The first two parts of this series address sleep. That’s just one piece to the puzzle. This next part will be about diet. Please remember I am not a nutritionist or dietician and you should seek out one if you want specific advice on your diet.
Again, to be done properly you should always consult your physician or dietician before trying this. You may want to consider an elimination diet because it’s possible to have different intolerances to foods that you are unaware of. Food is not supposed to make us so tired that you fall asleep at work, food is not supposed to make us feel bloated, food is not supposed to make us feel irritable, food is supposed to feed your body and give you energy. Elimination diets are designed to see what specifically may be a trigger for your body. Just because you don’t have a food allergy does not mean that you can eat any food and not have any side effects. Taking out major food triggers like dairy and gluten and then other foods so that you can stay “clean” for several weeks to refresh your system and then add in foods to see how your body reacts is a really good way to determine food sensitivities. You may even have sensitivity to certain kinds of herbs or meats or vegetables so this can be beneficial to see what kinds of foods you will respond best with.
When you do elimination diets it’s important not to test too many things at once. If you test 3 possible trigger foods at once there is no way to see what the actual trigger is. So take things slowly and be consistent with the foods that you know you respond best with.
The final piece to this is to make sure you are mindful. Keep a journal, have someone you spend a lot of time with aware of what you’re trying in case they notice something you may not. For example, when I did my elimination diet I tried peanut butter and it made me incredibly irritable and my partner pointed this out after I snapped at him for putting cucumbers on my salad. When I repeated this test a couple of weeks later the same result happened where I felt my irritability and anxiety spike. The response to the trigger may not be what you expect so just be open minded. Things like decrease in energy, drowsiness, skin reactions, stomach pain, nausea, anxiety, joint pain, headaches etc. can all be symptoms to the foods or symptoms of other things going on in your life so also feel free to repeat certain foods and see if the same response happens.
Finally, remember that your trigger foods may not be other people’s trigger foods. This makes cooking in a household very challenging. It’s okay to not eat the same foods even if you are eating together.
Drink water. All day. If you don’t have access to clean water go for other options to try and stay hydrated. Milk is a good source of hydration. If you can’t drink milk try whole foods like fruit, vegetables, and even meat can help keep you stay hydrated. Other beverages like juice or sports drinks can provide hydration and are a better option than caffeinated drinks that may actually further dehydrate you.
The standard rule about urination frequency and color of urination should not be used if you drink caffeinated drinks. Caffeine inhibits the release of ADH, a hormone in the kidneys, which blocks the reabsorption of water and increases the amount of fluid converted to urine. This means your urine will appear clear and you will urinate more frequently. Therefore, if your urine is clear and you urinate frequently, but you have been drinking caffeine you might actually just be peeing out all of your hydration. So be sure to drink water with your caffeine and continue to find sources of hydration throughout the day.
Just because a diet worked for you does not mean it will work for a friend. Just because elimination of one food helped reduce your symptoms does not mean it will reduce your spouse’s. Please don’t assume one protocol will cover everyone. There are lots of overlap with different trends and diet restrictions. There is no one right way.
That documentary that you saw on Netflix does not mean you should go vegan because it worked for someone else. If you watch a documentary where a person struggles with an autoimmunity and decides to go keto and then magically gets better this does not mean you should be on a keto diet. First of all, these diets are hard to do well. Second of all, the information that you watch in a documentary is not always sound. A lot of this information is portrayed in a way to make you want to believe the narrator and scientists in the films. This is why you should still seek the advice of a professional even if you do decide to try one of these diets. The professional can be the one to make sure that you’re making a good decision for your health and that you’re making appropriate decisions that won’t lead you down a path of undernourishment. Veganism and keto diets are not necessarily bad, but they can be if you don’t do them properly, as are most diets.
Feed Your Body Better Than How You Feed Your Dog
When most people buy dog food they make sure it’s all organic, with no preservatives added. They make sure their dog doesn’t eat things that might make it sick. If it is having stomach issues or loose stools you might make it some rice and plain chicken. Our dogs, or at least my family dogs, eat very well. I hear a lot of people emphasize and brag about how their dogs eat all organic dog foods. Which is great, I want my dogs to live as long as possible so I’m glad we make good decisions with their food.
But then why the hell do we make bad decisions for our food? If your dog eats organic food then why do you eat processed? Do you not care how long you live? We don’t feed dogs certain foods because they might get sick or have diarrhea. But, if you have irritable bowel syndrome and you know that certain foods flare it up, why do you continue to eat those foods? Foods that make you tired, give you muscle pain, make you feel bloated, increase your anxiety, make you nauseous, increase your psoriasis, etc. may taste good, but it’s not good for you. This situation should be no different than your dog sitting on the floor and begging for the chocolate that’s on the table. Obviously, or I guess hopefully, pet owners are smart enough to not give their pets chocolate even if they beg for it. So why do you give yourself the pasta or pizza or dairy or tomatoes or fill in the blank that make you feel shitty? This brings in a totally different topic about self-control that I don’t really want to get in to, and I know I struggle with these decisions, but you can limit the amount of exposure to temptation and build a community of people to help you make the best decisions for yourself and your gut and in general your health.
Ask a Professional
Not all nutritionists and registered dieticians are created equal so do research. Different states have different guidelines on who can legally call themselves a nutritionist and that’s important to have. In fact, here’s a link where you can find out more information about that because it’s pretty important to understand what you are getting when you start looking for providers.
Furthermore, the highest amount of education does not always equate the best provider. Some of the most intelligent people I know don’t even have bachelor’s degrees. This is why it’s important to research your provider and be picky when deciding who you want to work with. Just because you went to one appointment with a nutritionist does not mean that you have to stick with that nutritionist or give up with nutritionists all together if you felt like the appointment didn’t go well. There are lot of people out there who study the biochemistry and diseases that you may have so keep looking if at first you can’t find someone you feel is not a good match.
I want this in the same section as ask a professional because it makes sense to also consult a professional about which supplements to take before you spend $100 investing in products that may not even be that good of quality or what you need. First of all, supplements are not well regulated by the FDA, but hopefully that will change in the future. A good professional will have done research on the products and brands before recommending a supplement to you. Second of all, there are tons of vitamins and supplements that you could possibly take and if you just take whatever you might not be targeting the right things, you might be feeding an underlying cause or issue, and you might just pee out all of those really expensive supplements.
If you insist on taking a vitamin then consider starting with a multivitamin. Based off of how farming and the production of food it makes sense that the foods we eat in the 21st century contain less nutrients than they did even as short as 100 years ago. You may not be getting all of the nourishment you need from your foods anymore and this can be a reason why vitamins and supplements are super important.
Ask the Whys
I apologize in advance because I said a while back that you shouldn’t listen to anecdotal evidence and I’m about to give anecdotal evidence. It’s not so much to prove a point, but rather to illustrate one, which is why I feel okay giving it. Before I was first diagnosed with Lyme disease and other infections, the doctors of course ran normal blood panels and identified that my iron was slightly below normal. They told me I was slightly anemic and that could explain some of the fatigue I was feeling and that I should begin to supplement with iron. I was also a female with a short ovulation cycle and it’s not uncommon, especially as a freshman in college, to have less iron in my diet. I would say that with the information the doctor had it was probably sound advice. However, it was actually really bad advice this one time. The doctor didn’t look in to other tests because that’s time consuming and costs money and best guess was that was what was really happening. So I started taking an iron supplement. Four months later and I was diagnosed with Babesiosis, a parasite that infects red blood cells and literally feeds off of the iron in the RBC. That would explain a lot of what was happening with me and would mean that by taking iron supplements I’m potentially providing more food for the infection.
I still have a ton of respect for the physician that gave me this advice. I do not blame the doctor for making that decision. It was a good decision for most people. But, I know this is one of the reasons I’m so drawn to functional medicine. There are other indicators that can point to actual anemia that weren’t present that if the physician would have identified it would have indicated it probably wasn’t simply anemia. However, western medicine doesn’t always teach ask the whys, it teaches be efficient and get the person in and out and 9 times out of 10 it’s probably just anemia (I don’t know if it’s 9 times out of 10 that may just be an exaggeration, but hopefully you get the idea).
If you’re someone with a history of chronic illness and with autoimmunities etc. then it’s a good idea to find a provider who will dive deeper in to what is really happening and find a provider who will ask the whys.
Eating with Kids
I do not have kids. This is not something I have experienced, but I’ve seen it and it’s one of the biggest hurdles I face with personal training and care coordinator clients. It’s really hard to make sound decisions about what you eat when your kid is having chicken nuggets and only eats 2 and there are 4 left and you don’t want to waste it etc. I know that when I was little my mom would sometimes even forgo ordering food at a restaurant or just get a side salad because she would just finish whatever we didn’t eat. That to me just defines heroism. Sacrificing potentially your own well-being to accommodate your children. But, it’s also really frustrating.
Sometimes, you may not be able to make other decisions and you might just eat the leftover pizza that your kid wanted last night. That has to be okay. Sometimes you will make bad dietary decisions, don’t beat yourself up about it, but also don’t just be complacent that from now on you’ll just make bad decisions because you have a family or kids.
Here’s some of the advice I give my people:
Don’t feel obligated to finish their food. Sometimes even the 4 chicken nuggets are worth putting in the fridge to be reheated later.
Try and stick to real foods at meals – meat, vegetables, good carb sources like rice or whole grains. Kids are picky so this might be hard, but in general it’s a decent rule to try and follow.
If you take your kid to the grocery store with you try sticking to the outside of the store. This is a really basic rule you’ve probably hear before, but you can try and stick to it especially when you have the kids with you so that you reduce the temptation and the begging for that sugary box of cereal with very little nutritional value.
Buy foods for you. This may not always be an option, but if you are in a position where you can afford good foods then buy foods that will be good for you and maybe just for you. You buy the cereal for your kid and the box of cookies that your husband likes, it’s okay to buy yourself something that you enjoy that will bring you nutritional value.
I’d like to finish this long winded post with something I’ve been working on personally. Be mindful. Food is meant to provide energy and nutrients for your body. This is what literally keeps you functioning well. Food cravings and the mental hurdle of choosing good food over the really delicious pizza is really, really hard. Especially when those foods are associated with something important. When I picture going to the movies, something I love doing, I can’t picture that experience without popcorn and a coke. When I picture pizza I picture a nice night in with friends or family where we all get to spend time together, watch a movie, play some board games, etc. I try and make good decisions every day. Sometimes I fail. I used to beat myself up about those decisions, but that’s creating a really bad relationship with food. Just be mindful about what will make you feel the best and remember that to enjoy the moments and experiences you should probably be giving your body the best possible resources and fuel sources as well.