Almost everyone has heard of the Paleo lifestyle movement. Eat like a “cave man”: no processed foods or sugars; only simple, healthy foods such as organic meats, fruits and veggies, etc. Going “paleo” means consuming nothing artificial: no nicotine, caffeine, alcohol. If the caveman couldn’t eat or drink it, you cannot either. You get the idea. After I had weight loss surgery (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, VSG) back in November 2012, my diet drastically changed and I have been eating mostly dairy, meat, and veggies. Very similar to what we call the Atkins Diet today. That approach has worked. I lost my excess weight and started to feel more healthy. But one day something happened….
Several months after my VSG surgery I started to feel like CRAP! The healthy feeling from losing weight turned into constant pain and fatigue (sometimes severe). Please realize I have always had pain. I thought my pain was normal and shrugged it off as just being fat, working too hard, or stress from various things. But THIS pain was worse than “normal” and coupled with the fatigue, it was unbearable. I finally went to my general doctor (PCP) and she diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia (FM or FMS) is characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia (a heightened and painful response to pressure). Fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to pain, leading to the use of the alternative term fibromyalgia syndrome for the condition. Other symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, muscle spasms, muscle cramps, and joint stiffness. Its exact cause is unknown but is believed to involve psychological, genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors. The central symptom of fibromyalgia, namely widespread pain, appears to result from neuro-chemical imbalances including activation of inflammatory pathways in the brain which results in abnormalities in pain processing. In my case, I constantly have inflammatory markers in my blood, but no known cause. This is typical for people suffering from FMS.
There are many treatments for FMS, mostly drugs, but most are not effective. From my own experience and the research I have done by actually talking with people with fibromyalgia, taking drugs is just like sticking a band-aid on a gaping wound. I take Gabapentin and Cymbalta daily. Sometimes I take Tramadol and Tylenol for severe pain. If it is super bad, I throw in a muscle relaxer to help me sleep (I get many muscle knots in my shoulders and neck). I also supplement with a B vitamin complex, vitamin D3, and magnesium. I also take turmeric factor blend from my local pharmacy and krill oil. I feel like a walking pharmacy some days. Do any of these meds or supplements work? Sort of, mostly not though. I honestly do not want to take any medication, other than natural herbs and vitamins. So what are other ways I can treat my FMS?
Since my life has changed drastically by being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I started researching alternative therapies to help to to reverse my pain and inflammatory response. Again, no one knows what actually causes the nerves and muscles not to operate properly in our bodies, but one known cause are environmental factors. I only am looking for natural ways to do this. NO MORE DRUGS. Therefore, after much online research, I am hypothesizing that changing my eating habits by adopting a strict Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP Paleo) will help alleviate, and maybe even put into remission, all the pain and fatigue associated with my disease. Also in combination of routine exercise and massage, I hope this trifecta will do the trick. The AIP is an elimination diet. You stop eating certain foods for 30 days (or longer), and then slowly reintroduce them to test your body for food intolerance. If your body reacts positively, you can happily reintegrate that food into your diet. If your body reacts negatively, you know that food is an inflammation trigger for you, and best to avoid.
In this blog, I will share my journey as a “sleeved” FMS person seeking alternative treatment for fibromyalgia by changing my eating habits drastically. I will be following the Whole30 Autoimmune Paleo and Low Histamine Protocol program http://whole30.com . Their philosophy is that certain food groups are causing a negative effect on your health. The Whole 30 program cuts out all unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a FULL 30 DAYS. This a RESET of sorts. It lets your body “heal” and recover from the foods and processed junk that could be causing a negative effect on your body. They say the next thirty days will change my life. I hope so. Fingers crossed. I guess we shall see.
So what are the rules for the Whole30 program? For thirty days: 1) Eat real food – meat, fish, tons of veggies, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits and certain oils. Eat foods that are totally natural and unprocessed. Pick organic/grass fed foods if you can. 2) Do not consume sugar of any kind, real or artificial. This means no agave nectar, honey, splenda, stevia, etc. And read labels. Companies do sneak sugar in products. 3) No alcohol/tobacco of any form. 4) No grains – not even quinoa. Watch for added wheat, corn and rice into foods in the form of bran, germ, starch, etc. Read your labels! 5) No legumes – no beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. No peanut butter either. Also no soy (watch for added lecithin) and yes that mean no soy sauce either. 6) No dairy products – not even butter. 7) No MSG, sulfates/sulfites, or carrageenan. 8) Do not try to recreate baked goods, junk foods or treats with “approved” ingredients. 9) Do not step on a scale or take any body measurements during the program. This isn’t about weight loss, this is about making you feel healthier! You can weight before and after if you’d like. 10) The last and final rule -DO NOT CHEAT. Your only job is to eat good food. You only need a small amount of these inflammatory foods to break the healing cycle. You will break the reset and have to start all over. Think of this as a life change. And it is only 30 days. BTW there are three exceptions; you can use salt (iodized table salt contains sugar-dextrose). You can have fruit juice if used as a sweetener. You can drink coffee – black. Umm yaa. That last one is going to be super hard.
So I guess you are asking, like I did, what CAN I eat? Well meat/fish protein, vegetables, fruits and certain fats! Here’s a link to the food list I will be following: http://whole30.com/downloads/whole30-shopping-list-AIP.pdf and http://whole30.com/downloads/whole30-shopping-list-histamine.pdf
It is a lot to take in. By following the low histamine/autoimmune protocols, I am going to have to give up eggs, shellfish, processed meats, potatoes, spinach, all nightshade veggies (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes), and lots of fruits (bananas, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, lemon/limes, oranges, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, tangerines, and any dried fruit). I also have to give up any nuts and/or seeds and clarified butter or ghee. The only cooking oils I can use are unrefined coconut oil, EVOO, animal fats, and avocado oil. And the only “eating” fats are avocado, coconut butter (manna), coconut meat/flakes, and canned full fat coconut milk. Thank goodness I like coconut! With the AIP protocol you also have to avoid all spices in the nightshade family (paprika, cayenne, chili powder, curry, red pepper, etc) and any NSAIDs. With the Low Histamine protocol you have to also avoid any fermented foods, canned meats, smoked meats, vinegar or vinagar containing foods, chocolate/cocoa and black/green teas. Coffee is suggested to be eliminated by both protocols but I honestly think I would kill someone. And there isn’t much evidence for it. I will just cut back. Esp since I have to drink it black. Yuk. Also I have to look for organic/grass fed/pastured/wild-caught – super expensive stuff. Great. Well glad I have a small tummy and cannot eat much, especially meat. Yay for my VSG! 🙂
So I have begun the process of clearing out my cupboards and fridge of all the things I am not allowed. I have to leave some things because I have a 4 year old daughter and I am positive she will need to eat something not on my approved food list. Must resist the temptation to lick the spoon when cooking for her! I think I can do it. I gave away a lot of my food to my sister and am cooking up the rest before I start this 30 day Whole30program. I will keep this updated through my journey.