Why is it that the things that taste absolutely delicious are most of the time bad for us? I could go into that pretty deeply, but I want to talk about why I am tightening up my diet in December. A couple months ago I had a health issue that really woke me up to what I was consuming. I realized that while we eat better than the Standard American Diet (or SAD), there are still a lot of areas that aren’t great. So December starts a stricter diet for me, with a focus on Carnivore.
A Gut In Crisis
I have always thought that we eat pretty healthy about 75% of the time. And we do….ish. We mostly cook at home, only eating out maybe once a month. Our fast food consumption is practically nothing, except at work. But in October, I had a wake up call.
My Gut Was Sick
It started one night while at work. We got woken up for a call around midnight and when we got back to the station, I noticed that I was really nauseous. I took a couple Zofran (anti-nausea med), and tried to go to sleep. Except I couldn’t.
I was up the rest of the night/ morning vomiting. It finally subsided enough around 530ish that I laid back down and tried to get some sleep. Only to have tones drop and I’m back up again. When we got back from that call, I called my supervisor and told him I had to go home and why.
The rest of the day, I couldn’t stop vomiting. I figured I had the stomach bug and tried to sleep it off, but couldn’t sleep without having to get up to vomit. The next day, I called Jared and told him I needed him to come home.
When he got home, he took one look at me still in bed at 9am and said, “Are you getting out of bed to go to the hospital or am I going to have to carry you?”
After several meds, some anti-psychotics, and an overnight admission, the vomiting was under control enough that I could go home. I was diagnosed with acute, severe gastritis.
What Is Gastritis?
Simply put, gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. It can be caused by several things like infection, medication changes, alcohol, or autoimmune disorders, and many other causes. The treatment is usually the same, antibiotics, acid reducers, anti-nausea, and antiemetics.
One of the things I have noticed as a paramedic is that we don’t treat the causes of sickness. We, medical professionals, just pump someone full of meds to “fix” the symptoms of the problems. Because the people we are trying to help, don’t want to fix the problem. We just want to keep living our lives and hope that this new medication fixes it.
Until it doesn’t. Or the medication causes worse problems than the original symptom.
All because we are too full of excuses to fix ourselves.
The Standard American…..
I have found this idea to be true for just about every person I have ever met: Why would I change?
Why would I change the way I eat? Fast food isn’t that bad for me. HFCS is just sugar. GMO’s aren’t that bad. It’s normal for foods to have dyes in them. I’ll take this pill for my diabetes instead of learning to regulate my insulin/ blood sugar and go for a walk.
Why would I change the way I heal? I can just take this pill for this symptom. If I get a new symptom, I’ll just take a new med. I’ll just take a pain pill for the inflammation instead of figuring out why I have inflammation in the first place.
Why would I change? It works well for me…. But does it?
So I had a decision to make. I could go on thinking that I was eating healthier, or I could change.
Why A Stricter Diet
If we already eat well 75% of the time, which is pretty good, why a stricter diet? Well, I have been having a lot of symptoms for a long time. There hasn’t been any change in the small steps I’ve been taking. So maybe, it’s something within my already semi-healthy diet.
I cook most of our meals from scratch-ish. I say ish, because most of everything that we use in a meal we know where it came from. For example, when I make tacos, the beef comes from a farm less than 15 miles away. The cheese and beans are sourced from Azure. The tortillas have minimal ingredients (it should only ever have corn, flour, water, sometimes oil and salt). So the only “cheat” food is usually the rice.
I try to make sure that we are sourcing from as close or minimally as possible. But that other 25%? It’s a doozy.
That 25% comes in the form of coffee creamer that is nothing but oil. Or gas station food because we’ve been running like crazy and I’m starving. Juices or other drinks that, while naturally flavored and without nasty preservatives, are full of sugar and other inflammatory ingredients. Some convenience or comfort foods like chips, cookies, and other snacks.
I know that I can do better and I know that a drastic change can usher in drastic changes in my symptoms.
My sleep is shot. Normally, I may lay in bed for 8 hours but I am normally up and down all night long. It is not uncommon for me to wake up 5-8 times a night. I also sleep really light, only entering REM for about 20 minutes a night.
My joints hurt. I am constantly plagued by back, knee, hip and neck pain. I’ve got psoriatic arthritis in my right hip and right hand. When it flares, I can barely walk or use my right hand without being in absolute agony.
My hair is not as thick or soft. For the last 5 years, I have been struggling with shedding/ hair fall that worsens with stress. My hair is extremely frizzy and no longer holds its curl. I’ve had to resort to straightening it to minimize tangles, frizz, and breakage.
My mood swings are insane. For the last 3 years, I have been having a ton of issues with anxiety, stress, overwhelm, and rage. I can go from super happy to completely frustrated and stressed with no trigger. My ADD/ ADHD has gotten completely out of control…which, if I’m being honest, wasn’t really in control to start with.
The Stricter Diet
Like most people who want to start cleaning up their diet, it all starts with the feeling of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am no different. But what diet to choose? Keto? Whole 30? Full Elimination? Fasting? There are literally hundred’s of different diets that all try to do the same thing. Figure out what is causing the issue.
Load The Struggle Bus, I’m Driving
One of the things I really struggle figuring out what I can eat for any particular diet. I already shop the outer perimeter of the store! I already grow a lot of my own foods. I already source or raise healthy, humanely raised meat. So I’ve already got most of the “good stuff” down.
I am also struggling with an autoimmune disease (psoriasis/ psoriatic arthritis) and potentially a thyroid issue (Hashimoto’s). Eliminate the “wrong” food and my gut flares. Don’t eat meat, and my skin flares.
But I really struggle when it comes to work. How in the world am I supposed to only eat the foods that I bring with me? Or what in the world do I do when we are running back to back calls and can’t get back to the station?
Changing Your Diet
Before we get too deep into the diet I chose, I want people to understand that any diet can be a success or failure based on YOUR body and YOUR commitment level. You’ll hear of people who ended up in the hospital after only eating Keto. Or you heard of a lady that died after only eating plants for 6 months. I need you to understand something; an elimination diet is not meant to be a complete lifestyle change.
You’ve also probably heard of people who are completely healed after going Keto. Or they have gotten off ALL their meds because of paleo. But I need you to understand something else; if you go from eating the SAD (standard American diet) to eating only grass fed, organically grown food? Yea, you will probably be completely healed. Because our food system is designed to make us sick.
And can we please discuss, for just one second, that the Standard American Diet’s acronym is SAD? And that it is a SAD excuse for a diet? Come on! You can’t tell me that food that has been sprayed with chemicals that are literally killing entire ecosystems with water run off, is GOOD for us? Ok, got that off my chest…. maybe.
Enter The Carnivore Diet
I have heard the gamut of reasons as to why the carnivore diet is a terrible idea. But I’ve also listened to a lot of people who have had their lives completely changed by this diet. I figure, it’s the same for people who eat paleo, keto, carnivore, whole 30, vegan, etc. There are good and bad to each.
Now, I don’t plan on eating carnivore forever. In fact, I am 100% against doing it long term…right now. That could change by the time I’m done. But I struggle with the idea of eating as much bacon as I want is good, but a squash is bad for me.
Maybe the reason why I struggle with this, is because of an old mindset that has been pushed on us since the rise of the first food pyramid. Fruits and vegetables are good for us, fat is not, protein foods should be added but limited and carbs should make up the bulk of our meals.
**Que brakes screeching**
The carnivore diet says absolutely not. Plants are trying to kill us…. which I can kind of see the point. Think about it, when a plant is injured or stressed, it releases chemicals to speed healing and deter being eaten. This makes sense, logically. But I am skeptical to say the least.
There are a lot of reasons for choosing carnivore over any of the other elimination diets. But the biggest one is because it’s a convenient time for it. Right now, I am not growing any veggies, so being tempted by that is a lot less.
Another reason is because fruits and vegetables are more expensive right now because most of them are out of season. So that is another bonus.
But the biggest reason I choose to do the carnivore diet is because it is EASY! There is no guess work in it. Did an animal make it? Then I can eat it. I don’t have to count macros or track what I’ve eaten to stay within these certain parameters. I can eat as much meat, fat and minerals as I want. Sold.
What I Hope To Get Out Of A Stricter Diet
Honestly, I just want to feel better. I know that it will take time. There is a lot of toxins and chemicals that my body needs to flush out. That’s ok. I know I will feel worse before better. That’s okay too.
But at the end of it, I hope to be able to identify the things that make my skin or gut flare. I hope to be able to sleep better. I REALLY hope to manage the mood swings and dopamine needs.
Overall, I want to be able to function.
The added benefit will be hopefully only eating what is grown on this farm, or surrounding areas.
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