When it comes to eating for health and recovery from any chronic illness there is a lot to be learned. There are many “diets” out there, and we must do our research before diving into major dietary changes, based on our individual circumstances.
Much of my “learning” has recently been accomplished via online webinars that teach about functional medicine and how to heal your body through natural means, like optimal nutrition. I have attended two of these webinars in the past year. The Evolution of Medicine Online Summit and The Healthy Gut Summit. These were week-long events with an average of 4 hours of presentations a day to listen to. It takes a commitment of time to get all the information, but has been very worth it for me. The opportunity to listen to these for free has passed, but they are still available for purchase. Also, if you follow the website, I’m sure there will be more of these soon, and you can register to listen for free!
Another great part of my learning comes from simply reading and researching anything I can to learn about optimal cellular nutrition. Since we now have strong evidence linking CVS to mitochondrial disorders it makes sense to eat in a way to treat a mitochondrial disorder.
What I’ve learned might shock you. It seems that with all our advances in technology, we have failed when it comes to food. Ever heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”? (That’s the southern version.) Well, it’s like that. The food we had for thousands of years before technology wasn’t broken, and we shouldn’t have “fixed it” with all the processing and adding of preservatives and chemicals. It was all in the name of convenience for the consumer, and money for the companies, of course. Historical people had it right all along. Fresh, organic, locally grown food really is best.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s nearly impossible to eat clean and fresh, depending on geographical location and individual circumstances. For me, I simply don’t have much time, (or desire for that matter) for cooking. But eating fresh requires cooking multiple times weekly. My husband is an angel and helps out with this a lot. I live in a place where organic, locally grown veggies and fruits are not necessarily easy to come by. I’ve recently been saved by a new Publix opening near me, but prior to that it was difficult to find anything clean or local. I’ve recently learned of some online resources, such as Thrive Market, for ordering health food right to your door. There are some other ways to be creative. Try asking around the local farmers about purchasing from them. Some will, some won’t. Farmers Markets and Community Sponsored Agriculture are options for some.
There’s also that thing where the most recent generations seem to have had our taste buds brain-washed to love processed food with preservatives and sugar instead of “real food”. I know, because I was one of them. Now, my parents did a great job of restricting our access to candy, soda, sweets, etc… And my Mom cooked us balanced meals. I wasn’t a picky eater, so I was never bothered much by food. I ate everything, and loved pretty much everything I ate. When I came of age to work and make my own money in high school, I decided to treat myself pretty much daily with Mountain Dew, Sun Drop, and various candy bars, which I thought myself to deserve for having not eaten them for most of my life. Then, in college I decided to be completely lazy, and eat out of boxes and cans for 6 years. And lets not forget all the booze. That definitely didn’t help. This carried over into the married years as well. I feel that I became like a food junkie for all the flavor and none of the nutrition.
The thing that is important to understand is that processed food is basically a “ghost” of the food that it once was. It’s like an outer shell with the insides missing. The nutrients have been processed away, to make a long story short. When I think of how I seriously deprived my body of optimal nutrition for about 8 years of my life, and how the onset of my CVS was in my last years of college, it makes sense that lack of optimal nutrition was a factor in my body finally deciding to genetically express the CVS that had lived within me all along. To be clear, I am not saying that my poor nutritional choices “caused” my CVS, because I always had the genes for it. I am saying that multiple factors stressed my body to the point that CVS manifested in me at age 25. I strongly believe that diet is one of the major factors, among many others, that helped to open the door that let this beast escape the confines of my unexpressed genes. And, based on that, I feel that I can do a lot for my body by simply eating for optimal nutrition.
So, I bet you want to ask me question that might go a little like, “What diet are you on?”. The answer is that I don’t follow any specific “diet”. There is a lot of information out there online, and everyone should research this individually. I don’t think there is one diet that fits all, or even fits all CVSers. You have to experiment, adjust, and tweak. Some people have multiple health issues that complicate matters. For example, if someone has CVS and has a disorder where they can’t digest fiber, then raw fruits and veggies aren’t going to be the wisest dietary choice.
With that said, below is an outline of they type diet I try to follow. I hope it gives you an idea of what my food goals are. If I had to point you towards a diet, I would tell you that I follow the “principles” of the Paleo Diet more than any other. I believe it to be a clean, natural way to eat. However, I don’t eat near as much meat as the true Paleo Diet would call for. I believe in eating as little meat as possible and getting my protein from plant sources as much as possible. I am not a vegetarian, as I do believe that some meat should be included in a well-rounded diet, but I believe we should restrain ourselves and limit that intake to a much smaller amount than is normal in today’s society. Also, I still eat grains, while trying to avoid gluten as much as possible.
Nearly all the recipes I cook with come from Paleo Leap.
- Fruits and veggies
- All of them and as many as possible
- Eat the rainbow. The more, darker, deeper, brighter, intensely-colored, the better
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Various fish. Wild caught when possible
- Lean protein
- Red meat, poultry, seafood
- Avoid caffeine
- Sleep disturbances
- Crash and burn
- Perpetuates fatigue
- Avoid simple carbs
- White flour
- Avoid artificial sweetener
- Like aspartame or saccharine
- Use sweet potato, carrots, squash, etc…
- Use honey
- Avoid gluten
- causes inflammation in the gut and body, even if you don’t have celiac disorder
Maybe the most important thing is to keep a food journal. I have a hard time keeping one of these strictly too, but they can be most enlightening if you do them for long enough to see patterns emerge. The main thing I notice is that before, food was almost the bane of my existence. I was terrified of food and I nearly always felt bad after eating it. I always wondered if the next bite I took would be the bite that sent me into my next episode. That has changed for me! Now, when I eat a meal of 80% fresh fruits and veggies and 20% protein and simple carbs (like potato), I feel satisfied and energized after eating. I don’t have that yucky full feeling anymore. I feel like I have nourished my body and I feel better for having done so. It’s an amazing and noticeable change. Although I do give in to the occasional craving, I will never go back to my earlier eating habits. I have found that they more I eat properly, the less my body will tolerate any crap. In other words, I often pay for it when I give in to the temptations that the culinary world presents to me. The work environment is often a stumbling block for me, when I want to try the latest homemade recipe brought by a co-worker who doesn’t use the same ingredients I use to cook with. Sometimes I resist, and am sad to have missed out, yet happy because I still feel good. Other times I give in, and it tastes SO GOOD, but I’m paying for it dearly within 30 minutes. It is what it is…
So, now I bet you are wondering something like, “Well, has it helped?” The answer is YES!! It has helped tremendously. I mentioned above how I don’t have the fear of food or bloating after eating anymore, but I also have improved my symptoms over the course of time. I haven’t had a full-blown episode in over 3 months now. Some other factors involved are supplements, but I can tell you that since changing my diet drastically I feel better on a daily basis. I have more energy, mental clarity, and motivation. I truly feel like I am treating myself slowly, but surely, and feel more “normal”. This isn’t magic, and it isn’t like taking a pill. Nothing happens overnight. I still have bad days. But over time I have stayed the course, and I really am seeing the positive results. Even if these diet changes didn’t do anything to treat my CVS, they are still making me a healthier and happier person, which can only help my body to deal with CVS, so I feel that the changes are worth it, no matter what.
One last thing, for those of you who are moaning, and whining, and sniveling, “….but I hate vegetables….”. I can tell you this in complete honesty. Our taste buds change. We have desensitized our taste buds and changed them with today’s flavor enhanced foods. I used to hate things like carrots and sweet potatoes. Once I made the changes, after a while my taste buds began to change again. To my advantage this time. I began to find that I was enjoying the flavor of foods that I never enjoyed before. This has only gotten more amplified with time. I now LOVE most veggies and fruits. To me they taste natural, and clean, and earthy, and then unique in their own way. Some are sweet or have flavors that I don’t know how to describe. Subtle flavors seem satisfying to me, and artificial flavors are overwhelming and distracting. I can appreciate flavors in a way I never could when my taste buds were saturated with sugar and other chemicals. It’s lovely actually. So, there is hope for you too, my friend. No one said it would be easy. This is medicine. But if you stay the course, it will be worth it. Because isn’t it worth it to give up a little bit of “flavor” in order to improve the quality of your life?
If you are reading, I hope this helps you. I’m just a Warrior, fighting with (hopefully) calm strength and knowledge to improve my symptoms and live the best life possible. Eating clean and healthy will not only help those with chronic illness like CVS; it will help anyone who wants to feel better and live a healthier lifestyle regardless of other factors.