The Bridget Jones of dieting and yam-yams.

8 days. 8 days of antibiotics and 8 days of eating clean. Supposedly.

I’m happy to say that I have only missed one dose of my antibiotics. Not happy because I’m intoxicating my lovely gut with these drugs and a missed dose means a health break for my insides. No, happy that with the chaos of moving out, I have managed to remember to take them so often. It helps that Mr B is on board and I get the odd gentle reminder to get my ass of the sofa at night and take them. If I’m going to trial this antibiotics thing, I’ve got to do it 100% otherwise, what is the point?

My update on the antibiotics…well, I have still got the unmentionable going on in (and then swiftly out of) my stomach, although it is only happening once a day, so it’s bearable.  I have no gouty symptoms anymore, but what I do have is overwhelming tiredness. Like the type you get when having a flare (or a hangover). Just ridiculous I’m-gonna-lie-down-right-here-on-the-tiles type tiredness. Tiredness that makes my fuse reaaaaally short. The same as when you’re horomonal. That kind of tiredness. I’m hoping it’s yet another one of those symptoms that will gradually fade away, but until then I am having to be extra kind to myself, in order to achieve anything. Otherwise my Inner Perfectionist (she lives on the opposite side to my Inner Hypochondriac) keeps getting really cross that I am not getting my chores done, efficiently or at done all in some cases. I’m ignoring her and the Hypochondriac. Let them battle it out together. I’m just too tired to listen to either of them.

A new side-effect is yam-yams. This term may not be a familiar term to you, but you’ll see it makes true, onomatopoeic sense. Have you ever had a dry mouth from surgery, or from taking medication? When you are so dehydrated , your mouth feels like the inside of Ghandi’s flip-flop, in the desert, after he’s walked a few hundred miles? Well, yam-yams is the sound your mouth makes when you try to rehydrate it without actually drinking. When you suck your tongue and open and shut your mouth. Yam, yam, yam. This is what I have. Constantly. Despite drinking a fish pond of fluids daily. Still, I won’t die (really, Inner Hypochondriac, I really won’t.)

Then there’s my diet. Hmmm. I am mostly doing good. Lots of beautiful meals, but little creativity going on. Roast chicken or pork. Roasted vegetables. Pan-fried fish. Sautéed courgettes, garlic and onions. Roasted sweet potatoes. In cubes. In wedges. In bigger chunks. Lots of smooth coconut oil, lavished all over everything I cook. Lots of raw coconut. Tinned fish. Sauerkraut. No grains, bread, pasta, sweets, processed food.  Ok, no processed foods apart from two or three. Dried apricots and wine. And a little cheese. I had one glass of beautiful, high-quality, red wine at a Wine and Cheese party Saturday night. You would think that I would have learnt my lesson after nearly dying the day before of all the side effects of my meds; instead I ignored the potential cirrhosis of the liver and sipped a lovely glass of Burgundy.

I am Bridget Jones. Of the diet world. I make poor choices, repeatedly.

To be fair, the wine didn’t cause me to flare, neither did the raw milk cheese, called Langres (delicious by the way and from a beautiful little Fromagerie, where 95% of their stock is cheese made from raw milk). Maybe this lulled me into a false sense of security.Then came the dried apricots….

Yesterday, I was baking for Ty’s school fair. My Sugar Dragon was mocking me, as it always does when I’m baking. How tough is it to wash your hands every time a bit of chocolate or cake mix touches your fingers? To put the dark chocolate-smeared spoon straight in the dishwasher, fighting every instinct to put it in your mouth?? So, I caved and had a few apricots. No big deal, I thought, I’m on killer antibiotics, so it should be all right…

WRONG! The apricots have the highest fructose content of anything in the house (apart from the dried figs – thank goodness I didn’t see those!). Fructose and anything high sugar causes me to flare. In fact there is so much fructose in those little, seemingly harmless, gooey balls of organic, dried fruit, that I would probably have been better off licking the dark chocolate off the spoon.

So, take antibiotics if you want. Or don’t, it really is an individual choice that may even change over time. However, if you are going to make one personal choice that helps you to heal, try to cut out the sugar. It does seem that sugar, along with heat and humidity, really does affect so many people’s Hidradenitis Suppurativa. It is not that easy, especially if you live with others who happen to exist in a world where school fairs demand cakes. Especially if you continue to feed your inner Sugar Dragon, instead of slaying it. But it is definitely worth it in the end.

Today’s conclusion. An autoimmune protocol diet (with no added sugar) definitely works and hopefully Bridget Jones will learn to accept this very soon.

Day 8 and the jury is still out on the antibiotics. Now, where did I put my pint of water? Yam, yam, yam……

The autoimmune protocol diet in baby steps.

This time last year and hadn’t even considered giving up any of these foods. A couple of month’s down the line, I had started a “Paleo” diet, having read a little about how Hidradenitis Suppurativa could be an autoimmune disease and therefore influenced by diet. At that early stage, I knew then that I’d never be able to cut out eggs if I was hoping to get enough protein in my diet without bankrupting us. I definitely could never have envisaged living without tomatoes, spices and chilli – my staple foods for cooking up tagines, curries and most of my evening meals. Six month’s down the line, and many hours of research on the internet, my diet is almost virginal (slight exaggeration, but that’s how it feels sometimes!). I am a fully fledged autoimmune protocol diet fan!

What I should be drinking right now…..

As with any times of restrictions in life, I found that it helps to have some kind of boundary or end date in sight. Without this, my motivation to abstain wouldn’t have lasted past my initial pain-motivated, stubborn determination. I set my timeframe as 60 days of a complete elimination diet, before starting to reintroduce foods one at a time. Somedays, I would comfort myself with the fact that I may only need to do 30 days and other times, I would face the (sometimes depressing) reality that this diet may become my way of life. Forever. However, for the sake of sanity and positivity, it is good to keep in mind that there are definitely worse realities in life than this!

….what I’m actually drinking right now
(NOT recommended for AI elimination diet!)

Just snacking on a piece of fresh coconut with a lovely cup of freshly brewed cup of Fairtrade organic Ethiopian coffee (which should read ‘a lovely cup of organic mint, nettle and gunpowder green tea’, but no-one’s perfect!)  and thinking that I’d share a little of what I have read and researched in terms of things to avoid whilst on the autoimmune diet. Despite it being a little negative to start with what I can’t eat, it is a known fact that bad news is far more exciting/interesting than good news…so we’ll start with what we can’t eat….

Foods to avoid

  • Eggs
  • Dairy, including all dairy (yes, even fermented dairy, goat’s milk and any thing else that comes from an animal’s udders)
  • Cereal grains (rice, oats, wheat etc)
  • Seeds of any variety.
  • Seed and vegetable oils (all except coconut oil and olive oil, which I have in abundance – see Foods to Eat’)
  • Spices derived from seeds (cumin, coriander, mustard – anything which I used to eat that made my food taste good)
  • All nuts, including nut butters.
  • Legumes, including all types of beans, chick peas (garbanzas), lentils, soy, peanuts etc.
  • Any soy derivatives (soy milk, yoghurt, tofu, soy sauce)
  • Refined sugar in any form.
  • Honey in any form.
  • Processed foods – bread, pasta, any gluten-free ‘health’ alternatives, cured meat, ham, bacon.
  • Alcohol (boooo)
  • Nightshades. This includes tomatoes, all types of peppers, including bell peppers, pimento, chilli pepper (excluding black peppercorns), egg-plant, tobacco (not many people still eat this, but you probably shouldn’t smoke it either!) and common old potatoes.
  • Coffee – especially if you are a caffeine addict! (I am not a coffee drinker per se, but I have started to have a cup here and there, in the name of rebellion and inner freedom. Also, I haven’t noticed a reaction from it….yet)
  • Fruit juices (too much concentrated sugar, not enough fibre).
  • Any food that contains an ingredient that you cannot pronounce, like stock cubes and sweeteners and anything containing sweeteners, like sugar-free gum.
  • Many vinegars  – I even avoid organic balsamic vinegar; I think the ‘concentrated grape must’ contains too much sugar.
So it’s not a long list, but the combinations of processed foods out there are endless. Dark chocolate, carrot cake, “Paleo” muffins, cereal bars, smoothies, V8, gluten-free crackers – so many things that look innocent (ooh, Innocent Smoothies – yum yum…No. Stop it. Illegal), but are now off limits. Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed, a beautiful Paleo recipe book, tried the autoimmune diet for 30 days and as she puts it, there is zero “food fun” during that period.
Anyway, enough of what can’t be had and onwards and upwards to what can and should be delightfully savoured in the name of self-healing….
Foods to Eat
  • Fresh vegetables – anything in season, although when your diet is so limited, I’ve found it’s better not to fully restrict yourself to keep some variety and sanity in your life.
  • Beautiful squash and versatile sweet potatoes (I know these are vegetables, but they become your “pasta/rice replacements”, so I think they deserve a line on their own)
  • Fresh fruit – I have read so much about limiting fruits, eating one piece per meal, eating them before dinner not after – oh so many pieces of advice, but I just tend to eat as much as I want. It may have a negative affect, but it’s got to be better than eating a handful of Haribo Tangfastic jelly sweets.
  • Fish – preferably wild and line caught. 
  • Grass fed beef and pastured meat of any variety and game.
  • Poultry, again organic and not battery farmed would be best.
  • Coconuts, coconut oil and coconut milk (preferably (homemade!) with no guar gum and BPA-free- although hard to find unless you have dedicated organic shops).
  • Olive oil and olives (organic as non-organic contain various preservatives).
  • Herbal teas (I’m bang into Jasmine green tea – amazing!)
  • Naturally dried fruit (although I’d avoid this as a staple ingredient as it’s too high in sugar).
Ok, so the ‘Foods to Eat’ list looks shorter, but when you consider all the amazing varieties of fruit and veg in the world, it is an endless list of variety and choice. I know that to back this all up I should include all the yummy recipes that we try every week, here at home. One day I will, but until then, I’ll leave it to the experts, like Michelle Tam from nomnompaleo.com and Sarah Fragoso from Everyday Paleo.
 
Until then, I am back on my autoimmune ‘wagon’, and hoping to start reintroducing foods in the coming months. For all those who are embarking on this journey, it is baby steps all the way and a constant reminder to “be kind to yourself”. Bon courage!
 
I’d love to hear people’s experiences of how they have survived the elimination diet and things that have or haven’t worked…..
 

I am not a physician, licensed dietician, nor nutritional specialist. The dietary information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or to provide medical advice. it is advised that you make your health care decisions based on your own research and the advice of a qualified health care professional. Good luck!