site: “Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, certified doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist with a passion to help people eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle.” He is easily one of the top natural health resources right now and his sites offer recipes, DIY remedies and trending health news. I have utilized his sites on multiple occasions from cooking dinner to finding a “safe” dessert to make for my whole family.
These are just a handful of resources that our family has utilized over the past few years. Raising a family, while battling health conditions is difficult, but figuring out what’s for dinner should not be—let alone breaking the bank to do-so. If you, or someone you love is dealing with chronic health issues, I hope you check out these resources I’ve provided. I’ll leave you with one last quick tip – 2-ingredient frozen fruit and coconut cream ice cream! Our family made this after dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious and all 4 of us gobbled it up (even our 2 and 4-year-old). Take 1 cup frozen fruit (we chose mangoes) and ½ cup of coconut cream and blend until smooth. We found this through The Gabriel Method (www.facebook.com/Gabriel.Method), who has an incredible weight loss story and shares recipes from time to time. Enjoy and know that if you struggle with food allergies or sensitivities, there are several resources available to you. Our family is by no means perfect, but we are continually researching and learning new things to improve our health.