“Her stomach twisted.”
Phrases I’ve both read and written. I never understood what either felt like until the other day, when I experienced yet another not-explicitly-recorded symptom of perimenopause.
My gut-wrenching story
When I woke up around four in the morning, the middle of my belly hurt. And I couldn’t force the pain away by burping. That coupled with my having been bloated the afternoon and evening should have clued me in to the fact that it was not going to be a good digestion day.
To say the least.
I thought maybe the pain was camouflaged hunger. So I got out of bed, ate two dates, and went back to bed.
Mistake. Eating made it worse.
By the time I got up for the day, my gut was cramping like nobody’s business. If you’re a woman who’s had a baby, it was like uterine contractions up in the small intestine and confined to the front of your torso. If you’re not, well, imagine you’re trying to dry a soaking wet towel by twisting it as hard as you can.
That’s what it felt like someone was doing to my gut every five to ten seconds.
All. Day. Long.
Actually, not quite all day – although it felt like several days. The torment finally ended at around three in the afternoon. The only things I had been able to consume up until then were my morning smoothie and about a half cup of water. Because even a sip of water would, twenty minutes later, send my gut into such spasms that I thought I might end up in the emergency room.
The only reason I didn’t was that the several times that I muscle-tested, my body told me that it was just a hormonal issue, nothing life-threatening or requiring medical attention.
I have to change my diet AGAIN??!
Ironically, a day or two before I’d watched a video which didn’t have a whole lot of views, and one comment. The comment was about a raw vegan who’d had a stroke. It might help you to know that I am a vegan whose diet is about 80% raw.
Long story short, I ended up having a conversation with this person which resulted in me discovering that I’ve been feeding my family a diet that is overwhelmingly high in the omega 6 fatty acids. I knew that seeds were highly imbalanced as far as the omega 6 and omega 3 fats, but I thought that soaking them would reduce the fats enough.
And I had no idea that my favorite nut of all – and one touted as a health food, the almond – is the worst offender, with an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of almost 2,000 to 1! (You’re supposed to aim for a diet with a ratio of no more than 3 or 4 to 1, otherwise the omega 6 EFA’s can cause inflammation – which can cause any number of problems in the body, including hormone imbalances.) Even when soaked for twelve hours – soaking reducing the fat content of nuts and seeds somewhat – almonds still have an omega 6:3 ratio of around 1500:1.
Interestingly enough, during the past few weeks I’d begun to feel an internal red flag whenever I would sit down to eat my usual almonds-with-vegetables lunch. Backing up even further, sometime during the past couple of years I saw a video where a fifty-something woman said that going on a high-carb, low-fat, raw vegan diet (otherwise known as 80-10-10) made her hot flashes and hormonally-induced joint pain go away. When she cheated and went back to cooked food, the symptoms would come back. Was it the macronutrient ratio (80-10-10) that was important, or just eating raw?
It also bugged me knowing that in places where people consumed traditional foods, P.M.S. and perimenopause symptoms are practically non-existent. Someone eating as healthy as I, therefore, shouldn’t be experiencing painful – both physically and mentally – symptoms due to hormone imbalance.
There are ratios, and there are actual measurements
As I was freaking out about the omega 6:3 ratio in nuts and seeds, thinking we needed to forgo almonds, reduce cashew consumption, and eat walnuts and pecans instead, J pointed out something. He pointed out that the ratio didn’t mean you were getting that much omega 6 in a food.
I whipped out my trusty nutrition manual, The World’s Healthiest Foods, which breaks down the nutritional data for 100 different kinds of foods – including how many grams each of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in each one.
Turns out that almonds, with their extremely skewed 6:3 ratio, have almost half the omega 6 fat than pumpkin seeds. And walnuts, though touted for the omega 3 they contain, contain more grams of omega 6 than almonds! Close to that which pumpkin seeds contain. Similar story with pecans. Pecans and walnuts are more fatty than almonds, so when you look at how many grams of omega 6 fats they have, you end up with more.
Add that to the fact that at least seeds – maybe nuts, too – when they’re soaked to the point that they start to sprout, some of the omega 6 goes away.
Once again, I had to learn the hard way
Up until the other day, I had poo-poo’ed Douglas Graham’s 80-10-10 diet. Some people just need more than ten percent of their diet to be fat and/or protein. But between that incessant, tortuous stomach-twisting and my revelation about how much omega-6 EFA’s I’d been consuming drove me to do more muscle-testing.
Despite the grams-vs.-ratio issue discussed above, my body told me that yes, J, B, and I have all been eating more omega 6 than is good for us. Yes, we would all be healthier if we reduced our fat intake – especially of the highest omega 6-containing nuts.
And, yes, an 80-10-10 (80% carbs in the form of mostly fruit, 10% each protein and fat) diet would keep my hormones much more in balance. No essential oils or bio-identical progesterone needed.
I’m happy to say that I’d already recently figured out that my diet was around 70% carbs. So ramping it up to 80% wasn’t the big deal I thought it might be.
Will the extra expense of a couple more servings of fruit per day be worth it? Only time will tell.
If I never have severe acid reflux, severe gut-cramping, psychotic episodes, or shortness of breath that goes on for hours again, I will become an 80-10-10 evangelist.