I thought those of you who have digestive issues might appreciate an update on how the Low Lectin, Alkaline, Paleo diet I am following to improve my digestive system's health is going.
I've had a sensitive gut for as long as I can remember. I have very clear memories of visiting various GP and Specialist's surgeries when I was nine and of no-one having an answer. I have worked in holistic medicine for the last twenty years and am not a believer in medication. I wanted to locate the triggers and remove them. You are what you eat seemed the simplest place to start.
So, on Friday 26th Sept after researching it I switched to a diet that combines foods from low lectin, alkaline and Paleo approaches. My aim was to cut out the foods that I suspected were aggravating my gut and cut down on others that could be contributing to it. To do this I started with specific food groups that are known stomach and intestine irritants (grains, nightshade plants, pulses, legumes, beans, dairy, fruit).
The first stage of any new eating plan is broadly trial and error. You need to be prepared that you may well react to some foods and work through that reaction without despairing or losing focus. You also need to acknowledge that the state of the food you eat can also have an effect on how your gut processes it eg I am finding that cooked food is much easier for me to eat right now than raw. And further, you need to bear in mind that some foods are safe to eat in certain quantities but you may well have a tolerance level which, once breached, can also bring on symptoms. This is all adds to the complication, which is why you need to be patient and not lose focus.
We had some bread for lunch twelve days ago which made my stomach ache and stole all my energy for the rest of the day. I very nearly went to bed to sleep it off. It was decent bread- organic, wholemeal, but it is now on my 'no' list. Other than that, my symptoms reduced very quickly for those first four days and by Monday I was pain-free for the first time in two months. I was ecstatic, but also nervous that it wouldn't last. It didn't. By Tuesday evening I was really uncomfortable again. This seemed particularly unfair because I'd stuck rigidly to the diet. But what I have since realised is that when your gut is sick it can't cope with even good foods in a raw state. So the carrot I ate raw for lunch that day would probably have been find cooked. I also think spending the day sitting scrunched up didn't help. Anyway, I got home that night tired, uncomfortable and fed up. If nothing was going to work what was the point in restricting my diet so severely?
I abandoned it, ate crisps then had a take-away curry with a chocolate and wheat-based pudding afterwards.
The symptoms came back with a vengeance the following morning and, feeling very sorry for myself and frustrated that nothing seemed to be working, the diet nose-dived for the remainder of the week and the pain got steadily worse.
It culminated in me coming as close to passing out as I have ever done last Sunday while out walking with the family in the woods. It felt like someone was repeatedly sticking ten inch knives into my intestines and I thought I was going to be sick. I had to sit down on a tree trunk twice and hold on to M in order to get back to the car. I felt like an old lady.
It was a necessary kick up the bum. By the time the pain went that night my self-pity had vanished and my resolve to get back on the diet had returned.
I looked again at the notes I'd made and then tried a new angle. I sat for a while visualising specific foods and making a note of the reaction my mind gave to each of them. By the end I had a small list of 'yes' and 'no' foods.
We've become very divorced from listening to our own instincts and trusting them, yet that inner voice is part of a system of senses that worked to ensure our survival for thousands of years, before we became too sophisticated to believe it mattered anymore.
I started with the broad advice outlined in alkaline, low lectin and paleo diets and adapted it according to what I felt about the foods. Here's an example- I've had coconut water in my head for days and finally went out and got some. I sat there looking at it on the table wondering why I'd had the urge to get something I've never had before at a time when I was cutting back not expanding my diet.
Then I googled it and all the searches pinged back words like: natural indigestion remedy, digestion improver, acid reducer, good for health.
I've been back on the diet for three days, which is a pinch of time, yet my gut is responding well and the pain has once again more or less stopped and my appetite has returned. There will be more trial and error days ahead, and I like to think that as and when they pop up I will be able to deal with them without giving up and then returning to square one.
Everyone is different, so the foods that seem to be working for me may not for you, but it is perhaps a place to start? So....
I've stopped eating all nightshade family plants (potatoes, tomatoes, chillis, peppers, aubergines- although I think chilli will be fine I am not eating it for a few weeks), all grains (except some very processed white rolls which I am testing), all dairy except cheese which I have cut right back and will cut out if I think it's a problem, all peas, pulses, beans and legumes, all fruit except berries and bananas and certain vegetables.
What I am eating is broadly: raspberries (in moderation because I suspect them), bananas, blueberries, hazelnut milk, almonds, beef, chicken, seafood, white rice, sweet potatoes, asparagus, carrot, sorrel, beetroot, pure sunflower spread, small amounts of cheese (with caution), rapeseed oil, salt, herbs, turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory), hot water, red wine, 400ml of coconut water a day, processed white rolls and honey (question mark over these so I am watching them), eggs, bacon, ham, the occasional cherry and almond pie from Mr Kipling (my one sin but it will go if I suspect it) and a bar of chocolate at the weekend.
It goes without saying that if you are having digestive problems it is important to go and see your GP and get yourself checked out. I have been down that road and they found nothing, which is why I am convinced diet is key for me. Stress levels also play an enormous part in digestive health, as does posture, the time of day you eat, whether you have meals at the table or on the sofa, how much exercise you take- it's really important to look at all these factors together.
I won't know for several months whether this is the right approach for me, but so far all the signs are positive, and that is enough to encourage me to keep going.
I really hope anyone reading this who is suffering will gain some hope and comfort from it and perhaps also the courage to look at what you are eating and make some changes.
Hope everyone is well,