My Cure, and Yours

800px-Crystallized_honey

This is a photo of crystalized honey.  Chemically speaking, honey is made up of a naturally-occuring sugar called fructose.  2012 marks the year that my digestive health did an about-face when I learned that, for me, fructose is evil.

Last fall, on the advice of a doctor, I tried following a gluten-free diet.  And I got much, much worse.  I dropped nearly ten pounds in a month.  My stomach pains became more frequent and debilitating.  I developed an H Pylori infection.  Clearly, gluten was not the evil culprit.

I noticed a pattern to my stomach pains.  Usually they happened in the late afternoon or early evening. Since doctors didn’t seem to have an answer for me, I set out to discover if these recurring pains were food related.  After keeping a diary for a week, I realized that every morning I ate fruit with my breakfast and usually had more fruit with lunch.  Fruit is healthy, right?  It’s on the food pyramid, that gold standard of healthy eating that the government touts for everyone.  Yet since it was so prominent in my diet I decided to cut it out and see what happened.

I got better!

Then I had the ALCAT test which showed me that I was highly sensitive to a sugar called fructose.  Voila!  I had my answer.  The fructose in fruit is what had been making me so sick my entire life.  The gluten-free health bars I had been eating for snacks during my gluten-free experiment were all made with dates, and dates have the highest amount of fructose of all the fruits!  No wonder I got so ill!

My entire life I have been underweight and have had troubles with my appetite. But this year, since I eliminated fruit from my diet, I have gained about five pounds. My appetite is improved.  There are still some days when I accidentally eat something that sends my stomach into spasms, but the main culprit has been squashed.  Based on my results with eliminating fruit and vegetables that have high fructose content, as well as eliminating all processed foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, I have self-diagnosed myself with fructose malabsorption.  My body does not absorb it properly; when I eat it, it makes me sick.

Paradoxically, the ALCAT test showed that I have a “low” sensitivity to gluten yet a “high” sensitivity to wheat.  A little research revealed to me that whole wheat contains a higher concentration of fructan molecules.  Fructan is chemically similar to fructose.  This might be why I react to whole wheat but not to white, refined flour.

So what on earth do I eat?

2012 is the year of the homemade baked goods.  I make my own muffins for breakfast.  I freeze the leftovers — a dozen muffins lasts me a good ten days or more.  I bake my own biscuits, scones, coffee cake, and bread.  I cut the sugar in my recipes in half, if not more.  I use white sugar instead of brown sugar (because brown sugar contains fructose).  I avoid honey because it is pure fructose.  If a recipe contains milk (I’m also allergic to whey), I limit the amount I eat.  I try to include veggies at lunch and dinner in order to make up for the fruit that I’m no longer eating.

It isn’t easy, this road to healthier eating.  Healthier eating for ME is the exact opposite of healthier eating for my husband, who has lost more than 40 pounds following his own diet of fruit, veggies, meats, and whole grains rather than white ones.  But somehow we are making it!

If you, like me, have been plagued with digestive issues that going “gluten-free” didn’t solve, I encourage you to think about eliminating fructose.  Investigate the “Low FODMAP” diet, and talk to your doctor or nutritionist about ways to eliminate these foods.

One of the hardest things for me to adjust to is the notion that not all food made by God is good for my body.  I would like to be able to pluck that apple off the tree.  I miss grapes and bananas and honeydew melons.  It would be so much easier to grab a loaf of bread at the store…or to eat the rolls that come with my meal at a restaurant…than to refrain from eating them.  The Israelites had a list of foods they weren’t allowed to eat, but in New Testament times, Peter had a vision that showed him that ALL foods could now be considered “clean” (safe) to eat.  Why are some foods not safe for me?

I go back to that old, original story.  You know the one…where Snow White eats the apple?  Oh wait, no, EVE eats the fruit from the tree…the one tree in the entire garden that was off limits.

The woman stared at the fruit. It looked beautiful and tasty. She wanted the wisdom that it would give her, and she ate some of the fruit. (Genesis 3:6)

The problem with eating that fruit is that her Creator specifically said NOT to.  I’ve been thinking a bit about this tree of knowledge of good and evil, and I’m not sure that the tree itself had any magical properties.  What it did, though, is give Eve and her husband the choice to obey or disobey, period.

I’m reminded of the time that I told my then-three-year-old daughter to keep hold of my hand as we walked on the sidewalk.  She chose to disobey me and ran out into the street to chase after a particularly beautiful leaf that the wind tumbled across her path.  Like Eve, she wanted to FEEL that leaf between her fingers, to learn new knowledge about how the leaf crumbles and crackles, pieces of it falling, falling to the pavement in swirly patters with the wind.  But there was a car coming in my daughter’s path.  If the driver hadn’t seen my child and slammed on her brakes…I can’t even conceive of what might have happened.  Adrenaline and fear shook me to my toes as I lunged after her, swept her in my arms, and swatted her bottom all at the same time.  Her desire to KNOW so much that she disobeyed led to a consequence of PAIN (a swat, a firm, “NO!”, and a loss of the leaf).  Eve’s desire to know so much that she disobeyed introduced what I’ll call a “sin gene” (leading to PAIN) into humanity.  Once we humans learned we didn’t HAVE to obey, we wanted to go our own way in pursuit of knowledge, regardless of whether or not that knowledge would be good for our bodies.

Maybe this “sin gene” is what allows us to be plagued with hands that don’t work anymore or with digestive systems that can’t absorb certain foods that are good.  Maybe it’s behind the billion dollar food industry that slathers our foods with pesticides and genetically modifies it to ensure the growers make a higher profit, regardless of whether or not the genetically modified foods are good for our bodies, and people like me find themselves neck-deep in autoimmune mysteries that western medicine is unable to cure.

While western medicine doesn’t have a cure for what ails our bodies, God does.  He created it in the person of his Son, Jesus.  He gave me a mind for reasoning and helped me figure out — when medical doctors were clueless — which foods I needed to eliminate in order to restore health to my body.  God even has the cure for that “sin gene” that Eve brought into the world.  Jesus is the real Cure.  When we set our minds and our hearts on Him, the lure of sin isn’t as appealing.  When we are consumed with helping and loving others, we spend less time piling up treasures for ourselves and more time investing in those He puts in our paths.  Knowing Jesus isn’t about going to church, any more than knowing your spouse is about sitting on the couch. Rather, it’s about a relationship, with all the things relationships entail: communication (prayer), reading love letters (the Bible), respect, a desire to please, getting to know each other (spending time reading the Bible and thinking about it, reading Christian authors), and, since He is God, an acknowledgement that He is the one in control.

No matter what health or other issues may come our way in the coming year, I am confident that the Cure remains the same…yesterday, today, always.

(Ha- I love the way God works!  I went to look for the verse about how Jesus remains the same, and look what I found just after the verse I was looking for, in Hebrews 13:

Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t be fooled by any kind of strange teachings. It is better to receive strength from God’s undeserved kindness than to depend on certain foods. After all, these foods don’t really help the people who eat them.

And that, my friends, is what I shall do.  May we all receive strength from God’s undeserved kindness as we look forward to the coming year.

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