I’ve fallen off the healthy eating wagon. I need somewhere to confess.
Last night I went crazy. I ate two Twizzlers. I ate Craisens. I’m sure I had tunnel vision. I wanted junk food so bad. My Sugar Craving Index was surging. I tried to think of something healthy to eat instead, which might have worked if I was at home, but I was at my parents house and they don't stock pure buckwheat soba, or the ingredients for raw avocado chocolate pudding. Then I remembered my sister and her devotion to chocolate peanut butter swirl coconut “ice cream”, and found a carton tucked away in the freezer door. I'd stopped eating these ice creams because they are heavily sweetened with agave, which despite its health food status, is almost pure fructose, and fructose, according Dr. Cheney, is toxic to CFS.
I read the ingredients before eating, perhaps to see if, by any chance this particular variety was agave free. It wasn't, but I ate it all anyway. It was a shameful moment. My parents were in bed now, but just hours ago, reading over the recipe my dad was making me for dinner, I let on that I was less than thrilled that the vegetable broth for the risotto came from a box. “I don’t like eating packaged foods anymore,” I’d said. Words that were now mocking me as I went to throw the empty ice cream carton in the kitchen trash, christening the fresh plastic with the chocolate-smeared, supermarket cardboard. The sides of the bag were still all twisted up together, so it just lay there on top. I didn’t even try to press it down.
Fortunately there had only been about a quarter cup or so of ice cream left, and eating it made me so happy, if only for a short time. Compare this to early January, at Babycakes vegan bakery opening weekend downtown. I’d been anticipating this New York bakery coming to LA for over a year because they make things like spelt cupcakes and gluten free donuts, all without eggs or dairy. Everything is sweetened with agave instead of sugar, which I used to think was ok once in awhile, but by the time the bakery opened I was very committed to eating healthy and avoiding all kinds of sweeteners, not just sugar but maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave, and even honey, which Dr. Cheney says can be positive by ETM if it’s high quality wild honey. The only sweetener I was consuming was stevia. I wasn’t even letting myself have bananas. I went to the bakery with my friend and my boyfriend, non-vegan and transitioning vegan, respectively. The trip was mostly for me. I was really excited, but I didn’t want to tell them that I didn’t plan on eating anything, not even one bite. I was committed to my health, one bite just wasn’t worth it.
The bakery was adorable. I took pictures of all the different gluten free donuts with my phone and e-mailed them to my wheat-allergic, vegan-aspiring sister in Philadelphia, not to tease, but to give hope. Besides the donuts and cupcakes there were banana breads and cookies and muffins, mostly wheat or gluten free and all vegan. I’d waited so long for this, we’d arrived! But to the amazement of my bakery companions, I didn’t order anything. I admired what they ordered, but I wouldn't even take a single bite. I hope they weren’t pissed.
So why then? Why was it then that I made a new commitment to my health by avoiding sweeteners at all costs? I’d known for some time agave wasn’t any better for you than sugar, but I still stocked my freezer with agave coconut ice creams just like my sister, because I couldn’t stop eating sugar. I tried! I tried so hard, but I’m convinced the stuff is as addictive as heroin, nicotine, and cocaine. Combined. When I first committed to eating healthy in 2007, I made it four months, cold turkey without refined sugar, but I was still eating dried mangos by the bagful and later moved onto agave. At the same time, all in one broad move, I also cut out alcohol and caffeine. Compared to sugar, it was nothing. I could easily go the rest of my life without another drop of either if I wanted to, if I had to. But trying to give up sugar was impossible.
So how was it that one day I just said, “I’m giving it up for my health”, and actually did? It wasn’t will power.
It was kefir. I attribute it all to the kefir. After a month of drinking 4-6 ounces of it religiously every single day, I found I wasn’t having sugar cravings anymore. I found I didn’t need to eat dessert after dinner, so I didn’t. A few weeks later I was throwing my emergency stock of agave ice creams in the trash because I knew I no longer needed them. I'd heard kefir could do this, but I really wasn’t expecting it to be that good. I felt like a normal person, a person who could look at a piece of chocolate cake and take it or leave it.
Ioderal (iodine) had also helped with my sugar cravings the year before. That and a course of the anti-fungal drug nystatin from my holistic dermatologist. She asked if I had sugar cravings. I conceded that I did, but that I’d given sugar up. She told me some
of her patients had extreme sugar cravings. “One woman told me she’d throw out all the sugar in her house, and then go to 7-11 at 2 am to get candy!” she said, laughing at the absurdity. I told her I didn’t eat candy, but the other night I’d begged my boyfriend to go to the corner convenience store at midnight to get me a couple of bottles of mango juice, which I then chugged compulsively in a matter of minutes.
After a few weeks of nystatin and Ioderal the absurd juice cravings were gone and I told my friends I was cured of my sugar addiction. I attributed it mostly to the Ioderal. I’d read how sugar cravings can be a result of iodine deficiency, and tried to cure myself before by eating more seaweed, but, it didn’t work. “You’d have to eat a lot of seaweed,” my doctor said. She also had me eating a handful of raw purple cabbage and cranberries five times a week to prevent fungal overgrowth, which is also supposed to cause sugar cravings. “Purple cabbage and cranberries are more anti-fungal than any drugs” she said.
Eventually though I got sick of cranberries and purple cabbage, and afraid of the side effects of so much Ioderal, and the cravings returned, though not as strong as before. But this kefir, this was something different. After a month on it, I really felt centered, that my internal flora were truly balanced, and that I could eat normally and healthily.
“So what happened?” I thought last night as I was eating Trader Joe’s raw almond butter by the spoonful. “I thought I’d licked this.” I’d noticed over the last week or so I’d been getting hungrier, but I thought that was a good thing since I needed to gain weight. I started making some slip-ups, something I haven’t done for months, but I chalked it up to the fact that I’d lost a lot of weight, and "starvation mode" was kicking in. And since I hadn’t been eating much in the last couple of months, my kitchen was simply not stocked with food, I was not prepared, and I succumbed to pancake and pizza delivery. (Gluten free vegan pancake and pizza delivery, that is. I love you Los Feliz!) Also, it was the week before my period. Everyone wants sugar then.
I thought and thought, and I figured it out. It wasn’t any of those things. It wasn’t my weight loss, or my period, or my poorly stocked kitchen. It was the antibiotics. They messed up my newly achieved harmonious delicate balance. Every holistically minded person I met said a little prayer for my soul when I told them I was going on a two week course of the very strong anti-biotic Alinia. In holistic tomes like The Body Ecology Diet and The Yeast Connection, antibiotics are The Root of All Evil. I looked at my calendar and saw I finished the Alinia on March 6th. I then looked in my journal and found this rather frantic entry from March 8th I titled, "junk food possession":
last night I had Green Leaves tropical pancakes with “butter” and maple syrup!!! almost finished the second one. Jim said it was OK!
now I just ordered chicken nuggets!
Soy chicken nuggets, that is.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one day after I finished my course of antibiotics I gave into my first sugar craving in months. I drank kefir every day the entire time I was on them, but apparently it wasn’t enough. I’m going to keep drinking it every day, in hopes that in a month things will get back to the way they were before I ever heard of Alinia, and I can have my innocence back.
My gastroenterologist however, is thrilled that I took the Alinia. I saw him on March 10th and he practically did a little victory dance at his desk. “We got the bastards!” he said. Well, it may not have been that exactly, but something to that effect. He asked if my nausea was gone, and I said yes, but also told him that it was gone before I started the antibiotics, and I attributed it completely to the amazingly effective “tummy tonic” herbal medicine I got from my acupuncturist. I did another course right after I finished the Alinia as well. He said he still thought the antibiotics were the cause for my better digestion and slight weight gain. He actually went as far to say that this would cure my CFS. I said I didn’t think that at all, that I thought I had CFS years before I got the “amoeba” and digestion problems. He respectfully disagreed.
I also told him how I’d had a cold the first week or so on the antibiotics, but that the first symptom, the sore throat, started before I took the first pill. The congestion and coughing came after. “It wasn’t a cold,” he said, “Die off. From the amoeba.”
“Even though I had the sore throat before I started them?”
I think my work with this doctor is done for now. He wants me to take some kind of adrenal therapy, but I haven’t made any decisions about that yet.
I still think it’s possible that I had an evil amoeba, and that the Alinia killed it. I won’t have any evidence though until I retake the saliva test in May. He said it takes eight weeks before my body will catch on and stop making amoeba antibodies. So stay tuned.
In the mean time my mission now is to try and restore harmony in my postwar system by drinking kefir and avoiding sweeteners and carbs. I might get really extremist and avoid mushrooms and nutritional yeasts too and all those things they say to avoid in the anti-candida books. Tonight I’m doing much better than last night. I have some crudely fashioned chia pudding in the refrigerator I made with unstrained almond milk from the aforementioned nut butter, chia seeds, raw cacao, and stevia. It’s there in case I need something sweet tonight, but I don’t think I will. Now that I know the reasoning behind my sugar cravings I’m a little more motivated to resist them. Just for tonight, I have will power. But will power can only last so long. What I really need is a healthy gut. I hope the kefir is enough for now. I wish I could go to my acupuncturist and get more tonic, but I’m far away from home. Well, actually, I’m at my parents house, I’m at my other home. I wish they’d throw away the candy though. And the ramen noodles...
I'll buy a huge piece of meat, cook it up for dinner, and then right before it's done, I'll break down and have what I wanted for dinner in the first place - bread and jam...all I ever really want is sugar.Andy Warhol, New York Magazine, March 31, 1975
I remembered this quote from Sugar Blues. If you read this blog and thought that giving up sugar sounds like fun and something you'd like to do, then you should read it!