No raw food after four? No more than 1-2 pieces of fruit a day? No gluten? Eggs for breakfast? No treats? Are you kidding? I moaned for almost four weeks whilst waiting for the stool test kit to arrive, then faffing about with the test, sending it off and finally getting the results. During this time I had to follow an interim diet and start a course of supplements. I don’t eat much bread or pasta so the no gluten seemed ridiculous. I don’t have sweet things every day so the no treats seemed ridiculous. I can’t stand breakfast. I have salad with every meal and fruit is one of my greatest joys. A bowl of fruit gives me more pleasure than a vase with flowers. And big yukky supplements don’t go down easily for me. This felt like my most expensive mistake.
I moaned. I didn’t blog at the time for two reasons: I had a deadline to complete a book. And I like to process something before delivering a scathing verdict that might be unfair or uninformed. I stuck to the plan 80% of the time. If you’re spending money for advice it makes sense to follow it through. The 20% when I rebelled was hardly overboard. I sneaked in a daily treat like a small amount of Aperol with sparkling water, a little extra salad after 4pm, four squares of darkest chocolate, a slice of normal toast. My most rock n roll was an extra piece of fruit late at night. I forgot about the ridiculous plan for two divine birthday meals, one Spanish and one Italian, both featuring sparkling wine and red wine.
Meanwhile I did feel better. I felt peculiar too, out of sync as if I didn’t know where I belonged (I still do). And then the results came. As I suspected I don’t have some vague IBS condition. My diagnostic stool tests revealed candida yeast and parasites most commonly associated with pets. My nutritional therapist smiled when she delivered the news. I cringed with disgust. Then she fixed her eyes on me: ‘This is why you’ve been feeling so lousy, tired, anxious, and no wonder you’ve had sleep problems.’ Seeing a nutritional therapist and having a diagnostic test solved the mystery of my digestive problems and my stressed mind. I hadn’t expected the reason to be linked.
Excuse the pun but my gut feeling about a neighbour’s dog probably turned out to be right. The elderly neighbour developed dementia and I was convinced the dog was riddled with infections and it was often poo-ing right outside the building’s front door. The dog was lovely and friendly but I certainly didn’t want him jumping up all over me. Parasites can be contracted through the feet as I just discovered –and although I was fastidious to the point of being neurotic, I know I stepped out in the communal part to take a delivery with bare feet occasionally.
As for the candida yeast it’s a common infection for women but I never had the usual symptoms of thrush so I never suspected I had a problem. And I had no idea that the symptoms include feeling tired or needing to eat every couple of hours. [This piece by the excellent Dr Amy Myers explains more.]
The preparatory diet eased me in to the hardcore diet to stamp out the buggers in my gut: no sugar, gluten, dairy, and low-no carbs, obviously no alcohol, and cocktails of supplements from morning to night. And all I want is a real cocktail. I had to start counting the 30 day programme from the day after the 2 boxes of supplements arrived and I started taking them. That meant 7 days more days on the strict eating plan and the original supplement programme. I’m a week into the 30 days and yes it’s grim, but my worst symptoms have gone. I can do this because at least I’m never hungry.
The main thing I’ve learnt that I’d like to share is that my nutritional therapist was smart to prepare me and lead me slowly into the strict 30-day programme. However healthy we are, we all have our set ways of eating, and to go from one way to an entirely different way is tough both mentally and physically. I’m not as miserable as I thought I would be, perhaps because I’m not hungry and most definitely because I feel better. I have had withdrawal symptoms but these are totally unexpected: alcohol. Given that I barely drink and can go weeks without alcohol, I didn’t expect to be waking up fantasizing about cocktails. It’s three weeks to go and that feels like three years. I so want cake.