Dietary Changes to Improve Every Spoonie’s Health

wp-1491058721709.pngGood Health Starts with Clean Food.

It doesn’t matter what symptoms you’re trying to fight, what autoimmune disorder you have, or what specific food triggers you may possess; what you put into your body matters. You may be trying to aid your IBS, improve your migraines, decrease your aches and pains or brain fog. It doesn’t matter. What you put in your body is having a serious effect. We may not literally be what we eat, but what we eat fuels our bodies, programs our DNA and the attendant microbiomes of our guts that works with it to keep us either healthy or sick, fat or thin.

There’s an epidemic of autoimmune illness in our country and I’m not the only one convinced that one of the reasons we are seeing such epidemics of severe illness and disability in our citizens is because a great deal of our food supply is laden with pesticides and/or we’re eating the wrong combination and/or amounts of certain types of foods, keeping our bodies from functioning at peak performance.

Whine and complain all you want about healthy people attacking your diet, but people with severe illnesses are finding wellness through cleaning up their diet (at least that’s where it begins) and you can, too.

Chemicals in Our Food

When I say our food supply is poisoned, I literally mean it. Poisoned with chemicals no body should ever consume such as neurotoxins and carcinogens. The most popularly used herbicide in the world, Roundup, aka glyphosate, Is one of the main causes. It has been proven that glyphosate, aka Roundup, is linked to the rise of autism, Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders and causes changes in mitochondria, yet it is still the most widely used herbicide today.

Not only is glysophate a known carcinogen, it’s known to cause liver damage in rats, so it’s extremely important to avoid glyphosate GMO’S and crops. It’s also been linked to endocrine disruption. Some countries around the world have begun banning glyphosate and the world health organization has released warnings about its dangers.

Even worse, it’s been found that many foods contain glyphosate at extremely high levels and that there’s no way to control the amount that gets into our food supply, a big part of the reason so many people are working to see it banned.

Some packages are clearly marked with a seal certifying the product as GMO-free, while some companies readily admit to using GMO ingredients. Others aren’t so easy to discern. For easy reference, here is a guide of 400 GMO free food companies.

Even without glyphosate, there are plenty of pesticides currently being used in our foods, despite their classification as neurotoxins, such as chlorpyrifos. Still other pesticides containing carbamates have been found to disrupt our natural circadian rhythms, causing insomnia, a major trigger for AD and the development of fibromyalgia.

These pesticides are even passed on through the meat we consume.

Glyphosate and other pesticides aren’t the only poisons regularly included in our foods. Buying organic produce is a great place to start, but it only takes into account a tiny portion of the problem. Processed foods are the biggest culprit, containing everything from plastic to petroleum products and the industry has a million different technical terms to call them by to keep us guessing what it is we’re actually eating.

This is why I don’t purchase ANY processed food which isn’t certified organic AND GMO free. I also better be able to understand the label and every ingredient it contains so I can ensure I won’t be exposed to a chemical that is harmful to humans, an allergen or intolerance. Otherwise, everything I eat starts as whole, organic food.

The meat I buy is heritage raised and grass fed, meaning that it’s raised free of pesticides, GMO’s, hormones, antibiotics, and abuse, on non-chemically treated grass pastures, just like animals were raised pre-industrialization. Meat raised this way is leaner and actually has all the nutrients a human body needs, without the poisoned feed, unnatural conditions for the animals and added contaminants of more conventional processing methods, such as the use of ammonia. It’s also better for the environment. In case you’re interested, here is my meat provider. They provide a lot of great nutritional and environmental information, explaining why you get much more nutritious meat from their methods.

Carbohydrates and Sugar Digestion

Even the things we actually consider food can be poison to the delicate autoimmune system. Probably most everyone knows high fructose corn syrup is bad for you, but did you know many of us with AD can only tolerate tiny amounts of carbohydrates and that some are better for us than others? This seems anathema to everything we’ve ever been taught about nutrition in school, but it’s true and I suspect it’s actually true of all humans. However, since spoonies are so sensitive to environmental factors such as diet, we won’t tolerate anything less than perfection.

Carbohydrates include everything from vegetables to high fructose corn syrup, but you can hardly compare green beans to a lollipop. At the same time, vegetables, which are generally the lowest carb containing foods besides meat, can even be hard for our bodies to digest.

One can’t assume a vegetable is as good as any other vegetable. What matters most is what kind of sugar it contains and for some spoonies, how much of those sugars you are exposed to can be as much of a trigger as a food intolerance. I wasn’t at all aware of this until I was introduced to the FODMAP diet by a friend from Canada who was sent to a dietician for help with her IBS and EDS symptoms. Unfortunately for her, she’s one of the one in four that it doesn’t seem to help much, but it helped me a great deal. What FODMAP helped me to understand is that it takes our systems a long time to digest many carbohydrates and those materials slow the process. When we consume too much of these materials, it results in gas, bloating, painful cramping and diarrhea or constipation.

I always thought that because I wasn’t diabetic I didn’t need to worry about carbohydrates, but by eating fewer carbohydrates along with eliminating food intolerance and keeping my food free of chemicals, I’ve achieved much better health and wellness. It’s not surprising to me that there are a few experts out there saying that if you consume grass fed, heritage raised meats, then carbohydrates should only be consumed in small quantities, such as Doctor’s Joseph Mercola and David Perlmutter, both of which have excellent books on the subject.

Food Intolerance

I’ve always been a huge fan of the onion and garlic family. I had no idea until I was introduced to the FODMAP diet that onions and garlic are particularly difficult carbs to digest and can cause delayed gastric emptying, inflammation, gas and endless discomfort for me. Until I cut them from my diet, I had no clue they were major contributors of my own private IBS hell. As soon as I have some, in any amount, I am in misery. My digestive system slows. I become bloated and gassy. My bowels become inflamed. My joints begin to ache. My thinking becomes cloudy and I start to feel anxious, depressed and irritable, snapping at the slightest provocation.

This is what food intolerance does. No matter the food intolerance, it’s always the same result.

Another common offender for people with AID are nightshades. Nightshades are a particular group of vegetables that include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes. For some, nightshades can cause inflammation, triggering bowel problems, joint pain and other symptoms. For me, nightshades aren’t a problem,  but they can be for some. To learn more about nightshades and autoimmune disorders, this article is a good place to start. 

Allergens and intolerance are wildly popular in spoonies and it seems Zebras are especially good at accumulating them over time. While the FODMAP diet doesn’t specifically address this, the introduction period does offer a great period where you can see how going without certain foods benefits your body. Common food intolerances include lactose (the sugars in some dairy products), soy (edamame), gluten, salicylates, and others.

By the time I found it, I already knew I couldn’t tolerate soy, and needed to keep my carbs down, but I wasn’t being strict enough, nor did I really understand the importance until reading about FODMAPs.

Prior to finding FODMAPs, I began to think I was suddenly lactose intolerant, but it turned out when I figured it in my carbohydrate intake, the problem was resolved. I was simply eating too much sugar overall, and lactose is a sugar. I also went through a period where I thought I was gluten intolerant, but what I was actually reacting to was glyphosate containing wheat (apparently also quite common and somewhat believed to be responsible for the prevalence of gluten intolerance).

The FODMAP diet also helped me understand which sugars are worse for us, because it’s not always what you think. The paleo diet, which I tried when I first started eating low carb/organic/ non-GMO, is really down on white potatoes and yet on the FODMAP diet, white potatoes are one of the few things you’re allowed to eat without limitation, even during your initial testing/healing phase. It’s not just about the amount of sugars, but the type and how the body digests it. Turns out,  white potatoes are very easy for me to process and I am back to eating them daily (instead of a couple times of week with guilt in my heart). My body loves them.

It explains why paleo wasn’t working for me, at least not entirely. For me, my balance lies in eating a meat, nut and white potato heavy diet with only 1 serving of another vegetable and 1 fruit a day. In addition to this, I can eat 1-2 servings each of whole grain and gluten-free breads and 1 serving of dairy. If I want a sweet, I have to give up some of this, so I really don’t like to “splurge.” As it is, I have difficulty getting 1,300 calories a day and I’d rather they have the biggest impact on my health and nutrition possible.

When you have AD, there is no such thing as splurge or cheat days from your diet, because you’re going to pay for them one way or another; joint pain, head pain, gastric distress, or hormone changes complete with pimples and mood swings. No matter how you cut it, these things ruin all the fun.

Returning to the subject of intolerances, you rarely hear much about soy and yet whenever I speak with someone who has gone through testing or elimination diets, they often discover it’s a problem. I wonder if soy intolerance is mistaken for gluten intolerance, because I at first made the same mistake. Many processed foods with wheat contains soy and you really have to do your homework to find breads and cereals that don’t.

Soy intolerance is usually in relation to the protein rather than soybean oil or soy sauce which has been fermented and/or contains none of the protein. I suspect it’s an intolerance in part because it either converts to estrogen or triggers the production of estrogen in the body, so it will easily throw your body chemistry out of whack. Of course, just about any food intolerance results in inflammation and inflammation is always going to wreak havoc.

Soy proteins are so prevalent in processed foods that it really helped me understand how bad non-organic foods were being to me, because I really had no choice but to move to a whole food and organic non-GMO approach when I discovered that first intolerance. It wasn’t only getting rid if the soy that had me feeling better! It only took a short period of falling on hard times to realize that my dietary changes were indeed crucial to my wellness and cutting costs in the grocery could not include going back to cheaper, pesticide laden brands.

What truly amazes me is that since I made these final few changes to my diet, which seem to go against conventional dietary wisdom, I am enjoying the best bowel health I have had since I was a child, without the use of any probiotic or GI medications of any kind. This from a woman who was terrified she was in the early throes of gastroparesis. I don’t even eat yogurt, kimchi or kefir.

It was a slow evolution for me, of course. I had growing pains. I sometimes resisted and cost myself. I didn’t find FODMAPS until recently. I took drugs the GI gave me that made things worse (I’m saving that for another post). I had a terrible sugar addiction  (one of my legs is made of chocolate, the other cake, my ass cheeks are pies 😁). It was anything but easy.

It’s beyond worth it: Regular, normal bowel movements (I could write a sonnet in their honor, but I’ll spare you), no more bowel or stomach pain, no more sour stomach or nausea, no more heartburn! Decreased headaches and severity, decreased muscle and joint aches. Reduced use of medications (which ironically translates into better bowel health because pain relievers are terribly hard on your GI tract), clearer thinking and better sleep. For anyone suffering from AD, clean, nutritious, intolerance-free food should always be the first cure!


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