Hi everyone - am just starting on raw food, but I'm afraid my health situation is complex - I'll try to explain it simply, and any insight you could offer would be wonderful!
I'm a 54yo female, peri-menopausal, slim, fairly fit - jog 5kms 3X/wk - and never fall ill with colds, flu etc, but have been very pressured for lengthy periods during the last few years due to intensive studies.
For about 4 years, I was on a 100% organic (and almost-paleo-style) diet - breakfast was raw grapefruit, then blueberries with coconut flakes, then lightly steamed tomato & spinach with wild salmon or occasionally eggs; I had no lunch (the idea was to burn fat all day rather than carbs, but this may have been stressing my system unduly without me realising it) but drank green tea all day, but had lots of water when at gym 3 x/week); dinner was generally snacks of walnuts, almonds and celery, followed by a very large salad of watercress, purple cabbage, carrot, red capsicum, avocado and nori, with dressing of garlic, yoghurt & flax oil. Sometimes I had grilled kangaroo steak or wild salmon with the salad. Occasionally some berries with yoghurt for dessert. We would eat out occasionally (very rare when I was studying) and I would just try to eat fish, avoid starch and have plenty of veggies and/or salad; very small amounts of 1/2 glass of red wine.
Initially this diet was fantastic - no more carbohydrate cravings, much more energy, skin and muscle tone was much better, IBS almost a thing of the past.
However, after about 1 year, I started to get a slight neuropathy (tingling and numbness) in my right foot - this was initially thought to be due to stretching of a nerve in my leg due to a bad ankle fracture. About 1 year later, I injured my neck in the gym, and a few weeks later some neuropathy symptoms started in my right arm and hand - these were thought to be due to the neck injury, but scans showed nothing obvious (disc problems etc) so again it was put down to a stretched nerve. In both cases, I tried stopping all exercise for a period of time, but this made no real difference - there was a little improvement over time.
However, 1 year ago (after about 3 years on this diet, and a tough year of study) I started to have neuropathy symptoms in my LEFT arm, and waves of tingling on the right side of my face and scalp - these would wake me at night. I now knew this could not be due to injuries, so had a thorough medical checkup - all blood tests and brain scans showed nothing, so medically it was just a "wait and see" approach.
I began to suspect the diet (as there is no history of MS or such symptoms in my family - and I was also starting to feel very cold during the daytime, with fingertips losing circulation and starting to "tent" badly) - so I decided to start eating some Essene rye bread at lunchtime (instead of fasting all day on green tea), and some rolled flaxseed and banana at bedtime so I wouldnt be woken at night - this helped somewhat with the neuropathy, very gradually. So grains in particular - not just any carbohydrates - seem to have something do with the problem (I could eat LOTS of bananas or other fruit and still need to eat a piece of rye bread to settle down the symptoms).
Then 6 months ago, virtually directly after very stressful mid-year exams, I started to be awoken at night with a very strong and localised numb feeling in my upper left arm, which made the whole arm feel "shaky", followed by palpitations and then a sense of pulsing in my neck, followed by strong pressure behind my eyes and a feeling of "fogginess" in the entire left half of my head. I would have to have some flaxseed and a banana in order to settle it down enough to get back to sleep. These symptoms, with occasionally some vision disturbance as well, would gradually dissipate over the morning.
I immediatley saw a doctor and it turned out my blood pressure was high (140/80, then 150/80 at its worst). Blood tests and ECG showed nothing, so I was told it was anxiety causing the palpitations and high blood pressure, and was meant to go back to the neurologist for the neuropathic symptoms.
It was suggested I do everything possible to alleviate stress, or I would have to eventually take blood pressure medication. So I cut down green tea to a mximum 1 cup/day and started to drink as much water as possible, eliminated all salt, stopped nori in case it contained mercury which was causing the neuropathy (a naturopath consultation early in 2007 supposedly showed a lot of heavy metal toxins, but at the time I couldnt think where they could come from). This seemed to hold things at bay enough to get through the final exams.
After the exams, I saw the neurologist, who reviewed the symptoms and said since the brain scan had shown nothing, it must be migraines causing the neurological symptoms, and anxiety causing the palpitations and high blood pressure. I was prescribed something, but decided to first try homeopathy and acupuncture instead. I had several treatments through January but they really havent helped, so I'm not sure if it's worth continuing. In fact I probably got worse, and for 2.5wks have been travelling with no access to the flaxseed or Essene bread, so in desperation decided to abolish all thoughts of a "paleo" diet and start eating a lot of cooked brown rice at regular intervals - this has helped a little bit but it's variable. The cycle of symptoms (maybe made worse by the homeopathic tretament ? - it was supposed to make things worse for only a week, then better, but this hasnt happened; he said that was a bad sign and gave me the last treatment by inhalation only - he just gives ONE dose then sees what unfolds over several weeks) comes at any time of the day or night, and I have to eat some grains and banana to calm it down : numbness in left arm, then burning/pulsing in carotids, then palpitations, then left brain fog or pain, then finally get very hot, especially face and neck (I dont get "hot flushes" at any other time except at the end of this cycle of symptoms, this seems more like a sympathetic nervous system response to feeling my heart and circulation to my brain are threatened).
Before going away for the last 2.5wks, and after reading somewhere that "if you are ALREADY sick, you should eat 100% raw" (and I clearly have SOMETHING wrong with me, even if it doesnt have a name) I decided to start trying a raw diet, for a week before going overseas. I replaced the cooked veg and protein for breakfast, with
(1) a green smoothie (cucumber, celery, greens - watercress/spinach/broccoli/bokchoy) and (2) diced tomato, avo, sprouted mung beans, soaked pepitas and sunflower seeds, ACV and olive oil.
I was having another green smoothie and a banana at lunchtime to try to avoid the need for Essene ryebread, but generally still needed 1 piece. For dinner, I was having my usual favourite salad (described above) but with some added mungbean sprouts and using ACV/lime juice instead of yoghurt, followed by a dessert of raw apple tart. I was trying to avoid having the flaxseed at bedtime, but this often resulted in waking up and having to have it during the night anyway.
Anyway, I ordered some raw recipe books and have been reading as much as possible, because if the "paleo-style" diet CAUSED my problems I sure dont want to make them WORSE with the wrong approach to a new diet/lifestyle.
I think there must be nutrients in grains which I was missing (possible IP6, inositol hexaphosphate is one, it's apparently only found in the outer part of grains, and I wasnt getting any of it for 4 years!), so I now feel I have to eat a LOT more grains than average, to make up for all those years - so I think I'll have to take some sprouted oats for lunch (or swap them with the breakfast veggies), and some sprouted rice for dessert. Probably 3 days/week I'll have time to make a fancier dinner from some raw food recipe books. Does this seem a reasonable diet plan? Is it important to minimise fruit - if not i could blend apple/banana/raisins with the sprouted grains, and have them with some sunflower/almond milk?
I think I have a hormonal imbalance, maybe caused by all my hormone production being diverted to cope with stress and daily "starvation" (I even wondered if my 8-hour daytime fasts were causing the neuropathy due to starvation ketoacidosis!) - it's a bit hard to tell because at my age my periods are likley to be stopping anyway - basically my periods were regular but light for many years, then started to become irregular and only to occur when I was on holidays and relaxed - that last point and the fact that my sister was still having regular periods, made me think it was something other than my age that was involved. Also, i came to notice that I had some blond downy facial hair on the sides of my face (NOT around jaw and mouth), which again I thought may be more of a "starvation"-type hormonal imbalance rather than menopausal, because my sister and mother never had facial hair and nor did I.
I was having sage tea (supposed to be good for brain - for my study!) every morning and using a lot of essential oils suposed to be good for brainpower, exercise and perimenopause : 6 drops of rosemary oil all over my wet skin EVERY morning for the last 6 months (coinciding with the blood pressure and palpitations!); prior to that, 3 drops each of rosemary, eucalyptus and thyme all over each morning, and at night 2 drops each of lavender, geranium and clary sage on my abdomen and breasts. I think these oils may also cause high blood pressure and possibly upset hormones!
I only JUST realised 10 days ago that the oils may cause problems, so have now stopped all oils.
That's it! Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated, and sorry this was so long, it's a complex picture and probably several things have interacted over a few years to cause this situation - thankyou SO much for any help, anyone!
Even though I'm working to go a much higher percent raw, I think lots of raw foodist who think they need to be 100% raw are missing the forest for the trees. So many people define themselves on what they DON'T eat. Our bodies were made to extract as much nutrition as possible from ANY food source. Otherwise mankind wouldnt flourish in so many varied environments.
With soil depletion, and a generally increasingly inferior world wide food supply, maximizing nutrition intake with raw foods makes a lot of sense. However the truth is, there are lots of vegetables, grains etc that are actually unusable by the body unless they're cooked. As long as food's made with good ingredients, variety is key to hedging your nutritional bets.
I see people all the time bragging that they want to get down to eating just this one food item as some kind of pure diet. I can never understand how people think limiting variety in their diet is a positive (as long as the usual poisons of refined sugar, salts, starches and other zero nutritional scourges are eliminated). The more varied good food sources are, the more nutritional bases you're covering.
In your case, your body is obviously not well and you should be getting as much nutrition from as many sources as possible. Lightly cooked foods, superfoods, even more animal sources like dairy, high quality meats etc. Try it all to find what you're missing and give your body something to work with to heal itself.
Being a lacto-vegetarian I understand the lack of desire for meats and don't think you need to go that far if you're firmly against it. But my suggestion would be to forget about 100% raw food or any other narrow nutritional dogma and help your body with as many nutritional sources as you can find. Pump your body full of nutrients and you'll be surprised how well it can heal itself.
I'd also recommend some adaptagen food sources such as Goji berries, Korean Ginseng extract, etc. Adaptagen's by definition work by nutritionally adapting to the body to give it whatever it's lacking, and put things back in balance. It sounds too good to be true, but I can tell you in the case of high quality Ginseng extract and high quality Goji berries they absolutely work as advertised. When I'm feeling out of whack and don't know what's wrong with me, a cup of pure Korean Ginseng extract tea, always seems to fix whatever it is. And even as a preventative, it's one of the best blood tonics anywhere.
Overall, to repeat, I'd say forget about ANY kind of restrictive diet and go for any kind of nutrtional food source you can find. It's not about Brownie points or bragging rights, it should be all about maximum maximum nutrition to heal yourself.