Saturday, November 19, 2011

Falling off the wagon & a big discovery

A lot has happened since I last wrote. Where do I begin...?

Two weeks ago our little family flew down to LA to spend the week for Ian's work. On the flight Ian and I ordered a gluten-free snack pack. I ate the olives, he ate the chips, I ate the almonds, he ate the hummus. Since weaning Ellie I had really done quite well at sticking with our diet parameters and strategically adding foods that I was fairly sure would be healthy additions for me. But that snack box had a square of dark chocolate. And that chocolate had sugar in it. And I took a bite. I only had a teeny tiny bite of one teeny tiny corner. I congratulated myself on my restraint. It was my first taste of sugar in 11 1/2 months. Within an hour I could feel something was wrong. I was anxious, agitated and my brain suddenly felt foggy. Getting from the airplane into the rental car was too much for me to handle.

As we drove away from LAX we decided to stop at In N Out. I got a burger wrapped in lettuce and fries, celebrating the recent addition of potatoes in my diet. But then I decided to go wild and dip my fries in ketchup. Bad decision. Ketchup is basically tomato-flavored sugar and my body quickly reacted. By the time we were driving to the condo we had rented, I was yelling at Ellie for no good reason and my mood was entirely unpleasant. The symptoms continued to surface. That evening, I experienced a return of sciatica pain that I used to suffer from but which had been completely gone since going on SCD/GAPS. An old knee injury started to ache. I couldn't sleep. I experienced overwhelming fatigue, so bad that I couldn't get up in the morning with Ellie and spent several days letting her watch Sesame Street in my bed so I could keep resting. All of these terrible symptoms arose because I ate a little bit of sugar? I couldn't believe it.

I've begun to notice a pattern I have. I experience something like this - something that so clearly indicates something is wrong - and instead of recognizing it right away I had to let it marinate in my head for about a week before I started making connections. It actually wasn't until the middle of this week that I started to figure things out. I was emailing with my nutritionist about adding some herbs to my treatment plan and she suggested I look into licorice root and ashwagandha. I did a little research into both herbs and found that they are commonly used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome and then I came across a Web site that talked about chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

As I looked over the list of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia the world's biggest lightbulb went on in my head. So many disparate symptoms I've experienced in the past 6-8 years were all there, all together, in one list. They were connected? I was floored. I was upset at the idea that I've had a real medical condition all this time and I never knew it. I was relieved that there was a name for how crappy I've felt - and maybe it didn't mean that I was just a weak person with low energy. I was also extremely relieved because it meant I already knew how to treat fibromyalgia! If many of these symptoms had been gone while I was eating a grain-free, sugar-free diet, then I could just go back to that and feel better, right? Right?

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that encompasses a lot of different symptoms. I never knew much about it, but always associated it with chronic pain. That is an element, but there's much more to it. In the past 6-8 years, I have experienced all of these symptoms, which are all connected to fibromyalgia:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems, including having a very difficult time waking up in the morning, difficulty falling asleep at night, light sleep
  • Reactive hypoglycemia (including symptoms of irritability, fatigue, depression, nervousness, shaky hands and carb cravings)
  • Pain - primarily two spots in my back, my knee injury and sciatica pain down my right leg
  • Myofascial pain syndrome - explained as areas of extreme tenderness and sensitivity in bands of muscle underneath skin - develops in areas that have been overworked or injured. For me this comes up as pain/tenderness in two knots in my back which both feel like tight bands of muscle. I also experience pain in my right knee, which I injured about 5 years ago
  • Debilitating premenstrual cramps (like the kind that keep me bedridden for a day or so)
  • Constant runny nose, congestion, post nasal drip - this is called non-allergic rhinitis
  • Numbness in extremities - this was so severe for me when Ellie was a baby that I had treatment for what I thought was Reynaud's syndrome
  • Very tight muscles
  • Muscle weakness - dropping things
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain, overeating 
  • Worse emotionally/ physically in cold weather
  • Symptoms exacerbated with consumption of sugar, alcohol, white flour, fried foods, caffeine

In fact, there is a lot of information out there that says that fibromyalgia is directly connected to candidasis, or candida overgrowth. Which would make sense that all these symptoms reared their ugly heads the second I ate my first bite of sugar.

After I had this major revelation I luckily had appointments lined up in the following days with my nautropath and our nutritionist. And both of them said the same thing: fibromyalgia is a symptom. All it indicates is that my body is out of balance. If we can successfully bring it into balance the symptoms will go away. And thankfully I can know that deep in my heart because I've already experienced its truth.

So back I go, on a diet very similar to what I was eating before I weaned Ellie. This is incredibly frustrating, because I was ready for food freedom. But I want to feel well more than I want to eat ketchup. That's the bottom line. And I know food can do this for me. I know I don't need to go to a mainstream doctor and get diagnosed with fibromyalgia and get on a slew of prescription pills.

My new treatment plan involves eating a very low carb diet, adding in supplements that will battle the candida, continuing to supplement with probiotics and other helpful stuff like magnesium and B vitamins, trying to go to bed earlier and get more sleep and making exercise and stress relief a priority.

I thought - before I weaned Ellie - that weaning her would mean I'd soon be back to eating "like a normal person." But now I know that is not in my near future and it's also just not in my best interest. I guess I had to "go there" and make myself feel terrible before I could really choose this diet for own health, rather than doing it for my child.


  1. Hi Annie! I know I haven't commented in a while, but still following your journey. My question is why do you suppose you had such a strong reaction to such a small amount of sugar? Do you think you are just not all the way healed yet? Do you think you will always be that sensitive to sugar? You do seem to do much better on a low-carb diet as do a lot of people. Hopefully you can keep it going through the holidays! So many carbs during the holidays! Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving :)

  2. Hi Janelle,

    My understanding is that a tiny amount of sugar can feed candida for weeks, which is why people trying to get rid of it have to avoid sugar completely. Staying on the straight and narrow through the holidays will be challenging, but I know I can do it! If I lived without sugar for nearly 11 months, I can make it through Christmas!

    Hope you and yours are well too! Happy Thanksgiving.


  3. Wow! Do you have this same reaction with honey? And do you do okay with fruit?

  4. Hi russellbugs -

    Yep, I have experienced problems with honey, coconut sugar and other natural sugars. Not as severe as with cane sugar, but I still have problems, particularly with mood and sleep. I'm sticking to low-glycemic fruit right now like berries and apples. I experiment with bananas now and again and never feel my best.