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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Could food be making me sick?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (10534points) January 9th, 2014 from iPhone

For awhile (at least a few months) I have felt generally unwell on a daily basis. I feel lethargic even after a full night of sleep, have random aches in my body, get frequent headaches, and have digestion issues and stomach upset. I’m not on any medication other than birth control pills (and OTC sleeping pills at night).

My doctor has found nothing obvious that could be making me feel this way. Could this possibly be from a poor diet and lack of exercise? I rely on soda everyday for my caffeine fix. I eat pretty terrible. Fast foods, processed foods, etc.

I am so fed up with feeling like crap I went on a shopping trip today and bought all healthy foods. I will be making a major change to my diet and exercise routine (or lack of) to see if this is the issue. But could it really be contributing to my lack of energy and well being? Can food really make someone “sick”?

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39 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

I had a similar problem. Now I have water throughout the day and after pop. I try to get fast food that has some vegetables, and I sleep during the day and Fluther at night or in the evening.

Judi's avatar

Absolutely. Try to eat at least 3 cups of vegetables a day, iceberg lettuce doesn’t count and 5 cups is even better.
Don’t eat anything with more than 3 ingredients.
Another thing you might try is cutting gluten for a month. See if that makes a difference. The genetically modified wheat we eat in the US removes an amino acid used for digestion.

Seek's avatar

You’re dosing up on caffeine to stay awake, and drugging yourself to sleep.

Your poor body is so confused!

Definitely continue on your quest toward a healthy diet, but also consider weaning yourself off the sleeping pills. OTC sleeping pills are meant for occasional sleeplessness, not as a daily regimen. Cutting back on the caffeine, specifically drinking nothing caffeinated within six hours of bedtime, can help you feel sleepy when it’s sleeping-time.

ibstubro's avatar

Keep in mind that going abruptly from all pop and fast food to all healthy food can be a shock to your system, and could even make you feel worse over the short term.

I would focus mainly on cutting back on the caffeine (pop) and fatty, fried foods. You might also try a probiotic…available in my forms now, from yogurt to granola bars. It just adds ‘the good’ bacteria to your digestive tract.

Stick with it for at least a month. If you’re still not feeling better, you can ask for medical tests specifically for Gluten intolerance and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Or just ask for a referral to a Gastroenterologist.

Good luck! It’s good you’re taking charge.

Judi's avatar

You might switch from sleeping pills to melatonin in the short term while you try to get off the sleep meds.

snowberry's avatar

I agree your diet (including drugs such as caffeine and sleeping pills) are making you feel this way. But as others said, you might want to cut out the sleeping pills first and cut back on the caffeine first so there is a long space of time (the longer the better) without it before you sleep. Make sure you go to bed the same time every night, and that there are no distractions to sleep. Cutting out all caffeine right away will really make you feel terrible for a day or two, so do it when you have a couple days off to adjust.

Rather than changing your whole diet right away, try removing one bad food and add one good food to it. A week or two later try changing out something else. Changing your diet is one of the hardest things to adjust to for most people, for the adjustment is emotional as well as physical. Be gentle with yourself.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Of course your eating/exercise habits could be making you sick. If eating bad foods and not exercising made you feel great, we’d all do it!

JLeslie's avatar

I believe it definitely could be a factor, but I don’t know if it will solve everything. Switching diets might even bring back your period. Has your doctor checked your blood to see if your iron is ok? Vitamin D (it is winter so that can make your D low, and the weather where you are is not helping anyone feel energized.

Just a warning, if you stop the caffeine altogether you will get a huge headache and feel sleepy for a few days. So, if you choose to quit, reduce the amount you drink over a few days and when you stop stop be sure it is when you have a day or two off. You can use tylenol or ibuprofen, whatever your headache pill off choice is to reduce the headache. Don’t use migraine formulas because they usually have caffeine.

JLeslie's avatar

To clarify the caffeine headache will start probably about 12 hours after your last caffeine drink. So if you skip your morning coffee today, you will get the headache by the time the afternoon hits most likely. So if you work days you can work, but by the end of the day you’ll need a pain reliver and want to go to bed. Having the next day off would be good. Getting of caffeine will stop your rebound headaches if that is what you have. Headaches can be from many causes.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

All good advice. Even if the issues you describe have another cause, a diet overhaul sure can’t do a junkfood junkie any harm. @ibstubro also mentioned probiotics. I have had lots of health problems, and it gets hard to figure what symptoms have what causes. When I got bloaty a year ago, I was concerned. After three days of not getting better, I woke up so bloated my skin BURNED from the hard stretching! My eyes couldn’t open because the swelling of my face. The ER doctors were confused, and hit me with a battery of treatments. I got well enough to go home after overnight stay, but I was still miserable. Someone suggested I try adding a probiotic suppliment to my diet. It has helped a great deal. I continue taking the suppliments, though getting enough in your foods is better. I continue to work on improving my own diet. Probiotic suppliments come in many doses, forms, and PRICES. I found Walmart’s brand (I know) is VERY reasonable, and works great for me. If I forget to take any, I can tell pretty soon.
Good luck! ((((HUGS))))

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Great advice so far! I appreciate the helpful tips :)

As far as the caffeine goes, I have tried once before to go cold turkey and I regretted every painful minute of it. I had headaches from hell and had no energy. I went 2 weeks feeling like complete garbage and finally I gave in again. So I’ll never make that mistake again! I will slowly wean myself off the soda. As @Seek_Kolinahr said, I’m going to first try staying away from caffeine hours before bedtime and hope it helps me sleep better. If cutting caffeine at night still doesn’t help me, @Judi I think I will give that melatonin a try.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 You will feel “crappy” for a week or two once you quit the soda, even if you wean down first. The bad headache won’t last more than a couple days, but the foggy, sleepy, sort of under the weather feeling does drag on a little. Even if you don’t quit, reducing the amount you drink will help I think. You have to treat it like an addictive drug, if you miss your daily pill at the time specified you will suffer.

snowberry's avatar

Regarding weaning yourself off of caffeine- Try actually setting an alarm at longer and longer intervals before you go a long period without it altogether. A caffeine headache is nasty, and it’s best to reduce the pain as much as possible. Also here is a website with natural remedies to reduce the negative side effects of withdrawal. This is awesome information that I will definitely study for myself! Edit:

jerv's avatar

I find that I tend to run into problems when more than half my diet consists of processed food; fast food, frozen meals, etcetera. But when I eat more natural foods like home-made meals from real ingredients, I tend to have more energy, and fewer problems in the bathroom.

However, shocking your system really does throw things out of whack for a while as your body tries to adjust, so ease into any major changes or be prepared for a bumpy ride.

@JLeslie Your mileage may vary. I also tried cutting the caffeine, and wound up spending a couple of months being used as a guinea pig as the doctors tried to find the right narcotic to handle my incapacitating migraines without bad side effects. I actually wound up taking unpaid time off of work. In the end, I went back to about a 6-pack of soda a day, and haven’t had a migraine since. It turns out that I had other issues not related to caffeine that were causing my symptoms, most of which were actually mitigated by my relatively high caffeine consumption. Not all people have the same biology.

flip86's avatar

Don’t cut out gluten. It is a stupid fad and cutting gluten for the average person does nothing to improve health. Unless you have Celiac disease, you’ll be fine keeping it in your diet.

Also, do not use melatonin. It messes with your brain’s natural ability to produce it, and actually does more harm than good.

snowberry's avatar

One more thing to look into when you are trying to feel better: Some people are allergic to preservatives in food. In the US, it’s hard to not buy food without it. My daughter found that when she moved to Japan, her migraines disappeared overnight. We determined that she is highly allergic to preservatives. If you are allergic to preservatives, your symptoms may not be the same as hers, but you might be sensitive nevertheless.

Essentially avoiding preservatives in food in the US means “don’t buy anything that comes in a package”. Read all labels, and eat only fresh (not frozen) foods.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv Absolutely each individual is different. I am just giving the general format. I added the last comment to make sure the OP understood that even if she weans off, she will still not feel well for a while most likely. I also had added that if she stays on caffeine to treat it like a necessary drug, which I think you would agree with. No matter what, if she had had some sort of fair warning before the last time she tried to quit, her experience might not have been so negative. So, originally in my first post I was just trying to warn her what is most likely to happen, I didn’t realize, or didn’t remember maybe, that she had quit caffeine before. Most caffeine drinkers don’t think caffeine really effects them much; they don’t realize how many actual changes it makes to the body. I am very glad I quit cafeine, I think it has been very positive for me. However, when I do cheat and have caffeine I LOVE it. People don’t even realize that part of what they love about their favorite drink is actually the caffeine in it. They think they are craving the taste, but it is much more than that.

I don’t understand why the doctors didn’t suggest the connection between your headaches and caffeine. Did you quit cold turkey? Or, wean down?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If you put crap into your body, treat your body like crap, and then wonder why you feel like crap, is it really a wonder why?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I agree with that assumption but something does not add up. I’ve always eaten the same way and I’m just now feeling the effects? That’s what confuses me.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Okay, let me think about that a bit. It might be when you were just a kid you could compensate for it. Your birth control pills were also messing with your body a while back weren’t they?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe That could very well be the case. I had issues with lack of a period after I stopped the pill so I recently started the pill again in order to regulate it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 You’re also chasing after a child. My sister calls that weight loss 101. Plus stressing over the father still I’m guessing. Actually now I’m wondering why you don’t always feel like crap. I think eating healthy would be a good start. Maybe some light exercise and possible meditation or something to put your mind at rest?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Thinking about it, with the state of mind I’ve been in lately and the way I eat, you’re right. It’s a wonder I don’t feel bad all day, everyday. And certaintly meditation couldn’t hurt.

SwanSwanHummingbird's avatar

Stress does awful things to your body. I felt like that for 4 years. I went to a psychiatrist who put me on a low dose SSRI and poof, I felt 90% better

Try all of the above, but don’t forget it could be your mood, stress, depression, etc.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

As many predicted, day one if eating clean and I do feel pretty crappy. I’m low on energy and a little queasy. But I’m sticking to it! I figure my system is just a little shocked from the lack of processed food.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Good for you. Hang in there. It takes a while to see improvement. Stick with it and see what develops.

Judi's avatar

I have always had to fight with my weight but had spent about 5 years being pretty diligent and felt great. In the las 6 mo to a year I have been completely off my game. I noticed that my feet were KILLING me! I had gained some weight but not THAT much.
Last Saturday I got diligent again. About 4 days in my feet stopped hurting. I’m guessing it’s either the processed foods, refined sugars or a combination but he difference is dramatic.
Diet DOES effect how you feel.

jerv's avatar

“I’ve always eaten the same way and I’m just now feeling the effects? That’s what confuses me.”

Smokers don’t get lung cancer from their first cigarette. Some things build up over time. I used to wolf down a ton of Dinty Moore beef stew when I was a kid without issue, but there was a point where even spoonful would make me nauseous.

Also, bodies change over time. I used to be deadly allergic to yellowjackets; one sting and I was in full-blown anaphylaxis. Well, 30 years later, I got stung 5 times after hitting a nest with a weedwhacker, and I was fine. Hurt like hell, but at least I could still breathe. What a difference a few years make.

ibstubro's avatar

Yeah, Stick with it @ItalianPrincess1217. I’m off (soda) pop for about a week now, and thinking of making it permanent. Soy milk and juice. It’s easier in the summer when decaf tea is much more palatable.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Judi Wow! My feet have been killing me for the past couple months too. I’m 26 and have trouble standing or walking for too long! That’s just crazy to me. It never occurred to me that it could be due to diet. I assumed it was the extra weight. Now I’m curious to find out if the pain improves soon!

snowberry's avatar

I used to work in an assisted living center. One of the perks of the job was a free meal, and I thought that was an awesome deal. My problem was that the longer I worked there and ate their food, the worse my joints felt. I finally realized that they were using really cheap oils. I knew that if I continued to eat their food, I’d soon feel like the old folks I was taking care of!

I started to bring lunch from home (I only use high quality oils such as olive oil or coconut oil). I felt better within a few days.

@ItalianPrincess1217 You say your feet hurt a lot. It’s also possible that you have Plantar Fasciitis. If you do, your feet will really hurt. Your doctor can help you figure that out. Or here’s a link.

VS's avatar

I’ve read through the answers here and I’m a little surprised no one has asked about diet soda specifically. Do you indulge much in diet drinks, or other foods that contain artificial sweeteners? I ask because that was the effect it had on me. I cannot eat, drink, or chew anything labeled ‘sugar-free’ without it resulting in a raging headache, tiredness, muscle aches.
Any allergies can best be discovered by eliminating one or two things at a time until you find not having them makes you feel better. Improvements in your diet or drastic changes all at one time may do more damage. Start out slow and work your way towards a thoroughly healthy diet.

ibstubro's avatar

On another thread someone recommended Crystal Light to me, @VS, and I cannot drink CL. Messes with my kidneys something fierce. Never had that problem with diet pop, but I’m currently thinking seriously about weening myself off of it, too. I think I’ve had one can in the past week (this morning) and it tasted kind of ‘icky’.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@VS No I actually can’t drink diet pop without having unpleasant side effects. I just drink regular pop. Since initially posting this question I’ve cut way back though and the healthy eating is going great. I feel much better in general. I have been suffering with some terrible headaches but that might be from cutting back on pop. Hopefully they subside soon.

ibstubro's avatar

You might try alternatives to regular pop, @ItalianPrincess1217. Juice spritzer (½ juice, ½ fizzy water) will still have ½ the calories of pop, but add nutrients with fizz.

I’m tickled that the healthy eating is going great…I’d feared you bit off too much, too soon.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Have you been taking any pain killers for the headaches? Ibuprofen? It should help. Hopefully you are almost through the worst of it. I’m glad the change in diet is good overall.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@ibstubro That sounds really good actually. I love fizzy drinks and that’s probably half the reason I drink pop so often. I still have to come off of it slowly for the caffeine withdrawal reasons of course but I would love to make a switch over to the fizzy juice. And the diet hasn’t been nearly as bad as I expected. The first couple days were the worst. I had low energy and felt generally miserable from the lack of sugar and junk. Now it’s almost like I crave the fresh, healthy food and the bad processed completely turns me off.

@JLeslie I’ve taken loads of medicine for the headaches but unfortunately nothing makes a dent when I get a migraine. I just have to suffer through it for about a day and a half before they dissolve on their own. The one that started yesterday was so awful I was physically ill from it. My head finally stopped hurting a few hours ago but it was really debilitating. The pain was so bad I couldn’t sleep last night and I was sick to my stomach all day today from it. These headaches have given me trouble for years, but certain things can trigger them (lack of caffeine) so I try to be careful.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Yeah, migraines are a whole different animal. I’m thankful I don’t get them, because they sound just awful. I hope getting off caffeine in the end will mean you get much fewer migraines. Hard to know, everyone has different triggers for migraines it seems.

jerv's avatar

Migraines really are a different animal, and most of why I’m physically addicted to caffeine. Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen, and Vicodin won’t even mitigate them, but a can of Pepsi gets rid of it in 10–15 minutes. Then again, I haven’t had one since I started my new job 3 months ago, so I’ve been able to cut down on caffeine without incapacitating myself.

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