Recently my GP told me that she didn’t think nutrition would play a major role in my recovery. She’s wrong. I am 100% sure. But to be scientific I will probably conduct the same exercise I went through yesterday and see if my results are reproducible.
Early on this year, I got into a fairly nihilistic phase of ‘nothing I do works so I may as well do what I want’. It meant I kept working myself to the bone, because a few days of rest didn’t make a tiny dent in the fatigue and I also ate stupid foods, ones that made me feel better (in emotional terms) like chocolate and donuts. I call them stupid now after educating myself on diet. I thought I was eating kinda healthy. Boy was I wrong.
Without using jargon like low-fat or high-carb because it drives me barmy, I’ll just tell you what I was eating. I always ate breakfast and it was usually 2 slices of vegemite toast and coffee or maybe a lovely grainy cereal with cow’s milk. Lunch at work was often either 2 California sushi rolls with tuna; a ham, cheese and tomato toastie or maybe a salad once a fortnight. Dinner could be pasta, chili or some salmon and salad. I drank sometimes up to 6 instant milky coffees a day (2 teaspoons of sugar each time), I drank a lot of water and usually snacks were fun (stupid) foods like a chocolate donut, chips and dips or biccies to share at work. I didn’t eat out a lot but when I did it was likely to be a chicken burger with chips or a schnitty with chips. BTW I’m from Australia, so here’s a brief funny video on how to understand some of the foods I reference here
So it took probably 6 months before I came to the idea that I needed to overhaul my diet and the only reason it happened is because a blood test showed a dairy allergy. So out went dairy, easy, and the fatigue improved. What?
Then the improvement stopped short of where I wanted to be so out went sugar. It’s a stupid food. It’s bloody obvious that refined sugar does you absolutely no good. And I improved a little more. I decided that one shop bought coffee a day (now soy) would have to suffice as a reward and I also downgraded it to weak, so down went caffeine and of course no sugars in it. I had stopped drinking much alcohol because the sedating affect became unbearable when I was already feeling tired so alcohol went down too. You can see over the space of a short period of time my diet had changed significantly. I don’t want to make light of these discoveries, looking back they seem obvious but you have to remember I’ve been in the middle of serious fatigue, brain fog, changing jobs, and mind-numbing disappointment. I haven’t exactly been at my sharpest nor most motivated. So the changes have come slowly.
Each phase has been sparked by reassessment and a feeling of ‘shouldn’t I be better now?’ so the next phase came early December when I was inspired to remove all grains from my diet. This one didn’t seem as obvious as dairy and sugar but I had come across a protocol called the Whole30 which featured incredible stories of reversal of symptoms within 30 days. I started trying to follow the diet but I became demotivated when I realised the bacon I was buying still had sugar added in the form of dextrose. The Whole30 is an incredibly strict regime and I imagine that is out of necessity to get the amazing results. So after firstly giving it away I realised I should keep trying and do what I could. Changing my breakfast to include mushrooms and bacon with eggs instead of just eggs on toast, was going to bring about some benefits surely. So I embarked on it and felt a little lost for a while, bread/crackers/biscuits are such an obvious part of my diet that it was hard to let them go.
This brings me to yesterday – Christmas Day – and long story short, I drank a few glasses of alcohol, I ate quite a lot chocolaty treats with sugar in them and had the usual Christmas dinner of turkey and potatoes. And last night I had terrible skin creepy crawlies! If you’ve not had this before you might think I’m being a loon, but diabetics will know that after a large sugar intake when you normally have none, your skin feels like there are bugs crawling all over it. I don’t have scabies (you can see that on your skin) and I’m not a recovering heroin addict so I feel pretty sure it was the unexpected sugar overdose! The feeling is mostly gone today, I felt it overnight in bed, it was so bad, it woke me up a few times. So this seems like something I can replicate and I will know for sure that the sugar made things worse.
I tentatively want to say that the exclusion of all grains from my diet has also led to better energy and less fatigue, but it’s a little to early to say for sure. I just feel a little more resilient now. I don’t mind the change, I am enjoying my new diet (and that’s really important). I eat whole foods. So breakfast will be eggs with either bacon and mushroom or smoked salmon or if feeling naughty will have gluten free bread with avocado and eggs. I have the brand Pure Bred and it is basically ‘reconstituted bread’ for want of a better explanation, and has no grains whatsoever. This would not be permitted on the Whole30 because it has too many other additives. Or recently I’ve added homemade chicken broth heated with chicken shreds and a whisked egg poured in whilst it’s cooking to make egg ribbons. Yum! Lunch will usually be chicken salad – all green, spinach leaves, rocket, avocado, olive oil and salt. And dinner will be roasted sweet potato with spinach leaves and rocket plus chicken or steak – cooked in coconut oil. Or steamed veggies with either of these. I’m just trying to keep it simple for now. There are hundreds of sites dedicated to recipes for less boring food but surprisingly I’m not finding it boring perhaps because it’s satisfying. I sometimes will have a handful of cashews in between meals or a piece of fruit and I don’t need to eat more. As compared to a few months ago where I was feeling really bad about eating, I have for the moment found a solution that has taken any pain out of eating. And I really think is doing me some good.
So I will possibly try the sugar experiment again soon to reproduce it but not very soon and certainly not tonight… I need a good night’s sleep!