An overview of 7 different healing diets

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When it comes to healing diets, there are a number of popular options that have proved effective for people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or various digestive complaints. If you’re looking to help heal your gut through diet, it’s a great idea to pick one of these tried-and-tested options – but which one?

Here’s a (very high-level) run-down of each of the main healing diets to help you decide. Bear in mind that, just like medication, different diets work for different people, and you’ll have to try them yourself to discover which one works best for you. Also remember that you’ll need to tweak and ‘engineer’ whichever diet you end up selecting – that means adding, removing or limiting things based on your own unique set of food intolerances, sensitivities or allergies. Each of these diets provides a great path towards health – you just need to pinpoint your exact route!

SCD – specific carbohydrate diet (long-term/indefinite)

I started this blog to document my 100 days on SCD – a diet aimed at helping to heal IBD and other GI complaints by removing grains, starches, processed sugar and processed food from the diet – food that are known to irritate the gut and promote inflammation. Many people claim to be medication-free and in remission thanks to SCD, which is why I initially attempted it. It works in phases: You start by removing virtually everything from your diet except for eggs, meat and carrots, and gradually re-introduce foods slowly, week by week, month by month, until you know what your body can and can’t handle. It is an extremely slow process that gives your gut a chance to heal and recover from months or years of damage. SCD offers amazing results for some people and ‘meh’ results for others – simply proving that every ‘body’ is different and requires different approaches.

SCD wasn’t the perfect solution for me, but I’m very glad I did it, if only for 100 days. Here’s a summary of my experience on the SCD diet. You can visit the SCDLifestyle.com site for loads of info about the diet, or view the stages of the SCD diet here.

Paleo (long-term/indefinite)

Paleo wasn’t intended to be healing diet per se, but many IBD sufferers have adopted it due to the fact that it cuts out many foods known to cause inflammation and aggravate the gut. Like SCD, paleo focuses on ‘clean’ eating that is free of refined/processed foods, sugar and grains, but unlike SCD, it also prohibits dairy and, depending on how strictly you follow it, honey. Like SCD, the paleo diet consists mainly of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, unprocessed/organic meat and eggs, as healthy oils. Unlike SCD, you don’t have to take a phased approach to the diet, which has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you can enjoy all these foods right from the get-go, but the disadvantage is that if certain foods on the paleo ‘legal’ list are causing you gastric distress, you won’t know which ones they are due to the fact that you aren’t testing them individually.

Paleo has gained massive popularity around the world in recent years, because more and more people are wanting to remove unhealthy processed foods from their diets. This also means that more restaurants and grocery shops are catering to this diet and it’s easier to change to a paleo lifestyle.

AIP – Autoimmune Paleo diet/protocol (short-term/indefinite)

AIP is a healing diet aimed at restoring the gut and immune system. It’s based on the same principles of the paleo diet, but it has the added bonus of having many of the problematic foods removed, as well as the opportunity to test these foods and either reintroduce them slowly or cut them out altogether if your body doesn’t like them.

AIP is not intended to be a lifelong diet. It’s recommended that you follow it for a maximum of 60 to 90 days to help repair intestinal damage, which should theoretically give your body enough time to recover sufficiently for you to progress to a paleo diet. Things that aren’t allowed (particularly at first) include nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, many spices, dairy, eggs and various other foods.

I have followed the AIP protocol and I can tell you that it is very, very hard, but worth the effort. Knowing that it’s only temporary does make it easier, and from my experience, I do believe that it can be effective in the healing process. Here is a full list of foods you can and can’t eat during AIP. You can also take a phased approach to reintroducing them to see what your body can and can’t tolerate.

GAPS – Gut And Psychology Syndrome diet (long-term/indefinite)

GAPS isn’t as well known as SCD but its principles are similar, in that the underlying belief is that diet can aid in not only digestive disorders, but conditions like autism too. The foods consumed are almost the same as on SCD, but often dairy is excluded. It also takes a phased approach by removing and then reintroducing foods, and it is recommended that you follow it for at least two years, if not longer. Read more about GAPS here.

FODMAPS – Fermentable Oligo, Di, and Mono-saccharides And Polyols (long-term/indefinite)

This is another healing diet that you’ve probably come across during your research, but it’s less well-known than SCD or paleo. It’s also been designed to help relieve chronic digestive complaints, and many people swear by its effectiveness (I’ve never tried it). As with the other diets, it’s worth researching it and reading about the experience of others to figure out whether it might help you too. Get an overview of FODMAPs here.

Gluten-free/wheat-free/egg-free/dairy-free (long-term/indefinite)

A lot of people don’t have a digestive disease but do suffer from food intolerances – the most common of which include dairy, wheat, gluten and/or eggs. I am lactose intolerant and after discovering this fact, the only thing I removed from my diet was, obviously, dairy. I only later discovered that I had ulcerative colitis and that led me to change lots of other things too.

If you don’t have IBD or a digestive disorder, it might not be necessary for you to follow a healing diet, but simply to remove allergens/irritants from your diet. I have friends who, based on their intolerances, have removed those foods from their diets without actually following a specific eating plan. They’ve found a way of eating that works for them, and that’s great! They don’t need to follow an actual healing diet. If you don’t have IBD but suffer from something like IBS, for example, it’s well worth having yourself checked for common food intolerances. You might find that removing just one thing from your diet – like dairy for me, or wheat or eggs – might be a big part of the solution.

‘Rice’/‘White food’ diet (temporary)

This goes against every other diet I’ve covered above and it’s not even a ‘real’ diet. Plus, it’s also meant to be very, very temporary! Basically, this is my flair diet. When I’m flaring (which hasn’t happened in a year!), the only foods that seem to agree with me are white rice (with a bit of lemon juice), white bread, white pasta – all that icky refined stuff that I usually avoid. Plus starchier, low fibre veg like peas and carrots (cooked).

It’s well documented (maybe not scientifically, but certainly among sufferers!) that highly refined starches can actually help soothe aggravated GI tracts. That said, it should only be temporary solution because you can’t live on white rice, pasta and bread! I remember going through a phase some years ago when that’s exactly what I did – and I thought it was okay; that my body just ‘preferred’ these foods. It should in fact have been a HUGE red flag. If you have chronic diarrhoea and bleeding, white foods are NOT the solution. Get to a doctor!

That said, if you’re flaring, white rice and pasta can be very soothing, so if you can’t keep anything down/in, give it a bash. It works for me.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the healing diets out there, and as I mentioned at the beginning, any of these (or others that you choose) should be altered and tweaked over time to suit your body’s specific needs and sensitivities.

Please feel free to share your healing diet experiences, tips or advice in the comments 🙂

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Day 4 and an easy way to start exercising

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Everyone knows that the key to losing weight is diet AND exercise (sorry about that, I didn’t make the rules). But those of us who are trying to heal our bodies through diet also need exercise, even though that might sound counter intuitive, especially if you’re struggling to maintain your weight.

Exercise doesn’t have to be about burning 500 calories on the treadmill or ripping through a crossfit workout (although it can be!). Doing yoga or taking a walk is amazing exercise for anyone trying to develop a stronger, healthier body without necessarily losing weight. As we know, exercise is one of the most important building blocks of physical and psychological wellness. My nutritionalist recommends a 4km walk several times a week (it only takes about 40 minutes), or a few yoga or Pilates sessions each week.

K recently joined our local gym and she and a couple of colleagues work out during lunch time. One of them – J9 – happens to be a pro fitness buff, and she accompanied K today. I later received this email:

Time: 1.41pm

Subject: J9 killed me. I am dead.

She made me do all this [workout attached – it was pretty insane]
I did everthing except the burpies.
Not that I have anything against burpies but by that point I was on the verge of throwing up. And I didn’t want to make a mess.
This whole thing took us an hour.
Oh and as a warm-up I did 9 mins walk/run on the treadmill… and of those 9 mins I did a full 3 mins of running (not in a row). But still. That’s more than I did yesterday.
OK I’m going to go whimper whilst I eat my lunch… If only I can bring the spoon to my mouth. I may have to eat it out the bowl with my FACE.

This week alone, K’s been gymming (after not exercising in years) AND following my paleo diet and she says she’s feeling ‘lighter’ – not necessarily weight-wise, but in terms of not being weighed down by stodgy carbs and sugar.

For my part, I’ve been slowing getting back into exercise too. I lapsed on my Jillian workouts for a few months and now I’m starting to get active again slowly. I’m sure you’ve seen those ’30 day’ challenges online, so I’ve printed out a few and stuck them on my lounge wall to encourage me to do them every day. Today my thighs were so sprained from squats that I thought my muscles might burst right through my skin and splatter over my colleagues.

These are the two I’m using:

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It’s an easy, manageable way to get back into it and I do love a challenge so it works for me. If you like the idea of this kind of workout, use these templates or Google your own. There are tons of different ones – arm workouts, leg workouts, abs, etc. Obviously you need to keep it up after 30 days, but it’s a great way to transition into more strenuous workouts – well I think so anyway.

Tonight we had the most amazing paleo Thai chicken curry with cauli rice. It’s super healthy thanks to the coconut milk (homemade, so zero additives) and truck-load of green veggies we added. Meals like this really make you feel like you’re not missing a thing.

And tomorrow is FRIDAY! The weekend is going to be our first paleo hurdle together: Saturday night we’re going to a show that I’m so, so excited about I might just BURST… but it includes a 3-course set meal. Luckily for me, I’m there for the star of the show – my most favourite drag performer, Cathy Specific – and I could DIE DIE DIE I’m so excited!! I actually feel like instead of my thighs, my stomach might burst all over this screen and splatter you all with butterflies. So I’m hardly concerned about the dishes but I know it’s going to be a challenge for K and it’s going to be exciting to see how we navigate it together.

Okay OMG I’ve gotta go. I need to start thinking about what I’m going to WEAR!

Day 3 and some handy paleo food swaps

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I think most people who switch to a healing diet would be lying if they said there weren’t at least a few things they missed from their former way of eating. I also think for most people, sugar/carbs create one of the biggest holes – it’s classic comfort food, after all.

Today is day three of paleo for K, and I was super impressed to discover that she’s been drinking her coffee without sugar. Today’s email read:

You would actually be so proud of me and I have L [colleague] to corroborate the story. I was going to make coffee with sugar… I put the sugar in the mug (like half of half a spoon) and then sat down with L and R at the table. I decided against the sugar and surrendered my mug to L. SHE LAUGHED at how little sugar was in the mug. Then she went to add more.

I’m especially proud of K because tea and coffee, especially when sugary and milky, is ultimate comfort ‘food’ for me. Growing up, if I had a shock or a heart break, my mom would make me a cup of strong, sweet tea. For stomach bugs, the solution was the same, with Marmite toast added to soothe the belly. As an adult, five or six cups of sweet tea or coffee would get me through the work day, and would also assuage my sugar cravings.

When I started worrying about my weight, I switched from sugar to sweetener, which is super-duper sweet, and I could easily drink six cups of tea a day, each with three sachets of sweetener added. I also drank a ton of diet cooldrinks. At the back of my mind I suspected that the artificial sweeteners were wreaking havoc on my gut, and I was right! Cutting them out was the first, and one of the biggest, steps to healing.

But I’d be lying if I said it were easy. Now, I drink black coffee with no sugar (two cups a day max, and seldom on weekends), and I never drink regular tea because I can’t stand the taste of it without milk and sugar.

I deeply miss my comforting mugs of tea, and while there isn’t an ‘exact match’ replacement for them, there are ways to soften the blow. Here’s how I’ve replaced some of my best-loved, and most missed, foods and drinks.

  • Sweet/milky tea and coffee: organic flavoured teas with lemon, honey and ginger added.
  • Fizzy drinks: organic apple juice with no added sugar or preservatives (limited to a couple of glasses a week).
  • Alcohol: Should be avoided if you’re flaring and if you know you can’t tolerate it. Fill a glass with ice, lemon wedges, mint or frozen berries and top with sparking mineral water. It’s the easiest way to fool your brain (and everyone else), and you won’t feel like you’re missing out. If you can tolerate alcohol, stick to dry wines and grain-free spirits only, like tequila (if you can stomach it!).
  • Desserts/‘something sweet after supper’: Fruit with honey; banana ‘ice cream’ (frozen bananas blended up) with cinnamon; dairy-free yoghurt; nuts drizzled with honey (and a shake of salt! Try it; it’s delicious).
  • Rice/mash: cauliflower rice/mash.
  • Potato: sweet potato (paleo, not SCD). Season with rosemary, garlic and coarse salt.
  • Pasta/noodles: Sounds strange, but if I make a delicious pasta sauce or curry, I pour it over butternut or steamed cauliflower and it’s just as enjoyable.
  • Sugar: honey/maple syrup/leave it out (you become accustomed to eating less sweet-tasting food).
  • Cake: There is no replacement for cake. Nothing. Accept it, grieve, and move on. It’ll become like a phantom limb: the pain is always there, but you learn to live with it. Seriously though, you can find ‘legal’ replacements for most cake ingredients: almond flour or gluten-free flour instead of regular cake flour; baking soda instead of baking powder; honey/maple syrup instead of sugar; coconut butter/oil instead of butter; avo instead of butter; egg replacements/flax seed instead of egg, etc. The list goes on – you just have to be adventurous. But you also have to accept that cake, as you knew it, is off the table and a thing of the past (but also, remember how bloaty and ugh the past was!).

I also wrote this post about making your favourite foods paleo, which has got some useful food switches.

The benefit of these replacements, especially when it comes to the hot drinks, is that my teeth are probably in much better nick than they were! Tea and coffee can leave some really tenacious stains. Cutting out fizzy drinks has drastically reduced my bloating, and no chocolate/dairy means no more frequent trips to the loo, and much less gas/bloating.

It’s hard not to lament the losses, which is why it’s so important to make healthy, sustainable switches. And bear in mind that while drinking only water is depressing (I’ve tried it), it’s still important to get your 2-litre fix each day, in between the other drinks.

If you have any useful food switches, please do share!

5 things you need to do for success on AIP/SCD

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I’ve been more-or-less following the autoimmune paleo protocol for the past two months (more ‘more’ than ‘less’), and I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my body. Most noticeably, I’m less bloated, I wheeze less, and my eczema/psoriasis seems to be less angry. I didn’t experience this level of improvement during my time on SCD, so I’ve given some thought to why AIP is working better for me than SCD did.

Bearing in mind that I embarked on SCD alone, and AIP with the guidance of a qualified nutritionalist, here are the five factors that I think are most critical to success on a healing diet.

1. Find out what’s going on in your gut

Yup, I’m talking about seeing a nutritionalist and getting the tests done. Yes, it costs a bit and yes, it’s icky doing those tests, but it’s worth it. Until you know what you’re actually trying to fix, how can you be sure you’re doing the right thing? For example, if you have yeast overgrowth but you’re continuing to include sugar in your diet, you’re not going to notice substantial improvement and you won’t derive maximum benefit from your diet.

For this step, you’ll need to visit a nutritionalist or a gut-health specialist. Surprisingly, I discovered that I don’t have any yeast issues, but I do have low stomach acid and lingering inflammation. We also found that there’s a big bad bacteria party going on in my gut, and hardly any good guys to balance them out. Each of these issues requires specific supplements, which work in conjunction with diet, exercise and medication to help bring my symptoms under control.

2. Cut out nightshades

It’s very, very difficult to do this, but I do believe it’s worth it. Some might say that a life without tomatoes (or potato chips) is no life at all… and it’s hard to argue with that. But a happy belly might. Although I’ve made lots of changes, I think this has been one of the most beneficial (for me. Loads of people have no issues with nightshades). I can say with certainty that when I eat spicy foods, my belly doesn’t thank me for it. On that note…

3. Listen to your belly pain (and all other aches too)

One of the most pervasive symptoms of IBD is pain. Stomach cramps, of course, but also joint pain and other aches and niggling pains throughout the body.

When you’re in a flare or in an untreated state, your stomach cramps are likely to be constant or at least fairly frequent. One of the great joys in healing is that this pain finally starts to abate. Which is why it’s so important to pay attention to stomach cramps when you’re on a healing diet. They indicate that your body is reacting badly to something you’ve put in it. Now that you’re healing, the amazing thing about this kind of pain is that it’s pinpointing something specific – that is, something you’ve ingested – rather than a general state of illness. It means that you can take action and cut that item out of your diet – either temporarily so you can re-test it later, or permanently. Always, always listen to your gut pain. If I eat dairy – bam, cramps. Same goes for spicy food or anything too rich.

By the same token, you should listen to the other pains too. They indicate that your condition is either improving or worsening. For me, one of the prime indicators of a flare is the terrible pain I get in my knees, ankles, feet and wrists. Now that I’m healing, the pain is less frequent and far less severe. However, the fact that I do still experience it tells me that my gut is yet far from healed.

4. Pay attention to visible indicators

People with autoimmune diseases tend to have more than one of them – lucky us! I have UC, but I also have eczema/psoriasis, dry eyes and many allergies. Monitoring these more visible, measurable symptoms of autoimmune disease are an amazing indicator of your overall health. Because they’re all linked to each other, when they improve, you can be fairly sure your gut is healing – and vice versa of course. Now that the angry, scaly red spots on my legs are healing, I feel confident that my gut is starting to heal (FYI: Spending time in the sun, which is something I rarely do, also helped to dry them up quite nicely. Use sunblock!).

5. Eat good fats but don’t overdo it

After meds and supplements, the most beneficial thing for an inflamed gut is healthy fats like avocado and coconut milk. Try to include these in every meal, but in moderation. I find that if I overdo them, I become extremely nauseous, and may be rewarded with cramps and diarrhoea. The same goes for nuts – again, I’m speaking for myself here. I can tolerate nuts in small quantities but if I overdo it, especially in combination with alcohol (come on, what’s better than nuts and wine?!), I can become quite violently ill. Too much of a good thing, right? 🙂 PS: speaking of alcohol, it’s actually prohibited on AIP, but if you do choose to consume it, stick to dry wines only (nothing else is legal), and don’t overdo it, or this might happen.

As I say, these are the factors that seem to be working for me, but they’re different for everyone. What are your most important success factors for diet success?

SCD & paleo: The good, the bad and the ugly (an honest post)

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Switching from a regular diet to SCD, paleo, autoimmune paleo (AIP) or any other healing diet is a massive adjustment. Not only is it difficult to give up your favourite foods (or even just the foods that are quick and easy to prepare), but it’s also a huge psychological commitment too. In fact, if you don’t have a very clear goal in sight, it’s going to be almost impossible to stick to it.

Every couple of months, I’m hit by a fresh wave of how difficult this diet is. After 100 days on SCD and just under two months (so far) on AIP, I’m mostly used to it. But every now and then, I snap and I’m like, ‘ARGH! I’m so OVER this diet!’. Like last night when I had an ‘egg meltdown’ in the kitchen, and threw a handful of boiled eggs around like a crazy person when I couldn’t peel them. “I’m SO OVER eating EGGGGGGGS!” I shrieked. “I’m so SICK OF THIS DIET! I want to be NORMAL!!”

But after a couple of minutes I simmered down, pulled myself together, and went right back to eating the way I always do – and quite happily too. It got me thinking about all the difficult things about this diet – but also, the things that make it so very worthwhile too. Here’s my list, bearing in mind that’s it’s completely subjective and based on my own experiences.

The good

  • Your belly will feel better. Well, mostly. I still get bloated and uncomfortable from time to time, but I have no cramps or diarrhoea – a mercy! A week ago when I cheated, I was reminded of just why I’m on this incredibly wonderful, belly-loving diet.
  • Your skin may improve. Cutting out processed and sugar-laden foods can only be good for you. I’ve noticed that my skin is clearer and smoother, and other people have noticed too. It might also be thanks to the 2 litres of water I drink every day 🙂
  • You may lose weight. I lost a couple of kilograms while I was on SCD. They’ve come back due to the fact that I can’t seem to stop eating nuts and nut butters, but SCD is an excellent diet for anyone who has a few kilos to shift. By the same token, these diets can also help you to gain weight if you need to, thanks to the inclusion of healthy fats, eggs, nuts, etc.
  • You seldom feel hungry. When I was on SCD, I found that I was eating all the time, not gaining weight (and losing in fact) and never feeling hungry.
  • The food can be delicious. This is not a diet of twigs and bits of bark. Sure, there’s no McDonald’s, but if you put a bit of thought and creativity into your cooking – especially when you’re eating paleo and have a bit more dietary freedom – you can create the most delicious meals that don’t taste like there’s anything ‘missing’ at all (and really, there isn’t).
  • Your bowel movements may improve. This isn’t a given for everyone, especially those with IBD or other GI disorders. You’ll need to tweak your diet carefully to find the foods that promote good BMs for you, but cutting out the processed, unhealthy crap is an excellent place to start.
  • You save money. People often think that SCD or paleo can be more expensive than a regular diet. Admittedly, free range, grass-fed meat is more expensive and things like nuts, seeds and grain-free snacks don’t come cheap. But at the same time, you won’t be wasting money on fast food, cooldrinks, beer, chips, chocolate and any other junk you used to eat. Also, you’ll eat out less. Plus, all that fancy ‘superfood’ you find everywhere? The bars and snacks and ‘chocolates’ and other treats? Ignore them. They’re overpriced and faddish. All you need is good, fresh fruit and vegetables, good quality meat and eggs, and raw seeds and nuts.
  • You’ll feel better psychologically. I love knowing that I’m putting good, healing food into my body rather than food that’s further aggravating my damaged gut. Psychologically it’s really good for me, and anything that’s healthy for my mind is healthy for my body!

The bad

  • Goodbye to (many of) your fave foods. If you, like most people, enjoy a good pizza or pasta, love to tuck into the occasional slice of cheesecake or feel soothed by inhaling three slabs of chocolate when you’re PMSing, this diet is going to be hard. There’s no way around it; there’s no substitute for gluten, dairy, processed sugar or Cadbury’s. Accept it and say goodbye. Pizza, pasta, chocolate and fast food – at least as you know them – are OUT.
  • Food boredom. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I don’t really get tired of eating the same old foods for weeks or months on end – well, I rarely do! But for some people, this is a real problem, especially if you’re used to eating a wide range of different food all the time.
  • Increased food prep time. On SCD especially, and especially in the early phases, you’ll be putting in hours of prep time each week. I used to spend my Sundays cooking up big batches of food for the week. As you progress on the diet, prep time decreases, and for paleo, you can learn to whip up amazing meals in minutes (especially if it’s steak and wilted spinach!).
  • Few ‘on the go’ snacks. On SCD and paleo, you always need to think ahead and carry food with you. There’s no more running into the shop to grab a sandwich or a chocolate. It’s very difficult and sometimes impossible to find SCD legal or paleo sacks at convenience stores, so you’ll need to eat ahead or carry food with you.
  • It’s difficult to eat out. Whether at a restaurant or a friend’s house for dinner, dining away from home when you’re eating SCD or paleo is hard. Personally, I hate being the person who asks what’s in every dish, or starts explaining my food intolerances to the waiters. I prefer to take my own food (if I go to friends for a meal) or to ‘pre-eat’ if we go to a restaurant that I know won’t serve SCD or paleo-friendly dishes.
  • Bye bye booze. Well, most of it anyway. Only dry wines, vodka and tequila are legal on SCD, and on AIP, it’s wine only (in fact, if you’re strictly SCD, paleo or AIP, you shouldn’t be drinking at all). 
  • Socialising is harder. It’s only when you start eating strictly that you realise just how much of our daily lives involves food. When I walk around markets, I have foods thrust under my nose to taste, and I find it hard to say no. When I meet new people in a setting where we’ll be eating, I inevitably have to explain my diet to them. At any kind of party, event or work function, you’re the one either not eating or having the host fuss around you, making sure there’s something for you to snack on. I know that for many people this isn’t an issue, but I hate being fussed over!
  • It’s almost impossible not to cheat. I’ve cheated a couple of times in the six months I’ve been eating SCD and paleo, and while I feel guilty about it, I realise that it was to be expected. Don’t give yourself permission to cheat – you need to commit to doing this properly – but if it happens unexpectedly, forgive yourself and move on. Strive to have longer and longer periods of clean eating between your cheats, until eventually you stop altogether.
  • Your energy levels may drop. Before I started the SCD diet, I used to do Jillian Michaels’ workouts about four times a week. I even had the beginnings of little biceps. After changing my diet, my strength plummeted. I couldn’t lift my dumbbells and I had zero energy for working out. Slowly over the months, my energy and strength have returned, and I’m actually, finally, able to complete a Jillian workout once again. I’ve read that it can take up to a year for your former energy levels to return if you’re on SCD.

The ugly

  • Unpredictable bowel movements. On a diet like SCD or paleo, your bowel movements are most likely going to change, especially in the beginning. For me, it meant long stretches of constipation, strangely coloured excretions (yellowy-orange) and a lot of type 1s on the Bristol Stool Chart. For other people it could mean diarrhoea. It really depends on how your body handles the diet, but definitely expect a change in BMs. Also remember that if the diets don’t work for you, move on. The whole point of SCD and paleo is to try to heal your gut, so if they’re not working, find something else that will.
  • Bloating. GAH! My old frenemy. This is one of my biggest problems and the great thing about SCD is that it can help you to figure out what messes with your gut. Thanks to SCD, I realised that the only veg I can eat without bloating is butternut and gem squash! That’s all well and good, but I can’t go the rest of my life without greens. SCD in particular is very heavy on fruit and veg, and this can cause bloating, gas and discomfort. If you’re struggling with this, try limiting the amount of fruit, honey, eggs and nuts in your diet (or eliminate one at a time to try identify the culprit) – or give up the gas-producing veg for a while.
  • Samples. If you decide to enlist the help of a nutritionalist, you are going to be asked for blood and stool samples. No, it’s not fun or pleasant, but it’s necessary and yes, they’ve seen it all before!
  • YOU! Well, me, at least – I can’t speak for you. On days when I’ve become fed up with the diet, I’ve turned into a deranged and ugly monster, sobbing in frustration or yelling about how restrictive ‘this stupid diet’ is. And, on days when I’ve cheated, I’ve spent more time in the loo than out of it, making life somewhat less fun for K, who shares this tiny flat with me! Food plays such an instrumental role in the way we feel, so it’s only natural that a new diet could cause mood swings and a range of emotions.

The verdict

For me, despite the drawbacks, the good definitely outweighs the bad (and the ugly). I know my diet still isn’t perfect and my gut is far from healed, but I also know I’m making progress (another great reason to enlist the help of a nutritionalist), and that the way I’m eating can only be benefiting my body.

It’s super hard and frustrating a lot of the time, but there are definitely rewards too. Knowing why you’re following the diet and reminding yourself of your goal every day will help you to stick with it. I don’t want to go back to being sick and chained to my toilet every day. And it’s also nice having my pants feeling looser 🙂 Overall, I’m extremely happy with my new way of eating, even if it’s difficult (and boring) at times. I’ve even stopped feeling jealous of people who indulge in junk food because I know what terrible harm it causes.

If you’re following SCD, paleo or AIP, what are the good, the bad and they ugly for you?

 

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.

My light-bulb moment: Autoimmune paleo

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Today I had my first appointment with the only nutritionalist in Cape Town, that I know of, who deals with SCD. It was like a light bulb switched on for me.

As you all know, I painstakingly did my 100 days of SCD, and for those 100 days, I was fully committed to the diet. Here on my blog, I carefully reported all the good and all the bad, to give you guys – and myself – a complete and honest overview of exactly how it was going.

When I told my nutritionalist about my experience, she said two things. First of all, for SCD to be truly effective in healing the gut, you need to be on it for a full year at least. And secondly, she said, “It doesn’t seem like SCD really worked for you.”

BOOM! There it was. I hadn’t wanted to admit it because I invested so much in this diet, and I’d had such high hopes of it being the ‘miracle cure’. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think you can do yourself any harm by following the diet – in fact, if everyone ate SCD, we’d all be a lot healthier on the whole.

But if I’m honest, I can see that SCD wasn’t the perfect solution for me, because:

  • I’m still experiencing bloating, cramps and general abdominal discomfort
  • I still suffer from frequent constipation
  • I haven’t managed to get my sugar cravings and binges under control (*yes… hangs head in shame – no binges during SCD though!)

Even though my most recent blood tests, about three months ago, revealed that my inflammation levels were FINALLY normal, my nutritionalist believes that my body is far from healed. The evidence is:

  • Eczema/psoriasis (angry red spots all over my legs)
  • Joint pain
  • Dry eyes

She explained that when you have one autoimmune disease, you’re far likelier to have others – and my symptoms are all indicators of ongoing gut problems. In fact, she pointed out that once these symptoms start to clear up, I’ll know that my ulcerative colitis is truly under control.

She suspects I have leaky gut (and I finally understand it properly!), and she’s testing me for several things that she feels could be contributing to inflammation, namely: bacteria levels in my gut, stomach acid levels, and iron and Vitamin D levels.

For months now I’ve been stumbling around in the dark on my own, and although I’ve used many excellent and reputable sources for guidance, it’s great to have a real, live, QUALIFIED person to talk to. Gut feel alone is not enough – if you’ll excuse the pun.

The diet: Autoimmune paleo

Here’s where autoimmune paleo comes in. I can’t believe that in all my research, I hadn’t stumbled across it – and it makes so much sense! Autoimmune paleo (AIP) is essentially a diet that aims to help heal inflammation and the lining of the gut – very similar to SCD. Plus, like SCD, it takes a phased approach to adding foods to your diet. The Paleo Mom can tell you a lot more about autoimmune paleo here.

However, there are some major departure points from SCD – namely, the omission of nuts, which can be very harsh on a damaged gut; reduced fructose intake, and the omission of dairy, dried fruits, artificial sweeteners and the nightshade vegetables (tomato, peppers – all kinds – potato, mustard seeds and egg plant). AIP also doesn’t allow eggs, but my nutritionlist has recommended that I keep these in my diet.

I’m excited about certain things – hello, sweet potatoes! – and sad about others – goodbye nuts, goodbye nut butters, goodbye tomatoes, goodbye ten million bananas a day. But mostly I’m excited, because I’m always hopeful and I fully, FULLY believe that I’ll one day be able to come off my meds – but I know that the power to get there is in my hands.

I also feel like I’ve invested so much time, energy, thought, planning and labour into my diet that I can’t give up now. I’m willing to pursue this new route and see where it takes me. It certainly can’t do any harm, and maybe this will the road that leads to lasting health. If not, I’ll find something else. Or move to Southeast Asia and live on Nasi Goreng. That’s Plan B 🙂

As always though, I’ll keep you in the loop!