One year later: The foods I stopped eating in 2014

SugarCoated

In an effort to find an eating plan that helped me manage my IBD, I tested a lot of different healing diets in 2014 (hence this blog). Turns out, there was no one specific diet that gave me the answer. I had to tweak my eating plan to add and remove foods that my body did and didn’t like, and to find a way of eating that suited me. Here’s a list of what didn’t work for me – it might help you to pinpoint your problem foods. Lower down is a list of all the things I can (and am) eating and drinking now, a year later.

Artificial sweeteners. I used to drink a ton of diet cooldrinks as well as multiple cups of tea and coffee every day, each sweetened with low-calorie sugar replacements. I knew that they were causing me intestinal discomfort, but I ignored it until I was incredibly ill, and then it was the first thing my nutritionalist cut from my diet. The carbonated drinks caused bloating, and aspartame – the main ingredient in many sweeteners – is known to cause GI distress in those predisposed to gastrointestinal disorders. Meanwhile, sorbitol – an ingredient in gum, some diet drinks and even fruit like apples, peaches and prunes – is hard to digest and can cause gas, bloating and diarrhoea. Some researchers have gone a step further to say that sweeteners can cause IBD – just give this scary article a read if you needed any more convincing.

Processed food. I’m hardly an angel – I definitely slip up from time to time, and even since my diagnosis have been known to indulge (one time) in Nutella cheesecake. But for the most part, I avoid anything packaged (unless it has just one or two ingredients, like tomato paste made only from tomatoes and salt). I don’t eat takeaways, sweets, chips or cheap chocolates (when I do have chocolate, I usually go for good quality bars with a high cocoa content). Again, there is the occasional instance in which I slip up, but the norm is for me not to include these items in my diet.

Most dairy. I am lactose intolerant, and when I found out, about two and a half years ago, I cut out all dairy immediately. When I let some sneak back into my diet, I’d have terrible flares. Now that my IBD is under control, and I’ve been lactose-free for so long, I’ve found that I can eat certain dairy products in limited amounts without experiencing horrible side effects. Cheese in small quantities is fine, as is butter and very limited amounts of cream cheese. I still avoid milk, cream and yoghurt, and feel that I’m getting the best benefits of dairy from the items I can eat, and avoiding the dairy products that are usually laden with unhealthy additives (ie, sweetened yogurt).

Sweetcorn. I seldom, if ever, eat sweetcorn. This is because it’s aggravated my belly in the past, so instead of taking a chance, I skip it (and don’t miss it). Baby corn seems to be okay in small amounts.

Bran flakes. If you have IBD, chances are you don’t need much additional bran in your diet. I only realised this well into my second bad flare. These days, if I need a little ‘help’, I drink more water and eat more vegetables. I LOVED bran flakes (especially with milk and sweetener) and I miss breakfast cereals. But believe me, it’s better this way.

Gluten. Both nutritionalists that I’ve been to have strongly recommended I remove gluten from my diet, even though I’m not coeliac. When I’ve tested it, I haven’t had a problem with it, but that said, I’m trying to eat clean, and without gluten in my diet, I feel healthier, lighter and less bogged down. Also, by avoiding packaged foods, I’m automatically avoiding 90% of gluten. I won’t lie – it’s hard to resist the other 10%: the bread basket on a restaurant table, or the birthday cake calling my name. But I do, as much as I can.

Sugar. I have a serious problem with sugar – my problem being that once I start, I can’t stop. No one should be consuming sugar in large amounts, but lots of people can have a slice of cake and stop. I can’t – which is a particularly serious problem for someone who shouldn’t be eating most of the constituents of those two three six slices of it. Sugar is responsible for all manner of horrible illnesses, and for me, given the fact that my GI tract is already compromised, there’s no need for it.

So what do I eat? Everything else!

Healthy Snacks

It might seem like I’ve cut almost every type of food from my diet, but that’s really not the case – not if you know how to eat clean. I eat meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, cheese and all the delicious dishes you can make from those ingredients. My diet sustains me, makes me feel full, healthy and, most importantly, not bloated and kak (that’s a wonderful South African term for which there isn’t really a translation, but look it up anyway).

And what do I drink?

It’s a very common concern: what can I drink on SCD/paleo/autoimmune paleo, etc. For a start, everyone should be consuming at least two litres of water a day. It’s much easier than you think if you keep water with you all the time.

I also drink good quality black coffee (without sugar – takes some getting used to), but this isn’t allowed on autoimmune paleo. Herbal teas are good, as are pure fruit juices on SCD, if you aren’t avoiding fruit sugars. Sparkling water with berries, lemons, cucumber or orange slices added is a delicious alternative to a fizzy cooldrink, and you can also make your own iced teas and coffees. Play around with the ingredients you’re allowed to have/can tolerate, and avoid adding anything processed to your drinks. Sweeten with honey.

As for alcohol, this is a very personal choice. I’m not a big drinker and I’ve never enjoyed beer, ciders, etc. Some diets will tell you that dry wines and vodka are okay (this is the only spirit I drink), while others (autoimmune paleo, for example) will ban all alcohol. If you are flaring, you should definitely avoid alcohol. If your IBD is under control, test it carefully. Here’s a detailed piece I wrote on what to drink on a healing diet.

What diet am I following now?

I tend to jump around and try different eating plans that work for me, so there isn’t one specific diet that I’m following. It’s not SCD, paleo or AIP. If anything, at the moment, it’s a low carb high fat diet (LCHF). But mostly, it’s a clean, healthy diet devoid of unhealthy packaged foods and excess sugar. And it’s working for me, which is the most important thing.

You need to find a diet that works for you, and if it doesn’t fit into the framework of any specific healing diets, make it up. Tweak, change, add and remove according to want your body likes and wants, and call it your specific diet 🙂

What to drink on SCD, paleo and AIP

summer-party-drinks

Don’t these look delicious?

It’s important to remember that what you drink on a healing diet can have as much effect on your body as the foods you eat, so you need to make wise choices.

On all of these diets, it’s highly recommended that you avoid alcohol, especially if you’re flaring. If you’ve been in remission for a while or you feel that your body can tolerate limited amounts of alcohol, there are specific types that you should stick to – these are discussed below.

Hot drinks

Coffee

Coffee is not allowed on strict AIP, though once you transition to paleo and your colon has started to heal, you may be able to tolerate it. During the early phases of SCD, it’s better to avoid coffee, but once you introduce it, make sure it’s weak, and made from pure coffee beans rather than processed (instant) grounds that could contain additives and preservatives. Also avoid decaf coffee, as you don’t know what chemicals have been used to remove the caffeine. Bear in mind that caffeine can irritate the gut, which is why it’s not recommended during the early phases of a healing diet.

Tea

Herbal tea is allowed, and if you don’t like the taste of them on their own, you can add honey, ginger, lemon, mint, berries, etc. Just make sure the tea you use is pure and free from additives. In summer, use it to make refreshing iced tea.

Using milk and sugar

On healing diets, added sugar is generally not allowed, so don’t put it in your hot drinks – use honey instead. Nut milks can be used, though for some people, myself included, this is quite an acquired taste!

Cold drinks

Carbonated drinks

Both regular and diet drinks MUST be avoided. These tend to irritate the gut, and they can also exacerbate bloating and discomfort. Plus, fizzy drinks contain a whole whack of unhealthy ingredients that are best avoided altogether.

Sparkling water

If you really struggle to kick the cola habit, as I did, try transitioning to soda water/sparkling water. I say ‘transitioning’, because I find that ALL fizzy drinks, sparkling water included, really cause me a lot of bloating and GI irritation, so it’s best I avoid them. However, I sometimes find that pure, carbonated water really hits the spot when I’m wanting something fizzy. Add lemon, berries or other fresh fruit for fun but totally healthy cocktail vibe.

Fruit juice

Fruit juice is okay if it’s completely natural/pure, and free of any preservatives and added sugar. Believe it or not, this can be VERY hard to find! Most fruit juices are marketed as being healthy, but they’re actually loaded with a whole bunch of crazy additives, never mind a ton of sugar. Be on the look out for organic, additive-free juice, or make your own at home. Apples and pears can be boiled until really soft and then strained, or you can use a juicer to make super healthy varieties like carrot, beetroot, apple, etc. The options are almost endless.

Smoothies

From here on out, you can pretty much assume that all store-bought/pre-packaged smoothies are going to be a no-no. Most contain things you won’t be able to eat on your diet, like dairy, sugar, additives/preservatives, etc. However, it’s really easy to make your own healthy, filling and totally ‘legal’ smoothies at home. Use bananas and any other fruit you can handle, and combine it with homemade yoghurt, a dash of honey and a scoop of protein powder. Here’s a great smoothie recipe packed with vitamin C. Smoothies also work brilliantly as meal replacements when you’re on the go.

Homemade drinks

If drink boredom starts to set in – and it probably will – get inventive! Make your own ginger ale, lemonade or ‘sodas’ at home using sparkling water and natural flavourants, like lemon, fresh fruits and herbs, and honey.

Alcohol

According to Theultimatepaleoguide.com, alcohol is considered a ‘processed’ food and a toxin – two things that we’re supposed to avoid on a healing diet. Plus, it’s well known that alcohol irritates the lining of the gut and can worsen the symptoms of IBD, especially if you’re flaring.

This is not a club you should be hanging out at

This is not a club you should be hanging out at

That said, I know how hard it is to go out and socialise like you did before – when all you want is to feel normal – and you have to order a glass of water, because even cooldrinks and juice are off-limits. And let’s face it, no one wants to be that guy in the bar ordering coffee.

If you’re NOT flaring and your doctor/nutritionalist thinks it’s okay for you to have a bit of alcohol, then there are options – just don’t overdo it! Try to choose those with as little sugar as possible (all alcohol contains sugar), and definitely avoid those considered grains (ie, beer).

Alcohol that is okay:

  • Dry red and white wine
  • Apple ciders (make sure they’re gluten free)
  • Certain spirits (like vodka, whiskey and gin. Because they’ve been distilled, they are mostly free of gluten. However, if you’re very sensitive to gluten, avoid them.)

Alcohol to avoid:

  • Any booze containing grains, yeast and/or high amounts of sugar
  • Sweet wine
  • Passover wine
  • Brandy
  • Beer
  • Cordials

Important note about water

Apart from whatever else you drink, try to consume at least 2l of water every day. If you aren’t used to doing this, it is difficult at first, but it gets easier. I drink 500ml every morning before I leave for work, and I keep a 1.5l bottle of water on my desk at work, which I always make sure I finish. That means by the time I get home, I’ve already had my 2l for the day, and any extra is just a ‘bonus’. This also means I don’t find myself drinking water until late into the evening – and getting up all through the night to pee!