Monday, 15 July 2013

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

.... and particularly not over their diet.

("Too inquisitive! Should have been the Spanish Casual Chat!"
"Circle", Eddie Izzard. Image from

As we all know I put a fair bit of time into keeping abreast of things going on in the chronic illness community. Yes dear readers, I was one of those irritating children who always did their homework and even sometimes dared to enjoy doing so. Old habits and all!

Something I’ve seen a terrifying amount of is people (usually incredibly courageous in using the website’s anonymity function) expressing the opinion that chronic ill health only happens as a result of what the person is eating.

That’s it everyone, the mystery is solved! If we all stop eating chocolate, bread and milk we’ll be cured! Sounds legitimate to me, I can’t wait to start feeling bet.....

... Anybody else seeing the problem?

Wait, you mean the rather colossal and looming one that goes something like don’t you think we might have tried that already?

To take this out of the chronic illness sphere for a moment, this touches on something I strongly believe in. Nobody else has the right to comment on what you eat or on the effect that has on your physical shape and health. Your diet is entirely your choice and I firmly believe it is therefore nobody else’s business. I’m sure we’ve all seen the sort of stupid comments which accompany photos on the internet – usually along the lines of “go eat a sandwich” or “who ate all the pies” dependent on how the victim doesn’t fit the incredibly narrow version of normality those commenting possess.

We even have memes backing it up. Hands up if you’ve seen the “Real men like curves, only dogs go for bones” one? The fashion and media industries are constantly piling on the pressure to be thin, the masses cry. Now I'm not saying for a moment that isn't true, but apparently this makes it OK to pour bile and vitriol upon thin people.

(Good old Philosoraptor.)

Can you honestly sit there and justify that one is any better or worse than the other? One body type has been demonised so now the demons are fighting back by inflicting the exact same thing on the body type opposite to their own. And so the dance goes on, and on, and on.

Here’s a novel idea: how about we accept everybody is different, that their diets are different, and leave each other alone?

Bringing this back on track in terms of chronic illness, in doing some research on the role of diet I found lots of references to “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” A more detailed look can be found here but to all intents and purposes LGS is increased permeability of the lining of the intestines, leading to not only toxins escaping into the body, but to malabsorption of essential nutrients which also escape. The theory goes that because a large proportion of the body’s immune system is located in and around the digestive system, this leakage causes inflammation and could be a factor in a lot of autoimmune problems.

Amongst the conditions listed as potentially linked to LGS we find Fibromyalgia, CFS (ME), Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Arthritis, Eczema and other conditions which are either lacking a clear pathology or in the least are poorly understood in terms of why they appear.

Despite my opening comments, I’ve never been against the idea that diet (and particular foods more so than others) have an effect on overall health. My problem is with other people passing comment as if coming from a place of superior knowledge, and as much as I hate to pedal negative stereotypes here on TRB it is usually the perfectly healthy who seem to feel the need to do it. 

On a personal note with the question of diet I recently decided to cut bread out of my diet during the week and allow a treat at weekends. In essence I've swopped my usual sandwich lunch for either vegetable batons and houmous or salads. The next step will be to go onto gluten free pasta as opposed to the regular product. I don’t have Coeliac Disease but I am fairly sure gluten is becoming a problem for my bowel nonetheless.

I’m excluding slowly in stages because my gut takes umbrage if I do anything quickly – several extremely painful encounters with this problem have taught me to take the “slowly slowly” approach. I’m going to do this over the course of some months and then see if I’m feeling any different. Eventually I plan to make the same attempt with dairy, and I still fully intend to save up for the food intolerance tests I’ve made mention of previously.

Having a quick read of the list of problem foods on the website for LGS, I was very soon struck with the idea that eating would become very boring indeed were I to keep to it exactly. Speaking for myself, I enjoy my food and I don’t want to lose that enjoyment. I’m willing to make attempts but I won’t go the whole hog and turn eating into a chore.

(A simplified representation of the link between LGS and chronic conditions. Courtesy of

Given the views I’ve expressed over the judging of weight, diet and body type I’m of the opinion that there’s quite enough people with an unhealthy attitude to food – whether it be for themselves, societal pressures or the reactions of the people around them – without me engendering a poor view of my own.

And that decision is nobody else’s damned business.

Have you made any dietary changes? Do you have any comments on Leaky Gut Syndrome or on the opinions of others as to the role of diet in chronic ill health? Please feel free to add your comments below, I’d love to open up some discussion with this topic. 

Wishing you all many spoons xxx


  1. Very interesting reading. I hadn't read about this one. I had heard about a link between Aspartame and conditions like fibro.

    The only thing I ever found made my fibro any better was pregnancy. Wierd though it may sound, being pregnant does help massively with symptoms and my doc told me that a lot of women report the same.

    There's always people there to tell you what to eat and that will cure everything... somehow I'm doubtful this is the case. With digestive illnesses, sure diet myst be considered. I have IBS and there are certain things I have learned I have to eliminate, but to suggest everyone with an immune condition is eating the wrong stuff... oh dear.

    Interesting what you said about the treatment of slim women by heavier women and you know what? You're right! From a heavy womans perspective, you just have it rammed down your throat so much by everyone that you have to be slim to be accepted, you just feel envy for people who are slim and don't even consider they have their insecurities about their weight and thats wrong. I probably post quite a bit of pro-curves things on FB, but I hope i've never posted any anti slim ones. This is something I will definately keep more in mind

    Women especially do need to support each other in projecting a healthy body image regardless of height or shape.

    1. Pro-curves is brilliant, just as pro-thin is brilliant (when it's sensible, I don't mean those horrible things that pretty much try to make eating disorders a positive thing) - it's when it becomes one versus the other that I find it's not a good thing - as you said, we should be supporting each other regardless :)

      From a personal perspective I sit in an odd place. I'm physically small of height and frame but I'm deceptively heavy as I'm virtually all muscle. So I get the thin end of the stick, but then if I ever actually reveal my weight (what the heck, just over nine and a half stone) it sounds silly when put up against how small I appear to be, so then the other side of "but don't you want to lose weight?" starts up.

      Eat, drink and be happy is my motto! :-) xx

  2. I'm a big lass but I'm with you on weighing much more than people think. I always have. I was very sporty at school until the old fibro caught up with me. I was always a size 10-12 and weighed 10 and a half stones!! Its odd how weight works, which is why I never give any notice to that BMI chart.

    I weigh much much more these days but am working on lowering the figure as much for my health as for anything else :)

    So I'm aiming for healthier eating but still allowing myself a treat now and again :)