What I ate to heal, and what I eat now

I get asked all the time: what do you eat day to day?

My diet now is very different than the diets I was on years ago. I am now on a maintenance diet to keep my symptoms in remission. What I did earlier on in my healing, and what I structure for my clients are therapeutic diets to actually get them into long term remission. Therapeutic diets should not have to be done longer term, they should be about 6 months to 2 years to reverse the underlying causes of the symptoms. Then moving into a maintenance diet is appropriate.

If you have gotten “stuck” on a diet for more than two years without being able to transition off- it is clear that you are on a symptom management or symptom reduction diet, and not a therapeutic or medicinal diet. A symptom management or symptom reduction diet is a long term diet because it won’t actually address the underlying causes of your symptoms, it will simply band aid your symptoms. Sometimes band aids are necessary for a while- for example, I had to initially be on a very strict low histamine diet to stabilize my symptoms- but I eventually combined a low histamine diet with a therapeutic diet to reverse the underlying cause of my histamine issues, and now I don’t eat a low histamine diet at all anymore.

True healing means that in the long term you can expand your diet, within reason, without your symptoms returning. Often, this means greater, strategic restriction in the short term.

What type of strategic restriction you need depends on the stage of healing you are in. That’s why it’s hard for me to answer the question “What did you eat to heal?” or “What do you eat now?”. It has changed a lot.

Initially, I transitioned from a standard american to a basic low histamine, sugar free, gluten, processed foods free diet. As I adjusted to this, I moved into a still low histamine, but more paleo, anti inflammatory style of diet. This allowed my histamine symptoms to stabilize enough to tolerate a low histamine version of the GAPS intro diet. This is the therapeutic diet that allowed my histamine intolerance to reverse. I was able to expand my diet to include a lot of higher histamine, therapeutic foods used on the GAPS diet.

At this point, my symptoms had gone mostly into remission, but I had stubborn heavy metal toxicity and lingering issues I wanted to address. I realized that I had oxalate toxicity, and ended up going on a carnivore diet for awhile to allow my body to dump oxalates.

This was very helpful for improving my symptoms, but the unfortunate side effect was that with all the detoxing I had done over years, I had a huge gallbladder flare. Mind you this was now about 3 years after I first started healing so I had released a lot of toxins by this point. I ended up lowering my fat intake and increasing low oxalate sources of soluble fiber to help clear out my bile system.

At this point, I was healed enough that I started increasing my intake of resistant starch, which is eliminated on GAPS. But even on GAPS, they acknowledge that for most people this isn’t forever! Because GAPS is a therapeutic diet, most people are able to reintroduce eliminated foods without their symptoms returning.

At this point, I have a very flexible diet. I try to stay mostly low oxalate, but rotate in some higher oxalate foods for specific reasons. I tend to go back and forth between a higher starch, moderate fat type of ancestral diet and more ketogenic, higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet as my body asks for it. There is definitely a seasonal aspect to this, and I try to just listen to my own cues.

I will never go back to a standard american diet, but I appreciate my true flexibility I have these days with a whole foods diet. I am always mindful of oxalate intake, but otherwise I truly trust all of my instincts related to diet. My body really knows what it needs when. As you heal, this is going to be true for you too.

About the Author
Jen Donovan completely rebuilt her life and career as a result of her experience with severe chronic illness. After finding no answers from conventional medical approaches, she took matters into her own hands and with the help of key mentors, found a path to healing.
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