I should probably warn you in advance: I suspect this post is going to be a bit boring. My aim has always been to create a blog that makes you feel like you’re sitting at my kitchen table having a chat. Well, today I think it might be me droning on a bit and you might need to alternate between nodding politely and staring wistfully out my virtual kitchen window.
The thing is, I’ve given up sugar.
I’m not usually a candidate for the latest fad diet. I like to eat food and most of the time, I’m happy enough with how Iook, bingo wings and all. But I’m sick of feeling sick, and I think this might be the solution.
For at least a year now, it seems I couldn’t eat anything without blowing up like a balloon (stop casting knowing looks at my belly: I’m NOT PREGNANT) and yearning to snuggle down for a nice, long nanna-nap. I thought I might have Coeliac disease, like my mum, but the test came up negative. I gave up gluten anyway and it seemed to help, but the problem didn’t completely go away.
I’ve always had a bit of a mania for sweet things (remember this and this?) and sugary foods seemed to give me a reaction as well (though I was very reluctant to admit it).
It was my mum who worked it out. “I was thinking,” she said to me one Monday afternoon, “you might have”, she lowered her voice, “thrush.”
The temperature of my face rose by several degrees. “Uh, nope, Mum, all fine in that department, thanks!”
“No, I mean, in your intestines.”
“Is that a thing?” I whispered. I’m not sure why we were whispering in my kitchen, but it seemed right at the time.
It turns out it is a thing. In the garden of my small intestine, the yeast plant used to live in harmony with all the other germ flowers. But now it’s all overgrown and causing all manner of troubles. Symptoms include bloating, tiredness, sugar mania, brain fog and … sorry … um … what were we saying?
One of the ways to control this monster is by cutting off its food supply. This means no sugar (or grains or lactose). A second is to dose up on natural yoghurt and probiotics. And finally, I needed to attack the yeast with some anti-fungal pills from the chemist and natural remedies like garlic.
I got really keen on the whole diet idea. I wrote a long shopping list and filled my trolley with nuts and salad and hommus and plain corn chips and salmon and steak. Every time I cooked a meal for myself I felt compelled to photograph it. Look:
So you can see I had plenty of good food to eat and no need to go hungry. Things were going pretty well on Day 1 of the diet. I spent the whole morning feeling all virtuous and smug. I am now Healthy Woman. I will battle this gut thrush with everything I’ve got! Natural yoghurt? Yes please!
But then it was 3:30pm. I wanted something sweet. It was feeding time for the Yeast Beast and the Yeast Beast wasn’t happy. I had the sugar shakes. I started pacing around, fantasising about drinking maple syrup and eating sugar by the spoonful. This wasn’t just a change in diet. This was going cold turkey on a strong chemical addiction. I went to bed early that night to escape the withdrawal symptoms.
The second day was not much better. On the third day I thought I’d try a home remedy. Garlic was supposed to be good at attacking yeast and raw garlic even better. So I chopped up two whole cloves, stirred them in some natural yoghurt and tipped it on my salad for lunch. It burned my mouth when I ate it, but I continued with grim determination: take that, gut thrush!
Garlic was my constant companion for the rest of that day. I could taste it in my mouth, I could smell it, I could feel it coming out my pores. It was so intense. I was a walking garlic cloud. All I could think about was garlic. It was a nice change from fixating on sugar all the time.
I’m a week into it now and while I’m feeling a lot healthier and more energetic (and thirsty when I need to drink, and sleepy when I’m tired), it’s still a struggle. I realise now just how much sugar I used to eat, from the hidden sugars in sauces and processed foods, to all the little bits of sweet food I would eat throughout the day, like an alcoholic taking nips from her hip flask.
Today is Halloween, and more than any other year I am cursing the American holiday that is growing in popularity over here. Everywhere I go I see decorations of sweets and lollypops. I’m scared I’m going to relapse and go demand lollies from my neighbours dressed as a half-crazed sugar junkie. “Trick or treat, damn you! TRICKORTREEEEEAT!!”
I think I need to go munch some garlic…