The information in this article is based on my experiences and the advice of leading practitioners.
But when it comes to diet everyone is unique. So experiment, laugh, listen to your body and make your own decisions.
Trust your intuition.
If you want to radically increase your odds of recovering from CFS/ME you are going to have to change your diet. Not overnight because that won’t work. But a gradual evolution away from Mcdonalds towards your local organic grocer. Fresh, nutritious and unprocessed food. Whole grains, fruit, vegetables and if you eat it, then get organic free range meat.
Now for the fine tuning!
First up Kick your addiction to the Three White Menaces: Sugar,Flour,Dairy.
If you’ve never thought about it before the odds are you’re currently addicted to sugar, wheat and probably caffeine. And if you’re French then add cheese to that list. Weaning your self off these comfort foods is a good place to start as they are generally not great for a body that is trying to heal itself. Though I recommend only cutting back on one at a time because it can be quite a challenge. And while you’re at it giving dairy the boot for a while probably wouldn’t hurt either.
Now what’s wrong with these central parts of the Western diet I hear you cry?! Well. Refined sugar (the white stuff) is hard work for your liver and it can send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. Dairy has protein called Casein and a sugar called Lactose that many people have negative reactions to. And wheat has a protein called Gluten and a sugar called Fructose that also provides problems for tummies the world over. In a nutshell these things are can drain your energy so do your best to drastically reduce or completely remove these offenders from your diet until you are back in the land of the healthy. And by then you might never look back….
The Challenges & Opportunities that lay before you
Hello New Habits & Rituals – Firstly you are going to have to change your habits. Planning, shopping and cooking will become daily rituals. Get a shopping list and plan out your meals for the coming week. Head down to the grocery store and stock up on everything that you need. It’s best to start thinking a few days in advance as last minute meals and healthy eating don’t usually go together.
Hello Routine Shopping – I find that if I schedule in a trip to the organic food store three times a week I am much more likely to cook my own food. It’s too easy to find your fridge empty and end up neck deep in a box of Corn Flakes for dinner….
Goodbye Regular Eating Out – The sad truth of it is that if you truly stick to your new healthy diet eating out becomes hard. You have to be very selective about the types of restaurants you go to and give advance warning to friends of what you can and cannot eat. While this may seem like a pain in the ass it’s worth the effort. You will discover new places to eat that serve nourishing food that you had no idea even existed.
Be Prepared for Some Character Building Moments – At times changing your diet can feel overwhelming. You will scream when you find out practically every type of croissant is no longer on your menu. You will cry when you go out and your friends are inhaling their pasta and you are left with a salad. And you may gently sob when you smell the seductive aromas of your house mates morning cappucino. But before you know it you will be in a regular routine eating like a king and laughing inwardly when at age 83 your friends are confined to the Bingo hall and you are dancing the flamenco with a lover quarter your age. Go get em’ tiger! The gluten free noodles that is….
The Good News
Your new diet will be more satisfying, colourful and tasty than your old one. While you may have to change your habits all the work will be worth it in the long run. It is immensely pleasurable having a proper connection to your food. Cooking is an amazing outlet for creativity that you can use to nourish your friends and family. An amazing 38.7% of all sex happens in the kitchen and you will be amazed at all the good looking and nice smelling people you will meet in the organic section of your local super market.
Some Dietary Issues Unique to CFS/ME
Food Intolerances – You may have allergies or be intolerant to certain foods. Frustratingly it can be very difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the problem. So it’s a good option to avoid high quantities of major allergens such as wheat and dairy.
Hypoglycemia – Another dietary problem often linked to fatigue is a tendency for Hypoglycaemia. This means your blood sugar will rocket up and down if you don’t manage your diet properly. So avoid foods that are high on the G.I index but most importantly eat regularly, perhaps 4-5 smaller meals throughout the day.
Hypochloridia – You may be suffering from a condition known as Hypochloridia which means you are low in stomach acid. This will make digesting large meals and certain foods difficult. Often causing bloating and abdominal pains after eating. Get this checked out and consider eating smaller servings, chewing for longer and even taking enzymes or Betaine HCL with your meal. I’ve written an article covering these issues here.
Low Blood Pressure – If you get dizzy when you stand up and feel like a king the second you lay down it may be a case of the old low blood pressure. Interestingly enough eating good quality salt can help to fix this. So get in there and add an extra pinch or 6. You know you want to. Liquorice tea is also said to help.
Pick & Mix….
A rundown of 12 different approaches to the perfect diet for CFS/ME.
The Stone Age Diet – Basically this diet says eat what your stone age ancestors used to eat. Because in the eyes of evolution a few thousand years is nothing. So get back to your roots and eat plenty of lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Kick the sugar, dairy and limit the grains. My Thoughts: This diet makes sense to me and seems to be a good place to start.
The Metabolic Diet – This diet starts to get a little more technical and individualised. Based on their metabolism each person is divided into either Protein types, Mixed types or Grain types. My Thoughts: I like the idea of eating according to my metabolism. However the strange array of animal parts I was supposed to eat as a protein type put me off a little. As did the expensive tailored supplements that they market quite intensly.
The Blood Type Diet: Similar to the Metabolic diet except this one classifies you by your blood type. My Thoughts: I’m a type A which means no meat and lots of vegetables. While this suits my ethical beliefs in the past it hasn’t suited my body. I guess I need to keep persevering in search the perfectly balanced vegetarian diet.
Veganism & Vegetarianism: Is it right to eat our furred and feathered friends? Is it healthy? And will it help or hinder your recovery from CFS/ME? My thoughts: Personally I reason I couldn’t kill the animals myself so prefer to avoid eating meat as much as possible. Whether it’s more or less healthy is up for debate. Everyones bodies seem to be different so you have to experiment and find out for yourself.
Raw food: This is a trend that is starting to gain more and more popularity. It is based on the idea that by eating food raw you preserve it’s enzymes and increase the level of nutrition available. My thoughts: I like the idea and I’ve met some very health looking raw foodists that have a special glow of vitality. I’ve increased my intake of raw food but often have trouble digesting too much of it as all the fibre can be hard on my stomach.
Alkalising Diet: This diet suggests eating more of the foods that make your body alkaline, like vegetables, fruits and dairy. And less of the food that makes it acidic like meat, grains and anything with sugar. It is proposed that a diet should be made up of 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods. My thoughts: Getting your pH in balance makes a certain kind of sense to me, but what makes more sense is the fact that a few people I know absolutely swear by these principles.
Elimination Diet: This is a way of identifying which foods may be causing trouble for your body by severely limiting the foods you are eating and slowly reintroducing the potential culprits. This seems to be best done under the supervision of some one who knows their stuff. My Thoughts: It seems to be an intense and quite challenging process but probably worth the pain if you can find out exactly what is causing you grief.
Ayurvedic Diet: This is big topic and one close to my heart and stomach right now (I’m in an Ayurveda centre as I write this eating like a Prince). The type of Ayurvedic diet you should eat depends on your bodily constitution and also the type of imbalances you have in your body. My Thoughts: It makes a lot of sense to me so far as a concept but requires a lot of time to fully understand. While it has been delicious and fun eating with my hands my guts have been pretty similar so far while I’ve been eating it. We shall see.
Food Combining: Is just that. It suggests which foods go best with which. For example it recommends never to eat proteins and carbohydrates at the same time and also proposes that fruit is best eaten by itself in the mornings. My Thoughts: This concept makes sense to me. I think it will take a bit of trial and error to put into practise but is most likely worth the effort. Apparently melons are like the Darth Vader of the food combining world. They don’t mix well with anything. Who would’ve guessed?
Anti Candida Diet: This is a diet designed to limit the growth of Candida Albicans. There are many versions of this but essentially it involves cutting out sugars, wheat, coffee and alchohol. Some go further limiting high G.I fruit and vegetables as well as foods containing yeast. My Thoughts: Candida is a big topic. And if you’re on a Candida witch hunt then this diet is going to be your weapon of choice. Alot of recovery stories involve some version of this diet so it’s definitely worth a look.
Body Ecology Diet: I’m new to this one but my understanding is that it’s a kind of pimped up version of the Anti Candida diet including more fermented foods and high quality oils. I know that Amy (our resident chef) thought highly of it so is definitely worth a look.
Low FODMAPS Diet: This is a diet that restricts the consumption of certain types of sugars (mainly fructose) found in a whole range of different foods. My thoughts: This eating plan is no party and will you have well and truly excluded from most dinner parties but it has had good results for a friend of mine. You can do a breath test these days to test for an intolerance to fructose though I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate.
So when you blend all these ideas together. What do you get?
Some form of Super Diet? Or just a headache?
Thankfully alot of these concepts overlap you won’t need to spend the rest of your life only eating sprouted mung beans. Here’s a mash up of everything I’ve come across so far:
- Start with a basis of fresh, unprocessed and organic produce. Think like a caveman.
- Take into account your metabolic type. Stop to think whether you feel better eating more or less protein.
- Factor in your blood type and see if you are genetically predispositioned towards eating more or less meat.
- Watch the movie Earthlings and ask yourself if you are still comfortable with the notion of eating animals.
- Increase your intake of raw foods to the point that is agreeable with your stomach.
- Cut down on acidic foods and start drinking green smoothies to increase your alkaline levels.
- If food intolerances are really getting to you do an elimination diet to identify any major offenders.
- Learn the basics of food combining to avoid digestive overload any major melon catastrophes.
- Cut out all refined sugars and wheat to cover the bases for Candida.
- Add some fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir for the sake of your body ecology.
- And finally experiment with a low fructose diet for a week or so and see if there is an immediate pick up.
So there you have it! The one size fits all diet for CFS/ME. Fun, nutritious and sure to make your stomach sing with pleasure.
HOW you eat is just as important as WHAT you eat
- It doesn’t matter how healthy your food is if you’re still eating it at 134 miles per hour with a flurry of negative thoughts and the television on. A wise man once told me ‘You are what you THINK while you eat’. So the trick is to make it a ritual.
- Create a peaceful eating environment that is free from distractions.
- Start by connecting with your food before you eat it. I take a moment to give a little gratitude to everyone and everything involved in getting it onto my plate.
- Then I give it a good smell to let my stomach know that it has company on the way. This helps kick start the digestive fluids.
- Then one mouthful at a time I (do my best to) take the time to chew, enjoy and slowly consume my meal.
- I try and stay present taking note of the textures and tastes in my mouth rather than the million and one thoughts that I now notice swimming around in my head while I eat.
- Once I’m finished I take a few deep breaths and reconnect with myself before moving off for my next adventure.
Got some experience with finding the perfect diet for CFS/ME?
Leave comment and help out some bodys large intestine!
Where to Next?
Time for a rest? Then this article on the Art of Napping is for you.
Or even get the down low on GcMAF?