Food Allergies and Discipline
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After years of random health issues, it was incredibly helpful to finally discover which foods give me problems. But it's another thing altogether to have the discipline to stay away from those problem foods. I used to have amazing discipline when it came to following a pristine diet. Before meeting up with family or friends at a restaurant, I would load up on a healthy meal at home and then order a salad with no dressing, along with a glass of water. When dessert was ordered by those accompanying me, I had no desire to take a fork to the chocolate cake for a sample taste. I used to have horrible indigestion and heartburn if I went off my strict diet, so it was easy enough to say no to rich foods to avoid that discomfort. More recently, when we lived in South Africa, I had a painful case of eczema on my right hand and even if I’d wanted to indulge, there was always that pesky reminder that the foods I eat can either have healing or damaging effects on my body.
Processed foods were easier to resist in South Africa because they were often filled with ingredients I'll never knowingly eat, like MSG, hydrogenated oils and conventional sugar. But in the U.S., in contrast to South Africa, I have so many temptations of sugar-filled foods that disguise themselves in healthy food labels like “organic,” and “gluten-free.” Just because a food item has organic cane sugar instead of conventional white sugar, does not mean that it’s automatically healthy. Sugar is sugar, whether it comes in a crystalized form inside a plastic resealable bag, a “no added sugar” container of applesauce, or even a fresh squeezed cup of “green detox juice.” This is especially the case for someone like me who is prone to low blood sugar.
From trial and error, I’ve found that my body thrives on the Autoimmune Protocol diet, which allows for high fat meats, including organ meats from grass fed, free grazing animals, with a high content of vegetables, as long as they aren’t nightshades, and limited fruit consumption. I've been vegetarian and vegan at certain phases in my life, in search of a diet that would make me feel healthy. Ultimately, for my genetic makeup, the AIP wins. But I wouldn't post a blanket recommendation that its best for everyone, nor do I know that it'll always be the diet that I follow. Diet fads don't work because everyone has their own unique dietary needs, based on genetics and experience. And those needs evolve and grow with age. It's up to each one of us to figure out which fuel sources allow us to flourish. The GAPS diet can help heal leaky gut and other digestive problems. And the Low FODMAP diet can be a great tool for IBS recovery. For more on the topic, I’d suggest this Wise Traditions interview with Nutrition Consultant Monica Corrado titled The “heal your leaky gut” Diet.
My consequences for eating beyond the limitations of the AIP diet are not terrible, depending on how far outside the bounds I step, as well as how often. Some examples of my daily temptations throughout 2017 & 2018 have included lattes, gluten free bread, gluten free cookies, dark chocolate and ice cream. And when I got around mac & cheese or chocolate cake at parties, it was almost impossible to say no - even knowing they had gluten in them. While that list may seem innocent enough, I’ve learned to read my body and know that when I go off the AIP diet at all, it just means that to some degree I’m up in weight; my skin isn’t as smooth and soft; my blood sugar levels are more prone to fluctuation; and my shoulders and lower back muscles feel more tense and achy; among other subtle signs. My energy levels, mental clarity, hormonal levels and athletic performance suffer as well.
I've improved my health significantly since 2013, when I first discovered my food allergies. And I believe it’s quite possible that I could be totally cured from these allergies and health complaints one day. But it will take a lot of discipline to stick to my diet, while also implementing detoxification methods and other beneficial lifestyle choices. In the meantime, it's vitally important that I offer myself grace every day, whether I follow my diet to the "T" or whether I fall into a cycle of indulging. I once heard a nutritionist say that when you do indulge, enjoy it in the moment, and then let it go. It's also important to remember that food cravings can be tied to the presence of unhealthy gut bacteria, and the more you say "no" to those cravings, the healthier your gut flora becomes, and the easier it is to continue to resist sugary foods. Healthy living in western culture today is REALLY difficult, because Corporate America is working so hard to push unhealthy foods and drug dependence as much as possible, for the sake of the "almighty dollar" and the power of convenience. It's up to us on an individual and grassroots level to take our health into our own hands.
Thankfully, at the end of 2018, my cravings have all but disappeared and my self-discipline is back. I credit this to really focusing on improving my gut health and asking myself if those tempting foods will feed the good or the bad bacteria in my microbiome. I also followed some helpful tips in Wise Traditions Podcast Episodes 138 - 139: What Drives Our Cravings? After listening to this part 1 and 2 podcast episode, I took certain amino acid supplements based on my craving types and increased my protein consumption. It has helped tremendously with the chocolate and carb cravings. I’m back in full swing with the Autoimmune Protocol. And while I’d be willing to allow myself the occasional indulgance, interestingly I’ve found that the less I eat sugar, the less I actually want it or enjoy it when I do indulge. But my one weakness is still a piping hot and creamy latte. Thankfully Wiehan shares his with me, which means that I’m usually not tempted to make or purchase a full cup!
Tell us! Do you have any food allergies / intolerances? And which foods are the most difficult to resist?