Why alcohol is the worst thing for a healing diet – but not for the reason you think

elite-daily-girls-munchies

Any of us with IBD or other digestive problems know that alcohol is anathema to a healing diet. It’s highly inflammatory which basically means it can make your horrible symptoms a whole lot more horrible. But that’s not my problem with alcohol – not my primary problem, anyway.

I am in remission and while I took alcohol out of my diet completely for my first month on SCD, I reintroduced wine and vodka slowly – which is okay to do if you’re in remission. I often enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings, and occasionally vodka mixed with juice. But what happens when it’s more than a single drink in one night?

Willpower + alcohol = diet disaster

I don’t think there are many people who find it easy to follow a strict diet, be it SCD, paleo, autoimmune paleo or something else. This means that every day, you need to make an active decision to eat properly, and every day is a concerted effort to avoid the foods you’d love to eat. For me, it’s a daily battle of wills, and most days, I win. Most days, I’m not two or three glasses in.

When I’ve had more than a drink or two, it becomes infinitely harder to fight the voice of temptation in my head. Because alcohol lowers one’s inhibitions, it’s means that not only do you sing louder than usual or propose to strangers, but also your usual steely reserve – at least when it comes to your diet – starts to crumble.

Your brain on booze: The drunken munchies

Fast forward two, three glass of wine, and suddenly you’re cured of your lactose intolerance and gluten really isn’t that bad. The angel on your shoulder has given up the ghost, cracked open a beer and is chilling with the devil on the other side – probably taking bets about how long it’ll be before you termite your way through your girlfriend’s treat cupboard.

Cookies, chocolate, burgers, cereal, pure lumps of sugar – nothing is safe from my greedy, sugar-seeking paws when I’ve had more to drink than I should. I don’t even bother bargaining with myself – I pre-forgive myself and reason that it’s been so long and I’ve been so good.

tumblr_inline_mrajmvxrJD1qz4rgp

The last time the booze-binge monster came out to play… and the time before that

Last Friday we played a zombie-themed board game at a friend’s house. Board games are not my bag at the best of times, and zombies bore me to tears. So, I played halfheartedly while knocking back glasses of wine. We all were; it was merry!

But when I got home, the booze-binge monster was raring to go. Luckily, I only had ‘healthy’ food to binge on – but it didn’t stop me clocking a bag of cashews (I shouldn’t be eating them) and several handfuls of dates (a big hit of sugar) before managing to get myself under control.

0a0a0a0mfm2-Chan790PrettyDrunk

The time before that, however – about a month earlier –  the binge included several chocolate eggs left over from Easter, 12 chocolate chip cookies and several lemon-flavoured ones – all from K’s cupboard, and all within a space of about 5 minutes. I was out of control and reasoning that it’d been so long since I indulged, but also that we’d just got back from Bali and I’d eaten like mad so I was still kinda on that vibe, but also they’re just cookies and tomorrow is a new day… blah, blah bloody blah. It’s all boozy bullshit.

For K

Dear K…

Testing your own reactions to alcohol

We all react differently to booze. I don’t actually dance on bar stools or propose to strangers. I don’t do daring or stupid or crazy things when I’ve been drinking. I talk a lot – but I do that when I’m sober too (so I feel pretty sorry for those around me). And I eat ferociously. If this sounds like you too, then you – like me – need to limit or restrict your alcohol consumption. We work so hard to control our diets, that it simply isn’t fair on us to let our drunken selves destroy the solid foundation laid by our sober selves.

Do any of you experience these kinds of booze-food binges on your diet, or do you avoid alcohol altogether?

6a013488374944970c019b0156a410970c-320wi

Advertisements

Day 67: Observations part 2 – Besides food, what else can cause bloating?

Yesterday I spoke a lot about bloating and the food that I think is causing my biggest problems.

Today,  I didn’t eat ANY bananas! I know! Amazing! I did experience some bloating and also some cramps after a lunch of vegetables and avo, which I suspect will require further investigation. But I also had a realisation about other factors that could be causing my bloating:

1. Eating too much. I’ve never been one for moderate portions, which is probably what helped get me into this predicament in the first place! Whether I’m eating a bowl of chips or a bowl of broccoli, I eat a lot of it. I’ve always said that I’m missing the ‘fullness indicator’ and that I could just keep eating and eating and eating without stopping until I burst like a cartoon character. Anyone else have this talent problem?

Basically me at every meal, minus the roll

Basically me at every meal, minus the bread

The average adult stomach is roughly the size of a clenched fist and can stretch to fit about a litre’s worth of food in it. I like to take that as a personal challenge and try to pack in around 3kg at every meal. And then I’m surprised when my belly blows up to the size of the Times Square ball.

2. Eating too fast. I’ve never had any reason to eat my food like a prison inmate about to have it snatched away. My parents always cooked plenty of food and there was always enough for seconds and thirds… for us and the neighbours. My dad also eats super fast, and in fact, when I go out to eat with other people, I have to consciously slow myself down so as not to embarrass myself. Thank goodness K and I seem to keep the same pace!

3. Not exercising. In Jan and Feb, the first two official months on the job (prior I was freelancing for the same company), I was able to leave work at about 4.45 each day, and be home by 5.30. I’d exercise until 6, shower and then make supper, with plenty of time to spare. When we hit a crisis at work about three weeks ago, I found myself easily staying at the office until 6 or even 7, getting home after dark and then still having to cook supper. I simply haven’t had the time to work out, and I know it’s so bad for me. Could this be contributing to the bloat?

funny-exercise

4. What I’m drinking. For the first 19 days on this diet, I drank only water. For the first 30, I drank no coffee or booze. Now, I still drink my 2l of water a day – but I also have a glass of wine most days, and one to two cups of coffee. There’s no doubt that drinks can have just as big an impact on your gut as food, and it’s careless to think they don’t.

funny-alcohol-drinks

5. Stress. When our work crisis hit, our stress levels shot right up. Some days, my colleagues were running to the bathroom with diarrhoea – and they don’t have IBD! I felt a gnawing nausea for days on end, and I was constantly in a state of high-strung anxiety. I’ve no doubt that this not only aggravated my gut, but also contributed to my bloating.

So what’s the next step?

Now that I’ve got a more holistic picture, so to speak, of the root causes of my bloating, I can start to fix the problem (if I can commit to it). It’s almost like working retroactively, going back and fixing what I’ve broken. Now that the bananas are gone, I know I should take a break from booze and coffee too, and keep working backwards like that until I am able to identify the food causes of the bloating – and then of course I need to address the non-food causes too.

I’ve just had dinner and I tried not to overeat. I had yogurt for ‘dessert’, with honey, because I’ve already cut out bananas today and I felt I deserved it!

Ugh, damn bloating. I feel like a stuck record. Imagine how AMAZING life would be without bloat!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!

Oh, to be a cat and be so unconcerned about bloating!

Day 56: When you have to take a few steps back on SCD

I feel like I’ve really been on the back foot these last few weeks on SCD. Until about mid-phase 2, the diet was going brilliantly. But I feel like since I introduced the yogurt (which was comprised of several new foods I hadn’t yet introduced), and then made the carpaccio mistake last weekend (repeated yesterday and definitely the cause of the diarrhoea for both K and I), I’ve been struggling to get back to good.

Tonight we had friends over and they know of my health troubles. Because of the carpaccio we ate last night, I’ve had terrible cramps and diarrhoea all day. This of course is not ideal when you invite guests to your tiny apartment, where the bathroom is in a very central position. And even though they know about my UC, I still didn’t want to dash off to the bathroom every few minutes and subject them to the audible fireworks that follow when I’m hit with GI distress.

For most of the night, it felt like a demon was reaching inside my body every few minutes, grabbing my stomach with a gnarly hand (I just know it was gnarly – demons don’t do manicures) and twisting it around like play-doh. It seemed like great fun for the demon, but not so much for me. I tried throwing pain pills at it, but it just laughed and twisted some more. I tried to make it drunk on red wine, but I think that just fuelled its fire. The only thing that seemed to work was when our friends (as lovely as they are) finally left at 1am and I had the bathroom all to myself. TG (thank god).

Selfie tonight at +- midnight

Tonight’s selfie

I’ve also been testing my yoghurt again and I’m not sure that it’s agreeing with me either. I know for sure that meat and most phase 1 and 2 veggies (that I introduced) are kind to my gut and we get along just great. The yoghurt, however, is seems to be the problem child – along with this damn carpaccio which, after slaying us with awful symptoms twice in one week, we will certainly be avoiding.

For now, I think I need to get back to basics – meat and veg, limited bananas, probiotics, vitamins and water only (sob). I’m hating the gas, bloating and discomfort, which is one of the reasons I started this diet. I’m tired of feeling gross and bloaty, especially when I’m trying to be sociable.

A common problem for anyone with IBD!

A common problem for anyone with IBD!

Probiotics – what’s your take on them?

I stopped taking my probiotics a few days ago because I wasn’t actually sure whether they were making a difference or not. I can’t detect any significant changes, good or bad, since stopping about five days ago. Given the current state of my GI tract, however, I think going back to them can only do me good.

What’s your take on probiotics? Can you notice a difference when you do/don’t take them?

How to fix SCD when it breaks

I’m no SCD expert and I’ve been on this diet for less than two months. But what seems to make sense is to go back to when I was fine, and to start again from there. As with anything that goes wrong, be it a maths equation or driving directions or a diet, you simply need to stop, find your way back to the main road, and try again.

Tomorrow is a new day, and while you should endeavour to make EVERY day your best, it’s good to know that an SCD mistake today isn’t irreversible.

A cat, because cats make me happy, and this one makes me particularly mirthful.

A cat, because cats make me happy, and this one makes me particularly mirthful. I think he’s given up on trying to suck in

Day 54: What things do you do today that your future self will thank you for? Share your tips!

I’m not getting all philosophical here. I’m not talking about the 50 or 60 or 100-year-old you. We’re all working hard to improve our long-term health and wellness, otherwise we wouldn’t be following these crazy diets and (literally) exercising out butts off 😉

I’m talking about you tomorrow. Not tomorrow in the existential sense; tomorrow as in the day after today.

A friend of mine, Simon, used to say, ‘That’s future Simon’s problem’, which was funny at the time (we were in our early 20s and travelling the globe when he came up with this). I always thought it was a clever saying, but at the same time, I really hate lumping things on Future Debby’s shoulders.

I’m the kind of person who likes to do things now, which I definitely got from my dad. I hate having tasks hanging over my head, so I tend to do things now rather than later. This is also great for someone with an unpredictable disease like UC: You might be 110% healthy today and (wo)man down tomorrow, unable to get out of bed – or more accurately, leave the bathroom. And for many of us – myself included – flares can sometimes hit suddenly and violently without any warning.

So here are a few things I do – and that you can do – to make tomorrow easier for future you:

1. Cook big batches of food. I like to cook lots of food on a Sunday. Sure, it takes many hours, but it means I have food in the fridge and freezer for an entire week. Tonight, my dinner took 5 minutes to prepare – 4 of which were done by the microwave 🙂

funny-cooking-quotes

2. Get as much work done today as possible. I set myself targets each day at work, and I hate to leave without having completed them. When possible, I try to do even more if I can, so that I have a lighter load tomorrow.

funny-delaying-work

3. Think about the little things you’ll need in the days or week ahead. I’m going to a baby shower on Saturday, so last Saturday, while at the shops, I took a few extra minutes to find a gift. This means that the gift has been ready and waiting for a week, and I won’t have to rush around tomorrow after work (or worse, on Saturday morning before the event) looking for something. Last-minute gift buying is frustrating, expensive, and almost never goes the way you hoped. Buy ahead with everything if you can, especially avos. Forethought is never more golden than when you want a ripe avo 🙂

4. Do an extra load of laundry today. Uggggghhh laundry. But if you have the time, just do it today. Tomorrow, you’ll thank you. Same goes for sweeping the floors, dusting the counters or taking out the garbage. Do it when you have the time, and maybe tomorrow you’ll have an extra hour to put your feet up. Bliss!

funny-dirty-laundry

5. Go to the bank. These days, you hardly ever need ready cash. Which means that when you do, you need to start digging around the bottom of your bag, your cubby, your pants’ pockets, your partner’s pants’ pockets, etc. We’ve all been there. Every Saturday, our maid comes to our apartment, and we pay her in cash. While at the bank yesterday, I drew the extra cash so that I won’t have to rush around like a mad thing when she’s already here on Saturday morning.

6. Put in extra reps when you have the energy. If and when a flare hits, you won’t be able to work out as heavily as usual – or even work out at all. So when you have the energy, and you feel like you can push a little harder, do it. You’ll be so glad you did.

images

7. Fill up your tank when you pass the petrol station. You’re always going to need gas – and Murphy’s Law says that when you hit the red light on your petrol tank, you’ll be miles from a gas pump. Cue unnecessary stress. Rather fill the tank when you pass the station and you’ll pat your future self on the back.

8. Buy a case of wine or bubbly when it’s on special: This way, you’ll a) always have a bottle to take to a BYOB without having to find a liquor store that’s open (in Cape Town, most bottle stores close at 5pm and you can’t buy on Sundays), and b) you’ll always have a gift in a cinch. This was K’s tip, from experience 😉

cat-wine

9 & 10: Two more tips from K. I asked her what she would add to this list, and she said choose your clothes tonight for tomorrow, to save time in the morning, and always reverse park so that you can get out faster in an emergency.

gD8AW

Is there anything that you do to help your future self out? Share your tips – I really love hearing them 🙂

Day 48: Nuts & booze – great at a bar, not great in your belly

After the terrible bloating of earlier this week, the last day or two have been great. Today I had zero bloat (until half an hour ago – more on that in a bit), and although I’ve had some gas, I’ve felt really good. So much so, in fact, that I squeezed into my tightest jeans tonight with no discomfort.

So what did I do differently these past two days? First of all, after cutting out bananas for a few days, I re-introduced them and made sure they were properly ripe. They seemed to treat me fine. I also tried to eat fewer than usual (so, maybe six a day instead of sixteen 😛 ).

I’ve also avoided the yoghurt for a few days, and that’s made a huge difference. I’ve just come back from a birthday party at a hipster tequila bar down the road, called Cabrito:

photo-3

Cabrito, Green Point

Look at all that hipster decor and shit!

Look at all that hipster decor and shit!

Thanks to a belly full of vodka and tequila (more on that, too, in a minute), I’ve been scavenging for food. For those of you who’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know I get bingey when I’m tipsy, and I scavenge for anything sweet.

Drunken selfie

Drunken selfie

So I had a couple of (small) bowls of yoghurt with some extra honey, and almost immediately, I can feel that the bloat and gas has set in. I know that some people only experience the side-effects of food up to a day or two after eating it, but for the most part, I can always tell pretty much straight away, or within a couple of hours. Right now there are bongo drums in my tummy! Much as it sucks, it’s great to pinpoint these things so precisely. So that’s the ‘nuts’ part of this post.

So about that tequila

I am not a big drinker, but as someone who enjoys her wine and has the occasional night out, it was important to me to know what alcohol I could consume on this diet – mainly so that I don’t drink the wrong kind. Dry wine (red and white) is okay; vodka (not grain-based vodka) is okay, and tequila is a grey area. However, I’ve learnt from others that tequila agrees with some people more than vodka does.

As always, when in doubt, I turn to the SCDLifestyle.com guys. And here’s what Steve Wright says about tequila:

Rum and Tequila are not called out in the legal/illegal list on pecanbread’s list.  However, I did find an old letter from Elaine saying that consuming light rum was okay but not dark rum.  However I was unable to find anything in the SCD world that speaks on Tequila.

My take on tequila is that you should probably avoid it while on the SCD diet.  According to the Mexican government regulations all natural ingredients must be used in the production of tequila.  Manufactures may add caramel coloring, glycerin, and sugar based syrups to flavor it.  Also remember that yeast is used to ferment the blue agave sugars which could cause trouble for people with digestive problems.

And this was exactly the sense I had when I downed this:

20140307_202759_LLS

Those beautiful little Patron babies tasted delicious (well, the one that I had), but I could instantly taste that it was packed with sugar and a million other SCD illegals. So I didn’t have another – instead, I drank that very sensible (okay, semi-sensible) tall drink behind it, which was vodka with pure apple juice. Yes, I snuck a bottle of pure apple juice into a hipster craft beer bar. I am quite possibly their new leader.

So, right now, I ‘feel’ sober but I can tell you, from the litre of yoghurt and honey I just slurped down, I am probably not. And I’m going to pay for this tomorrow morning at 9am when our cleaning lady arrives and I want to die. But two vodkas and one tequila isn’t so bad for a four-hour stint, right? Oh, and there was also the glass of red wine after work.

But I didn't touch any of this!

But I didn’t touch any of this!

I do think booze affects my gut, but it seems to be okay if I give myself a few days’ break in between. Will be VERY interesting to see my BMs tomorrow…

My diet and BMs right now

I’m eating all the things I’ve been enjoying up until now, with the exception of the yoghurt, which I’m going to have to re-strategise on 🙂 I’ve introduced coriander (cilantro) and it’s going well. Now I get to decide what to introduce next. It’s my favourite part of this diet 🙂

For the past few weeks, my BMs have been generally good. The constipation that I experienced in the early stages has pretty much cleared up, and I have decent BMs every morning, and sometimes in the evening too (which is such a bonus). I think that all that needed to happen was introducing a few new veggies into my diet. Maybe the yoghurt is, ironically, helping too?

All in all, I’m in a good place 🙂

unicorn poop

Day 41: The worst thing you can do for UC

I’m sorry I skipped this post last night. We got home late from a gig at a bar in Hout Bay, and I was feeling yukky and tired.

The whole week I’ve been having cramps and discomfort in my stomach/colon, which means that for most of the day yesterday, I was stressing about whether I’m about to have another flare. know how bad it is to stress about this. You know it too. Why do we do it??

Selfie of me at the bar last night

Selfie of me at the bar last night

I kept trying to talk myself down but by the time we got to the bar last night, and my tight, gassy, noisy belly was making me long for my bed, I was convinced. This really is completely counterproductive and one of the worst things you can do for UC. Talk yourself OUT of flares, not into them!

Exactly how it feels

Exactly how it feels

Luckily, we came home, I spent some QT in the loo, had a long hot shower, and felt loads better. It’s not in the least surprising that after the week I’d had, my belly would be unhappy. Add to that the fact that I ate a whole avo and a bunch of bananas (quite literally) before we went out, washed down with a glass or two of wine, and it is freakin clear as day why there was a riot in my belly.

PRIDE!!!

Us at Pride 2013, showing our support for our US friends before Prop8 was overturned

Us at Pride 2013, showing our support for our US friends before Prop8 was overturned

Today I feel good. In fact, I feel GREAT because it’s Pride and we’re going to march in a few hours. I really think it’s so important that we celebrate our freedom in South Africa. And it’s not just freedom to be gay. In SA, we’re have complete freedom of choice (obviously as far as your human rights don’t infringe on anyone else’s) – which means that whatever your race, religion, favourite colour or food allergy, you’re free to live the way you want. That’s not to say that there isn’t discrimination. There is. Which is of course another huge reason to hit the streets today and make a noise!

Pride 2012

Pride 2012

I’m starting the day with eggs and coffee – my favourite, though it feels like I’m someone’s grandpa! –  and I’ve bought a ton of veg to cook tomorrow for the week.

How’s your weekend going?

Day 38: Green beans and work blues

It’s been a stressful few days at work, which I know is not good for my gut. It’s always the first place I feel stress, anxiety or unease: Those horrible knots, the nausea, the jolts of adrenaline. I try to be very aware of it and to manage it as far as possible.

381-stress-is-when-you-wake-up-screaming-and-you-realize-you-havent

I keep reminding myself that I was offered this job when I was very happy (and successful) working for myself as a freelancer. I took it because the remuneration was attractive and because it was offered to me just as I was recovering from my last flare. I was on cortisone and I felt like I could conquer the world! No, but seriously, I thought that maybe the stability of a ‘9-5’ would be good for my health, as opposed to the uncertainty of freelance work.

So I keep telling myself that I can always go back to it. At any time, I can pack it in and return to my little home office, and to the foreign students I taught English to as well. It helps to keep me calm and to consider this a ‘favour’ I’m doing for the company, rather than the other way around (even if it’s not true!).

Does your job stress you out? How do you cope with it? It’s so important for people like us, with IBD, to find productive ways of handling it.

Oh but OH! There was one bright spot in the black hole of my work day today: One of the offices newbies asked me if this was my ‘first job out of varsity’. Considering that I graduated 10 years ago, my entire week (and possibly 30th year) was made.

But back to the food

Doesn’t it always come back to the food? 😉 The green beans are going surprisingly well. I am never quite sure after supper whether I’m bloated or just full, because I tend to eat my biggest meal of the day at night (BAD, yes, I know). I just hate feeling too full while I’m at work, or in the middle of the day. It makes me feel sluggish and unproductive.

Anyway, I had some beans at work today, and suffered zero ill effects. I’m pretty shocked that I’m handling them so well, but I’m so happy about it. It’s yet another food I can add to my diet.

130934341284

And the wine?

No wine. Despite how lovely it would’ve been to knock back a glass or two after work last night and today as well, I have resisted and I must say, I can feel a difference. I don’t have any cramps or bloating. Wine is going to have to be consumed in serious moderation, and that’s okay. I can handle it.

M&M?

No, not that kind of M&M! EMINEM! He’s coming to perform in Cape Town tomorrow and K got us last minute tickets! I’m beyond excited, and the best part is that we live right opposite the Cape Town stadium, so we can just stroll over when we’re ready, and stroll back home. The crazy part is that the tickets were sold for just R99, which is about $9. Originally, they ranged from about R500 to over R1000 ($50 to $100-ish), which is really expensive for us.

1425757_388758431226618_481069698_n

I’m sure the vibe is going to be INSANE and I’m sooooooo excited! So if I don’t post tomorrow, you’ll know it’s because we got home super late and with our heads full of expletives 😉

1922515_10152243976447458_1091110195_n