Friday, April 27, 2012

Sugar Surrender

As I mentioned in my last post, I've committed to eliminate sugar from my diet for 10 days in an attempt to recalibrate my body and reduce what I see as a sensitivity to the sweet stuff. I have in the past been diagnosed with Candidiasis, a common condition that many people have but don't know it as the symptoms are so wide ranging and general in nature that most people just think it's normal to feel that way or they chalk it up to something else. I'm very in-tune with my body and know right away if I am reacting to something I've eaten. I'm sensitive to eggs, wheat (not gluten), dairy, soy, sulphites, corn, beets, raspberries, beer (or something in it) and I am suspicious of several others. I've learned a lot about sensitivities and food intolerance since my own diagnoses, and in some ways it's been a good thing, it's forced me to eat clean, eat healthier and make better food choices but it's also immensely frustrating and limiting at times. Also, I'm human and so although there are things I know I'm sensitive too, I do eat them from time to time.
Sometimes I get away with it, sometimes not. My tolerance level seems to change daily, depending on what else is going on such as other stresses, illness, fatigue etc. In 2010 I was tested for candida overgrowth by my naturopath. Candida is a part of the gut flora, everyone has it, but sometimes it can overgrow and cause a lot of problems. It feeds on sugar so once you've got an overgrowth/imbalance, any sugars just feed it, and the symptoms more. Sugars includes the typical refined sugars (white sugar, maple syrup, alcohol etc), natural sugars such as fruit, juices and sweet veggies like carrots and sweet potato. Everyone has Candida in their gut, and a significant proportion have Candidiasis, or an overgrowth of Candida. Candida starts to cause trouble when there is some change in your body that allows it to overgrow. This change could be anything from a few courses of antibiotics, a prolonged diet rich in carbohydrates and sugar, or even something as common as a lengthy period of stress at work. For me, it flared up a couple of years ago when I was going through a lot of major life changes and under stress. I had known about my food sensitivities for a while and was managing them for the most part but these symptoms were noticeable and I knew something else was going on. Different people experience different symptoms. The overgrowth of Candida produces toxins that your body's immune system can struggle to cope with. The wide-ranging side effects of this battle range from headaches and fatigue to abdominal pain and depression. For me, it was fatigue for no reason, weight gain despite exercising a lot and reducing my caloric intake, digestive distress and generally feeling in a fog all the time. I got tested and it showed I had an overgrowth as suspected. The only way to deal with it...stop feeding it. So stop eating all sugar. Now I'm not a sugar fiend in general, my food sensitivities limit a lot of treats like cakes, pastries etc but I do enjoy and regularly eat fruit, drink wine and eat chocolate. My overgrowth was moderate to high in 2010, but not the worst possible, so my naturopath directed me to avoid alcohol, high sugar fruits like bananas and mango, fruit juice and any obvious sugars like syrup, honey and refined sugar. Some people have to be a lot stricter (that's a tough pill to swallow) and there are other foods to avoid that can also feed candida such as yeast, vinegars and mushrooms. Click here to see a list for people who have to be really strict...thank goodness I was only moderate. I followed the plan fairly consistently for 6 weeks and got re-tested and had reduced my levels a lot as well as losing the 5lb I had gained for no known reason. Some candida still remained though so I was advised to be aware of sugars in general from now on.
In the past 8 months, I have again gone through a lot of changes, all good and exciting changes, but changes none the less that caused stress, physically and emotionally. I moved across the country to Halifax where I knew not one single person (PB was in Toronto training for the first 2 months I was in Halifax), first in to a rental suite and then moved again 3 months later in to a house PB and I purchased. In this time, I also have had 3 jobs and worked completely irregular hours and not really had a formal weekend (2 days off in a row). My exercise level has dropped significantly although my eating has been great, I've been able to focus on that. Nonetheless, I was noticing those old symptoms coming back and knew what it was. The biggest symptom is the fact that although eating super heathily, I was super sensitive to my allergens and seeing big weight fluctuations due to water rentention from bloating and abdominal inflammation. So here we are...Day 5 of 10. I did this for 6 weeks last time although was not 100% compliant the whole time. This time my plan is to be strict for 10 days, then to ease up a little bit for another month before re-evaluating the situation. Last time I eliminated sugar was very hard but after a few days I felt AMAZING! I woke up before my alarm reading to tackle the day and was uber-productive all day long, every day. I had great sleeps as well. I want to get back to that again.
My plan here is to eliminate the following foods strictly for the 10 days:

-any refined sugar
-honey, maple syrups, jams
-candy, chocolate, all the good stuff
-no wheat or refined grains
 -reduce fruit intake, especially high sugar tropical fruits

So far it's been okay although major sweet cravings ( which I usually do not have) set in on day 4. Breakfast is also proving a struggle with my other food limitations, even more so with these added restrictions. This morning I ate a veggie burger with avocado and salsa. We were out and about for lunch so I had Tim Hortons chili...not a lot of other choices that fit my needs out on the road in the countryside of Nova Scotia.
My saving graces have been kale chips and rice cakes with almond butter or guacamole on them. I have eaten 2 apples and 2 small bananas over the 5 days but only because I was starving and had no other choice within my restrictions. I am starting to feel better overall although I know I'm not there yet. I'm still bloated a bit and feeling tired but less than a week ago and I've been more consistent and energised for exercise.
I bought some unsweetened flax milk to make overnight oatmeal with and I plan to add cinnamon and chopped apple to it for some sweet sugar free flavour.  I need to find some other options though that will fuel me through to lunch.
Lunches have been soups, or leftover BBQ salmon with roasted peppers and quinoa that I made a batch of earlier in the week. Dinner is the usual veggies and protein, I don't usually add sugar to the main course so no modifications needed here!
I am missing the wine, especially on Friday night but I know how good I can feel and I know that if I do this now, I will feel better for a long time after. They key to success however, is not determination or willpower, it's removing temptation from the house!

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