I still haven't finished reading all the literature, nor have I settled on a specific plan. So this will change. But while I'm figuring it out, I've adjusted my eating habits. I'm eliminating all the regular old bad stuff that people say to eliminate: no processed foods, no sugar, no white flour. That's how I should be eating anyway, right? I'm going gluten free, so there goes bread and baked things. And I'm going a little further than that, because I like the Communicatrix and she's got Crohn's (and bad, too-- yikes) and swears by something called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. So I'm trying that out, although I haven't managed fanatical adherence. (Just now I had some balsamic vinegar as part of my lunch, which is verboten.) So that means soy, grains, and most dairy are out, too.
Essentially, there seem to be two general approaches to this condition: those aimed at the symptoms and those aimed at some theory about the cause. I like the cause approach better as a mental framework; unfortunately, the scientific studies don't seem to support any conclusion about a cause, so those whose remedies are based on a theory about cause seem to be, basically, making everything up. Not saying there aren't any empirical results -- on the internet you can find persuasive anecdotal and testimonial support for just about anything. But when nobody agrees on the cause of something, it's hard to be systematic about evaluating strategies aimed at the cause. Oversimplifying like crazy, I like to think of the cause folks as the "flowing meadow" school, because on some of the most earnest websites there is a lot of comparing the intestines to an ecosystem, full of swaying lush grasses and good bugs and bad bugs, all in harmony working to digest my lunch. The premise of tinkering with diet is that someone mowed the meadow and killed off the good bugs, leaving the bad bugs swarming like a cloud of locusts. The remedies are different, but the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is all about starving the bad bugs, repopulating the good bugs, and trying to keep things digestively simple (monosaccharides, not disaccharides or polysaccharides) until it's a flowing meadow once again. It's more complicated than that, obviously -- I'm being simple partly for effect, and partly because I don't understand it much beyond this level.
So I've been about 8 days being as compliant as I can with these eating restrictions. (I'm allowed caffeine and certain alcohol -- dry wine, vodka, and bourbon are all ok.) I cheat daily with half-and-half in my coffee, because life does not seem bearable without that. Today as part of my big salad I had some tomatoes (allowed) that had been marinated in balsamic vinegar (not allowed). Last week I mixed a can of diced tomatoes into an otherwise compliant chili recipe, I had four or five tortilla chips, I had a half cup of brown rice, and a couple of sips of beer, although not all on the same day. Oh, and I made some smoothies with yogurt that probably wasn't compliant -- you're supposed to make your own yogurt, fermented for more than 24 hours. But mostly I've been living the life. It's more of a hassle than a drag -- hard mostly because I have to go out of my way to figure out what to eat, not because I miss any specific foods.
What else am I doing? I have an elaborate plan for monitoring my symptoms more stringently, which I am at work building now and will reveal when the time comes. At one of our readers' suggestion, I'll try to make an appointment with an expert at a teaching hospital, either in Boston or New Haven. I'm continuing to read everything I can find. I see my doctor at the end of the month. Keep your ideas coming.
I could use some hippie eating suggestions, because sourcing and preparing food within these odd rules is taking up a lot of attention.