Perfect Health Diet Wrap-up

19 Nov

Today marks 30 days since starting the Perfect Health Diet. As usual, I have had mixed results with this diet experiment. However, contrary to the disappointment I generally feel after completing my experiments, this has been one of the most successful trials yet!

Here is a summary of my experiences:

-I have had significantly less body pain. When I do have pain flares, they last for shorter periods of time!

-I feel less fatigued overall.

-My sleep has been wonky, but even so, it doesn’t seem to interfere with feeling rested the next day. I fall asleep just fine but rarely sleep through the night anymore. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night, generally 4-6 hours later. During my second attempt at sleep after I wake from these shorter chunks, I toss and turn a lot (or at least feel that strange sensation of being half awake, half asleep) and have better dream recollection when I wake. How could I get less sleep and feel more rested? I suspect my sleep QUALITY has improved. As is the case in most areas of life, quality trumps quantity in terms of sleep’s rejuvenating effects. This is why a lot of people with fibromyaliga can sleep for 9-12 hours and still feel exhausted upon waking. One of the defining characteristics of the condition is the dysregulation of sleep cycles. The brain of a person with fibromyalgia wires us in such a way that it’s harder for us to reach the delta (slow wave) portion of our sleep cycles, the section of sleep where the most repair and restoration is done.

Along with changing my diet which removed a lot of irritating & inflammatory foods, I tried a few sleep hacks along the way recommended by various Paleo gurus. I purchased a pair of amber tinted glasses to wear an hour or two before heading to bed. Research has shown that wearing blue-blocking specks a few hours before attempting slumber significantly improves sleep quality. The mechanism behind this phenomenon is that blue light interferes with melatonin (sleep hormone) production. Because we live in modern times and it’s normal to sit in front a computer screen that blasts you with artificial light in the evening hours, many folks have trouble convincing their bodies that sleep is on the way. Wearing amber tinted glasses is one way to get your eyes on board with winding down. I have been wearing a sleep mask for the past few years and LOVE it. However, I recently learned that your skin can sense light as well. So even if your eyes are covered, the light that touches your skin can slow down melatonin production. My bedroom is on the second floor and has 2 higher windows where the street lights like to pour in. So, I finally purchased some black-out curtains for my bedroom. I also covered the light of the carbon monoxide detector with masking tape to eliminate its green glow. As a result, my skin gets to sleep in the dark as well as my eyes. My body seems to be able to tell the difference, because I’ve been sleeping more soundly (or at least feel that way upon waking) ever since!

My intestines went through some adjustments. At the very beginning, I had a difficult time digesting lean meats. I started to take Betaine HCL with pepsin and noticed an improvement right away. After a period of taking it, my digestion went nuts. I am no stranger to bloating, but this felt like an alien was going to pop out of my stomach at any given moment. Not a good feeling. In exchange for reduced body pain, my stomach decided to be bloated at all hours of the day with painful distension to boot. (It’s as if my nerves like to take turns assaulting various locations. “No, no intestines I insist, it’s your turn!” exclaimed the debilitating neck pain. “Why don’t you give her some stabbing abdominal pain for awhile? You know, mix it up a bit.” I never knew that nervous systems were such sadists!) I was in the midst of experimenting with a few different supplements and wasn’t sure what the culprit was, so I stopped taking all supplements for a few days until my tummy calmed down. I still don’t know exactly what the deal was. It may have been that I was having increased symptoms from the shift in my gut flora (which can happen when you change your diet and/or add digestive aids to your daily routine) or just a simple reaction to a specific supplement. In any case, I have decreased my intake of Betaine HCL. I only take it when I am eating something I suspect will need a little help being broken down instead of with all meals/protein sources. For example, I had ground white turkey with dinner last night. Since I have a history of maldigestion of lean meats, I took 2 Betaine HCL pills. No reflux! It’s good stuff.

-I have gained about 2-3 pounds. I attribute this to get a little carried away with butter (okay, a lot carried away 😉 ) and to a decrease in activity now that winter is here. Back in October, I was still taking the bike trails and making more of an effort to go to the gym. Now that it’s cold and dark outside, I have settled into hibernation mode. Also, I think the nasty bugs in my belly have something to do with it. When people make drastic diet changes, such as cutting out gluten or dairy or (especially) sugar, weight loss is a common (though not guaranteed) occurrence. For me however, nothing changes. A nice reminder that the big bad bugs may still be in charge and that calories do matter. Dammit.

I have been caffeine-free for about 3 weeks. I suspect this has helped relax my muscles and improve my sleep quality.  However, it has not helped with the chest discomfort mentioned in my previous post. Yay! Chocolate only hurts me in other ways. 😦 Boo! Now, I have to explore dairy removal. Anecdotally, removing caffeine and dairy from the diet can help with hormonal chest pain.

Cheating? Always…

For the most part, I stayed true to the tenets of the Perfect Health Diet. I ate supplemental foods and shunned all of the foods I was told to (for the first 3 weeks). I never did get around to thawing out any liver. Well, maybe once. I was supposed to eat liver weekly, but I definitely failed at that. I said I’d get there! I got a little carried away with “pleasure” foods at times. I ate more dairy and nuts, for example, than would be considered ideal. I ate more baked goods (even while using PHD friendly starches) than is recommended. I learned that eating dry carbohydrates can contribute to bacterial overgrowth. Grrr! During the past week, I also reintroduced sorghum, which is a gluten-free grain. All grains are meant to be removed while following this approach, but I wanted to use up the gluten-free flour that I had rather than spend more money to purchase isolated tapioca and potato starch products, for example.

What’s Next?

I would like to keep following a similar dietary approach, but I’m sure I will stray from this template, especially as the holiday season approaches. However, I will take the lessons learned with me. I will wear amber tinted glasses before bed (even if I look like a bug that my husband likes to make fun of 🙂 ) , sleep in a dark room, take Betaine HCL as needed, and make more of an effort to swap out horrible foods for bad foods. For example, if I want potato chips I will purchase chips made with avocado or coconut oil. No, this doesn’t make them health food. However, by avoiding traditional potato chips, I will be lowering my exposure to inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Every little bit helps! I also plan to use dextrose in lieu of sugar for home baking. Dextrose is pure glucose vs sugar which is half glucose, half fructose (FODMAP!). Does this mean that I can eat a pan of brownies made with dextrose and be healthy?! Of course not, but it means I can eat a pan of brownies and feel less terrible and do less damage than if I had made those brownies with regular sugar. Baby steps…

As much as I love the inconvenience of following a restrictive diet 😉 , I will be focusing on a new approach to healing over the next couple of months. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I suspect that I have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). I came across some research that suggested that people with fibromyalgia often have SIBO and some have even noticed a decrease in symptoms by treating for it. The traditional treatment route is to take antibiotics. However, a cheaper and potentially safer approach is to take herbal antimicrobials. I will be experimenting with an herbal antimicrobial regime over the next couple of weeks to see if it improves my digestion and overall wellbeing. In addition, I will supplement with a new probiotic to replenish the “good” bacteria while the herbs work on wiping out the “bad”. I also want to shift my emphasis toward more light physical activity, such as daily walking & regular yoga (moderate/intense exercise tends to cause fibro flares) & better stress management (specifically, starting the regular practice of meditation). Wish me luck!

Sources:

http://chriskresser.com/is-fibromyalgia-caused-by-sibo-and-leaky-gut

http://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/7932424

http://www.thepaleomom.com/2014/02/regulating-circadian-rhythm.html

http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2013/01/muffins/

http://www.siboinfo.com/

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