Well, I’ve been kind of ill (again) and not doing a whole lot except trying to stay well enough to get on with the basics of life, which is why I haven’t been posting much. Anyway, I thought I might as well give you an update on where I’m at.
So I’ve been having all these minor health issues over the last few years – from mental health issues to joint pains to digestive problems, and recently fatigue and daily headaches. It’s been so hard not knowing what was going on, especially as blood tests usually show me to be pretty healthy (if you don’t look too closely at my cholesterol levels – thanks for those genes, Mum!). And I certainly don’t look ill. As you know if you read this blog, I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing over whether these various issues were related to stress, autism, menopause, a combination of these, or something else.
Recently I’ve been wondering if I might have an underlying auto-immune condition. This is just speculation at the moment, and I could be quite wrong as I have a tendency to convince myself I have all kinds of nasty illnesses (when possibly the only thing I really have is health anxiety!). But I’ve been feeling so wiped out that I decided to try a dietary intervention to see if it helped.
(Don’t worry, I have been talking to my GP about these issues and she was OK with me making dietary changes while we investigate if there’s an underlying medical problem).
Nutrition being an interest of mine, I’ve read quite a few books about what is supposed to be good or bad for our health. Based on these, my first plan was to try eliminating bread/wheat and dairy, avoid processed foods and excess sugar, and reduce intake of starchy foods (nowadays just known as ‘carbs’ – which is stupid, incidentally, because most healthy plant foods are predominantly carbohydrates).
Three weeks in and: (a) it hasn’t exactly worked, but (b) it’s been interesting. It’s led me to try changes to my diet not based so much on conventional wisdom but on what I, personally, am reacting badly to. I’ve learnt that with diet, everyone is different, and we need to have an individual approach.
Here’s what happened:
Ten days of fieldwork in Far North Queensland complicated matters a bit, as the food was provided. Breakfast was tricky, with all the options involving toast and eggs. I tried eggs minus the toast, but didn’t get on with it. They offered me gluten-free toast, on the basis that “it can’t do any harm”.
Oh yes, it can.
That was when I learned my problem is not with the gluten in bread but most likely with additives. Some gluten-free breads contain all kinds of processed nasties like modified starches, canola or palm oil, vegetable gums and preservatives.
A particular nasty to watch out for in bread (in general, not just gluten-free bread) is preservative (282) also know as calcium propionate. Apparently, this chemical has been implicated in developmental delay, headaches, inattention, learning problems, sleep disturbances and more. Definitely one to avoid.
So I ended up having a special order of porridge and bananas for breakfast, which went down OK. For lunch I had meat and salad in a box instead of in a sandwich. I found I could handle this in small quantities, but too much salad disagreed with me. (Huh? Isn’t salad supposed to be healthy?). Dinners were typically meat and veg and went down well, except for one night when we had curry with a yogurt-based sauce. (Wait, yogurt is healthy too, right?)
Back in the office I was stuck for lunch ideas, my usual cheese-and-pickle-sandwich being off the table, so I went with salad again. And sprinkled some sunflower seeds and pepitas over it all for extra goodness. Bad mistake.
Then came the field trip to Collinsville when I was so very careful just to take safe fruits and nuts and salami sticks. Which were fine, but then I bought a coffee to keep me awake for the drive home. Oh boy, another mistake.
So today I’ve re-written my diet plan, to that shown below. Basically, processed foods are still out until I work out exactly which additives I’m reacting to. Seeds and whole grains are out – I don’t know if it’s the fibre or lectins or what, but I just can’t handle them. Salads and raw vegetables need to be limited likewise. And the jury’s still out on dairy and eggs, so I’m being careful there too.
The moral of this tale being, healthy food for one person may be toxic for another. And it’s not always gluten.