Christmas Sobriety – A Pledge


He pulled himself from bed and set about finding some clothes to run in.  In the bottom drawer of the secondhand IKEA set he’d bought from an emigrating neighbour, he found a pair of cheap blue running shorts purchased from H&M years ago.  The shorts were then partnered with a faded red t-shirt that sported several small holes around the label stitching on the back – it should have been consigned to the bin many washes ago.  He smiled to himself, the old shirt had one last run of glory in it.  He pulled on his worn out Nike trainers, slid his phone into the sports armband around his left bicep, and placed the expensive Bluetooth headphones around his neck.  His attire was cheap, his wearable tech was not.

I originally wrote this in the first person, then I set about changing all the ‘I’s to ‘He’s, and all of a sudden it started to sound less like a blog and more like a novel.  I think I’d quite like to write a novel, just need to find the time and discipline to learn how…. easier said than done.

Today was a tough day.  I didn’t enjoy today.  That is, until tonight, most of which has been spent writing.  I woke up early, with a headache, as I do most days.  I tried to get back to sleep, but I know when I wake up with THAT headache, the one that sits just behind my temples, that it is going to be a futile attempt – my sleep for the night is done, even if it’s only been four hours.  This morning I woke up after 6 hours, that’s a good night for me.  Anyone who has suffered with chronic insomnia will know what I mean – when I say that six hours of nearly unbroken sleep is a glorious blessing.  So I pulled myself out of bed, got dressed (see above) and went for a run on the beach.

Given we have now ticked over into summer in Sydney, it was surprisingly cool by the water, and rain was threatening. As I ran along the sand by the water’s edge, I had no energy in my legs. It was rather frustrating.  On a good day I can run five lengths of the kilometer long beach, at good speed, and still have something in the tank.  Today I managed two lengths, at a snail’s pace.  If you’ve read some of my recent posts, I’d forgive you for thinking that I was probably hungover.  I wasn’t.  I haven’t had a drink in five days.  The night before I had been to a relaxing yin yoga class, had a mug of peppermint tea, and gone to bed at a reasonable hour.  Problem was, I wasn’t relaxed.  Why wasn’t I relaxed?  I’d eaten a few too many potatoes at lunch and it had given me the jitters.

I appreciate how mental this will sound, but when your gut health is in a mess, something as simple and harmless as chomping down a bit too much starch can cause a hangover.  A potato hangover – fucking ridiculous.  Last year I used to spend most mornings racked with anxiety that I couldn’t explain.  Last year I also used to eat a ton of sushi.  Main ingredient in sushi?  Cooled white rice – pure starch.  Bear with me, I am getting to a point.  The point is that the abundance of potato in yesterday’s diet resulted in a messed up human today.

Don’t worry, I’m getting to the pledge bit.

(Scroll to the bottom if you’re not interested in the science/diet stuff)

I find this shit interesting (and irritating) AF these days, Recently I had my gut bacteria DNA sequenced to find out what species make up my microbiome.  My results came back showing that a whopping 47% of all the bacteria inside my large intestine are of the strain, Prevotella Copri (PC).   It is now a well established fact that the intestinal microbiota shapes the immune system and modulates homeostasis in healthy individuals, or promotes inflammation when ‘dysbiosis’ occurs (dysbiosis is when your gut bacteria are out of whack – i.e. people with IBS typically have dysbiosis).  If you have dysbiosis it means your immune system is not functioning properly (your immune system is mainly housed in the gut), and homeostasis (all bodily systems being in balance) is not possible.  Hence the headaches, hence the insomnia, hence the fatigue.  Hence the occasional anxiety.

This is why I have written in the past, and so vehemently campaign (whenever some poor sod will listen) against Caesarean section birth (when it can be avoided – yes I know that quite often it cannot be avoided). However, the science is now clear: a C-section greatly increases your child’s chance of suffering dysbiosis. Caesarean babies are far more likely to suffer with asthma, colic, allergies and autoimmune diseases. It’s why I also think formula milk can be a problem. Yes it nourishes the baby, no it does not nourish the baby’s embryonic microbiome in the same way as human breast milk. We should not be so naive to think that the food scientists over at Nestlé have managed to trump nature.

I was a caesarean baby, but fortunately I was breastfed. Doing this gut bug DNA test is eye-opening, and great – because now I know what the problem is, or at least part of the problem.  And why I struggle when I eat carbohydrate-heavy foods.  Overgrowth of this particular species is linked heavily to rheumatoid arthritis.  When I eat a bit more than a little sugar I get back pains, same thing with alcohol – could they be linked – quite possibly.  Anyway, PC in large numbers is linked to bodily inflammation – I speculate that the headaches and insomnia are a result of inflammation, so I now theorise that if I stop feeding the PC what it likes, then hopefully its population numbers will fall, and other helpful bacteria will flourish.  In the process, hopefully returning my gut, and then my body to homeostasis.  Very exciting.

I know what you’re thinking… I’m clearly in the wrong job.

(Re-join – Science Haters)

So, what’s this got to do with a pledge?  Well, I sat on the balcony tonight with my mate from across the road, he was merrily drunk following a work Christmas party.  I was chilled after a mint tea and an hour of reading my current book.  We chatted, he asked how my day was, I was honest and said it was shit because I had a potato hangover.  My mate, let’s call him Simon (he’s not called Simon) challenged me to follow the anti-PC diet until Christmas, a proper test, no cheating.  So that’s what I’m going to do.

There is no such thing as the anti-Prevotella Copri diet, so I’m going to make one up.  I know that it likes to eat resistant starch, and protein.  This means, minimal sugar (i.e. less than 5g a day), no fruit, minimal starches (carrots, grains, potatoes, beans and legumes), no sugary alcohol (sobs out loud), and reducing my protein intake (sobs even louder).  Hello ketogenic diet.

So that’s the challenge, I consume the below:

  • Lots of vegetables (mostly those grown above ground)
  • Some fatty meat cuts like ribeye, and ribs, fatty fish like mackerel
  • Lots of fat (animal, olive, butter, coconut)
  • Yoghurt (but nothing with added sugars)
  • Very dark chocolate
  • Nuts and seeds

I can do this diet, that’s almost my diet already.  It’s the booze, in the lead up to Christmas, that is the real challenge – who in their right mind gives up booze before Christmas?

Me.  Chris Vaughn.  The man who is fed up of waking up with headaches.

The challenge is to stay booze-free until 24th December – and blog about it daily to keep me honest, until the obligatory sherry on Christmas Eve.  Festive Tidings to you all, you lovely, happy drunks.

(I’m not jealous, honest)

Footnote:  Do you ever lie awake at night worrying you’re going to miss one of these posts? Bored of Facebook and Instagram? Well, I have the answer – you can subscribe to the blog to have it delivered to your email.   Navigate to the homepage – link here – scroll to the bottom, enter your email and you’ll get no spam, just a tidy little notification from WordPress when a new piece of mine is available to read. 

I’d absolutely love it if you did this. I need registered followers if the site is to grow. Pretty please x

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