Monday, October 20, 2008

Rotation Sensation

"Don't repeat any food eaten on a particular day for another five days."

"Can I eat the same thing for lunch and dinner on one day?"


"Is the purpose of this diagnosis or treatment?"


This exchange constituted the entirety of my mission instructions for my latest health adventure, the rotation diet. I can tell you I was not ready on Day 1. On Day 3 I went to a potluck picnic and half-seriously considered the possibility that my fancy new doctor was simply trying to get rid of me as a patient. (Maybe she was upping the ante since the gluten-free diet alone hadn't dissuaded me from returning.) At the picnic table I forlornly eyed other people's offerings while eating what I had come to think of not so much as a meal but as a collection of "foods," in this case quinoa tabouli, water-packed sardines and a slice of watermelon. Munching some chips, a friend with his own special food needs implied that I had bogarted the sardines. I gave him a dark look.

By Day 5 a kind book store employee had thrown me a life preserver, The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide: How to Cook with Ease for a Food Allergy Diet and Recover Good Health by Nicolette Dumke. I cited the book in a wheedling phone message to my doctor, who agreed to a four-day, rather than a five-day, cycle. The book has become my bible, although the author carves out a few pages for proselytizing about the actual scriptures.

I can only speak for the gospel according to St. Nicolette (as I've come to think of her). She has taught me the rules of rotating not just foods but genetically-related food families. She has also elucidated the rationale behind this latest lifestyle nonsense of mine--to do with sensitization (and masking of symptoms) in response to frequently-eaten items. From her, I am learning to keep my sanity while putting together menu plans. The book contains tips for gluten-free baking, sources for specialized products, and various other essentials. Finally, there is the author's personal story of her methodical and successful quest for health after near-starvation. Incidentally, she is clearly completely savvy about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, although she doesn't emphasize it.

The concept of food families makes thinks more difficult. If you crush a little garlic into a sauce at dinner you've now ruled out eating onions, chives, shallots, leeks or asparagus for the following three days. They are all members of the Lily Family. Dumke wisely holds out such large, delicious food families from assignment to any of the four "standard" days in order to give the allergy patient more flexibility.

Flexibility won't mean what it used to. You can forget your favorite recipes, forget your favorite restaurants, forget about eating that pear on your kitchen counter when it ripens. However, if you want lettuce on Day 4 rather than Day 2, no problem. But seriously, this comes to seem big.

"Discover new foods," the book jacket promises cheerily. And, yes, variety is healthy and interesting, but the real value of weird foods for the new rotator is that they don't foreclose on future choices. Try to imagine being delighted to discover frozen ostrich patties at the nearby health-food store. I can eat them any old day without disturbing the grand menu-planning scheme. The sound principle of eating locally-grown, in-season foodstuffs goes by the wayside. Kiwi has become a prize because I eat nothing with close genetic ties to it.

It's all doable, just. I hope it will get easier. I have to break the habit of spontaneous nibbling. Otherwise I will have more moments such as the one at last Sunday's Farmer's Market. I accepted a sample of feta cheese and then mystified the farmer by slapping my forehead and coming out with, "Oh no, it's not goat day." I'd just sent myself back to the drawing board for the next day's main meal.


Susie said...

Aloha! You're back! Wo0T!! I found your blog months and months ago and thought you'd disappeared after your Judgment Day. It's great to have you back blogging.

I'm not a big proponent of rotation diets (for me anyway, but then I don't have food allergies along with the mcs), but I found it interesting as far as encouraging variety and keeping me from getting addicted to any single food.

Come visit The Canary Report! Be well, ok? I look forward to your posts!


VardoForTwo said...

I too, like Susie am glad to see you're back blogging. I found you last year when MCS was a raging bull in my life. I have just posted to our blog, a link to your blog ... recommending you as one of the LifeSavers and Safety Nets that save my life. We are building an MCS-safe Vardo and share that process/journey at
Come visit us, too. Take good care.
Aloha, Mokihana