I’ve been a self-professed health-nut since I was a teenager, 15 years old to be exact. I remember the exact age because it was the first school year that I managed to only get sick once. Growing up in a household with Grandparents brought health issues to the forefront, as my Grandpa had diabetes & my Grandma had high blood pressure. They took medication & followed a special diet. My grandpa also had a bottle of huge, horse-pill sized multi-vitamin/minerals called Myadecs, I believe. When I was 15, it occurred to me that he was sick & took these pills & since I was always sick, maybe I should take them, too. So I did. Lo & behold, a winter with minimal sickness. I was very impressed. This eventually led me to think about everything that I put into my mouth, not just supplements. In the subsequent years since then, I’ve experimented with supplements & diet. I’ve read & researched everything I could get my hands on. I was an avid subscriber to “Prevention Magazine” which was probably the first & only health magazine in the 70’s. I’ve been on every diet from A(tkins) to V(egetarianism). I’ve taken literally hundreds of different supplements. I’ve been my own guinea pig for the large majority of my life & I’ve gotten to be quite an expert on what my physical body needs. I’ve also gained knowledge & experience along the way, concerning the physical body & it’s needs, in general.
You probably don’t have to peruse this site extensively to guess that, for me, vegetarianism was a disaster & Atkins was a blessing. I’ve never been vegan, as my many years of vegetarianism (10 years) brought me into contact with a lot of vegans & I could see that, in general, they didn’t seem very healthy, especially the women like me, of child-bearing age &/or who were mothers. I figured that any diet that couldn’t serve everyone well must have something wrong with it. Eventually, however, I realized that my health was deteriorating on my vegetarian diet as I inexplicably gained 30 pounds & developed symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. Since my main reason for being vegetarian was for it’s well-advertised health benefits, I moved on once I realized the diet wasn’t delivering. I know that for many vegetarians & vegans, animal cruelty is the main reason for following this diet & if this is you, I commend you for walking your talk. As you know from my previous post, I am big on living your life in alignment with your principles & beliefs, so keep it up if it’s working for you.
For myself, even the latest government food pyramid is a disaster. It has way more carbohydrate than I can tolerate, so upon leaving the vegetarian way of eating, I eventually adopted the Atkins way of eating for the most part. This worked well for me for many years until 2005 when, due to multiple causes, I hit a wall. I got terribly sick with what appeared to be the flu or maybe mono or maybe it was bronchitis/pneumonia? The doctor at the time didn’t seem to know. Six months later, I was still just as sick. Many years, tests & doctors later, it has been determined that I developed autoimmune thyroid disease & probably have what has been variously labeled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Dysautonomia, Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome, Fibromyalgia or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, etc. I think I’m forgetting some of the other labels but you get the idea. These labels all identify a large cluster of symptoms that have no definite known cause & the difference in labels being which symptoms are in the forefront in any given individual. Others may disagree with my perception & conclusion but after going through the tests, the doctors & my own research, this is how it looks to me.
It hasn’t been all bad, though. Going through this experience has taught me a lot about the health-sickness spectrum, diet, lifestyle & especially about myself. I’ve discovered that I’ve got allergies to mold & some foods & that I’m gluten intolerant causing malabsorption which was, also, probably behind the sickly childhood. Gluten intolerance & Celiac disease appear to go hand in hand with autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) & doctors are now beginning to recommend that anyone who has been diagnosed with either disease should by tested for the other. I also discovered that I was anemic & had several other deficiencies despite many, many years of good diets & supplements. I’d hate to think where I’d be now if I’d not been into diet & supplements. So, it has answered a lot of questions for me.
Over the last few years, I have slowly been healing my physical body. Right now I am following a paleolithic/hunter-gatherer type diet, specifically “Neanderthin” by Ray Audette. This is arguably the strictest one of it’s type & not what I would have chosen for myself but I have learned my lesson & let my body choose the diet it needs rather than the diet I think should work, the one that I want or the one the “experts” recommend. I have a few dozen diet books, all of which I pulled off the shelf, piled randomly & had someone I know muscle test me as I held each in turn behind my back. I held them behind my back so that I wouldn’t know what was being tested. “Neanderthin” won by a landslide. Prior to testing my body for the best diet for me, I had been following a gluten-free diet for about 2 years which made a big difference in how I felt. I then cut out all sugars when I realized they were the cause of my migraines. After that, all grains were cut out as they turn to sugar in the body & I definitely have trouble with sugar. This move lead to further improvements. So, by the time I tested so well for “Neanderthin”, I only had to cut out most dairy (I still eat whey, butter & full-fat cream which are all low in milk sugar) & all legumes (dried beans & peas, peanuts, cashews), vinegars, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes & winter squash. I know you’re thinking, “what’s left?!” All meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, all vegetables that are edible raw (not that you have to eat them raw), teas, herbs, spices, fruits & raw nuts & seeds which I soak & sprout or dry. Don’t feel sorry for me. I actually like my diet & I feel so much better that I’m rarely tempted by the foods I’ve cut out. I’m pretty sure that this is my lifetime diet & I’m good with that. The majority of foods that fill the grocery store shelves are mostly “franken foods” anyway, as a few books I’ve read have dubbed them & not fit for human consumption so I’m not really missing anything. Now, in case you’re thinking that I’m only feeling better because I’m eating more Vegetables & Fruits or less junk food, I’m not. Remember that I’ve been a health-nut since… forever. My diet has not been filled with “franken-foods.” I’ve avoided hydrogenated fats, refined (white) grains, refined (white) sugars & junk food for as long as I can remember.
“Neanderthin” could be considered a monosaccharide diet similar to “The GAPS Diet”, “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet” or “The Body Ecology Diet” which are all very healing &/or helpful for many illnesses & nearly all the gut & digestive disorders, the Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD/ADHD & psychological disorders. In fact the author, Ray Audette, put his rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease) in remission with this diet. So, I’ve been pleased with the diet my body chose. Not that I was pleased the first few weeks. This diet, like the others mentioned, can cause what I term “die-off”, initially. Others have called it “carbohydrate withdrawal” which I’m not sure is actually what’s going on as I didn’t go cold turkey off of all carbohydrates. I think anyone who has been eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) or more carbohydrates than their body can handle, harbors a lot of bad bacteria & yeast in their system which depend on a continuous supply of sugars from these carbohydrates. As you cut down on these sugars, they lose their food supply & begin dying off which causes flu-like symptoms as your body & immune system has to clean up the resulting excess toxins & wastes – symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, headache & just general all-over-achiness. At each level of diet restriction, I experienced a die-off reaction that would last for a week or two. In other words, I experienced die-off every time I cut out a source of complex sugar &/or starch, first the sweeteners, then the grain sugars, milk sugar & legumes. I’m still not on a low-carb diet by Atkins standards, as I eat quite a bit of fruit, vegetables & even dried fruit, so carbohydrate withdrawal doesn’t reveal the full picture here. One explanation that I’ve read that feels right to me is that the digestion of complex sugars, such as those found in starchy foods, requires enzymes from the tips of the villi lining the small intestine. Any insult to the intestines causes damage to the villi tips & they quickly lose the ability to produce the necessary enzymes to break down these complex sugars, i.e. starches. These undigested sugars cannot be absorbed by the villi & therefore, remain in the intestines becoming food for bad bacteria & yeast in the small intestine & later in the colon. This is why a monosaccharide (single-sugar) diet is helpful as most of the sugars in this diet are easily absorbed & do not become available to the yeast & bad bacteria. Honey is usually allowed on these types of diets as it would have been naturally available throughout our ancient history & the sugars have been pre-digested by the bees. I don’t eat honey because of the migraines. I haven’t actually tested honey, specifically, to see if it would cause a migraine but I threw it out along with all the other sugars once I realized the connection. I will someday work up the courage to eat honey & see if it does give me a migraine.
Well, I think this is my longest post so far. Sorry! I hope I’ve not bored everyone with my personal health history & diet technicalities but I couldn’t pass up the topic of “Our Physical Selves” & not talk about diet & my experience of it. Our diet is the one thing that is in our control, here, from the physical level of our experience & brings so much to bear on the health & well-being of our bodies & consequently our lives. So, go muscle test different diets & see what your body needs.
P.S. Click on the “Nourishing Days” site above in the blog roll entitled “My Favorite Health Sites” to read more about healing with monosaccharide diets in her posts dated 3/15/11 & 3/16/11. You can also check out “Marks Daily Apple”, “Neanderthin”, “The GAPS Diet”, “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet”, “Elana’s Pantry”, “Paleo/Primal/Caveman Recipes”, “Paleolithic Diet Nutrition Page” & “Protein Power” for more recipes & relevant info.