If there’s one thing that I hear from post-ops, it’s about cravings.
“Why am I getting these cravings?”
“What causes these crazy out of control cravings I’m getting?”
“How do I get rid of cravings?”
“Why do I feel like these cravings are controlling so much of my life?”
“Where did my will power go? I used to have some – now I wouldn’t know it if I tripped over it!”
Post-ops are mad, sad, confused, and feeling that they’ve failed somehow because of the power that these “stupid cravings!!!” have in their lives. And honestly, cravings in and of themselves aren’t evil. Sometimes we crave stuff our bodies really need: fish, for example. Nearly every early post-op suddenly has this overwhelming craving for seafood of some sort. Nine times out of ten – they have sliding Vitamin D levels. Craving ice and/or sour stuff? Good chance you could be anemic. The cravings that so many are battling and are so concerning, though, are the things that are very simple carb driven and nutritionally bankrupt. Those not only are a waste of space for someone with limited stomach real estate, but wreck intestinal havoc, and cause weight gain.
And let’s be honest, post-ops don’t own this one. I think if you stop and listen to people when they talk about what drives what they eat, you’re going to eventually end up talking about cravings. It’s a universal concern.
The thing that makes it seemingly magnified for DS post-ops, however, is the fact that our GI system is altered. We have shortened motility (length of time it takes ingested food to enter and ultimately exit the body), and need to eat more frequently, and if you’re not prepared, it’s just way more convenient oftentimes to grab junk. Convenience is sometimes stupid. Just saying.
Let’s say this all together: eating clean, healthful, nutritionally dense food takes effort.
If anyone needs clean, healthful, nutritionally dense food – its someone with intestinal malabsorption!
So why does dietary indiscretion cause cravings?
It’s all about the gut ecology, yeah – we’re talking probiotics again kids.
Probiotics: microorganisms that are introduced into the body for their beneficial quantities. They are live bacteria that are good for your digestive system, and overall, your health.
Your body *hopefully* has a probiotic colony in it. There are some things that can affect that – been on antibiotics recently? Yeah, your probiotic colony is probably mostly dead. Ingesting a lot of sugars or sweetened stuff? The bad bacteria are pretty much happier about that than you can imagine. Don’t get enough dietary fiber (from food) in daily and/or chronically dehydrated? Under a lot of stress? Is a lot of your ingested “fuel” (aka food) chemically loaded, or processed? Nothing to make that probiotic colony want to stick around for any length of time.
Those cravings you’re feeling so defeated about? That’s the “bad” bacteria in your gut DEMANDING to be fed.
It’s a sure sign that your gut is in need of a reboot.
So how do you do that?
Let’s be honest right here and now before I go on…. most post-ops just aren’t willing to make the change. And if we’re being honest, let’s also include normies here, as well. Who wants to change their lifestyle? It takes getting pretty miserable to get there, right?
Let’s go back and remember what it felt like to be a pre-op and the misery that brought you to the decision to pursue surgery. When you were researching and trying to decide whether or not you were willing to commit to this crazy idea and change your life – was it worth the trade offs? If you’re a post-op, then I’m guessing you said yes. Question is – what does it take for you to say yes again to another major lifestyle change? I’ll warn you – it’s not convenient. It IS addictive, and empowering, and completely amazing how much it positively impacts your life. Kinda like being a DS post-op to start with.
The first thing you need to do is to starve out those bad bacteria. That means cutting them off. Stuff that needs to go:
- Sugars. Regular sugar and artificial sweeteners, both.
- Simple carbs.
- Chemical laden and processed foods.
Stuff that you gotta start doing?
- Getting adequately hydrated. Water, tea, coffee, whatever – as long as it has NO sweetener of any kind in it, drink it. Lots of it. You need 120 oz a day, my friend.
- Getting in enough dietary fiber each day. That means getting the differential between simple carbs and complex carbs clear. Complex carbs are GREAT for your gut health! That means lots of veggies, legumes, whole grains, and some fruit.
- Planning ahead. That means strategizing and being prepared for those moments when you would normally reach for an “easy” answer to what can feel like overwhelming hunger.
- Re-think the quality of your food. Food is the fuel that your body needs to work correctly. Are you willing to put the good stuff in your body? If not, why?
- Start incorporating probiotic rich foods and drinks daily. Seriously. Every day.
Things to keep in mind if you decide to make a change. It will take your tastebuds a good 3 or 4 weeks to adjust/heal from the damage that sugar does. Once you get past that milestone, you’ll start to realize that food actually tastes better than it used to. If you are consistently getting probiotic rich foods and drinks in your diet daily, you will also notice that your sweet tooth – those crazy out of control cravings – will be less and less of an issue.
So what do you do – after you start this change – and you all of a sudden GOTTA have something sweet – or else! Here are my go to’s:
- A cup of hot tea with a tablespoon of local raw honey (a prebiotic) in it will do amazing things for bringing that craving under control. This makes it all better 99.97% of the time for me.
- A small serving of fruit. Opt for fresh fruit – not canned, processed, packaged. Just real fruit.
- Have a small glass of a water kefir or kombucha or milk kefir.
- Have a small serving of homemade granola (it has no sugar in it, only local raw honey) with some frozen blueberries on top.
So that’s a start. If you want to do some more research, there are some great resources. I’ve found the book “Good Food, Great Medicine” by Miles Hassell, MD to be particularly helpful. You do have to adjust it for DS sensibilities, but the basis is basically a whole foods, Mediterranean Diet approach to life. Check out the OldWays web site – some great whole food resources there.
If you’re interested in learning more about fermentation – check out the Wild Fermentation group on Facebook! The book “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz is a good resource, as is “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. Sally Fallon also has a blog worth checking out, as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Cultured Food Life blog, as well.
So – now it’s up to you. What to do with this information?