Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cleanse Update

Also, a little update on my "cleanse": I decided that I am far too small with a far-too-persnickity digestive system to eat only vegetables even for three days. Since this whole "let's feel better" process began as a result of over two months of antibiotics and steroids, I knew what I really needed to do: eliminate sugar for awhile. Why? For years, I've struggled with an overgrowth of yeast in my body. (The gastroenterologist actually found yeast growing IN MY THROAT. Not a good sign.)

Anyway, what causes yeast to spiral out of control? I'm not on birth control though I was in high school, which caused the overgrowth at that point for me. Antibiotics, steroids, and too much sugar also serve as culprits. I love me some fruit in the summertime, but even the fruit in sugar feeds the yeast. Fermented foods (NO! PICKLES! I LOVE YOU!) feed yeast. Starchy foods that turn into sugar if not burned off quickly (POTATOES, COME BACK!) feed the damn yeast. All things that taste deliciously wonderful feed yeast. Here's the real kicker with the yeast (the bastard formally known as candida albicans): its overgrowth sends my Sjogrens (autoimmune disorder) into a Tasmanian devil tizzy. Before I took the sugar out of my diet, my skin/face/everything felt as if someone lit it on fire. I turned into a S'more. (But not one I could eat because...sugar.)

I bought a book called I Quit Sugar. I ate it up--figuratively, of course--within a few days of having bought it. I love it for all of the scrumptious sounding recipes in it, but there are some she uses brown rice syrup for. Umm...I checked the bottle. Still sugar. Still feeds yeast. Whatever. It includes a lot of helpful information on sugar, why we crave it, why we need to "quit it," and why the author quit it (so helpful to read her testimonial). Also, some recipes I can tweak and others I can leave as is. The most helpful information I gleaned from the book, however, was actually in the form of inspiration. She says not to beat yourself up if you "slip up" and she says you need to wean yourself off (none of this cold turkey business) because we are programmed to crave sugar. Quitting cold turkey typically leads to binge eating sugar and then crying over your empty bowl of sugary goodness because, will power, where the hell did you go? Boys chase girls chase sugar.

I am about two weeks into the whole "check ya later, sugar" thing, and though I have some more tweaking to do, I feel much better already. My Dad calls the two of us "grazers." We love our snacks. Snacks make quitting sugar especially difficult. I am still navigating this nebulous territory. It appears even many nuts (cashews/walnuts) have sugar, but the amount is so miniscule that I have a difficult time believing they'll do me much harm. For a few weeks (once I figure out the snack situation), I'll probably say buh-bye to nuts with sugar in them.

Here's what I'm avoiding (for now):
* All fruits
* Tomatoes
* Potatoes
* Rice
* Fermented foods
* Pastas
* Chips

What's getting me through (a.k.a. what I'm eating):
* Cauliflower--chop up enough to fill half of a cereal bowl; pour some olive oil and apple cider vinegar (balsamic has quite a bit of sugar in it) over the cauliflower; put the bowl in the microwave for 55-60 seconds; sprinkle it with pepper/salt/chili powder. Sweet crackers and juice, I've found me a favorite snack! Also, heating it up for about 55-60 seconds makes it easier to chew and digest. (No need to fear a severe attack of the walking farts.)
* Cashews--not a lot because there is some sugar in them, but I'm still learning how to create snacks on the go; this'll do for the weaning off stage
* Unsweetened almond milk smoothie--I open up my probiotic capsules and dump the powder into almond milk; I add drops of liquid Stevia; I add three ice cubes; I blend it in my bullet; I stick in a straw and drink it. It's the perfect "sweet" treat without actually being sugary.
* Cucumbers--salt them; put a little olive oil on them; add some oregano; have fun with spices
* Hummus--I figured out how to make my own, which I might continue to do only because it's so much cheaper. 
* Quinoa--it has a negligible amount of sugar, so I use it instead of rice/potatoes as sides. It has a lot of potassium, protein, fiber, and folate. There's a learning curve when trying to fix it, but I'm nothing if not persistent. 
* Mozzarella -- now, this one I don't eat often because dairy can offer its own set of complications for this who issue. However, I refuse to give up cheese. Vegans, you will not convert me. Sorry. I stick with fresh mozzarella instead of any aged cheeses.
* Eggs -- Strap an S on its chest because the egg is my superhero.
* Crackers -- okay, a very specific cracker that I can find in only some grocery stores (Giant has them). They're called Artisan Nut Thins by Blue Diamond. They're not perfect, but they're great for giving me a little energy when I hit a slump during a snack time high (late afternoon).

The results:
* For a very long time, I have been an extremely conscious eater because of my cantankerous digestive system. I don't love any food enough to allow it to double me over in pain. Quitting sugar is not easy, and people look at you funny over it. People look at me funny for many other reasons, so why not add another? Anyway, here is what I've noticed with only a minimal amount of sugar in my diet:
- my sinuses are much more cooperative
- the redness in my face has gone down A LOT
- my acne has cleared up significantly
- my body does not feel like someone set it on fire (best perk? probably.)
- I don't feel unbearably bloated, which makes my stomach look really lean. (I see now why body builders cut out sugars before competitions!)
- quitting sugar and being gluten intolerant makes me hate reading labels, so I eat VERY little processed foods (I guess the crackers are the closest to processed despite their having lots of good things in them like flax seeds); I find this result to be positive.

Very Important Note:
I do a lot of research when I decide to alter my diet even a little.  I do not alter it for weight loss purposes, but my way of eating would probably make a lot of people feel better, which I think is essentially why many people want to lose weight. For me, it is the same reason: to feel better. Ultimately, I really listen to my body; I might be too in tune to it, but I am what I am. If I eat something and it makes me feel bloated, or gives me horrific stomach cramps, or I get little bumps on my lips, or my autoimmune disease flares up, I modify things. Everything I eat (and choose not to eat) is a result of how it makes me feel physically. Of course, when I am not in pain, I feel better emotionally and mentally, too, so that's a happy bonus.

If you're interested to know what a typical day of meals and snacks looks like, I'd be happy to share. In fact, I might share anyway. Ever altered your diet? Ever tried to quit sugar? What were your results? Feel free to share in the comments.

Note: I am not a doctor, so you should always consult your doctor before following the advice of any random person online. The commercials are wrong: just because you read it online does not make it true. I am simply sharing what's working for me based on visits to doctors and researching a LOT.


  1. Wow this seems like a lot of work. But I find that feeling like poop is a really easy way to motivate yourself in changes like this, and it seems like it's really paying off for you. Jim and I cut starches from our weeknight dinners just about a year ago and we've been able to stick with it, occasionally going with quinoa or a bean if we really feel we need an alternative. Keep us updated with how it works out!

  2. well, if it makes you feel any better, I've read quite a bit about juice cleanses and they actually don't make a lot of sense to me. I'm the worst at eating healthy, so I bought a juicer to try to get some more fruits and veggies into my diet. So far, I've failed when trying to add veggies, so I'm starting with fruits and trying to trick my tastebuds into liking new things. It's crazy. I have a long way to go, but I'm hoping to make small changes.

  3. What a great post! (even if it's not applicable to me) I haven't really ever tried to go on a diet. Except for that time in high school, and it lasted all of five hours. I've tried to give up processed foods, but that lasted maybe two days. I guess I lucked out with a digestive system that cooperates (except when it comes to Indian food, and lately, some chain restaurants), so I don't need to worry too much. I'm happy to hear that you've found something that has so many positive effects on you and your body, and I hope it works out for you!

  4. My cousin has Crohn's and it's caused her to have a very specific diet, as well. My uncle has diabetes and he is very careful with what he eats. I know that I need to cut back on sugar, too, but it's hard when I love M&Ms so much. I'm also a very picky eater so it makes it hard for me to give up anything that I like the taste of, since I hate (really, really hate) the taste of so many things. I know it's wrong to justify it that way, but I do. I should really do some deep thinking about the sweets in my life and see if I can make some cuts. I will most likely never cut out all sweets, unless I need to medically, but maybe I can make a little progress. And if it makes me feel good, I'll be more likely to keep it up. Best to you! (And who is looking at you funny? That's lame of them.)

  5. I was exhausted just reading that. I feel for you lady - it must be so aggravating to have your body fight you on things that it should just be doing naturally. I'm glad to hear that you are in a better place and figuring out how to make it work for you. Thank you for sharing with us!

  6. I feel your pain. I also have AI, and I've had to give up wheat, all nightshades (Oh, how I miss potatoes and tomatoes…and bell peppers!), processed sugar and processed food in general. For four months, I was also off dairy products, and nuts/seeds too, so that left so little! Once your body 'resets' you do start to feel so much better though!

  7. Wow! I admire your tenacity when it comes to your diet! I'm sorry that you have to deal with digestive issues but it sounds like you are coming out a healthier eater and person in general. A couple of your snack ideas sound delicious and I'm planning to try them for myself! Keep us updated on how you are feeling and what you are eating!

  8. Wow. It sounds like we're suffering from many of the same symptoms! Severe bloating that causes some severe cramps, red faced, acne, and lots of stomach aches among other things. I never would have thought of BC to cause a yeast overgrowth. I was on the same diet for a week anf it was really tough. I mainly missed coffee and tea which I drink on a daily basis. I struggled with cooking every single meal and was constantly preparing food. It was exhausting! I didn't notice any differences in my symptoms and grew frustrated by such limited food options, esp at breakfast. I ate quinoa with every meal. I started taking a probiotic for urinary health as I struggle with many-a-problem in that area, hoping it would help with both issues.

    How long was it before you started feeling better?

    How long will you be doing the cleanse? I'd be very interested in what you have been eating! I ate the same thing for breakfast each morning (quinoa bowl with veggies- note: I hate eggs) and tried a handful of recipes for lunch and dinner. How do you find the energy to constantly prepare meals, especially when you're hangry?


Feel free to throw some witticisms my way.