5 Months on Dr Fuhrman’s Eat To Live Diet

 It was 6am and I was sitting virtually alone in the ocean, watching pink light dance across glassy wave peaks. A set of chest high waves approached, so I turned, paddled and swept across the face of the wave like lightening on my board. Delighted, I hopped off gingerly, avoiding the coral reef below. The darkness in my life that had come with frustration and anger due to sickness had been swept away by abundant light, health and life. My greatest wish had come true, I had found a way to live again. – April 2014

 The paragraph above is written about a surf trip to PR I took on Easter break, which was truly a celebration of the journey to wellness I have taken over the past 5 months. For the first time in my life, I was able to wake up at 6am and enjoy every minute of each day of vacation. I could surf for hours and only stop when fatigue built up in my shoulders, sit by the pool without passing out and enjoy dinner without wishing I could curl up and fall asleep. In fact one night I skipped dinner to surf for two hours in front of the restaurant! 

 This may all seem mundane, but last year my health had fallen apart so drastically that I wasn’t sure if physical activity, travelling or any form or demanding employment would be possible. The fatigue was constant, the inflammation painful and boy did I feel sorry for myself about it. 

When I started Dr Fuhrman’s Eat To Live diet (modified for no grains or nightshades which can trigger reactions) my goal, other than scraping myself out of CFS hell was to get well and eventually be able to reduce my adherence to the plan to around 80%. What I find interesting is although I am now well (other than seasonal allergies which will eventually get better on ETL) I am still happy to adhere to the plan 100%. If anything I am getting stricter. Whilst 42 days of this diet (6 week plan) once sounded like a death sentence, I now realize that the hard part was living with terrible fatigue and unexplained health conditions for almost my whole life, not eating a few veggies.  

Not only do I now enjoy plates of colorful veggies and fruits, but having enjoyed the health benefits of my modified intake, I am very sensitive to the fact these decrease when I veer off the plan. A candy bar here or there just makes me tired. 

To stay on track in PR, I found fruit/veg stands and a box that I would fill up over and over. Someone commented that they had never seen anyone eat so many mangoes for breakfast before. The mangoes were so good I would have had them 3x a day if I didn’t need to make sure I was getting my greens. A cheap blender in the rental was perfect for a romaine/water/banana smoothie and of course I brought my own nuts. I brought KIND granola bars which are not ETL and made me feel like crap. Real fruits and nuts are way better. The local vegetable was the plantain but I realized pretty fast it had nothing going for it. 

 At home, I’m finally finding I can eat a little less (I literally couldn’t stop – probably due to malnutrition for all those years). Typically doing green/flax smoothie for breakfast, fruit & large salad for lunch (kale!!!! stop and shop still haven’t figured out that they are undercharging for organic – $1/bunch) and then a bean/seed heavy soup for dinner. The soups last me for days and only take minutes to prep, which is awesome as I am no cook. 

The biggest shift I noticed in April was not only more energy, but I’m getting smarter. No joke! I just finished a semester at college with all A’s so far. I used to be incredibly tired every time I sat down, so would have to load up on coffee just to stay awake. Hence classes used to sound like that teacher in Peanuts… wah wah wah etc. I am mentally alert nearly all day and my memory has to be twice what it was before I started the diet. I can even remember where I put my keys! 

I think the best part is that eating this way is now habit. I was recently out of town for another weekend, and it was instinct to pick up fruit and a healthy meal at Walgreens instead of pining wistfully for junk food through restaurant windows. I am officially reformed! 

 

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4 Months… Allergies, Workouts & The Green Smoothie Detox

So everything was AWESOME up until 2 weeks ago when I started getting tired. Now up to 5 days a week at the gym, I thought if I backed off it would help. It didn’t. Then the sneezing started, then the itching. Then terrible, hopeless depression and fatigue.  

Like dietary sensitivities, seasonal allergies are the most common symptom of leaky gut – which unfortunately takes longer than 4 months to heal. I sniffed my way through some local honey, Nettle Extract, green juices, tortured myself with the Neti Pot and finally did the unthinkable and bought my first ever allergy medication from Walgreens. Thanks to a Facebook post, I identified the strongest and most potent pill as breathing was getting rough – which turned out to be Allegra D. I am no fan of taking pills unless they are really needed but I have to say I woke up this morning feeling better than I ever have. Why? Because I am realizing that with 4 dogs in the house and a ton of dust that I need to get tested for dust allergies. My ill feeling predates having dogs and when I clean I sneeze like crazy. 20 million people in the US have dust allergies and as I am sensitive to every substance known to man I have a sneaky feeling I may be in need of allergy shots while my system in continuing to heal. I thought it was just seasonal but I feel better than I did all winter and the pollen hasn’t been around that long.  

 However, the good news is over time on the ETL diet many people with asthma/allergies see them clear up completely – which I am sure in my case will be when my gut stops leaking. 

Here are Dr Fuhrman’s comments on the issue: https://www.drfuhrman.com/disease/Other.aspx

“Allergies and Asthma improve and can even disappear over time

A significant number of medical investigations have uncovered that, just like other diseases, people develop asthma and allergies for reasons. Asthma and allergies have been linked to nutritional factors:

  • Low levels of fresh fruits and flavonoids[iii]
  • Fried foods, protein-rich and fat-rich foods of animal origin[iv]
  • Low blood levels of fruit and vegetable derived antioxidants[v]
  • Dietary fatty acid imbalance—an excess of omega-6 over omega-3 fats[vi]
  • Increased intake of high saturated fat foods (meat, cheese and butter)[vii]
  • Bread and butter consumption, lower vegetable intake [viii] (my old staple!!! – Nat) 

My experience in working with hundreds of patients attempting to resolve asthma and allergies has been rewarding. The asthmatics gradually improve, and the allergic patients slowly reduce the severity of their allergies and many become entirely non-allergic. Many patients who had strong allergies to cats, dust mites and pollen, no longer have these sensitivities. From a combination of dietary advice and a limited amount of nutritional supplements, most people start to improve their condition in a few months. I have even had patients who surprisingly continued to be allergic a year later and then after about 20 months following my recommendations, their allergies faded away. Recoveries are the rule and not the exception.”

 

I also dug up this from: http://fuelyourhealth.net/tag/asthma-2

“Dietary Guidelines for Children with Allergies and Asthma (from Dr. Fuhrman’s Disease-Proof Your Child on page 66)

  • A high-nutrient, vegetable-nut-fruit-based diet
  • One tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily
  • At least one ounce of raw walnuts daily, with the addition of other raw nuts
  • DHA supplement, 100-400 mg daily
  • Multivitamins without vitamin A or isolated beta-carotene (such as Gentle Care Formula)
  • No processed foods, dairy fat, or trans fat
  • Little or no oils; essential fats are supplied from raw nuts and seeds and DHA supplementation
  • Avoidance of known allergens (for example, pollen, house dust, cat hair, chemical irritants, etc.)
  • The reason for increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables is to increase the immune function of the affected individual. The reason for the elimination of animal fats and oil is to lower the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids while increasing the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to the above recommendation, supplementation in vitamin D should be seriously considered given the associated benefits.”

 Having felt so much better from changing my diet, it’s entirely possible with the right allergy treatment I could feel even better. However, I don’t believe in medicating forever which is making me re-evaluate adding beans back to my diet so soon because they make me pretty tired. I believe beans are great, but they mess me up at this time. I also need to watch oils better, based on the info above. 

 So I’m almost a normal person but maybe this Allegra has made me realize what I am missing – how it feels to get up feeling rested with a lot less ADD. Like anyone on a healthy diet, I am disappointed that I had to use pharmaceuticals BUT now I KNOW that allergies are causing my fatigue/depression/add. Not just in my diet, but in the house and environment too! Which is why medication for those things specifically didn’t work. Because now I am on Allegra I am on cloud 9 and feel I should apply for the New York Marathon. 

Therefore I’m going to commit myself to healing with a 10 day organic green smoothie fast ( 2 bananas/spring greens to top of Vitamix from Wegmans) – ironically I’m going to have to do it whilst taking Allegra, but the new energy will help me keep my house and companion canines as clean as possible while I restart the healing process. After all, when one feels terrible, one tends to go buy vegan chocolate which is exactly what I had to do yesterday to stay awake through a photo shoot. 

Feeling grateful & full of purpose! 

Here’s to another 4 months and an allergy free 2015 😀 

3 Months A Nutritarian and 95% Free Of CFS

It seems like a lifetime ago that I started my commitment to follow Eat To Live 100% and I never could have anticipated that just 3 months later, I would live and feel like a normal person.

Last year was beyond a nightmare for me. CFS is generally progressive and can be caused by any number of underlying issues or food sensitivities.

This time last year, I was unable to work and struggling to run my own photography business to make ends meet. I typically would wake up between 9 and 11 feeling like I had been kicked in the head. If I tried to get up earlier and drink coffee to open my eyes, it would trigger PVC arrhythmia that has sometimes sent me to the emergency room. My insurance of course, didn’t cover enough diagnostic testing to see a cardiologist. At night I could NEVER sleep and would toss and turn whilst munching on melatonin.

How I longed to go to the gym or take my bike out. I would shuffle though a few errands and then drift back to Facebook, because at least I could sit down. My muscles were weak and my joints swollen, so a simple walk would frustrate me and cause me pain. I gave everything I had to my photo shoots, and tried to keep up a social life but by the evening I felt so tired I had nothing to say to my friends. I didn’t want to call people and be negative so I stopped calling them at all. Some days I would get bursts of energy, spend it all and then pay it back for days later. I clung to every sporadic surf session, walk and gym visit with a mixture of hope and despair. My friends offered me jobs and I would constantly be calling out because I was in bed all day, weak, feverish and sometimes with extreme nausea. I lived to sleep but it never satisfied me.

I had read every book on nutrition and thought I was doing my best. Gluten free muffins, Kashi cereal for breakfast, brown rice pasta for dinner and even salads at lunch time. To me, there wasn’t much more I could be doing. Maybe I needed more Abx for Lyme disease or an underlying infection. I ran a gamut of blood tests with my PCP which showed immune markers. Even though my insurance didn’t cover any further visits I decided not to pursue any single diagnosis because at this point there were numerous problems with my blood work and health that indicated something was wrong on the holistic level, rather than an individual disease.

What I didn’t realize was that the pain I felt often after eating was my body telling me my digestive system was seriously out of balance, which was destroying my immune system. The sugar I used to feel alert was feeding a massive overgrowth of the wrong kind of bacteria. 3 months on Abx for Lyme had destroyed my immune and digestive system including filling my body with dead cells that needed to be cleared out. A toxic diet when I was younger had left permanent damage. Using an elimination diet, Eat to Live’s guidelines for the foods I CAN eat and a few juice fasts when I felt toxic, I have a life again.

At first I resisted posting too much because I was so afraid I would wake up and feel awful again. I religiously stuck to my grain free, nightshade free version of the plan and took things one day at a time. I forced down green smoothies. I took my Vitamix on a ski trip. I ate 5 papayas a day in Hawaii. I made mistakes and reacted violently to eggs and dairy in processed foods. But I kept picking myself up.

Today it is 3 months since I started my journey. I truly credit my success to finding like minded people on Facebook and checking in every day to stay motivated and keep a clear idea of what my health goals are.

I naturally wake up between 7 and 8 now and have no trouble falling asleep… usually at 10 or 11. I start my day with affirmations and a gratitude list, because despite the cold weather I enjoy being awake for the first time in years. I have 3 jobs now and am back in graduate school which was a huge gamble because I applied when I was just starting my new diet. I am able to keep up with everything and take my dogs running on the beach. The swelling in my knees took the longest to heal but has made the biggest difference in my life as I can be as active as I like. I am back at the gym regularly and look forward to biking daily when the weather breaks. I waste time on Facebook still but it’s optional, I can see my friends just fine.

Changing the way I eat and treat my body has changed my whole world. Now nothing is impossible to me. I want to run 5ks, surf around the world and take long hikes with my dogs and there is no longer anything holding me back as long as I stick with my dietary program and make sure I get a fair amount of rest. I’ve learned to say no and to treat myself right.

I just went to see a new PCP and my blood work came back perfect. Best part – NO AUTOIMMUNE MARKERS! My new doc is a Functional Medicine doctor and has many patients who have changed their life though diet. Apparently gluten, dairy and food additives found in processed foods can mimic any number of diseases and cause massive inflammation. Anemia I had when I was eating meat is now gone – B12 and D3 are good bc I supplement often with Emercen-C drink.

My typical diet is super simple: unlimited fresh fruit/green smoothies for breakfast. I figured out how to make almond flour crepes but the strangest thing is when I eat dry foods such as baked goods and pasta, I find them too ‘dry’ and get uncomfortable with a  stomach ache. I am so used to fruits and vegetables!

Lunch: unlimited Salad, Steamed Vegetables, Fruit, nuts, seeds, beans

Dinner: Sometimes skipped to allow fasting, steamed veggies/smoothie or veggie soup.

Can’t say I feel deprived at all as being in bed every day when I should have been at the beach is deprivation. Eating foods that my body likes is just the right thing to do, regardless of what everyone around me thinks and eats! My new challenge is learning to let things go and let people be right when they challenge plant based diets – but given how much Eat To Live helped me it’s hard not to get passionate! At just 3 months in, I am so excited to see how I feel in the future!

The Superfood Binges

Other than our Florida cousins, most of us end up paying double digits for any fruit of the ‘superfood’ variety. I agree with Dr Fuhrman that most of the hype is nothing more than crafty marketing but there’s no question of the benefit of whole fruits. Some in particular such as the Noni have been used for healing in Polynesian tribes for hundreds of years.

On my annual trip to Kauai (I’m thrifty and get good deals) I’ve been loving finding Noni’s (cheap but disgusting), Sour Sop juice (with mint… to die for) and the Mangosteen at roadside stalls. Stores seem to have the standard fare but if anyone is eating right and traveling be sure to look at local produce markets!

I will add pictures when I am home but my favorites have been the Mangosteen (gross shell, incredible center), fresh passion fruit, rambutans (lychees with a fro) and my favorite, the EGGFRUIT. This mango shaped delicacy is grown in Florida too but has a unique dry texture like an egg. And it TASTES LIKE CAKE!

I found a local lady who will send Noni juice from her farm to the mainland for $75 (two giant mason jars which is gross enough to last a long time) – if anyone wants her info let me know.

Other than my distaste of the cold, this trip has compounded my theory that humans are best suited to the tropics. Where else do cakes grow on trees!

Yeast When You Think You’ve Figured It All Out

Apparently, every time I start feeling better I buy into all the people around me who believe health comes and goes and that elimination diets simply mask spontaneous remission. Well, I have to remind myself… I’m not better… I just have allergies.

So I’ve kept up with my elimination diet, something that would make anyone proud.

But I decided to do to the health food store (as I have written before, it is the most dangerous place on earth because processed foods look healthy there) and picked up Nutritional Yeast and Packaged Salad Dressing.

I started feeling crappy yesterday after a few sprinkles of the flakes of death and didn’t put it together but went to a healthy vegan place today for lunch and I picked a salad that has everything I usually eat, with dressing, seeds and lots of nutritional yeast.

Before I realized what was happening, this afternoon I became itchy, depressed, lethargic and pouring nutritional yeast all over snacks at home. Food cravings for unhealthy foods off the charts… and cravings for N.Y. off the charts.

Then I realized, this is how bread makes me act/feel. Right now I don’t care about anything other than going into the kitchen and eating the whole container of nutritional yeast. Definitely the allergy/addiction syndrome. Before I quit bread I would do horrible things like eating 5 baskets of it in the restaurant, finishing large pizzas alone and of course sitting in the parking lot at Wegmans eating loaves of fresh baked garlic bread. If the world was ending, I would do it again in a heart beat. But having suffered with a lifetime of fatigue and depression that has been unresponsive to medication and goes away on a strict diet or juice fast I am pretty sure where I stand with myself and the white stuff.

Depression/fatigue is so funny, even though I have felt amazing all week when it comes it makes you feel like the world is ending and you will never ever get better so should just go on a food binge. I need to remember that this too, shall pass.

Super stoked to have a decent health insurance plan through the new system so I can go get tested soon and find out exactly what is good and what is a trigger in case there are foods I am missing… as there unfortunately seem to be many. Yeast unfortunately is going to go on the list & the rest of the container… into the dog’s food. It’s good for them, just apparently not for me.

no marmite

 

A little research pulled up this list of products that contain significant yeasts, most of which I have already indicated as triggers. I have been known to eat Marmite from the jar and used to eat cheese by the pound.

  • Anything fermented (vinegar, alcohol, bean paste, soy sauce, etc.)
  • Any baked good with baker’s yeast (pizza dough, bread, etc., including most sourdough breads)
  • B Vitamins, unless stated that they are not from yeast
  • Barley malt
  • Beer
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Buttermilk
  • Canned or bottled juices
  • Cheese (all kinds)
  • Cider
  • Citric Acid (this used to be made from citus juice, but is now made from fermented corn)
  • Dried fruits such as apricots, figs, or raisins
  • Flavor enhancer (usually MSG, though it may also be yeast extract)
  • Ginger Ale
  • Grapes
  • Jams/ Jellies
  • Lactic acid (generally made from fermented corn or potatoes)
  • Liquor
  • Malt
  • MSG (produced from fermentation of starch or sugar)
  • Mushrooms
  • Raisins
  • Aged meats (sausage, bacon, etc.)
  • Black tea
  • Grapes
  • Malted barley flour
  • Olives
  • Peanuts and peanut products
  • Preserved or pickled foods
  • Root beer
  • Soy sauce, miso, tamari
  • Strawberries
  • Tempeh
  • Vinegar (and foods containing vinegar, such as olives, mustard, ketchup, etc.)
  • Wine
  • Yeast extract  (autolyzed, hydrolyzed)
  • Yeast spreads such as Vegemite or Marmite, etc.

 

 

Healthy New Year!

Started my Eat To Live New Year going strong with a large salad from Fins and a berry smoothie. Happy to say, the way I am feeling lately I could have cared less for champagne and a rich meal. 

When I started my 100% vegetable/fruit diet just over a month ago my goal was to be able to function during a week away in the tropics that I booked to motivate myself! Happy to feel less scared about the thought of the trip, or starting school when I get back because I am feeling so much better. I leave in a week and am feeling stoked!

So as I’m already on a pretty healthy diet – for New Years I’m only making a few changes. 

1) A Salad EVERY DAY! 

2) A Green Juice, EVERY DAY! 

3) A Green Smoothie, EVERY DAY! 

4) Clean the juicer, EVERY TIME! 😉 

I also don’t allow myself ‘cheats’ because as a yoyo ETL’er for 5 years – I quickly learnt that moderation can lead to boxes of chocolates and also that my health got worse, instead of better when I wasn’t getting out of the way and just letting my body heal. 

I had to cut out legumes, tried adding peas back and quickly puffed up. On great probiotics but I may have to wait a few months before I can diversify – or maybe I can’t! 

I haven’t had the luxury of running blood work (which didn’t show any major problems in the first place other than immune disorders and EBV/Lyme) but so far – one month later – my energy is up about 60-80%, depression/mind fog is gone (after a lifetime – must have been grains) and I even managed 2 days skiing/snowboarding (Vitamix came for the trip). 

The Holidays, Without Comfort Food

It’s nearly a month since I started my journey towards better health, but to be honest the detox/herx was so terrible the first two weeks I was barely up to snapping at people and feeling sorry for myself, let alone writing about it. 

I have felt terrible for years and at the risk of being controversial, had some pretty bad luck trusting my problems to western medicine. (which is fantastic for emergencies – not so much for mysterious fatigue related conditions, Lyme disease, Connective Tissue Disease, Joint Pain, Epstein Barr and just about everything else I have been Dx with). An elimination diet lead to the elimination of all the foods I love – who knew potatoes could trigger fibromyalgia and swollen joints. I hoped Gluten/sugar free would be enough but I only started getting better when I went to absolute basics. Which indicated major gut damage or ‘leaky gut’ syndrome. 

My will to live and recover is motivated by living 4 blocks from the beach yet not having the energy to surf nor go for runs with my dogs. I’m also starting school in January and can’t afford to be tired any more. 

By removing certain foods from my diet and keeping a food diary I have some days where I am up to 80% better than I have ever been, almost a real person with genuine energy that hasn’t been scraped out of a can of Red Bull. So it’s a worthy mission and one suggested by the GI doctor I saw when the tragic wheat = bloating/depressing/mind fog realization occurred. I haven’t got it perfectly figured out but I’m out of bed for the first time in months and I’m even starting to think about going to the gym again. It’s working, as unorthodox as it might seem. 

So 2 weeks of a nightshade free vegetable/fruit diet (basically Doug Graham’s 80/10/10 with some cooked soups from Dr Fuhrman’s Eat To Live), followed by a juice fast (the hunger took me down on day 5), and another week of mostly raw fruit and vegetables was going pretty well until I hit a minefield. The holidays. 

Christmas used to be one of my favorite eating days of the year. Free candy and cookies are everywhere you go and before I fell in love with animal rights, I would have sold my soul for more gravy. This year, I know I am allergic to grains, legumes and beans which make me tired, dairy makes me congested and cramped and sugar sends me back to square one. I don’t eat meat but that causes problems too. I actually got hives from sliders once. I knew all of the above at Thanskgiving but decided a little of the above wouldn’t hurt and oh how it did. 

Having the best intentions in sticking with my fruit & vegetable regimen unfortunately doesn’t override my lack of desire to hurt people’s feelings. Like the waitress who brought over a taro root pudding for the holidays, which I ate because I didn’t want to be rude because she has tolerated serving me plates of steamed vegetables for 3 weeks and now have had a stomach ache for two days. 

 As years of trying to eat unhealthy foods in moderation failed to turn my health around, I have learned to accept I need to do this to heal. It’s just the fact that nearly every social gathering involves really good food and alcohol. There is a real feeling of isolation when you can’t drink, can’t eat the same unhealthy grain based foods as all of your friends and stick out like Martha Stewart at a strip club when everyone is enjoying fries and you have a fruit cup.

People assume I am a health freak when in reality I am a food addict who didn’t eat a non fried vegetable for nearly 15 years. May be why I got sick but I did enjoy every single slice of pizza. I just want to live and I need to figure out how to do it and feel comfortable at the same time. 

So, although this is my first year spending the holidays with my boyfriend’s family – I’m bringing a side of plain vegetables and am looking forward to great company and a good time. I’ve warned ahead that I’m going to be one of those weirdos that can’t eat the great food offered. Although I may have to pass on a lot of things that look good, it also may be the first year without painful stomach cramps and blinding fatigue at a social gathering. Hopefully next year will be my first of feeling better, too.