I’m fairly new to this site and for the past 6-8 weeks I’ve been following posts, and doing some research, because I’m considering changing my diet. Here’s a little about my background in order for anyone to help shed some light or offer some advice.
It’s been just over 20 years since I ate meat, although I did eat fish and eggs up until approximately 8-10 years ago. 15-17 years since I ate dairy and 10 years since I ate grains. During these dietary modifications I overcame painful periods, migraines, fatigue, candida, reactive arthritis and some digestive issues (although stress played and still continues to play a big part in my digestive health) etc. It must also be said that during this time i was highly active and athletic, and I felt reasonably good despite eating drinking alcohol, eating lot’s of pickles and sauerkraut and a fair share of protein drinks and supplements.
For about the past 5-6 years I’ve been following Doug Graham’s 80/10/10 diet. As I learnt how to eat enough, the importance of ripe fruits and food combining etc I lost a lot of weight and went down to approximately 95lb (I’m 5ft 6in). At this time I felt great (despite on reflection looking painfully thin). My energy was good, emotionally I felt on a high and it was all new and exciting. As time went on I had a few niggling issues such as sensitive teeth, urinating several times a day (even several times an hour sometimes), offense gas and bloating but overall I felt really good – fully of energy and this incredible high feeling. I must also add that during this time my energy for and passion for the intense level of exercise began to diminish.
Over the past two years my health seemed to rapidly decline. The biggest concern has been my flagging energy – well it’s total exhaustion. Most days are a struggle to get out of bed, I never wake feeling refreshed or energised and I miss that feeling. I no longer exercise due to utter exhaustion, I experienced nerve and bone pain, headaches, constant brain fog, blurry vision (despite always having perfect vision – now this my be because I spend more time on the computer than I used to training outdoors). I’ve also noticed my teeth feel weak (although the sensitive has now gone) and recently noticed my hair looks thinner and skin exceptionally dry. The skin dryness maybe due to the fact that I stopped using all products about 2-3 years ago and up until that time my skin was always reasonably soft – some may say due to the product). My periods also stopped about 10 years ago. My mood also became low and I found myself becoming increasingly insular to conserve energy. My weight also increased to 138lb, with it mainly being around my stomach and thighs. Prior to this I had always had a very lean and toned physic (even when I weighed more than this) and now my body is untoned and far from it’s former athletic version.
I eventually went to my GP and it took a while but through testing they found I had pernicious anemia – my B12 levels were exceptionally low, approximately 54 from memory – and I started B12 injections. They also discovered I also had very low iron levels. Despite taking iron tablets (which I struggled to digest) and the B12 injections my health still remained the same. Blood sugars, thyroid etc seemed all ok about 6 months ago, however I have just had these taken again along with tests for kidney and liver function, B12, iron, systemic vasculitis, addisons and a couple of other auto-immune conditions. The results for these are due next week.
It has taken me a while to consider that my diet may be the one, or one of the underlying contributors. Now this is not something I have come to consider easily but I realise that I may need to modify my diet in order to regain my health. Since I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom I decided to reluctantly add in some cooked vegan foods a couple of months ago. It started with cooked sweet potatoes in the evenings and these sat very uncomfortably in my stomach, my digestion has become sluggish and sorry to mention it but my bowel movements smelt unpleasant. I also tried only once brown rice and oats and the results were catastrophic – I was violently sick, shivered, had a fever and my stomach bloated so much causing my skin to feel so stretched. I have also removed nearly all fruit and predictably feeling very fatigued. I am struggling to know what to eat for the best.
So I decided to start with eating what I did when I was training and feeling my best - that was lot's of fish, eggs, sauerkraut, fruit and veg. I've also added some sunwarrior protein drink. The first couple of days I felt better than expected but now I'm feeling incredibly tired, suffering headaches, anxious and a little down. My bowel movements have also slowed and smell awful (sorry if that is a little top much information). I'm also having lot's of vivid dreams every night and wake feeling exhausted and most mornings feel quite nauseous. I've also cut out all fruit and am eating about 140-170g of carbs daily. I'm also feeling a desire to eat goats yogurt and some cottage cheese. I also notice that most people eat only three eggs for a meal, I still very hungry after three eggs and last night ate them with one large avocado, 1000kg marrow, sauerkraut and raw cabbage and was still hungry??? Am I just giving my body the nutrients it needs after such a period of restriction? Or am I just eating too much?
Previously I've also been low fat, (expect for fatty fish like salmon and mackerel) but have decided to increase my fat intake to include avocados, egg yolks (well I now eat the complete egg instead of just the white) and have bought some coconut milk to try.
I do wonder whether I have lost or severely diminished the ability to digest some foods, or whether my body is just going to need time to adjust and would appreciate any insight or advice anyone may have that to help.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and offer suggestions.
I would consider making small changes at a time. Try adding in just egg yolks. Easiest way is to hardboil and place in cold or ice water for easier peeling.
Eggs and Fish are the keys to get back in. You made a lot of changes all at once. No need to do that. Make sure that the eggs and fish do not trigger an autoimmune reaction. Eating just the Yolks should help. If fish causes a problem try fish oil. Oysters are also a great source of Omega3 and other nutrients. Salmon is a great choice for fish. In particular Wild Salmon or Alaskan Salmon.
For hunger do the following:
Sleep: Go to bed early and sleep 8 hours. Eat: Once you slowly add things to your diet. Defer carbs to the evening. Green vegetables really dont count as carbs in this perspective.
Here is some background information that might help on the hunger issue:
To not get hungry you will need sleep. In general if you can wake up on your own without your alarm clock going off that is a good sign. Most people need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. Some need more. If you do not sleep you will be fighting grehlin levels in your body (More about that later). Sleeping for 4-5 hours is for sure not enough.
Do you have sleep - apnea. Do people tell you that you snore? Are you tired during the day? It is importnat to treat sleep apnea.
Stress increases cortisol and grehlin levels. Find something relaxing. Make your commute less stressful, etc...
CORTISOL AND GREHLIN:
The bad guys...
If you are working out Keep the intense portion of your workout (Start to finish) below 45 minutes should keep cortisol away. Also relaxing keeps it away.
Grehlin or why did I just eat an entire bag of oreos, chips, etc.. Or even why did I eat so much Paleo approved food...
Sleep and meals reduce grehlin levels. Lack of sleep means higher grehlin levels. Grehlin levels go down when you eat. So fasting is a more advanced technique and if you are still devouring massive food after dinner than it is not time to add fasting yet.
To beat grehlin sleep at least 7 hours (Likely you need more)... And eat a big protein breakfast, eat lunch and dinner.
Grehlin builds after each meal so going to bed early will help with the munchies and staying up late is a trigger...
i think starting paleo can only help you. my biggest regret is raw veganism. it totally screwed up my health and i've been paying for it every day since. i still have a lot of healing to go, but i don't look at my 811 book anymore. i've even thought about burning it.
obviously, your poop will stink when you add lots of meat and eggs back in your diet. i threw up from the stench sometimes because i couldn't breathe. the bad smelling poop went away after 3 weeks on the diet.
I'll write a more thorough answer later today, but I wanted to say bless you for recognizing that you needed to make a change and for understanding that, whatever reasons led you to being a raw vegan, restoring your health, vitality, and "coming back to life" are more important. I mean this very sincerely. You are welcome here, and you will feel better. It's likely going to take time, as you have been severely malnourished for over a decade, but you will feel better. You're already on the right track with introducing fish and eggs back into your diet. That's a huge step. Be proud of that!
I'll give you some better suggestions when I'm able to write more, but I wanted to say this for now: you will likely need a lot of digestive support. Your body is so terribly unaccustomed to digesting boluses of starch and animal protein. If all you've been eating for such a long time is fruit, vegetables, and raw nuts (since you said you were grain and dairy free, and raw...this implies not even any protein from beans/legumes), that's all your body is prepared for. As starved as your body might be for good quality animal protein and fats, it might be good to ease into that slowly, and to include digestive support (enzymes, and very likely HCl supplements). If you have not had a period in ten years (!! Why didn't you do anything about this sooner??!! But that is neither here nor there...), there's a good chance your bone mineral density is in the toilet. I would get a scan sometime if possible to see where you are. (Estrogen plays a big role in bone health, and your female hormones have been wacky for a long time.) (Also, I'm assuming the missed periods are due to low body fat and lack of nutrients, and not due to post-menopause. I don't think you mentioned how old you are in your post.) Vitamin K2-rich foods will be important in your healing. (Butter from grass-fed cows or goats, egg yolks from pastured hens.)
Seriously...welcome back to life. I'm sure the changes you're making are difficult for you both physically and psychologically, but you will be glad you're making them.
Peace, you are about to embark on a long and frustrating road back to health. As others having stated, you've had such a restrictive diet for so long your body will scream at you if you make any substantial change. Go slow. VERY slow. I also strongly urge you to seek professional guidance from a nutritionist and holistic medical professional. It might be very hard for you to go through it alone.
I'm also surprised (read: shocked) your thyroid levels are normal. Dry skin and gaining weight are signs of hypothyroidism. With your extended daily consumption of sauerkraut might have compromised your iodine levels. Even if your TSH is within range I suggest you take a look at your free T4 and free T3 levels.
Best of success to you. You have made the right choice in joining this forum.
I think you are basically malnourished. Your digestion and metabolism have slowed down and you are suffering the consequences.
Congrats for acknowleging that your diet is the root cause and for reaching out to seek help and guidance. Challenging deeply held beliefs is one of the hardest things for humans to do, and many never do it.
Also it sounds like you are fundamentally healthy and body-aware, so listening to your body (perhaps with a critical ear) should help guide you to better health.
From my POV, almost every health complaint you have can be addressed with a diet including high quality fats and proteins. This does not necessarily mean huge steaks and other things that probably sound impossible to eat and may seem morally unsound to you. For me the highest quality, most easily digested, most widely available and most morally acceptable fats (depending on your belief system) are pastured eggs. Starting each day with a few eggs, with the yolks soft/runny, will give you a huge boost. Funny that you say that you eat several yet still want more. Your body may be craving the protein, fat, and nutrients. Pastured eggs have as much as 7x the nutrients as supermarket eggs, so are worth seeking out and paying for.
You may have been eating things that cause you problems because you are allergic or they are inflammatory, and you should identify those things and cut them out. For example any soy product totally wrecks my system. You mentioned supplements and protein shakes, those are usually full of processed "foods" and soy. Better to get your protein from animal foods, as unprocessed as possible.
Lots of other good advice in the answers here... Be sure to come back in a month or so and let us know how you are doing!
I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone for all your time, advice and support in helping me restore my health and wellbeing.
It has been incredible valuable and leaving raw veganism has been so much easier with the support I've received here.
As a former vegetarian and raw food enthusiast, I have a few suggestions for you. I'm assuming that you want to replenish the low nutrient levels while not gaining weight (or visceral fat, specifically). Vegetables are great for detoxing and animal protein is good for nutrients ( replenishing). If you only eat vegetables, you are only doing step one but not step two. Grains are mostly carb and will give you energy or turn into fat if you aren't active. For now, you should stay off grains. From my personal experience and those of my friends, I believe that our body's ability to digest grains becomes compromised at middle age for men and women. Not sure if it's hormonal changes or more sedentary lifestyles. But stay away from grains and starchy vegetables for now since you're having a hard time digesting them and want to lose the fat around the waist.
Start with clear bone broth for a few days. If you able to take that fine then include some vegetables and meat in the broth. You can blend it all together if you like. Slowly move up to include more meaty soups and stews. You can also make fish soups but keep it fairly brothy ( don't thicken in any way or use cream/ dairy).
You might have felt really great when you first became vegan because you eliminated some high allergen foods, such as gluten and dairy. That was the case for me. But over time, your body became depleted of essential amino acids from meat and you became sick. Continue with the B12 injections for now, in addition to vitamins, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. Also try to get 30 minutes of sunlight and supplement with D3.
Idont think it's a big deal that you are eating a lot of Paleo foods. Your body is adjusting to the new diet and really needs the nutrients. Just stay off grains, dairy, too much fruits and you should lose the waist in a few months and see improvements in your health. Good luck!
I would say give your body a chance to heal itself before jumping onto the HRT bandwagon as someone suggested. The body has an incredible ability to heal itself if you give it the right tools to work with.
Just on the note of your lack of menstruation - your hormones that regulate your productive cylce are laying dormant at the moment because you have been in starvation mode for so long. Over-exercising, malnourishment and stress can cause hypothalamic amenorrhea. Your body needs a chance to recoop these lost nutrients and to rebalance. Saturared fats and some quality animal proteins and all those other goodies will help dramatically to get your body functioning as it should. Small steps though. Your body is in shock. Be gentle, be kind and be patient. It will take time to bring it up to speed again but it can happen and quite naturally so.