As most of you know, I'm a dietitian. I spent the past three days at the Washington State Dietetic Association annual conference, and my head is swimming with new knowledge about vitamins, plant based diets, and dietary interventions to combat inflammation, amongst other things. Though several of the topics didn't exactly apply directly to someone suffering from say, A.S., it did set my mind a reeling.
You see, following the very low starch diet has been kind of mentally taxing for me over the past few months. Aside from the moral implications of eating so much animal product (though I try when I can afford it to buy meats that are locally and sustainably raised and humanely slaughtered - more on that to come), I've been wondering how all of this animal product is effecting my insides. As a dietitian we've read the studies about links between high levels of saturated fats in the diet and their correlations with elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular events. We've also recommended plant based diets for their health benefits, such as decreasing cholesterol, increasing insulin sensitivity, and decreasing body weight.
Therefore, I'm in a bit of a pickle following a diet where I can't even eat most fruits. It's fruit for Pete's sake! However, I did lose weight while on the low starch diet. But I also ate less packaged foods and possibly was consuming fewer calories overall. What a conundrum.
I was missing carbs something fierce, so I gradually started adding back in some starches over the past few months. I was missing legumes so much that I was literally dreaming about hummus. I've also had some delicious sweet potatoes, pineapple, watermelon, and split pea soup. It all tasted a-mazing!
I started this starch free quest to combat candida (i.e. yeast) and the thing is, the candida is still lingering, even with very low starch consumption. And some of my R.D. friends who struggle with candida say that while yeast does need sugar to thrive outside of the body, internally our bodies regulate our blood sugars so closely that decreasing sugar and starch intake may not be an effective way of combating candida overgrowth. Oy! Turns out it might be more related to stress and inadequate sleep!
I don't claim to have the answers here, but I think for now I'm sticking to eating fewer carbohydrates, and choosing gluten free starches when I do choose to eat carbs. I think it's also a good idea for me to steer away from packaged foods most of the time and try to either cook foods myself or order more whole foods when dining out. I also have heard research that supports adding Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants for decreasing inflammation, and with this autoimmune disease I'm living in a state of inflammation. (Another thing I learned at the convention: women with inflammatory diseases can have a more difficult time conceiving. I'm not ready for babies yet but sheesh! Time to get this stuff figured out.) Therefore I'm going to make an effort to eat more fish (Omega 3's) and brightly colored fruits and veggies (antioxidants).
One thing that is clear is that one should always try to get nutrients from foods rather than supplements, although some supplementation with probiotics, vitamin D, and even fish oil can be helpful. If you are taking a multivitamin, only take one kind and try one that only has 100% of the nutrients, in order to avoid toxicity.
I'm also going to make a solid effort to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and work on managing my stress levels. Plus one of my girlfriends who has battled candida issues has a supplement that has worked for her that she's going to email me about. I'll post on that once I've tried it out.
I guess the message here is that each person's individual situation is different from everyone else's, so what works for one person may be more or less effective in others. The body is truly a fascinating and mysterious thing. Therefore, I guess we have to be informed, hope for the best and tweak accordingly.
Best of luck, friends!