It’s time to break up!

Have you ever been in one of those relationships where no matter how bad it is at times, you can’t help but go back for more? There is the constant thought that maybe this time it will be better, maybe this time it won’t cause me pain, maybe this time the good bit will last for longer.

But sure as ever, after the initial reconciliation it all turns sour rather quickly, or acidic in my case.

I am not here to bore you with stories of my unfortunate dating history, but my unfortunate relationship with certain foods.

It has become clear to me that my relationship with refined sugar is at an end. For a long time now (certainly months, possibly up to a year) I have suffered with painful acid reflux on a daily basis. I blamed it for a while on dairy (I am lactose intolerant but can have a little plain yogurt) and moved to a completely dairy free diet, but this didn’t help. I cut out alcohol (I don’t drink regularly though so didn’t see my occasional drink as the culprit) and I removed all white grains from my diet. I upped my water intake from 2ltrs a day to 3ltrs a day. Yet the problem persisted.

I decided to practice the ostrich technique (i.e. I buried my head in the sand), because otherwise I would have to look at what else I was eating and I think I have known for a long time where the problem lay. But I was in love. I didn’t want to break up with sugar. We’ve had so many good times together. There was the time I laughed so hard I fell backwards into a pavlova, there are the cosy nights in we share, there are French macarons that I have whenever I go to Nice, there’s rocky road (made from my sister’s fabulous recipe). Even being diagnosed coeliac didn’t stop my love of sugar — it just became harder to find it in a delicious form (thank you to Green’s of Grasmere and Sugar Daddy’s in Edinburgh!)

However a week ago I had a friend to visit. We had a busy weekend and I just didn’t happen to have any chocolate. It wasn’t until a couple of days later (still chocolate free, bizarrely) that I realised I hadn’t had any heartburn for 4 days. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been heartburn free for 4 whole days! It felt amazing! And then it felt awful…because I had to face the awful truth of what may have been causing the pain…my beloved sugar, and more specifically, milk chocolate.

Yes, you may have noticed earlier that I said I am lactose intolerant, so why — you may ask — was I eating chocolate anyway? Well, I thought I could “get away with it”. Sadly not! I have flirted with quitting sugar before — and it always makes me feel so much better — but I’ve always come back to the dark side (or, actually, the milk side).

Since then, I have had small encounters of heartburn — nowhere near as bad and not lasting as long, but I want to eliminate it altogether.

A little research on t’internet has confirmed my fears — chocolate is one of the worst culprits for acid reflux along with caffeine, citrus fruits and nightshades. I have decaffeinated tea with lacto-free milk, I don’t eat citrus fruit as I’ve long known that caused me acid reflux, and I don’t eat raw tomatoes or very much white potato, preferring its sweet cousin. However, I do eat a lot of peppers. In fact I possibly love peppers as much as sugar. Nightshades also get a bad rap for anyone with an autoimmune disease (I am coeliac), so the future is looking bleak for me and peppers! Nightshades can cause inflammation which can lead to joint pain. While my joint & muscle pain has improved a little (I credit magnesium supplements) it is far from gone, so perhaps this could be the missing link.

So here starts an elimination diet — and as always with me if I am going to do something I am going to do it properly. It’s goodbye from me to:

· Chocolate

· Caffeine (no sneaking in the odd soda or regular cup of tea)

· Alcohol (can’t deny the amount of sugar in it)

· White potato and anything containing potato starch (this could end up being a mine field!)

· Peppers

The recommendation is to do this for 3 months before reintroducing any of the items. So here we go — as much as I am sure it will be difficult at times, I am optimistic that the positives will outweigh the cravings!