Photo by Jeremy Liew on Unsplash

When I was a little girl my Grandmother taught me how to bake. She taught me the difference between soft peaks, firms peaks, and dry, how to tell whether sugar’s been boiled long enough for syrup or for candy, how to mix wet and dry ingredients without lumpiness, how to beat eggs by hand when your beaters are broken, how to delicately fold in whites, how to perfectly whip cream, and the fine art of making a tender and flaky piecrust. Generally she taught me how to make homemade desserts come out to be spectacular, just like hers did.

By age 9 or 10 I graduated from making our nightly dinner salad to helping out with stovetop duties, like seasoning and browning. Grandmother was a great cook and could make dozens of deliciously varied dishes out of whatever we could afford at the time. But everyone was impressed on nights when I had a hand in it. I had a knack for seasoning…there was no getting around it.

I was literally born a ‘foodie’. I remember the things we ate when I was a baby, decades before that term existed. I even remember isolated incidents, like the time we actually roasted chestnuts on a fire, and that one time Mom gave me a sip of her cream and sugar loaded coffee. I was 2 years old. Throughout the rest of my childhood I noticed the nuanced flavors of everything, inquired about recipes and ingredients, and automatically created a sensory inventory of exotic spices, grains, flavorings, etc. We went to lavish, authentic Indian dinners at the Nashville Transcendental Meditation Center, and I was in awe of all the strange flavor palettes I’d never known existed. Cooking and eating would become a lifelong hobby and a great source of enjoyment for me.

Little had I known that my knowledge of basic food chemistry would one day be critical to my understanding of restricted diets. Going starch free is far more difficult than one would imagine, and even I was unprepared for just how many types of foods contain it. I had a handle on grains, legumes, roots, and bananas…which is already a lot! But Ankylosing Spondylitis information sites were telling me that seeds were also starchy.

I couldn’t believe that…thought they simply had to be mistaken, until I pondered the similarity between seeds and grains. Still I was convinced that seeds had to be so low in starch, it wouldn’t even register in my body. And I was kind of right. I would eventually discover that I could get away with small amounts of seeds (in the form of spices), but that my tolerable amount was critically precarious.

And so the next stage of my life began, characterized by the elimination of more and more foods as I increasingly proved too sensitive to handle them. Carrots…gone. Cocoa (a seed)…gone. Supplements with beetroot or rice powder as flowing agents…gone.

I’m not kidding. Even what I refer to as micro-starches had to go. Remember, a molecule of starch is a feast for klebsiella.

A diet like this is tough, especially for a foodie. It takes dedication and real motivation. And then there is the crossfire of information and misinformation on the internet. I was lucky to know my way through most of this jungle. People would try to tell me my diet was impossible…that starch is in everything, or that going starch free means I can’t have anything with sugar in it. Both of those are myths. (Starch is a sugar, not vice versa).

But I, along with many others, am living proof that going truly starch and lactose free can be done, and that…as you will see…it does put AS mostly, if not entirely, in remission.

This is the ongoing story of my experience with a crippling autoimmune disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, that I’m putting in remission with diet and stem cells!