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ME/CFS and the Poverty Diet

Discussion in 'Phoenix Rising Articles' started by Mark, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. Phoenix Rising Team

    Phoenix Rising Team

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  2. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    I've been lucky so far, in that my fiance can afford to feed us both very well. I'm limited in my ability to cook, so we buy pre-chopped meats and vegetables which I can (usually) throw together for dinner along with a bit of rice and some sort of sauce or curry paste.

    But if I don't have some meat twice a day, I start to feel very crappy - though the same thing seems to happen if I try to low-carb again, despite low-carb working well in the past. I also have to avoid MSG and its various aliases.

    I think I'm also fortunate to be living in the Netherlands, where being unemployed for whatever reason doesn't result in the sort of poverty seen in the US. There's a very good benefits system here, and there's a lot of peace of mind that comes from that, even if it's not needed yet.
     
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  3. Little Bluestem

    Little Bluestem Senescent on the Illinois prairie, USA

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    This is an excellent article. I think it should be seen by a wider audience than here at Phoenix Rising, perhaps as Illness and the Poverty Diet. You might add a paragraph on “what I wish you would donate to the food pantry”.

    I work part-time caring for my parents and make enough money to meet my basic needs. I am on the low energy diet. I don’t cook much of anything on the stove except eggs and water for tea. I do use my microwave.

    Meat comes from microwave dinners (I buy the better quality brands), cans, the grocery store deli, fast food sandwiches, and the occasional restaurant or deli meal. I also use cheese, peanut butter, nuts, and protein powder, along with my daily breakfast eggs, as protein sources. My iron is low and decreasing. I am trying to eat more red meat.

    I get salads from the grocery store deli. I eat a lot of packaged coleslaw mix (without dressing) and carrots. Since developing liver problems, I have bought jars of picked beets which I like to eat cold.

    Both of my parents have dementia. Berries and cherries are supposed to be good for the brain, so I buy them - fresh when in season, frozen when not. I eat just half a serving a day since I am a small person (and they are expensive). I also eat applesauce and drink fruit juice.

    The quality of my diet is limited more by my energy for meal prep and clean-up than by my finances.
     
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  4. valentinelynx

    valentinelynx Senior Member

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    I think it used to be well known that what you've called the "Poverty Diet" is the cause of obesity among poor people. I recall my mother commenting (not nicely) that a woman we knew was getting fat because she couldn't afford a high quality diet (had to eat pasta). This was in the '60s, before the stupid "low fat" craze hit the world, leading people to think that carbs were great, as long as fat was avoided. For a fascinating look at why carbs are not good for you, and why people can get fat while being malnourished read Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories. Blew me away. Blew away 50 pounds, too, when I stopped eating carbs.
     
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  5. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    I don't know whether food banks in the US have similar rules to those in the UK, but here we can only donate packaged food. I was very frustrated when I was trying to donate some delicious, fresh surplus apples from my tree. They would not take them. I commented at the time that it was a bad idea to force stressed, poor people to live on processed food with no fresh fruit and veg.

    I noted the stark contrast with a TV item on the economic downturn in Greece, where farmers were donating crates of fresh fruit and veg to the poor.
     
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  6. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Valentijn,

    I have to have meat a couple of times a day too, or I begin to get ill. Eating on the cheap for so many years gets very expensive in the long run when trying to overcome the physical and cognitive problems the Poverty Diet incurs. I used to be able to eat a far wider variety of foods before I got sick.

    I'm glad you live somewhere that offers some safety net. I live in Canada which is maybe not quite so bad as in the U.S. We have medical coverage that Americans don't have, just by virtue of being Canadian. Not that it has done me much good since only my naturopath (who isn't covered by the way) has done me any good.

    The other advantage here in Canada has been what used to be called the Baby Bonus which all parents receive. Though we never qualified for Welfare or Disability of any kind, the Baby Bonus helped us survive for many years. I would have liked to have been able to put the money aside each month for the kids, for schooling or other things they'd needed growing up but we needed to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, and I don't know how we could have managed that without the Baby Bonus.
     
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  7. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    Great article, Jody.

    I hadn't heard of what you describe as being called the 'poverty diet'. It sounds like what is known in the UK as a junk food diet. I'm sure I have come across papers that show that the diet in the UK under 2nd World War rationing was healthy, and I think people ate a less-healthy diet, and thus became less healthy, when rationing ceased. I guess the rations were designed to keep people healthy.

    I was malnourished in the early days of ME due to poverty. It was so depressing, making a shopping list, then looking in my purse and crossing almost everything off the list. After a while I was retching as soon as I woke up each morning and had diarrhoea. I had already had IBS for years. Soon I was vomiting every day. So I was not eating healthily, and what I did eat was not used effectively. How on earth was I going to get better and return to work? It sounds much more civilised in the Netherlands, and I believe the same applies in a number of other EU countries. In the UK, and it seems in the US, they seem to think that they can cure the sick by keeping them poor!

    I so agree with valentinelynx. Low-carb is the way to go. I too lost excess weight, and symptoms are much milder, some almost gone. My muscles have built up again. I'm not hungry all the time. But my version of low-carb is a vegan one. You can get adequate amounts of almost all nutrients from a balanced vegan diet. Exceptions are Vitamin B12 and, for those with poor conversion of short-chain omega-3s, long-chain omega-3s, but there are vegan supplements of these, with the long-chain omega-3 derived from cultivated algae.
     
  8. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Little Bluestem,

    Your suggestion about an added paragraph might be a good seed of an idea for another article. Thanks.

    The low energy diet sucks too. Glad to hear you can afford to eat at least.

    My mother's family has dementia in it. I take omega-3 oil and vit. B12 which are supposed to be helpful. Also consider coconut oil. The taste makes me want to retch but it's not the first vile supplement I've taken and learned to live with.:)

    Re: dementia. There are researchers thinking that there is a link between dementia and blood sugar. Some call dementia Type 3 diabetes. In which case, carbs would be something to watch for.
     
  9. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Valentinlynx,

    I do remember back before people became insane (self included) about what to eat a quarter of a century ago. And yes, common sense and just using your own eyes told you what eating all that starch and sugar does to most people.

    I love Gary Taubes.:) In 2002, I stumbled upon an article about fat that he wrote that changed my life. Before I had to go back on the Poverty Diet a few years ago, I had lost close to 50 lb without dieting or overamping on exercise and the weight was continuing to slowly come off (maybe half a pound a month at that point) five years into the low carb regimen.

    And of course, I discovered going low carb that for me, this also led to a major decrease in most of my ME/CFS symptoms as well.
     
  10. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    Meant to add - I couldn't afford heating AT ALL until recently when I started receiving small occupational pensions after being ill for 18 years. I went through the two recent freezing winters in the UK with almost no heating at all. (What I did have was bought on credit, which I just had to keep building up.) I was going out scavenging firewood in the fields. Three days of that in a row wiped me out for a week. Eventually the over-exertion caught up with me and I was hospitalised for 4 days, having become dangerously hyponatraemic. In the 3 years since then I have been even less able to work than before, although things have gradually improved again since I went low-carb and gluten-free, and been pacing better. So I have been able to earn even less due to over-exertion due to lack of government support.

    Since 1995 I have not been able to afford to run a car, and I'm not sure that I would be able to drive far now.

    Well done for (not) supporting me back into earning my living again, UK Government. :(
     
  11. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    The foodbank issues remind me of a store I was shopping at with my mother, when they were holding a food drive for homeless youth. There was a list of the foods the organization wanted, and all of it was processed crap with 0 nutritional value other than calories. Instead of following the list, we donated a canned meat that wasn't too scary - if they're eating poptarts all the time, they could probably use some protein once in a while :p
     
  12. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    That is too bad about the restrictions at the food bank there. Perhaps they can't handle keeping track of perishables. Processed stuff never goes bad. In a way.:)

    I'm not in the U.S., I am in Ontario, Canada. I find though that where I live, different food banks in different towns may operate by different guidelines. Depends on who's funding them I think. The one I went to was run by a couple of women who put together a setup where various stores and other groups donate regularly, and they can decide then (within food safety regulations and whatnot) what they want to offer.

    They offer fresh produce which is wonderful. Most of their stuff is supremely processed, and very bad for me. But they welcome fresh food.

    Another thing about the diversity among food banks -- If I lived in a town 20 minutes away, I would not have been able to go to their foodbank. That one requires paperwork that shows you are on some kind of assistance, on welfare or disability of some kind. Nobody in my family of three sickies qualify for any of that. So ... there's irony in the fact that when the government's safety nets are closed to you, so are the food banks. And people with nowhere to turn in that town are REALLY screwed.

    If I'd had some kind of government assistance maybe I wouldn't have needed the food bank. But because I have no assistance I can't go there?

    I have treasured the food bank in my town and the people who run it. I went in the first time with all the paperwork I could think of, fresh from having to offer up validation of my existence repeatedly when looking for some government assistance. I had a wad of bills and stuff in my purse, and started to take it out. But she said I didn't need any of that.

    She said, "You're here. You wouldn't be here if you didn't need help. And we want to help you." The tears poured down my face as I let her help me.
     
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  13. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    I love coconut oil! I use it instead of margarine now, and for cooking.

    I agree in principle. I focused a lot on dementia in my Masters degree studies, and especially on the link between vascular disease and dementia, not just the so-called 'vascular dementia' but other kinds too, including 'Alzheimer's'.

    The road to so many chronic diseases leads back to carbs.
     
  14. golden

    golden Senior Member

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    I had the pleasure of trying out a food bank last year.

    I cant remember all my complaints about it but they are numerous .

    1) In the UK they are only designed for people whose benefits are late or delayed.

    They are not designed for those of us who are disabled and either unable to claim benefite due to the abusive system or for those who have been rejected benefits due to the system.

    I went twice and on the third time I was rudely told I was only allowed to come three times. I was treated like scum.

    2) The actual food.

    You are supposed to go only once per week and yet the food parcel contains enough food for only 3 days. Go Figure!

    The regular parcel contained:

    Coffee
    Sugar
    Biscuits
    milk
    sugar cereal
    tinned crap
    fresh fish.
    possibly meat item.
    pasta


    As an alien, who couldn't eat any of that, I received the appropriate negative looks :)

    They were perplexed and altogether put out at my rejection of coffee sugar and so on and became politely hostile .

    They dont cater effectively for vegetarians either.

    They did cobble together some useful stuff , but then failed to make up a full parcel for me.

    For example, i asked for an additional packet of brown rice and they said no.

    There is no good reason not to have fresh fruit and veg. None whatsoever.

    When I was homeless all the Church provided was Gluten and beans on toast which i was excluded from.

    There was once a night hand out of food where i couldn't eat any of it but soneone had cut up some celery sticks and put it in a plastic cup... i was very grateful and the only one who ate it lol.

    At X-mas once I was handed a plastic carrier bag. (samaritans maybe ) It had a Chicken in it (dead ) , pen and pad and another item . Merry X-mas I was told. Nice.


    3) I noted they should also be collecting pet food for people too.
     
  15. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    MESci,

    Oh my. Your experience sounds so like mine and my husband's in the early years of being sick. Right down to collecting the firewood. Our oil furnace apparently leaked fumes into the house and may have been an element of what made us sick (there were many other poisoning experiences we had over a few years). We couldn't afford to replace the furnace and had to heat with wood which my husband with rib injuries had to chop every day. We had to burn chairs and an old crib to get through a period without wood. I shudder to remember those days.

    I understand what that does to a person to be constantly denied even the basics of what's needed to keep body and soul alive for months and years on end. You have managed to survive it. I salute you. I know that is no small task and not everyone can do it.
     
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  16. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Good thinking, Valentijn. That would be the best way to go. And I can tell you if I had been the recipient of that canned meat amongst all the breads and pastas, I'd have rejoiced, with tears.:)

    My old food bank also has a list that they have in their storefront window, which does at least also include fresh foods, but majors on things like canned soups, boxed mac and cheese, canned vegetables. They will take just about anything though which is good.

    One day I hope to earn enough to be able to give regularly to the food bank. When that day comes we'll major on giving meat and fresh veg.
     
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  17. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    MeSci,

    I wish I loved coconut oil. :) I aspire to love it one day or at least be able to consistently choke it down.

    Fish oil used to do the same thing to me. Worse, in fact. It made me feel like up-chucking all day. Coconut oil just does that for a few minutes.:) After a few months I got to love fish oil. Same brand and everything, so it was me that changed.

    I speculated that maybe the extreme reaction I had to fish oil was an indicator of just how badly I needed it. My body didn't seem to know what to do with it.

    I agree about carbs. Now that I am aware of how bad they are for me, I am noticing their presence in all kinds of bad situations. I don't think everyone does best on low carb, I know people who get sick on it. But for those of us who can't handle carbs ... I do miss a good sandwich every once in awhile though.:)
     
  18. golden

    golden Senior Member

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    In the UK its very much you have to be on benefits to claim more benefits.

    Ihave been currently rejected for my Water rates benefit relief due to not claiming benefits. Its disgraceful. :(
     
  19. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Golden,

    That's awful. I was very lucky in that "my" food bank did not exclude people who weren't on assistance. We could only go every 3 weeks and they would pile up a shopping carts' worth of food -- as long as there had been enough donations to be able to do so. But I don't think it was meant to be a comprehensive all-you-need proposition. We certainly could not make it stretch for 3 weeks. But we could make it work for two weeks.

    I wished I could have traded all that carby junk that I couldn't eat, for a little more of what I could eat, but that was not possible. My son and husband could eat most of the junk without evidence of being sickened by it so we took it. But what I could eat was pretty sparse. People who donate to the foodbanks in general from what I've seen, have no idea about what is nutritious and what is not. The ones who do really stand out in terms of their donations.

    I so agree about the pet food. My food bank was happy to get it from people but I know that in the years I went there, pet food wasn't available very often. Big relief if you knew you could feed your pet every week.
     
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  20. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Makes me crazy thinking about this. I was lucky in terms of the food bank -- we were able to go there despite not being able to get benefits. What a punch in the gut that is, to have been turned down everywhere else and have no money and be unable to buy food, and can't get it from the foodbank either .... Do the people that make these decisions not think? At all?
     

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