Fighting fatigue and increasing my energy
Although I felt considerably better after eliminating gluten and coffee, my energy level was not at a 10/10 (which is something I feel now, after 3 years of incorporating naturopathic principles into my life). Another culprit behind my fatigue, I learned from Marie-Josée, was the consumption of refined sugars that had high glycemic indexes. White and cane sugar and refined starches that break down into sugars (potatoes, white rice, wheat) cause your blood sugar to spike really high. So the roller-coaster of sugar spikes and sugar crashes causes tiredness and lethargy. On the flip side of that, it’s also really important to eat regularly to avoid a drop in sugar level — you’ll also experience that as fatigue. It’s all about striking a balance so that you’re nourishing yourself at a steady pace avoiding spikes that are too high and dips that are too low (starving and under-eating is a huge source of stress on the body just like eating too much sugar can be).
Learning to favor healthier sugar sources in my diet
The goal was not to cut the taste of “sweet” from my diet. Many sweet things are not created equally. A gluten-free banana loaf sweetened with bananas is not the same as skittles. They have different Glycemic Indexes and as much as possible, you want to aim for low GI sweeteners that won’t send your blood sugar shooting up. Besides, the world of refined-sugar free baking is really exciting because it gives you the opportunity to add really wholesome ingredients and nutrients into your sweet treats (think flax and chia eggs, nutrient-rich gluten-free flours, apple sauce and banana purees, dates, nut butters…) Some fruit based sugars and unrefined sugars can sweeten your desserts perfectly well while remaining low on the GI scale. My favorite sugars to use will always be coconut and date sugar/syrup. I also have an apple-based sweetener that I picked up — I don’t use it as often but it’s perfectly good.
Experimenting with homemade gluten-free and vegan desserts
After avoiding refined sugars for a while, my palette and tolerance for sugar changed. Desserts bought from stores and candy would get my heart rate up. And again, the jittery feeling of a sugar high would creep in (I really dislike it because it makes me anxious). Unfortunately, agave syrup did that for me too so I don’t use it even though lots of people hype it up. It just doesn’t work for me. I was kind of wired into not using maple syrup and honey back when I was working with my naturopath because they also tend to spike your sugar and I haven’t tried them recently so I don’t know if they’ll pass my “sugar high” bench mark. As long as my homemade treats don’t give me a high, I’m happy. And I’m happy to share the recipes that work for me on this blog too! If they do spike my sugar, then I tweak the recipe and play around. It takes a while to get to this place, but at this point, a lot of my choices are intuitive. I’m always happy to walk you through how I got there.
I’ll write more about my struggles weening off sugar (as easy as cutting coffee was, sugar was much harder). The point of this post was to clarify why cutting sugar and coffee and gluten (which you can read about here) were so essential in helping me feel energized and operational again! I hope this inspires you to tune into your body and check in: have you ever felt dependent on coffee and sugar and have you ever wondered why? Have you ever experienced brain fog and been able to figure out the culprit behind it?