Final Diagnosis

Well, after months of struggling with diet restriction, experimentation to figure out what exactly I was suffering, I went to a GI specialist. He took a good history, ran several blood tests- negative for H. pylori, wheat allergen, and an iron storage disease... the final diagnosis is IBS. I had suspected this back in college when I had a few years of horrible bouts of stomach pain, relieved only by going to the bathroom. Nothing I did seemed to help, until the circumstances in my life let up and the stress decreased. It faded away like a bad dream. Hmmm! How funny I forgot that. I have experienced some pretty strong stress in the past few months- mostly at summer's start- and that must have triggered another terrible episode, lasting these months past.

I guess it makes sense. I am relieved it is not celiac disease, Crohne's, or otherwise. This I can (and have) lived with. There are things which trigger episodes, such as STRESS, caffiene, SUGAR (and especially sugar replacements), cacao, milk products, and high fat diets. High fiber is what is recommended in order to control the symptoms... along with moderation of trigger foods.

Which brings me to a final realization and lifestyle change, one that I will hopefully manage to maintain for life... the Paleo Diet.

So, several months ago when I embarked on this journey to discover the source of my discomfort and pain, I had lamented that we could not easily just eat a simple food diet the way our ancestors had. I thought a lot about what my ancestors ate, Northern European folk (and Native American), what I had perhaps evolved to eat. That should be what's safe to consume, with no pain or distress! Still, fighting the sugar addiction was/is hard. So very very hard.

I started to look online through various things about issues such as mine and came across the Paleo Diet, or Neanderthin. I have bought and read the Paleo Diet book, by Dr. Loren Cordain. I was very much impressed by the throughness of his research, and how well thought out the plan is. It is not some fad diet embraced by anorexic Hollywood actresses whose lives balance on the head of a... carrot... but something he presents as a better way to LIVE. Not something you stick to until you are slim, but something you live by. We weren't meant to eat pounds of sugar, processed meals and tons of grains. Still, I wasn't sure and decided to go on a trial.

I feel amazing. It has taken me a little while to adjust to using a different source of energy, since my body is trained to use high carbohydrate sources in order to function. In just two weeks I feel much better- no bloating, no gas, no pain, no distress, no crashes or bad moods. It means I'm eating fruit again (yay!!!) without suffering any ill effects. Already though I have done a challenge test. In the book he helps you outline what you will eat day to day, to assist in adjusting. He gives three "open meals" which allow you to eat what you used to eat (just don't overdo it!) so you don't feel deprived or torn as you transition. Well... I went out to dinner and had cornbread, beer, and a lovely spinach salad (with waaaaaay too much dressing) with chicken and mozerella on it. It all tasted wonderful. But before I even got home I was gassing up, farting up the dickens, and woke up with some lovely IBS cramps. Guess I will have to be more careful when I go out. Ooops. Maybe no open meals for me?

I enjoy what I eat, but I'm having trouble staying full. I'm not sure why. He advocates that this way of eating makes you feel satisfied for longer, since protein breaks down more slowly in the gut. But when I'm hungry I'm starving! It's so curious. It's getting better, though; perhaps that is more of the transition. I eat a lot, eat all day long, and don't skimp... it isn't about cutting back on calories but eating quality. I feel a LOT better and look forward to having months at a time pain free.

As for sugar, I can do nothing but cut it out cold turkey. The Paleo Diet leaves no space for it anyhow. If I open that door the monster of the craving comes charging out, leaving me helpless. The first week of abstinence left me angrily craving... "what do I care! I am going to eat chocolate anyway!" but I gently worked through it. What a beast! What a tough, tough, beast! I feel better for it. Much, much better. I wish I were the sort that could be satisfied with a tiny piece of chocolate every few weeks or so, but I know that is not the case.

He goes on and on about how this reverses and controls various diet induced ailments, like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, incorrect fat balances (LDL vs HDL), obesity, arthritis, and so on. He also goes on at length about weight loss, which to me is a bonus but not my main goal. Already the bloated appearance of my belly is reduced, and I look better, slimmer. I have no wish to be "skinny" but to be healthy. I eat loads, and I am grateful to be eating fruit again! Yay!

I wish to say here also that I am deeply grateful I live in a place where I can afford to eat this way. I know this is not accessible to all. It is cheaper to live on highly process, crappy food. Food laden with sugar, salt, processed grains, and fat. Obesity once was a malady of the rich, and now it is a malady of the poor. It seems the poor can hardly be otherwise, as it is very expensive to eat a diet of good organic vegetables- the fresher, the better... and the more costly- fruit, and lean meat. That's the difference, too; not fatty crap meat and bacon and sausages (this is no Atkins) but good meat. Grass fed meat, raised how it is supposed to live naturally. That is expensive and hard to come by! I do recognize this, and know that not everyone can do this. I am so grateful that I work a good job, and live in a good area that allows me to invest in my health as fully as I wish.

If you wish to know more I urge you to find his website and read. It is one of the best things I've ever done. There are stories aplenty of folks with debilitating conditions that have worked hard to heal themselves through diet (something I advocate for animals, as a veterinarian!), even folks with IBS who have been symptom free for years now! It's heartening. And a good way to stay away from sugar... hopefully, forever.


sugar allergy and the continued fight

Well, back when I started this blog I thought, there! I've kicked sugar, now I can relax into this good feeling of health and vigor. Ha! So innocent, I say now. The halcyon days.

Just as an alcoholic, it is one day at a time. It is about choice, it is about will, it is about being gentle with yourself when you aren't living up to your ultimate standards. It is about choosing to be the higher standard you hold and forgiving the slips, while reaching for the best health you can.

What a rough road!

It's funny, when I started this, I went through all the ways I could find in order to avoid sugar but enjoy life. I have a powerful sweet tooth, handed down to me by family (and likely genes, too; sugar is energy, energy is survival...) It is entangled with life's pleasures, the taste on the tongue. Within my journey, I have experimented with many different ways to keep that pleasure without the pain- the pain of crashing, mood swings, weight gain and all the myriad ways sugar destroys my balance. In those experiments I have discovered what I cannot tolerate, and have caused new intolerances along the way.

I am fully several weeks into avoiding fructose to the best of my ability. I cannot help but feel I brought this upon myself, this odd allergy. Has it truly been lifelong, or have I done this by overdoing things causing my flora so much upset? I used to tolerate Stevia, and now it causes me agony; I used to live on fruit every summer and now it causes me so much pain. Somewhere in my secret heart I used to wish I was allergic to sugar so that it would be easy to stop eating it. What if overdoing Stevia and other fake sweeteners has caused me to upset the balance like this? They say that overdoing high fructose corn syrup can trigger fructose malabsorption, and this syndrome takes all the other sweeteners with it! Oh, you wish to be allergic, wish granted. What a hypochondriac. Please.

Well, I have no wish to be some sensitive ridiculous girl who cannot eat as she pleases. That is just unacceptable. Right now I am eating a pared down diet, with the thought that if I give my GI system a break, I can heal and go back to being a normal human being who eats a normal diet. This is what we prescribe for dogs with GI upset; a bland diet with slow reintroduction into regular food once again. Why not people? Why not me?

Admittedly, I sometimes wish that I had access only to a more basic/ ancestral diet. Fish, ancient grains, fruits from whatever region my ancestors are from, maybe meat but rarely, good vegetables locally grown. I can do that if I'm committed. That's what I'm doing right now, anyway, in order to heal. Still, we are surrounded by a glut of easy prepared foods, stuff that is so oversweetened and oversalted you can't even detect the original ingredients. Don't even get me started on all that, please. I am eating basic, feel better for it and have no regrets. No regrets except one: that the deprivation of anything resembling sugar is making the siren song of it so strong I almost cannot bear it. It's terrible, ridiculous, I am an alcoholic sniffing out my next gin, a nicotine addict looking for a lost ciggy in the couch.

Now that I think of it the 5-HTP was helping. This is a building block the body uses to create dopamine in the brain, a serotonin precursor. Those chemicals are ones your brain uses for feelings of well being and calm, and help with things like cravings and addictions, loss of sleep and so forth. I was taking it regularly and then forgot the habit when I moved. I can see now that it was helping, a great deal! It sometimes isn't enough to be committed to an idea, the idea of kicking sugar, if your body will not climb aboard the train with you. Everyone's got to be along for the ride.

It can sure be a helpless feeling when you are years into an ideal, and yet cannot simply just get into it and stay there. I sympathize with all my heart for those who give up cigarettes and have to walk through a cloud of smokers on their way into a pub. Or those who have been sober for years and get invited by co-workers to the pub after work, knowing just how difficult it will be to sit in that environment. I am lucky enough to have never been addicted to those things, or other drugs. I plea the case that sugar is as addictive and as evil. That it can most certainly lead to other addictions. If you've read "Potatoes not Prozac" or other texts on sugar addiction, you can see others feel this way as well.

If you have been on this journey with me, I'd love to know how you're faring. It's a tough road, right? I'm on and off again. I'd love to sit on a high horse and say that all those years ago I threw down the candy and never touched the stuff again, but I'd be lying. No, I fully jumped off the wagon and bounced right back into the swings and bloat and moods and all that. Only with full knowing of the consequences, and guilt. Lovely. Bring the headcase gear along, folks, it's going to be a wild ride. Eeek!

Well, it's off again, since my body has said in so many ways "enough!". I hear you, loud and clear! No sugar, no stevia, no tropical fruits, no dried fruits, no concentrated juice, no sugar alcohols, hell, not even any wheat for now. Don't you just hate it? Being "sensitive"? Or "special"? B.S. Total crap. I hate it. Makes me want to live in the middle of nowhere that knows nothing of Cadbury or the cane, the magical extract of beets, trees or bees...


Fructose Malabsorption

A new development I have stumbled across... well, new for me, since there's lots of good research out there about the topic. A bummer to be sure, but at least I have a name now and something I can try.

So two weeks ago, I started realizing that this whole bloating and icky (farty!) thing was getting out of control. It was non stop. Just ridiculous. I was eating NO STEVIA, nothing strange, no added nothing... and just disgusting, painful, horrible. Well, the difference is that it's spring/summer and the fruits are out! Yay! Favorite time of year for a sugar junkie like me, natural sweetened goodness... I was eating cherries by the handful and suffering horribly as a result. WTF? My favorite things are smoothies (mango, pineapple, carrot and spinach); fruits (cherries and apples); with dehydrated "raw" oat cookies with dates and raisins. I pretty much lived off this stuff all last summer, and just farted away, thinking the culprit maybe flax seeds, or sunflower, or whatever, with my raw experiment.

Well this time it was absolutely clear that the culprit was the cherries. It was so hot last week that I barely wanted to eat in the truck as I drove around; when I did, I often went for the cherries first as they were simple and small. Within an hour I was bloated up, farting away and embarassed. Not to mention pissed. I love fruit! I love living off fruit in the summer! Unfair! First sugar alcohols, then my beloved Stevia, now this? What the hell is wrong with me?

I stopped eating fruits for a few days to see what would happen. I felt better, looked better, and sounded better (heh). This made me pretty curious so I started hunting online to see what the hell my problem was. In a long and roundabout way I found dietary fructose intolerance (DFI) which is now called fructose malabsorption. I read all about it and it made so much sense to me, I can't deny either that it exists or that this may be the root of my problem.

I will save explaination of it here, since others have done such a fabulous job. You can check out what they say in these websites:

And of course there are more, but if you think you are having issues I urge you to do some research yourself. The first website gives a lot of good and interesting links.

Well it certainly explains a lot. My steadily increasing intolerance for things over the years. Problems I had as a kid. It's even linked to depression, PMS and mental fogginess... problems I abhor and deal with constantly. I'll do anything to feel better, anything. If it means eating a boring bland diet for 6 weeks, so be it. This sucks. This is the worst thing you can do to a sugar addict, to a major sweetaholic... the WORST. Then again, it may just be the very thing that saves my life and sanity, who knows?

How interesting that I have a strong addiction to the very thing that makes me feel the most horrible. It has psychological implications I am just going to have to avoid like the plague, I have enough on my plate these days. It certainly does bear thought though, as to why people become addicted to the very poisons most likely to kill them. Or at the very least harm them. In love with the toxins that take you down.

I'm going to plan this boring horrible "ancestral diet" very carefully, and I'll check in and report how it's going now and then. I know a lot of this has to do with bacterial overgrowth in the large intestines... I wonder is there a way to reset the buggers? Some people have given their experience that the symptoms started after a bout of sickness that was treated with antibiotics. Yet some people report that probiotics make it worse... more bacteria to feed on the fructose you're not absorbing. How frustrating! It's likely there's damage to the intestinal lining or crypts that make absorption of fructose/ fructans no longer possible. Is there a way to heal that, restart things (the lining regrows every 7 days or so), reboot the bacterial flora in the gut, and start over? Lots of that wierd hippie colonic cleansing shit I guess. Ugh. Doesn't sound that pleasant, but hey... if it helped me I'd do it. First I will experiment and see if I'm barking up the right tree; I already feel better, so I guess so.



Off the wagon and on again.

I'm beginning to realize that quitting sugar is a lot like quitting cigarettes (based on my friends and family's experience) or heroin (which I've read about). It's tough, so tough! When I started this quest I had this quaint notion that I would quit sugar, walk away, and feel so awesome I'd never go back. Feel so healthy, self-righteous, elated, alive... why would I want to touch that stuff again?

Well! That is just not the case. It became a battle somewhere, involving a whole lot of guilt and weird back-and-forth arguments in my head. Never a dull moment to be human, I guess. The trick with quitting anything is to just pick yourself up and get back on the wagon as soon as you can, like the next day. I just lost the will somewhere, caught up in the misery and stress of schooling and then my internship. It just didn't seem to matter anymore to take care of myself in the way I know best. Maybe the psyche likes misery? Hey I know! We're miserable and stressed, let's compound that by altering things drastically with that sugar drug! Whee, isn't this fun?

Plus, the fact that there is sugar around constantly in the place I work (and the place I went to school) means I can never escape. I used to dream when I was a child that someday I'd have a big glass jar, as tall as me, that was an eternal fount of candy. No matter how much you took from it, how much you ate, it was never empty! In that world, you could eat chocolate for all your meals, and boy was that fabulous! Well, it's nearly a reality with the way we live today, and with the endlessly filled candy dish at work (not to mention cookie Thursdays, plus thank you gifts from clients, do-gooders bringing in donuts, etc, etc... endless...) It makes is so challenging to live up to the highest ideal I have given myself.

It makes quite an interesting vortex or whirlwind, too; eat that crap, feel guilty/ bad that I'm off the wagon, compound with stress from work, eat more of the crap to try and feel better (the mind likes arguments like- well, I deserve some pleasure, don't I?); feel worse, crash, eat more. Next thing you know I'm buying it instead of just eating it at work, and voila! Not only am I off the wagon, I'm sitting in the dirt watching it pull away. Oof!

I never wanted it to be a battle where I could beat myself up for making mistakes. In fact I am always telling others to be gentle with themselves if they slip and eat pie at a family dinner. It's ok to be human! However, I need to remind myself it's for my health and it really doesn't make me feel good to crash and burn in that endless cycle. Or worse, hurtle towards diabetes. Goddess forbid!

After being "off the wagon" for quite a long time, I've jumped back on, cold turkey. I cannot allow myself even a little bit because it's a gateway. Depression and stress are no excuse because frankly, they are worsened by sugar. I know this! Instead of leaving it as an indefinite thing, I have decided to be a bit more gentle and go month by month. I am simply doing a sugar fast this month. None. No sugar. That's easy, I know I can do that, that is an attainable goal! It is a perfect way to detox, and trick myself into compliance. It's easy to go around the candy bowl at work when I can say to myself- not this month! I'm not eating sugar right now.

Then, next month, I can do it again. And again. Until I am back in the swing and can write on here how amazing I feel not eating crap.

I was prompted to jump back on due to the fact that I got sick again. When I am not eating sugar, I never get ill. Now I've been battling a lingering cold/ crud for weeks and I'm disappointed. Not only that but I gained some weight, feel terrible, achy, and so on. How shameful, since I know the prevention and the cure! Old habits truly die hard, and people where I live are very unforgiving of those living an alternative lifestyle... very suspicious of those who do not eat the All American Diet. Many of the people around me are overweight. It's an epidemic in this country, as we all know! I want no part of the modern diseases our diet has caused us. Time once again to stop.


Fasting for the New Year

I'm sure many of you have been battling the endless battle of Holiday Crap. Aunt Sally's Death by Chocolate... Granny P's devastating peanut brittle... the list goes on and on. The candy jar at work. The endless thank you presents from clients- cookies, chocolates, you name it. Ugh. You gain weight, crash and get cranky just by looking at the stuff.

It's a tough battle to say no all the time, especially to well-meaning family members who get such joy out of feeding others. Or with co-workers who secretly get pleasure out of sabotaging your diet... you know who I mean. It's cruel! Just cruel!

Anyway take a deep breath, the new year is here and there isn't another stuff your face holiday for a while.

I am fasting to celebrate the new year, as a way to re-start my body and mind back into the health I adore so much. Cleansing is good practice, and not a bad idea to do a few times a year, or more if you stress a lot. Giving your body a break from all the things you put into it makes good sense.

The fast I am doing does not involve complete food deprivation. I cannot do that, I've tried. It makes me crazy. Instead, I am doing a fruit fast for two days (today is day two) and then an Ayurvedic type fast for another two days. (I got it from the "Eat, Taste and Heal" book, look it up, it's rad). Basically, I figured out what would work best for my body- deprivation not being the answer- and I'm sticking to it.

Two days of raw fruits (and some dried), pretty much whatever is appealing and fresh. I have been enjoying pineapple, pears, apples, mangoes, kiwi, pomegranates, bananas, dates and figs. Even dried papaya. It's been wonderful. I feel calm and clean right now, brighter. Out of respect for my body I am not doing the strenuous workouts I normally do, but am taking it easy with yoga only.

The next two days will be eating only rice and mung beans, called Kitchari. I am not cooking the beans as it is called for however; I sprouted them to get the most nutrition out of the beans. Sprouted beans are incredible. So much energy and enzymes! I mean, when a bean is sprouting you are getting all that vigorous "life! life!" energy out of them, fantastic. I was mostly raw all summer and lived on sprouted beans and grains. (This practice is tougher in winter when I want desperately to be warm, and eat warm, all the time.)

The purpose of the cleansing and the fast is to abstain completely from caffeine, additives, preservatives, toxins, white sugar, flour, etc. Just simple foods that are easy for the body to digest and process. Yes, fruit is high in sugar, and not ideal for long term fasts. I seem to be doing ok on this front though, luckily.

On day 5 when regular food is to be introduced, it is done slowly; adding simple soups, steamed veggies, and whole grains, a little at a time with each meal. I may even do some raw fish on day 6 I think.

I encourage everyone to cleanse every now and then. You have to pick the one that is right for you, and if you have physical issues make sure your doctor knows. There is nothing worse than causing damage when you only mean good!

Good luck in the sugar battle, and happy new year!