Time Restricted Feeding
I’ve had gut health problems now for about 12 years. I didn’t have problems during the 5 years of my first incidence of ME/CFS. They all started about 3 months after the illness had hit me the second time, after taking prolonged antibiotics for a tooth infection. I first became aware that eating sugar was a problem, then wheat, then all gluten, and with exclusion diets I discovered that mushrooms and yeast were also a problem.
All signs pointed to a Candida overgrowth. Then followed a strict diet of absolutely no sugars including fruit, and very few carbs (just wholegrain rice, pulses and vegetable) and years of experimenting with different supplements. All of this helped a little, but I never really felt that I’d got it under control. It was a constant battle.
Along with my gut health issues I’d also developed blood sugar problems. If I cheated on my diet in even the smallest way, I wouldn’t just get a really uncomfortable bloated belly, I’d find myself craving carbs for days. These craving were pretty extreme and would throw me into a fight or flight state, so not only were they really uncomfortable, they would also lead to an ME/CFS crash.
I started the 5/2 intermittent fasting diet primarily to tackle the blood sugar issues and it worked really well for that, but I also found that the two fast days, would give me a kind of gut rest that really seemed to help get my symptoms under control. I still couldn’t expand my diet in anyway but I was getting little reprieves from the discomfort.
Eventually I got referred to an NHS dietician who palmed me off with a load of leaflets about the FODMAP diet. Through this diet I discovered that lactose was also a real issue for me. I’ve never drunk much milk but I love cheese. Up until then I’d been avoiding mature cheeses as they are on the ‘no’ list for an anti-candida diet, but young cheeses have more lactose in them. The FODMAP diet, like all other diets I tried, helped a little bit, especially reducing my lactose intake, but nothing really got the kinds of results I was hoping for. It’s also supposed to be a temporary diet, another form of gut rest, and the idea is that you reintroduce foods little by little after a while and see what you can tolerate. The only ones that I found I could eat again eventually, were onions, leeks, garlic and pulses.
A few years ago, I listening to a podcast about time restricted feeding where Dr Chatterjee was interviewing Professor Satchin Panda and it made so much sense to me. I already had evidence from my 5/2 fasting that a gut rest helped me more than anything else. So I decided to try a gut rest every day. I now aim to eat only between the hours of 10am and 7pm so that I have a 15 hour fast/gut rest. Although my gut still isn’t miraculously cured, this has been the most helpful thing that I’ve ever done. My symptoms have settled and I rarely get a blown-up belly. My diet is still pretty restricted, but I have been able to start eating a bit of fruit and I don’t have to worry about a little bit of sugar used in savoury dishes if I eat out. If I’m really careful I can even have a tiny taste of someone else’s desert, although I find anything like that ridiculously sweet now after over a decade of having to rigorously avoid sugar.
I wish I’d have known that this would help so much at the beginning of my gut health issues because it’s really not hard to do, especially if you reduce the feeding period gradually at both ends. I started by getting strict about not eating after 7pm and then gradually eating breakfast later and later.
What has helped you the most with your gut issues?
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