I’m sick and tired of feeling ill (pun intended) and being prescribed pills that don’t work from doctor after doctor.
So, I’ve decided to shake up my diet and lifestyle in an attempt to improve my wellbeing!
Having lived (and eaten) as a student over the last 3 years, it is safe to say my lifestyle has been rather unhealthy. However, I have become increasingly aware of the effects that poor diet can have on both my physical and mental health.
I am a long-time sufferer of eczema, asthma and rhinitis, also called the ‘atopic triad’. This basically means that my body produces a certain type of antibody when triggered by harmless allergens, causing a response in the form of sneezing, coughing, itching or breathlessness. Since uni, my health has become much worse. Each illness seemed to be replaced with a newer, more painful one. I more spent many weeks in bed feeling sorry for myself, and was constantly tired, itchy and bloated. More recently, I found out I have hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease where the thyroid function slows, causing slow metabolism, tiredness and many other annoying things.
I’ve always thought that my poor immune system was genetic and find myself blaming my mum every time I am sneeze or itch (which is a lot)!
While genetic predisposition to autoimmunity does contribute to about one third of your risk of developing an autoimmune disease, the other two thirds come from environmental factors. I have recently found a whole community of researches/nutritionists/food-bloggers who have good reason to believe that certain foods can contribute to the development and continuation of illnesses. Research suggests that the atopic triad is largely modulated by nutrition, there are recognised associations between unnatural compounds in diary with eczema and asthma. There is also a well-established link between gluten intolerance and thyroid disease, so much so that some researches suggest all patients should be screened for gluten intolerance. Similarly, some nutrients can improve these illnesses by dampening allergic responses to the environment, such as anti-inflammatory antioxidants or Vitamin D.
So why, after seeing over 10 different doctors and specialists across 3 years have none even mentioned my diet or referred me to a nutritionist?
Simply from reading a few articles, blogs and cookbooks it seems to me that my unhealthy diet and lack of exercise must be related to my ill health, yet no medical professional has even hinted that this might be a factor. It seems blindingly obvious that what we put into our bodies effects our health, so it is simply crazy that food isn’t emphasised more in medicine. For many illnesses, drugs appear to treat the existing issue, rather than target the root cause. I for one have been prescribed so many different types of drugs, I can barely keep track! It feels so frustrating that I have put so much medication into my body instead of simply avoiding foods I can’t tolerate.
You only have to watch the documentary ‘Fat Sick and Nearly Dead’ to witness how powerful diet can be. An unhealthy and overweight Joe Cross was on strong steroids to control his chronic illnesses. He managed to cure himself simply by changing to a clean, raw diet, and is now completely off medication.
I really recommend watching this if you are interested in cleansing/juicing, so I have added a link to the trailer.
Although I cannot control my genetics, I do have some control over my environment. Many people, like Joe, have been equally as unhealthy as me and managed to drastically improve their health simply by changing their diet and lifestyle.
Of course, you can’t believe everything you read or watch...
So I am putting it to the test!
To know for sure whether my unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle is a main cause of my poor immune system, fatigue, illness and anxiety, I will be radically changing things. I would call it clean eating, but I don’t consider this to be a diet, more of a lifestyle change. Phrases like ‘clean eating’ have become commonplace, but not many people know about mindful eating, which I will explain in later posts. But basically, I want to alter not just the way I eat, but the way I think about food.
Like many people my age, I am weight conscious but go through periods of restricting myself and losing weight, only to result in subsequent bingeing and putting weight back on. I have tried several fad diets over the years, but always give up after a few days. The problem with diets like 5:2 or atkins is that they require you to cut out whole food groups and deprive yourself, eventually causing your body to crave the vital food groups it is missing and re-gain any weight lost. My approach will be similar to the alkaline diet, which ensures a truly balanced diet with no deprivation of essential food groups and even encourages eating carbs. The key is to have the natural and healthy types of each food group, rather than the processed version. So, instead of than failing like other previous dieting attempts, the lack of restriction will hopefully prevent my body craving unhealthy foods and help me to stick to my plan!
I thought it would be interesting to document my progress, not only as motivation to continue, but also to share what I learn about the importance of diet on physical and mental health. Also, I believe that understanding the psychology behind food and eating behaviour is not given enough attention when thinking about wellness and diet. Hence, I have also started this blog as a place to look at the transition to a healthy lifestyle with a psychological focus.
I hope you will follow me in my pursuit for health and hopefully we can learn a thing or two along the way!