Check- out the links on the bottom for food ideas!
I have had a long journey with food. I have come full circle and feel the best diet is a whole food well balanced diet. It is easy to get lost in the ever changing world of nutrition and dietary theories and before you know it you’re not eating enough (as what happened to me). Find what works for you but have some flexibility. Remember when you’re sick, one of the most important nutrients is adequate caloric intake. The “wrong food” is better than no food!
(See my Thanksgiving post for more info). I lived in NYC for a summer and shopped only one day for clothes unlike a typical female would do. I spent the rest of my time and money on all the AMAZING food of New York, NY. So when I entered this new time period of my life, I soon began to explore the intricate and complex relationship of food and health. It is AMAZING how much food can affect when you start exploring. Did you know that more serotonin (the same chemical that types of antidepressants work on blocking reuptake of) is produced in the gut than in the brain? Or that 70% of your immune system is housed in the gut? The gut is the center of so much of our health, when the gut goes eyry, many non-specific symptoms can begin to manifest. This was something that fascinated me. When I began seeing different doctors and getting some different bodywork done, everyone was telling me my gut was a mess. Well I didn’t feel like I had any digestion issues, so how could this be? A lot of times, issues start showing up in other systems that have nothing to do with the gut. This is why it took so many years before people started looking for Celiac’s Disease in patients, many of the times people would have non-specific digestive symptoms such as extreme fatigue, depression, joint pain and many more. So they run them around all the specialties and put them on an anti-depressant when they can’t find anything else.
I have been able to put some of the overlapping conditions such as Interstitial Cystitis into remission through diet changes. When I first saw a urologist for the constant bladder pain that lasted for months, she handed me an elimination diet sheet. I looked at it and immediately said “HELL NO” when I left the office. The list was daunting (see below) including the acidic fruits, vinegars, alcohol, tomatoes, caffeine etc. “These don’t effect me” I said to myself: I ate all of those things and I was fine! Clearly can’t apply to me. Well when you have something that has been constantly damaged whether it be your gut, your bladder, your body etc, you are in a constant state of inflammation and you don’t even realize what’s actually aggravating it. I learned quickly that I might need to be a little more aware of this list after drinking alcohol. I had not drank in two months because of the surgery I had on my foot. When I went to enjoy my friend’s 21st with her, I woke up the next morning in so much pain, convinced that I had a UTI. No, I just had caused an IC flare and it took weeks to subside. In fact this is what confirmed for the urologist that I was looking at IC without having to do any of the invasive testing! It took me awhile to finally come around to removing the rest of the offenders but once I did, it gave my bladder a much better healing environment and I realized how much many of those foods were actually irritating it. At first I was resentful and felt deprived. But after freeing myself from the constant pain I walked around with and my perspective on life developed, food restrictions are the least of my concerns. Food is your best medicine.
When I was told to try going gluten free for my downhill immune systems and for the fatigue flares that began, I agreed to it. The way I looked at it, I was not going to complain about the way I felt until I had tried everything that I could to feel better. So out went the gluten (and later after some of the gazillion tests I have had done, I did find out I have a gluten intolerance-it is not Celiacs but does require GF diet). Next went the dairy. That one amazed me with the changes, I used to have constant sinus issues, allergies, post nasal drip, etc which disappeared immediately as soon as the dairy went out. I know friends that cleared up their eczema from going off gluten, people who healed their chronic anxiety through diet changes, acne that disappeared from dropping dairy, people who used to have poor immune systems to never getting sick by going Paleo.
“Diet changes” are lifestyle changes. If you’re going to feel deprived and focus on all the “can’t(s),” honestly, don’t bother. You’ll end up unhappy or resentful, this happens a lot when people are diagnosed with conditions that do require them to avoid certain foods for the rest of their lives (like celiac’s, ic, etc) and they aren’t really given a choice about food restrictions. For the rest, make changes when you’re ready. Don’t latch onto the idea (see The Law of Detachment) that this is forever or I am never going to be able to eat certain things again, etc. Your needs will change over time, your tolerances will change over time and most people feel so much better that they soon embrace new food choices and don’t look back.
What works for one person may not work for another. I feel strongly about that but I also feel strongly there is something every single person in this country could benefit from: Eat Real Food. Eat more food that is or was once living and less food that came out of a box or a factory belt. Eat more vegetables. Especially the green ones. Read Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food, everyone can benefit. If it’s low fat, low sugar, low this, stay away. Something has been stripped and when you do that, something must always be added back in. If you look at a label and don’t know what the ingredients are, choose something else. And remember sugar acts no differently than a drug, so if you have been on a standard American diet of a lot of flour, sugar and processed food, you may go through some withdrawal symptoms as you start to make some changes. Oh lastly, fat isn’t bad for you. You need fat. You even need saturated fat from healthy sources. Your brain can’t function without it.
For now, check out the many different type of “lifestyles” out there. Experiment. If you have a specific health concern use a diet that is targeted for it and go from there. No one thing is right for everyone. And things change over time. What worked for you for three years may no longer work for you and need adjustments. This is what true awareness and being present is about. This is listening to your body’s needs. I’ve tried all of these below. You can learn from all of them! For example, I did a raw food challenge for a week and incorporated many recipes from that week into my life including “green smoothies” or “raw soups.” I have also learned many cool recipes from Paleo blogs, etc. Enjoy!
Elimination Diet: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet
Allows you to identify potential food triggers
General Anti-Inflammatory Diet: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02012/anti-inflammatory-diet
For people with immune issues, particularly auto-immunity: be aware of nightshade family! eggplant, potatoes, red peppers
Gluten Sensitivity: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/glutenintolerance/a/Gluten-Intolerance-Gluten-Sensitivity.htm
This is more than gluten free being a trend. Don’t kid yourself-just because a product is gluten free does not mean it’s healthy. If you’re going to go Gluten Free and start inhaling every gluten free product there is, you’re not doing yourself any favors. (If you start eating more real food and less processed this shouldn’t be an issue anyways). If you have digestive issues, fibromyalgia, CFS, IC, IBS, autoimmune diseases (lot of evidence of circulating auto antibodies and cross reactivity to gluten). Consider gluten free for awhile and see if your symptoms improve. I do warn it took a solid committed, no-cheating, three months for me to notice drastic difference.
The Whole 30: http://whole9life.com/2012/08/the-whole30-program/
A great 30 day kickstart for cleaning up your diet, boosting your immune system, figuring out what works best for you, etc
Was a good kickstart for me but ultimately I do need some grains in my diet.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet: http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/
-Very good for Irritable Bowel Disease (Crohn’s, Colitis,) Diverticulitis, and other bowel issues
GAPS diet: http://gapsdiet.com/GAPS_Outline.html
Created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-Mcbride from the U.K. used to heal “leaky gut”, Autism, ADHD, (stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Long term and a lot of work but has the most “healing” potential. I did it for awhile but took all the energy out of me making so many things. I also don’t do well with zero grains.
Low FODMAP: http://shepherdworks.com.au/disease-information/low-fodmap-diet
Based out of research from Monash University in Australia for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The list looks daunting but it really does do amazing things. It helped me tremendously at one point in time but try to move off of it when things clear. Research is constantly coming out.
Raw Food Lifestyle: http://altmedicine.about.com/od/popularhealthdiets/a/Raw_Food.htm
Definitely check out Raw food blogs to get some really cool recipes and new food ideas!
IC Diet (Interstitial Cystitis/Irritable Bladder/Overactive Bladder) http://www.ic-network.com/diet/ Elimination style, everyone’s list is different.
The Dirty Dozen: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods#slide-1
Organic is expensive. Check out this list to help determine which foods are more important to buy in their clean form. If your immune system is shot and or you have IC, definitely be mindful, the extra chemicals are an extra load on the body.
People have had luck with chronic pain conditions and have have benefited from Low Oxalate. Fibro,vulvodynia, IC and many more. I have not ventured down this path.
It’s your journey. Explore away. Combine what you want. Utilize what works, throw out what doesn’t. Here’s to your health!