Archive | January, 2015

Virgin Plus Diet: Halfway Report

13 Jan

Technically, I only started 12 days ago, but it’s close enough to the halfway point that I feel safe labeling it as such. Not to mention I have to write posts when the inspiration strikes or they may never happen. So here’s a quick summary of how it’s going so far…

Withdrawal: the first day of the diet, I was depressed. Depressed because coffee and sugar were no longer in my immediate future as they had been for so long. I also had unidentified cravings. I didn’t specifically crave sugar, but I felt weird, restless, and munchy for nothing in particular. I wasn’t hungry, because actual meals didn’t appeal to me. My mood was better by the second day, but the weird craving stuck around for day 2. After that, it was mostly smooth sailing UNTIL…

Day 10: I like to reference this list: from time to time to see how well it matches up with what I am feeling when I follow a restrictive whole foods diet. It was spot on for day 10. I remember struggling with day 10 on one of my previous diets as well (though I can’t remember which one). My point is day 10 sucked. Here’s why: I woke up feeling fine and not particularly deprived…until I got a terrible idea. I remembered coming across a brownie recipe awhile back that replaced sugar with dates. It gave me hope for my future, so I thought it would be a good idea to look it up on the interwebs, so I could jot down the recipe. Well, I got sucked into online (dessert) porn, and it made me feel very deprived. I tried eating the craving away with dates and almond butter, but it wasn’t going to suffice. I wanted chocolate in the worst way. I was cranky, so I just buried myself in a book for most of the day. Day 11 I was back to smooth sailing. Lesson learned.

My main objective in following this diet was to see if it would make a difference in my fibromyalgia symptoms.  Even though I’ve also got the Ibbs (I like to sound it out, because IBS is too medical sounding & embarrassing. It’s far more hilarious to be dramatic & say “I’ve got the Ibbs…Help, the Ibbs got me”…you get the idea. It’s also why I usually refer to fibromyalgia as “fibromealgae”. Way more fun to say… Anyway…) I don’t generally have grand digestion expectations when I do diet experiments anymore. I am fairly confident that the low FODMAPS approach is my most useful tool. I generally eat a low-moderate FODMAP diet no matter what experiment I may be doing at the time. I follow it more strictly when things get out of hand, and I need to get back on track. In general, my digestion is touchy but not disabling or all that distressing most of the time (anymore! Thank God). As a result, I will eat high FODMAP foods on occasion when my desire for variety or taste supercedes my wish for normal intestines with the ability to handle such indulgences. In short, I’ve got my shit (hehe) under control, but my pain is a fabric of my being that I’m still trying to unravel. (Need a quick refresher on FODMAPS?:

In case you don’t know what a day in the life of a person with fibromyalgia feels like, here’s a link to a brief fact sheet: One of the symptoms is “balance problems”.  When I worked at the library, I went through a stint of running carts into things all the time. Now don’t you feel guilty, ex-coworker, for nicknaming me “Crash”? 😉 Don’t, it was hilarious. Humor gets a trump card where illness is concerned. It has to for sanity’s sake. I complain a lot, so if you read this blog often, chances are you’ve got at least some idea what fibromyalgia is. 😉 On the plus side, I deserve to complain (as evidenced by the info in the fact sheet), so it’s all good.

Here are my improvements & set-backs so far:

Pain: my pain occurs more rarely and less severely (similar to Perfect Health Diet results…win!) I did have a couple days where I got my weird neck migraine icky feeling that I’m so eloquent at explaining. I was able to ward them off with massage, light activity, and hot showers. Normally, my only saving grace is going immediately to bed and sleeping for 12 hours straight.

Sleep: my sleep has been pretty great overall ever since I bought those black-out curtains for my bedroom windows. I have had just one or two nights of waking up in the middle of the night, but I’ve been able to fall back asleep with ease.

Fatigue: Fatigue is not as big of an issue for me as pain.  It will pop up from time to time if my alarm goes off before I finish a sleep cycle, I skimp on sleep, or when I overdo it physically. Not much change in this category. Perhaps a bit more now that my sinuses are being assholes again (see below).

Brain Fog: Unfortunately, my brain is foggier (or at the very least not as sharp) than it was before beginning the experiment. I am pretty sure this is the result of giving up ALL caffeine. I used to have daily dark chocolate and/or coffee. Caffeine would stimulate my nervous system & my brain power. Sometimes, this stimulation would cause a pain flare up, but sometimes…it worked like the magical elixir that it can be, and I felt productive as hell. I am hoping to reintroduce caffeine sooner rather than later. I’m going to have to be strategic about finding a balance that allows me to restrain my pain while keeping my brain power at a maximum.

Dry Eyes: It wasn’t mentioned on the fact sheet, but dry eyes and mouth are common symptoms in fibromyalgia. A few days after starting the diet, my eyes were burning so bad that they felt as if I was squirting lemon juice into them…constantly. They also are more red lately. At first, I thought it was possibly just a strange detox symptom, but now I’m wondering if the dry January air isn’t the more guilty culprit. As is the case in a hyperactive nervous system, what normal people experience as a nuisance turns into a big fucking deal for a person with fibromyalgia. Annoying!

Sinuses: Well I guess I jinxed myself when I proclaimed how happy I was that my sinuses were finally under control. They are back to being their usual stuffy selves. This makes me breathe shallowly…which makes me feel like I’m not getting much air…which makes me feel unusually fatigued. I believe that the harsh January weather is also responsible for this woe. Plus, I’ve been doing more adventurous cooking, including certain ingredients (such as smoked paprika) that get my nose running. Again, hypersensitivity, blah blah blah. The short version of my theory is that the combination of dry air and sinus irritating foods (such as vinegar, cumin, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, etc.) is causing my nose to flare up. My second theory is that I’m overdosing on histamine again or reacting to yeasts/mold found in old spices, ground nut butters, &/or vinegar (which again, have become a bigger part of my diet lately). Bugga.


Corn: I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour that had xanthan gum in it. It sort of slipped my mind that xanthan gum is dervied from corn. Doy! Won’t make that mistake again.

Sugar: I bought some buffalo salami (yes, you should be jealous, but not too jealous, because it cost $16 for 12 oz). The salami does have some cane sugar in it. However, it’s listed as the second to the last ingredient between white pepper & coriander. Therefore, even though my inner neurotic OCD child prompted me to put it back, because it had a speck of sugar in it, my rational brain came to the rescue. Ultimately, I am giving up sugar, because I want to eat less junk, reduce my inflammatory load & get my sugar addiction under control. A speck of sugar in an overall wholesome food is a far cry from a slice of pie. And so, I forgive myself.

My plan for next week is to cut out spices & acidic foods to see if my sinuses will calm down. Goodbye, exotic new flavors. Hurrumph! If that doesn’t work. I’ll have to dig deeper. Meanwhile, I will keep following my Virgin Plus Diet. I am going to start reintroducing foods @ 3 weeks, because I feel as if 21 days is a good baseline (it’s actually the timeline J.J. Virgin suggests for her Virgin Diet). Also, it’s going to take FOREVER to do it right! Slowly reintroducing foods & gauging symptoms is something I usually fail at. It’s hard! I either don’t experience enough symptom improvement to really learn anything or I just miss eating certain foods too much to muster up the patience. After a month of restrictions, it’s usually “Ok, I’ll eat everything now… I feel terrible. It must have been the gluten in the pizza…or the histamine in the tomatoes…or the casein in the cheese?…Shit.”

Here is a reintroduction schedule I made up for myself. I may change some of the foods around, but it will at least give you some idea what I am talking about…

Day 21 – Egg Yolks
Day 25 – Egg white (w/yolks)
Day 29 – Butter
Day 33 – Cheese (Grass fed, organic, raw)
Day 37 – Cream
Day 41 – Kefir/yogurt
Day 45 – Cocoa powder
Day 49 – Bulletproof coffee (this is a fancy coffee that is processed to be low in mold toxins…I’ll explain later, or you could watch this video for more info: )
Day 53 – Miso/tempeh
Day 57 – Tofu
Day 61 – Yogurt/Milk
Day 65 – Peanut Butter (within FODMAPS limit)
Day 69 – Alcohol
Day 73 – Spelt bread
Day 81 – Wheat (maybe…I might just try and keep this out my diet from now on, but it’s everywhere, so I’m trying to be reasonable with myself)
Day 85 – Corn
Ugh, see? FOREVER! Well, I’ll try to do it right this time, but I can’t make any promises.

What I Ate My 1st 12th Day on the Virgin Plus Diet (It took me awhile to get into the swing of things, so I didn’t even record what I ate my first day)

Breakfast: Banana ice cream (2 frozen bananas blended with coconut butter, a handful of macadamia nuts, Tbsp chia & hemp seeds, & vanilla powder) Best. Breakfast. Ever. Ok, maybe not ever. But quite the treat when you’ve vowed to give up sugar for a year!)

Lunch: Bison burger with avocado & spinach on a lettuce “bun”.  I used large butter lettuce leaves to wrap er up. On the side, Asian coleslaw: coleslaw veggie mix, toasted sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, & coconut aminos.

Snack: Paleo naan – If you’ve never tried the traditional Indian bread known as naan, you’re missing out. The version I made uses tapioca starch, coconut milk, & almond flour for the batter. I can’t say that it was as good as the real thing, but it wasn’t a shabby replacement for being grain-free.

Supper: Chicken tenders (I rolled chicken pieces in coconut milk mixed with a bit of potato starch as my egg replacement, coated each piece with a mix of almond flour & potato starch, & fried them in palm shortening). I made a giant salad, because I have learned that eating light foods with insanely heavy foods makes the experience less coma-inducing. The salad was made up of: butter lettuce leaves, baby spinach, carrots, radishes, black olives, pickled jalapeneos & banana peppers, & cucumbers. I added a mustard dressing (which was just spicy mustard mixed with apple cider vinegar). I also had fresh raspberries.

Dessert: 3 dates with some ground almonds

Sorry I refuse to get with the times and buy a smart phone. I could take pictures which would make these descriptions way more fun. Maybe someday…

Finally, I’ve decided to expand my list of “Never Have I Ever”s for 2015. I am going to be cutting out processed seed & vegetable oils for the entire year too. Processed oils are just as nutritionally useless & inflammatory as refined sugar, so I want to cut them out long-term along with sugar. This means buying avocado & coconut oil based chips when I need a junky indulgence and being even more careful when I order food at restaurants. I’m inclined to say that processed oils are even harder to avoid than sugar…and that’s saying somethin’!

Stay tuned for reintroduction updates (or my confession of failure). Either way, I’ll be letting you know. 🙂

Virgin Plus Diet

1 Jan

Here are the nitty gritty details of the whats, hows, and whys for my January plan, the Virgin Plus Diet:

(If you are like “Virgin? What the hell?” you must have missed my last post. Read this: )

1) Sugar/sugar substitutes

The why:

Sugar: I have done my fair share of sugar bashing on this blog, but here is the short version: overindulgence in sugar may cause hormone disregulation, GI distress (for people who are sensitive to fructose – AKA me), sugar depletes vitamins and offers a spare tire around your waist in their place (bum deal), sugar encourages inflammation in the body contributing directly to the top U.S. killers such as heart disease and cancer, excess fructose consumption inspires intestinal permeability potentially making autoimmune disease more likely. Sugar may even be more addictive than cocaine. See? Short and sweet (pun intended)!

Sugar subs: Artificial sweeteners have been linked to numerous health conditions, including fibromyalgia, preterm birth, metabolic abnormalities that may actually contribute to weight gain, & gut dysbiosis (bad bugs taking up residence in the intestines – read: bad news, Bears)

The how:

On the Virgin diet, she encourages the use of natural non-nutritive sweeteners such as Stevia and Xylitol. I have tried numerous brands of Stevia and never developed a taste for it. Xylitol can work for some people in small doses, but it’s a FODMAP and not the best choice for someone such as meself. Not that any of this matters, because I won’t be using any sweeteteners at all in the new year as I attempt to recalibrate my tastes buds and get a handle on my sugar obsession.

2) Dairy

The why:

Dairy is the third most common food allergen. Lactose intolerance is very common, affecting up to 75% of the population. Drinking milk causes a large spike in blood insulin levels, potentially contributing to insulin resistance (the first step in Type II diabetes development). Milk contains various hormones which seem to have negative effects. One hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) has been linked to various cancers. Sex hormones in dairy contribute to the development of acne and infertility (low-fat milk products).  Milk contains protease inhibitors which may contribute to the development of a leaky gut. Yikes! Dairy is worse than I remember the last time I vowed to forget and go eat cheese. 😉

The how:

Swap coconut milk for regular milk & nutritional yeast flakes for cheese.

3) Gluten

The why:

As discussed in previous blog posts, eating gluten causes increased intestinal permeability directly by triggering the release of zonulin, a compound that loosens the tight junctions that keep shit in place (like my scientific description?) A leaky gut may lead to escaper particles that leech through and inspire an immune response and inflammation.

The how:

Gluten free options abound at most chain grocery stores. This will be my nth gluten-free adventure since becoming a guinea pig. The challenge this time around will be to find gluten-free products that are egg, dairy, soy, processed oil, & sugar-free. There are not going to be a lot of processed items to choose from with this list of criteria! Most products use one or all of these ingredients to buff up their structure. Here is one item I have tried in the past that will work for this diet: Other than the occasional outlier, I expect I will be eating mostly unprocessed options, such as quinoa, rice, and plain buckwheat noodles.

4) Eggs

The why:

Eggs are a common allergy/food sensitivity issue.  Egg whites can be particularly problematic for those with allergies or autoimmune diseases. (I don’t have either, but I suspect a sensitivity based on previous experiments). Eggs have an unfavorable omega 6: omega 3 ratio which may encourage inflammation.

The how:

Egg-free baking swaps: (Canned pumpkin, flax seeds mixed with water, applesauce, etc. will work for this particular diet). I will be using collagen powder instead of egg yolks (which I used during my Perfect Health Diet experiment) in my morning smoothies. Collagen powder is the best protein option I have found to replace traditional protein powders. (I like this kind: Processed protein powders makes me gag. The least offensive type I have found is plain pea protein (this brand: ). However, I still prefer the collagen powder as it is tasteless and may offer other benefits.

5) Soy

The why:

Soy may interfere with thyroid function (if iodine status is insufficient). Soy has an unfavorable omega 6: omega 3 ratio (inflammation). Soy has trypsin inhibitors, anti-nutrients that make soy protein difficult to digest and utilize. (Fermentation helps release more nutrients). Soy contains specific lectins (agglutinins) that are very resistant to degradation. These lectins encourage the growth of unfavorable gut microbes & can damage the gut lining.

The how:

Sub coconut milk for soy milk & coconut aminos for soy sauce.

6) Corn

The why:

Most corn (unless organic) is genetically modified. GMO crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides as they are specifically altered to withstand such exposure. Corn is also high glycemic.

The how:

Cutting out corn is easy…but only if you avoid processed foods. Then it’s damn near impossible, because it’s EVERYWHERE.

7) Peanuts

The why:

Peanuts are highly allergenic. They have an unfavorable fatty acid profile (inflammatory) and are often contaminated with carcinogenic mold toxins (aflatoxins). Peanuts, like soy, contain digestive-resistant agglutinins.

The how:

Eat actual nuts (peanuts are legumes) instead. Almond butter is really tasty (but damn expensive).

Plus Components –

1) Caffeine

The why:

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and may interfere with circadian rhythms = not the best idea for a person with fibromyalgia whose nervous system and sleep patterns are already out of whack.

The how:

White-knuckle approach. I love the taste of coffee and the way it makes me feel (when it doesn’t make me feel like shit). I don’t like herbal teas enough to bother replacing coffee with anything else.  Cold turkey starting today. 😦

2) Alcohol

The why:

Alcohol is a gastric irritant, feeds bad bugs in the intestines, causes leaky gut, and if consumed in excess (who has ever done that?!) causes inflammation.

The how:

I have a newfound love of hard cider these days. I wasn’t drinking much alcohol for a long time, and then I decided it would be nice to have something to sip on on a Friday night. I am not a fan of mixed drinks and was bored with taking shots alone while my friends drank beer (I hate beer). Hard cider was my solution. However, cider is really high in fructose, so I have been managing my subsequent stomach pains by taking peppermint pills. I may revisit dry berry ciders after awhile to see what I can get away with (no added sugar + lower fructose in berries vs apples). Also, drinking makes me sleep like a baby, and I am a fan of sleeping like a baby. For the time being, I will go back to drinking water at the bar.

3) Processed oils

The why:

Most oils are highly inflammatory, processed with hexane (neurotoxin), & easily oxidized while cooking. (Antioxidants = good, oxidants/free radicals = bad)

The how:

Avoid processed foods. Use coconut, palm, and avocado oil for cooking (higher smoke points with more favorable fatty acid profiles). Use extra-virgin olive oil for salads (best not to cook with it as its lower smoke point means oxidation occurs at lower temperatures). Unfortunately, most olive oil that you buy in the grocery store is not 100% olive oil. Just another way the food industry gets to trick us:

Here is the list the article suggests consulting to get the real deal:

Let’s do this!