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Welcome to Day 4! Nutrition - Protein and Plant Power!
Nutrition is a huge topic so I'll be spreading it out over a few different posts.
I'm still learning more every day but I hope some information here is helpful. I will repeat I highly recommend Nutritionists to everyone!
I'm going to have more posts in the future to try and keep this short, and working on a Nutrition Ideas Pinterest Board. Leave your favorite nutrition tips for spoonies below!
If you have ME your new lifestyle is going to be protein and plant foods. After you do the elimination diet your day to day focus will be on protein and veggies - but remember this is your life - so as long as you develop new healthy habits where the majority of your life follows your new lifestyle, you can take comfort in knowing on special occasions you can indulge in your old favorites (as long as it's not stuff causing you intolerances or immune responses!).
Patients with mitochondrial dysfunction: your body using emergency protein and amino acids for energy instead of sugars, fats and carbohydrates - protein is your fuel and the rest is generally not being used optimally.
Protein and plant foods: I'm a carnivore (I've attempted vegetarianism and just simply feel better eating meat- I'm willing to see this change in my lifetime but this is just how it is!) - but there are lots of protein options for vegetarians and vegans too.
- find a high quality protein powder you can add to protein shakes, yogurts, cereals/porridge/muesli
- add nuts, seeds, nut butters to your snacking list
- lentils, quinoa and beans are bonus protein for everyone
- veggies veggies veggies - kale, green beans, and peas are packed with protein - focus every meal on more veggies
What do I drink!?: When I first started this I was so disappointed with just water with my meals (I was hooked on Dr. Pepper and sweet frappuccinos in graduate school!). I became an herbal tea addict - there are a million flavors and something for everyone, and you can serve hot or cold. I also have become hooked on sparking water with lemon or lime.
My FAVORITE super easy recipe is to keep frozen green beans stocked, throw them into a frying pan with some butter (or your choice of oil) and when they're defrosted and starting to brown I throw in some sliced almonds (pre-sliced - 'aint nobody got the energy to slice their own almonds) and cook until slightly browned. For more protein I drink an easy protein shake.
The best investment I've made in my journey with ME/CFS (with the very limited resources I have) is signing up with the Nutrition program with The Optimum Health Clinic. I thought my diet was pretty good since I was the only student I knew who ate broccoli - however now I realize how much sugar and processed foods I was eating and have a much more well rounded whole food diet. It took me some major convincing to sign up for Nutrition but I'm so glad that I did. (I recommend to EVERYBODY on planet earth to see a nutritionist at least once in their life!)
The Nutrition team has also expanded into Functional Medicine, as the nutritionists with the team can also help you order and interpret lab tests. Because of my nutritionist I was able to get my cortisol and mitochondria tested, as well as some more in-depth looks at normal blood tests from the GP in order to manage and ease some outlying factors.
The first thing most people do with chronic illness is the elimination diet - this is 3-4 weeks eliminating sugar, wheat (gluten), dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods (limit ingredient lists to 5-8 ingredients that are whole foods!) from your diet, slowly re-introducing each category to see if anything causes exacerbation of symptoms.
This is incredibly difficult to do - so if you're on the elimination diet be really kind to yourself because it is SO difficult to break a lifetime of habits and cravings to get through this - but it is worth it. I was able to quit sugar and greatly reduced the effects caffeine were having on me. I don't seem to have any issue with wheat or dairy, but these are more problematic usually with people who have a lot of gut problems related to their ME/CFS. I started with a complete alcohol intolerance and now I can enjoy one or two on a special occasion.
The best QUICK TIP I have for you on the elimination diet is... Keep a list on your fridge of all the foods you CAN eat, not a list of the foods you can't. Your brain works much more effectively with positive instructions (try to not think of a purple elephant - Oh you just did! try not to think of sugar - donut please!). Best to keep a list of all the proteins and plant foods to keep your body going.
If you feel so moved to help The OHC bring an integrated approach to more ME/CFS patients, Click Here to Donate to the Optimum Health Clinic Foundation
Go to Day 1: What ME Feels Like and About This Challenge!
Go to Day 2: Gentle Movement
Go to Day 3: Meditation