Monday, March 31, 2014

In the battle against fatigue: Diet

I’ve written lately about my battle with fatigue: a sometimes overwhelming tiredness that I feel that lends itself to lack of motivation and procrastination.

Besides tiredness, I have also been experiencing the following on a regular basis:
*bouts of diarrhea
*terrible heartburn, especially when I eat bread, chicken, or potatoes
*skin irritations

As I said in Friday’s post, my doctor and I discussed my problems with fatigue, and one of the things he suggested was to change the timing of my depression medication.

Another thing we discussed was my diet. I asked him how much validity he put in the idea that one’s diet could affect one’s mental health.
He said he had patients who had changed their diets—mostly giving up wheat and other sources of gluten—who had experienced positive results. In conjunction with medication and/or other treatments, he believed certain changes in diet might help.

I don’t believe in throwing out whole categories of food unless a person has real medical issues. For example, according to the website of the National Institutes of Health,  people who have celiac disease cannot consume gluten because they have an immunereaction to gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye.

I don’t have celiac disease. And I don’t have symptoms that are anywhere nearly as bad as those with celiac disease.
But I’ve wondered if I may be sensitive to gluten.
Perhaps it’s really a matter of too many simple carbohydrates. Maybe it’s a problem with wheat.
I already know that milk irritates my digestive system. Cheese and Greek yogurt don’t. I’m allergic to tree nuts.

I decided to try eliminating, as much as I can, gluten from my diet for a week or two to see how I react. It won’t hurt. If I feel better, then I can add back some foods gradually and get a clearer idea of whether or not food is affecting how I feel.

I had no gluten (that I know of) Sunday. For breakfast, I had a cup of Greek yogurt.
For lunch, we ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I had beef fajitas and ate just the meat and vegetables and a little of the beans. I didn’t eat the tortillas.
For dinner, I had the salad pictured above: Romaine lettuce, carrots, red kidney beans, apples, and pickled beets. After I took the photo, I added cheddar cheese and some tuna salad that Larry had made. I also added balsamic vinaigrette dressing after making sure it didn’t contain wheat.

No heartburn. No digestive issues. It’s too early to tell about the tiredness.

I am motivated to try this. Saturday was a bad day for me digestively. I knew what had caused at least of the problem: I had eaten some doughnuts.
As I lay down to rest, I decided that I’d had enough of feeling so bad. I needed to find out how to help myself.
Right now my plan is to stay away from gluten and to follow the new medication timing.

Have you ever found that a certain food, or group of foods, negatively affect how you feel?


  1. Ooh, this is close to my heart! With three kids all having wheat sensitivities, I am sure I also have wheat issues. Just but drastically cutting back my intake of grain I'm able to function on 50mg of Zoloft where before I was on 150mg (no grain restriction then). I can tell when I have too much grains, my symptoms get stronger and I just feel terrible.

    I hope you get some relief!

  2. I think the food we eat does have an effect on our body's system.. The tiredness may go away after you have changed your diet. I hope so, it seems like an easy fix.. Take care and have a happy week!

  3. Oh, yes. I think what we consume is terribly important to the functioning of our bodies. I gave up soft drinks in 2009, replacing with water or unsweetened tea. Felt much better and do not miss them a bit. Slowly, I started adding more fresh foods to my diet in 2010. I lost 40 lbs. and feel so much better. Good luck with the changes you are trying to make. Keep us posted!

  4. I'll be interested to hear what you find out. I'm not sure how any particular type of food affects me, but I know that when I tend to eat more whole foods - especially fruits and veggies, and cut out processed, sugary foods - I definitely feel less sluggish.

  5. good luck! i hope it helps and you can stick with it!

  6. This sounds like a very positive way to approach a dietary change. The gentle adding in will give you a good baseline.

  7. Good luck with that. At least there are so many gluten free alternatives now. But it would still be tough.

  8. I hope it will help. Staying away from gluten would be very difficult, but worth it if you saw great results.

    I read the book Triggered this weekend. Was wondering if you had read it? It's a memoir of OCD. It took me a while to get into , but I did enjoy it, even though the author was a little over the top with the self-deprecating humor at times.

  9. Aging certainly brings about least at my age!

  10. I've been gluten-free by choice for almost two years, Tina, and I do feel better. I never get those "sugar cravings" that I used to, and overall, I have more energy. Good luck with your experiment and keep us posted!

  11. God yes. I became progressively more and more ill starting about 2007, and finally in 2010 I found out that I had a LOT of food allergies. I cut out most of them, and I was already GF and soy free, as well as vegan, but there was still a lot to adjust to. I learned to cook amazing, allergy friendly food and as I went very strict on the allergies I saw a lot of improvement with my digestive system. I just recently added gluten back in to no real ill effect, though I can tell it's still a little difficult for me to digest. Dairy I brought back about a year ago now, I think? But only the more processed forms, like greek yogurt and cheese, since I'm allergic to the whey. So far, so good.

    I know a lot of people tout going gluten free as the cure for any number of ailments, and I do agree that the way we've bred our modern wheat and other grains to be is hard on our digestive systems. I don't, however, think that it's ALWAYS the answer… it seems more like a buzzword or a fad to me.

  12. I know people that swear by this - changing diets having positive effects physically and mentally. Best of luck and I can't wait to read updates on this!

  13. i know soooo many people that have gone gluten free, with extremely positive results!! honestly, i have no idea how i am suppose to feel. i have ms, i am on a ton of clearly, i have no idea what feeling good even feels like!!

    i am very interested to see how you do, if you feel positive results from change!! the salad looks good, i don't "do" beets!!

  14. Tina, I just did a post on a similar topic the other day about food and ones mood. I have a bunch of food allergies and have been extremely tired lately plus dealing with really painful dry skin (more than hand washing related) and rashes. Tracking what I eat and how it affects not only my "mood" but also if there is a difference physically with digestion. I know off hand if I eat a bagel I feel like crap the rest of the day.
    Wish you like and hope it makes a difference

  15. Hi Tina, I can relate to the skin and a few other symptoms you have described. Thank you so much for sharing this, I really appreciate it.

  16. simply if I eat too much of things like donuts from outside the house, if I eat Greek or Italian desserts deep fried and then dipped in honey (too much I'm saying), or a lot more than I need at a normal meal full of high fat things where I go over board, it is the same as if I'd had too much wine to drink the night before... this should be an interesting experiment and look forward to your feelings and findings on same...:-)

  17. Me encanta tu blog, pero lo que más tus gatitos. La blanca y negra se parece a una mía que es muy anciana: tienen 21 años y la encontré en la calle cuando tenía unos días de vida.
    Un abrazo y me alegra que ames a los animales.
    Rosa María Milleiro

  18. Losing weight is historically the one thing that helps my GI issues.

    Good luck, I hope it helps!

  19. Hi Tina, I just wanted to mention that my doctor switched my depression medication...I was taking a 20 mg one and he switched to an entirely different one, and to 75 mg. It has been six weeks now and I am noticing an amazing improvement. I have my energy back and hardly feel tired at all! Needless to say I am very happy and relieved to be feeling like my old self again.

  20. I hope this helps. I know a few people who have cut down on or cut out gluten for various reasons and seem to have had benefits from it. I don't think that food affects my mood really. I do drink too much coffee maybe but I'm not giving that up any time soon. Good luck!!


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