Millions of people live with health problems that they don’t know how to fix.
How many of you have finally gotten desperate enough to go see a doctor about some problem and been told “Take this prescription for the rest of your life that has terrible side effects, just give it time or live with it.” ? Most of us don’t want to just live with life altering health problems or pain. If you’ve had this discouraging experience, I urge you to take charge of your health.
Maybe you aren’t sure where to start? I’d like to suggest that you start with the most basic of life’s necessities, food.
As I wrote in this post , a letter in the newspaper gave me the clue I needed to start treating my lifelong health issues stemming from polycystic ovary syndrome, a common hormone imbalance that can cause many debilitating symptoms including infertility, severe PMS, heavy periods, weight gain and depression. Previously, doctors had offered little information or help other than putting me on birth control pills that my body does not tolerate.
But after reading that article, I went searching for more information. Then when I went to the doctor I knew what to ask for , Metformin, one medicine that would actually help the cause of my symptoms. And I learned that I needed to switch to a low carb/low sugar diet and get regular exercise. That was the beginning of many positive changes in my health as well as being able to get pregnant when I wanted to and not be obese and sick.
To be fair, the doctor I went to was my ob/gyn, not a specialist in endocrinology. But they did not suggest that I see one. I had to ask. This is the problem .
Why don’t doctors suggest nutrition changes?
Many people only see their primary doctors and do not get referred to specialists who know more about nutrient deficiencies and hormones than the PCP. If you do not get help from one doctor, don’t let them send you away empty! Ask for a referral.
But my doctors should have known from research that those things would help and didn’t tell me . Why ? Even though some doctors might suggest diet and exercise changes, most don’t get much training in nutrition strategies that work for different health problems. Many still believe that eating fat makes you fat and eating grains is healthy for everyone.
Many doctors assume that people will not be willing to change their diets because that is often true . So they offer prescription drugs to treat the symptoms instead of treating the cause.
But in fact, people with many kinds of health problems often see massive improvements when they learn how to eliminate food sensitivities and begin to eat a healthy unprocessed, moderate/high fat/protein/low carb diet.
Food allergies and eating a nutrition-poor diet of processed foods can cause nutrient deficiencies that lead to poor physical and mental health.
A poor diet results in poor immunity, inflammation, and poor nutrient absorption even when you take vitamins. Food allergies, disease and genetic conditions can actually prevent your body from absorbing nutrients from the good foods you eat. Your body gets weaker and things start to fail. It may not be obvious what is happening if you prop yourself up with caffeine, fast food, and sugar , which is what you will crave if your body is out of balance.
Symptoms ranging from skin problems, headaches, hormone imbalance, depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, sleep problems, sexual dysfunctions, stomach pain, digestive problems, trouble concentrating , frequent colds, allergies, infection and other illnesses and vague symptoms can be a result of your diet. These symptoms can also be caused by many, many other things which makes it hard to diagnose. Unfortunately doctors often don’t look at the most obvious cause, diet and other causes of poor nutritient absorption.
But the longer you survive on junk food, the worse you’ll feel . Depression and weight gain will likely result as well as other symptoms. You could also end up with insomnia, and widespread inflammation.
Changing your diet is important, but not always easy, and doctors should be willing to help with the process . If you want help learning to eat right, you could see a registered dietician for nutrition plans that will work for your body. Or you can learn on your own.
Keeping a diary of symptoms and what you eat can be very helpful to figuring out the cause of your symptoms.
- Write down every single thing you put in your mouth including water, snacks, vitamins, energy drinks, and food.
- Using an app or website will make this much easier. MyFitnessPal is one example. Check the app store for other ideas.
- You want to keep track of calories, protein, fat, sodium, sugar and ALL other nutrients from what you are eating, such as caffeine and vitamins.
- Read the ingredients and nutrition label from products or look it up online if it’s homemade. Keep track.
- Write down how you feel before and after eating to look for patterns. Do you get a headache, gas, diarrhea, other pain, sleepy, angry? Those can all be food related!
- Don’t give up. This diary is going to help you feel better.
- Once you have done this for at least a week, look for patterns. Then keep going.
- Eliminate foods and drinks that are causing obvious symptoms. But be aware that you may feel worse at first when you eliminate foods you are allergic to. You will have to go through detoxification. This is not fun, but it will be worth it!
- Some symptoms of detoxification include headaches, depression, fatigue, body aches, hunger, brain fog, irritability. Some of that is also an emotional and physical reaction to giving up foods and ingredients that your body is addicted to.
- Energy drink withdrawals can be tough because some brands contain extreme amounts of caffeine and other dangerous chemicals that affect the brain. You may have to wean off by reducing the amount you drink in a day. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for headaches and try to do it on a weekend when you can sleep a lot.
Use The Data You Collected
Now that you can start to suspect which foods that are causing headaches and other symptoms, you must take the next step and eliminate those foods. This will take courage, determination, and patience. It’s a paradox, but your body will not want you to stop eating those foods that are actually making you feel bad!
It’s exactly like a drug addiction. We often crave the foods that we are allergic to, such as peanut butter, white flour, sugar, aspartame. It make take up to 7 days to get past the bad feelings you will go through when your body stops getting those favorite poisons. Aspartame withdrawals should only take a few days but can cause headaches, so be aware. Switch to natural sweeteners if necessary.
The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, and sesame. Remember that you don’t have to have a full fledged allergy, as in anaphylactic shock reaction. Even food sensitivities can cause problems.
Some foods may not be as clear because there are many different ingredients in one type of food. For example, it may be hard to decide if you have problems with soy, dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, or nuts unless you completely eliminate them and then add them back one at a time. That’s why they call this the Elimination Diet.
If you want to ease into it, start with the easiest thing to eliminate, whatever that is. If you don’t eat a lot of eggs, leave them out completely and see if you notice any difference.
But usually the foods causing the problems are the ones you eat the most and crave. So you will need to find substitutes so you will not starve. Thankfully there are tons of websites available with dairy-free, grain-free, nut-free and egg-free recipes.
When you buy processed foods or restaurant food you must read the ingredients carefully. You might be surprised that many foods contain wheat, soy, and other things you don’t expect. Become a food detective! You are taking charge of your life and health! Even Walmart offers gluten free and specialty foods now. But remember that to be truly healthy you should eat food in it’s most natural state most of the time.
That means eating real food that you or someone else cooks, like eggs, quality-sourced meat, organic low-sugar fruits and vegetables, gluten-free flours, clean water, nuts ( if tolerated), healthy oils. Why is organic important? It depends on the item, but some produce is very highly treated with pesticides and that can affect your gut health which is an integral part of your immune system. Of course, the media is going to tell you to cut back on meat to save the planet. Does that really make sense? Many scientists say no. https://www.sciencealert.com/sorry-but-giving-up-on-meat-is-not-going-to-save-the-planet. You can eat meat without guilt.
Here’s a great list that is updated annually of which foods you should buy organic if possible.
The Dirty Dozen
- Apples (year-round)
- Strawberries (spring)
- Grapes (summer)
- Celery (year-round)
- Peaches (summer)
- Spinach (spring)
- Sweet bell peppers (year-round)
- Imported nectarines (summer)
- Cucumbers (summer)
- Cherry tomatoes (summer)
- Imported snap peas (summer) (not paleo)
- Potatoes (fall) (not paleo)
- *Hot peppers
- *Kale/collards (winter)
Check that website for the list of foods that don’t need to be organic , plus other helpful information.
What About Carbs, Fat, Protein?
In general most Americans eat too many calories from processed carbs (like flour and sugar) and not enough from good fats (olive oil, butter, nuts, etc) and protein(whole eggs, meat, chicken, fish). This article won’t go into a lot of detail on macros because hundreds of books have been written on the topic and people still argue over the correct percentages of each one.
To keep it simple, just know that you should eat at least 100g of protein a day. People who exercise a lot should eat more. Then you have to lower the carbs and raise the fats. Most people won’t like eating less than 100g of carbs a day, but the lower you go the better. To be in ketosis that would be under 25 g.
Not everyone is trying to lose weight, though. You want to get healthy. So focus on eating healthy foods and not too much, and let your body tell you if you’re hungry. That will not be possible until you eliminate problem foods because they can make you crave carbs and salty snacks because of your malnutrition.
The good news is that, once you get through the detox, healthy foods will start to taste delicious as your taste buds remember what real food should taste like! And you will probably feel a lot less hungry because your brain is not constantly saying “Eat! Eat!” in order to try to get the nutrients it needs. Even eating scrambled eggs every day is better for you then eating fast food or cereal. Eggs are not bad for you, by the way.
Simple foods are actually healthy foods. A salad, some eggs with veggies, broiled fish or a hamburger patty with onions and peppers, are all easy to make and nutritious. We Americans have been brainwashed into thinking that meals must contain carbs to be a complete meal.
Healthy carbs are great, but too many of us believe that daily servings of corn, pasta, and bread are healthy and necessary to be fully and satisfied. Actually they are the cause of obesity and the more you eat, the more you crave! Instead, eat more meat and fat vegetables and less of the bad carbs and you will get full AND lose weight. You will need to get used to eating differently. But it will be worth it!
Remember not all carbs are bad, just most of them, haha! But you should eat the good ones because you need the nutrition! Bad carbs = sugar, dessert, snack foods, cereal, bread, pasta. Good carbs=low sugar fruits and most veggies (think salad, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, not watermelon or tons of grapes).
Should you have cheat days or treat days? Not until you are completely detoxed and then ONLY with foods that do not cause instant symptoms! If you feel a little headache or runny nose after eating a cheat food, do not eat it, listen to your body. It’s telling you that food is off limits. But if you can safely eat a candy bar, preferably a high quality one, then go for it, once in a while. If wheat is not on your allergy list, then have some pizza , but don’t base your diet on pizza.Life Extension Female Comprehensive Hormone Panel Blood Test
A Few Helpful Websites
Here are some resources I have used over the years.
Start Eating Differently and Feeling Better!
I know it seems hard, but you can do this! Your life depends on it. You will not regret taking charge of your life and health through food. It’s possible that a lifetime of bad eating may take a while to repair, and you could have other underlying issues such as genetic conditions that mean you will not be able to completely heal yourself. But you can give yourself a big head start. Don’t let anyone discourage you from trying. Sometimes our families and friends don’t want us to change. If you think that might happen, try to keep this plan to yourself until you get used to the changes.
Here are some photos of me before and after I changed my diet and my life back in 2011. My whole body, especially my thyroid, was inflamed and I had not lost the weight I gained from my last pregnancy. This was related to my other hormone issues, but the thyroid thing was new. I started by using Atkins diet shakes and the low carb diet that I had used when I was younger. But only by going on the paleo diet and then gluten free was I able to completely heal. I also began running.
Now that I am almost well from Covid, I plan to get back to my healthy low carb diet. I’ve let myself get lazy and eat badly again for too long. That’s why my immune system failed me. Want to join me? Let’s do it together!