Thursday, July 18, 2013

Detoxing and Diet Elimination

During my recovery from hip surgery, I watched several diet related documentaries including: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Food Matters, Fresh, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., and others I'm probably forgetting. I've been interested in nutrition for several years, but as I've mentioned before, in the past I was only consumed with body image and ate everything "low fat/fat free".

Then chronic pain came along.

Chronic illness that doesn't respond to traditional medicine will drive one to do just about anything to find reprieve. I've told people I would eat dirt if I thought it might decrease my pain! Sadly, in our modern American culture the last place we look for answers to health problems is what we put in our body. (But that's another topic for another day).

During my years with pain, I can't tell you how many people have asked me if I have tried to eliminate gluten from my diet. As a nurse, I just didn't understand why I would give up gluten. After all, I don't have celiac disease. I've never thought much about diet elimination until this past October, when I began experiencing very troubling upper GI symptoms out of the blue. I tried conventional medications, but when that failed I began looking a little at diet. I greatly decreased dairy in my diet and began researching a lot about the acid-alkaline diet (which is highly debatable). I'm not sure whether it was time or decreasing dairy, but my GI symptoms have been much more tolerable now (and I don't have to take medication for them). This week I have had some symptoms again, but I've been taking apple cider vinegar capsules and am hoping it does not turn into a flare-up. (I've treated this as reflux, but honestly I'm not sure if the burping and esophageal irritation is truly reflux or more of a muscular spasm.)

I've also known some friends who have had some success with auto-immune symptoms from diet elimination. My pain is more nerve irritation/biomechanical, but I have been diagnosed with central nervous system sensitization (very basically: hypersensitivity of the nervous system, so sometimes wearing certain pants feels like sandpaper rubbing me), which is not well understood, but other disorders that have central sensitization as a symptom (i.e. fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome) are thought to have characteristics of autoimmune disorders.

So, I felt like it was worth a try to "clean-up" my diet and eliminate certain foods that are known to cause inflammation in the body (at least for some people). Before doing this I followed the example of one of my friends mentioned above and did a 5 day detox: eating and drinking only fruits and veggies. We did the first 5 days of the 10-Day: Reboot Lite. I was not doing this detox to lose weight (like the Joe Cross of Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), but rather to clear out my body of all foods except fruits and veggies so that eliminating gluten, dairy, and sugar (which is what I am doing now) would not be as difficult.  The hardest part of this detox was not hunger (well, by day 4 I was pretty hungry - though I later read that if you are hungry you can supplement with another juice or piece of fruit/veggie). The hardest part was the prepping and cooking and cleaning. Some days I spent HOURS in the kitchen and my sweet husband was even helping me (he too did the 5 day reboot!). In my opinion, the recipes were pretty tasty except the raw carrot ginger soup and the squash & apple soup (which the recipe didn't seem to be correct as it turned out extremely watery - and we had to eat it 3 times!). But we did it. It was eye opening in a sense because it made me realize how much food is often an idol in our lives and on nights when I went to bed hungry, it made me pray for those around the world, especially children who go to be bed literally starving every night.

This was a light night of prepping!
The detox cost around $100 for 5 days for my husband and I. I bought organic when I could afford it, and I did already have a few of the items on hand and not every ingredient is needed (i.e. parsley, thyme, etc). FYI: in case anyone reading this decides to do this reboot the ingredient list is not exactly right (for example pears are not listed at all).  

Although we weren't doing this for weight-loss, my husband lost 6 lbs! He also didn't drink coffee for 2 weeks and is drinking it less often now (and he's a serious coffee drinker - strong coffee made from a French Press or Chemex.). I lost maybe a pound (the meals were very fulfilling to me, in fact sometimes I couldn't finish all the food intended for each meal) and the only side effect I noticed was a really dry mouth towards the end of the detox (despite drinking lots of water) and a white film on my tongue (which some alternative medicine proponents say is caused by toxins leaving the body). I take medication that causes dry mouth so I think it probably had something to do with absorption of my medicine as I wasn't eating as much as I normally would. My husband had a headache for the first 2-3 days due to not drinking coffee.

The smoothies were the best part of the detox!

I have been eliminating gluten, dairy, and sugar from my diet now for 1 month. I'm trying to eat as clean as possible (eliminating processed foods and eating organic produce and good quality meat as our budget allows). Everyone asks if I have noticed any difference in my pain levels yet, but sadly I have not. In fact I've felt worse, as I've been dealing with headaches and neck pain for the last 3 weeks. They started on day 12 of my dietary changes so I do not think they are related to my food intake. The headaches started 5 days after beginning the supplement MSM and 13 days after I greatly increased my Vit D (per MD recommendation). While headaches are a common side effect of MSM, I only took it for 5 days and have been off it now for 3.5 weeks so it doesn't seem to be the cause either.

The only realistic cause I can come up with for my head/neck pain is biomechanical due to standing to prep and cook 3 meals from scratch daily. I understand now why women in the 1940's ran for the processed foods in the supermarkets...they were worn out from cooking ALL DAY LONG (not that that was the best choice)! Of course, everything is more difficult with chronic pain. I'm trying to wait this headache out and use all the tools in my chronic pain arsenal (massage, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, exercises, moist head, drinking more water, OTC anti-inflammatory only when necessary, etc), but I continue to have pain. I plan to stay gluten, dairy, and sugar free for another 2 months if possible. It's not cheap or easy to eat such a restricted diet, but at least in the end I can say, I tried dietary changes and hopefully it will impact my pain levels (once I get over this head/neck pain).

How about you guys....have you ever tried a detox or diet elimination? Did it help?


  1. I saw Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and found it completely interesting, but I just don't see how it would be sustainable for us, with both my husband and I working full time. All the prep time would take over everything! And like you said, the cost is pretty high (the one week we tried juicing for just 1 meal a day, we spent $100 more at the grocery store). It just seems very difficult unless you live on a farm and have your own produce!

    I have been working on eliminating dairy from my diet, which has been difficult, but it has made a difference, so I am going to stick with it.

  2. It's from detoxing way to fast. Once you ease up on thanthe neck pain will subside quickly