Autoimmune paleo vs SCD: How I’m feeling after 3 weeks

Excellent advice - if I could follow it!

Excellent advice – if I could follow it!

It’s been just over three weeks since my nutritionalist recommended I start following the autoimmune paleo (AIP) protocol, and I’ve noticed many differences between this diet and SCD – some great, some not so great.

As a side-note, I’ve discovered through my research that you are only supposed to follow the AIP diet for 30 to 60 days. My nutritionalist hasn’t discussed this with me, but it’s certainly something I’ll chat to her about next week when I see her. If it’s only 30 days, I can definitely put my back into it a lot more than I have been! (keep reading to see how I’ve cheated…).

Here’s how I’m faring after three weeks on AIP.

The food

After SCD, you’d think I’d be pretty accustomed to cutting food out of my diet. However, the advantage of SCD was knowing that every few days, I was adding to my diet, so I always had new foods to look forward to (bad gut reactions notwithstanding).

After 100 days on SCD (which I now realise is much too short), I had re-introduced all legal foods into my diet. But on AIP, I’ve had to cut many of them out again: the nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, potato, etc), nuts, many spices and certain seeds. I must admit that a diet void of tomatoes, spices and nuts is very, very hard. Nuts are an amazing snack, and tomatoes are used in almost everything. I don’t mind cutting out spices so much, but it makes it exceptionally hard for others to cook for me.

I’ve been creating a lot of my own meals and really enjoying them, but I’m a nightmare when it comes to eating out. Like on SCD, I often take my own food with me. My nutritionalist has said that if I must cheat, I can have some gluten-free pizza or pasta, which I’ve done once (and I gobbled that pizza down in about 5 minutes flat!).

I eat a lot of eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit. I’m trying not to eat so many dates and bananas, because they’re so loaded with sugar. I’m still wrapping my head around making my meals more protein-heavy because I usually bulk up with veg.

BMs

Prior to seeing the nutritionalist, the only thing regular about my BMs was constipation. This was an especially frequent complaint during my 100 SCD days. However, when my colon found out that I was about to pay thousands of rands to a nutritionalist for appointments, tests and pills, my BMs (miraculously) started normalising, about a day or two before my first appointment.

Since then, I’ve had very good daily BMs – often twice, three times or even four times a day. Generally, they’re a 3 or 4 on the Bristol chart, which is incredible for me, because usually when I’m this regular, I’m at about a 7!

I do also attribute these improved BMs to the fact that I’m eating more. I seem to be consuming significantly more food than I did during the early phases of SCD, and I definitely think that makes a difference (as a note, I also experienced more frequent and regular BMs when I was overseas in May, which I too attributed to a more substantial and lenient diet).

Bloating

Oh, bloat, my old frenemy. Sometimes I think that the only way to stop getting bloated would be to not eat at all – even a glass of water can cause my stomach to blow up like a balloon. I think that one day, when they lower me into the ground, I will be the first corpse to be buried with a bloated stomach.

So clearly, I’m bloated very often, and I do get gassy from time to time, the latter of which I usually attribute to cauliflower! Interesting, my nutritionalist explained that when a person suffers from leaky gut (which she suspects I do), it’s not necessarily that a specific food – like cauliflower or tomatoes or cheese – causes bloating, but that the overall poor state of your gut causes a bloating reaction at random. This has been quite a revelation for me, and it would explain why I sometimes get bloated after eating eggs, or bananas, or meat, and other times I don’t.

Cheating

I’ve tried to be as fastidious as possible with this diet, but I have knowingly cheated on a couple of occasions. I have eaten food that was seasoned with potentially ‘illegal’ seasonings; I have had a bite or two of nightshades (ie, a pimento-stuffed olive) and I have, on one occasion, eaten raw chocolate. I have also, on several occasions, eaten nuts. This is proving to be my Achilles heel! I have not cut coffee or alcohol out of my diet.

However, I’ve only recently discovered that this diet is only supposed to be short-term. If that is the case, I definitely would like to start from scratch and do it 110% perfectly, like I did SCD.

Overall

It’s still very early days so I’m definitely not in a position to make a fully-formed opinion of autoimmune paleo. What I’d say is that I love the fact that my BMs have improved so markedly – no one likes feeling like an over-stuffed rubbish bin.

It’s difficult to snack without breaking the rules (I’m looking at you, nuts) or relying purely on sugar-laded foods. And it’s hard to cook full meals without so many ingredients I’ve come to rely upon. But I do love how healthy, clean and surprisingly tasty my meals are.

If I’m honest, I’m so over it. I’m so over restricting what I eat all the time – and, more than that, having to pay so bloody much for foods that are now considered ‘cool’ to eat (thank you, hipsters-who-aren’t-really-gluten-intolerant. Really, thank you). I’ve never been a particularly unhealthy eater and even if I could eat anything I liked, I wouldn’t be shoving McDonald’s burgers down my gullet every day. But being so restrictive is making me dream about chocolate all the time. And say what you will – not even the most delicious clean treat will ever taste like Nutella cheesecake.

The other thing that’s hard is knowing that  I can eat whatever the hell I like and my Asacol takes care of it. Of course, I don’t want to stay on Asacol forever, which is why the clean eating is essential. But it really is hard when you have this amazing suit of armour for your colon, and you know that you could consume a three-ton cake made purely out of butter, gluten and Nutella and your body would process it like it was nothing, because of the Asacol.

Obviously, I don’t want to put that kind of food into my body, but the point is that it’s hard to keep depriving yourself of Kit Kats when the drugs make you feel completely normal and healthy, regardless of what you eat. It’s all about willpower for me, because unlike other people who have immediate, noticeable and unpleasant reactions to the foods they shouldn’t eat, I just have to trust that all these restrictions are going to help me heal.

Don’t worry, I’m sticking with it! And I’m going to keep reporting back. I’ve still got some ways to go with my nutritionalist, and I definitely want to see whether this diet could put me on a path to an Asacol-free existence.

Day 97: What the f@#!, nuts?

So, it’s pretty much official: my gut hates nuts. The whole kinds, anyway. It seems to tolerate nut milks and yogurts, but when it comes to actual pieces of nuts, it goes, well, completely nuts.

Last night K and I headed out for drinks with colleagues and friends after work, and we only got home at around 9. Neither of us was hungry enough for a meal, so I ‘just’ had a bowl of almonds (unblanched – silly), and some cashew pieces.

Soon after, I felt distinctly faint, and I broke out in a cold sweat. I headed straight to the bathroom, where I remained for about half an hour, wishing for death. The GI symptoms where horrendous: severe cramps and diarrhoea, and an intense nausea that had me hanging my head over the bath at the same time (though I couldn’t vomit for some reason – I think that’s psychological). Plus I was completely light-headed and drenched in sweat.

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Times this by 100, and that’s how my head felt

When I was finally able to get off the loo, the furtherest I could manage was the bathroom floor. AND I’M A TOTAL GERMAPHOBE. I hate bathroom floors, even my own, but at that moment, it was heaven. The cool tiles helped to ease the sweating and I eventually managed to drag myself into the shower.

Guys, I have never felt like that – not even during the worst of my flares. It was scary. I even considered that my drink might have been spiked at the bar, but that had been a few hours before. How can I deny that it was the nuts – especially since this is not the first time I’ve had an adverse reaction to them?

Nut allergy vs nut intolerance

I always thought that if your body couldn’t handle nuts, you would just die. But that was silly of me. Having done a little googling, I’ve found a few reputable sites that tell me that a nut intolerance is different to a nut allergy, and can cause all the symptoms I experienced last night (but not death – even though it felt like my last moments had come).

The strange thing is, I’ve never had a problem with nuts of any kind before. But I’ve also learnt that a damaged gut may react to foods that it never used to – doh! Also, adults can develop intolerances over the years – like I developed lactose intolerance due to the fact that, as an adult, my body stopped producing lactase enzymes.

The strange thing is that my body only reacts to whole nuts, as I’ve mentioned. Not even my foray in nut butters a few weeks ago had this kind of effect on me, so it must be that my gut simply can’t break them down.

So nuts – at least in their whole form – are out. Sigh.

Seriously, what the fuck, nuts? I thought we were friends!

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Look how happy that bugger is

 

Day 66: Important observations about SCD so far

I’ve been on this diet for 66 days, and even though it’s not a massive amount of time, it’s long enough to have realised that my progress has fallen into two distinct categories:

  • Extremely strict
  • Experimental (within the bounds of legal, stage-appropriate SCD foods)

I haven’t once knowingly cheated on this diet and I’ve stuck to the 3-day rule (at times 4 days) since the start. But I’ve also become less fanatically strict and terrified of introducing new foods. Maybe it’s manifesting more psychologically than physically, because I’m not running around shoving random bits of food into my mouth. But it does mean that one big problem has crept in: Bloating.

Can totally relate

Can totally relate

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it because when I’m healthy and not in an active flare, the worst symptom I have is bloating, which also causes pain and that lovely, totally-not-embarrassing ‘talking’ that most often happens when I’m sitting in an echoey boardroom with several of my bosses, a handful of clients and the perfectly preened magazine editor.

Yet here I am, 66 days in, experiencing bloating most days. So, below is what I have deduced about my particular reaction to foods on SCD. As always, bear in mind that everyone tolerates food differently.

1. Bananas cause me significant bloating. I’ve known this since day 4 or 5 when I introduced them, and you’ve known it too because I haven’t shut up about it. I try to eat fewer but usually I fail because…

2. I’m a snacker which makes SCD REALLY hard. Who wants to snack on a dry meatball or a cup of carrot puree? So I snack on bananas. All. The. Time. And then for dessert I have banana ‘ice cream’. I do in fact always have prepared vegetables and ripe avos in the fridge, but bananas are also easy to eat on the go or take with to work, social occasions, movies, etc.

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3.  Other things besides banana make me bloated. What are they? I’m not sure. Because in this experiment that is the SCD, you need to use your own body as the control, and I’ve often failed to do that effectively. You need to feel good and bloat-free before introducing new foods, and while I’ve done that to some extent, I have also compromised my results by continuing to eat bananas while testing other foods.

This means I’ve often experienced bloating while testing, but I’ve always blamed it on bananas. However, I’m now noticing that I can eat other foods (ie: meals of meat, assorted vegetables and avo) and end up bloated – and because of the muddied test results, I can’t pinpoint the culprit.

4. You have to introduce SCD yogurt CAREFULLY. As good as it can be for you, dairy-free SCD yogurt is made up of not one but a number of ingredients – and some of these (most notably nut milk and honey) can be problematic.

Nuts, even when blanched, blended, strained and squeezed into milk, can aggravate a sensitive gut, which is why they shouldn’t be introduced until 3 months on this diet (or 3 months symptom-free, which I reached in about February). Honey is also tolerated by some but not by others, and both nuts and honey are considered potentially ‘problematic’ foods for people on SCD.

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5. Nut milks and honey are probably adding to my bloating. They’ve made a fairly recent but regular appearance in my diet in the form of my yoghurt, and since their debut I’ve come to really enjoy them. Is the benefit of the probiotics outweighing the bloat? I can’t honestly tell you because while my BMs are satisfactory and quite regular, I haven’t noticed a marked difference since introducing the yogurt. But I do love the sweetness of they honey and yogurt is such a perfect after-dinner treat.

6. I felt my best during intro and phase 1, but my BMs were terrible. Swings and roundabouts? Maybe, but there must be more to it than that. There must be more that I can do to control my symptoms so that I can heal and enjoy a varied diet without bloat.  This means that I probably need to go back to the drawing board – or at the very least, stick to meat and veg for a few days and see if it helps.

7. This diet is about more than mindlessly following the phases. It only works if you listen to your body and respect your symptoms, and if you actively work to manage them. I haven’t always done that. I haven’t always been fully committed to being symptom free as much as I’ve been committed to eating legally and according to the phases. In other words…

8. Just because a food is SCD-legal and allowed in the phase you’re on, doesn’t mean it works for you. I found out that mushrooms don’t agree with me so I avoid them. But I’ve ignored the ill-effects of other foods and now I have this major bloat problem which is really a huge tangled mess. You have to be actively involved in really feeling your symptoms, identifying what’s causing them and eradicating problem foods from your diet – if only temporarily. Mindless eating is not going to cure you, even if you’re eating SCD legal foods.

So those are my observations for now. On this diet, I am definitely my biggest ally and also my worst enemy. It’s also why I haven’t yet opened my new jar of macadamia nut butter: The cashew butter was going brilliantly until, after 3 days, I caved and ate the remainder (about half of it) with a spoon straight out of the jar.

willpower

My goal for the coming days: WILLPOWER. I’ve already made so many sacrifices that I can’t allow these little weaknesses to trip me up now. Now to just find the motivation to do better…

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Day 58: A careful introduction of cashews

Today I decided to introduce cashew nut butter to my diet. According to Elaine, you shouldn’t introduce anything nut-based into your diet until you’ve been symptom-free for 3 months. The last time I had UC symptoms was in November 2013, so that’s about 4 months, which is also why I introduced the almond nut yoghurt a few weeks ago.

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Do my ‘tummy bug’-type symptoms over the past 10 days classify as UC symptoms? I have no idea. I don’t include them in the 3 months, because I feel they were a once-off caused by a specific food that my body reacted to on two separate occasions. I could be wrong here but I’m learning as I go. Weigh in by all means!

Anyway, cashew nut butter is actually legal, according to Pecanbread.com, from phase 2. I had about a tablespoon (plus a sneaky extra teaspoon), and it was delicious! So far my stomach feels fine, but it was only about an hour ago.

My OhMega cashew butter. Pricey but worth it, plus it's just pure nuts

My OhMega cashew butter. Pricey but worth it, plus it’s just pure nuts

Quick aside: Length of time it takes for the gut to react to food

One thing I learnt through my awful-but-educational gastric reaction to the carpaccio is that my gut actually can take as long as 24 hours, or even more, to react to a food. I always thought I reacted pretty much straight away or not at all, but I certainly stand corrected. As much as I tried to deny it, I am just like everyone else, and food can take up to 72 hours to cause a reaction in me – which is why each new thing needs to be tested over 3 days.

Why you need to be careful with cashews

On this diet, cashews can be a beneficial addition if you can handle them. They’re full of protein, and they contain healthy fats which you may be lacking, especially at this stage of the diet. In fact, cashews are just incredibly healthy all round.

Well if this is true, everyone who flies on planes should be really, really happy

If this is true, anyone who travels by plane should be really, really happy

However, cashews and nuts in general can be a trigger for people with IBD, and they should be eaten with caution, especially if you’ve reacted to them before. You don’t want to make all this progress on SCD just to undo it with a couple of cashews.

The guys at SCDLifestyle.com refer to nuts as one of the ‘four dark horsemen’ of SCD, which are the four most common foods that they say cause the diet to not work for some people. The others are egg, dairy and fruit. Read more about them here.

Can you tolerate nuts? Are they helping your IBD or hurting it? I’ve always loved nuts but of course I can’t eat them in moderation, so that’s going to be (yet) another challenge…! And to end, here’s a great cashew milk/creamer recipe I’ve just found online. You could probably use it to make SCD yogurt as well.

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