We live, learn, and just have to move forward

I started down the road of crazy food eliminations several years ago. I have not intentionally eaten pork in over four years I believe. I say intentionally because I choose not to inflict pain upon myself. Unfortunately, I have come to find that eliminating pork is much harder than I thought it was. I honestly thought that I was doing very good at it.

I thought I had that skill mastered. I even had it down to even being not very tactful about it sometimes but it was my health and sometimes “tactful” was not going to cut it. Sometimes people do not take you seriously when you say that you cannot eat pork. I am not talking about a little bit of pork, I am talking about no pork. This includes all pork.

At first I thought I would be okay with some forms, but it became more and more clear that it was not just the fat content. It was not due to the fact that I did not have a gall bladder any more. This was something more than just my in ability to break down certain levels of fat. This was way more drastic than my fat intake.

I was doing very good with eliminating the main sources of pork – pork chops, sausage, bacon, ham, pepperoni, etc. You know your every day foods that everyone thinks about. These were the easy to isolate and eliminate foods. I was still having problems. My digestive issues would not relent. I was put on digestive enzymes. However, the only FDA approved enzymes are porcine based – pig pancreatic enzyme based. I gave it a try. I was actually sick when I started the prescription. I had a sinus infection. I did not notice any difference except in how I felt in the stomach. These were very expensive digestive enzymes but they worked. I was on them for two months and it came time for me to refill the prescription. In the meantime, I had not gotten well. My sinus infection had turned into a respiratory infection and my asthma worsened. It was going to cost a considerable amount of money to refill this prescription and I was very frustrated by it.

Research revealed that this was one of my only real options and I was going to have to pay for a 90-day supply of this medicine, not just a 30-day supply. I managed to stretch the 30-day supply as the doctor wrote it because I am not a big snack consumer and so there were extra doses in there for snacks that I never used thus it lasted longer than the 30-days. However, it was still very expensive for 30-days. To fill it for 90-days was going to be a serious commitment.

After serious consideration, thought, and prayer I decided to go off the digestive enzymes. If it was making that much of an impact on my life, I would know immediately. I knew going off of it was going to make a difference in how I felt one way or another and I knew that I was going to have to be very careful how I ate to avoid the stomach pain that the medicine had helped relieve.

The amazing thing was that within 4 days I was back on the bike. I had not felt well enough to ride the bike to school with my son, Lance, in months. I was too tired. I felt awful. My asthma was a mess. I was up to four asthma medicines at that point because my asthma was so bad. Within 4 days I felt like I a dark cloud had been lifted from my body. Within 2 weeks I was off of one of those asthma medicines. I could breathe clearer and with ease. My sinus infection and respiratory ailments started to clear up. Within a month I felt like a new person.

It was evident that I could not even handle porcine based medicines. The harsh realities were that my body does not tolerate anything pork. It was shortly after this that I found that I was more and more intolerant of other pork things as well and I started the rapid pork “clean out” in my life. Even clean sausages in pork-casings were a no-no. Everything had to be pork-free. It requires me to research and read everything. It means that often times I have to walk away from products just because I cannot determine with 100% certainty that things are pork-free.

Of course it has not been perfect. Sometimes I will forget about the little things. Those things that you just do not think about until you have indulged and then you are suffering.

There was the time I learned that Mexican Restaurants are my worst friend. I thought I was doing everything right. I ordered the beef fajitas. I skipped the guacamole that I knew had tomatoes. I skipped the salsa. I skipped the beans. I was in severe pain before I finished my plate. What had I done wrong? Well those restaurant fresh handmade tortillas that I loved so much are on my cannot have list now.

I never even thought about refried beans in the can. The can states “prepared beans” and the other ingredients. No where does it state that the beans contain “pork.” I did not put two and two together. Then one day when I felt a little worse than usual for some reason, it dawned on me. How are those beans prepared? Typically with some form of ham-hock or bacon in them. There are “vegetarian” refried beans on the shelf next to the regular refried beans. I never put two and two together. Beans are beans. Unless they are pork and beans, why did I need to pay special attention to them? Oh did I learn? I switched over to the vegetarian variety and made the same dish and voila I felt so much better the next time I ate it.

Fast forward to today when I was standing in Kroger…

I was standing on the aisle with the canned beans. I was buying beans to make the chicken chili for the Ward Trunk or Treat. They were having a chili dinner beforehand. Of course any Ward Dinner means that I have to bring dinner if I want to be able to eat anything because everything is laced with things that I cannot eat. No offense to those that bring things. So I signed up to bring some chili just so I would be safe eating tonight. You know something that was pork, tomato, bell pepper, and a variety of other things free. There were plenty of other pots of pain there for everyone else to choose from.

Alas I digress…

I was standing on the aisle with all the canned beans trying to get beans to go in the chicken chili. I needed white beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans. I did not think that this was going to be too hard. I would grab some vegetarian beans and be on my way. That was a great plan in theory. Kroger did not have any in their standard bean section. One of the managers walked by and I guess he saw my perplexed look because he asked if he could help me find anything. I explained that I was allergic to pork and beans were the hardest thing for me to find anything. “Do you have any that are vegetarian?” He was very pleasant and took a quick look at the shelf and I guess he saw the same thing I did and realized that his efforts were going to be just as fruitless as mine. Of course, Kroger has their “healthy” food section where all the organic and clean foods are. We did find some in that section but at 3-4x the cost. The manager wandered off. Really I did not see the need or want to spend that much on beans. They are just beans for crying out loud. I also did not need them flavored. I just wanted plane Jane ordinary beans.

I finally went back to the regular beans and looked some more. There were organic beans there. The Simple Truth Organic which is their store brand organic. I did not see that they were vegetarian, but I did notice that they stated that they were kosher. I am not entirely sure why they would state that they were kosher over being vegetarian, but at least I was moving in the right direction. Now I know that there are different levels of kosher depending on who is practicing the faith that is dictating the kosher regulations. I did a quick Google search on the kosher symbol to find out what it meant. I still did not have a 100% certainty (I am a doubter when my gut is concerned), but I was at least moving in the right direction.

The problem was that while I was searching I found out things that I had never found in my previous research sessions. I guess I had never looked for the right things before. I uncovered a “rabbit hole” so to speak. I was practically about to have a panic attack right there in the store. It was very disturbing and it was all starting to become very clear. Some of what I was reading could actually explain some of how I have been feeling the last few months. I quickly recomposed myself and told myself I would read up on that later but for now I was going to have to focus on dinner for tonight and getting back home to bake the cookies for the Trunk or Treat.

The find?

The disturbing find was a list of what are hidden sources of pork. After I had time to sit down and read through the list more in depth this evening, I was very disheartened by it. Some of those things I have eaten in the past week. Some of those things I have eaten in the past month. Many of those things I have eaten in the past year. I have been feeding the very thing I needed to be practicing strict avoidance with to my body without even knowing it. I had no idea. I am very disheartened by this. Here I was trying my hardest to prevent the painful reactions I knew I did not want to have and unknowingly I was ingesting foods that would cause those very reactions. The thing is that sometimes I was having reactions and I did not even know why. I could not figure it out. Some of these items are items that I never would have guessed had traces of pork in them at all. I never would have guessed it.

I was texting my mother as I was reading through the list and I was getting very sad and discouraged. How do you function in a fast paced society and still eat certain items? Some of these items are every day items. Some of them were convenience items. Some of them were not. Some of them were items that I have started to avoid because they caused pain but I thought it was other things. Now I am not so sure what the cause was. Obviously it was the pork that was the issue, but was it also the other items that elevated the response?

I will have to sit and research some more on some of these items. Some of the items I can completely avoid without too much of a problem. I can find substitutions. Some of the items I can avoid simply by making my own and not relying on store bought alternatives. Others are not so easy to avoid.

Today I take the mindset that we live, we learn, and we just have to move forward. Here is to a healthier and more pain free days to come because I learned what I learned today. It may take me some time to adapt, adjust, and ultimately overcome this stumbling block but it is not the end of the world. It is merely that – a stumbling block. It will only knock me down for a little while.

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