Ditching sugar & taking control of feeling ‘eurgh’

I have, for a while now, been making an effort to listen to my body & especially take notice of how it reacts to the food I eat. I know that there are certain foods that would make me bloat up uncomfortably within an hour of eating them & there are some that have a slow burn, but I can wake up feeling like I’ve drunk 4 bottles of wine the following morning after eating them, even if I haven’t touched a drop! Whilst I have been off work, I had quite a bit of time to myself & decided to do some investigating into what could be causing this.

My go-to comfort foods are all the things that I shouldn’t have: I have been told to follow a low GI diet to loose weight pre-conception & also to feel generally healthier & manage my insulin resistance. Unfortunately for me, things like pizza, macaroni cheese & lasagne don’t ever feature very high up the list of recommended foods for this particular diet, but whilst I was feeling low & wallowing a bit, these were the things I chose to eat.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that this only exacerbated the problem, as the processed, sugary, carb-loaded treats I was craving were zapping my energy, making me bloated & causing me to feel like I was hungover constantly. They also gave me the spike in blood sugar, that then dropped even lower & had me reaching for the Dairy Milk again an hour or so later. I had – until this point – lost 3 stone in the past 2 years, but was in danger of starting to put it back on by getting into a vicious cycle of sugar-laden. carb-heavy processed foods & I decided enough was enough, I needed to stop sabotaging myself.

It started with a bit of an accident. Around the time I started counselling, I decided I needed to take myself in hand & help myself to feel better. I’m not – by nature – a wallower & decided that I’d passed enough time doing that & I needed to feel better. I planned a detox, to stop my body feeling ‘eurgh’ & get rid of the constant feeling of being full that I’d had for the past few weeks.

For 3 days, I drank just water & took supplements, which actually made me feel quite good (I had previously followed the 5:2 diet, so knew that fasting was fine for me) – after this time, my eyes looked a bit brighter, my skin looked less sallow & – despite having no actual food – I actually felt like I had more energy. On day 4, I introduced a green smoothie in the morning & an evening meal, but still just had water at lunch (I was making an effort to drink the recommended 2 litres a day, which I have certainly not done before). The smoothie didn’t affect how I felt at all, but what happened in the evening really surprised me.

I had prepared a dinner of tuna, mayo (with a slight bit of vinegar added to loosen the mixture more), sweetcorn, peas & beetroot. I thought no carbs would be fine & would keep me feeling good, however within about an hour of eating it, I had stomach cramps & was so bloated I looked like I was pregnant. This confused me & I decided to look into it more.

I googled a few things & came up with something called a Candida infection. Candida is a yeast that grows in us all, but in some people it overgrows & gets out of control (often caused by contraceptives, antibiotics, stress, eating a high sugar/carb diet, etc). This can cause bloating & feelings of discomfort in the short term, but the toxic by-products of the yeast cause the most damage. I was really surprised to read that the symptoms of a Candida overgrowth could be so wide & varied:

  1. Skin and nail fungal infections (such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus)
  2. Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  3. Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog
  4. Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, hives and rashes
  5. Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
  6. Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching or vaginal itching
  7. Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
  8. Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings

What struck me was how many of these symptoms I had been suffering with (my delightful collection are in bold). I know it’s a pretty vague list & I’d imagine most people have one or two of these at any one time, but – at this point – there were only one or two that I didn’t have. (It is just worth pointing out that the same symptoms are reported as those found with a sugar addiction too, which is no coincidence, as the two seem to be very closely linked.)

I must admit, I was sceptical; why hadn’t I heard of this before & why isn’t it something my GP had mentioned? The answer is that while many alternative therapists & nutritionists/dieticians believe in & treat candida overgrowth, the conventional medical practitioners don’t*. In fact, they do treat it, as one of the symptoms caused by the yeast is thrush, but they will only prescribe anti-fungal medicine for a short course if the patient gets recurrent infections (& in some cases the fungus then becomes resistant to the treatment, so the problem gets worse).

*There is a lot of information online both for & against the existence of Candida overgrowth & I’m not adding fuel to this fire (I don’t even know if I believe all of the information), just giving my own experience.

I tried the spit test that I’d read about & wasn’t really surprised by this point to find it was positive. I did wonder if everyone’s spit did this though, so tested Mr T & my mum subsequently & theirs did not react the same. Lots of people think this is a load of crap (& – again – there are pages & pages online discussing whether it is a genuine test or not), but I was pretty desperate to find something to make me feel better, so took a leap of faith. There is a stool test you can have, but this was expensive, so I decided to go with the recommendations first & see if I got any results.

So I decided to take action. I contacted one of the nutrition experts on the website immunecare, who were very helpful in answering my questions. I ordered some of the supplements they recommended (although the full list was very long & I would’ve needed a second mortgage!) & massively overhauled my diet to exclude yeast (including alcohol), caffeine, sugar or processed carbs. I noticed that the foods that I was eating were all low GI foods & the plan is actually very similar to this.

Within a week, I had lost 6lbs, but – more importantly – my mood was better, my skin was clearer, the black circles around my eyes had improved, I had a clearer mind & I wasn’t feeling bloated & sluggish anymore. I lost another 3lbs the following week & felt even more of an improvement. I will admit that just the change in diet could have been responsible for the change in my wellbeing, but I was after a double-whammy, which is why I decided to go for the supplements as well. Continuing on that amount of tablets would have been both expensive & confusing, so I have decided to go it alone & maintain the eating-side of the plan, but without the supplements & see how I get on.

I admit that it may seem quite extreme to cut all of these things out, but the more research I did into it, the more sense it seemed to make, even if Candida overgrowth is a myth. There are so many blogs I’ve found where people have cut out sugar & processed food this for health reasons & it’s made huge improvements to their quality of life. For me, it was an alternative to anti-depressants, which I wanted to avoid at all costs, so drastic was what was required. Deliciously Ella & Sarah from I Quit Sugar are two great examples of the benefits to this way of life & their blogs have some amazing recipes on too. I also recently purchased the brilliant Zita West book called ‘Eat Yourself Pregnant‘ & found that a lot of the advice was based on the principles I was already following, so watch this space on that…

I am still eating meat, although not as often as I was & I’m not really missing most of the foods I can’t have, because I can if I want to – I just know they’ll make me feel crap again & I have to weigh that up with ‘is it worth it’. Sometimes the answer is most definitely yes & I have no intention of becoming a diet bore when I go out; I will find things that fit as best I can with what I am trying to achieve, but don’t sweat it if I have the odd night off.

I’m also a social binge drinker (I know its not good for me, but I don’t have many other vices & I don’t get the chance that often!) I don’t see the point in drinking one glass at home. If I’m going to drink, I DRINK, but now I’m more tuned in to how this makes me feel (& what foods I crave when hungover ‘Hello, Papa John’s Pizzas!’) so I save it for a special occasion. So far, so good.

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