Don’t Pay No Attention To Me, I Got A Disease

So, that was quite the little break in our regularly scheduled programming, wasn’t it? :) I promise, a full explanation lies ahead…

I’d like to start off with a little piece of news completely aside from what I’ll be talking about: unfortunately, my new job – that I was so, so, so excited about – fell through. I’ve returned to job hunt limbo, which is a little disappointing. But there truly ARE upsides to everything; until I return to the ol’ 9-to-5, I should have lots and lots of time to dedicate to choosingtoeat! I’ve been doing a lot of reading and getting lots of lovely helpful feedback from all of you, so in addition to writing more, I’m hoping to make a few changes to the blog to make it easier and just a little bit more wonderful for us all. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and your eyes peeled!

Okay, now down to business: where the hell have I been? Nowhere good, let me tell you!

Shortly after publishing my last post (which went down in a hugely awesome way – it even got a shout-out on the Whole9 twitter feed!), I started to feel a bit of a sore throat coming on. One of my glands was sore. I was feeling a bit “blah”. Indeed, I’d been a bit lethargic for a few days. I suspected a cold was coming on, so I put my storm windows in. Got plenty of hydration, plenty of sleep, and I thought I’d come through fine.

How wrong I was!

I’d like to spare you the gory details – suffice it to say, I spent a bit over a week battling a couple of rather nasty viral infections. My life consisted solely of doctor’s visits, and sleeping on my lounge room floor (why I decided, in my feverish state, that the floor was better than my bed, I have no idea). Swelling and other gross-ness in my mouth and throat meant that eating was a HUGE battle. I could barely staunter to the chemist, let alone go for a run. It was Hell. To say the least.

But, like I said, there are upsides to everything. From this bout of lurgy, a few things have come to light regarding my health status. After a hundred or so doctor’s visits, it’s kind of inevitable that you’ll learn something new, eh?

Remember how I got sick during my Whole45 as well? How I didn’t experience the massive surges in energy that others seemed to? My random “bonk” in the middle (where I’d been making massive gains in training, before a massive downswing)? Well, I may now have the beginnings of an explanation for all of that.

You ready for the irony of all ironies?

I have nutrient deficiencies.

I’m not even joking. Not a little bit. Despite feeling like death, my blood work was mostly pretty stellar – immune function through the roof, of course, but excellent on every other front… Except this. My doctor had insisted on running tests for a few nutrient deficiencies that she thought might be part of the problem; I was a bit skeptical because, um, hello! Paleo is nothing if not nutritious. But I’m glad I deferred to my new GP’s wisdom – she was spot freakin’ on.

Brass tacks: according to this series of blood tests, I’m experiencing iron and B12 deficiencies, and while I’m technically not “deficient” in zinc, my numbers are low enough to be worrying.

So, that sucks a bit.

Luckily, by some random stroke of luck, I have managed to find a pretty darn awesome doctor. She’s frank, open and willing to talk things over with me ad nauseam.

When she told me what the blood work had shown, I felt a bit like I’d been hit in the face. My stream of consciousness went something like this: “Oh my God. Oh my God. OH MY GOD! How does that happen? How does that EVEN HAPPEN?!?! How can I be deficient in the two nutrients I am absolutely, beyond a doubt, getting enough of? WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THE BLUEBERRY [EFFING] LIVER?! My grandmother is going to I-told-you-so the pants off me. Maybe Paleo is complete crap… Maybe I should be eating lots of healthy wholegrains and lentils. Maybe that’s the problem. Oh God, I’ve done this all wrong. I’m clearly going to die…”

Yes, I have a flair for the dramatic. There also may have been a few more expletives in the original version.

When I got out of my head long enough to actually start talking to my doc, I started to calm down. We had a good long chat about what I’ve been eating; she seemed to be familiar with Paleo (or, at least, she was pretty good at pretending she was), and when we spoke specifically about what I had actually been putting in my mouth, she was impressed. She actually said she wished she ate more like me – so I think that’s a pretty good seal of approval. Ultimately, she said she doesn’t think that inadequate dietary intake is the problem.

Phew.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a really good idea of what is the problem (and after we’d yakked about my dietary intake for so long, we didn’t really have a whole lot of time left to brainstorm). Nonetheless, we developed a pretty solid plan of attack. First thing’s first, we need to get my levels up. I’ve since learned (yes, I went home and Googled the shit out of all of this) that dietary intake alone is often insufficient to actually rectify an existing deficiency; adequate intake prevents deficiency, but it’s not real good at treating one. So, for the first time, I’m going to have to take the road to Supplement-ville. My doctor made a few recommendations, but she was completely cool with it that I wanted to do my own research first.

I’m glad I did. It’s taken me a couple of days, but I think I’ve managed to put together a checklist for the supplements I need – what exactly I’m looking for and what I need to avoid. The whole process, though, really made me concerned for the time-poor who have these deficiencies – I know how tough it was for *me* (with my degree in a science field, and resultant acumen for literature searches and comprehension of scientific writing) to decipher everything on the World Wide Web, for just these nutrients. How on Earth would Sally – a fictional full-time working mother of three with a sick father to care for and volunteering commitments – get the time to spend three or four days researching exactly what type of supplements she wanted, would suit her circumstances, would be most effective, and would be accessible to her?

It’s also the problem with nutritionally “dancing on a train” – supplements that our government or some “official” health bodies might recommend as “safe”, “the best”, or “most effective” aren’t necessarily right for us. For instance, I’m on the hunt for supplements that are gluten-free – I honestly see no reason why a B12 supplement should have gluten in it, but they do, and it’s not important to most people but it’s important to me. Stuff like that makes it more tricky.

I haven’t even gone to get them yet – that’s on the agenda for this afternoon. God knows what kind of fun is to be had on that little adventure…

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked. The best thing to come out of all of this is that I may finally have some insight into why I haven’t been seeing the positive outcomes I’ve been hoping for with the Whole45, and with my nutritional paradigm more generally. Don’t get me wrong, the Whole45 was great, but it wasn’t magical. The more research I did, the more I came to realise that these deficiencies may have been a problem for me for quite a while, wreaking all kinds of havoc but skating by undetected. Each of these deficiencies (even alone, let alone in combination) can cause fatigue, lethargy, impaired immune functioning (hello, viral infections!), hair loss, irritability/mood disturbances/anxiety, gastrointestinal complaints… All of these are symptoms I have experienced, and attributed to other things (laziness, moving to the city, being a stress-head, FODMAPs, overtraining, etc.) – perhaps I’m not a lazy city-dwelling stress-head who runs too much and eats too many avocados after all. Maybe I’m just a little low in a couple of key nutrients. In that way, it’s almost a relief.

So, with my checklist in my hot little hand, I’ll set off for the chemist. Hopefully, I’ll return with a handful of supplements to get me on the path to perfect health. Both of my viral infections have been mostly battled off – I’m still not 100%, but I’m on my way there. I have my doctor’s recommendations for returning to training, and I’m determined to be very patient and follow them to the letter. In a few weeks, I’ll be returning to the doctor’s (again! I may as well move in…) to get some follow-up testing, which will help us determine whether there is in fact an underlying cause for these deficiencies, and – if so – what it is and what to do about it. That’s the plan, Stan! :)

If you guys are interested, let me know, and I’ll do a post on everything I have learned about these deficiencies and effective supplementation to treat them. If you’re not much interested in that, but you have other questions about anything here, please do let me know! I’m more than happy to answer them :)

I thought I’d leave you with a sample of Sheree’s Lurgy Diet. It’s not that exciting, let me tell you. I pretty much let ideas of macronutrient ratios and portion size and nutrient density fly out the window completely – I just found foods that I could eat, and ate them while I felt I could. I was in such a state, it was all I could do; trying to do any more than that would probably have seemed like too much effort, and I would have just rolled over and gone back to sleep.

I actually did a few incidental (i.e., intermittent) fasts here – eating was most difficult in the morning, for some reason, so I usually ate in the window between lunch-time and dinner.

Sheree’s Lurgy Diet

Cheddar Cheese(Photo Credit: guardian.co.uk)

Cheese – I was craving dairy horribly, so I just went with it. Cheddar, soft cheeses, whatever I had handy.

Avocado(Photo Credit: health.com)

Avocado – usually spread on some cheese slices, or cut into small pieces. Mushy and delicious.

Strawberries(Photo Credit: news.com.au)

Strawberries – no idea why, chilled strawberries just went down easily.

And, the coup de grace…

Blended BananaThis is the only one that I actually bothered to photograph myself: frozen banana, blended with pure cream. I had this a LOT. I also had frozen berries blended with pure cream (see below – obviously not my photo, but a much pretty representation of how it can look). Sometimes I mixed it up and used double cream. It was easy to eat, it was satisfying, it was soothing on my throat. It looks ugly as hell in the photo, but it is my new favourite food.

Frozen Berries Blended(Photo Credit: flickr.com)

They actually recommend eating ice cream for inflamed tonsils (like when kids get their tonsils out and stuff), and I’d imagine this worked for me for similar reasons. While it probably wasn’t the most nutritious thing to subside on for a week, it’s a hell of a lot healthier than random mass-produced ice cream X. Wouldn’t you know, though, my bloody food processor broke while I was still ill, and halfway through making a batch – splattered frozen banana and cream EVERYWHERE. Managed to get my hands on a replacement, luckily enough (otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have eaten for another three days).

I did also try a couple of (failed) experiments with lamb broth (very nutritious, but ouchy in my mouth!), and lamb meatballs (I managed to eat one, then gave up and blended a banana for dinner).

Sheree’s Lurgy Diet probably did absolutely nothing for Sheree’s nutritional deficiencies, but it did keep her alive while she healed. Also, Sheree actually lost weight on her Lurgy Diet, which is more than can be said for the Whole45 :P

(NOT THAT IT IS SOMETHING TO ASPIRE TO, PEOPLE!!! DO NOT TAKE ME SERIOUSLY AND USE THIS AS AN ACTUAL DIET – THAT WOULD BE PHENOMENALLY SILLY!!!)

Well, that’s all for now – off I trot to the chemist! I’ll keep you posted… Thanks for bearing with me!

——————————————————————-

P.S For those of you who expressed concern, no, I did not lose my job for becoming ill – there were a variety of factors at play, but it all went down before I actually got sick even a little. I have no bad feelings about the company or anything like that, it wasn’t a bad parting of ways – just bad timing. Disappointing, but I’m grateful to have had the opportunity anyway, and excited to see what comes next!

11 thoughts on “Don’t Pay No Attention To Me, I Got A Disease

  1. I might try that cream and fruits blending thing you do. Looks good! I relate to the whole health-diet issue, since my partner is allergic to just about everything (gluten, dairy, citrus fruits, etc, etc,) and for the 3+ years we’ve been together, we are still finding out things that he can and can’t eat. Long road but no regrets! Get better soon!

    • Try it at your own risk, Susanna – it is seriously addictive!! Hahaha. I’m STILL eating it, despite being able to handle most foods again now :) That’s quite a list for the partner, I remember you mentioning it once before – that must be quite the challenge!! Maybe you could try blending some fruit with refrigerated coconut milk for him, in place of the cream? :)

  2. If you come across in your studies any awesome balanced well being type supplements let me know. Or if the research indicates the advertised idea of multivitamins are useless let me know. I’m often sick, always busy and I’m sure I’m going through fazes missing out heaps of different vitamins each in turn. At the moment I’ve had a twitchy eye (actually the skin under the eye whatever that’s called) for about two weeks that comes on about 15 times a day for 10 secs. I’m sure it’s a deficiency in something and I’m pretty sure my doctor gave me magnesium tablets for it one time. In high school I broke my arm after a minor fall from not eating dairy, and every time I have blood tests I’m anaemic. So pretty much, if I find a good multivitamin that will keep me above the line on these things I’d be stoked.

    • Christ almighty, Rachel – if you’re consistently anaemic, IMHO you really need to be looking at some hardcore iron supplementation, possibly even the injections/drips that the doctor has to prescribe. Iron deficiency causes all kinds of whacked out shit – I would think, again in my completely humble and absolutely amateur opinion, fixing that would go a long way to fixing your issues.

      With regards to multivitamins, I’m having enough trouble finding decent, non-synthetic, highly bioavailable individual nutrient supplements – I’d imagine finding a readily accessible multivitamin is going to be pretty tough. For instance, basically every B-complex or multi containing the B group contains “folic acid” – this is largely advertised and marketed as “folate” (or, at the very least, the equivalent of folate). In reality, folic acid is a synthetic version of folate, kinda similar but a pretty crappy substitute (as they have different physiological effects) – Chris Kresser has written about it on his website, if you want to Google that. The thing is, synthetic folic acid is much cheaper to produce and easier to distribute than actual folate, so that’s what 99% of supplement manufacturers use. This is the case for pretty much every nutrient – a cheap, synthetic crappy substitute is easier and cheaper than the decent stuff, so that’s what we get. I’m so sick of big business setting the agenda when it comes to my health – rage!

      I’m hoping to talk to a couple of people in the next few days about sourcing at least halfway decent supplements – I’ll see what I can find out for you, yeah? Sorry to hear you’re having a such a tough time of it. And sorry to be such a negative Nancy. In the meantime, eat spinach!! :P

      • I’ve always been skeptical of multi-vitamins as well, but take one anyways because even if i eat a lot of vegetables, they probably aren’t as nutritious as i think because of the macro farming that produces them. if you’re researching, check out Lifeforce multi from source naturals, first i’ve taken that feels like it might be doing something for me.

        • Of course, this can be helped by sourcing local, biodynamic/organic produce where possible. It can be a bit tough on the budget, but I do it where I can – important to vote with our $$ and all. Thanks for the hot tip on Lifeforce – I’ll be sure to check it out, and maybe Rachel should too :)

  3. I was already 9 months on Paleo when I found that I was B12 deficient. But it wasn’t Paleo’s fault, I was eating plenty of offal and oysters that have tons of B12 in them. The problem was that before I went Paleo (and the sole reason I went Paleo) my gut was not working properly. I had spent 10 years with IBS/celiac (undiagnosed). As Chris Kresser said on his web site, people with gut issues can’t absorb B vitamins properly. Most of them never recover to a full-health gut, not even with Paleo.

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