The First Four Weeks

no peppers

No Nightshades For Now

I will discuss what I have eaten and my symptoms over the last four weeks.  It’s going to be a bit of a diary.

First Week:  I struggled but, managed to remove all gluten, sugar (except for the little bit in the sea salt dark chocolate square I eat for dessert at night), and dairy from my diet.  Within twenty four hours my gas went away and so did a measurable amount of discomfort.

I am simple in my meals – making my breakfast, lunch and snacks in the morning that I eat later in the day.  Breakfast invariably is wilted kale with nitrite free bacon and a fried egg.  Thank you Nom Nom Paleo for the bacon kale recipe.  I cook the oscar myer nitrate free bacon once a week in a skillet and save the bacon drippings in a ceramic jar on the stove.  I cook my eggs and many things with a teaspoon of these dripping all week.

Lunch is a mixed green salad with shredded carrots, broccoli sprouts, sliced cucumber and some sliced avocado.  I use Bragg dressings – these can be left out at room temperature (the olive oil gets hard in the refrigerator otherwise).  I also had some meat – usually chicken breast, or chicken salad or reheated burger.

For the first week I wanted to try and eliminate some candida symptoms I was having.  I did so by removing fruits and all sugars.  But, within the week besides being very tired as I transitioned back into burning fat instead of sugar, I developed UTI symptoms (feeling like I have to pee and pressure in bladder).  I thought at first that this was a symptom of possible candida in the bladder but, later realized – after some research – that high acidity can lead to this symptom.  Alkaline foods are a good fix for this.

Dinner is always a meat and veg – steak, burger or chicken.  I like to take a pound of lean ground beef and separate it into four burger patties and put into the freezer in a ziplock.  I pull them out and cook them on the skillet or in toaster oven for my dinner and/or meat for salad for lunch.  I like using the coconut aminos with garlic and thyme to season my burgers.  I buy chicken breasts bulk in a bag from the freezer section.  Sometimes they are individually wrapped and sometimes frozen but, not stuck to each other in a bag.  I put a breast or two in the toaster oven seasoned with cumin, garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper.  Sometimes I would get some chicken salad or tuna salad from the local health food market or make my own (pickles, bit of mayo – which I know isn’t paleo but, the time I tried to make my own paleo mayo it didn’t last more than a couple of days).  I also made quinoa as a starch on occasion and bought sweet potato fries in freezer section.  Sometimes my meat would be individual salmon or some whitefish filets I got for a couple of dollars in freezer section of the local discount food store.  I seasoned these with mrs dash or salt, pepper, garlic and lemon.

Week Two: I incorporated fruit again as my body became too acidic.  Snacks are sliced apples with organic almond butter (dry roasted almonds being the only ingredient) and cut melon (my favorite is watermelon).

Side Story: I developed what felt like a UTI (in the bladder) last year when I first started Paleo and was not eating enough fruits and alkaline foods.  I came up clean of bacteria on the urine test and it was suggested that I might have candida (which I did not know could migrate to anywhere in the body).  So I went on a strict candida cleanse (starving the heck out of that candida by removing all forms of sugar).  Besides being tired a lot for the first week or so my symptoms did not improve.  I knew it had to be something else.  I looked up and found that high acidity can lead to inflammation in the bladder.  So, I said to myself, what the hell and dove right in to high alkaline foods (watermelon, avocado, raisins, aloe vera juice to name a few) and wouldn’t you know it the UTI symptoms vanished.  So now I know that I need to be very conscious of the balance of acid to alkaline foods.  I believe that now the candida symptoms are under control.

Being on a paleo diet again I started losing some weight around my middle right away.  But, I was still having inflammation – swollen tongue, pain in gall bladder/right abdominal area, pain in small and large intestine and mucus in the stool.  I incorporated some healing supplements.  I took an ounce of coconut water kefir, with a couple ounces of coconut water, aloe vera juice and the remainder of my green vibrance each am on an empty stomach.  I soon realized that my bms were getting pretty foul smelling – and since I did not have this experience the last time that I did paleo I figured that since I had introduced a new element (kefir) that this was the cause of the odor.  I also ran out of the green vibrance so kefir was the only probiotic I was consuming at that point.  I believe the kefir strain was overpopulating my gut and creating an imbalance despite my best intentions.  I removed the kefir and the odor has ceased.  However, my gut is still unbalanced from some irritant or illness.  The IBS story continues!

After several weeks with removal of the known irritants I realized there was something else that was bothering me.  For the first time in my life I had done an elimination diet – being able to narrow down what is causing my symptoms is quite informative.  I am excited to be so close to figuring out what ails me.  So I did the research and sure enough nightshade intolerance runs in my family.  My uncle and grandfather were tomato intolerant.  But, as it was years ago, I bet they were also nightshade intolerant.  So, I am now (four weeks in) going to add nightshade elimination to the list.

Here’s the nightshade list – tomatoes (all), potatoes (all except sweet potatoes), peppers (all except black), eggplant.  So, no paprika, no bell peppers, no cayenne, no banana peppers, no salsa, no curry, no hibachi white sauce, no cajun chicken, no bbq sauce, no steak sauce, no rubs, no tomato sauce, no pimentos, no sausage, no hot dogs, and no deli meats (there are a couple that are ok)!  Paprika is used in almost all foods as a colorant or flavor additive.  If a label says “spices” it will have paprika in it.  The first day that I realized this I was depressed – I can not go anywhere without finding paprika in an ingredient list of all of my favorite paleo foods.  But, I am so close – I have got to figure this out.  No giving up now!

 

Beginning Again

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So I started back on my Paleo lifestyle again two weeks ago.  After seven months of misery with worsening symptoms I decided I’d rather be that person… that is annoying at the restaurant when ordering a meal, that cooks 90% of their meals, that has to forego the pleasures of cake and ice cream, that chooses the meat and vegetable meal on a menu rather than the sandwich or pasta dish, that has given up the sins of ignorant gustatory bliss…. so that I might not be a dead person.  Because that is surely where I was headed.  I am sure my symptoms were leading me to some sort of digestive cancer and/or early death.  

 

I’m so over feeling like low grade poop all the time as if walking around with a disease that sets me apart from everyone else.  A disease that no one can see so they are completely unaware that I am feeling generally crappy all the time.  The vibrance and exuberance that I see that other people exhibit with regards to all aspects of their life whether their kids, work, extracurricular activity, favorite shows, family, friends, etc is foreign to me.  I feel blah inside 99% of the time and no one knows that it is easy for me to forget things like birthdays and special events.  I can’t seem to think beyond today and the way I am feeling most of the time.  I am ever aware of how I am feeling which is usually exhausted and depressed because I can’t keep up with the active lives of others that I see as fun and full.  I choose rather to stay home and keep to myself after work and I never plan on anything on the weekends because I worry about how I will feel.  

 

So, in light of this I am accepting, hell even eager, to embrace that which will bring me closer to life, feeling excited and engaged.  If it means I never have a piece of cake or piece of pizza again I am on board if it means I can go running, volunteer, join a meetup group, and get out weekly and become a part of a community of friends.  To feel fulfilled and a sense of purpose.  Hell yeah it’s worth it.  

 

I have so many ideas and inspirations that I can’t seem to dredge up the energy to act upon.  So I lay in bed and think while I struggle to deal with my fatigue.  I love tv but, it’s no way to live.  I’m not one to spend lots of time on the phone so if I’m going interact with people and experience life I need to get out and get involved.  Being a bit reclusive, peppered with a slight social anxiety disorder, I find it hard to get out of my house and hard to reach out to people.  I am double whammied in the getting out and getting active department.  It’s a catch 22.  

 

No one is going to fix my problems but me.  If I am going to be proud at the end of my life, feeling like I have lived a full and rich life, having learned a great deal and having been touched by many people and having had many rewarding experiences…I’m gonna have to make some changes.  

 

In my next post I will list my meals and habits over the last two weeks.  I will also share what I have experienced physically along the way.  

Thanks for reading.

Digestive Unhealth History

Hello All,

I am beginning here.  It is official – my first digestion blog post.  It is a long story, that I may edit later, that spans 20 years starting in college when I was about 19 years of age.  I was like any young college student, care free, loving every new and exciting experience, feeling quite free to be who I wanted to be as I learned amazing things.  Oh, to be back in school and twenty again!

So I was not ready for or prepared to handle constipation when it hit me during my sophomore year.   Having chosen to be a vegetarian in high school, after being inundated with PETA and WWF mailing images of tortured bunnies, I had a limited diet. Being a vegetarian, to me, was eating potatoes, pizza, pasta and tuna from a can.  Freshman year of college brought cafeteria food which consisted of granola, potato salad, pasta salad and the occasional pizza and iceberg salad.  I remember now repeatedly going to the cold marble multi-stalled bathroom of my dormitory and just sitting there in pain while others came and went, as one normally would when using the facilities.  Constipation is in your brain non-stop when you have it.  So, I went seeking help.

The university had a health care facility on campus and I went after having suffered for several weeks in agony.  The doctor ran a gamut of tests.  These tests, needless to say were downright uncomfortable for this awkward young woman, including a rectal exam! The doctor’s conclusion was that I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).  I, of course asked what would cause the IBS and his advice was to abstain from dairy.  What?!  No way, I LIVED on cheese.  It was a staple in my vegetarian lifestyle.  I incorporated cheese into alomost every meal from fabulous bean burritoes to pizza to salad to pasta!  ANd what about cream for my coffee?! There was no way I was giving up dairy.  And what the heck was IBS, isn’t that what old people get after years of  self-imposed bodily abuse? I wasn’t having it.

Side Note: I had a similar reaction as a teen when at twelve years old I experienced a three month period.  Yes it was my first period and yes it lasted three months.  Whoopee.  I remember being mortified as my mom held my hand while the obgyn performed my first pap.  He also checked my breasts, if you could call them that, and found lumps.  They were something he referred to has fibrous something-or-other and I was to lay off of caffeine (which includes chocolate).  What?!  No chocolate?  No way!  I was also immediately put on a strong estrogen contraceptive to stop and help regulate the period.  Good times.  :-/

So you might see a pattern here.  I was NOT going to give up chocolate at 12 years and I was NOT going to give up cheese at 19 years.  So, I tried minimizing my intake of cheese and eventually my constipation eased.  I went about my merry way partying regularly and learning lots of smart things, of course, not necessarily in that order.

I was a junior when I started getting involved with boys beyond holding hands (yes I might be a late bloomer to some of you reading this).  I went on a contraceptive pill, not having been on one since I was a teen.  I had met my first love and we lived together in a big house with other freaks of our own kind (vegetarians and tree huggers/world savers/substance abusers).  Once, I was sexually active, I immediately discovered that I was getting a raging yeast infection every month.  The doctor may have informed me that it was the estrogen in the pill I was taking that caused the recurring infections but, I was not a condom girl and so kept taking it.  Those were some miserable years for me sexually.  I should have bought stock in Monistat.  I ceased the pill after my love and I broke up.

So, for the next few years I don’t recall any other issues and lived quite happily.  Once, I met my future husband the yeast started again and this time moodiness and bloating were added to the joyful side effects.  My gyno suggested that I use a Nuvaring which gave a constant daily dose of estrogen.  This was purported to be better than the pill where estrogen levels peak and dip daily. I did have better luck but, there were times I found myself wanting to kill someone for no reason.  I truly felt as though the gods were having a joke at my expense and that maybe it was time for me to become a nun.

During this time I started doing research on digestive issues and yeast.  I came across a book called “Eat Right for Your Type” by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo.  In this book a revolutionary idea was presented that different human blood types evolved as different foods were introduced over the eons.  He suggested that our original ancestors had the blood type O, foraging on fruits, vegetables and meats.  Blood type A evolved as we began cultivating grains and legumes requiring new enzymes within our bodies to break down these very different substances. Then later came blood type B, as we domesticated livestock and consumed milk, again new enzymes evolving to handle the synthesis of the new sugars and proteins.

I sent away for a handy little test ($10) that was listed in the back of the book and discovered that I am type O.  With D’Adamo’s theory folks with my blood type should avoid avoid grains, legumes and dairy.  Well, I already knew about dairy from the time I was very constipated.  I don’t remember if gluten was discussed at this point (as it is so prevalently discussed today) but, I tried staying away from wheat and switched to rice and rice pasta and even switched to rice milk for my lattes.  I have to say that I was not very good at sticking to any of these things and I still had bloating, yeast infections and general sense of ickiness and regular fatigue.

I got very good at ignoring the signs and symptoms of ill health and continued eating whatever I wanted for the next 20 years.  I also drank a lot of booze, weekends initially, as I socialized.  Later I started drinking in the evenings when returning home from work. Like Pavlov’s dog,  the moment I opened the front door, I craved a cool glass of Pinot grigio to take the edge off the stressful day and decompress.  I suppose you could say that I have been a functioning alcoholic for the better of 20 years.  I wasn’t drunk daily by any means but, as I got older, more sedentary and occasionally partied with friends and getting pretty inebriated, I developed a pattern of daily consumption.  I eventually drank a bottle a day of my favorite Pinot Grigio.

I moved in with my best friend and as we were both single and older than 30 and both divorced and both homebodies, we naturally nested together.  (I can’t help it, I love this run-on sentence…so there)! This involved buying gourmet foodstuffs at the local gourmet food store and the World Market.  We got cozy and ate cheeses, pastas and chocolates to our hearts’ content and drank wine and were merry. 🙂

I also gained about thirty pounds.  So, then I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I would go to the gym and eat frozen dinners, counting calories and going to bed hungry every night.  But, I still consumed alcohol and and ate pasta here and there. Losing weight is near to impossible, even if you exercise, when you are consuming alcohol and mainly carbs for calories.  My self-esteem was deflated and I was always tired, forcing myself to work out most days when I could have passed out at any moment.  I lost that thirty pounds but, alas after falling in-love again and coming into a long term relationship with a mutual love of food, coziness and booze – I got that thirty pounds back.  :-/

So, almost like Oprah’s weight yo-yo, I have gone back and forth with from grossly giving in to indulgences to hard core dedication to better health.  But, the symptoms have not really ever left.

I have battled fatigue for years and as I have passed 40 years the fatigue has gotten worse.  It has progressively gotten worse and at one point when I had started a new job waiting tables not long ago, it took several weeks for me to learn a simple menu.  I was constantly foggy headed, every morning waking up exhausted and my focus and short term memory were shot.  I was dead on my feet, caffeine only jolting me for an hour or so and sometimes not even then.  But, I loved my starbucks mocha lattes!  =)

As I have passed the age of forty with an ever slowing metabolism and ever increasing signs and symptoms of ill health, I have had to face my enemy.  I have experienced back and kidney pain, gallbladder pain, achy joints and stiff muscles, chronic fatigue, irregular bowel movements, irritability, brain fog, lack of drive, and depression.

I have continued to read blogs, forums, books and wiki (of course). I have tried supplements, cleanses, and special diets.  I have done the research and through trial and error have come to realize that sugar, gluten and dairy are the enemies.  There are myriad forms of the above three poisons with just as many different names. Having a higher education in biologic and chemical studies I had no problem acclimatizing myself with the complex ingredient label terminology.  I can imagine how hard it must be for people that have never heard of a hydrogenated vegetable oil or a disaccharide and have no idea what they look like or how they function within the body.

I also have the drive and countenance to jump right in with vigor into something I am intensely interested in, especially when it comes to choosing between misery and happiness.  I’m so over feeling like crap all the time!

I stumbled on the Paleo diet (reminiscent of the blood type book regarding what our ancestors ate).  I was so determined to heal myself that I jumoed right in.  I made almost every meal I ate.  Consuming only meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables.  I bought several books and signed up for apps on my phone to follow recipes.

I spent so many hours of my days preparing all my meals.  BUt, I lost about 8 pounds and my IBS disappeared.  I made it about five months on Paleo until Thanksgiving came and I gave in to my previous indulgences.  And, like the snowball on a hill, I continued on that unhealthy path full steam.  It has been about seven months since I left Paleo and I have never been more miserable.  Everyday I feel pain in my gut, gall bladder, liver, intestines, kidneys, lower back, joints and head.  My eyes are bloodshot every am and I sleep terribly.  My sinuses are infected and my boyfriend says that it sounds like I am having trouble breathing at night.  My lower back hurts all night (mainly from kidney discomfort I am certain).  I am bloated, gassy, fatigued, and foggy headed on a regular basis.  My physical self esteem is in the toilet and I have no ambition, motivation or energy to accomplish even the most mundane of tasks.  If I was inclined to depression I would certainly have killed myself by now.

Though I am a bit of a fatalist at heart I am also very open to self-help and the power of natural healing.  I am getting back on that horse and I am going to stick to it this time.  Once I am healed and I have learned what my body can and can’t handle I am going to share it with the world and make a habit of choosing what is better for me.

I am hoping that I will gain energy, vitality, eagerness for life and general happiness.  I know that it is going to take a while but, in the end I hope that my story will be helpful to others who are searching for answers and that my experiences might help those with similar symptoms find a solution that modern medicine has been unable to solve and in some cases continues to ill-advise.

Sorry this has been so long in the writing but, I am glad I got it out.  I know there are things I am forgetting (ha! brain fog) but, I am certain that when I start conversing with others about my and their experiences, I will recall the pertinent things that are also a part of the story.

Thank you for reading and please share your experiences and knowledge with me.  My future posts will be shorter.  I will also be posting articles on sugar, gluten and dairy.  I will share product reviews and recipes that I love as well as others that have inspired me who are sharing their experiences with the world.

Best wishes,

Suzanne