Which diet is the best for healing from ME/CFS?

Unlike many others out there I don’t claim in any way to have the truth about this subject, all I can do is compare different “food religions” and tell you my experience.

Standard diet

The thing I like the least of the “standard diet” is the amount of grains. Wheat contains around 70% gluten and the gluten is indigestible for (most) humans and most other animals. The gluten can cause lots of health problems and is more damaging to the body than sugar according to some ted talk specialists.

Wheat damages the intestine and the blood sugar spike prevents vitamins and minerals from being absorbed. Gluten is now officially linked to conditions like Crohn’s  and Alzheimer. In many people, wheat causes bloating and food cravings. The stomach can be full, but the body is still hungry. In grains like corn (GMO), wheat and rice is a substance that avoid nutrients from being absorbed properly.

Since “the standard diet” hasn’t really been the standard diet in the history of mankind, it really shouldn’t be called the standard diet, but rather the “commercial diet”. Most of our daily foods are cheap to produce and are very profitable. Very often this goes at the expense of nature, animals and your health.

Personally, I am lactose intolerant and I haven’t consumed any dairy in 8 years. I don’t miss it, there are better alternatives. Ethically I also think the milk should be consumed only by calves.

While I was on the standard diet, I suffered from food cravings, bloating and bad digestion. malabsorption of nutrients is inevitable. In my early ME/CFS days I noticed how much better I felt when I took additional mineral supplements to support me with my nutrients.

Other things I had to leave behind in order for my digestion to heal were caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar. I have become much more sensitive to what I eat, and my body simply doesn’t like these foods. And because I love my body and want what is best for it, I do not consume vegetables with pesticides or food from low quality soils with artificial fertilizer, that doesn’t really add the vital nutrients to the plants.

Many people suffer from the ‘commercial diet’ and develop health problems due to insulin. The pancreas, liver and gallbladder are under heavy pressure.

Vegan

I recently read a story that huge parts of the Amazon are chopped down for food plantations, not to feed any human, but to feed the cows in the western world. Looking back 100 years ago it has become clear that not only do we eat a lot more meat, we also have a big increase in population. Documentaries like “Forks over knives” evaluate the effects of a western diet in China in the last 50 years. When you watch this movie, you will feel compelled to stop eating meat right away.

The only issue with the documentary   is that they focus solely on meat consumption in China, without looking at the other changes in their diet, which are a big increase in refined sugars and flours and a big decrease in vegetables. Before they used to cook their rice, whereas fried rice has become the standard now. The combination of simple carbohydrates and fats is ignored in this movie. Sugars and fat together are known to cause a massive insulin peak in the body and will cause insulin resistance, overweight, fatty liver and diabetes over time. Diabetes is poorly treated in Asia and has serious health consequences. When I was travelling in Asia, I was shocked by the number of overweight people with amputated limbs.

If you however choose to live vegan, I wouldn’t worry too much about the proteins in your diet, but what I would worry about is refined sugars, grains and a vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is found in meats, eggs, milk and fish. Vegetables contain an incomplete vitamin A and a deficiency speeds up aging. Unfortunately synthetic versions of Vitamin A  aren’t properly absorbed. A downside of a vegan diet is that many people compensate more grains for the animal products, which makes them struggle with health issues in the long run.

Alkaline diet

Another often recommended diet is the alkaline diet. When the body is full of inflammation, the body might be too acidic. Fruits and vegetables are considered alkaline and can balance the bodiy’s PH levels. Meat, wheats, alcohol and fried foods lower our PH level and harmful bacteria and pathogens thrive in an acidic body.  Maybe the food cravings you have are not even your own cravings but from a parasite?

A downside to this type of vegan diet, is that it doesn’t consider the different PH levels in the body. The stomach must have a PH value of 1-3. This way harmful pathogens won’t make it any further than the stomach. If you would want to make your body more alkaline, you could eat products with baking soda in it, but this creates problems in your stomach, as it can make the stomach less acidic. This usually causes acid reflux as the top of the stomach won’t close down anymore due to the too alkaline stomach fluids. Consuming a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and eating a balanced diet can help your stomach recover.

Although I wouldn’t worry too much about proteins. There are some essential proteins and fats that the body needs and it can’t get it all from this diet. But consuming more vegetables has proven to be healing for the body.

Paleo

Going back to the original human diet, eating a lot of fruits, (starchy) vegetables, nuts, seeds, fats and occasionally some animal products, might be the middle way to a healthy body. By cutting out the grains and the sugars, and adding some animal fats and protein, the body can have access to all the nutrients that it needs. A downside is that the fruits today are hybrids, they have been cultivated to be a lot sweeter as they used to be. There is an old apple tree that I know, and when I ate its apples, I didn’t recognise the taste. The apples are not as sweet as they are today.

By eating an apple, we experience an increase in our sugar levels. Eventually the peak will become a low and we will crave more sugars. To avoid this, we could eat more healthy fats and feel more satiated. But by combining sugars and fats, our insulin peaks will increase dramatically, this has a lot of negative effects in the body.

High Raw

As most people know, vitamins are mostly destroyed during cooking. To avoid the lack of vitamins, this diet recommends mostly raw vegetables. I met a massive bodybuilder during my travels last year who only ate raw salads and fruits. He was convinced that this diet was all he needed to build muscle. As he was very muscled by eating insane amounts of salads, I came to believe that this might actually work. Raw vegetables contain high amounts of fiber, and this is protecting the space outside of the intestines from infections. People on for example a meat only diet, get a lack of fiber and will develop issues in their gut for this reason.

There is however a side effect to the high raw diet. When you are having ME/CFS, your digestion system has less energy and power to process all the fibers from raw vegetables. There is a possibility that you won’t get enough energy from your food with this diet. There is a reason why people started cooking their food, instead of eating everything raw. Cooking your food will make it easier for the body to get energy. Some say that the invention of cooking is the reason humans could develop big societies. Many people have to start slowly with their raw diet, as their body is unable to digest high amounts of fiber.

The recommendation to cook your meat, is also based on killing pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. With organic, grass fed meats, there is no need to cook your steak. I’ve met people who ate all there meats and fish raw. They did it over a longer period of time and were still healthy. If you do continue eating meat and fish, I recommend buying grass fed animals and be careful to buy fish and meat without antibiotics and added hormones. As I understood from the body builder, the protein story, to get as much of it as possible, is based on a lie. Buying meat from animals who ate an unnatural diet, like cows on corn, has side effects. The animal has had lots of inflammation and deficiencies.  This low quality meat won’t give you the complete vitamin A  source that you’d be looking for by eating meats.

Healthy Keto

This is the diet recommended by Dr Berg on his YouTube channel. Dr Eric Berg is in his mid-50s and looks like he could be in his late 30s. He can explain very well how the digestion system works, which is why he recommends the “healthy keto diet”. In this diet 50% of your food should be vegetables, and 50% is a fat/protein source. In the keto diet, you’d want to limit the amount of carbohydrates to A, switch to ketosis, a state where your energy comes from burning (body) fat, and B recover from insulin resistance (a pre diabetic state).  Between 20 and 50 grams of carbohydrates is recommended per day. The difference between this keto version and the normal keto version is that this version contains a lot of vegetables. Because of the fiber in vegetables you won’t experience an insulin spike from these carbohydrates. Advantages of this diet are no more blood sugar spikes, fast weight loss, serotonin effects in the brain (like with running for an hour) and no more food cravings.

The disadvantages are the need for electrolytes, as the body flushes out a lot body fluids, and for me personally a faster heart rate, that prevents me from sleeping. This was caused by the time the body needs to adapt and a lack of electrolytes. In the beginning you can experience the “carb flue” which will make you tired and if you don’t eat enough fats, you’d be extremely hungry. I have lost 6 pounds in the first week with this diet, but I was already very thin.  Most of this loss was because my body didn’t retain so much fluids anymore. Another thing I didn’t like was how limited the diet looks and how many fat sources have other disadvantages to force you to only eat a limited amount of avocado, fish and nuts, which were also one of the few fat sources beside meat and coconut. Vegetable sources were limited because of the avoidance of starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, parsnips and pumpkins. From all the fruits, only the berries and strawberries have a place in this diet.

If you have a fatty liver and a malfunctioning gallbladder, you would want to be careful with this diet, or support the body with bile salts. This is a natural substance that helps digest fats. If your stool remains too fatty after several weeks, your body is not digesting the fat properly.

Because you are feeling so satiated, this diet is often combined with intermitted fasting.  By giving your intestines time between meals, it might be able to recover faster from conditions like e.g. leaky gut, ulcers  & chron’s.

In the morning many drink a coffee with butter to start the day. Personally I would avoid consuming  caffeine while you are recovering from ME/CFS.

The immune system and many other parts of the body are performing better in the state of ketosis. In the state of ketosis, the liver is making ketones from either the fat stored in the liver, elsewhere in the body or from the food you are consuming. Being in this state has health benefits, it works as an antioxidant, and tissues like the brain and the heart will work better on this fuel source. Nutrients like vitamins and minerals are absorbed much better and as a result, you will need less food. Because sugars make you retain liquid in your body, you would also need less water. Ketosis does give you a bad breath, be careful on your dates.

Medical medium

Anthony William is the guru from this “food religion”. This diet is basically the opposite from the normal keto diet, as he recommends not eating fat and limited animal products. He knows that the combination of fats and carbs put a heavy toll on the body, and he chooses to cut the fats instead of the carbs. Like the ‘healthy keto diet’, this diet contains a lot of vegetables and vegetable juices like his celery juice movement. Many people experience health benefits within weeks, but others report deficiencies in the long run.

Like in Paleo, healthy keto and the alkaline diet, this diet focuses on organic, whole foods. I believe we should eat thess types of foods, so I can’t say anything against that. On his Instagram page, Anthony frequently posts pictures of fruits and vegetables combined with the text that this particular food cleanses the liver. Looking at science he might be right in an indirect way, by not eating refined foods, the body has the opportunity to heal itself. The things he claims about foods are often not scientifically proved, but the food information we have scientifically received in the last 50 years, never turned out to be true either. So I give him the benefit of the doubt in this. Many of the fruits which have healing abilities in his eyes are hybrids and not so natural after all. He does differentiate sugars from fruits or other sources, where according to his spirit source, fructose isn’t that bad as other sugars. Within the keto movement, Dr Berg disagrees. Modern science is backing up Dr Berg’s belief that fructose is accumulated in the liver. A typical post from Anthony is saying that apples are cleansing the liver. An apple nowadays consists of 10% fructose and only 2,4% fiber. To claim that this is cleaning the liver is not based on anything. When I asked this question politely on his instagram post, my question was removed.

Anthony recommends eating several small meals during the day, to keep the blood sugar as even as possible. This again is the opposite from Dr Berg, who even suggests eating one meal a day to give your digestion system time to recover. Before I became sick, I used to listen to the advice of several small meals during the day, but my body didn’t agree with me here.

Since most people with ME/CFS are young and have lived healthy (food) lifestyles before, I don’t believe a fatty liver to be the cause of this illness. Although there certainly will be people who have adrenal fatigue from poor diets. I doubt that Anthony has any knowledge about ME/CFS as well, as he often talks about chronic fatigue from people who feel sluggish due to a fatty liver.

Following Medical Medium’s liver cleanse diet, is probably not doing much for you. Being confronted with no results, Anthony insists that you are not long enough on the diet. His ‘fatty liver diet’ is however not beneficial for the adrenals (the organ that probably needs support with ME/CFS). Continuing this diet without results is madness and puts more stress on the body.

For Anthony, his diet is the sole treatment for almost any condition and mystery illness on this planet. He doesn’t like to make nuances and never backs up a theory with evidence. I like many of his whole (natural) foods ideas as well as the juices. Anthony is making a lot of money with dogmatic advice, some desperate people are paying him a lot of money for consultations. Some of the stories that have become public are quite shocking.

Fasting and water fasting

While you are recovering, I would avoid long term fasting. Because of the stress the body already has a nutrient deficiency, and by not eating and getting nutrients like potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, other trace minerals as well as vitamins, you are putting more stress on the body than you’d want.

Also I wouldn’t recommend any one sided diets like a buckwheat diet, where all you eat is buckwheat for a week, as it can’t provide you with your nutrients.

Pranic breath

There are people that can live from their breathing. The more you align yourself with your being, the more energy you will have and the less food you will need. When you are sick however, it is better not to start this. Instead it is something you can try after you have healed.

Overall

Take from every diet what you like, whole foods and lots of vegetables can never be wrong. Maybe go healthy keto for a few weeks to lose some weight and give your digestive system some rest with intermittent fasting, then switch back to paleo for vitamin A. Take from Medical Medium what resonates with you and eat alkaline if your body has inflammation.

When we still were hunter/gatherers our diet depended strongly on seasons, sometimes we were in ketosis, sometimes we had a lot of fruits and starchy vegetables. Instead of finding a diet for forever, let’s be flexible with it. Things don’t always have to be black or white. We know that the combination of fats and carbs in one meal, spikes insulin. So why not have a fatty breakfast and a medical medium dinner?

While we are very fatigued, changing our diet from grains to vegetables might be exhausting, because of the cravings and the candida die offs. Change your diet slowly. After having ME/CFS for almost a year in 2016, I tried Lee Holmes’ book, Heal your gut. I wasn’t prepared for the effects at all. It caused me to fall even deeper into fatigue. I could still work before the diet, but after a month, that was no longer possible. I’d recommend slowly switching grains for amaranth, quinoa and starchy vegetables and later increase the vegetables and decrease the carbohydrates.

Considering your body type is crucial in choosing your diet. Depending on where your fat is stored on your body, you can determine which organ or body part is in distress. I recommend watching this video to determine your body type. Most people with ME/CFS are having the adrenal body type. This is stress related and we need to support the adrenals with high amounts of fats of protein. Lowering stress in any way should be the number one objective here. Following diet protocols is probably too stressful. Most people who are giving diet advice for chronic fatigue are not talking about ME/CFS as well. The fatigue they often talk about is coming from fatty liver.

Personally, I take things from every diet that I implement in my diet. I like paleo a lot, and combine it with lots of raw salads from the high raw diet to provide me with minerals and trace minerals. I have a vegetable garden that supplies all my salads, and I add some apple cider vinegar to every salad. I often take electrolyte powder for my breakfast and I enjoy to make a green juice but not from celery. Occasionally I eat high quality meats and eggs, and sometimes fatty fish from a good source. I do like starchy vegetables so I eat them frequently and when I feel like it. I add some amaranth or quinoa. Every once in a while I do the healthy keto diet with intermittent fasting and in summer I enjoy the fruits from my fruit trees. Eating this way has made me recover from insulin resitance, irritable bowel syndrome (although I suspect that to be more stress related) and leaky gut. I am really happy at how peaceful and light my digestion feels, this was something I could only dream of prior to ME/CFS.

The overall lesson that I’ve learnt is to listen to my body instead of others. How is my stool, how does my belly feel? If we are estranged from our bodies and natural ways, we might run for mediums and gurus to tell us what to do. This might be part of the process, but there will always have to be a phase where you become so aligned with your body, that your body is your guru. While you are living by the hormones of stress, your analytical mind is hard to shut-down. The mind has lots of stories and beliefs, but the heart knows. A simple yes or no if something is good for you or not. Calm down the nervous system and enter the world of your heart and know what is right for you.

Finally the most important question is, the one that makes this entire blog obsolete, do you enjoy eating?