One of the most common questions that finds me is “what’s your diet like?”, “I have Graves Disease too, what diet should I be on?” or “what’s the best diet if I want to be health?”. And while there are certain things that I think that everyone could do to create a healthy, nourishing lifestyle, I do not believe in any such thing as the “best diet” for everyone, even those with the same disease as me.
So how did I create the best diet for me? And how can you do the same?
My Personal Dietary Philosophies
I don’t follow a “diet” in the general sense – There’s no calorie counting, daily lists that need to be checked off or feelings of deprivation.
Instead I’ve created a lifestyle that supports my health and changes with me (you can read my philosophy on that here). The only person who dictates what I eat is me (and my body, she’s got a lot to say).
I feed myself with love, consuming foods that I feel will best serve my health and not be a detriment (you will not see me scarfing down take-out pizza and ice cream cakes, unless you have a time machine and travel back to my pre-graves days… in which case, hit me up, because that’s pretty awesome! I promise not to use your time traveling abilities for evil…)
One look at my recipe page and you’ll know that I do not deprive my sweet tooth, I’ve just learned to feed it with kindness. I think it’s incredibly important that we find healthy ways to satisfy our cravings – deprivation simply doesn’t work. But with a little creativity and the right ingredients, anything is possible.
I am dairy free, gluten free and corn free, but intolerances and allergies have made those choices for me (Celiacs and Graves Disease do have a connection though, for my fellow Graves Warriors. It is worth it to discover if this plays a role in your illness and discuss with your health care provider [reference]).
Restrictions like mine aren’t necessary for everyone. It’s all about listening to your body and finding what works for you.
Are There Dietary Options for Someone with an Autoimmune Disease?
Absolutely! And I’ve looked into them. I like to think of them as elimination diets and building blocks to finding the right dietary balance for you.
I’ve consumed books like ‘The Autoimmune Solution’ by Dr. Amy Myers and ‘Clean‘ by Dr. Alejandro Junger. I loved them! And I learned a lot from them. While I’ve used that knowledge to help discover what does and doesn’t work for me, I do not follow them to a T. They weren’t the best diet for me, and may not be the best diet for you either.
So what’s someone to do if they’re looking to make health positive changes and/or thrive with an illness?
Personalize your diet with these steps:
If you aren’t experiencing any troubling symptoms and are in perfect help, you can likely skip to step 4 – Feed Yourself with Love <3
Do Your Research
Depending on the state of your health, you may need to keep a food and symptoms journal and even do an elimination diet to find out what foods make you thrive… and which ones are total drainers.
What you eat can definitely cause some nasty digestive symptoms. But food can also be associated with a number of other woes, including rashes, headaches, joint pain, brain fog, irritability and more. Temporary Elimination Diets and Food Journals can really help you and your doctor narrow down what the foodie culprit may be.
Before anyone starts an elimination diet, it’s important to do your research.
Personally, I devoured as much information as I could on what typically does and does not work for those with autoimmune diseases. This provided me with ammo and ideas and helped me to know what to look out for before I moved on to an Elimination Diet.
But your situation may very well be different. If you’re looking to make health positive changes, especially if you have an illness, it’s worth your while to do your research. Never walk into a situation blind if you don’t have to.
If you want to know what the culprit is you have to isolate it… and that means taking it easy for a while, cleaning the slate and then slowly reintroducing potential problem causers. An Elimination Diet helps you to do just that.
When I took back the reigns and decided that I would do everything in my power to thrive with Graves Disease, I knew that an elimination diet was necessary. Luckily, I had had experience with one when I was kid. It helped us discover that I was lactose intolerant.
Consider your particular issues are – do you have an autoimmune disease, are you trying to help a sensitive digestive tract, is your skin breaking out, are your energy levels a mess? Pay special attention to these areas, especially as you re-introduce foods.
An elimination diet usually means keeping things pretty simple for about a month. We’re talking no major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soy), no fast food or processed junk (although, why would you do that to yourself on a good day?)
Personally, I stuck with the basics – fruits and veggies, meat and simple spices. While the book didn’t exist at that time, the elimination diet I created was very similar to that of the Autoimmune Solution.
However, your elimination diet may need to be different.
It’s incredibly important that you know that this is not meant to be permanent; unless medically necessary, your lifestyle should provide you with a diet full of options. A restrictive diet is definitely never the best diet long term. Variety is the spice of life after all! Consulting with a health professional that specializes in nutrition can be incredibly helpful when creating an elimination diet.
If you want a guide to a basic elimination diet you can find one here.
After 30 days on an elimination diet, I reintroduced things 1 at a time (one new food group every few days). You can’t just dive back in… remember, isolation is key. If something exacerbated a symptom or made me feel crappy I knew that it had to go. But in order to really pinpoint what the problem causer was, I needed to food journal to come to the rescue.
Food and Symptoms Journal
Considering how often we eat (I, for one, eat very little in one sitting but snack throughout the day). It’s impossible to remember what we ate, when we ate it and somehow make a connection to any symptoms that are being exacerbated.
Enter the splendiferous Food and Symptoms Journal! This is a wonderful tool to help you find out what makes you feel awesome and what drags you down. Especially considering that symptoms take time to develop. Food journals have been my go-to hero when connecting symptoms to foods.
It’s as simple as writing down what you ate and when, and keeping track of any symptoms you may be experiencing as they arrive.
Food and symptom journals are a great tool when you’re facing dietary changes, especially if you and your doctor are trying to pinpoint a problem area. Bring them to your appointments and discuss any correlations you’ve noticed. This can sometimes help you find a diagnosis, and that is just flipping awesome!
But, much like the elimination diet, this tool is temporary. Once you’ve settled into a nice groove that works for your body, put the book away. We shouldn’t need to feel obsessive about our eating habits, especially when things are running smoothly.
Feed Yourself with Love
This is my personal philosophy. And it doesn’t mean eating all the sugar your heart could possibly desire, damn the consequences. To me, it means quite the opposite.
Some people say, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and I absolutely hate that saying… because skinny does not always mean healthy (most Graves Warriors know that all too well), and body shaming is straight up not cool! Health comes in many shapes and sizes.
I prefer, “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels”. What you eat affects every cell in your body, and, damn it, your cells deserve to be provided with the best fuel possible. Learn to love yourself enough to care about your health and make dietary choices that will fuel your beautiful body!
Explore new foods, cook and find ways to make healthy versions of your favourite treats (trust me, it’s very possible!) Make eating well a positive, creative and fun experience and ultimately part of your self-love language. That’s the best diet you could ever ask for. And honey, you deserve it!
Be Open to Change
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – your body will change, your health state will change and ultimately the way you eat may have to change with it. What worked for me 3 years ago is not what works for me now, and that’s ok. Listen to your body and be open to change. There is no such thing as the perfect lifestyle, but one that changes and grows with you is the next best thing.
While these 5 steps can help you create a healthy, nourishing lifestyle, and potentially mitigate some issues, they are not a fix all.
I still have Graves Disease and I always will. But I live symptom free and spend most of my time in remission… and eating well has played a huge role in achieving that! Good nutrition can do nothing but benefit you.
At the end of the day only you know how you feel. Your doctor is a partner in your health, but participating in your healing is so important – and nutrition plays a huge role! You owe it to yourself to discover what makes you thrive and load up on as much goodness as possible. Truly, you are so worthy.
Have you ever done an elimination diet? How did you discover the best diet for you? What would you add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!
Here’s to health and happiness!
All my love,
Thought of the day: I owe it to myself to participate in my healing.
Ps. A healthy diet is a great part of your self-care routine. Work on making self-care a daily priority with your free Self-Care Routine Planner. Click the photo or sign up below to get yours.