Updated: 7 days ago
For the past year I have been at an impasse when it comes to what foods to feed my body. I have read so many books on different lifestyle diets from Vegan to Paleo and everything in between. There are so many different choices, some are just fad diets, some are lifestyle changes; and the internet provides a world full of information, but not all of it is good and can be mis-informative. If you’re like me, I was overwhelmed and frustrated! Enter long deep breaths multiple times over the course of this journey. I have concluded that it is all opinion, specifically a lot of other people's opinions! What about just accepting your own opinion and following your own intuition instead of what everyone else is doing. So, I am not here to tell you to try this or that, but to listen to my story and take any information you find useful and see what works for you and always consult with your physician before making any changes.
This is my opinion...
Every individual is unique, we all have different genes, different ancestries, and different lifestyles that require different nutrients that will make our bodies Thrive! There is no one size fits all here, so loose the idea of fad diets and consider creating your own lifestyle diet. Do some trial and error, listen to your body, and go slow. It all comes down to what makes your body feel energized, healthy, and ALIVE! We truly are EXACTLY what we eat, put on our bodies, and have in our environment.
On my own spiritual journey to better health, I have had a lot of ups and downs, but I have also learned a lot from my mistakes. At the beginning of last year I wanted to make a change, I was in pretty good health and looked healthy, but I didn't always feel healthy. I was struggling with my diabetes blood sugars, I was tired a lot, felt weighted down, and didn't have much mental focus or motivation that I use to have; and I defiantly didn’t exercise enough or do my CF treatments daily. I was also suffering from chronic MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) flare ups from my CF exacerbations and having daily coughing attacks. I started to wonder if I could help reduce some of these symptoms using natural remedies and making some lifestyle changes. I began obtaining lots of knowledge, from nutritional & herbal books, talking to herbal specialists, and began seeing a naturopathic doctor along with my regular CF doctor.
The naturopath was very helpful in breaking down the items that were of concern in my body. She performed food allergy tests, hormone level tests, organ function tests, and it was able to tell me what bacteria's, viruses, and molds were in my body. It was like my own personal bioinformatics on my health. She than used these reports to provide what supplements/herbs to take and at what dosages. We set up a regimen and at first I had a lot of detox sickness from the die-off taking place in my body, so we had to make some adjustments along the way to make sure my body could keep up with the detoxing, but as I went along it got better.
This Bioinformation and all the knowledge I gained from the books I read started to make me aware of the things that were making my body not feel so great. I started listening to my body and how it reacted to certain foods, chemicals, and treatments. I became Aware, which is the first step they say. I began making some lifestyle changes. The first thing I did was I started writing a food journal to identify what foods could be the problem. The next thing I did was to avoid the foods that my body had built up antibodies to which basically were gluten, sugar, & dairy. The three staples that are in overabundance in most of the processed and packaged food items at the grocery store that we as Westerners consume daily, which would make sense since I grew up eating these foods. So, I removed processed foods from my diet and started replacing them with more organic fruits and vegetables. Believe me, my mother wouldn't believe me that I eat all the fruits and vegetables that I do today since I was a very picky eater growing up, but your taste buds change as you get older, so don't be afraid to try new things! I found so many foods I never use to like that I now LOVE! The cheapest and easiest way to incorporate this change is to find a coop farm to join, farmers markets, buy in bulk or grow your own. To find a local Coop click here.
The next step was the hardest for me to get started and I still struggle with it at times, especially when out for gatherings with friends. I started removing gluten and dairy from my diet. Now, I was a huge dairy fan, especially since I grew up in the Midwest and having grandparents that had a dairy farm, so this was a big challenge. I used to drink several glasses of milk a day and eat a lot of cheese. The best advice I can offer is to look for and try different substitutes. There are so many these days, so it's easy to find ones that taste just as good. I will also say if you can't live without it, use it in moderation unless you are highly allergic to it, then defiantly stay away.
I like to invoke the 80/20 rule. Incorporate the lifestyle diet 80% of the time and save the 20% for those special occasions, like a night out with friends for pizza and beer or when you go home for mom's amazing lasagna. Now, if you are a social butterfly, you need to pick and choose your 20% days and the rest of the days make happy substitutes. Maybe the restaurant has gluten free pizza options and you just have the cheese instead of both along with a nice gluten free cider beer. You are your best and worst enemy! If you slip up, the point is not to beat yourself up about it, just let it go and get right back up on the horse.
The gluten part was a lot easier as there are so many substitutes for Gluten intolerance today that it was easy to find delicious substitutes or make my own goodies, pinterest is awesome! These changes had me feeling lighter, more energized, and I didn't have that heavy mental fog, but there was a lesson I learned from this change that should have every CF person being cautious when making big diet lifestyle changes. Us as CF individuals are like delicate flowers and drastic changes can have drastic consequences. When I drastically removed both gluten and dairy from my diet, I changed the environment in which the bacteria in my body lived in and I lost about 10 pounds of weight which may be great for some, but for a CF person that can be detrimental. With decreased weight comes decreased lung function usually, so even though my weight was still at a normal BMI (body mass index) I also had increased exacerbations which caused some decreased lung function. I recommend that if you want to make healthier changes you do so along with your physician and dietician and proceed slowly, so that you do not drastically lose weight. Remove one item at a time and find a good substitute for it first.
With this lesson, I have concluded that although dairy may cause more mucus production it is also a very good source of probiotics, fat, and protein. I am currently trying to slowly introduce organic ghee, coconut kefir, and some other low lactose dairy products & cheeses back into my diet to see if these will help increase my weight some more without causing the inflammation and increased mucus in lungs.
After, a rough year going through several infections and courses of IV antibiotics, I was again not feeling the wonderful effects of eating healthy and started to get discouraged with my choices. Now, don't get me wrong I am more focused, have more energy, and my diabetes is near perfect, according to my endocrinologist (last A1C 6.0). Instead, of falling apart and converting back to my old ways I decided I was going to preserver and not give up. I started meeting with a dietician to help me gain my weight back and a trainer to gain more muscle. I'm still on this journey and up 6 pounds so far! Even with these challenges I have also learned a lot about bio-availability, absorption of foods, what healthy foods have the best caloric intake, and what good fats to eat. No journey in life is easy and they always have ups and downs, but it is the lessons and the wisdom that you attain along the way. If I were to do it differently, I would have paced myself and not drastically removed two large parts of my diet at once because with drastic changes comes drastic consequences and that's the way my body responded to its changed environment.
As I continue my journey, through lots of trial and error I have come across the following as good guidelines to follow.
Try to incorporate more organic veggies and fruits in your diet, along with grass-fed meats and low lactose dairy products rather than boxed/packaged processed foods. Stick to fruits that have less fructose content and eat them on an empty stomach or by themselves to avoid gas and bloating. Read the nutrition labels, if you can't pronounce half of the ingredients list than you should probably be avoiding that product. Less ingredients the better too.
Leafy Greens for Detox:
I also integrate one or two leafy greens to my diet daily as these help our bodies to detox effectively, something that our CF bodies are challenged with daily. I like to make a green juice, or I put chlorella powder or seaweed in my favorite soups and smoothies. Another effective way, is to take wheat grass daily if you like it.
I have integrated a gluten free diet and I also reduce my grain intake, but I am not on a 100% Paleo diet. Starchy Vegetables, legumes, and grains feed the colonized bacteria in your body which if they get out of control can cause infection and increase the candida (yeast) in your body causing leaky gut or gut dysbiosis. Do what works for you and makes you feel good!
Antibiotics are the other part of this vicious circle for us CF'ers as we must take antibiotics in order to keep the colonized bacteria in are lungs from causing infection and creating more damage. I have tried to use inhaled/IV antibiotics if I can rather than oral antibiotics as they are not as detrimental to the beneficial bacteria in your body which is the main line of defense against candida overgrowth and bacteria overgrowth in the body. Although, there are great inhaled antibiotics for Pseudomonas there are still only studies being done on inhaled antibiotics for MRSA.
Avoid Gut wall killers!
One of the major findings I have learned is about probiotics & the gut healing process which is actually quite amazing to learn about. As the gut is directly connected to the lungs via the Vagus nerve, any irritation in the gut can directly influence the lungs. Sometimes, I can eat something and about ten minutes later I have a coughing attack, that's my body telling me that there is something my gut didn't like. To see what it might be I do a small allergy test on the inside of my wrist at night of what food I think might be the problem and mix a tiny bit of it with water and let it dry overnight. If I wake up with a nice red rash where the spot was, then that is a food I avoid for a while to let my gut heal and reduce inflammation.
Image: Healthy & Sick Enterocyte cells of the gut wall.
Gut and Psychology syndrome, Campbell-McBride: 2010, pg.20.
Incorporate a therapeutic daily dose of quality Probiotics.
For probiotics, I take a therapeutic dose of at least 17 billion cultures and as many strains as possible. You want a probiotic that includes all 3 of the main good bacteria's that should be in the gut. These include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterial, and soil bacteria. One of the best soil bacteria's is Saccharomyces boulardi because it fights against pathogenic candida. If you are a CF person, I would suggest taking these probiotics regularly and increase them when you’re on antibiotics as the antibiotics kill off the good bacteria and the bad bacteria in your body leaving you vulnerable to yeast overgrowth, but as always consult with your doctor first to see what works best for you. Start with a small amount first and gradually work up to 15-17 billion a day, this will help with die-off symptoms. Two of my favorite probiotics are Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra and Innate Probiotics.
Eat Foods that FEED the good guys!
I also like to eat a lot of prebiotic foods such as unripe bananas/plantains, jicama, kombucha, coconut oil, organic coconut milk, and asparagus. There are several other foods and prebiotic supplements that you can take all of which help feed the good bacteria in your body. I also like to eat probiotic foods as well, some of which are fermented veggies, sauerkraut, and kimchi if you like it (I can’t stand it)
I have several supplements and herbs that I use to help me get the best nutrients possible and each has a different purpose at different times. All of these I use are directed and guided to me by my naturopathic doctor to make sure I am taking the correct dosages and that they do not interact with any of my CF drugs that I take routinely. Some of my favorites that I find most helpful are Valerian to help with inflammation and it's awesome on those nights that the coughing doesn't stop to help your lungs relax, so you can actually fall asleep.
I use oregano, garlic, and lemon water to help keep the bacteria in my body at bay. When I start to feel sick I usually take one of these along with an immune booster like elderberries, echinacea, or astragulus. A new favorite is Young Livings Thieves Essential oil, this blend of 5 different oils may help with immune support. The blend is Clove, cinnamon bark, rosemary, lemon, and Eucalyptus Radiata. It's name comes from the 1500's when the thieves would steal from those who had the bubonic plague and not catch it themselves. Another great way to keep the bacteria at bay is by taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water in the morning and digestive bitters before every meal, to keep the acidity in the stomach up which is like the first defense to keep the bad bacteria out and helps increase nutrient absorption and proper digestion.
Incorporate good Fats & Vitamins:
Cod liver oil and krill oil are excellent sources of omega 3 fats EPA & DHA as well as the natural forms of Vitamin D & A which are better absorbed in the body. Both EPA & DHA help reduce inflammation in the body and support the brain. NAC is another good supplement for CF’ers as it produces glutathione in the body which is the main compound are body needs to repair and heal itself and it is found in every cell in the body. As a CF individual we are very low in glutathione. Take your fat-soluble vitamins as well along with the cod liver oil and krill oil with meals to help get the best absorption.
So, in conclusion there are several choices and directions to take in life that will have either good or bad outcomes. I suggest you learn from them all. I am still on my lifestyle of change journey and am really feeling the amazing results of how eliminating the toxins from our life can allow our bodies to Thrive! I have gained more muscle and my weight is up 6 pounds, I am exercising more to increase my lung endurance again and my immunity is much stronger. I am still healing my gut from the courses of antibiotics, but I feel the probiotics making me stronger every day. Healing is a slow process and I believe if I continue the course I am on that I will have long lasting results. So, absorb as much knowledge as possible and make your own opinions to create a lifestyle of change that is designed for only you. I hope that my story and information provides some insight and curiosity to making small changes in your life for a healthier lifestyle. I wish you all the best of Health. Aloha.
Below is a list of my favorite books, podcasts, and links to some of my favorite websites, all full of wonderful knowledge.
Breaking the Vicious cycle intestinal health through diet: Gottschaul
Probiotic Revolution: Gary Huffnagle
You are what you eat: Dr. Gillian McKeith
The Gut & Psychology Syndrome: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Paleo Cure: Chris Kressor
Herbal Antibiotics: Buhner
The Earthwise herbal repertory: Wood
Live in the Balance: Linda Prout
Wild Medicine Solutions: Mase’
Chriss Kresser: Revolution Health Radio