Misery returned two years ago, in the Fall. I’d been diagnosed with narcolepsy several years before, and had had some success with medications. Now I struggled to stay awake. By the end of October and the end of Daylight Savings Time, the oppressive darkness pummeled me. I was depressed, fatigued, and so sleepy that I needed to nap a couple times a day.
I was fed up. With narcolepsy. With sleepiness. With stimulants and their side effects. With not being able to function.
I was desperate to make a change. I had toyed with the idea of going gluten free for a couple years. I had stockpiled gluten-free flours and baking mixes.
- Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free brownie mix. Check.
- Gluten-free pancake mix. Check.
- Gluten-free biscuit and baking mix. Check.
(And 2 pantry shelves filled with rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour, and flours from every other gluten-free seed, grain, or legume that exists.)
Clearly I didn’t want to change my eating habits! I wanted to eat the exact same foods, but without the gluten. At least until I proved that gluten wasn’t the problem and I could go back to eating as usual.
I joined a Facebook group for gluten-free PWN (People with Narcolepsy) for support. Then I put my family on notice that I would be trying a gluten-free diet for a month. I callously disregarded the effect this would have on my daughter, who had just discovered a love of baking. She was baking Christmas cookie to send to friends. It was early December.
Honestly it was less about being a callous jerk, and more about the sleepiness, brain fog, and desperation. I was miserable and would try anything to get relief. Besides, it wasn’t going to work.
Something changed for me on the 3rd day of gluten-free eating. My cravings for sweet treats and starches plummeted. Had gluten been driving that constant need to eat for my whole life? It sure seems likely now.
As the days crawled by I struggled with all the usual symptoms of narcolepsy. Brain fog. Sleepiness. Fatigue. Grouchiness. And something new: Every time I stood up, I started to see black around the edges of my vision. And it had nothing to do with the two large, fluffy, black dogs in the house.
I was weak, shaky and nauseated. I Googled “gluten withdrawal.” It’s real! Have you heard of FLC syndrome? That’s what I had because I Felt Like Crap.
If all that weren’t enough, now I had to figure out what to eat. We had been eating a mostly plant-based diet, and had not been eating meat or dairy. That was restrictive enough, before taking out gluten foods.
Meanwhile, the Facebook group discussed various books people were reading: Wheat Belly. Grain Brain. The Wahls Protocol. I read them all. When the group got fired up about the Wahls Protocol, I decided to try it too. I started eating meat again, and learned to make bone broth. I even cooked some liver from pasture-raised cattle. When the taste and texture made me gag, I combined it with onions and mushrooms to make pate. I even started taking fermented cod liver oil.
(Words can’t express just how bad fermented cod liver oil tastes! I stopped taking that stuff in favor of regular cod liver oil many months ago. And now I get my omega 3s by simply eating fish, like tuna, salmon or cod.)
Three weeks into the diet changes, everything changed. You know when you’re flying through clouds and you can’t see anything out the window? Suddenly the plane breaks through into brilliant daylight? It felt like that when my mind broke out of the fog, and I woke up.
For the first time in years, I woke up. I didn’t need to take a nap that day. Or the day after.
I haven’t taken a nap since.
Well crap! It wasn’t supposed to work. It was supposed to be a fad diet, and I would prove it to myself that it didn’t help, and go back to life as usual. But I couldn’t because it was working.
The kids proclaimed my dramatic recovery to be placebo effect. And when it persisted, they said it had to be confirmation bias. It doesn’t matter because I’m feeling better.
As the months went by I got better at eating a nutrient-dense, low-carb, high-fat diet. Part of the Wahls Protocol is to eat 6 to 9 cups of a variety of vegetables every day. With my puny gastric bypass stomach, that was impossible, but on good days I managed to eat 6 cups. I would make a green smoothie and get 2-3 cups of veggies and a cup of berries into it. Since the only kind of food my family could all agree to eat was vegetables, we ate mountains of them at dinner time.
I learned about how the body and brain can use ketones for fuel, and started eating more and more fat. I started adding butter and coconut oil to my tea, and then frothing it up in the blender to make it “bulletproof.”
I learned that I had been lied to for years by the government when they told me that a healthy diet was a low-fat diet.
After a lifetime of struggling with my weight, even after gastric bypass surgery, I lost weight. My husband jokes about my “butter diet” but the weight loss has been real.
The more fat I eat, the less I weigh, and the weight loss has been easy.
All those gluten-free baking mixes and flours? They’re still taking up space in the pantry because I never used them. I do bake, but with almond flour, flax meal, and coconut flour. I don’t feel deprived and am rarely hungry. Sometime I long for a better pizza crust, but I don’t miss the wheat flour and the cravings it caused. And I don’t miss the inflammation in my brain.
When I thought the gluten-free thing was just a fad, I never thought that what I ate made any difference at all. Now I know better. I’ve cut out foods that hurt me, and added in foods that help me heal. Changing my food changed my body, healed my brain, and changed my life.
That’s why I’m becoming a health coach. I want to pass the message on. Nutrition matters. You CAN heal from chronic illness.
Last December I came across some information about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I was following some bloggers who had attended IIN, and was curious what they had to offer. The information about IIN impressed me. I fell in love with the idea of spreading health and happiness to the world.
I signed up to start the Health Coach Training Course in January, 2015. I’m now in the 10th month of my training, and have loved every bit of it.
At IIN, many students have stories like mine. So many of us have healed through the power of nutrition. We want to spread the news that it’s possible to feel better, so much better. Cut out the junk food and add in whole, real foods. Manage stress. Get good sleep.
Want support? Work with me. Use the contact form to get in touch. We can set up a free, no obligation, coaching discovery call.
I’ve learned to be a great listener and a competent coach. I’ve learned over 100 dietary theories, and some principles of eating that can help everyone. We all have different bodies, and what works for me might not work for you. But I can help you learn to tap into the wisdom of your unique body and learn to eat in a way that works for you. Why not start now?
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