Well, a little over 6 months ago now, when my symptoms where the worst they'd ever been, I declared war. I declared war on my nerves and war on anyone who wouldn't take my health seriously.
I contacted a Nutritional Therapist with a rather sorrowful email. I outlined my 5 year gastro-upset and asked if there was any such thing as a 'stress free diet?' (I still believed at this point that the mind ruled the body, and since I was so anxious, it was driving my symptoms) I started seeing her in July 2013. The first thing she suggested was to get some proper, thorough lab stool tests completed and analysed, as how the hell else will you ever know what's going on inside? There were expensive, and slightly traumatic, but they have since become my greatest weapon. Knowledge is power.
The results were not surprising. What's wrong Doc? Well, everything.
We tried a few different things to begin with. A couple of months introducing supplements and a 'better' western diet, then we tried to flood my system with good guys, stripped my diet back further, found combinations of foods that were giving me hell etc. Eventually, 100 days ago, after my symptoms seemed to persist, she suggested stripping my diet right back to an 'elimination phase.' Essentially a siege tactic, a 'starvation' period. Not to starve myself you understand, but to starve whatever little shit bad guys were swimming around my body having the time of their lives. One of the results of my test proved that I had 'scant growth' of probiotics in my intestines. You're supposed to have BILLIONS. In the time that my bowel has been without these essential good guys, the baddies have run amock, and settled in places they definitely shouldn't have settled. Cutting off their food supply would be a drastic change to my life, but it would eventually starve them into submission. Once they are starved and weak, I could introduce some good guys and hope they find home.
The elimination phase was the hardest thing I have ever done! This handy graphic makes it look all sweetness and light:
|Don't be fooled by the cuteness! RAWR!|
So I cut out starchy carbohydrates, sugars, fruits, dairy, grains, processed, packaged and prepared foods. The only fats/oil I could have was Coconut Oil for cooking. 99% of the supermarket was irrelevant to me. At first, with the removal of carbs from my diet, my body packed in! I was so weak and lost a stone in weight very quickly, followed by another stone much more slowly. I got a cold pretty early on and it almost wiped me out. I remember finding it physically hard to climb the stairs or get in and out of a chair! Running was out of the question and walking to work and back was such a chore, no matter how slowly I walked! My periods also stopped for a while. As my body got used to my new intake I have slowly put half a stone back on as I had to greatly increase my portion sizes. This diet was giving my system a break, a proper rest. Everything on this list is easy for my body to digest and I was following a strict supplement program to make sure I got everything I needed!
Writing this, 101 days later, is easy! But the amount of times I nearly gave up are numerous. It was so hard if I had to leave my home/routine. For example, travelling to conventions was a nightmare. I have done 3 conventions on this diet and at each con I lost half a stone over the weekend as taking the right amount of food with me is impossible. Without a fridge to store meat or cooking equipment I could not prepare the meals I had been having. I would take as much frozen meals as I could and hoped they would last! I introduced ground almonds after a month and this really helped, as I was able to make 'baked' products, like the muffins made from almonds and butternut squash I posted on this blog! I also introduced bananas, and this made such a difference. Being able to walk into a shop and grab a banana was a very big help. At the Falmouth Convention we did last October, the organisers kindly let me use their microwave so I could heat my veggie soup! ^-^
In my general day to day life routine, I became even more of a foodie than I was before! Making meals out of these minimal few ingredients became a fun (no, not always fun) challenge and I have managed to make some seriously tasty food! Making a ginger Chicken soup stock and cutting the courgettes into noodle shapes meant that I could fake a 'ramen' dish for example! Or making a batter out of ground almond and an egg meant I could have almost-proper Fish and Chips! I have been converted to celeriac chips for life! I made granolas with chopped baked nuts and cinnamon. I've made almost-a-lasagna, almost-a-shepherds-pie and even, on Christmas day, Ian and I managed to make my dinner look like everyone elses! It became really important for me to feel more like I wasn't missing out by making my meals in familiar ways.
However, try having a sugar free Christmas before you start thinking this was easy! Go a week without coffee... Man I really miss coffee! I miss an awful lot of things!
|Fish and Chips! Chicken Ginger Ramen!|
Pecan 'bread' topped with mushed banana! Granola with Coconut milk!
But now, after 100 days, I am writing this following my latest consultation with my nutritionist and well, I have never felt a bigger pay off! All the paddy whacks and tantrums and going to bed hungry because I was just so angry at my situation have made this feeling all the more worth while. The next phase is introducing a whole new long list of vegetables and making my diet as naturally anti-bacterial as possible! Some strains of bacteria can lie dormant or go into a hibernation mode if they are starved. They've been hiding there, waiting! And a great way to coax them out is to introduce a little of their food source and then KICK THEM IN THE FACE! So I will be introducing small amounts of honey (their food) and eating Garlic (their demise!) GARLIC! After 100 days of no garlic I don't shitting know where to start.. I could weep!
Of course, I have to monitor everything carefully as any one of the foods I'll be introducing could be problematic. Garlic is a high FODMAP food and sometimes this can give people with troubled digestions ever more trouble! But I'll be taking some natural anti-biotic supplements too!
What I'm trying to say is, it feels like Christmas to me right now! I can't wait to explore my new list of veg and I can even introduce PEACHES!!
And, looking back over all my food diaries, this nice long break for my digestion has done me a heap of good! I've never been more normal, regular, and healthy in my whole life! I mean I'm shitting really well people! And my anxiety? Well, I won. I've been off anti-depressants for over a year, I've not taken an Imodium in 6 months, and I have been to conventions, on long car journeys, on flights, new peoples houses, cinemas, new cafes, I bought my first car, the list is endless! I feel like this diet has been my ultimate secret weapon! Knowing exactly what's wrong on the inside gives me the best possible chance to fix it. And it wasn't all in my head.