Good resources for nutrition information
October 29, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I feel awful. Please share your resources for reasonable, safe and sane information about nutrition.

First off, YANMD, I understand. I plan to work with my GP and have some bloodwork done to see if anything is off in that respect.

I have been feeling tired, run-down, low energy. I have put on about 10-15 pounds in the last year. I just don't feel like myself. I have a toddler and I am still nursing, so sleep deprivation and extra demands on my body are definitely contributing factors. But I know a lot of moms with kids that are the same age that mine is, and I just don't feel like I have bounced back the way that most of them have.

I feel that a lot of how we feel can be reasonably controlled through the way we eat. I eat reasonably well most of the time; I prepare most of my own meals from fresh ingredients, eat steamed veggies as opposed to fried or sauce-laden, etc. Most of my fluid intake throughout the day is water.

My question is, there is so much noise out there with regard to how to eat well. I feel like I have only seen either Follow This Diet! type literature, or books that are just too dense with the science behind whatever theory they are putting forward to be easily read and understood. I would like to find some reasonable, not extreme type of nutrition education (example: I recently learned from a tv program that the body can more easily absorb iron from meat if the meal contains veggies that have more vitamin C, such as peppers or tomatoes. Which leads me to wonder if some of my tiredness could be attributed to borderline low iron due to poor food combinations).

I would appreciate hearing about whatever resources you found helpful; books, textbooks, podcasts, websites, youtube videos... Thanks.
posted by vignettist to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered actually seeing someone about it? I have seen a nutritional therapist (disclaimer: my friend, so I got "mates' rates") and it was a real eye-opener. Like, they tell you stuff about your diet that makes your eyes go wide the same way as when your therapist tells you "this is why you do this" and you think, oh yeeeeeaaaaaahhh that makes TOTAL SENSE.

Anyway they would not only make you dietary recommendations but literary recommendations personally tailored for you too, if that's what you want for the long term. It's a good way of giving your digestive system (and indeed your whole innards) a nice bit of TLC if you have the cash for a few sessions.

Note: avoid the woo-woo. Look for ones with Real Qualifications and if they offer to do you a discount on a crystal healing session along with the nutrition, probably keep looking*.

* apologies to crystal healing mefites for cynicism
posted by greenish at 11:09 AM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

There is no nutrition bible. Everyone responds differently to different diets. Some people I know became vegetarian, felt run down, then got their energy back when they reintroduced meat. On the contrary, I know people who became vegan and they feel great. Finding a diet that works for you is a matter of experimentation.

With that disclaimer aside...

The book Eat to Live by Joel Furhman is really good. He's an MD nutritionist. It's educational and easy to read, and gives a clear diet to start with. It has a pro-vegetables bent.
posted by kellybird at 11:14 AM on October 29, 2012

You might try taking vitamin D supplements, especially if you live somewhere where it gets dark early or where you wear long sleeves all the time...
posted by leahwrenn at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

So I basically think Dr. Oz is a quack now, but before he started promoting snake oil, he wrote a book with Dr. Roizen called You: On a Diet that was great. It is so straight forward and easy to understand with the basics about what foods your body needs, why you have cravings, what happens when you eat certain foods and how your body processes and/or stores energy, basics of what constitutes a healthy diet, etc. Nothing gimmicky at all. And not really diet-y. It's basically a primer on how to eat sensibly.
posted by cecic at 11:32 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does your health plan cover a consult with a dietitian for free or low-cost? If so, take advantage of that. Dietitians employed by places like Kaiser are honest-to-God certified professionals, not someone just hanging out their shingle and calling themselves a "nutritionist." (I've seen good nutritionists, but there are some way off the deep end.)

You want to make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet through animal or plant sources. Refined carbs cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, plus they don't give any kind of long-lasting energy. Cut way back on any white carbs and up your intake of proteins, fats (yes, fats - fat is not the demon that it is made out to be, and as a nursing mom you need those calories), fruits and vegetables.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:47 AM on October 29, 2012

Are you getting any exercise? It can feel counter intuitive, but whenever I start feeling run down and super tired, I realize that I haven't been active. So I get out and walk or run, or I lift weights or do yoga and I start to feel "balanced" again. Make sure you're getting some movement during each day if possible, and I don't mean just up and down the stairs to do laundry. Along with eating well, staying active is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves.
posted by cooker girl at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would start off with a visit to your GP to get some blood work. While I've had 3 kids, it was only with the last that I was diagnosed with anemia - a year after giving birth. I didn't clue into the "classic symptoms" and didn't realize how I awful I felt until about a week into supplements.

Most of the web sites I patrol regularly are also linked off the Whole Foods Market blog roll. They're also pretty good at spotting effective trends and suggesting healthy pairings. They are also good with making you feel bad for not being as into as they are so proceed with a reality cap well in place. I also really enjoy Summer Tomato.

If you can have a nutritionist consult, do it: they can provide a lot of great suggestions that won't mean hours in the kitchen. I think this is more a nice to have than a critical step. I would evaluate your meals and try to incorporate more vegetables and fruit. Throw in some vitamin B rich smoothies and, if you can get wheatgrass, have that as a 'shot' (some stores sell them prepacked in frozen). (Wheatgrass is not something you 'savor' but has a bona fide kick.)
posted by lostinsupermarket at 11:53 AM on October 29, 2012

What to Eat by Marion Nestle. Also, schedule a doctor's appointment for a nutritional screening.
posted by John Cohen at 12:03 PM on October 29, 2012

Gaining weight and tired? When you see your doctor, have your thyroid checked. Do not be told that your condition is natural for someone nursing, and caring for a toddler. Insist on tests.
posted by Cranberry at 12:20 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

"I plan to work with my GP"

Call now.

I felt bad for months and months and months before finally getting dizzy spells (more than previously) and calling my Dr's office from a shopping center parking lot. Turned out I was anemic. Easy to treat! But I'd had the condition for soooo long, and if I'd addressed it before I could have had maybe an extra year of good life.

It's hard to motivate yourself when a) you just want to lie down all the time, and b) you don't want to bother people with vague symptoms like "tired", and you think you should probably be exercising more anyway.

If you don't trust that your Dr. will take you seriously, call a different doctor. Or give your current Dr. a chance. Ask what his/her strategy is for figuring this out: if the blood work doesn't show anything obvious, what's next? And after that?

Call for an appointment right now.
posted by amtho at 12:24 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do not be told that your condition is natural for someone nursing, and caring for a toddler. Insist on tests.

I still remember when I was 6 months pregnant and my doctor asked me how I was doing. I rattled off a long list of tired, sore, swollen, heartburn, etc, etc, and the doctor wrote "no complaints" on my chart. (OK, maybe that was a Reader's Digest joke, but it happened to me, too)

I also caught a 24-hour flu while I was pregnant and when I called the nurse-advice line at 3am to find out what I should do about dry-heaving every 45 minutes for the past 8 hours, and her first response was that of course I should expect nausea while i was pregnant, it's probably nothing to worry about.

Don't let your doctor off the hook!!! You know this is not normal.

Also - track your fluid levels for a day. It's also possible you are dehydrated with the nursing.
posted by CathyG at 1:27 PM on October 29, 2012

I know you said you're going to see your doctor, but I want to say please, please, do, and be persistent.

I am in almost your exact situation (nursing an 11 month old) and I could have written your exact question. Instead, after several rounds of tests at my doctor, I wrote this question (still waiting on the final diagnosis). I have been told not to take vit D until I get the parathyroid issues ruled out because extra vit D can be dangerous in that case, so please get tested before you dose yourself.

Many doctors don't do well with TATT issues. I think I would have been shooed away if I hadn't gotten an alarming result on a routine, usually liver related test that in my case probably means I have vit D deficiency so bad it's damaging my bones.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:40 PM on October 29, 2012

I would consider the fairly extensive NHS pages on diet and nutrition as a reliably bullshit-free source of information.

But also, of course, see your doctor.
posted by pont at 4:33 PM on October 29, 2012

Everybody telling you to see your GP and get bloodwork done is exactly right. But if you're looking for a potential quick fix, I'd recommend vitamin D and iron supplements.

My doctor did a ton of bloodwork on me. She told me that practically everyone is low on D, and practically every woman is low on iron. (As was I: low on both.) I immediately started taking about 15000 IUs of D (liquid, from a dropper bottle), as well as an iron pill (ferrous digests most easily IIRC) daily. It was revelatory: previously I had been kind of sluggish/draggy, and within two weeks I had totally normal energy levels.

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 7:17 PM on October 29, 2012

I was in the exact same boat as you. My co-worker got tremendous results from this book. I read it. It changed my life.
posted by blahtsk at 9:54 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could do a lot worse than The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, or The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. Both are very easy reads and very safe-and-sane versions of a gluten-free, vegetable-heavy lifestyle. Plus, I've lost almost 100 lbs with relatively little angst or sense of deprivation on a mix of their ideas, and feel fantastic. YMMV, of course, but my mileage has been amazing so far.

That said, I second everybody urging you to talk to your GP. All kinds of easily fixable things can lead to feeling run-down, but you can't fix them till you know about them.
posted by kythuen at 10:37 AM on October 30, 2012

Just following up on this for any future readers...

I did see my GP about a week after I posted this question. She did run some bloodwork, which said I was borderline low on Vitamin D but otherwise didn't show anything else off. Otherwise, she was beyond useless. "Eat less sugar and carbs to drop some weight, and stop nursing in the middle of the night". Without bothering to ask me about my diet by the way; at that point I was still gluten-free and I don't really eat suger anyway.

So here I am, six months later. I won't go into the roundabout story, but suddenly one day I remembered that a few years ago, before I got pregnant, another doctor told me, via bloodwork, that I tested positive for the MTHFR genetic mutation. The way she explained it to me was that my body doesn't process folic acid well, and that I would need to take a megadose of folic acid in order to have a successful pregnancy. I take 10x the normal dose.

Remembering that, I realized that folic acid is a B vitamin, and a lot of times B vitamins are associated with having energy (or not, as the case may be). So I started wondering if I don't process any B vitamins well.

I started taking a different multi and supplementing with additional B vitamins. I will say that I am noticing a higher level of energy after about 2 weeks. But I am still doing research on the MTHFR issue, and may supplement with other things as well. I'm hoping it won't be long before I feel like a real person again, instead of exhausted mom all the time...
posted by vignettist at 1:32 PM on April 16, 2013

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