“You guys are so healthy. You’re like the healthiest people I know!”
Have you ever heard yourself say that when you’ve been speaking to Tony and I? We hear it a lot and we actually never ever considered it to be true. Well, I certainly didn’t.
I always thought it was just one of those compliments people gave to us when they compared themselves to their incomplete and over-exaggerated perceptions of what we’re actually like.
Also I’m very aware that our definitions of health would be quite different. Health to me, isn’t just in the eating. It includes exercise, reducing toxin load, sleep, oral health, mental stability (stress management) and emotional well being as well. Put all of that together and I believe I have a long road ahead towards health.
However, when people speak of health, they almost always are referring to EITHER your eating habits OR your exercise regime, sometimes both and not much of the rest.
So let’s refer to just the eating part in this blog. If health was just in the eating, are we really the healthiest people you know?
I’m sure there are people out there who know me as the person who is constantly eating chips (crisps). “Every time I see you, you have a bag of crisps in your hand. I don’t know if I’ll recognise you without one.” has been something I used to hear quite a lot! And it’s still true. I can’t help it. I just really like salty crunchy potato chips.
And Tony? Well, he’s the biscuit, cookie, chocolate eating sugar fiend, aka the bottomless pit because he eats all of that in large quantities and still continues to be skinny.
Yes, we are evidently prime examples of “the healthiest people you know”! (sarcasm)
And then, 2 weeks ago happened. We attempted the Jason Vale Big Juice Challenge. A juice only challenge for 5 days aka Juice fast which turned out to be a complete farce, especially for me and it made us question just how healthy we actually were.
By the 3rd juice on the 1st day, my stomach was bloated, aching and it did not stop for 5 days.
I couldn’t get rid of the gas. It was just there, permanently. My stomach was hard and solid. I couldn’t suck it in.
There came a point where I couldn’t tell if I was hungry, full, digesting or aching with gas because it all felt the same. Just constant pain and the sound of churning and growling. Any time I drank a juice I’d get sharp pains. I thought I’d given myself an ulcer.
I tried to help clear gas with yoga but instead, nothing would come out and I felt like I was going to pop my stomach every time I bent forward or put any pressure on it. It was horrible!
By the end of Day 4, I’d had enough. I didn’t care for another day of pain. This juice fast was supposed to make us feel better, help our bodies heal and all I was doing was feeling more and more ill, getting more and more tired and I was really constipated.
Everything I experienced was the complete opposite of what I was supposed to feel on a juice fast and I wasn’t the only one. Tony was also feeling lethargic, he was getting more and more tired by the day and although nothing like mine, he felt stomach pains too.
So, as with all other forms of pain and struggles I experience, I turned to soul searching. What was going on? Why were we reacting like this? We were doing something that unhealthy people do to get healthy. Why would doing something healthy have such adverse affects? Surely it would just make healthy people even healthier? Did I have some weird disease that got triggered by eating healthier?
After discussing it with each other and taking time out to think about it, Tony and I came up with the following theories to explain what happened:
1. Overall Shock
The one and only time we did a juice fast was 2 years prior and I was so concerned about the effect the juicing would have on our bodies that I took about a month prior transitioning our diet from eating everything, to taking away the meat, then the dairy, then turning to some raw and then having some juices before we finally started on all out juice for 7 days.
This time we just went straight from eating everything to juice only. We didn’t give our digestive systems any time to transition at all, just a complete U-Turn in diet and I think our digestive system, especially mine just went into a complete meltdown.
2. Not used to digesting the raw veg.
I had no such reaction 2 years ago but bodies change over time, you produce less enzymes as you age and we hadn’t eaten raw cruciferous veg for 2 years.
I hadn’t juiced any kale or broccoli since and any time we consumed them, we cooked them first.
I had to test the theory that I was reacting to raw veg so I started cooking all the raw vegetables I was supposed to juice and ate them instead. Whether it be placebo or not, my stomach calmed down immediately.
It was far from settled and painless and it took a further 4 days to have my stomach stop hurting completely, have no gas and having regular bowel movements again but at the end of the day, the pain and swelling disappeared when I stopped the raw cruciferous veg.
3. Having way more sugar than we were used to.
We didn’t realise it but we don’t eat much processed food (other than chips) and the chips we eat, although converted to sugar in the body, have no added sugar in the pack.
So, with exception of the buckwheat cookies I baked, I don’t actually cook anything that has added sugar in it. You can get into the discussion of turning certain foods into sugar (eg rice, bread, potatoes, pasta) and the sugar that exists in honey and maple syrup but to be honest, we don’t actually have that much of any of those things either.
So here we were, so used to not having much sugar and then all of a sudden, we’re juicing all these apples, pineapples, oranges, beets (yes I even found beets and carrots SUPER sweet. In fact I found all the juices way too sweet for me) and although all these juices have soluble fibre, compared to our normal diet, this was like having 10x more sugar and 10x less fibre than normal.
The result was that I actually started feeling the exact same symptoms I’d have when I was sugar intolerant. I would feel like falling asleep, during the day constantly, with the inability to keep my eyes open. I suspect I am still sugar intolerant, I just never realised because I never ate enough sugar to trigger the symptoms. I knew there was something wrong when Tony was getting more and more tired by the day too.
The only thing I can put it down to is that it was just way too much sugar. After we stopped the juicing, the sleepy symptoms stopped for me and Tony, although tired, isn’t as tired as he was getting when on the juice (it’s from lack of sleep but that’s another story).
4. Not having the amount of nutrients we were used to.
Shock horror that juice doesn’t give us the nutrients we’re used to! How is that even possible?
The theory behind juicing is that we are all overfed and undernourished. The purpose of juicing is to consume more nutrients than you could’ve ever done normally by extracting it from the fruit/veg and getting rid of the fibre that makes you full. So you can have the nutrients of 10 fruit and veg with the bulk of 1 serving.
It doesn’t make sense that 10 fruit and veg is not enough nutrients right? Until you consider this – every day, Tony and I have a superfood smoothie.
In our superfood smoothie, we’d make sure to have sugar/carbs, fat, protein and fibre components as a base, then we add all manner of superfoods that we feel like which add various different vitamins and minerals to the mix.
Name a superfood and there is a high chance we have it. We change it up, rotate it, have some and not others, sometimes all, sometimes a combination of a few but the point is, we have at least one of these smoothies every single day and we have been doing this every single day for 2 years (with exception of holidays).
I also make our own water kefir for probiotics and we have this every day as well. We’ve taken breaks but for the most part 90% of the last 2 years, we’ve consumed some form of probiotics, even on holidays.
When Tony and I don’t have our smoothie, we eat and eat and eat and eat, constantly hungry and we believe it’s because we’re lacking in some kind of nutrient and we keep consuming food, searching for it. But when we have our smoothie, we’re full for hours and we can get by for the rest of the day on one other meal, zero snacks.
What does this mean? It means, we must get everything we need in our smoothie in the form we can digest so we don’t need to look for any more nutrients. In other words, we weren’t exactly the overfed and undernourished type to begin with. So for us, juice was less nutrients than we were used to and we weren’t having probiotics to help us process it either.
Now, if you look at the list above, the overall recurring theme there is gut health. Problems with digestion, problems with processing food, problems with extracting nutrients, problems with nutrient absorption and eliminating waste is all gut related stuff.
This whole juice farce turned out to be quite good afterall because it highlighted for me the importance of gut health and how I need to focus on it if I want to find true health.
What’s the point of eating healthy, having super nutrient dense food when it all comes out unprocessed and unabsorbed? How do your cells and organs receive what they need when your gut can’t extract it from your food and give it to them? So that’s my new focus now, how to get the gut functioning and in tip top shape again.
I don’t know how long it will take but come back to me in about 6 months and maybe I’ll finally agree with you about being the healthiest people you know 😉