WhatFinger

Food, Allergies, ingredients

Slow Down and Savor the Moments


By —— Bio and Archives--December 20, 2007

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Food is everywhere. Advertised between mind numbing sitcom television shows and radio programs; interspersed between articles about diet and fitness to fight flab; or posted on billboards along our nation’s streets and highways, it is hard not to be reminded about what to consider eating next.

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For me, this epicurean parade for the palate takes place every work day as I step off the train and am forced to walk through the fast food emporium before I can exit the station and embark into the fresh air of the city. Then, food is available on every block between Chicago’s Union Station and my office. If I can’t actually see what’s available, smells abound, emanating from Jimmy Johns, McDonalds, and Caribou Coffee. It is an irony that there are people starving in this world when most people in this country are acutely aware of an expanding waistline.
 
Sometimes tempted by Corner Bakery or Nuts on Clark, upon closer inspection I take a pass. Keenly aware of the long list of ingredients that might set off a case of hives or swelling of my lips due to severe food intolerance, I’ve been forced to rethink what passes through my body in the course of a day. Even bottled water is suspect, because of the packaging. Generally, I ignore the bounty of convenience foods, instead, opting for the raw, unsalted or lightly salted nuts and unsulphured, no sugar added dried fruit on which I graze throughout the day. Learning to eat this way is similar to painting with only three colors. One becomes very creative about sustenance and eating becomes more about fueling the body and less about reacting impulsively to the day’s challenges.
 
As a matter of fact, eating non-toxically has become a way of life, second nature now, and this new style of living has provided some unexpected bonuses. Unwittingly, I’ve put into place a structure which allows me to pay more attention to my work, my writing, and to the people and events around me. I’ve become much less preoccupied with calories, experience less guilt over bad food choices, and rarely obsess over what and when to eat. It’s quite freeing, really. An interesting chain of events led me to this eating regimen and while each episode brought discomfort and self-pity, the climax of the peculiar set of circumstances has resulted in a happier, more productive person.
 
This odyssey began several years ago, when I discovered that I could not eat a meal without my nose running. It’s not hard to look back at those years and imagine a correlation between stock in Kleenex going up and this strange malady which had begun to cramp my social life. Who wants to watch a person blow their nose throughout dinner? Eventually, my congestion and runny nose were no longer simply triggered by food and this disorder was becoming a problem of much greater magnitude. I found no relief in over the counter decongestants. Quite honestly, the only way I could breathe laying down was through my mouth. Thankfully, I went to an ENT who determined that I was suffering from two problems: I had a deviated septum and I was presenting vasomotor rhinitis; the vessels in the nasal membranes of my nose were expanding in an overreaction to environmental triggers. Between surgery to correct my deviated septum and nasal sprays to initially treat the problem, I have been breathing easily ever since. But the question as to why I began over reacting to environmental triggers was not answered. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to that aspect of this case. It was to catch up with me.
 
About a year ago, I started to break out in hives. Except for a combination of steroids and Allegra, nothing seemed to help. However, I couldn’t continue taking steroids. For one, I didn’t want to grow a beard or a mustache. Nor was I out to earn any home run records. Worst of all, I was gaining weight. No woman likes to gain weight! Tested for allergies, the only positive reaction was to brewers’ yeast. The Allergist had no suggestions on what that meant or how I could help myself and that is when I began to panic. Jumping to the worst possible conclusions, I made an appointment with a “fringe doctor,” you know, one of the folks that might be able to sell you some snake oil if you are desperate enough. Had he been a predator, I knew I was competent enough to determine whether he was going to try and sell me a piece of swamp land or offer me a good investment. Thankfully, he was providing the latter…and the investment was in my body.
 
Interestingly, the diagnosis of this practitioner of alternative medicine was similar to the ENT. He determined that my immune system had become hypersensitive to what I was putting in my body. It would take pages to describe what could be contributing to the cause; the bottom line was I needed to stop ingesting everything that could be causing my symptoms. Once I became hive free, I could begin adding food categories back to my diet, carefully noting my reactions to these groups. Basically, I was put through a crash course in how the body utilizes food and what can go wrong in the process. Possessing a more thorough knowledge of this information and forced to believe in the power of my body to heal itself -having nowhere else to turn, has been a blessing. While six months of no dairy, wheat, sugar, or citrus, and eating limited amounts of what’s left has been challenging, the alternative is worse. Lately, I’ve been sampling some of the food which, until now, was completely off limits. The results have not been encouraging. As much as I like the convenience of take out Chinese, I believe that either the MSG or the soy causes my upper lip to swell up so much that I resemble Cindy Lou Who (who is no longer two, for I am 30+). What I have read about MSG is really quite disturbing, diabetics should take note.
 
There really is more than just the simple pleasure to be gained from shopping for fresh produce, cooking your own food, and sharing a meal with others. It is important to slow down. This is because instant gratification, i.e. pre-processed, fast food, not to mention how this affects other aspects of our lives, comes with a price. Shortcuts, deals too good to be true, fads –all come at a much higher price than one would suspect. On the other hand, craftsmanship, in the form of good food, pride in one’s work, and well formulated reasoning, is worth the extra time and money invested in each of these products. If there is a lesson to be learned from this experience, it is that good things come to those who wait. Patience truly is a virtue.


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Nancy Salvato -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Nancy Salvato is the President of Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country.


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