A Doctor's Take on Whole30: Final Results

Well, I did it! And I have to honestly say that this was the first program, I think EVER, that I didn't cheat on (knowingly anyway). I know this is a few days late, but I was waiting on my lab results :)

I only wish I had measured myself more and taken a before picture and before labs, but honestly, my body has never changed much in the past and I wasn't expecting any physical changes. I was just doing Whole30 for the cleansing and de-craving benefits and because I've been recommending it to so many patients. 

As I've mentioned though, my body has changed quite a bit. 

I've lost TWO INCHES EACH from my waist and hips and HALF AN INCH from my neck. That is significant, especially from someone with a generally healthy diet!

I am not going to tell you how many pounds I lost because if you've done the program, you know that it's not about that. It's about the #nonscalevictory (see what I mean by searching that hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook). 

I'll just suffice it to say that I'm very pleased with the weight loss as well, a lot of which I'm sure was inflammation.

Now, I can't say this is all due to the diet plan - to make real change, you must marry diet and exercise to what your body needs. 

I've been doing my new workouts too, which are the most challenging workouts I've done in a long while, so I feel I owe both programs my gratitude for my post-holiday reboot.

I feel stronger, more flexible and best of all, about 80% of my chronic pain has disappeared. In fact, I didn't really recognize that I was in so much pain until I no longer had it! 

My labs were interesting though, granted it's been a year since I've taken them, so this in no way is reflective of just doing Whole30. My cholesterol didn't change much, but my B vitamins, zinc and vitamin D were a lot less than usual this time of year and in fact deficient. Now, this could also be due to this very stressful, snowy winter that has not only put a physical strain on me, but has also made it difficult to make a living when I keep having to reschedule people due to big storms. Both physical and emotional stress can deplete B vitamins and affect your absorption. Plus, the unusually cold weather has not made it easy to go out with skin exposed to absorb that vitamin D.  

This brought up a good point that I always discuss with my patients though, which is to always discuss therapeutic diets with your doctor first as each person is different. I specifically didn't take any vitamins because I wanted to see what would really happen had I cut the few fortified foods I ate out of my diet (non-dairy milks, occasional grains like rice and quinoa). Again, there's no way to know for sure if it was the diet or an anomaly, as I didn't draw my blood both before an after. But it's good to see. If someone who has a history of deficiencies or absorption issues wants to do a 30 or 60-day therapeutic diet, I would definitely test before and after and supplement them based on their specific needs. 

So what does this tell me and where do I go from here?

Well, the pain reduction really surprised me, so what this tells me is that I have been eating something in my usual moderation diet that is causing my body too much inflammation. 

I normally eat a diet very similar to Whole30, only I do eat a few non-gluten grains each week, I do typically buy non-dairy milks more than make them myself for my morning latte, I do eat the occasional legumes (gotta have that hummus!) and of course, my big moderation item - my weekly pizza, which is usually a personal-sized Amy's Margherita (which, as far as frozen pizzas go, is much healthier choice).

So what's the plan? I will treat coming out of this Whole30 as I would any elimination diet and slowly reintroduce my previous foods, one at a time, monitor my reaction over 3 days (as it can take longer for sensitivities to be obvious as they are usually not as clear as full allergies) and write everything down so I don't forget. 

For example, I already know dairy is an issue for me. For Galentine's Day and my first day off Whole30, I did partake in some Otto's pizza. That night and most of the next day I was fine, but the following day, my hands hurt again. TOO SOON!

Next, I will incorporate the next thing I miss most, my lattes. So I will have my coconut/almond milk blend and again, see how I do over 3 days and write down any symptoms.

Symptoms from food sensitivities can range from the obvious - skin reaction, diarrhea/constipation, abdominal pain, gas/bloating to the more subtle mood swings, brain fog, depression, anxiety, post-nasal drip, heartburn/GERD/indigestion/chronic cough, and more. 

Once I see what the issue is (which I'm sure, sadly, is the frequency of my pizza), I can adjust my diet to have that item less often, like once a month, instead of once a week. This will give my gut time to recover and heal from the inflammation. 

I have been drinking a lot of bone broth and taking my probiotics over the last 30 days, so I'm not planning on taking any gut healing supplements as those are pretty darn effective (though I am now taking some vitamins since I was low). It's more the time away from the thing causing the inflammation that provides the healing, so I will just have to avoid those for a period of time, allow my gut to heal and go by what my body tells me. 

So often I get people doing an elimination diet who think after 8 weeks, they are healed - that is SO FAR from the truth! That is the time it takes to see what that food is doing to you. The time it takes for your gut to heal can be much longer. 

For me, I had to completely avoid dairy for 2 years before I could introduce it again, first monthly, then weekly, as my gut healed from all the damage I did in my teens as a carbo-dairi-tarian (even though I called myself a vegetarian, I, like MANY, actually ate very few vegetables and ate mostly grains and dairy, which is NOT healthy vegetarianism).

For many of my patients, it is the same. If you have been living a certain way, causing your body to be inflamed for 30, 40, 50 or more years, do you really expect it to be fine in 8 weeks? I can tell you, it won't be.

But it will significantly change your quality of life to know how certain foods affect you so that you can decide when it is worth it for you to partake. 

Is a belly ache worth it for me to have ice cream a few times over the summer? Heck yeah it is. Waiting for it, and making it seasonal and causing that tingly anticipation for what flavors my local ice cream shop will come up with is all part of the treat!

When you have it every day, or too often, that is not a treat. 

The problem is, our society has become too busy to recognize what we are putting into our bodies. We just want the fastest, tastiest option, no matter if it's made from beaver butt or antifreeze. Just choke it down and keep going! 

Would you put that crap in your car (or in your snowblower this year in New England)?? 

No. You would fill it with premium and check the oil so that it runs well because you depend on it. 

Why do so many people treat their cars better than their bodies?

I always tell people to think of naturopathic medicine, diet and lifestyle as they think of their car - You have to pay to put clean gas in, make oil changes and do moderate maintenance on your car to prevent damage. The car insurance it there in case of emergency.

It's the same thing with health. You have to commit to putting the clean fuel in, exercise, get regular check-ups to PREVENT future problems. The health insurance is there in case of emergency or surgery. 

Just because your health plan may not cover naturopathic and preventative medicine doesn't mean you can't do the work on your own! It's so worth it to know your body better (and by the way, we should now be covered by everyone here in Maine except for Medicare and MaineCare)!

I hope this intimate look at my personal journey helped inspire change and maybe took a little of the fear or judgement out of taking time out to pay attention to your health. 

I am very grateful for this book and online community as it's saved me so much time coming up with meal plans and grocery lists and recipes for my patients when I prescribe therapeutic diets.

Do yourself a favor and next time you talk to your doc, ask if trying a clean diet for 30 days would be beneficial. If they say yes, I encourage you to try the Whole30 program, become part of the community and share your story!