November 4, 2012

Discoveries around "The Diet Cure"

I posted a while back about a fascinating book I read, "The Diet Cure" by Julia Ross. Ever since I read this book, I've made a number of discoveries about my health.
Inspired by the book, I was testing out several specific food groups to see if I had any adverse reactions to them. I did a week without refined sugar and white flour products, a week without any gluten products at all, and a week without dairy. At the end of the weeks without the specific foods, I introduced them back into my diet gradually in order to observe if any adverse reactions such as headache, weight gain, bloating, digestive complaints, etc. arose.
The first thing I discovered was that sugary and white flour products did have some slight to moderate reactions for me, including headache and some bloating. I also lost several pounds after the week without them.
Then I went on to "test" for a gluten reaction by eliminating all foods containing gluten (wheat, oats, and rye). At the end of the trial gluten-free week, I was expecting (perhaps dreading) bells and whistles when I re-introduced them (in the form of whole grains) back into my diet. But to my surprise there really were no noticeable symptoms. The same happened with dairy—no problems that I could notice. I was sort of relieved because wheat and dairy are big parts of my diet and I wasn't looking forward to possibly having to eliminate them. My naturopathic doctor isn't 100% convinced of my self-testing results because I did the tests one at a time rather than all together. But for me, it's a good start. I say this because when I first heard about checking for this kind of stuff, I was very closed off to the idea of an elimination diet. In fact, I remember almost laughing at my doctor when he suggested the idea.
Now, however, the few things I discovered about my reactions to refined sugar and white flour/rice products were enough for me to start making an effort to avoid refined sugar when possible and replace white flour products with whole wheat, and white rice with brown rice, etc. I'm happy with the results, and also knowing that I'm getting more fiber into my diet.
I'm also interested in doing a week without corn, to see what happens.
Perhaps the most interesting discoveries were two things I found out about myself around the time of this self-testing. In her book, Ross suggests that once your diet is balanced in favor of proteins and vegetables, with just enough healthy carbs and fats for satiation, the pounds should begin to melt off. The caveat is that this can only happen if you're biochemically stable. And should the initial weight loss peter out (or never occur), you might need to get checked out for imbalances such as low thyroid. I noticed my weight loss occurred when I removed the refined products from my diet, but then tapered off. It didn't bug me too much because I am more in favor of exercising than dieting, but it did catch my attention.
It just so happened that I had decided to get my thyroid levels checked during my yearly checkup, around the time I had finished this elimination diet. When I went to discuss the results with my doctor, he told me I had thyroid dysfunction. I was sort of shocked because I've been getting my thyroid checked for years because both my parents have low thyroid, and I've always tested normal. But according to my doctor, it's often underdiagnosed, and in my case, although my T3 and T4 levels are normal, it's the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) that's too high—working harder than it ought to trying to stimulate an underactive thyroid, in his words.
There's more: he ordered a test of my cortisol levels, which apparently are also connected to thyroid function. I just found out that they came back "low," but have yet to discuss the implications of the results with my doctor. Rather than feel upset, I'm actually relieved that there may be some underlying reasons for my sluggish metabolism (and my cold extremities, and possibly even joint pain among other things). I'll have a lot to learn about how all these puzzle pieces fit together: diet, metabolism, hormonal levels, stress. But I'm up to the challenge and grateful to have found a practitioner who seems to be willing to think outside the box and find the root of the problem (finally).

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