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.