A few blogs back I posted a ‘yearly’ update where I informed (all four) of my loyal readers of my recent set-backs. I want to elaborate on one particular element of this post and that is my health. A doctor in the UK diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and suspected that this was triggered by the Epstein Barr virus. Chronic Fatigue diagnosis can be vague, an umbrella term for a broad range of symptoms with no obvious solution or treatment. Some people are affected by this debilitating illness for life, whilst others experience Chronic Fatigue in the wake of a virus, injury or mental breakdown. Personally, I struggle with long periods of intense activity, and am prone to ‘burn out’ with very little stamina. Holding a full-time teaching position was an inappropriate career for me physically, it meant long days on my feet and constant, chronic stress. As a perfectionist I have a resistance to rest when I am focused on a project and find it impossible to achieve balance, I am either exhausted or I am ‘unstoppable’.
Well-being is a nuanced topic; a complex interweaving of physical, mental and emotional factors. One of those key factors is diet. Now, it might seem unnecessary to state it but I quite like cake. Cake and coffee. Cake and coffee and cosy afternoons baking bread…I could go on. I like baking because it is good for my mental health, it comforts me. Baking, for me, is mindful. But I’m also a conscious sugar-eater, aware that excess sugar and caffeine can adversely affect my energy levels and my gut health. For a long time I have sung the praises of a lower sugar diet. Ideally, my only added sugar consumption should come from my home baking, though this doesn’t always ring true when I’m spontaneously offered cinnamon buns.
However, there has been a further development of late, and that is the revelation of the low FODMAP diet. I’ve suffered a long time with stomach cramps and fatigue after eating and somehow the ‘healthier’ my diet is, the worse I feel. Lots of nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and fibre are recommended to keep us healthy and functioning long-term, but I am not the only one who needs a different type of balance, a bespoke diet according to my gut. I am not a nutritionist, I am merely someone who has long been dictated to by her body and I am, of course, always looking for a lifestyle that will allow me to do the things I want to do.
There is a lot of information about FODMAP’s online, including what foods this diet includes/excludes and detailed explanations of the acronym. All that my ‘sentient readers’ need to know if that, for the time being, I am avoiding gluten, wheat, lactose and honey. If you follow my Instagram, you might have already seen a few of my dairy free and gluten free creations. My blog already features some recipes that are naturally gluten free or vegan so I’m not anticipating my mind set will be too hard to alter. I am, however, aware that a lack of gluten can alter the consistency of many baked goods and that gluten free flour alternatives tend to promote crumblier, drier bakes. Almonds work beautifully in a sticky Kladdkaka or a batch of chewy macaroons, they don’t work so well in bread or crackers without a lot of help. I’m not keen on getting complicated and bringing in the likes of xanthan gum or tapioca starch, although I understand why they are commonly used. I intend to work as closely with natural grains as possible, including oats, polenta and ground nuts.
I’m always up for a challenge and I’m determined to keep baking a comfortable and enriching part of my life. Keep a lookout for gluten and dairy free recipes in the coming months and, please, any suggestions, sites or recommendations are welcome! Check out some of my previous gluten and dairy free recipes below.