Hope you are well! I wanted to update you on my new way of eating - more for overall health - with hopes that some of it helps specific conditions. I will be trying out this diet for a few months (and potentially for the rest of my life!), and I will report along the way with any changes I notice in my overall health.
I was vegetarian for many years, and in 2005, decided to go vegan for my health, for the animals, and for the planet. I don't want this site to be about veganism, but it is part of my lifestyle and will play a role in things I post. What is a vegan, exactly? Well, I embrace a lifestyle built solely on compassion and love. I don't use any animal products (like lotion made with lanolin which comes from sheep), eat any animal products (no pigs, chickens, cows, eggs, milk, butter, etc.), wear any animals (no fur or leather), support any forms of entertainment that use animals (like Sea World, the zoo, circuses, movies with apes, horse-racing, etc.), or support any forms of animal testing (for make-up, scientific research, food research, or anything else where vivisection is used. Animals feel pain and suffer just like humans do, and I will not take part in the suffering of an animal). I am not pushing anyone to go vegan, but I am an open book about kind choices, so email me if you have any questions or want more info! For those of you who aren't interested in the lifestyle, please just read on, as my focus is on all sorts of food allergens, not just animal products, and I think even the heaviest meat-eaters could stand some greens in their diet!
The great part about the vegan lifestyle, it cuts out a ton of potential food allergens - things that aggravate our GI systems, wreak havoc on our bodies, blood, colons, etc. When I cut out meat, I did notice a bit of a difference in the way I felt, but it was so long ago that I can't give specifics. When I cut out dairy, my life changed. With EDS, we have tons of digestive problems, gastro-intestinal problems, chronic constipation, IBS, etc. There was a drastic improvement with all of this. I felt like I could eat without feeling sick, more times than not. I was 'lactose intolerant' - and stopping the dairy helped with this, of course! But, being vegan doesn't mean that I was always a healthy eater. Chips, cookies, candy - those can all be animal-free and still horrible for our bodies. I have been focused on healthy eating for quite some time now, and when I decided to make these natural changes in my life recently, it seemed pertinent to reevaluate my dietary habits as well as my medicinal and physical habits. In doing so, I am making even more changes to my diet. (In addition, I have read many articles about meat and dairy aggravating symptoms of fybromyalgia, so I am glad those aren't in my diet and haven't been for some years now.)
As you know, I have done a lot of researching and reading lately, and it has come to my attention that nightshade vegetables are potentially toxic - causing inflammation and even possibly causing arthritis. Solanaceae is also informally known as the nightshade family and includes peppers (bell peppers, paprika, chilies, etc. - black pepper is not in this family), potatoes (not sweet potatoes, but all others), tobacco, tomatoes, eggplants, Jimsonweed, mandrakes, deadly nightshade, and petunias. I have cut these out of my diet completely to see if this helps at all with some of the pain I have. There are a lot of great articles I came across, but I will just list a few below you can check out if interested (in addition to this topic being addressed in the Prescription for Nutritional Healing):
Can the Foods You Eat Make a Difference in Chronic Pain?
Article by Shereen Jegtvig, About.com
"Another possible source of irritation comes from the nightshade family of plants. Whole fruits and vegetables are important to eat for their vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants, however some vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant may actually make pain from inflammation worse. These vegetables are part of the nightshade family of plants and contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine. Solanine can trigger pain in some people. While there isn't any formal research findings that back the claim about nightshade plants, some people believe they get relief from the symptoms of pain and inflammation. (Cont'd.)"
All About Nightshades: Explore the Hidden Hazards of Your Favorite Foods with Macrobiotic Nutritionist Lino Stanchich
"Used in shamanism, witchcraft, and even poisonous murder, nightshades have a history of both mystical danger and scientific caution. Some nightshade plants are ingredients in potent narcotic medicine and sleeping pills. It is reported that nightshades contain high levels of alkaloids which cause the bones to excrete calcium, other minerals, and trace elements from the body. Many enlightened doctors and nutritionists recommend that those suffering from arthritis symptoms eliminate nightshades. In this article, the focus will be on two of the most favorite "vegetables" in America. (Cont'd.)"
Popular Foods Source of Arthritis Pain and Inflammation
by Deborah Cooper
"According to a study conducted in 1993 by Childers, eating nightshade foods results in “a buildup of cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroids…and may cause inflammation, muscle spasms, pain, and stiffness.’ The less cholinesterase the body produces as it ages, the less agile the body will be. Therefore, anything that additionally inhibits cholinersterase will add to joint deterioration and stiffness. Cholinesterase inhibitors such as nightshade foods affect mostly rheumatoid-type arthritis. Additionally, the study also reported a link between osteoarthritis and vitamin D3, which is produced by the nightshade foods. The researchers concluded that “osteoarthritis appears to be a result of long-term consumption of the Solanaceae, which naturally contain the active metabolite vitamin D3, and in excess causes crippling and early disability (as seen in livestock.)” Other research suggests that these nightshade foods all contain a substance called solanine, a bitter poisonous alkaloid that inhibits nerve impulses."
In addition to cutting out nightshades to help with the symptoms of EDS and fybromyalgia, I am cutting gluten out of my diet to help with EDS and bipolar disorder. Celiac's Disease is an allergy to gluten that results in malabsorption of nutrients. People can just have gluten intolerances or actually have Celiac's - and sometimes people who have a negative test result for Celiac's still may actually be positive for Celiac's Disease. I have been tested, and my results are negative for Celiac's; however, I have many of the symptoms of Celiac's or gluten intolerance, and it seems like many of the symptoms of EDS are right in line with them as well:
From Celiac.com - Signs and Symptoms of Malabsorption, Malnutrition, Vitamin and/or Mineral Deficiencies Associated with Celiac Disease:
Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
Borborygmi (stomach rumbling)
Epitasis (nose bleeding)
Failure to thrive
Fatigue or general weakness
Foul-smelling or grayish stools that are often fatty or oily
Hematuria (red urine)
Iron deficiency anemia
No obvious physical symptoms (just fatigue, overall not feeling well)
Pallor (unhealthy pale appearance)
Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
Stunted growth in children
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin K deficiency
Experiencing a lot of these symptoms leads me to believe it would at least be worthwhile to cut gluten out of my diet and see if it makes a difference. Perhaps my vitamin D deficiency and osteopenia levels of bone-loss might not be caused by EDS alone, or by a gluten intolerance, but maybe both? Perhaps cutting out gluten will alleviate some of the gastric problems I still have, or at least alleviate some of the fatigue? I am willing to give it a shot.
In addition, gluten has been linked to mood imbalances with bipolar disorder. I had no idea!
From The Mood Cure by Julia Ross:
"Dozens of studies confirm that depression is a common symptom of gluten intolerance, one that usually disappears when wheat and the similar grains are withdrawn. People with gluten intolerance have low levels of the antidepressant, antianxiety brain chemical serotonin, and gluten has been implicated in mental illness since at least 1979, which is when I first noticed pychiatric journals reporting tremendous improvement in the symptoms of patients with depression and manic-depression in mental hospitals who had experimentally been taken off gluten-containing foods. More recently, anxiety, Tourette's, ADD, epilepsy and other neurological problems have been associated with these grains."
Natural Treatment for Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
by Natasha Turner, ND
"There is much controversy over certain foods and their effects on our mood. Food allergens such as gluten, wheat, dairy products, food additives, alcohol, caffeine and corn may negatively impact our mental state. Gluten and wheat seem to have the biggest connection to the brain and mood."
What You Should Know About Celiac Disease
by G.J. Gregory, BipolarConnect.com
"There does seem to be a quantifiable link between celiac disease and certain mental conditions, primarily autism and schizophrenia, but bipolar disorder is also mentioned. Depending on the study you come away with a “chicken or egg” feeling. Is celiac disease caused by the mental condition, or is the mental condition caused by, or aggravated by, celiac disease? Or is it not a mental condition at all, but other problems caused by the intolerance of the body to the gluten? It is certainly true that celiac disease causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even neurologic problems. Because of the damage to the lining of the small intestine, the body may not able to absorb all it’s nutritional needs. This includes the absorption of certain medications, which for us can be a huge concern."
Per the Celiac Disease Foundation, "gluten is a common name for the offending proteins in specific cereal grains that are harmful to persons with [Celiac Disease]. These proteins are found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro), and related grains, rye, barley, and tritcale and must be eliminated."
Oats are also typically on the no-no list for people with CD, but there are gluten-free oats on the market (available at health food stores and online, or perhaps Whole Foods or stores like it). The controversy seems to stem from the whether or not the oats are problematic, or if it's contamination from other grains.
Gluten is in everything! From the obvious (breads, cereals, baked goods) to the not so obvious (soy sauce, soups, ketchup), it will be a label reading game at the store. Nightshades are in plenty as well! No more Thai and Indian food - or at least the usual. No red sauce. No potato anything. A lot of gluten-free products use potato starch (often listed as 'modified food starch') as a thickening/binding agent, so I won't be able to eat those.
According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing's guide to treating fibromyalgia, they recommend the following: eating a well-balanced diet of 50% raw foods and fresh 'live' juices. The diet should consist mainly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains (primarily millet and brown rice), raw nuts and seeds, soy products - these quality foods supply nutrients that renew energy and build immunity. Also, eating 4-5 small meals a day will keep a steady supply of protein and carbs available for proper muscle function. If the body does not have enough fuel for energy, it will rob the muscles of essential nutrients, causing muscle pain and weakness. Drinking plently of liquids to flush out toxins, specifically drinking water and herbal teas, along with vegetable juices. Don't eat meat, dairy, or any other foods high in saturated fat, they raise cholesterol and interfere with circulation. They also promote inflammatory response and increase pain. Avoid fried foods, processed foods, shellfish, dairy foods, and white flour products (bread, pasta, etc. - no problem there - they have gluten!). NO caffeine, alcohol, sugar. Eating sugar in any form - including fructose and honey - promotes fatigue, increases pain, and disturbs sleep. In addition, recommendations for bipolar disorder also list no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, carbonated bevarages, and no foods with colorings, flavorings, preservatives, and other additives. Eating omega-3 fatty acids (flax!!) helps stabalize mood swings.
So, what does all these mean?
- NO meat.
- NO dairy.
- NO nightshades. (No potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers)
- NO gluten. (Wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, oats)
- NO added sugars (I will only do a TINY amount of agave nectar here and there, but very minimally. And, I will still eat fruit. Nothing else.)
- NO caffeine (Most days. I will probably occassionally have some yerba mate tea.)
- NO alcohol (Haven't had a drop since March 14, 2008.)
- NO artificial anything.
- NO preservatives (I will do my best! So far, so good!)
- NOthing else added.
- NO soy*. (Well, this one is currently limited soy, with a possibility of going soy-free.)
*In addition to all of this, I have found the elimination diet to prove quite well at testing for food allergies. I have always thought I have a soy allergy, and after fasting, then going raw, I didn't eat soy. I tested it out by adding it into my diet on three different occassions. One time I had tofu I grilled up. Another time I had tofu a friend made. A third time I had TVP (textured vegetable protein). All three times I got sick to my stomach, had gas and bloating and felt naseuous for hours afterward, and still felt gross the next day. To me, that says my body doesn't like soy! I haven't had any since, and have been doing much better.
**Of course, you are wondering where I am getting my protein from. Americans, specifically, don't seem to understand that protein can come from grains, and you can get enough to be healthy. I would recommend, if you can eat soy, to add soybeans to your diet as well, but perhaps with as little processing as possible (Edamame or even tofu - rather than soymilk, or fake meats with all of their preservatives and additives -and they normally contain gluten and nightshades. See below! :)
So, what AM I eating?!
- Whole foods in their natural state!
- Mostly, as much as possible, ORGANIC!
- Tons of greens.
- Salads, kale, spinach.
- Lots of veggies. Fresh fruit.
- For cooked??? (See the proteins below - flax, grains, beans, rices! Yes, they all provide protein)
- Brown rice pasta, rices (not Uncle Ben's White Rice!), beans (I cook myself in a pressure cooker), millet or flax breads and pizza crusts, or tortillas (though I am limiting the things that are processed, so mostly just rices and grains). Gluten-free grains like millet & quinoa (a SUPER grain - a complete protein!).
- Almond milk.
- Nut butters.
- Raw nuts and seeds.
- Raisins, goji berries, dates, prunes.
- More green leafy veggies.
- More veggies in general. (Mostly raw)
- Apple cider vinegar.
- Bragg's Amino Acids.
- All the supplements on my list.
- Gluten-free oats.
Actually, I am finding that I crave these foods now, and my sweet tooth is being soothed by some cherries or a peach. I am feeling a bit more energetic (2 weeks in!). And, my digestive tract is LOVING me! Not really any IBS problems (minus the nights I ate soy). And, I am really enjoying these foods. I actually want to eat them - though, it wasn't that way at first! But, they say it gets easier, and I have to say - 'they' are right, as of right now! :) So, I am hoping that these new changes make me healthier in general, and will help alleviate some of the symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Bipolar Disorder, etc. I guess only time will tell!!
Thanks for reading - if you have any questions, please just comment below or email me!
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