Eat the Rainbow
We all know about the importance of healthy balanced living, but it’s easy to lose your way when you’re trying to deal with an illness. I have been hearing from a lot of people who are struggling with their diets, ranging from weight issues to the restraints of managing food intolerances. We are faced with so much nutritional information these days, and with a concerning rise in food fads, we’re at risk of losing the basic rules of healthy eating.
I became ill in my teens, as described in M.E. My Story, and my diet was instantly under scrutiny. I started out with stomach problems and later had difficulty eating solid foods, which led to a significant weight loss. Mum received more criticism than guidance, so she went back to basics with my diet. She puréed homegrown vegetables and stewed foraged fruits, blended hearty homemade soups, and devised recipes to suit my needs. This, combined with prescription nutritional drinks, helped me gain some strength and weight.
I slowly got back onto solids again and remember the simple enjoyment of chewing normal looking food! As time went on, I noticed that my body was reacting to certain foods, so I saw a dietician for guidance. She diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome, along with identifying cow’s milk allergy, and then helped me adjust my diet. Cutting out dairy produce has been difficult, as not only do I love milk and cheese, it’s an important source of protein, calcium and vitamins. I am in a strange place between vegetarian and vegan, as I do eat free-range eggs, although my diet is far from limited. I take a couple of supplements each day: evening primrose oil for joint pain, alongside a formulation of calcium with key vitamins and iron.
I do struggle with my appetite; feeling hungry has become somewhat of a novelty! Even when I’m going through a good period and doing more, I rarely seem to work up an appetite. I tend to eat little and often, alongside drinking a few litres of water each day. I use my diet to help certain symptoms; for instance, I target nausea with foods high in starch (such as toast or crackers), and when dizziness hits I increase my blood sugar levels with a snack high in carbohydrates or sugar (such as a banana or chocolate).
I often hear from M.E. sufferers who are struggling to maintain their weight. If you need to lose weight, good old calorie counting will give you the tools to maintain a healthier diet. This combined with increasing your activity, in whatever way you can manage, will help you reach your goal. It is important to be stricter with yourself when you’re less active, such as healthier snacks and smaller portions, or the pounds will easily pile on. Eating can be the last thing on your mind when you’re suffering, although you should never starve yourself, and it’s important to maintain your fluid intake. You are welcome to share your healthy eating tips and recipes on the M.E. Support Facebook Page.
If you live alone it can be difficult enough to make yourself a drink sometimes, let alone prepare a meal. Although my mum cares for me, I always have some options ready for bad days, such as frozen leftovers. Cooking is a family passion and I’m a keen baker; however, I tend to opt for simple meals. Casseroles, for instance, are easy to prepare and last well, not to mention being packed with goodness. I treated myself to a Kenwood Chef a few years ago, and that’s certainly helped me out in the kitchen. I can blend smoothies in seconds, mix or chop things at the press of a button, and even make a loaf of bread with ease!
The health culture boom has given us the tools to make more decisions about our lifestyles, although it’s important not to forget the basics of wellbeing. Do not stray from common sense, gain some knowledge on key areas and above all, listen to your body! These simple but effective rules will serve you in all aspects of managing your health. You will find more information about diet and nutrition in A Self-Help Guide to Managing Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, along with various related subjects in the Articles Index.