Friday, 16 August 2013

Just try this and tell me you don't feel better, I dare you!

As with each of the posts in this series, I would suggest you start by scrolling down to my post 'This is where it all starts' and reading up from there, in the order I wrote them. That way you'll understand the context a little better!

I'll start by making this clear: I do not believe in miracle cures. I am not trying to suggest that we should live without the medicines that scientists have spent hundreds of years developing. I would hate to think that anyone would want to shun western medicine on the basis that 'nature knows best.' You only have to look at mortality figures 100 years ago compared to today to see that the medicines available to us DO help.

Saying this, I don't believe anyone should reach for the medicine bottle as soon as they feel unwell, without first considering what other factors might be contributing to it. Most of us, if we are entirely honest with ourselves, could do a bit more to keep our bodies fit and healthy. I'm talking prevention here rather than cure.

Speaking for myself, I have always prided myself on eating a fairly healthy diet. I know I could get a bit more excersize, but I did at least believe I ate well. Which is why the subject of this post was such a slap-in-the-face-wake-up-call for me!

So, having done a bit of research into what goes on inside a woman's body, and researching my own hormonal imbalance to get a bit of a grip on what might be out-of-sync, I then moved on to looking into what nutritionalists and health experts had to say about a healthy lifestyle when it comes to the reproductive system.

As soon as I got onto the subject of fertility, the information came streaming in! Since so many couples have difficulty having babies, there are endless websites on the subject! I looked into herbal medicines, lifestyle changes and diet, each of which I will write about soon. But in this post, I want to concentrate on diet.

How many times have you heard the same advice, or said it to yourself: 'You are what you eat!' If you eat sweet, fatty, carbohydrate-rich foods all the time, your body will suffer. Avoid fizzy drinks, avoid sweeties and chocolate, avoid cake, avoid white sugar, white flour, white bread, white rice, don't eat pizza, don't eat take-aways, don't eat too much fat- avoid butter, avoid cream... etc, etc, etc.

But we never want to hear it- of course we don't! All those things are so damn TASTY! Where is the
fun in life if we have to constantly stop ourselves from eating things we love?

I'm saying this because I want you to know: I GET IT. I'm not one of those holier-than-thou quinoa-loving self-sacraficing wholefood eaters! I would list coffee, wine and chocolate as three of my favourite things in the world!

Unfortunately however, it seems there is some truth in the old sayings. And this is how I found out:

For two weeks I obeyed the following rules:

*  no caffine
*  no extra sugar or foods containing high levels of sugar
*  no alcohol
*  no saturated fat (butter, cream, cheese)
*  no gluten (anything containing wheat- so this means flour, pasta, bread, cake)
*  no processed foods (ready meals, packaged cereals, sauces from jars or packets)
*  every day, eat 1 portion (small handful) of crucifers, such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccoli sprouts
*  every day, eat 1 portion of green leafy vegetables and herbs, like parsley, kale, watercress, chard, cilantro, beetroot greens, dandelion greens and mustard greens
*  every day, eat 1 portion of citrus, like oranges, lemons and limes (avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice)
*  every day, eat 1 portion of sulfur-rich foods, like garlic, onions, eggs
*  every day, eat 1 portion of a liver healer, such as artichoke, asparagus, beets, celery, dandelion-root tea, whey and nutritional yeast flakes
*  every day, add a tablespoon of ground linseed to your food
*  every day, eat 1 portion of colon-caring foods: carrots, apple, pear or berries.
*  every day, drink 2 litres of filtered water
*  every day, eat 2 portions (palm-sized) of protein in the form of lean beef, lamb, skinless chicken, turkey or fish
*  every day, eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil

The reasoning behind this came from numerous websites, books and knowledgable people I spoke to while I was doing my research, and it comes down to one body part: the liver. Apparently most herbal therepists, no matter what your ailment, will begin by focussing on the liver. This is particularly important when it comes to hormonal problems, because if your liver is in tip-top condition, it will process any excess hormones in your system.

You'll want to avoid foods that give the liver a lot of work to do- hence avoiding processed foods and gluten. 

As for caffine and alcohol... this is the heartbreaking truth: they are just bad for you. Plain and simple. It's the one thing I heard over and over and over. 

Having got that out of the way, this is what I found after two weeks of following this 'diet':

- My diet before was not the healthy diet I previously thought! When I had to stop myself from reaching for something sweet, or an energy-boosting drink or snack, or a lump of cheese, I realised just how often I do it!

- I wasn't hungry. This isn't like a diet-diet! The fridge was packed full and I was eating three decent-sized meals a day, plus snacks. There is no guilt in eating as much as you want, because the aim isn't to loose weight, it's just to fill your body full of the kinds of food that will do you good!

- It was really hard to eat enough to cover everything in the list! This was what really got me- just how much you actually have to eat to fulfill your body's needs! I was so full from eating the foods on the list, that there was no room for the kinds of foods I would usually have reached for when I got hungry.

- I lost weight! Despite eating loads, and drizzling olive oil over my steak, I lost almost half a stone in two weeks.

-  I have only ever felt this healthy once before, and that was when I was doing an hour of yoga every day and swimming twice a week, as well as eating a fat-free diet... and this was MUCH easier! I can't even explain how it felt- just that my body felt good

-  I had loads of energy: I didn't get the usual dips, which I would usually combat with sugar or coffee: I didn't feel like I needed the extra sugar or caffine because I didn't feel like I needed a pick-me-up

-  My period came on time and I suffered less PMT

Having said all of this, I couldn't live like that. I was craving cheese and bread by the end of the two weeks. Strangely though, not caffine or alcohol! 

I have, unsurprisingly, eaten a much less strict diet since following this for two weeks. But for the time I was on the diet, I felt fantastic and I can't deny that it worked!

So, what's the conclusion? Well, if you follow the 'rules', you WILL be healthier! So it's your choice: give yourself a strict diet where you fill your body with all the things it needs, don't allow yourself the usual vices, ignore your cravings but feel super healthy; OR carry on eating everything you fancy, but remember your health will suffer for it. 

I have chosen a third option: a little from column A, a little from column B! I figure I don't need to be super-healthy! Just healthy-er will do! I have more-or-less given up caffine, except when I really fancy it. I have more-or-less given up cakes and sweets... though I still indulge if I have a strong craving or feel a bit blue. I stop before I pour a glass of wine and think to myself 'is it worth it?' and if the answer is no then I put it back in the cupboard and feel good about my decision. If the answer is yes... then I pour a large one! And I have printed off a list of liver-loving foods to stick to my cupboard door, so I can try to eat as many every day as possible. I've also borrowed a friend's juicer- because I can throw in anything from the list and it's a fun way to eat a shed-load of healthy fruit and veg in one go!

And in a few months time, I will write again to let you know if there is any change to my hormonal problems.

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