Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zero Tolerance: Training with Food Sensitivities

I am ecstatic to see food issues get attention in the running world! Trail Running Magazine wrote an article on training Gluten Free.

Most of the article is super informative about celiac disease in which the only cure is to avoid gluten. The author did a great job explaining what the disease is, how it is diagnosed and how gluten is hidden in our food system. However, I felt like the article was a little narrow in their advice and solutions so I wanted to write my own addendum. For example, they suggest dairy and don't take into consideration that at least 50% of people with celiac disease also can't have dairy. Also, most people with food sensitivities are actually allergic to multiple foods. So, a lot of their suggestions for gluten alternatives included soy (top 8 allergy) and corn. Better advice would be to encourage the exploration of natural, whole foods like dried fruit (dates), agave, honey, seeds, and alternative grains like quinoa. The article could have been a lot more original and informative by showing readers how to make their own allergy-free granola bars or fruit roll-ups from whole foods. Both would be great race fueling alternatives.

The article was directed towards the newly diagnosed runner, which makes sense as they are probably the ones in most need of direction and help. I did think it was a great suggestion to go see a nutritionist. Especially for help learning about all the derivatives made from gluten. But the author focused too much on suggesting that the runner slow down when they are beginning to run again after being diagnosed. I can tell you that you don't have to tell someone starting to purge gluten out of their system to slow down. One of the biggest, most common complaints with this condition is extreme exhaustion. Believe me, no one has to tell me to lay down when I've been "food poisoned" because it'd debilitating when I've eaten enough. My arms and legs are completely fatigued. My mind is fuzzy and I usually have headaches so bad I used to lay in the dark. Gluten makes me feel achy all over and extremely tired, paradoxically however, I can't sleep because my body inside is in a frenzy trying to "work out the problem." Then, there are more annoying side effects like coughing, wheezing, itching and stiff joints. The author does say one time that erratic energy levels can be a side effect initially and I would say that is almost going to be a definite.
Anyhow, I just came up with a lot of negative points but I am really impressed to see an article addressing this condition. And I wouldn't expect a race to accommodate people with food allergies anymore than I'd expect to go to a foreign country and for everyone to speak English! Although, really, wouldn't dates versus gummy bears be a healthier racing fuel for all of us runners? Like they said though - and the best advice for runners with food allergies is that you have to change the way you fuel and race to accommodate food sensitivities. Gatorade, etc is out for me - - so I will have to carry my own hydration because I can't drink the common race provided beverages. I can't eat cookies and candy or broth (etc) provided at a lot of races - - so I will have to carry my own fuel. I can't use GU or powerbars and most other energy replacement products (because of my corn allergy) so I will have to carry my own natural foods. I can't even pop an ibuprofen anymore (unless I get it specifically compounded with potato starch) because it's made with cornstarch.
It definitely takes extra thinking and extra work and I enjoyed seeing that noticed by Trail Magazine.


  1. I'm just going to say: My mom would love you.
    The whole CD thing - and it's on the rise! More people are realizing they have it!
    Have you read Elisabeth Hasselback's book?

  2. Nope - but I've been thinking about getting it! I remember your mama being GF!