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Life After Grains

Establishing a New Normal

This is a sequel to my blog post Eating To Live.


When my mother told me that she had begun a new, restricted diet two weeks before coming to visit for Christmas, I groaned inwardly. I was afraid it was going to go badly. Meal times were already a potential source of stress for the family, and I was afraid my mother's special diet was going to make it hard to  keep everyone happy.

Subsequent to another colon surgery (the third in 12 years), she had developed SIBO, or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, and had received a diagnosis from her pretty savvy New York gastroenterologist.  A course of antibiotics treated the SIBO as long as she was taking them, only to have the symptoms return once the antibiotics were over.

Obviously antibiotics can present a whole host of other problems, and she wanted to learn about ways of treating her condition through diet. This is what led her to the discovery of Breaking the Viscious Cycle, and the idea of adopting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet as a way of depriving the intestinal microbes overpopulating her gut from the food on which they feed, and allowing healthy bacteria to develop and keep the bad microbes in check.

So while she was here, instead of making my flour and milk pancakes for me and my son, I allowed my mother to feed us pancakes made from just eggs and almond flour. Instead of eating the maple syrup that I usually drenched my pancakes in, I had a little watered down and heated honey.

Lunches were a little harder to figure out (sandwhiches obviously being out of the picture) and my mother and I snacked on apples and carrots and almond butter... We were both new at this. There was a lot of change and tweaking and refining our approach in store.

For dinner I found it easy to just forego the starch component-- cooked the potato for my partner and happily made do with protein and steamed vegetables.

After just a couple of days of this, I observed that I felt tons more energy.  I also felt much more calm.  Even my partner, a great skeptic about such things, observed these changes in me.

It was enough to compel me to keep going.  I avoided sugar. And I learned how to bake grain and sugar free muffins that were packed with fruits and vegetables.

One of the first things that happened, besides the sudden absence of mucus from my stool, and an ability to actually feel my bowel itself propelling the waste out of me (as opposed to the slippy-slide effect of the crazy amounts of mucus), aside from the absence of headaches, and the absence of the pains in my joints and neck, was that I began to sleep through the night. I would wake up feeling rested, and suddenly I realiized that I hadn't slept through the night since before my son was born and for reasons that had nothing to do with being a mom.

After two months of cleaning my body out, it has become much more sensative to offending substances, and this makes it easier to identify them and eliminate them.

For example, over the weekend I ate some sprouted corn tortillas.  Live grains are considered bettter than "dead"  grains, for reasons I'm not yet clear on, although I suspect it relates to the greater bioavailabity of sprouted grains. However, my intsinct was not to get them. I told myself I needed to find happy-medium things that my son could eat, and I got them, and I made myself two of the best tasting tortillas I've ever had.  Well shortly afterwords I felt a headache coming on. Waking in the night I felt tender pain in my right ankle, and when I got up, the tender spot was now on the sole of my right foot.

It felt like a bruise, and I was limping a little when I walked.

I was astonished to think that two corn tortillas could do this to me.  I thought, perhaps this really is all in my head? I thought, okay, so tomorrow no corn tortillas.

The next day the tender spot on my foot seemed to worsen. I was limping even more now. The chest cold that I seemed to have overcome rapidly returned in spades. I thought it was because I had eaten some cheddar cheese (generally a good idea to avoid milk based products in particular when one is congested.) But the tenderness and the congestion persisted even after the corn and the cheese had passed out of me.

Now I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I had consumed. Was it possible that all of my theories about this grain-inflammation connection were bogus? I held onto hope, reminding myself that the son of the woman who wrote The Boy With A Thorn In His Joints  got worse before he began to get better on his grain-free, sugar free and dairy-free diet.  Maybe this was just my body in the process of detoxing.

My energy felt depleted again, and lightheadedness returned.

While I have not yet begun to keep a food journal, I have been paying close attention to what I've been consuming everyday. Because I had had a bad cold, I had begun popping probiotics at night with my nightly calcium. 

I remembered reading in a couple of sources that many natural supplements contain dairy and or soy products. I got out my cheater glasses (my eyesight has worsened greatly during this growth of bodily inflammation over the past year) and read the label on my probiotics box: sure enough, it contains soy and dairy.

So last night I skipped the probiotics. I woke up this morning with the pain in my foot gone. I am not needing to blow my nose every two seconds. I feel energy, and I can think better.

Amazing to think that the little bit of soy in my probiotics was doing that to me.

It's easy for some to write this off as a "placebo effect", which is just a polite way of saying that's it's psychological, that it's all in my head. "One could never break down which foods are causing the reaction," some might think.

When we begin to clean our bodies of the toxins that are causing us harm, our bodies become much more attuned to changes. In fact, it becomes much easier to begin to draw the connections betweeen eating certain foods and how we feel afterwards.

I feel great today! 

We tend to be very private about our health ordeals, in large part because it can be very scary, and there is a lot of shame associated with illness. We feel at fault, We feel like whiners. And no one wants to hear about our stool unless it's a stool we're sidling up next to somebody on to tell them a joke.

But by talking about my saga I have been discovering lots of other people coming out of the woodwork, discussing gut issues from which they have suffered for years. Lots and lots of what people describe as "the run-around" from doctors who are sadly unwilling to pursue the mounting scientific evidence nor these real life stories of people finding renewed health and wellness in their lives by altering their diets.

I loved my bread. I really did. For years I saw strict eaters as half-mad, neurotic, or at best, walking around with a mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Sometimes it's easier to see everyone else as crazy rather than to look at ourselves and make a change.

I'm sorry if what I am posting about my revelations is upsetting to some people. I had a doctor tell me that what I was posting on facebook was "wrong and potentially harmful." 

Well, if you've been feeling sluggish and just not at the top of your game, I encourage you to give up carbs for a few days. Try it for just a week. Then let me know how you're feeling!



Can we talk?

Rachel Dowling's picture

By all means! I'm not sure who I'm talking to, but perhaps you can post a note here, or send me a private message?

I've got your email, so I'll email you!!! :)