June is Lipedema Awareness Month – I’m sharing my story to help raise awareness.
PART 7 – My Lipedema Story – Toxic Superfoods
In my previous post, I shared the story of my second pregnancy and how I was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia after giving birth. Despite managing Lipedema well during pregnancy, the Left Total Hip Replacement worsened the condition.
In this article, I want to shed light on the fact that certain foods, even those considered healthy, can cause inflammation. It can be incredibly challenging to realize when the foods we consume are actually exacerbating our health issues, especially when they are widely regarded as beneficial. Inflammation plays a huge role in the progression of Lipedema and other diseases, making it important to identify the specific foods that trigger inflammation, which can vary from person to person.
Over 17 years ago, I embarked on my first elimination diet to identify the foods that might be causing inflammation in my body. This strict elimination diet was instrumental in helping me understand how my food choices directly impact how I feel. However, due to the limited information available at the time and the prevailing belief that fruits and veggies are healthy foods, I failed to identify all of my food triggers. After several months on this elimination detox diet, I decided to keep these foods out of my diet: processed foods, gluten, soy, red meat, and dairy. I eliminated sugar too, but the diet failed to stop my sugar addiction and after a couple of months I started adding small amounts back in. Organic of course, because I thought organic sugar was somehow healthier.
Before undertaking the elimination diet, I suspect I had a leaky gut and undiagnosed digestive problems. I experienced instances where my food wouldn’t digest properly, but I failed to notice the common denominator – potatoes – each time this happened. At other times, I would have horrible 4 hour belly aches and blamed gluten. However, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just the gluten but also the nightshades combined with gluten that triggered the discomfort. Eliminating dairy became necessary due to the intense itching I experienced after consuming it. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the itching was a result of nightshades present in the dairy products. For example, pre-shredded cheese often contains potato starch as an anti-caking agent. The combination of nightshades and dairy intensified the itching, making it unbearable.
While the elimination diet helped heal my gut, it wasn’t solely the food choices that influenced my well-being. I made additional lifestyle changes, such as giving up alcohol, incorporating yoga, hot and cold therapy, and adding high quality magnesium, vitamin D, probiotics, and vitamin C supplements to my routine. I stopped buying the cheap grocery store vitamins that weren’t doing anything for me.
Recognizing the need for assistance in identifying my allergies, I consulted an allergy specialist at the age of 32 to determine the causes of my itching. Although I knew I had a pollen allergy, I wasn’t aware of the specific type. Additionally, something was causing itching after meals, even when I avoided dairy, but I couldn’t pinpoint the culprit. The allergy specialist conducted a back scratch test on my sunburnt skin but concluded that I wasn’t allergic to anything. When I inquired about the itching, he dismissively responded, “Some people just itch.”
Over the following years, I only ate organic, and I experimented with various diets, including Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Mediterranean, The Anti-inflammatory diet, and Paleo. As you can see from my previous posts, none of these diets yielded favorable results for me. I continued to suffer from severe vitamin deficiencies and accumulated a pantry full of supplements. Annually I went back to the elimination detox diet to feel well.
Then, in Part 4 of my story, I revealed my sensitivity to nightshades. I discovered a gene variant that makes me more susceptible to the pesticides, herbicides, and toxic alkaloids found in nightshade vegetables. Due to the inhibitory effects on cholinesterase, my body struggles to detoxify and eliminate these toxins. Consequently, exposure to nightshades caused anxiety, insomnia, back pain, neck pain, headaches, brain fog, and generalized pain throughout my body. The same reactions and more were triggered by contact with pesticides and herbicides. Merely touching a garden hose on the day it was sprayed with lawn treatment would worsen these symptoms. Reflecting on Part 2 of my story, I regret keeping a can of RAID on my dresser. While I didn’t experience these reactions back then, could they have contributed to my current health conditions? Did the Roundup exposure play a role in my initial painful Lipoma, severe fatigue, and subsequent health challenges? Did these factors influence my tolerance to alkaloids found in nightshades?
Another revelation came when I noticed a similar, albeit not identical, reaction to coffee. As it turns out, coffee is also a cholinesterase inhibitor. I was able to tolerate decaf coffee, until I had pesticide and herbicide poisoning this summer.
During my time in the corporate world, I struggled to concentrate on my work unless I had a constant supply of food. I felt hungry all the time, even just one hour after a meal. To manage this, I relied on Vega protein shakes, herbal tea, and drank plenty of water (which meant frequent bathroom breaks). The company encouraged healthy eating habits, rewarding points for consuming more fruits and vegetables and abstaining from meat. I even initiated a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where fresh farm eggs and a bag of produce were delivered weekly, even in winter. Unfortunately, many of the produce items contained nightshades, and I consumed them without realizing the consequences.
The lack of focus and perpetual hunger were the result of my “healthy” diet. As previously mentioned, nightshades are cholinesterase inhibitors. A study on mice revealed the involvement of butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE) enzymes in ghrelin hormone regulation and fat accumulation. The mice with no BCHE enzymes became obese on the same diet as regular mice. Once I eliminated these cholinesterase inhibitor foods from my diet, my constant hunger subsided. I’ve written more about that here.
Upon discovering Lipedema and witnessing the success of many women on the Keto diet, I began to suspect that other grains and fruits might be problematic as well. Consequently, I removed them from my diet, as they tended to cause bloating and swelling.
Initially, I experienced positive results with the Keto diet. However, I unknowingly increased my oxalate intake. Since switching to a plant-based diet 17 years ago, I had been unknowingly consuming high oxalate foods. Keto further escalated my oxalate consumption, with every meal becoming an oxalate bomb. Spinach, almonds, chia seeds, cocoa powder, raspberries, and more were all contributors.
For several years, I drank almond milk without any issues. However, I eventually realized that it was causing the same neck and back pain as nightshades. Initially, I attributed this reaction to additives, but in reality, it was the oxalates present in almonds.
During the postpartum period, while consuming more carbohydrates, I noticed reactions to sweet potato fries. At the time, I assumed it was due to cross-contamination from regular potatoes cooked in the same oil. Only later did I realize that the culprit was actually the sweet potatoes themselves, due to their oxalate content.
In 2023, I made an unsettling discovery: I reacted to Vitamin C with similar neck and back pain. Although the reactions weren’t as severe as those caused by nightshades, it raised concerns. Having taken high doses of Vitamin C intermittently for years, it had always made me feel better, particularly when consumed after nightshades. Strangely, after consuming Vitamin C, all nightshade symptoms would subside, except for the neck and back pain. I vaguely recalled hearing that excessive Vitamin C consumption could lead to oxalate issues, which prompted further investigation.
It was then that I realized all the supposedly “super healthy” plant-based foods I had been consuming were incredibly high in oxalates. I had inadvertently poisoned myself with smoothies containing spinach, almond butter, cocoa powder, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and collagen peptides mixed with almond milk. I had also been giving these smoothies to my children.
Furthermore, when I increased my carbohydrate intake while breastfeeding, incorporating sweet potatoes and almond flour products to boost milk production, I was unknowingly exacerbating my oxalate intake. Even when I switched to a low-carb diet, my high oxalate consumption continued through regular salad consumption, as mixed baby greens often contained spinach, chard, and beet greens – all high in oxalates. Eventually, at the age of 46, my doctor suggested eliminating spinach due to its high oxalate content. She never mentioned eliminating any of the other high oxalate foods.
To summarize, my seemingly healthy diet resulted in oxalate poisoning, leading to various health issues. The following symptoms are gone, balanced, or in remission: Gout, tennis elbow, severe dry eyes, unquenchable thirst despite consuming lots of water, kidney pain, dry skin, dry mouth, hypercalcemia, high DHEA, high testosterone, PMS, headaches, poor sleep, intermittent carpal tunnel syndrome and depression.
It is important to recognize that what is considered healthy for one person may not be the same for others, and certain foods can cause inflammation and contribute to the progression of conditions like Lipedema. Identifying personal food triggers through an elimination diet and paying attention to individual reactions can be crucial for managing inflammation and overall well-being.
In my next article, I will share what I can eat that doesn’t cause inflammation, and it’s the opposite of what I’ve been taught the last 30 years.
To learn more about oxalates, here are some mind-blowing videos with author, Sally Norton.
This video was shared with me first. She happens to list many of the symptoms I had been experiencing. I think this video was made just for me.
The 2nd video is Sally Norton with Dr. Anthony Chaffee. I learned even more and began listening to Dr. Chaffee.
Then I found Sally’s book, Toxic Superfoods. You can find it here on Amazon.
If you prefer podcasts, I highly recommend Boundless Body to learn about oxalates.
I want to give a special thanks to Anne Wright and Sally Norton for sharing their information with the world. Thank you so much! You have both saved me! I know I’d be in a wheelchair and completely immobile if I hadn’t found your stories. It’s hard to put on a smile for friends and family when you are in so much pain. You’ve both helped me reduce most of my pain and get my brain back!