Wow, 30 days have elapsed and I have successfully undertaken the Whole30 programme this month, woohoo! (more details here if you want to take a closer look at the programme I followed: http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/)
Structured programmes like this are good to undertake as you strip out all the possible inflammatory foods, like grains, sugar, dairy, seed oils etc and you can see which foods are giving you trouble. Whole30 is Paleo focused but there are heaps of other alternative offerings out there, just pick the one that you feel suits you.
Two things that I have got out of undertaking this programme is that:
1. It completely eliminates any added, ‘free’ sugars in your diet like table sugar and also the natural sugars like agave syrup, maple syrup, honey* etc. However, natural, instrinsic sugars found in fruit and veg are allowed because they are eaten whole with the fibre which slows the sugar absorption down in our bodies. Fruit and veg also include essential vitamins and minerals we need.
2. I have learned to listen to my body and notice changes, especially witnessing my skin breaking out and changes to my monthly cycle (sorry guys if you’re reading TMI!).
Now, today being the first day that I can technically start introducing ‘treats’ back into my diet…and these, as always still need to be occasional treats, I am NOT craving sugar in the slightest, nope, NO sugar cravings! At all! Even wine! (sorry friends, I’m not boring, I promise!) but my new found way of living is actually so freeing.
Last month, my daily habit was to have one teaspoon of sugar in my coffee and I thought (because the rest of my diet was good) one little spoonful of sugar would be ok but it actually wasn’t. Now that I have taken the sugar out completely (apart from one to two pieces of fresh fruit daily) I have realised just that one little teaspoon was sending me on an afternoon slump / sugar craving fury and just led me to consume more and more natural sugary treats. I now have a little sprinkle of cinnamon in my coffee and can actually taste the sweetness from full fat milk (lactose, which is ok on our systems if you can tolerate) or sweetness from nut milk, if I’ve chosen to use. My tastebuds have woken up!
Now, since moving over to a Paleo-led / Real Food / Whole Food lifestyle I have managed to completely eliminate PMS symptoms each month. This really surprised me, I never knew it could be possible. I used to have tummy cramps so bad that some months I was bed-ridden with pain and amped up on strong painkillers. So to completely eliminate symptoms has been so liberating for me (and for my husband Nathan!).
Part of the Whole30 programme is to strip out dairy, because it contains inflammatory components in the form of lactose and casein. I have never taken dairy out of my diet before even when we switch to a Paleo template last year. Full fat dairy is a good source of fat (butterfat aka Ghee) and I actually really missed it. Ghee is allowed on the Whole30 programme but I didn’t fancy chomping into tablespoons of Ghee and I did try using a lot to cook, however I missed my satiating cheese and probiotic plain yoghurt. Generally, running through this programme adding more fat into my diet really helped with overcoming sugar cravings.
So instead of consuming dairy as a source of fat, I up’d my nut intake. I was snacking on nuts, drizzling nut oil over salads and having a daily nut milk coffees. I did also looked at other sources of healthy fats like avocado, duck fat, ghee, coconut oil / cream to try and bump up my satiating fat intake but I actually struggled to fulfil it without the dairy.
Half way through the programme, I experienced PMS symptoms, my skin broke out in terrible acne and I got tummy ache once again, like I used to experience on a conventional diet. This to me was a warning sign my body was out of kilter.
Dr Libby explains it perfectly in her book The Rushing Women’s Syndrome (highly recommend!!!). If you get your Omega 3:6 ratios out of whack then it can cause an over production of oestrogen in your system. This leads on to something called Luteal Phase Insufficiency, which basically dumbs down the progesteron production at the end of the cycle and causes PMS symptoms. I’m not a trained health professional so I highly recommend you read the details more from Dr Libby or directly with your health professional. We’re all different too and what I experienced, might be totally different to someone elses. The main thing is listen to your body, spot changes and then seek professional advice on how to correct.
So, what was causing my Omega 3:6 ratios to be out of whack? It was upping my nut intake…they are high in Omega 6. On all Paleo templates, it does state to eat nuts in moderation. I was focusing on getting my fat levels up there and didn’t even think about moderating my nut intake. Overall, restricting dairy fat really left me too restricted on a variety of high fat satiating foods.
Chris Kresser does a fantastic run down of the importance of an Omega 3:6 ratio here in relation to a conventional diet (explains why I was getting PMS on a conventional diet and why this was eliminated once I made the switch to a Real Food diet, hooray for everyone!).
So, dairy is back in and sugar is kicked to the curb! Since adding the dairy back in half way through the month my skin has settled down and cleared up, I’m sure my cycle is back to the new normal (don’t need to update you on the details!) and I know I’ll be taking it really easy on the Easter eggs and wine this holiday, if any, actually.
Bring back the fat, it’s a nice way to live and I’m also a lot better to live with too 🙂
*Honey is still in it’s ‘whole’ form and therefore technically not a free sugar. However, it is high in natural sugars and therefore not good to include in your diet while you’re trying to chase the sugar demons away.