Cleaning Up My Diet and Trying the Whole30 Program
One of the most famous lines from the Whole30 program is this: “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black is. not. hard.”1
This tough-love approach is meant to help people put hardships in perspective and give them the motivation to make a positive change for the benefit of their health.
I might add another line: Living with chronic dry eyes is hard. This reality fueled my quest to eliminate triggers for my dry eye symptoms. When I found out that diet can play a role in causing or controlling inflammation, specifically in my eyes, I was on board to do whatever was necessary.
Changing my diet
I initially started searching the web for lists of inflammatory foods, and then I gradually cut my intake of offenders like added sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fried and processed foods. Instead of my usual bacon or sugary cereal for breakfast, I opted for eggs, an avocado, and some fruit. I traded my lunchtime Coke for water. I also switched from white bread to whole grain.
Once I started reading labels, I was amazed to find how much sugar I had been consuming. I also added foods that could help fight inflammation, like leafy greens and fatty fish. Over the next couple of months, I did see a positive change in my eyes. The severe pain I was experiencing lessened noticeably.
Giving the Whole30 a try
As I continued to figure out what foods I should avoid, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of Dr. Laura Periman, a fellow dry eye sufferer and renowned dry eye specialist based in Seattle, Washington. She talked about how she tried the Whole30 program and learned that she had some food sensitivities, specifically to the grain corn.
I decided to give the Whole30 a try. It is an elimination diet in which participants give up the most problematic food categories: added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy. After 30 days, these groups are then slowly reintroduced to determine which ones, if any, cause problems.
Not as difficult as I thought
The program sounds very strict, and it is. But it was not as difficult as I thought it would be, for a couple of reasons. First, I had already gradually cut some foods from my diet, so this plan was not that much of a stretch. Second, the recipes from the book are so delicious that I did not feel like I was depriving myself. The most difficult parts were navigating dining out and meal prepping; my kitchen was a constant disaster zone.
But after reading the book and putting a game plan in place, I successfully completed the program, focusing on fueling my body with portions of protein, veggies, and healthy fats at each meal.
I did not notice any additional improvement in my dry eye symptoms on the Whole30, however, than I had when I made my original cut. But I did see improvement in other areas. I lost weight, gained energy, reduced pain in my joints, improved my skin, and eliminated stomach issues from some dairy sensitivities.
The Whole30 book does have a chapter on taking the program a step further and adopting an auto-immune protocol (AIP) diet, but the authors suggest doing this under a functional medical practitioner’s guidance for best results. This type of program is much more restrictive.
Overall, I am glad that I tried this food experiment, and I’ve maintained a mostly Whole30-style diet since my reintroduction phase. I am thankful for the information that I now have from cleaning up my diet, specifically about how added sugars, fried foods, and refined carbohydrates can negatively affect my eyes.
Have you changed your diet to help your eyes? If so, what were your results?
Have you ever canceled travel plans due to dry eye?