ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Would You Like Some Empathy With That? How Hype-Busting Food Intolarences Helps and Hurts the Chronically Ill

Updated on May 14, 2016
A new appreciation for bourbon
A new appreciation for bourbon | Source

Chronic Illness and Food Sensitivities

I've had Lyme disease for four years now as I write this article, and I've been correctly diagnosed for one. There are numerous rules for Lyme disease sufferers in regards to what our bodies can tolerate for us to consume. I learned this far earlier than I learned I had the disease.

Sadly, my first lessons were beer and wine. By the time I was initially diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, these lessons fit with the "rules" of that illness. Either one made me sick for days. Over time, I would try again, thinking that since I seemed to be getting better, it might be OK, but I would ultimately learn the same lessons all over again.

I tolerated champagne at a wedding in California and thought I'd turned a corner. With white wines back at home in Montana, however, I had no such luck. In retrospect, the high quality of the champagne was almost certainly a misleading factor.

During my first year or so of illness, I found over the holiday season that I felt great after cocktails, so it became a running joke among friends and my spouse that I could only drink hard alcohol. It has turned out to be true, and I have discovered a deep appreciation for whiskey and bourbon, preferably straight, which at times has actually improved my state of health. My current favorite is Knob Creek, pictured with me above.

There are few other benefits to the food issues that often accompany illness, which sadly accompany many diseases. The consequences of ignoring these issues range from pain to inconvenience to a lower quality of life. This is particularly the case with inflammation-exacerbated illnesses such Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (to name but a few).

"What kind of life would there be without cheese?"
"What kind of life would there be without cheese?" | Source

Life Without Dairy

The loss of dairy was hard for me to accept. Beer and wine were obviously trouble. No doctor needed to tell me. Dairy was a different matter.

After being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome following Bell's Palsy (still years away from my correct diagnosis of Lyme disease), I serendipitously sat beside a specialist on plane who made time to see me when we both returned to Montana. Allergy testing was one of his first steps in helping me get symptoms under control, while screening for other diseases and complicating factors.

Casein and dairy intolerances showed up in my blood work. I would not have given up cheese without hard evidence. I needed documentation or cheese would have stayed a happy and normal part of my life.

To clarify the last statement above a bit, though, I was happy consuming it, but not so happy in general in ways I didn't know at the time were related to dairy. Leaving dairy behind made a tremendous difference in my recovery at the time, or at least in my quality of life, since I was still years away from diagnosis and treatment (other than treating symptoms).

Hooray for Thai food!

Thai can be a yummy life saver if your diet is restricted
Thai can be a yummy life saver if your diet is restricted | Source
Sticky rice travels well and is great as a leftover
Sticky rice travels well and is great as a leftover | Source
Thai can be kid friendly too
Thai can be kid friendly too | Source

Life Without Gluten

Gluten didn't turn up in early blood work. It wasn't necessarily a "rule" of the diseases I was diagnosed with at the time. It is a rule with Lyme disease.

But I had lost over 40 pounds in the first year of undiagnosed Lyme disease. It was hard enough to find foods to eat and to keep my weight up to levels that weren't scary. I wasn't in a hurry to give up any more foods and my Lyme doctor didn't push me to do so early on.

When she later firmly suggested I do a gluten-free trial to address symptoms, I conveniently forgot for a few extra months. I really did forget, and it really was (seemingly) convenient.

As determined as I was that this rule would not apply to me, the reduction in pain, brain fog, and fatigue were too dramatic to deny within the first few days. I was so productive at work that people asked months later at a professional conference what had gotten into me that week (I had proposed a project on a Monday and had overcome regulatory hurdles and began to procure funding by mid week).

I couldn't afford and didn't want to eat non-gluten foods. But the alternative includes too many ramifications, not least among them being pain and idiocy.

Food for the Road or the Trail is a Challenge


Traveling with Food Restrictions

My husband works a summer job that allows us to fly for free. Sadly this began relatively shortly before my illness did. So in some ways, time to travel has been more available, but money and stamina have certainly not.

When health and money make travel feasible or even fun, the food issue is a HUGE burden. I'm getting better at asking questions and better at finding options. Gladly the options get easier to find as I figure things out, and I am clearly lucky to have as many mainstream options available compared to ten or even five years ago.

But those options are expensive. And they take a lot more time to think of and seek out. Energy that usually goes elsewhere first. Especially traveling without my husband, as is often the case.

Several Factors Make this even harder.

  • Outdoor Travel. I will learn and there are resources available. But my long term go to's are mostly out of the question, so packing protein rich foods of the caliber I need working or recreating outdoors is challenging.
  • Packing or buying separate foods. Gone are the days of throwing fast options together for a flight, a road trip, or a quick day trip.
  • Affordability. There are ways to economize. Particularly through pre-planning. But again, this is not as easy! And there is no way to get around the extra costs of a health-safe-for-me latter.
  • Sacrificing Flavor. I do still struggle with spending more on food that often doesn't taste as good. I understand this is a bit silly, given that it costs the business more to make and I am lucky to have it available. But my tastebuds aren't concerned with the logic of this.

Heaven Was in Austin: There Was Nowhere I Couldn't Eat!

Dairy Free & Gluten Free Goodies


Helpful Hype

There is more and more money to be made as more and more people go gluten free. This helps us all as some prices come down and food and alternative ingredients become more and more broadly available.

  • Most coffee shops have alternative milks. This does not apply in parts of the country that are not coffee savvy, but if you care about coffee, you'll be frustrated in those regions anyway.
  • You can eat at more restaurants with your family without having to order poached plain salmon and plain steamed asparagus. Though I recently payed $9 for a chunk of lettuce in a Bozeman restaurant. I wish I were exaggerating.
  • You can find online information for fast food chains.
  • You can find info on menus occasionally at nicer restaurants.
  • More and more wait staff know the answers to food ingredient questions.
  • No shortage of books and media resources.
  • Greater quality of treats and baked goods (which my husband has a talent for finding).
  • Greater quality of recipes for goodies that don't taste like you are eating something gluten and dairy free (my husband became a foodie shortly before I got sick and goes to great lengths to make yummy things I can have).

Food Restrictions and Illness

What illness do you most associate with food restrictions?

See results

Anti-Gluten-Free Backlash

  • General Snarkiness In Response to Questions
  • Assumptions about Motivations
  • Lack of Sympathy & Empathy
  • Bad & Dangerous Answers to Questions
  • Social and Mainstream Media Taunting
  • Invalidating Perceptions of Trendiness

Cheers to Peaceful Eating


Pros and Cons of "Hype Busting"

Recent studies and media coverage are focusing on evidence that people's perceptions of health benefits from gluten avoidance are not founded.

This lens continues to fail to make any distinction between optional and non optional gluten avoidance. My experiences so far are that optional versus non-optional dairy avoidance gets lumped into the confusion as well.

There are at least three basic categories of food avoidance that I think are pretty intuitive.

  1. Optional
  2. Intolerance or Allergy Based
  3. Illness Based

Again, I feel health choices should be respected in the first place. But if each person were treated more like a possible patient and less like a probable trend follower, eating in public would be a lot less difficult and a lot more peaceful.

The new empirical evidence is being interpreted so far as negating people's observations of feeling better with different food choices. The body of evidence from which this inference is being drawn is awfully sparse so far.

Additionally, given the enormous difference in my recovery while avoiding certain foods it seems very rational to me that a less ill body may tangibly benefit from similar changes, and that further explorations will show this to be the case.

The act of "hype busting" therefore sounds good to me if misinformation decreases. It sounds scary to me if it further muddies the water by expanding on unsound inferences about people's motivations for avoiding certain foods and continues to be misapplied to sick people and/or continues to fail to make any distinction.

I think the state of food right now shows that in the long-term, hype busting has been good. In the short term, each round can have unintended (though hopefully temporary) consequences.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)