My Alimentary Adventure

My Alimentary Adventure: Part I Recap (Detoxing Alone)

At the end of my first month of the detoxing process, I have come to the conclusion that it’s time to get some help. While professional assistance is something I programmed into my plan from day one, I have up to this point been mostly on my own. I can definitively say that, at least for me, detoxing alone has not been what I expected!

A few snags I’ve hit include…

  • Major cravings with no external accountability to keep me on track
  • Detoxing too fast (Herxheimer reaction), which led to skin breakouts and rashes, digestive problems, and depleted energy
  • Feeling isolated and deprived

In other words, the exact opposite of how I wanted to proceed! Thankfully, though, this is where Part II of my journey begins: Bringing in the professionals.

Homecooked ribs with fermented okra, beets, and cabbage

I have successfully submitted my samples for four different tests: the adrenal stress profile, neurotransmitter panel, MRT food sensitivities tests, and gut biome analysis. Although it will still be another month or so to hear back on the gut biome analysis, I should hear back relatively soon from Megan at Zesty Ginger, who analyzes the adrenal stress profile and neurotransmitter panel. And I should have a consultation with integrative dietitian Colleen McCarthy about the MRT test sometime in the next two weeks. Once those analyses have been done, I will have a much more focused plan of action.

This means that instead of eliminating everything that could be harmful (a la the Autoimmune Protocol/AIP) and stocking up on dozens of supplements that could potentially be helpful, I will have a personalized profile of what foods to avoid and what supplements to add.

This is not to say that the past month has been useless. Quite the opposite! I might not have achieved the goals I expected, but I have learned a great deal about myself. Here are a few of those lessons. Hopefully they’ll be helpful as you embark on your own health journey!

1. Everyone is different.

There are thousands of articles out there on the best detox methods, the best superfoods you should eat, the “bad” foods to avoid, the best cleanses, best workouts, best diets, etc. What the vast majority of these articles don’t tell you is that there really is no “best” option that works for everyone. We may all share about 90% of our DNA, but we’re still very different people with very different needs and allergies. Don’t get caught up thinking you have to follow a certain diet to the letter when you know for sure that one of the foods it tells you to avoid is something that actually makes you feel really good.

That being said, you should also be careful about making emotional decisions about your diet, rather than rational, objective ones. For example, so many of the elimination diets I’ve read about say to eliminate dairy. I happen to have a passionate love of all things ice cream! I know deep down that I feel better when I’m avoiding dairy, and I’ve had post-nasal drip going on two years now, so my emotional response to avoiding dairy is one of skepticism. Is it possible that my body has no problem with dairy? Maybe. Am I 100% sure it’s something that doesn’t harm my body in some way? Nope. So, it gets put on the chopping block during the elimination period.

The main point here is that we’re all different. Some people can eat foods that others of us have trouble with, and vice versa. Don’t get locked down in one diet because it sounds trendy, but also don’t discount it. Do your research – both online and on you!

2. Your psychological needs might not match up with your physical needs.

Champagne + jelly beans + mini-cupcakes + no support system = Off My Diet

This was a HUGE lesson for me. Generally, if I want to make a habit change, it has to be all at once – cold-turkey. My brain reacts well to sudden, deliberate shifts. If I try to wean, it usually results in total relapse soon after I’ve started. That’s just where I’m at psychologically. Physically, though, fast detoxing is really bad approach.

Soon after starting the AIP elimination diet, my face broke out, I started having random skin rashes, and I experience extreme digestive discomfort. I got dehydrated from the number of times I needed to use the restroom every day. My body just couldn’t keep up with the amount of toxins being flushed out of my system, and it showed. I’ve been exhausted, irritable, nauseated, and hungry. Not a great combo. When I finally took a step back and let myself “cheat” a bit (albeit strategically), I started to feel a little better. Going from a carb-heavy, low-protein diet to a high-protein, high-fat diet overnight was rough on my system, and I didn’t listen to the first signs that I was detoxing too fast.

Listen to your body. Know the signs of detoxing too fast. And most importantly, take care of yourself.

3. Accountability partners are a GREAT source of external accountability.

At the end of my third week, I went to a friend’s birthday party at a Thai restaurant. I’d already scouted the menu for things I could eat that wouldn’t break my AIP diet. I’d managed to stick to it completely up to that point, and I knew my first night eating at a restaurant would be tempting. I even ate a small meal beforehand so I wouldn’t make hunger-based decisions. Little did I know, it was actually a private party, and all of the food was ordered beforehand.

The second I walked into the room, I was handed a flute of champagne (my alcohol weakness), and each place setting was decorated with a bead necklace, noisemaker, and tiny pail of jelly beans (my sweets weakness). As the first guests to arrive and only gluten-laded hors d’oeuvres for the first two hours, I was pretty much doomed. My date and friends were encouraging me to “cheat,” and at that point in time I had absolutely no one to turn to for food-choice support. By the end of the evening, I’d eaten two pails of jelly beans, four mini-cupcakes, a bite of every Thai dish placed in front of me, and drank two glasses of champagne. The next three days would be rather unpleasant.

Through the Healthy Hormones Group, I now have two accountability partners. We have Skype calls each week to discuss our short and long-term goals, our slip-ups and our successes. I know that the next time I’m stuck in a room with tiny pails of jelly beans and mini-cupcakes, I can text them for extra support. Sometimes you just need another person to externally validate an internal decision.

4. Apps can make a major difference.

mySymptoms screenshot

While reading through the info I received from Colleen McCarthy, my integrative dietitian, I found her recommendation to use the mySymptoms app (available on iOS or Android). Although it was not something I would be required to start until after she received my lab work, I decided to go ahead and download it out of curiosity. I have to admit: I love it!

The mySymptoms app lets you track so much more than other apps I’ve used: food, beverages, exercise, energy level, stress level, bowel movements, medications, supplements, and a variety of symptoms plus any you add yourself. Over time, the app helps you track what triggers certain symptoms so you can avoid them.

This isn’t the only app that’s been helping me stay on track. I’ve also been using the Twilight and f.lux apps to dim my screens at night. I use the Onceaday app to track my routines and habits. I started using the aCalendar app to make appointments and block time for certain daily activities, and the Wunderlist app to keep up with the dozens of tiny tasks I need to complete each day.

Whether it’s an app, an agenda, a bullet journal, whatever – keeping an external list of things done and things that need to be done is incredibly useful for your health journey. It helps you to remember everything, and it lets you look back to see the many things you’ve accomplished.

5. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.

I tried detoxing on my own. It was alright for awhile, but in the end, I needed outside, professional help to meet my goals. I’m not the kind of person who likes to ask for help. My initial reaction is that I’m not good enough to do it on my own, or that I’m going to be a burden on someone else. Even though I pay my healthcare providers, I still sometimes feel like a burden. It’s silly, really! That’s their job! But regardless of how silly those feelings may be, they are very real for many of us.

Don’t be afraid or too proud to admit you need help – especially when it comes to your health! This is an ongoing process for me. I think what eventually spurred me to reach out was the realization that I would never be able to accumulate enough knowledge or set aside enough time and energy to do it on my own. I knew that if I really wanted to achieve my long-term goals, I would have to include others in helping me achieve my short-term ones.

Moving Forward Into “Part II”

It’s not easy to admit that I need help with things, and I certainly still have a long way to go. In some ways, I feel as if I’m starting over, but I know that this past month has been an important part of my health journey. The truth is, you’re almost never going to get something right the first time. The best things are done through teamwork. And two steps forward, one step back is always better than never trying to walk at all.

My Sudden Sight moment this week: Recognizing that I need healthcare professionals and other forms of external help to realize my goals.

Happy sighting, everyone!

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