If you’re like me, you’ve been hearing about “eating clean” for awhile now. I started eating clean a couple of years ago, and just finished a 21-day clean gut cleanse. Man, oh man, I’ve hit the jackpot on how to feel fibro-fabulous by eating clean. You can too.
What do I mean by ‘fibro-fabulous’? I’ve almost been able to forget I have fibro. My fatigue is manageable. As long as I take it easy in my super-gentle yoga class I don’t flare. My IBS is – what IBS? And my pain levels are absolutely manageable. Seems pretty good to me!
Eating Clean Basics
It’s pretty simple. Eating clean means real food. Food that is a product of nature, not a product of industry. Foods in their natural state, or as close to natural as possible. This means staying away from processed and refined foods, including white flour, white sugar, instant oatmeal and in fact most pre-packaged breakfast cereals. No junk foods, no fast foods, none of the overly-processed and additive-laden foods that are sadly so available. Meat, fish, eggs, yogurt, fruits and vegetables, whole grains. Wholesome, natural yumminess. If you must purchase something packaged, choose only those items with five or fewer items on the ingredients list, and nothing you can’t pronounce.
I’d been eating this way for almost two years before I started the clean gut cleanse. I’d been avoiding wheat and dairy and as a result, I had more energy and was sleeping better. However, I was still taking daily antibiotics as a preventive measure against the frequent and recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) that I just can’t get a handle on. Whenever I stop, I get another UTI . My friend Heidi Hackler, a health and wellness coach and fellow liveaboard cruiser, convinced me of the damage I was doing to my gut bacteria. If I didn’t find a way to ditch those antibiotics I’d never break the cycle.
Clean Gut Cleanse
On Heidi’s recommendation, I bought and read the book Clean Gut by Alejandro Junger. It’s everything you already know about eating clean, but the clean gut cleanse is a little more radical. No grains, no fruit except for berries, no coffee or juice and of course no alcohol. The 80/20 rule means you fill your plate with 80 percent veggies, 20 percent protein, and stop eating when you are 80 percent full. There’s also a regimen of vitamins and supplements, including multi-strain probiotics with at least a 50-billion count and vitamin B.
I was hooked and keen. I gave myself a week to gather the necessary ingredients and most of the supplements. Junger has developed a whole business around the premise of his book, but I chose not to purchase his instant smoothie pouches or his supplements. Two reasons: I am in Mexico and getting stuff delivered down here doesn’t always work. And I wanted to use whole, real food for a clean, natural cleanse. I wasn’t looking for a program that required me to buy pre-packaged foods, no matter who made them or how good the stuff is supposed to be. I purchased the supplements that I could find locally and did my best with that.
So, on January 9th both my husband John and I started the 21-day clean gut cleanse.
Water with fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice starts every day. I take my first probiotic with my morning lemon water. Instead of our morning decaf coffee, we made a batch of this coconut milk matcha latte. (I love it so much I still haven’t gone back to the decaf!) Then breakfast is a green smoothie. Junger’s book has several recipes, which I used as a guide at first but now just make up my own. I use organic coconut water, lots of spinach, half an avocado, a bit of celery or cucumber, a few cashews, ground flax, chia or almond butter and a dollop of organic gluten-free protein powder. Sometimes I add a handful of fresh blueberries or strawberries, but most of the time I’m just using greens and protein.
These three drinks – the lemon water, matcha latte and smoothie – can keep us going until mid-afternoon, at which point a few nuts for a snack is good until dinner.
This is the biggest meal of the day. When we are on the boat for lunch, Clean Gut has loads of delish recipes from which to choose and I tried a few. But I tend to stick to my favourite salad or stir-fry. A big pile of spinach or kale, maybe romaine lettuce (but I prefer really dark greens) with more avocado, shaved carrots and beets, and whatever favourite fresh veggies on hand. And a little protein on top: either almonds, cashews or slices of grilled organic grass-fed chicken.
A smaller, lighter dinner was a big change for us. The life-long habit reinforced by the corporate jobs that had us running out of the house often without breakfast and packing lunches centred around dinner being the largest meal of the day. It felt odd to at first to eat a small meal at dinner, but my body responded immediately. How lovely not to get into bed with a full tummy! When we cooked dinner it would be a heap of veggies, either raw, steamed or lightly stir-fried (in coconut oil, of course) with a teensy weensy bit of protein. Sometimes it would be another green smoothie.
I was not hungry at all after the first couple of days. I feel significantly better, my sleep remains great and I’m getting a solid 8 hours without interruption, my digestive system is moving regularly and nicely, and although I’ve stopped my doctor-recommended daily dose of antibiotics for nearly 7 weeks now I have yet to develop another urinary tract infection…(fingers crossed!) which I’ve written about in previous blogs.
I’ve carried on with the morning routine of lemon water, coconut green tea latte, and a smoothie. We are still eating less fruit (maybe 3 servings per week) and less protein. I’m still off wheat, in fact almost no grains at all and a lot more veggies. We’ve lost a bit of weight (always a bonus!) and my fibro seems to love it.
I really do feel like I’ve been reinvented. All from balancing gut bacteria and eating clean. Give it a try!