The Road to Recovery (or "Something is working!")

Hieeeeee. I've been waiting to post an update. I wanted to live with some dietary changes and lifestyle habits before writing.

Shocking revelation: I've come to find, that unfortunately, there may not be one diet that suits me.

When i started the more recent part of this journey, the last 2-3 years or so, my goal was to have a very specific list of foods i could and could not eat. Dream scenario: I would just stick to that and my skin would clear up, my energy would return and i wouldn't look pregnant after eating. Well folks, I'm sorry to say that may not be in the cards for me. 

It's become obvious to me through all of these dietary changes, treatments and experiments that one diet for the rest of my life isn't realistic. Not only am I in a different phase of healing than i was 2 years ago but so many factors affect my digestion, energy and general sense of well-being.

 

Um, so what's the good news? Why should I even listen to you?

The good news is that I AM feeling better.

When i'm tired on the road (Dustbowl travels 200 days a year now(!)) i feel like a normal tired person. I don't feel exhausted or like "how could i possibly get up there and perform this show right now/get out of bed" (which is what a lot of the past 2 years felt like.)
I don’t feel tired all the time. it’s not a perfect result. If i have some FODMAPS, or too much alcohol or something else that inflames my system, i feel like going to sleep. (I often will sleep if I can and that’s what my body is asking for.) But overall I’m feeling more "tired like the average person on a tour that doesn’t get regular sleep".
I also don't feel cripplingly depressed anymore which is a huge relief.

My skin has improved dramatically. The only treatment that seemed to budge that symptom was doing chelation. While it was expensive (and I'm still paying for that year of medical bills, thanks insurance!), I believe it was very necessary for me to rid my body of those toxins. My skin is proof of that.

Digestion wise, my diet is still very limited. But, if i stick to food in my life being practically perfect (in terms of what makes me feel best and not "what I'd like to be eating") then I can get away with this crazy tour lifestyle of never sleeping at the same bedtime and experiencing light to moderate stress on a consistent basis. I have energy and I am more patient, pleasant and physically comfortable.

HSP/Empath

The last 3 years or so have definitely been more about food for me. A lot of self-searching, a lot of self-love practice (still a lot of work to do there) and self-acceptance practice has been instrumental for my physical progress. The more I do this internal work, the less likely I am to self sabotage by going "off diet" as a way to distract my heart and mind from what it's feeling.

A friend of mine suggested in the past month that I should read "The Highly Sensitive Person" a (self help) book about people who are easily overwhelmed by the world around them (stimuli) and their internal, emotional lives. I've been told my whole life "you're so sensitive" which, i often took as a criticism. That I should not be hurt or affected so deeply by everything. I always have been. I cried and almost threw up and had to run out of the movie theatre during the end of Edward Scissorhands (spoiler alert) when the town is chasing him. Similarly, I leapt out of bed to go bawl in the bathroom just this year when Brahm and i rented Chappie and (spoiler alert) the kids were throwing rocks, teasing and kicking him. And it obviously doesn't end with movies...

I've seen HSP lately all over the place, others confirming I'm not alone in essentially being shamed for operating from a place of feeling and intuition. It's real, I pick up on nuances that are definitely there and that not everyone picks up on in relationships, in conversation, in the temperature of a group. It's also called being an Empath which i think is seen as a little more woo woo. I'm beginning to let go of the self judgement that's been impressed upon me; it's gonna take some time.

I used to think this was a weakness. I realize now:

THIS IS MY (not so secret) SUPERPOWER.

Though annoying/eye rolling/tease-inducing to some, I think reading this book was one way for me to accept that yes, I am sensitive, but it's not something i need to hide or tuck away or PROVE myself out of. Being sensitive means that I have an explanation for the chronic empathy (or lastima as Katya would say) that i experience on a daily basis. I can revel in the emotions i feel while singing and then give that gift to our audience (or to myself if i so choose). It makes me a more intuitive friend and wife. 

I am still struggling with the New England work ethic i have, where i wrap up all my self worth in the job i'm doing and then harshly criticize myself for not being better. This whole life I've spent working to prove that i deserve a place on this planet. I wonder what it's like to feel like you're meant to be alive and not that you have to earn your keep.

It extends to physicality as well. If I weren't so sensitive (HSPs are statistically more likely to have digestive/autoimmune issues) who knows if I would have made all these changes to my life and ended up in a healthier, happier place? I've been eating "so clean" for so long that I can really feel the difference if I introduce a food that doesn't agree with me now, or if i over do it with booze (which takes much less, than It used to). It helps keep me on track because I don't want to feel like crap, i'm better at avoiding foods because it's usually not worth it for the "cheat" experience. 

 

 

Things I'm doing now to continue healing

You can follow what those meals look like on tour with my instagram hashtag  #howdoyoueatontheroad  and food I eat in general with my instagram hashtag  #feelsgoodblog    
You can follow what those meals look like on tour with my instagram hashtag #howdoyoueatontheroad and food I eat in general with my instagram hashtag #feelsgoodblog
 

DIET

I was focusing on SCD + Low FODMAP for a couple months and still experienced bloating. I started looking into the Fast Tract Diet (which does a Weight Watchers style points attribution to foods based on their "fermentation potential") to see if that would help. I believe it did to a point. However, for cases like mine that are a little more difficult to pinpoint and mitigate, Dr. Norm Robillard (author of The Fast Tract Diet) suggests limiting carbohydrates to 20g> day. His app doesn't account for that so I switched back to using My Fitness Pal where you can control macros you're tracking very specifically. I knew if I was going to limit carbs by that much, I'd need to up my fat intake. Essentially putting me in the ketogenic diet basic framework. Once I became vigilant at carb counting. I noticed that if could stay on track i was sated, my bloating reduced substantially and that overall, the diet generally agreed with my system (for now).

This means i'm aiming for percentages of 5% (specifically 20g> of carbs a day), 80% Fat and 15% Protein. I am not currently testing to make sure I stay "in ketosis" but I am concerned with the carbohydrate number as carbohydrate malabsorption and gut fermentation seems to be the more prominent reasons I keep bloating and feeling zapped of energy.

The foods I'm eating are very similar to what you've seen me list before, i'm just tracking how much I'm having now. Eggs, Pasture raised animal fat (no, i'm not worried about cholesterol ), Greens (wilted at home, usually a salad on the road), Pasture raised/organic meats (the fatty-est ones if available) and limited dairy (hard cheeses, experimenting with heavy cream in coffee etc.) I am allowing alcohol (red wine and tequila/soda mostly). I am very aware of the irritating and inflammatory effects and try my best to be picky of quality and not overdo it.

It's working for now; so I'll do it until I don't, just like everything else.

 

SUPPLEMENTS

Under the supervision of Dr. Ruscio, my functional medicine doctor in SF,  I'm on supplement rather than pharmaceutical treatment for Crohn's Disease: Curcumin from Turmeric for anti-inflammation, Vitamin A, Digestive Enzymes, Betaine HCL, three types of probiotics as well as self-prescribed/leftover from past doctors: Concen-Trace Minerals, and chlorella (to continue chelating until my skin is blemish free).

This is working out well for me. We talked about FMT as a last resort if the heavy probiotic therapy doesn't rebuild my gut microbials enough but we're not there yet.

SCOBY facial! also note how clear my cheeks are yahoo!

SCOBY facial! also note how clear my cheeks are yahoo!

SKINCARE

I use FATCO religiously at home and on the road. Their oil cleansing method of feeding my skin from the outside while I'm working on changing the inside with diet has made my (non broken out) skin look so healthy! I am so hooked on using organic, conscientious skincare as I think that part of my problem in the first place was just chemically treating symptoms my whole young adult life. Their face cream is so damn soothing, I recommend all of their products (at least to try) to everyone.
I've also been doing SCOBY facials at home as well as organic peels, exfoliation and hydrating masks to keep the skin looking and feeling healthy and to prevent any breakouts from traveling/stress/not sleeping/dehydration. They look weird but the acid from the SCOBY really does a number on eating away dead skin cells and keeping my complexion bright. I do one RIGHT when i get home from tour and right before i leave again. As soon as I take it off I use these tools if i need any blackhead extraction while everything is moisturized and right at the surface, then i tone with FATCO toner + rose water

 

SLEEP/MEDITATION

It's very difficult for me to get proper "what is recommended for a normal adult" sleep on the road. We never go to bed at the same time and rarely get 8 hours consistently (listen to this podcast to learn more, see also page 17 of the transcript for shocking info on bed time/sleep amount if you're not going to listen to the podcast.)

What i do to "do my best" is go to bed ASAP after a gig, I wear amber glasses to cut blue light as soon as i'm in the hotel room (and i use night shift on my phone). I wear a sleep mask and earplugs while sleeping and I do a guided meditation every night. I sleep as long as long as my body allows and when we are off the road i try to go to bed around 10p as frequently as possible to recoup any sleep deficit. 

 

EXERCISE

Let's be honest, i'm not really exercising. I try to walk as much as possible at home and on the road. I have grand plans to do yoga but usually spend off tour times trying to get rested and chill for a minute before we go back out. Yoga though, not cross fit or spinning like the old days, is what I think would benefit my nervous system right now. I just need to motivate...

 

Revelations

I think I had to acknowledge I was ill to realize that I'm happier knowing I'm not perfect and don't need to be and stick to a lifestyle that makes me feel well.

Accepting that my body has trouble digesting and that I'm sensitive is part of my solution. There is no one diet for me, there is just what I'm tolerating right now. Of course, It's hard for a type A person like me not to have a "fix". To not be able to get to "normal". (What does that even mean? Be able to eat crap food and feel fine? To have a flat stomach 100% of the time? To have perfect skin?) Maybe I was presented with physical circumstances as a method of accepting myself, as a way of learning to let go of shit that doesn't matter and be a more patient, loving and positive person. I certainly think it's a good lesson to learn before I bring any children into this world. It helps me strive to be a better partner, friend, co-worker, self.

2015 was the year of "give no fucks", during which I gave entirely too many fucks about so much bullshit. I think 2016 is the year of letting go (dare i say, actually giving no fucks?). I've made a lot of progress in setting boundaries for myself (both work wise and also personally). I'm listening to myself and adjusting the plan of action as needed. I'm trying to be present in every moment and take everything i can from those experiences (whether pleasant or not). I'm sure I'll have to switch up what I'm doing again soon. It seems that going with the flow is the point.

OMG, IBD? (and my experience with the Elemental Diet)

I wrote in February how I'd done 9 rounds of Chelation, for Mercury and Lead toxicity. I've since stopped getting IV treatments and (at the suggestion of my budget conscious Doctor) am currently taking supplements to continue chelating in a less expensive, yet effective way. 

The plan was to go back on the diet that had made me feel best in the past. My experience had shown that would be the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol, combined with a Low FODMAP diet. However, this time around I remained symptomatic. I was still bloated after 2 weeks on that diet (strange, for me). I was also still very tired most of the time, something that usually improves on this diet. The one improvement I DID (very happily) notice that improved after chelation was my skin! My acne has really diminished from 8 breakouts a month to maybe 1 or two spots.

I had spoken to Dr. Ruscio and Dr. Lalezar about the diet not bringing about similar results as it had in the past. Dr. Lalezar suggested we re-test for SIBO as there is a chance that it had come back. She also tested me for leaky gut, (an Array 2 for you test savvy readers) to get a sense of how permeable my gut is right now. Dr. Ruscio suggested, prior to me going back on AIP + Low FODMAP, that one option would be going on the elemental diet (an easily absorbable liquid diet) for a time to see if giving my guts a rest on breaking food down would improve my tolerance.

The other option would be to treat me for non-clinical IBD. This is a potential diagnosis for me. That I have an IBD (likely Crohn's due to my presentation of ulcers) but it doesn't present normally. This could be why the Gastrointestinal MD (Dr. Shaye) was hesitant to diagnose me with Crohn's after seeing my blood panel but thought it was likely that I had Crohn's after seeing my colonoscopy. Treatment for that would include a natural protocol of anti-inflammatory supplements/tinctures and making sure that I'm on the right diet for an IBD. (Dr. Ruscio is a "food first" doctor" he believes that for any of the natural/holistic methods of healing to work, you have to dial in food right for YOU first, then treat. I, clearly, am also very much on this train.)

 

My (Semi) Elemental Diet Experience

Of my own volition (because I hate waiting for doctor's for results and am trying to minimize costs) I decided to first try the elemental diet. I am familiar with three options for this diet: Vivonex Plus, Absorb Plus (which is a semi-elemental diet) and Homemade. The difference between elemental and semi elemental is protein and fat content and the size of the molecules you are absorbing for nutrients. Unsurprisingly, the larger the molecules get the more flavor improves. (I did Absorb Plus because apparently Vivonex tastes like the glue on a postage stamp (is made by Nestle, not the greatest track record for providing us with whole foods) and the homemade one you have to take like a shot because it tastes so bad.) For 6 days I drank a shake that tasted like the milk after a bowl of Kix cereal, not terrible. I remained bloated during the diet but that's not uncommon. It's still giving your guts a rest, even if that occurs. I had some reservations about it as the protein in the shake is from Whey and I don't do dairy on a regular basis. However, I don't have an allergy and despite any symptoms it would still be improving inflammation by reducing digestive work. (See the FAQs here about the soy and whey in the product, they calmed my fears.) This diet can also be used to effectively get rid of SIBO, but you have to take it for weeks at a time. I previously successfully treated my SIBO with anti-microbials, prescribed by Dr. Ruscio.

Things I noticed while doing the Absorb Plus semi-elemental diet:

  • I wasn't hungry but I would get very hungry if i didn't continually sip my shake. Dr. Ruscio's suggestion for me was to sip slowly throughout the day rather than DRINK a shake at mealtimes. This would help keep my blood sugar from spiking since I don't seem to do well with sugars or carbohydrates. This was a personal precaution but I think i could have probably taken it normally and be fine. I didn't have a problem with energy or anger the whole week (sometimes an issue with me and carbs!)
  • I did find some Casein Curds in my stool. I thought perhaps I'd swallowed a chunk of undissolved powder (that's what it looked like) but after a couple of these appearing and some intense internet research, I found that it's actually "casein coagula." I haven't been able to gather any information on why or how your body makes these little thumb-tip sized curds but it seems clear to me that my body was just trying to protect itself from the dairy and expel it. I noticed this happened again after having a raw milk latte at Mission Heirloom for my Birthday. I avoid dairy on a regular basis so this was a new experience and after I wasn't alarmed by it any more, I was more interested in the function. I can't wait to hear what Dr. Ruscio and Dr. Lalezar say about it. I'd never seen one before, and within this diet and one latte, I'd seen 3 over the course of a week.
  • I didn't weigh myself but I'm sure i lost a little weight. My pants felt less tight and the idea was to reduce bloating. I did feel like overall the diet was a good "break" for my intestines, to reduce inflammation and I was able to go back to AIP + Low Fodmap feeling like it was more tolerable and with less bloating.
  • I suspect that the treatment for chelation was very agitating for my system. I was symptomatic the entire time and was not strict about diet (more paleo than AIP or low FODMAP). This elemental diet was a good way for me to "reset" my system. Also, if my stool test comes back positive for SIBO again, it will also have been a good jump start to getting rid of it.

IBD info...

My miracle anti inflammation drink. Homemade bone broth and juiced turmeric.

My miracle anti inflammation drink. Homemade bone broth and juiced turmeric.

My follow up with Dr. Lalezar for my SIBO and Array 2 results are in later this month. In the meantime, I had the fortune of coming across this podcast that Dr. Ruscio did on IBD! In it he speaks with Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis about his approach for IBD: supplements and diet etc. They discussed that the most useful diet for IBD, in their opinions, is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (which I've mentioned here) combined with a Low FODMAP diet. They also talked about some supplements/nutrients that I take occasionally but not regularly, like curcumin (the anti-inflammatory component found in  turmeric root).

I've been doing AIP (cross referenced with SCD, GAPS, low FODMAP) for the past 2.5 years. So scaling back to just SCD and Low FODMAP would mean re-introducing some foods that I had an instinct weren't causing an issue for me but I wasn't quite sure and was too nervous to truly re-introduce them. I did not do what would have been the most thorough method, which would have been to try one food for 3 days to see how I react. I just jumped in. 

It's important to mention that during Chelation I was not super strict. Since i was so symptomatic from the treatment and chemicals floating around, I ate more liberally, fodmaps and some non-AIP friendly foods that I thought "were fine". I also think, that my wishful thinking about eventually being paleo in the future (which is so much easier than any of these diets, in my opinion) that I wasn't seriously considering FODMAPS my main issue. I think now, that I was wrong.

Last week, I converted over to SCD combined with Low FODMAP, the IBD specific diet. The symptoms of IBD really resonate with my experience and it seems like if that is the real underlying issue (now that mercury/lead are removed as toxins) then this should be the right track. I also had experiential evidence that tomatoes and spices had never really caused a reaction that I'd been aware of. So this was worth a shot.

Within two days, I wasn't completely not bloated but I definitely felt a difference. My pants felt lighter/less restricted, even after eating. My exhaustion didn't disappear but it receded (by about 2hrs less sleep). It seems like, FODMAPS and really focusing on fermentation in my gut could be the key to healing my leaky gut and also figuring out the "right for me" lifestyle and diet. I also noticed a new symptom that I hadn't before, either because it was lumped in with general un-wellness or I was confusing it with my monthly cycle. Intestinal cramping is happening to me if i have FODMAPS, like onions in my Chipotle Guacamole for instance (which, if you know me, is a TRAGIC symptom to discover). It feels like period cramps, despite not being on my period.

Over the past week I've been able to hone in on some things that are true for me, right now:

  • I cannot have any FODMAPs, even Avocado
  • I must stay strict on SCD (no starches of any kind that aren't "legal")
  • I can tolerate tomatoes
  • I can have (approved) drinks ONE night a week, two is pushing it, three is fully symptomatic.
  • I can only have dry farm wines right now, if at all.
  • I can have tequila or potato/corn vodka ONLY as liquour
  • Eggs, on occasion may be fine. Not pushing it.
  • I can have ONE glass of Kombucha a day
  • I can have coffee if I dilute it but 1 or 2 a day max
  • I definitely still have parasites. Doing another cleanse in april. Organic Olivia's is out now!

I do think I mentally blocked fermentation and FODMAPS as being the true possible culprit. For me, it's way easier to just eat tons of vegetables and proteins rather than a Low FODMAP diet. SCD already doesn't allow starches: grain is out, potatoes are out, sweet potatoes are out. Low FODMAP cuts out a ton of fruits and vegetables. This diet is very similar to what I'd already been doing but I can add back in things like: Eggs! Seed Spices! Some Nightshades! In hindsight, my GI doc, prior to my colonoscopy, mentioned they tried to get patients with Crohn's to go on a low FODMAP diet but it's hard for people to stick to. The podcast I linked to above also talks a lot about the science behind the digestive system, IBDs and FODMAPS/fermentable prone foods. Like AIP, this doesn't have to be forever! It can be a tool to help heal up the inflammation/ulcers and then you can re-test (by careful introduction), if over time you can tolerate more FODMAPS.

AIP, SCD, Low FODMAP, GAPS and Paleo friendly dinner: Kabocha Squash, Duck, Wilted Chard.

AIP, SCD, Low FODMAP, GAPS and Paleo friendly dinner: Kabocha Squash, Duck, Wilted Chard.

So, with renewed vigor (and a little bit of disappointment about avocados and Chipotle). I am committing to SCD and low FODMAP. It's my way of doing field research before paying someone to tell me what to try next. Beyond that, I'll circle back with my Docs (and possibly may even re visit my GI doc to check in) to see about how to move forward with treatment. 

UPDATE 3/30/16

I spoke with Dr. Ruscio today and followed up with Dr. Lalezar this past Monday. The plan going forward is to focus on IBD therapy. That will include a specific probiotic therapy protocol, changing up the digestive enzymes that I take with each meal, experimenting with a semi-elemental diet from time to time (see Absorb Plus, above) and some other Crohn's/ IBD support supplements. In a month we'll check in to see how it's going. I'm also to experiment with a low fiber diet and see how I fare. Some people with IBDs have a hard time with insoluble fiber (see the podcast mentioned earlier for more info). We talked about FMT being a sort of "last resort" but it exists as an option and has been proven to help many people with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. That's a little further down the road at this point.

Why I'd recommend an Elimination Diet to anyone.

I get a lot of eye rolls when i talk about food. Most of the time because my symptoms could be explained by almost anything. If these were occasional or one off reactions i'd totally get that. I also get that most people probably don't keep stock of how they feel throughout the day (meticulously or at all). Reasons why I'd recommend someone try an elimination diet: headaches, allergies, asthma, undiagnosed or unexplained anything from your Doctor. Acne if you're not 14, acne if you are 14, weight gain, weight loss, fatigue, moodiness, poor memory, if you've never done one before, if you have done one before, insomnia, anxiety, depression, joint pain, gut pain, heartburn, teeth grinding/clenching, gas, bloating, burping, diarrhea, constipation, gallbladder issues. You get the point, if you have an "issue" it's worth examining how your diet may be a contributing factor. There is no gold standard test for food allergies or intolerances. Because our bodies are so unique to us, the most effective course of action currently, is doing an elimination diet. 

Of course I do believe that I'm a product of my own life. My experiences, environments, diet, lifestyle, friends, community, activity level and general life decisions have all shaped who I am. Of course I've been to therapy. Of course I've seen General Practitioners for a bunch of the symptoms I've experienced (as you may have read). The point is, if it's not getting better and you want it to, my FIRST suggestion to you is going to be: try an elimination diet. 

Eliminate food as the possible source of your ailment.

That is my suggestion. It is far too easy to have eaten wheat and dairy and sugar (to name some of the main offenders) and become accustomed to how it feels in your system. You can be symptomatic and not know it or have NO symptoms currently and still have a possible issue. Admittedly, I'm one who had symptoms of intolerances to these foods and never really felt the effects until i went off them and then reintroduced them. These diets are not just for allergies/intolerances. The food you eat influences your micro biome and diversity of that bacteria is instrumental to your health. Eating certain foods can kill off the variety of bacteria in your gut which can lead to health problems as simple as being more susceptible to colds or as complicated as allergic reactions to food. This could be step one of merely living a healthier lifestyle catered to your specific needs.

I was listening to Dr. Ruscio's podcast yesterday. Mickey Trescott (the author of the cook book I have and used before I went low FODMAP) was the guest. She made a great point about AIP (and this applies to elimination diets in general): It's a tool.

"No diet is going to fit one person for the rest of their life".

Maybe what you ate 5 years ago doesn't agree with you now. Your body is constantly in flux. Stress, sleep, illness, all of that can play a part in what you can or can't handle digestively. And, to make it more annoying and confusing (because believe me it is both) you can't even go by what everyone says the symptoms are. You have to figure out how that food makes YOU feel and listen to YOUR body's reaction.

I, for one, do not present "normally" when it comes to a lot of the issues Ive been faced with. Acupuncturists, chiropractic and "regular" (or M.D.) doctors have all had a difficult time diagnosing what's up with me because of this. Knowing what makes you feel your best and if you're not quite there yet, is what I've found to be the key in prioritizing my health. The first step in really knowing what affects you is eliminating possible offenders and then reintroducing them methodically, so you can rule them out as a culprit. Regardless of the outcome, you will gain some control in your own day to day energy, digestion and mood.

I can practically promise you that. 

the good news?

If I can do this, LITERALLY ANYONE CAN.

I am a junk food addict. I love McDonalds, I love Dominos. I've eaten my fair share of each of them and many more foods like them. I think sometimes it just comes to a point where you're either really ready to feel better, or at the time, perhaps it's not worth it to you. I had to wait until I was ready, my will power wasn't enough otherwise. Now if I eat Domino's, I not only get bloated but i have almost immediate neurological effects. Depression, anxiety, physical heart palpitations, insomnia, nightmares, my body is very clear about not wanting this food. However, those reactions weren't clear until i cut out all those ingredients and then reintroduced them. My picture still isn't complete of what's healthful for me and what isn't, but for now I do have a good idea what to stay away from. Once I'm finished with chelation, i'm going back to AIP low FODMAP (strictly) and seeing if I can heal my leaky gut enough to reintroduce more FODMAPs. (I'm so symptomatic in treatment, I eat what I know makes me feel good 80% of the time but I've also allowed myself some leniency. It's a balance.)

There are a bunch of diets one can try. If a certain diet doesn't cure your symptoms, unfortunately that doesn't mean that food is not a factor. It could mean that. However, it could also mean you just hadn't removed that food item or group yet. That was the case for me with Kale and FODMAPS. This may mean trying more than one diet. It may mean committing a little longer than you originally anticipated.

Elimination Diets I can suggest:

SCD - great one to try for suspected leaky gut, and IBDs (Celiac, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's)

GAPS - developed from the SCD, this diet is tailored towards gut flora health and healing leaky gut. (In my opinion, if you go either of these routes, you may as well look at the lists between the two and decide where you might want to start.

The Paleo Cure - this book by Chris Kresser is extremely informative about how your body absorbs nutrients and is not preachy. This is a good diet for anyone who wants to feel better overall but doesn't necessarily think they have any "issues". It removes the main offenders but isn't too intense in my opinion. You can also check out Robb Wolf's website here.

AIP - if the diets above aren't producing the results you desire. Or if you feel like going balls to the wall and "getting it over with" this diet is the one for you. It removes more food groups comprehensively than the Paleo diet, such as nightshades, seeds, nuts and the spices that fall under those categories.

Low FODMAP - (stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) a good reference to start if you have IBS, Crohn's or other IBDs. FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that can ferment if undigested in your gut. The cool yet tricky thing about FODMAPs is that it's not a black and white situation. It is dependent on the amount of the food taht you eat. Perhaps 1c of broccoli is OK for you but any more than that causes a host of symptoms. I tacked this on to AIP because they were clearly an issue for me, I was super uncomfortable and swollen from the vegetables and fruits on this list. I hope once my gut heals I can add them in, I MISS MOST VEGETABLES!

Here are some AIP friendly meals courtesy of Mickey Trescott's Instagram, not too shabby.

Getting down to business (my story part 3)



Read Part 1 and Part 2

California Love

In 2004, I moved to Los Angeles.

A year later, I started working in advertising which marked the beginning of my career working in tv and film production. I was auditioning and performing at night and on the weekends. I was stressed out and fatigued. (Normal-ish for this job and town) My skin still fluctuated despite being on the pill. 

I gained some weight from indulging a little too much in my newfound adulthood. I dabbled in Weight Watchers, learned about not overeating fried foods with little nutritional value. I tried Yoga, it made me cry. (Literally I'd be in Warrior 3 and i'm like shaking and tears are leaking out my face. I was like FUCK THIS!) Instead, I started running, i started spinning, anything super cardio related. I ate "healthy foods" like salad and vegetables and lean chicken and 100 calorie this and that. I liked the way I looked. I was limiting certain foods, but not entirely. (Really, i was just trying to look good.)

SCD

I "got fit" but didn't feel my best. I was still playing the calorie game. I still had terrible gas depending on what I ingested. I still got bloated, I was still anxious, I occasionally "rashed out". I started looking into alternatives. I remembered back from my teenage years learning about candida (and how i probably had it but WHATEVER). My symptoms fit with those I'd heard about so i figured I'd try out the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, coupled with the candida diet.

I'd heard about SCD (as they call it) from the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle, intestinal health through diet. By Elaine Gottschall. 

MY HEAD EXPLODED. this was a game changer.

I did this diet for 30 days, no sugar, no fruit, no starch. (i actually stuck to it. So, point taken will power.) I felt AMAZING. I felt joyful, energized, rested. (I mean, i missed sugar, the sweet things i was eating were bell peppers and carrots, but for the time being it was worth it!) I don't know if i ever had Candida, i didn't get tested for it, but i did feel great on this diet. This book explains a lot about starch, carbohydrates and their digestion in relation to issues like Crohn's, IBS, and other intestinal based issues. I responded very well but I didn't commit to this diet after the 30 day intro.

"Eating Healthy" around that time still involved lots of lean meats and salad and tidbits I'd picked up from Weight Watchers. I'd run a couple half marathons, i got up to exercise before work despite my energy levels that day. I felt fit but I was still tired. Since i didn't really commit to any lifestyle whole-heartedly I'd sort of bounce between feeling good and feeling like crap. I was also getting older. It felt like my body was trying to say "can you figure this out please?"

GAPS

6 months before my wedding, i went off the pill. I had read a lot of new information about the pill and what it does to your body. I felt there were better alternatives for me, to prevent pregnancy. My skin was clear. I still indulged in certain foods out at restaurants but for the most part didn't keep them in the house. I drank mostly wine, tequila or potato based vodka, no beer (or rarely beer). I tried to stick to what I thought made me feel best.

Clear skin 2011, calm before the storm.

Clear skin 2011, calm before the storm.

After 6 months off the pill, my skin went FUCKING NUTS. This wasn't normal acne, this was like adult, cystic, hormonal or gut influenced acne. It was terrible and painful. I went to a dermatologist (a holistic dermatologist, this time) recommended by a friend with similar skin symptoms, who now looked amazing. Dr. Hunter introduced me to the GAPS diet and had me use some of her holistic products. 

The GAPS diet is a diet that addresses the connection between your gut health (levels and symbiotic relationships between bacteria and how healthy the lining of your intestines etc are) and your psychology. The SCD diet is similar in structure but some foods are allowed that aren't on the other. Being on the GAPS diet meant i was being "good" consistently again. But my skin did not improve enough to keep me eating in this restricted manner as a lifestyle. Dr. Hunter was a great resource, but I hadn't gotten to the root cause yet.

AUTO-IMMUNE/PALEO

in November of 2009 i committed, hardcore, to being grain free. I was really over the back and forth and just wanted to feel better. I began meditating. I felt overwhelmed working full time and performing whenever i was free. My body was trying to tell me something needed to change and now my mind was too.

It was clear that everything I'd done up to this point put me in the exact position I was in:

  • Antibiotics kill bacteria in our bodies, not just where we want them to and I'd been on them, on and off from childhood through adolescence.  Read about the effect of antibiotics on gut flora, here.
  • Eating a Western Diet was not agreeing with my system and I ignored all the physical and mental symptoms, so i could eat what i wanted. This, coupled with stress and other factors is probably what led me to develop leaky gut.
  • Leaky gut is the weakening of the tight junctions in the bowels; it can leak food particles, etc. into your blood stream.  This can elicit an immune response and cause a host of symptoms which can lead to chronic illness. Symptoms of Leaky Gut.
  • Anxiety (fear) puts your body in fight or flight. I had been anxious since high school on a consistent basis. Even on medication, it was a natural response for me. Being in fight or flight shuts down your parasympathetic nervous system (the one responsible for "rest and digest" as they say). It reduces motility in your guts and halts digestion. Improperly digested food in your gut can lead to bacterial overgrowth, immune responses (food intolerances, allergies, toxic build up that can affect your brain).
  • Over Exercising can be a stressor on your body. Exercise can be a great mood lifter and is excellent for keeping your body and mind in shape, over doing it can have detrimental effects. Cardio can be especially stressful on a stressed out system.

I had inadvertently stacked the deck against myself. There was no one cause, and probably no one cure, as I was figuring out. I needed to learn what the root cause was and figure out how to heal myself. I stopped doing so much cardio, I re-introduced yoga and low impact exercise like walking and hiking to chill out my system. I did some cross fit. Since I had symptoms of Adrenal fatigue; I was being cautious.

I felt swollen and bloated all the time after anything i ate, even after committing to being grain, dairy and legume free. I was still tired MOST of the time, despite sleeping 9-10 hours a night. I worked with a friend of mine who is a nutritionist and had me food journal for a week. 

My foods were something like this: 

  • smoothie for breakfast: (VegaOne protein powder, kale or spinach, apple cider vinegar, coconut milk)  
  • Chicken and vegetables for lunch (organic roast chicken breast/leg whatever, skin on, full fat, broccoli, root vegetables) or a salad or something
  • and then something similar to lunch for dinner. (also ate organic lamb, grass fed beef other sustainable, bio available meats)

Symptoms:

  • I woke up tired almost every day of the journal and remained tired during the day.
  • I was still bloated. 
  • My skin was bad In the cheeks and chin/neck area, areas linked to digestive/hormonal issues
  • My neck was really sore and constantly needed adjustment (a sign of inflammation in my body)
  • I had brain fog, confusion, memory loss, depression, anxiety
  • I was irritable and moody, sporadically and sometimes unexplainably and or uncontrollably
  • My stool tended to be loose rather than normal

I was baffled. How could I be eating "so healthy" and feel so sick and tired all the time? What was I missing? Those close to me could see the symptoms too.

PALEO

I began exploring paleo...

All of those sites are GREAT resources. Eating Paleo can help improve symptoms like I was experiencing. A lot of people have felt better by implementing this diet as their lifestyle. But for me, paleo wasn't enough. As you can see above, i basically already WAS paleo and I was already committed to organic, sustainable meats and pesticide/GMO free vegetables. I still had the symptoms listed above. Besides having trouble digesting food, signs pointed to leaky gut as well. (especially with all the mental symptoms!)

Auto Immune Paleo

Sometime in 2013, Brahm told me about the Auto Immune Protocol. I resisted it for a while, spouting all the usual "i've DONE elimination diets before." If I was going to figure this out "once and for all" I was going all in on "the last" elimination diet. Eventually I was ready to try, I did AIP for a week and felt the same. Under the Auto Immune protocol you can go really strict and remove FODMAPS as well, depending on how sensitive your body seems to be. I removed Kale and removed FODMAPS, after a week I felt I had more energy. After two weeks i wasn't bloated, AT ALL. (I don't think that i've ever experienced zero bloating before, as far back as I can remember.) I knew within 2 weeks that this was the right track, I was excited, committed and energized.

I felt 80% better on this diet. I did it for 3 months and saw great results. I also prioritized sleep, meditation, stress management, low impact exercise, REST, I left my job, I joined a band. I really felt like I was making my health and well being a priority. AIP and Low FODMAP is a pretty restrictive diet, If i was going to eat this way, I wanted to feel 100% all the time. Or at least have someone confirm I'd ruined my body and was destined to only feel 80% forever. (kidding!) I knew from reading success stories on blogs over the past couple years that I could do better (and eat more foods, without discomfort!)

To Be Continued...

#sorrynotsorry that this seems like a narcissistic bikini pic. This is the best example I have of the slight difference externally but the HUGE difference internally of AIP vs Paleo for my system. Left Picture: Before AIP, eating paleo 80% of the time but not feeling great. Right Picture: On AIP (no booze) a small physical difference but more joy, lots more energy, less stress and "craziness", better sleep, less anxiety. I felt like i was "almost there" in terms of finding what's best for me, to implement as a lifestyle.

Side Note: I almost forgot to mention that in 2009, I accidentally got bit by my dog and through a series of mis-diagnoses and incorrect treatments ended up with a nasty infection. For 6 weeks i had  Picc Line that pumped antibiotics (super broad and strong) into my heart 4x a day. I took probiotics during this time but this drug wiped out ANY bacteria that I had. So as of June 2009 i was essentially starting from scratch with gut bacteria.