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Mending my body: From the inside out

When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. Whether it was caused by stress or whether it is hereditary doesn’t really matter, the fact is that I have an ulcer and that I haven’t been looking after it.

See, I think I pretty much just grew used to living with constant discomfort. Over time, I just got used to stomach aches and feeling ill. Kind of like people who don’t really notice that their nose hairs are growing over their top lip. Or people who walk with a limp for 4 years before they see a doctor for their constant back ache. It’s weird how when something is happening to your body, you just kind of learn to live with it.

But thing have been declining rapidly. Over the past couple of years, I have had SEVEN severe bouts of food poisoning, I have had a near constant stomach ache and have woken up every morning with a burning ache in my tummy, right in the spot where my stomach muscles meet. I have also developed severe motion sickness. I have heartburn, nausea and a variety of other stomach ailments almost constantly.

It was after a particularly bad couple of weeks that I finally went back to see my doctor, who gave me the bad news. I am going to have to dramatically change my eating habits.

I eat a lot. Because of my job and also because of my love for food. I also drink a lot of wine. I drink a cup of coffee every couple of days. I eat things that I definitely shouldn’t be eating, like spicy food and acidic food – and depending on what you’ve been reading, other things that I shouldn’t be eating, like dairy and rich foods and red meat and wheat and gluten and salt. So pretty much, food.

The bad news is that it looks like all of this eating has not only made my ulcer even worse, but also resulted in a variety of other stomach problems, caused by the inflammation. So basically what I’m saying, is that my stomach is ruined. I know people roll their eyes at the mere mention of a gluten allergy, but the pain is real people. And the problem is that gluten is in EVERYTHING! Loads of stuff you never thought it would be in. It’s EVERYWHERE!

Over the next couple of months, I’m hoping to change the way I eat when I’m at home, so that I can still eat the things I love when I travel. Everything in moderation, I say.

My problem is that I’m not really sure what I should be eating. Besides for green smoothies, my options seem very limited.

So I’m off on a quest to find resources to help me put together a stomach-sentive eating plan. If you know of any great resources or any friends or family who have successfully changed their diets, please leave a comment below or email me on natalie@tailsofamermaid.com.

I’m looking for gluten free and wheat free recipes. Recipes that use a lot of herbs and very little spices. Recipes that cut out acidic foods, red meat, fats, acids etc etc, basically most things. Recipes that are delicious. Because food is my LIFE.


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  1. Here you go:

    AND if you are looking for alkaline recipes:

    I have both as electronic versions on my tablet. I look forward to hearing about your journey.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about this, I know how it can completely take over your life. My husband was diagnosed with GORD a while back, and he took medication for a few months, but we quickly realised that management of stress was the best treatment. It’s great to make healthy changes to your diet, but don’t forget about other important things, like stress and sleep. His symptoms flare up as soon as he has a few nights of poor sleep, so that can also be a huge influence. All the best, I hope you feel better soon!

  3. it really is very easy to cut out sugar, dairy, gluten and even meat and still eat really yummy food in Cape Town these days – the hardest thing really is changing your mindset from having to do something (poor me) to oh this new food tastes great, lemme try out all these vegetables and cook up a storm! ha have a look at the blogs Deliciously Ella, Minimalist Baker and My New Roots – a lot of their recipes are super easy to make and oh so good. In terms of eating out in Cape Town places like Nu, Wellness Cafe for sexy food, Sababa, Honest Chocolate are life <3

  4. Nats, a woman I know eats entirely gluten free and is a great cook and baker. I can put you in touch? I remember an incident recently where she ate pizza for dinner because there was nothing else available and she woke up the next morning with a gluten hangover – literally, a crippling headache.

  5. Hi Natalie

    Sorry to hear about the stomach woes! 🙁 My boyfriend’s mom recently went gluten free and says it’s the greatest thing she’s ever done! Problem is, as you say, where to find something that hasn’t hot gluten in it. She ends up making everything from scratch herself, from recipes off Pinterest. There’s a lot of recipe links on there! But you’re going to have to commit to setting time aside to prepare meals for the week I think. Replace milk with soy and go raw with your foods. Raw and Roxy on Woodstock is a great place to try out rae foods for ideas of what to make yourself! Love the chic mousse made from avo, raw chocolate, and agave nectar! A friend on a raw diet once made some amazing mango mousse!! Orchard on Long is a great source for healthy, fresh fruit juices. Otherwise the web is crawling with great sites to help you! I’m sure many people will share links to their faves and you can blog about what you made. 😉 Best wishes!!

  6. I’m sending you a link to an Ayurvedic dosha quiz – it will have some good suggestion for your body type. Also, Moroccan food is aromatically spiced, but not spicy – so I’ll lend you my Moroccan cookbooks 🙂


    mine is colon. not tummy necessarily. it’s hard to tell the difference when one is bloated like a 4-month preggers lady, you’re doubled over in pain and it feels like someone kicked you in the back. and legs. and you can’t sit.

    until someone has seen the reaction it causes, most people roll their eyes at me. IDGAF about what ‘science’ says. i eat wheat and i am in terrible pain. AND EVERYWHERE IS JUST MEAT AND WHEAT. (i’m mostly vegetarian).

    some notes.

    make your own bread (it’s not hard), or try the delicious sweet potato bread from wellness. but go slow cos it’s like cake. wellness has a lot of stuff on offer actually.

    the banting stuff tastes foul. don’t bother.

    woolies gluten free spag is the most well-priced. their other pastas are not. opt for rice pastas (or mixes), the corn ones aren’t so great.

    fall in love with potato rostis, get used to no baked goods, ask for gluten free bread wherever you go. people might eventually start stocking regularly. that said…

    a lot of restaurants do. knead’s bread is the best. check pizza bases underneath (some peeps don’t take it seriously).

    lay off beer and ciders. the former has wheat rubbish in it, but i’ve found a beer shandy (castle lite half and half with sprite) not too terrible.

    keep anti-inflammatories with you always. i’ve found the period pill ponstan very helpful.

    stay away from soya. don’t believe ‘gluten-free’ lables – check the ingredients list.

    i could go on and on.

    it’s real man. i remember the first week i stopped wheat i was literally pain free (and totally eczema free) for the first time in YEARS.

    you’ll feel better soon. promise.

    yours in wheat-free.

  8. <3 Check out my pinterest board: Taste that's good for you. 🙂

  9. Hello Natalie,

    I am on the very same journey and use the following links as some of my guides:


    The latter is super helpful, and Dylan McGarry a true whizz in the field of nutrition!

  10. So sorry to hear of your plight, Nats. I’m pretty sure I would have also pretended something like this didn’t exist, because I LOVE food.

    Not sure many people know this, but Pick n Pay has a resident dietitian, Leanne Tee, who offers free advice to anybody who needs it. Apart from being able to give you advice and tailor make an eating plan with recipes, she can provide you with a list of products that are suitable to eat, as well as a list of no-no’s.

    She also conducts pre-arranged free shopping tours at stores around the country to help people with various eating restrictions learn to shop for the right thing – this includes how to decipher an ingredient list, which flummox most of us. If you’re interested, drop her a note here: http://www.picknpay.co.za/ask-a-dietitian

    Just as an aside, she’s the sweetest, most down-to-earth lady and is so incredibly helpful and understanding. You will love her!

    Good luck xx

  11. Thank you all so much for the amazing advice and words of wisdom!

  12. Hi Natalie

    I have/ had the same thing, and suffered with major bloating and discomfort before turning to a gluten free lifestyle, and drinking Aloe Ferox every morning. You can also take a 9 strain probiotic daily but the aloe seems to work best for the ulcer slash bloating and is more cost effective – I haven’t suffered in ages. It’s a dark locally produced 1 litre glass bottle I found at the Food Lovers & it’s lasted me months, it cost like R40, I drink a cap a day in my Vit C drink. On that note AVOID orange juice at all costs. I still enjoy my wine and juicy burgers just as long as I avoid wheat and drink the aloe daily, I’m all good! For wheat/gluten free pasta, I get the maize based ones for about R10 per packet at Dischem, they also have delicious cookies from Glutagon for about R26.99, which you get at most supermarkets. Hudsons have wheat free rolls for an extra 3 bucks and a few places have wheat/ gluten free pizza’s such as Colcaccio, Primi, Knead and even Butlers! I get 100% rye bread at PnP for R19.99 and gluten free bread for R19.99 at my local KwikSpar in Greenpoint. Knead also bake rolls and bread for you on request. Slippery elm (ask for the drops at your local health shop, tea is a mission to drink) is also an ulcer treater/healer. If you get pains, get some Lenamet tablets at the pharmacy and put a hot water bottle on your tummy to relax it, the more you relax the quicker the pain subsides! I’ll send you a pic of the Aloe stuff if you want, cannot seem to find it online? Also have major in’s and outs on gluten free living, but if all else fails pop to Dischem or Wellness, they have loads of stuff!

  13. Ah yes, the ever eye-rolling-you’re-not-actually-wheat-intolerant-you-just-want-attention reaction when you ask for gluten/wheat-free; I know all about it. I had constant stomach pain from age 14 & at age 20 I went to see a lovely dietitian who recommended I cut out wheat. It made an enormous difference!

    I also managed to ruin my stomach lining during my teenage years with painkillers (thanks, period pain). This caused Gastritis & means I also had to cut out spicy & acidic food (no coffee?! no mexican?! no alcohol?!), drink Gaviscon after every meal & get prescription meds for the discomfort. So with the combination of those two I have had some hellish days – There has been times where the only thing I could stomach in 3 days was a small bowl of rice or gluten-free pasta without salt or oil or anything.
    But it’s been a few years & I can honestly tell you that it does gets better! If you cut out some ‘bad’ stuff now & look after yourself, with time you will be able to have all of those things again- in moderation of course. (PS stress really is the biggest evil in all of this.)

    I would recommend seeing a dietitian, it really was worth the $$ for me.
    Good luck!

  14. Oh No Dear beautiful song bird.
    You are on the right track! YOU WILL GET WELL AGAIN!
    I have heard of The Paleo diet, which has helped to heal many ppl and children of awful problems.
    Its wheat, diary, Refined sugar, salt and Legume free.
    I wish you well sweet Natalie!