Regaining my health after years of Anorexia has certainly been a mighty saga. It’s been four years since I was last in treatment for it, but it’s only in the last six months that I’ve actually been feeling physically good. I finally have as much energy, or even more energy than the average ‘healthy’ person. It’s not a slog to get through the day. I don’t have slumps where I have to do basically nothing to wait until my energy returns. And I have motivation to get in and get things done! It’s such a good thing after 15 years of illness.
I’ll start the story from when I was in a good place moving on from the ED and able to work on getting steady nutrition into my body. Before that was years of not being able to eat enough. I was ordinarily either losing weight (even if just gradually) or in hospital programs gaining weight. So five years ago after I decade of that I was intolerant to nearly every food! Eating made me feel worse than restricting did. And that’s a mighty awful predicament when it’s hard enough to eat anyway.
I was reacting to natural salicylates in foods as well as amines and glutamates (all chemicals found naturally in lots of different foods). So I had to eat foods that were low in those which rules out a LOT of foods. I still have to be a little careful having just small amounts of high salicylate foods.
I had to follow the low FODMAP food list also, avoiding foods high in fermentable complex sugars. Those foods are a common cause of IBS troubles. That meant avoiding other foods like apples and pears (unless they were cooked), cabbage, beans and onion. I was also intolerant to other foods, including rice, soy, eggs, wheat, dairy and a few others. (I still avoid wheat and dairy but all the others I can have now.)
The plain elimination diet seemed to only make me more sensitive, as I was reacting after six months of it to the limited foods that I was able to eat.
Thankfully I heard about a treatment available in a neighbouring state. For one year then I was using a desensitisation treatment for food intolerances and other allergies (like cats and mould). I went to a specialist clinic for testing and had a custom treatment made up. I had to inject a specific amount of it each day. Learning to give myself a subcutaneous injection was kind of novel. And though it was expensive, it was definitely worth it. It’s called Low Dose Immunotherapy. Click here for their website.
Because there weren’t many foods at all that I could eat for a time, and I didn’t have much energy of motivation for food prep (there’s only so much buckwheat and millet with plain chicken and green beans that one can eat), I needed an elemental liquid meal supplement. One that is what they call ‘predigested’ with no whole proteins in it. I needed a dietician’s prescription for it. I also tried to rotate the foods that I was eating on a four day cycle, to reduce my reactivity to them, but I wasn’t really organised enough to do that. If I couldn’t have afforded the Low Dose Immunotherapy treatment, then I think that the Rotation Diet approach would have been necessary.
I also got intravenous vitamin treatments. I think I had about four with mostly vitamin C, but B vitamins as well and a couple of other things. That was pricy too and for the first hour or so after I felt a bit unwell and had to rest, but I do think that alongside the Low Dose Immunotherapy treatment it was part of what started the turn around for the better with my health improving and reacting much less to foods and other things.
I discovered that my body wasn’t converting B vitamins properly, as I have a faulty MTHFR gene, so for a year I took activated B vitamin drops, of vitamin B6, B9 and B12. This problem is common in those prone to mental health issues and seems to be quite common. It’s worth looking into it.
I’ve needed intramuscular iron injections because of low intake over the years, but also because of poor absorption.
I’ve needed digestive support: betaine hydrochloride (BHCl) is a stomach acid supplement for people with hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) and digestive enzyme supplements which work mostly in the small intestine and help when the pancreas isn’t producing enough. Taking these helped reduce my symptoms after eating and helps with getting maximum benefit from the foods we eat. You’ll find BHCl in small amounts in some common digestive supplements, but I found a tablet that has 650mg and that much actually helped me. 300mg might be enough, so sometimes I take half a tablet. Less than that didn’t help me much. The most obvious way I can tell that they’re helping is by how much gas (the upward kind) I get straight after a meal, especially after a meal with protein in it. Getting no gas is a sign of good digestion. 🙂
I’ve taken a stack of supplement tablets, and my word, did I get sick of taking tablets. But, often when we’re so depleted, it is really hard to build up the body’s levels again with food only. I’ve had normal blood tests and also live blood analysis as well as muscle testing (kinesiology) which showed at various times that I was low in certain things and has guided me in what supplements to take. I reckon it helps to get the tests to know that there’s a real reason for taking the supplements. (Though having said that, tests might often show up ‘normal’ levels. A blood level is going to be different to an intracellular level of a vitamin or mineral. The body will work hard to maintain a normal blood level though the intracellular level might be quite low. Intracellular testing is more expensive and doctors don’t always know about it.) At times when I couldn’t get testing done a good quality multivitamin has been helpful.
I think that taking Zinc has been especially helpful. I did have low Zn levels and I probably have Pyroluria which causes low Zinc and B6 levels. I haven’t been tested, but my son tested positive and it’s genetic.
The most recent super-helpful thing I added just about 8 months ago. Last year I was researching why my iron levels kept dropping even though I eat enough red meat and I found that vitamin A is a co-factor. That means that our bodies need vitamin A in order to absorb and use Iron. So, I boosted my vitamin A intake, mostly with ghee (clarified butter – I actually learnt how to clarify butter myself!! 🙂 ) and I feel like that is the last big missing piece of my health puzzle. When I added that, I felt like I’d come home. I never thought that I food could complete me, I mean, I have a nice husband, but with him and butter in my life, I feel complete! 🙂 I probably added in about 20grams per day, though sometimes more because I make the yummiest British Flapjack (oat slice) with heaps of butter in it and it’s was sooo good!
Oh, also, I must say, having an unrefined salt in my life also makes me feel complete. And butter and salt are a great combo. I usually buy Celtic Sea Salt as it naturally has iodine in it. And lastly, there’s some vital natural acids that have really boosted my energy levels. Lemons, limes and apple cider vinegar are the best natural sources. Citric acid as a powder can work too. It seems especially good with poor exercise tolerance. Oh actually, one more thing, I’ve got a bottle of Tri-salts on the way to me and I’m hoping that will help with my energy levels and exercise recovery. I’ll have to update you about that in a few weeks time.
So, apart from the obvious – plenty of good food and fluids – these are all the things I’ve had to do to recover my health after anorexia. I think that’s all the main things, anyway. There’s been other little things, like trying to address Leaky Gut and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) but those can wait til another day. 🙂
Blessings to all, and to those who find looking after their health difficult, remember that making one small improvement at a time, when you can, will get you to your goal eventually. This was all a very long process for me and I sure did have to learn patience along the way.