Burning in Eternal Hellfire(ball) for my Sins + Sugar Impact Diet Specifics

9 Feb

I absentmindedly took a shot of Fireball Whisky last night.  A few minutes later it occurred to me that there was a reason it went down so smoothly…sugar!  For the past half hour or so, I have been scouring the internet to investigate possible infidelities in relation to my sugar-free goals. I wanted to confirm that Fireball Whisky had added sugar so that I could feel proper guilt. Mission accomplished.

I also drank one of these bad boys: http://www.woodchuck.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/IMG_4551edited.jpg. I aspire to enjoy beer, so I consider a hoppy hard cider to be my training wheels. I really liked it. However, interestingly enough, it seemed quite sweet to me. The ingredients read as follows: hard cider, less than 1% of : natural flavor (I hate this suspicious catch-all idiom), sulfites to protect flavor. I started to get paranoid about the term “hard cider”, so I questioned my husband who has been making homemade hard cider for the past 6 years. He assured me that sugar would likely be added at the end of the fermentation process, not during, and therefore would show up on the list of ingredients. I wasn’t able to come up with any definitive answers through online searches. Basically, the best I could come up with was evidence that pointed toward a conclusion of no added sugar.  Twelve ounces of apple juice has 40 grams of sugar. (Yikes! That’s more sugar than a can of Coke has. No wonder Steve Jobs ended up with pancreatic cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17093171 . By the way, I am referring to the fact that he was a fruititarian, not that he created the APPLE brand.  Although, that is clever, so you are allowed to take it however you wish as long as it makes me sound smart. 😉 )

I found information that Angry Orchard’s dry cider is made without adding any juice at the end to sweeten it up. Twelve ounces of Angry Orchard’s dry cider has 19 grams of sugar.  Each bottle of Hopsation only has 10 grams of sugar per serving.  Therefore, I can safely assume I am in the clear.  This is really exciting.  Possibly even more exciting is the fact that a dry cider with only the equivalent of about 2.5 tsp of sugar in it seems really sweet to me.  My taste buds are growing up.  I’m so proud!!! (Eyes welling up with tears)

Anyway, to make a long story short: no more Fireball, but most dry hard ciders seem to be okay in moderation (and do not contain added sugar).  Hooray!

Now, for the Sugar Impact Diet Specificshttp://www.everydiet.org/diet/sugar-impact-diet

Normally, diet gurus with shiny books that are wielded by Dr. Oz make me weary.  In fact, every time I see J.J. Virgin’s arms, I get a little scared. http://bohmphotography.com/wp-content/flagallery/photo-branding/jjvirgin2.jpg  However, if you can get past all of the disgusting over-promotion & sensationalism, you’d probably come to the conclusion that she does know her shit.  I have, and so I trust in the merit of her diet plans.  I also like the 3 week approach.  There’s something less sad about 3 weeks without something than having to go a whole MONTH.

Here’s the gist of the program:

Week 1 – “Taper” – This is the week I just completed. During week 1, you are allowed 2 pieces of fruit per day max.  In addition, you substitute higher impact carb choices, such as potato chips, with medium impact carb choices, such as baked sweet potatoes.  The book lays out several categories of food: grains, fruits, vegetables, beverages, etc. with low, medium, and high impact choices spelled out for reference.  There is also a Sugar Impact Plate to follow that allows a person to visualize how much protein, how many vegetables, etc. should make up what percentage of your plate at meals. She recommends drinking a daily Sugar Impact Shake which is basically a protein shake with added fiber, fat, and greens. I loosely adhered to the plate concept but did have a daily smoothie for breakfast (along with coffee and coconut milk). I used non-offensive tasting collagen powder for additional protein instead of any of that stevia flavored garbage that others magically choke down on a daily basis in the name of health.

Overall, the week went well.  Somewhere along the way, the energy that disappeared when I first went low-carb magically resurfaced.  I think my body adjusted, because I still haven’t been eating very many carbohydrates relatively speaking.  I have been making an effort to make sure I get at least 50-75 grams of carbs/day, however.  Going lower than that can ravage your adrenals. For reference, here is some info about how many carbohydrates the average American eats: http://livehealthy.chron.com/average-american-diet-calorie-intake-2960.html and some more information about how to figure out your ideal carbohydrate number http://www.thepaleomom.com/2011/12/how-many-carbs-should-you-eat.html, http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/07/optimizing-carbohydrate-intake-for-your.html

I lost 2 pounds this week.  I suspect some of this may have something to do with the fact that I removed dairy again.  I am currently at 136 pounds, which is right where I was before reintroducing cream in my daily coffee.  After a week of that, I had gained 2 pounds.  This week, I’ve continued to have daily coffee with fatty coconut milk but have lost weight.  Hmm.  Seems ‘spicious.  I’m still not comfortable blaming dairy for the weight gain as there are other confounding factors, such as reduced fruit intake, to consider.  In any case, it’s something to keep in mind and monitor when I reintroduce dairy in the future.

Week 2 – “Transition” – I start this phase tomorrow.  Basically, you follow the same general guidelines, except you exclude all fruit (except avocados, olives, tomatoes, lemons, and limes) and swap medium impact carb choices with low impact carb choices.  Instead of sweet potatoes, now it would be pumpkin, etc.  I’m a little sad about cutting out fruit entirely, but overall, I think it’ll be a really great thing (not to mention it’s only for 1 measly week which is child’s play in my ongoing book of denials).  My blood sugar maintenance will probably be improved and my FODMAP load will likely reduce.  These changes point to potentials: feeling better and losing more weight.  I tend to carry extra weight in my belly.  It’s uncomfortable and unhealthy, so even though I am only borderline overweight, I feel compelled to figure out a way to lose some of my blubber. I have to work harder than your average Joe, because fibromyalgia decreases one’s metabolism by 25%. :/ (http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/fibromyalgia/articles/weight-loss_tips_for_fibromyalgia_sufferers.aspx)

Week 3 – “Transformed” – During this week, you test out your tolerance for foods that are higher impact to determine an appropriate maintenance plan.

There is a Sugar Impact Quiz you are supposed to take at the beginning and end of every phase.  You are also supposed to weigh and measure yourself at the beginning and end of every phase.  The quiz measures your cravings and other signs of sugar sensitivity.  This is meant to help a person gauge where progress is being made & whether or not introducing higher impact items on an occasional basis is halting your desired results.

There are exercise guidelines in the book that I have decided to more or less ignore for the time being… but not because I want to.  I was actually working out for awhile there and really enjoying it, but post-exertional malaise (http://chronicfatigue.about.com/od/cfsglossary/g/malaise.htm) is an ongoing battle for me.  This is a common trait of fibromyalgia and one that I hate a lot.  Basically, I do 30 minutes of Tae Bo, and I’m down and out for the next few days with increased brain fog, exhaustion, and/or pain.  Sometimes, there’s the added excitement of a neck migraine.  I can get away with exercise sometimes, but I never know before I start a session whether I will get away with it on that specific occasion. I’m starting to suspect that the reason I do better with exercise in the summer is because I am more active in general and the warm weather & increased humidity help relax my muscles. I am hoping to get to a place with my health where I am able to shun exercise solely on the basis of my own personal laziness (like your average human) rather than out of the fear of painful consequences.  It’s all very ludicrous, isn’t it?  Onions and exercise make me sick while both are endorsed by almost every health expert you can find.  Cruel world.

I am looking forward to Week 2.  I’ll let you know how it goes!


Born Again Virgin + Sugar Impact Diet

2 Feb

My Virgin Plus Diet (as per usual) has not gone as planned. I started to reintroduce things willy nilly (and 4 days early), because I am inpatient and was feeling a bit deprived. Here is what my reintroduction schedule turned into…

Day 17: Coffee

Day 19: Cocoa Powder

Day 21: Egg Yolks

Day 22: Butter & Sourdough Millet Bread (with traces of gluten)

Day 23: Cream & Alcohol (Hard Cider)

Day 24: Peanut Butter

New symptoms that have presented themselves since adding in foods include reflux, back/neck pain, & my famous neck migraine. The guiltiest suspects I have are the coffee (tension), the cream (suspected sensitivity), & the peanut butter (reflux). I am fairly confident the eggs yolks went over okay.  Of course, I can’t be sure, because I didn’t follow the correct reintroduction protocol. On the plus side, I still have not introduced soy or corn and have not faltered on my sugar + processed-oil free quest, so it’s not a total bust.

Here is what I learned:

My fancy mold-free coffee didn’t make me feel less terrible than other coffees. Officially caffeine is the problem, and my denial can go on no longer. Does that mean I’m going to stop drinking coffee? Well, knowing and doing are 2 different things. Without sugar, I feel like coffee has become my new daily “treat”. I hate to go without it. I like the bitter flavor & morning ritual. I will try to get a handle on it…eventually. I guess decaf is an option, but decaf doesn’t always make me feel stellar either (there’s still caffeine in it).

Peanut butter gives me reflux. This hadn’t been an issue during the entire month until I reintroduced peanuts. I have since stopped eating peanut butter and no longer have problems with reflux (even while continuing to drink coffee and eat dairy). If you remember from my previous post about why peanuts are often problematic, they are less than happy to digest, which is no picnic in a finicky digestive system. I shall continue using tree nut butters, such as almond & walnut, for my nut butter needs.

Too low carb too fast makes me crash. I was eating fairly low carb towards the second half of the month without really trying to. I just found myself wanting to eat more Paleo, rather than vegetarian, meals…which is unlike me. I used to crave hummus but lately I’d rather eat beef tacos on romaine lettuce leaf “tortillas”. As a result, my energy took a serious nose dive and has yet to recover. For a couple of solid weeks, I felt like I was losing my mind. I couldn’t remember anything, and paying attention was way more work than usual. I felt like I was high all the time, and my brain mishaps were making me an idiot at work. Brain fog and loss of energy are common while adjusting to a low-carb diet, but I don’t have the luxury of time to adjust. I’ve been making more of an effort to get in more carbs since figuring out why I felt so exhausted all of a sudden. My brain is feeling more normal, but my energy is still nowhere to be found. I consistently sleep for 10 hours when given the option (not awoken by an alarm clock) and feel like I have to drag myself out of bed after 7 or 8 hours of sleep. NEED MORE!

My sinuses do not make any goddamn sense. I didn’t have to cut out spices, because my sinuses calmed down during a time in which I was still using a lot of the things I assumed were problematic. Again, I think the dry weather was a bigger contributor. Like the rest of my health conditions, nobody really knows what causes vasomotor rhinitis (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001648.htm). Ugh!

Dairy is still a question mark. Shortly after reintroducing dairy, I got a neck migraine. I need to investigate further to confirm this correlation.

Plans for February:

JJ Virgin (the Virgin diet chick) recently wrote a book called “The Sugar Impact Diet”. I have decided to try that next. The premise of the book is to eat foods that are lower glycemic, higher fiber, & lower fructose. The program is designed to lower one’s reliance on sugar. I can tell by looking at the approach that it is one that is well-suited for someone such as meself. I will post more specific details about this plan later.

Ever since giving up sugar, I have been eating too much fruit. I haven’t been solving my sugar obsession so much as weaning it. I’d like to take things a step further. My belly’s comfort & physique can only stand to benefit from a lower-fructose approach.

I will be making more of an effort to increase my non-fructose carbs through squash, grains, & beans to see if it helps my current energy crisis I’ve got going on. I plan to restart my Virgin Diet efforts as well. I will be having occassional coffee & alcohol but will be cutting out gluten, dairy, and peanuts again. I suspect the dairy and coffee are my worst offenders, so I’m starting with dairy to see how it goes. I may use ghee, however. It’s a clarified butter that has minimal trace proteins of dairy in it. In the Virgin Diet book, she allows the use of ghee during the elimination trial. That’s good enough for me!

Plans for Later:

I have recently been given access to the contents of my genome. I bought a kit from this company: https://www.23andme.com/

You send in a tube of your spit and…voila! They send you a report with ALL of your raw genetic data. It’s pretty much amazing.

I was looking for a few things in particular:

MTHFR gene mutations http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MTHFR

These are common in fibromyagia and have specific treatment implications where they exist. I was surprised to learn that I don’t have any. It’s one less thing to think about as I get more creative in trying to solve this mess of a puzzle that is my body.

I also wanted to find out if I had the genetic vulnerability for developing celiac disease. And oh boy do I.

I have both of the most common celiac disease genes, HLA-DQ2 & HLA-DQ8. A good chunk of the population, about 40%, has one or both of these genes. Having them doesn’t mean you have or will ever develop celiac disease, BUT it does mean that you can develop celiac disease at any time. I also have a second degree family member who has been diagnosed putting me in a higher risk group. On top of these vulnerabilities (and all of my suspcious “we don’t know” syndromes), I have also discovered that there are several other genes commonly associated with celiac disease. These genes involve the predisposition for developing an autoimmune response.

I have ALL but one of the genes mentioned in the studies I read. Hmmm…

I don’t want to become strict gluten-free if it’s unnecessary. Eating gluten-free at home is fine, but being truly strict is not easy! There is gluten hidden everywhere (like in toothpaste and on envelope seals). I don’t…have….to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugeeeee) if I don’t have celiac disease, so what’s a well-informed person to do? Getting tested regularly wouldn’t necessarily tell me whether or not I have it. The tests are only accurate if you consume ample amounts of gluten for several weeks before being tested. I don’t eat a lot of gluten anyway, so standard tests would not tell me anything about where I stand unless I want to gorge on gluten for several weeks a year and then spend an arm & a leg getting tested. No thanks.

I asked my ally (who is a psychology professional) for advice as to what I should do with this information. I wanted to know how she thought the mental health implications would weigh against the possible physical benefits of being strictly gluten-free without an official diagnosis & just a whole lotta suspicion. Her advice was to do a strict 1 month gluten-free trial and see how it goes. Now, I know what you are all thinking….YOU’VE ALREADY DONE THAT! But here’s the thing…not exactly. I was never as strict as one is instructed to be when they’ve been diagnosed. Here’s what I mean: my cat uses wheat litter (that needs to go), I never even thought about my toothpaste, soap, or shampoo (trace amounts are all that’s needed to provoke a response), I was less educated about how inaccurate “gluten-free” labels often are, etc. SO even though I’m not looking forward to it, and I’m not sure it will make much of a difference…I’m going to give it another shot. I’m not sure when…maybe in March? I will keep you posted.

Okay, I’m exhausted just typing this. I apologize for this lazy post. I am usually a grammar Nazi who spends as much time editing posts as writing them, but I just don’t have the energy to care right now. 🙂 Also, I have Season 5 of Downton Abbey waiting for me and frankly, that show is more interesting than my health problems. That’s all (for now) folks.








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: http://whole30.com/2013/08/revised-timeline/ 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?: http://ibs.about.com/od/ibsglossaryfk/g/What-Are-Fodmaps.htm)

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: http://www.fmnetnews.com/fibro-basics/symptoms. 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: https://www.bulletproofexec.com/bulletproof-video-get-stable-energy-perform-better-by-avoiding-these/ )
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: https://thehungryguineapig.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/2015-diet-shenanigans/ )

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: http://www.chebe.com/collections/dry-mixes/products/all-purpose-bread-mix-8-pack-case-7-5-oz-per-package. 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: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Egg-Substitutes-Vegan-Recipes-19147998 (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: https://www.bulletproofexec.com/bulletproof-upgraded-collagen/) Processed protein powders makes me gag. The least offensive type I have found is plain pea protein (this brand: http://www.nowfoods.com/Pea-Protein-Powder-2lbs.htm ). 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: http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/2012/09/toms-supermarket-picks-quality-oils-good-prices

Let’s do this!




























2015 Diet Shenanigans

19 Dec

Howdy blog followers!

I have been carefully dissecting my diet experiment ideas for the next year. Here’s what’s in store (so far) for 2015:

January –

Virgin (Plus) Diet – Based on this elimination diet: http://thevirgindiet.com/ with additional tweaks on my part. Don’t worry. I won’t be eating any virgins. In short, I will be removing the foods that I suspect will make the biggest difference in my pain levels based on foods that are the most common irritants and/or inflammatory:

1) Sugar/sugar substitutes (Virgin)

2) Corn (Virgin)

3) Gluten (Virgin)

4) Dairy (Virgin)

5) Peanuts (Virgin)

6) Caffeine (Plus)

7) Alcohol (Plus)

8) Processed Oils (Plus)

9) Soy (Virgin)

10) Eggs (Virgin)

After feeling better on the Perfect Health diet, I mentioned in my previous post that I hoped to stick with it for awhile. I stuck with it for a whopping 2 extra days until I got one of my awful neck migraines and thought “To hell with it!” The next day I walked to the grocery store to buy Rice Chex & vanilla soy milk for breakfast. For whatever reason, that’s what I wanted to eat to reintegrate back into my most recent “I’ll eat whatever I want!” phase.

Sooo it’s back to square one. On the plus side, my sinuses are relatively normal these days. They rarely flare up the way they used to even when I eat high histamine foods (which seemed to have been an issue in the past). I have no idea what I did/didn’t do to fix ’em, but it has greatly improved my quality of life. Feeling like you can’t breathe is a very unpleasant feeling. At least there’s SOME lasting progress to show for all of my efforts.

I had to stop taking my antimicrobials as they were not agreeing with my digestive system. Add it to the pile of failed experiments I guess. <Sigh>

One thing that is nice about my Virgin Plus diet approach is that it is far less restrictive than a traditional Paleo diet. In January, my ally is going to be following the VERY restrictive Paleo Autoimmune Protocol per her doctor’s recommendations now that she’s been diagnosed with Celiac’s disease. I told her that I didn’t have it in me to go through that very restrictive diet again anytime soon (see April ’14 archives for my experience). However, I will be with her in spirit in the name of deprivation by following my Virgin Plus diet (which isn’t crazy restrictive for an elimination diet veteran such as myself…but not a whole lot of fun either!) I intend to use this altered approach to assess whether a long-term Paleo template is necessary to feel better. If I notice improvement by simply removing the most potent irritants, I will have a better idea of what I’m dealing with. Perhaps the improvements I noticed while following the Perfect Health Diet can be realized with less effort and deprivation (I hope).

Here’s why I don’t expect I’ll ever be successful following a long term Paleo diet unless I absolutely HAVE TO:

1) I love BEANS!

2) I am addicted to sugar.

3) I am fussy about the meat that I eat. Most of the time I prefer vegetarian options when I go out to eat, because non-factory meat is hard to come by. I try to avoid factory meat as much as possible for my health, the taste, and my conscience. High quality meat is more likely to be out of stock when I shop for it and gets really expensive!

4) I am lazy. Making EVERYTHING from scratch is work and can be a real bore.

5) I get sick of meat for breakfast, meat for lunch, and meat for dinner. Bluck.

6) Following a low FODMAP Paleo diet is even more depressing. Having to limit/exclude many fruits & veggies, most sweeteners, all legumes, all dairy, AND all grains tests your limits pretty fast!

Beyond January I have but one grand plan for the rest of the year: no added sugars/artificial sweeteners at all in the year 2015. Am I crazy? Probably. I feel that cutting out my vice for an entire year will lead me to some interesting lessons. Think Lent…all year long. I have given up sugar for months in a row before and felt pretty great (minus the emotional deprivation). BUT I always allow it to sneak back into my life. I get all cocky about how I can just “treat” myself on occassion from then on since I had officially conquered the sugar demons. Ha! Like a smoker who has quit 10 times in the past and has warped ideas about their new perceived superabilities to suddenly teach their brain moderation, the addicition is reawakend quickly. It gets ugly fast.

I am hoping to recalibrate my taste buds. Learn to drink black coffee (after January) like a grown-up. Stop obsessing over dessert. Be more mindful of my food choices (which happens by default when you cut something out that is as pervasive as sugar). As far as restaurant options go, I’m going to do the best I can. Do research ahead of time when possible, and use my hyperaware noggin when I am unsure (for example, avoiding salad dressings even if they aren’t sweet as sugar is likely hiding in there). It’ll be oil & vinegar for me. Even if I get an accidental gram of sugar here or there, the overall goal will be achieved when I skip the dessert!

Further updates on my January diet to follow. Stay tuned!

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!







Perfect Health Diet

28 Oct

I have been following the “Perfect Health Diet” for the past week. My ally (recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease) is joining me again this time. It’s definitely a lot easier to follow a restrictive diet with a partner in crime.

The Perfect Health Diet is a book written by a married couple: Paul Jaminet, once a Harvard astrophysicist and his wife, Shou-Ching Jaminet, a molecular biologist & cancer researcher. Combining their saavy research skills with Paul’s experience overcoming a chronic illness, the following diet was born…


The main idea is to avoid the foods that have been found to be the most toxic to mammals: legumes, sugar, grains, & vegetable oils & to emphasize nourishing foods including “safe” starches, meats, nonstarchy vegetables, & healthy fats. As shown by the picture, pleasure foods are encouraged in small amounts, including full-fat dairy, especially fermented dairy, nuts, dark chocolate, fruit, fructose free sweeteners (such as brown rice syrup, which is mostly glucose), & alcohol. It’s a fairly nonrestrictive approach to healthful eating. There are also chapters dedicated to regulating your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), healthy exercise, intermittent fasting, & which vitamins & minerals should (& which ones SHOULD NOT) be supplemented for optimal health. For a science nerd/dietitian/chronic illness sufferer such as myself, this book is nothing short of fantastic.

The first couple of days on a new diet are always rough as you try to get into a new rhythm and learn to replace old staples with new staples. On the 2nd day, my sugar cravings were pretty intense. I had heard about supplementing with L-glutamine (an amino acid) supplement to ease sugar cravings and thought it was worth a shot. I took just one pill, and it actually did seem to help. Now, of course this could have been a fluke. I haven’t had any sugar cravings since that day, so there hasn’t been another testing opportunity. I always find letting go of sugar insanely difficult in the beginning but second nature soon after. Eating sugar makes you crave it all the more. Once you mostly (or entirely) cut it out, there isn’t (generally) as much of a pull to consume it. More often than not, it’s an emotional/social void I am trying to fill when I reintroduce sugar after an established period of elimination.

This diet requires a bit more effort than the gluten-free challenge I recently completed. The biggest initial obstacle for me was getting used to the idea of cutting back on sugar (my drug of choice) again. For the most part, I have been trying to keep up with the daily & weekly recommended supplements. It’s expensive to follow a Paleoesque diet (when you insist on buying only the highest quality animal products). Therefore, I have only been supplementing with items that I already had on hand. I have been taking magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin C daily. The daily recommended supplemental foods I have been eating include 3 egg yolks, a bowl of bone broth, potassium-rich fruits/veggies, and dark chocolate. A daily chocolate recommendation? Who couldn’t love it?  Even coffee is allowed on this diet…

Well, unfortunately, I have decided to give up all caffeine for awhile again. This includes dark chocolate. I just ran out of the last of my stash last night, so as of today, I will be embarking on a new self-inflicted caffeine-free hiatus. I don’t do this because I am a masochist, I assure you. 🙂 The reality is that caffeine (even the small amounts found in decaf coffee & dark chocolate) tends to make my fibromyalgia flare up. Sore muscles & foggy brain fuel? No thanks. I am also curious to see if removing caffeine will make my PMS symptoms better (in particular, a new trend of having sore boobs for WEEKS before I get my period.  Not cool).

The weekly supplements that I have been taking are: B12 & Zinc, and the weekly supplemental foods: salmon & red palm oil (for vitamin E). I have a huge stash of lamb liver in my freezer (thanks to previous Paleo experiments). I will be adding this next, but I keep “forgetting” to take it of the freezer to thaw. Let’s be honest, liver ain’t that tasty, but it’s incredibly nutritious. I’ll get there.

I have tried intermittent fasting twice since beginning the diet. This means that I go for roughly 16 hours without eating. For example, if I finish eating supper at 7pm the night before, I wouldn’t eat breakfast until 11am the next day. Calorie restriction in lab animals has been linked to longer life spans. The basic premise of intermittent fasting is to reap all of the benefits of calorie restriction without the downfalls (stunted growth, disease vulnerability). Short fasts may actually protect us from intracellular infections.

If this is boring, I’m sorry. If you can’t get enough, read the book!

I have started to notice a trend that certain meats give me reflux. Lean meats in particular, such as poultry & fish, give me indigestion. I know from my own research that most cases of reflux come from situations in which stomach acid is too low (NOT too high as conventional pill pushers insist). As a result, I have also started taking Betaine HCL with pepsin at meals. Hydrochloric acid is the acidic medium in your stomach that allows food to be digested properly. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme designed to break down proteins. For a person such as myself who typically eats a mostly vegetarian diet, it’s quite the shock to your digestive system to start eating a bunch of animal protein at every meal without some extra help. In fact, eating a vegetarian diet (which is low in zinc & high in antinutrients) can even cause low stomach acid. So far, I can definitely tell a difference. However, it’s clear that my digestive system is still getting it all figured out.

I plan to follow this diet for at least a month. I will let you know how it goes.


Jaminet, P. & Jaminet, S-C. (2012) Perfect Health Diet