Balanced diet?

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by loobyloo on Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:54 pm

Balanced diet?

A few related questions about a balanced diet:
It is common to see advice that people with CFS should give up/cut down on certain foods, notably gluten and dairy, but also many other products such as yeast extract, sugar and caffeine. Few of the sources that recommend dietary changes explain the reasons why, but I get the impression that they are mainly aimed at resolving digestive problems?
1) I am fortunate to not suffer from digestive problems and have also tested clear for coeliac disease. I have tried cutting down on gluten and have replaced wheat with other carbohydrates. I also use spelt and other flours in place of wheat flour when cooking from scratch. I have not noticed any particular difference when I eat or avoid gluten, so can I safely include gluten in my diet or is it potentially problematic for my CFS even though I do not have digestive issues?
2) I have cut down on (processed) sugar and caffeine as I imagine that these artificial 'boosts' to energy are not helpful. When I do have sugar (fruit or processed sugars), I try to have it at the end of a meal/with other foodstuffs, to avoid a 'spike' in my blood sugar levels. Is this sensible or misguided?
3) Dietary supplements are commonly recommended but I prefer to get my nutrients naturally as far as possible. I would like to think that a broad and balanced diet would give my body everything it needs to support my recovery. Is this a reasonable assumption or are there certain nutrients that are particularly necessary for people with CFS that are not easily accessed through a balanced diet? (Note, I am vegetarian, so do not eat meat or fish, though I do eat eggs and dairy. My main protein sources are eggs, lentils, soya, Quorn, dairy, nuts).
4) As a cheese-loving vegetarian and a fan of Marmite, it would be hard for me to cut out dairy and yeast products. Again, is the reason for cutting these digestive, or are there other reasons? Can I safely continue to include them in my diet?

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Sue Luscombe
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Joined: Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:19 am

by Sue Luscombe on Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:58 pm

Re: Balanced diet?

Hello loobyloo

Yes people with CFS are commonly told to cut down on gluten, dairy, yeast, sugar and caffeine and in general make diet changes. We reckon over 60% of people with CFS do have some gut problems or irritable bowel type symptoms so digestive problems are common and a reason for suggesting diet changes sometimes.

However, if you do not have any gut symptoms there is no need to cut out foods as there is no evidence these diets help CFS. What’s more there is a risk with restrictive diets of this being unhelpful. The more basic foods are cut out, the greater the chance of poor nutrition from lack of energy and protein to all the many vitamins and minerals the body needs for health. This could undermine the body’s immune system and recovery. Following a gluten free diet is also more expensive. It can mean more effort in shopping and preparing food and hardship in having to eat separately from others in the house - all unwelcome consequences if you have not felt any differences.

Caffeine. Many report this helps their symptoms and makes them feel better for cutting down or out, but people tolerate different amounts. I would not encourage high caffeine intak,e but if you enjoy a regular coffee and have no symptoms there is no added benefit with CFS to cutting out caffeine. Not drinking caffeinated drinks after 6pm if you have sleep difficulties is sensible though.

Sugar. Again go by what your body tells you. Some find sugary fizzy drinks and high sugar foods do not suit and give a feeling of an energy spike and then an energy slump a short time after. The research on following an anti-candida diet, (low sugar and yeast), by the ME Association found no evidence that cutting out sugar and yeast helps those with CFS. However cutting down on processed and sugary foods is sensible, as the gap from cutting back can be used to eat more nutritious foods.

Dietary supplements. I completely agree with your statement that “broad and balanced diet would give my body everything it needs to support my recovery” if eating well. There is no need, or any added value, to routinely take a dietary supplement.

Vegetarian diet. Many eating a vegetarian diet with a wide range of foods from the main food groups eat very well, and will get more than adequate intake of all the different nutrients the body needs. As with any diet, the greater the variety the better. You have mentioned a good variety that you eat and by including milk and egg will help ensure adequate nutrient intake. It is people who additionally cut out milk with no calcium enriched alternative, and egg, and restrict further, who are more at risk of low intake of nutrients such as iron, Vit B12 and calcium.
Be reassured that your thinking on diet is sound!
Sue Luscombe
Specialist Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant - R.D.

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