A Real Fiber Challenge

256px-annibale_carracci_the_beaneaterI have just completed the most fascinating 30 day food experiment. Well, actually, my husband and kids requested that I cut it short at 29 days, so it was actually just a mere 29 days. I’ve read that what we eat affects our brain, and I believe it, but during this “30 day” experiment, I lived it! It was very uncomfortable, like how I picture walking around hypo-manic would feel.

Experiment

My goal was to eat 50 grams of fiber from real, whole foods, supplementing if I had to with supplemental powders for 30 days. Nothing was counted except fiber grams, and only those as listed in a nutrition facts count on any given internet site or on any given label. No resistant starch was included to get me to the 50 gram mark, so I am sure with resistant starch included, I was definitely exceeding 50 grams of fiber daily.

Foods

I realized very quickly how hard getting 50 grams of real, whole food fiber was going to be, and that my normally vegetable rich diet wasn’t going to get me but less than half of 50 grams! THAT was a SHOCKER!  I love red cabbage and broccoli, but at 2 grams of fiber a cup, I couldn’t eat enough of that stuff to get me anywhere close to 50 grams! (Most fruit is the same way! About 2-3 grams per cup!)

I didn’t have a set list of foods. I just looked for the highest fiber counts I could. What did I eat all month?

  • Beans about daily
  • Avocado about daily
  • Chia about daily
  • Bananas very commonly
  • Sweet corn in season
  • 100% whole grain/seed buckwheat, quinoa, and seed-based soaked and fermented homemade bread
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Flax
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Peas
  • Dried fruit: figs, apricots, dates
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Pumpkin
  • Berries
  • Plantains
  • Sauerkraut
  • Peanut butter
  • Cocoa powder/cacao nibs
  • Bulleted list is getting too long: Broccoli, red cabbage, kale, cabbage, cilantro, parsley, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, rice

Results

Appetite: After my mid-morning 25 grams breakfast/brunch of the above foods, I was not hungry. The first week I had pretty intense cravings for sweets, but these calmed down by week two. By week two throughout week four, I was NOT hungry. Nothing sounded good. It was hard to cook for my family because nothing sounded good. I just wanted to hand them more beans and say, “Supper’s ready!” I forced myself to eat more because I wanted to try to hit the 50 gram mark. I literally couldn’t do it. So about every night I had to top off with about 10 grams of chia seed or inulin powder.

Weight: I started with my appetite rather than my weight because some people will find the weight gain disturbing. I started at about 138 pounds, and I ended up at about 146 pounds. I believe my weight went up because I forced myself to eat. Had I let my eating follow my appetite, the numbers may have been different. HOWEVER, my husband gained 5 pounds this month! This is one reason he feels he gets a veto on any diet I experiment on myself (and subsequently my family) with. He didn’t like the high fiber diet. Isn’t that strange he gained weight? I thought so!

Endocrine: My two-hour postprandials ran in the 90s. This is where they ran before this experiment as well.

Neurological: Three days into the diet I developed a severe headache which didn’t go away until on about day four I took an Aleve. I used to take Aleve about three times a week before I changed my diet (four years ago). I now take it maybe once or twice a year. Also, by the third day, brain fogginess and tiredness had set in.

I could have tossed all this onto a stressful life heap, but what was new was a tremor! By about the third day, I developed a fine tremor which made buttoning buttons difficult. I just felt tremulous throughout. The tremor lasted until about week three, when it slowly receded. In this time, I tried changing my coffee, because it felt like you feel when you have too much coffee.

Psychological: Flat. Flat. Flat. Edgy. Edgy. Edgy. Go. Go. Go. OCD. OCD. OCD. Forgetful. Forgetful. Forgetful. (Because I literally felt like my mind was on speed.) My kids wanted me to stop the diet. My husband wanted me to stop the diet. I wanted to stop the diet, but I wanted to see where this would take me. My husband said, “Maybe you’re depressed.” I felt like my face would crack if I smiled, and I said, “I don’t think I’m depressed. I don’t feel like I’m depressed.” So I watched some hilarious YouTube videos and laughed my socks off. I wasn’t depressed.

But my brain was bad. It had a motor and it wouldn’t shut off. My whole body had a jittery motor! No meditation. No prayer. No sitting watching TV. No whatever—would make my brain shut off. I corresponded with some people during this time, and I know they think I’m a raging lunatic. I accept it that I have some of those qualities above, or at least have some of them at various times; they make me me! I like a clean house. I like my to-do list done. But this was taking all those traits and raising them to the 50th power all at the same time!

With that tremor, headache, fogginess, racing mind, edginess—I just was a mess. The second reason my husband says he gets diet veto power!

Gastrointestinal: I usually cruise along happily on what I eat, but occasionally, I get it in my head that it’s time to try something new to see if I can get off of magnesium, which I see no end in sight of. I’ll be on it till I die. (Don’t get me wrong! I’m happy that it works! That’s more than many people with severe slow transit have!) My constipation flared up after three days into the experiment (along with that horrid headache), and I had to up my magnesium. Then, I overshot, of course. Then, distended anal vessels flared up from the overshoot and from the increased abdominal distention. Ouchie.

Usually, I take my magnesium about every third day, and it still works “daily.” On this experiment, I had to take magnesium every night. Bummer.

Bloating was very bad the first week. Then, by week two, it actually decreased to less than my normal baseline! That was nice! It came back for some reason the last week of the experiment.

I checked a UBiome right at the start of my little experiment, and then the kit was in the room where they baby was sleeping. So no UBiome after.

Reproductive: At the end of the first week, I was having hot flashes at night and very restless sleep, along with the tremor I already mentioned. These went away by the end of week two. I had Mittelschmerz that woke me up one night, which I’ve never had before, although that’s maybe not fair. I’ve had it during the day a couple of times before like that.

Summary:

At the third day of week one, things were uncomfortable: headaches, brain fog, flatness, irritability, jittery, tremulous, bloating, constipation. I hung in there this way for two weeks. At that point, I decided maybe I’d have to take a day off this challenge. So, I fasted and my head and tremor seemed to improve dramatically late morning and early afternoon. Then, at 3 pm, since I felt good, I decided to get back at it.

All my symptoms returned by late evening. I took to eating a late breakfast/early lunch to have some moments of clarity. By the end of three weeks, I could feel, and my husband noted too, that I was having increased moments where I was more “me” again, even after eating. What was surprising was that this week was a very stressful week in our home, with a common childhood disease making the rounds of the house. Yet, I was feeling calmer. Still not baseline (which, lol, isn’t all that calm to begin with!).

I’m two days off the high fiber diet, and I’m feeling like me again.

Go ahead and criticize my self-study. There are flaws. I DIDN’T put it on the internet to bash high fiber in any way, shape, or form. I am putting it here for us to maybe learn something together. I’ve come up with a differential in my head. What do you come up with? (But be nice. My kids read my blog stuff.)

I’ve decided that I won’t jump into high fiber suddenly. That was pretty painful.

With respectful regards and voracious, healthy curiosity,

Terri

PS: Always be careful! Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider before you make any big changes. Don’t use internet information to experiment without your doctor or healthcare provider knowing and being on board.

Addendum: After thinking on this more and more, I’m thinking that my poor results stem from either sensitivity to the foods I started consuming more of (chia, non-gluten grains, legumes) or dysbiosis of my GI tract leading to these symptoms. I do not believe it was the “fiber” per se.

Image attribution: Annibale Carracci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain, PD-Art.

 

 

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