03.09.12

Since July I’ve been trying to ease some of the symptoms of my ME/CFS with dietary changes. I strongly believe that every body is different, and that no one particular diet is right for everyone. I have patched together a few different ideas, based on my personal symptoms, my history with food/health, and a large amount of trial & error. It’s taken a few weeks, but I’ve figured out what works pretty well for me. I’ll share it with you, but I’m not saying that it would necessarily work for anyone else with ME/CFS or any particular illness. It might help with symptoms, it might not. But I think anything is worth exploring.

So, as woo-woo as I think the whole subject is, this is basically a leaky gut diet. The idea being that if you have a leaky gut (which can be caused by lots of things, one of which is being celiac, which I am, and another being taking lots of painkillers, which I have), it can provoke an immune response, which shows up as inflammation in various ways in the body. I don’t want to say that I’m utterly convinced by the theory, but I must admit, the diet has helped tremendously, and when I deviate, it does provoke quite an extreme reaction, so perhaps the proof of the pudding is in the eating…….. except you can’t have pudding!

I’ve had to stay off gluten for years, no wheat, barley, rye, etc. But I’ve now expanded that to include ALL grains & cereals, including corn, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, etc, and all legumes, including lentils, beans, peanuts, soy. There’s a whole theory about lectins, which you can Google if you are intrigued. I’m also staying away from all dairy, and from potatoes. And, for the most part, sugar & alcohol.

If you’re used to eating anything you want, that probably sounds appallingly restrictive. I’m not used to eating anything I want. It’s been many years since I could do that with impunity. I have an easily offended digestive system, in addition to the ME/CFS. Oh, and migraines. So it’s not too much of an adjustment for me. It’s been a little tricky to eat like this and not go too low carb, which I can’t afford to do because of my history with depression. If I don’t get enough carbs, I can’t sleep (I’m a sensitive little flower, you know). So I’m having more fruit, especially bananas, and sweet potatoes, and root vegetables like squash and beetroot. It’s working.

And more to the point, it’s working. My number of sick days has dropped by about 50%. My symptoms are more under control than they’ve been in a long time. I’m bouncing back from things faster, like the show last week, which I thought would send me to bed for a week – I had a few bad days, but nothing like I expected. My joints have stopped hurting (unless I cheat, like I did last night when I ate potatoes, and ouch did I pay for that). My PMS has completely gone (although my periods are worse – but that’s a swap I can live with!). So it’s worth it to me.

I’ve never minded the challenge of dietary restrictions. I love food, and I’ll find a way to make stuff taste good, one way or another. I’ve been doing a lot of baking with ground almonds, I’ll share a couple of recipes below. Most people trying this way of eating would drop some weight, but not me, I love food too much, and that really isn’t my goal anyway. But I have noticed that my appetite seems more regulated eating this way – I don’t have the urge to eat unless I am hungry, and I get satiated far quicker.

One of the books I’ve got on ME/CFS is very much against making extreme dietary changes – the reasoning being that it can trigger a flare up, since anything out of the ordinary will do so. I took that into consideration when deciding whether to give it a go. But then, as I said, it hasn’t been an extreme change for me. I was already off gluten grains and most dairy. Perhaps if you went into it from a regular diet, you might get a bit more of a reaction. I’m not necessarily recommending this, but I’m sharing it with you, because……. you never know. Okay, onto a few recipes.

Firstly there is a splendid Nigella cake, a clementine almond cake. You can find that easily via Google.

Pear & Almond Cake

  • 3 cups ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Spices to taste – I used 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup oil (coconut is good, but I used mild olive oil)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 pears, cored and chopped (leave the skin on), or apples would be good too

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, then combine well and fold in the fruit. Pour into a greased cake pan (I used a Bundt pan) and bake at 175c (350f) for around 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool well before turning it out.

Almond Brownies

  • 1.5 cups ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp good cocoa (I use Green & Blacks)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • 3/4 cup palm sugar (or regular sugar if you can’t get that)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup oil (again, coconut is good, but I used olive)
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks and/or walnuts (I didn’t have either, but it would be lovely with them)

Same as before, mix the wet together, mix the dry together, then combine, and pour into a large greased square cake pan, with baking parchment in the base. Bake at 175c (350f) for around 20-25 minutes, until the top looks set and it doesn’t jiggle when you shake the pan. I don’t recommend the toothpick test for these, because you actually want them to be a little fudgy, so it might not come out quite clean but they are still done.

Almond Rock Cakes

  • 2 cups ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Spices to taste (I used cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and mixed spice)
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped cherries (dried or glace)
  • Zest of an orange
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used mild olive oil)
As before, mix dry together, wet together, then combine well. Fold in dried fruit, and scoop into lined muffin tins. I got 12 out of this recipe. Bake at 175c (350f) for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. They don’t rise very much, but they are awfully good nonetheless.

Finally, a word on sweet potatoes. So many recipes online have you add sugar to them, or maple syrup. THIS IS JUST WRONG. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW WRONG. They are already soooo sweet, you want to cut that sweetness, not make them even more sickly!! I cut them into thin wedges, and roast them on a very high heat, with lots of salt and pepper and a little chili spice for kick. They are good with pretty much everything, but especially with homemade burgers, or tuna steak, or sausages. And they are so nutritionally superior to regular potatoes. I fancy having a go at doing a corned beef hash with them – not sure how that will work out, but I will let you know.

3 thoughts on “03.09.12

  1. Sounds great! Re: worse periods, any chance the new diet could be lower in magnesium? That’s made a big difference for me in the past!

  2. Dee,
    Have you ever considered giving acupuncture a try. A basic premise is to get your body back into a balances place, and can help with both digestive and migraine issues.

  3. Lol, you should never try traditional Afrikaans cooking. We add sugar to _everything_. Carrots: thin strips, cook in butter until dead, add sugar. Same with sweet potatoes (patats): slice thinly, layer with butter and sugar, cook for 2 hours. It’s more of a dessert than a vegatable sidedish. Needless to say we have a lot of diabetes and heart disease :P. I try to stay away from boerekos as much as possible.

    But srsly, we looooove sweet potatoes. I make mash potatoes with them and use it to top my ostrich mince cottage pie. Also wedges as you do. And add them to soups for creamy goodness without the cream (I’m lactose intolerant). I’ve also seen them used in vegan cakes to get a really dense chewy texture.