Sunday, July 8, 2012


A funny thing happened upon our return home.  Friday morning, after a mostly restful sleep in my never-to-be-taken-for-granted-again king sized bed, I made coffee (as usual) and added a dollap of sugar free non dairy creamer (as usual). I drank most of the pot (as usual) and felt queasy.  I didn't feel like eating, so I didn't.  Before long it was time to go pick Kailyn up from the airport, so we left, and I ate a nutrition bar (chocolate mint . . . made for diabetics . . . probably not healthy at all!) on the way.

My stomach ached (I must be hungry), and once Kailyn was released from customs, I asked if she was hungry.  She was (it was noon by then) and wanted to go to Panda Express.  We all like that, so we stopped for lunch.  I could only eat less than half of my meal (not usual) and brought the rest home for later. I drank a peach flavored green tea that was sugar free, but tasted sweet to me.

That afternoon, I napped off and on for several hours, feeling queasy the entire time. In between, Kailyn and I had gone to the grocery store and bought fresh veggies and several containers of flavored yogurt.  I had planned to make a simple dinner of chicken, salad and potatoes (husband's request).  I cooked, but didn't feel like eating (not usual), though eventually I pretty much forced myself to eat a few bites of chicken and potatoes (I didn't get the salad made).  I assumed that I was suffering from travel fatigue and jet lag.

Saturday morning, I woke up fairly early - around 6 AM - and felt great!  Refreshed!  No queasiness! Slept well!  Made a pot of coffee and poured a dollop of my sugar free non dairy creamer in. Within minutes, I felt queasy.  Slow to get it, I drank several cups of coffee, feeling kind of nauseous the entire time.  I made some oatmeal with fresh blueberries, added a little 1% milk, showered, started more laundry, then Kailyn and I headed out to CostCo and the Saturday Market.  I bought a mocha freeze at CostCo, as it was getting warm outside, and as I sipped and drove, I was chatting with Kailyn about my stomach issues.  Suddenly a thought occurred.  For the past few years, I've thought I have a problem with dairy, although it seemed rather random.  Sometimes I would be bothered; other times, not at all.  For example, milk and ice cream have never bothered me, but yogurt did.  In fact, I had quit eating yogurt for that reason.  It's long puzzled me why not all dairy affects me, but I didn't ponder it long enough to figure it out.

This time though, I wondered why I had no problems with using hot milk in my coffee all over Europe, or having an occasional ice cream.  I had been pleasantly surprised that I didn't have a single episode of GERD while traveling, as I fully had expected it due to late dinners.  At home, I nearly always have GERD if I eat within three or four hours of going to bed, so I often eat between 5:30-6:30.  While traveling, we never ate before 7:30 and I often was in bed within a couple hours after dinner, as I was exhausted! But, never once did I have GERD. What was different???

At first, Kailyn said maybe it was the constant walking and exercise.  I think that helped.  But, then I thought about the fact that while traveling, at least to my knowledge, I never ate anything that was "sugar free".  And, suddenly I wondered, is it the sweetener used in sugar free products that messes with my stomach?  We visited Saturday Market ~ bought a few more veggies, fresh hummus, a small bag of kettle corn and a nice bouquet of flowers, and headed home. My niece, Kelli, came over to visit and pick raspberries.  We filled her in on our vacation and we talked about the sugar free idea.

I decided to do a little experiment.  This morning, I went ahead and made coffee, but I heated up 1% milk to pour into it.  No sugar free non dairy creamer . . . no tummy issues.  Hm-m-m.

When I got hungry, I cooked my oatmeal, added blueberries and decided to try a little vanilla flavored "light" yogurt.  I read on the container that it contained aspartame.  I mixed 1/4 cup of the yogurt into my oatmeal.  Within minutes, I was in the bathroom, with mild cramps. Of course, I did finish eating the oatmeal, (it's really hard for me to throw away food . . . especially those fresh blueberries!) and the cramps went away.

I think I may be onto something here.  Ironically (or maybe devine intervention) I read an article in the Sunday magazine this morning about mood boosting super foods and I had typed up a list of these foods and thought I may try eating from that list for a few days and see if it helps my energy level.  Then I looked up foods that speed up metabolism and low and behold, many of the same foods are on both lists.

For probably obvious reasons, coffee isn't included anywhere . . . but green tea is!  Last summer, I had given up coffee for green tea, but once school started, I was right back to a caffeine and creamer fix. I'm nearly out of coffee anyway, so I will return to green tea only for awhile, as I still have a fair amount in the house.

Oatmeal is on the list, although blueberries aren't (and frankly I don't care as they are good for me and I know it!) and neither is dairy of any kind. Oh well, the only dairy I can't live without is what I put in my coffee, and, if I'm not drinking coffee, that's a moot point!

Kailyn and I are planning a hike after church today, so I'll get some exercise in.  Tomorrow I'm heading back to the pool for water aerobics.  I learned on vacation that I can do a lot of walking and stairs, even if my knee doesn't really want to, and it isn't going to hurt me! So, no more wimpy excuses for not exercising!

I didn't lose any weight while we were in Europe, but I didn't gain any, either. And, I ate really well!  We never had a bad meal, anywhere we went.  We had a lot of expensive meals . . . but that couldn't be helped!  (I had to chuckle when we paid at Panda Express the other day, as the total for three of us was about what we paid for one meal abroad!)

Fortunately, much of what is on my "mood enhancing" food list I already have (I just haven't been eating any of it!).  I'll need more of the fresh stuff, and this time of year, that part is easy and cheap.

I find it interesting that I'm having these food insights, and thinking about the chain of events leading up to these thoughts.  I had fully expected that traveling abroad would have raised havoc with my intestines, and it didn't at all.  Instead, returning home (and to former eating patterns) brought clearer ideas about how certain foods (though I can hardly call fake sugar a "food") affect me.  What a bonus to add to the great European Adventure!


  1. I love that you had this insight! I know that the chemicals they use in 'sugar free' foods to make them taste 'normal' give me a stomach ache. I've resigned myself to eating real sugar (or honey or agave) in much smaller amounts than I used to instead of using sugar free products and I feel a lot better. It's also true that they pump up the fat content in sugar free foods in order to give them the mouth feel we like.

    Good luck with your experiments. So glad you're home safely and I loved reading about your adventures abroad.

  2. Sometimes we need to take a step back to see the forest through the trees. My hubby (a Chiropractor) has slammed "sugar free" anything since chiro college. His nutrition classes taught him tons about fake sugar and to this day he won't touch anything that says "sugar free". I do have a sugar free pepsi every now and then..more then than now. I feel that real sugar is a problem too since it's put into so many of the foods we eat. You have found a great solution to a food problem and I do hope you can continue the European eating pattern! I didn't think coffee was good for GERD anyway. I've loved your travel log and hope the rest of your summer is as fun!

  3. A very interesting post. Made me stop and think as I have a lot of stomach problems.

    I hope you get it all worked out.

  4. From someone who has been plagued with stomach problems for many years and now can't make it through the day without my purple pill, I know you are on to something. We have to listen to our bodies.

  5. I can relate Sandi, I'm learning over time what foods I cannot tolerate anymore. And fresh is always best!!
    Love Di ♥

  6. I rarely ingest anything with aspartame or other synthetic sugars. I found they bother ME, too. And now I am accustomed to the taste of things that are not sweet. Many things taste sweet to me now that never did before. I think you are definitely on to something here! :-)

  7. Wow, this is interesting. Who knew that you would solve a problem related with GERD on your European adventure. I have so many of the same issues as you do, but I never use artificial sweeteners. Although, recently, I did start drinking a "diet" iced lemon tea and started having cramping issues. I read the label on the tea and saw that it was made with aspartame. I threw the stuff out because after looking on the internet about the side effects to aspartame, I realized where my problems were coming from.

    I used to always stop drinking coffee during the summer and drink green tea. Like you, once I started back to school, I also would find myself drinking coffee. I now drink decaf because of my heart issues. I don't put milk in my coffee.

    I saw that same article today. I will have to make a list of those foods so I remember them. I am cutting out gluten right now, and I have replaced milk for my cereal with almond milk. I also am searching for answers for my GERD issues.

  8. Very interesting. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I am a diet soda drinker and I really need to kick that habit.

    My mom's dietician said that a little real sugar is always better for you than artifical sweetener, she switched back over in her tea drinking.

  9. So pleased you are sorting out these issues Sandi.
    Sounds like you're on the path to a very healthy lifestyle.
    It was great that your knee saw you through such a busy overseas trip. I remember your despair and determination post-surgery. I'm sure you'll tackle this with the same determination and success. xx

  10. I'm sure this is just one of the many gifts of your adventure abroad. I love the insights you're getting, and can hardly wait to hear more.

    I ate like a logger the whole time we were gone and walked and hiked and climbed like I had a much younger body and did well the whole time. It seems the more active I am, the better my body does. Big surprise. :-)

  11. An additional gift from the trip. Nice! I have heard how bad aspartame is and have stayed away from it for years. And I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can because of the chemicals and additives. Been vegetarian for over two years. I've been failing on the sweet tooth thing, but I keep trying. White sugar is bad, too, they say. I guess I'm trying to conquer one issue at a time. Glad you found this out! :)

  12. What a wonderful trip you all had! You will talk about it all your life.

    The aspartame reaction--I have heard of that. I use Splenda in it does not bother me.

  13. Dear Sandi, I applaud you for following up on all this, deciding on an eating plan, and implementing it! Like a general going into battle! Tally ho!!!! Peace.

  14. There may be something to that. I'm a gestational diabetic right now and on a pretty strict diet. I have noticed I feel a little out of it or queezy if I eat too much of sugar free anything, like ice cream, etc. Thanks for popping over to the blog today, by the way!

  15. My brother Shannon is deathly allergic to artificial sweetners as is my mother. They don't bother me. Now I'm curious though. Are you diabetic also? If so juvenile or adult onset?
    I'm done being a boob by the way. :)

  16. Yes, I think I would stay away from the artificial sweeteners. As I get older some foods bother me and I can't eat at night now or I get bad indigestion when I go to bed. I scanned through your posts, looks like you had a wonderful vacation.

  17. Sandi, When you were off coffee, were you able to sleep better? I gave up coffee shortly after my heart attack (sometimes still have a decaf and occasionally a regular Starbucks). My sleep quality has improved greatly even though I still use a caffeinated black tea at breakfast. Also, while I had to be on a statin, sleep was poor - now that I'm off, I generally sleep soundly. Hard to pin it down! (I use very little dairy and no sugar substitutes.)


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