I am doing my first ever 21-Day Sugar Detox. What is this Sugar Detox of which I speak? It is Diane Sanfilippo (of www.BalancedBites.com and Practical Paleo fame) ‘s signature program. Three full weeks of avoiding sugars, sweeteners, dense carbohydrates (with allowances for athletes and pregnant/lactating women), and fruit. For more information, click here.
Many people follow a Sugar Detox as a way of quickly resetting body chemistry (specifically blood sugar regulation) and sensitizing taste buds when they feel that they are riding the sugar roller coaster (intense sugar cravings that lead to sugar binges, followed by sugar highs, followed by sugar lows, followed by more cravings). Within the paleo community, this might mean someone who has been giving into some SAD foods, or someone who has been indulging in too much paleofied baked foods, or even someone who is just feeling like they’re fruit intake is excessive. It is essentially a fast way to reduce sugar cravings (let’s be honest because this really only gets rid of biochemical sugar cravings and not emotional ones) and get back on the bandwagon when we feel things unraveling.
Do I feel like things are unraveling? Actually, no. I feel like I’ve been in completely control over my diet. I’ve been following the autoimmune protocol very strictly, doing a great job of avoiding snacking and eating in the evenings (I’m trying to work on hunger hormone regulation here, more on this in a future post), and have indulged in very limited paleo baking over the last two weeks (mainly because I only made one kind of cookie that didn’t have eggs or nuts in them this year).
So, why am I doing the 21-Day Sugar Detox? Sugar is inflammatory. Fructose reduces leptin sensitivity. Leptin helps regulate the immune system (more on this in a future post too). I have an autoimmune disease. I avoid starches because of SIBO, but I eat a whole lot of fruit. I have been curious for a while whether or not that amount of fruit in my diet is helping or hurting me.
Last time I attempted to substantially reduce my fruit intake (while still not eating starchy vegetables), my body did not respond well to going so low carbohydrate (this was back in the early spring). I had a cortisol response and found my sleep quality decreased substantially. When I increased my carbohydrate intake, my sleep improved and I felt much better. So, I’ve stuck with that. But I know so much more now, and I think it’s time to try again, doing things a little differently than last time.
I figure I typically eat between 100g and 150g of carbohydrates (total, not net) per day, predominantly from fruit and non-starchy vegetables; but a little honey or maple syrup sneak in here and there. I think this is very healthy for most people and I don’t think that most people really need to limit fruit (unless you are dealing with inflammation, autoimmune disease, metabolic syndrome, or having strong sugar cravings). But, I am not most people and many people with autoimmune disease reporting having a very low tolerance for fruit, especially high fructose fruit.
Going too low carbohydrate can also reduce leptin sensitivity, which would totally defeat the purpose here. So, I will be eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and those higher starch content veggies that I know I tolerate well (like carrots, winter squash and beets). Quantities of beets and butternut squash are limited on the 21-Day Sugar Detox, and I will be adhering to that (because the allowance is already more than I can typically tolerate anyway). I will also be continuing to avoid coffee (oh how I miss it though!) and working to keep my intake of caffeinated teas on the low side (my intake has crept up lately so I really need to get that in check anyway). I will continue to use coconut oil and red palm oil as major fat sources in my diet to hopefully help avoid a cortisol response or reducing my leptin sensitivity.
Oh yeah, and I am doing this while also adhering to the autoimmune protocol.
The 21-Day Sugar Detox allows 1 green apple or 1 green-tipped banana per day. I will be adding 1 small grapefruit to this list (and probably eating grapefruit every day instead, although just in case I crave a green apple in a couple of weeks, I’m keeping that option open). Why grapefruit? I have a 12-year history of chronic constipation before transitioning to a paleo diet. I am battling SIBO and my digestion is still precarious. I have found that eating grapefruit improves my digestion (probably a combination of digestive enzymes in grapefruit and the acid). I am also taking some digestive support supplements, but I really feel like going grapefruit-free would be counterproductive for me. I also feel that grapefruit falls into the same category as green apples and green bananas: it doesn’t taste very sweet. Grapefruit has the added benefit of being lower in sugar than either green apples or bananas, and having slightly less than half of its sugars as fructose (that beats apples but not bananas). This is my slight modification. The inclusion of grapefruit as an allowed fruit (but still limiting quantity).
What am I hoping to gain on the 21-Day Sugar Detox? I am hoping to better understand the role that fruit is playing in my diet. Is it contributing vitamins and antioxidants and helping control inflammation? Is the sugar content contributing to inflammation? Is my higher carbohydrate intake helping to regulate my cortisol? Is my higher carbohydrate intake inhibiting normal regulation of my immue system? I am not doing this to address sugar cravings. I am not doing this to lose weight (although I’ll take it if I happen to). I am not doing this because I believe that fruit is in any way bad for you (at least most of you).
What will I judge my success on? Well, largely on the symptoms I associated with my autoimmune disease: the look and itchiness of my lichen planus lesions, how my joints feel, the frequency of the mild headaches and tinnitus I sometimes get, how I’m sleeping, my energy level, my mood and my ability to handle stress. The bigger part of this evaluation is going to be how I feel when I add more fruit back in at the end of these three weeks.
So, I’m on Day 1 as I type this. How is it going? I have already hit my first speed bump. My mom is visiting and she also loves grapefruit. We have both been eating grapefruit every day, so we actually shared the last one for breakfast this morning. Because there were so many other things that I had to do today, I sent my husband to the grocery store. I instructed him to look for white grapefruit, since they are the least sweet, then pink if he couldn’t find white. He came home with oroblancos.
I didn’t know what oroblancos were either. They are a cross between an acidless pomelo and a white grapefruit. They look alot like slightly green grapefruit, but have a super thick peel so the fruit inside is the size of an orange, if that. According to Wikipedia, they are sweeter than white grapefruit. I nearly cried when I read that. I also closed some doors a little more forcefully than normal. Now I have no grapefruit in the house (nor green enough bananas nor green apples) and I’m on Day 1 and I won’ t have time to run out to the store for a couple of days.
My mother came to the rescue. She peeled and ate an oroblanco with her lunch. She made such a face at how tart they are, that I agreed to try a segment. Well, they are slightly sweeter than white grapefruit, but they are NOT sweet. Probably about the same as or slightly tarter than the pink grapefruit I’ve been buying. I also don’t like them as much as grapefruit. I figure that’s actually completely in line with 21-Day Sugar Detox philosophy.
So, I’m going to include 1 small grapefruit OR 1 oroblanco. I don’t know if oroblancos will help my digestion as much as grapefruit do, but I figure I can make do for a couple of days until I have time to go out shopping and buy actual grapefruit. So, a speed bump, but not a calamity (even if it felt like one for about twenty minutes).
As mentioned in my New Year’s post, I am going to be the featured blogger for January on The 21-Day Sugar Detox Blog. I also posted photos my meals today on Facebook (I know many people are interested in how do you eat AIP and 21-Day Sugar Detox?!) and will try to keep that up for the next three weeks as much as possible. I will also be posting updates on my Facebook page and Twitter, on the 21-Day Sugar Detox Facebook page, and a post or two on the blog over the next few weeks about how I’m feeling, what effects I may or may not be noticing, and generally how this whole sugar detox thing is going for me.
If you are interested in joining me on this 21-Day Sugar Detox adventure, it’s not too late to start (or you could start February 1st if you wanted to too). This is the biggest group ever and one of the reasons why it is so successful is because of the online community of people making you feel like you are not alone as you go through the (sometimes way not fun) transition to a lower sugar diet. Solidarity!