Coping strategies

Coping with the extra fibre

If you’re certain you can’t tolerate a high fibre diet, then try boiling your low FODMAP vegetables for a long time. There will still be fibre in the vegetables, but it will be softer and less abrasive on the colon.

The following is an introductory diet from the Specific Carbohydrate website. It basically soaks chicken pieces and carrots for 4 hours. I’m not sure how much fibre would actually be left from the carrots but I don’t think it would be much.

This is the type of food you may need to eat if you have a severely damaged gut or bacterial imbalance. You do need to eat vegetables, so you need to find the safest way of eating these.

There is a myth that fibre is bad for IBS. Only some fibre is harmful – grains, legumes and nuts. Other fibre like low FODMAP vegetables are good for you and will help you heal. Don’t be so certain it’s fibre causing the inflammation. Vegetable fibre (with the exception of white potatoes) isn’t generally inflammatory.

The sugar cravings

This is one of the toughest things to deal with. You will get really strong cravings for sugar when you give it up. Pathogenic bacteria that feed on sugar can produce chemicals that affect the brain, causing the cravings. I allow myself one banana a day and usually have this when the sugar craving is strongest. I then follow this up with a raw carrot. Rationalising what is happening helps too. It’s not your body telling you that you need sugar. No-one needs to eat pure sugar – all the glucose you need will come from the starch and fibre in vegetables. The cravings are caused by the sugar-loving bacteria. I find once I have a banana and carrot, and think about what is really happening – the craving goes away.

The hunger on a Paleo diet

Have an extra meal during the day. This is what I do. In the afternoon I have a small plate of protein & vegetables, either salad or cooked. This keeps me going until 7.30 pm when I have dinner. Make yourself busy during the day so you’re physically tired by 9.30 pm. You get used to going to bed earlier. This all works well for me.

Coping with the diet and finding the willpower

This is a really tough diet which I’ve been sort of following in a stop-start way for the last few years. I used to break free and have pizza on week-ends, believing that I could just start eating right again on Sunday so I was OK for work again on Monday. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. If you do that, the gut never fully heals, which means the bacterial imbalance is always lurking there in the background and there’s never certainly that the next day will be symptom free.

It takes a lot of willpower to stick to this diet, but changing your perspective on what’s really important might help you to stay with it. Finding something that cures IBS consistently is a huge weight off your mind. Even if you do stray sometimes, you know what to do. You can always go back and just start again.

Grieving for the way you used to live

It could be that IBS is a blessing in disguise. If it’s true that lectins cause disease, and in particular autoimmune disease, then IBS could be a warning to stop eating these foods. Other people don’t get IBS and continue eating what they like, and they get away with it for decades. But eventually it all catches up and they end up with diabetes or Alzheimer’s or any number of the 200 odd autoimmune diseases there are.

As tough as the Paleo / low lectin diet is, it is healthy. It would be hard to find a healthier diet. You do find you gradually get more and more used to it, and eventually it’s no longer an ordeal. Having vegetables for breakfast is second nature now but at the start I felt like an invalid.

The best part about this diet of course is that it cure IBS symptoms. So rather than grieving just realise that there are some very severe diseases out there, much worse than IBS. Look upon IBS as a warning and take advantage of it.

Eating is no longer a pleasure

To be honest, there’s nothing like eating wheat – especially if it’s a rich pastry with fat and sugar. There is nothing in Paleo that tastes even remotely like this. Cakes, biscuits and sweets are ultimately sugar, as they’re mostly starch. You can see how disease like diabetes becomes entrenched. The foods we love are toxic. The Paleo diet is more about eating to live, rather than living to eat as many of us used to do.

Any introductory diet is the toughest, but it’s not forever. Bacteria are fairly short lived, from a number of hours to 2 or 3 days. Some Paleo bloggers say it took them a year to two to fully heal. I’m not at that stage yet but will update when I am.