How I Found & Why I Tried Paleo
Are you interested in trying the Paleo diet because you've heard about its health benefits?
As you probably know, the Paleo way of eating developed in an effort to create an eating plan that matched the way our ancestors used to eat in the Paleolithic era. My understanding is that the belief is that our bodies have not caught up with the way we eat now, with processed foods, not-quite-foods, being able to get your food by ordering it & only having to walk to the door and other modern changes that challenge our digestive systems.
And I believe that most people become interested in Paleo because they have great concern about their health issues and are hoping that the changes they make will help to heal them. That was definitely how I got interested!
I had looked at Paleo before but it seemed so restricted, I couldn't imagine going without my comfort foods, or even my sweet tea!
Years later, I had lost about 35 pounds and needed to lose at least 35 more, and was trying to decide what to do next. What I had been eating was basically a vegetarian detox diet that was limited to fruits and veggies, and it worked both times I did it.
But even though I felt much better, I wanted to get healthier and knew I couldn't eat just fruits & veggies indefinitely! So when I saw a Facebook post offering a 30-day Paleo challenge with guidance (ebooks, videos, recipes) and a Facebook community, I jumped on it.
I had chronic fatigue syndrome, acid reflux & heartburn, IBS issues, high blood pressure and really bad allergies. I also was beginning to believe that I was gluten intolerant.
I hoped that this challenge would not only help me lose the weight, but greatly improve my health. I was really excited as I began it, really believing that a miracle might occur.
I Did Lose More Weight, but My Digestion Got Much Worse
And this is why I wish I had run it by my functional medicine practitioner before I got started. I want to urge you to do the same, especially if you are considering the traditional, strict version of Paleo. Just so you know if there might be any problems that could occur and can plan for them or modify what you plan to eat to offset or prevent any problems that might occur.
I didn't check with anyone or second guess my decision at all. And boy, did I pay the price for it!!
Do You Have an Autoimmune Disorder like I Do?
"You should not endeavor to be in nutritional ketosis if you have an autoimmune disease." ~The Paleo Mom
"IN A NUTSHELL: Nutritional ketosis is a state of health in which your body is efficiently burning fat as its primary fuel source instead of glucose. When undergoing a ketogenic diet you are essentially converting yourself from a “sugar burner” to a “fat burner”. ~ this was a pop-up answer on Google, I searched on "nutritional ketosis definition."
Okay, what? I did not know that when I started the Paleo diet! The goal of the Paleo diet, was to do exactly that. But if you, like me, have an autoimmune disorder, or more than one, as so many do, then this is NOT a good idea.
Do You Have Leaky-Gut Syndrome, Acid Reflux,
IBS or Other Digestive Issues, like I Do?
I do not have a diagnosis for anything but acid reflux and heartburn but from all I have read & experienced, I believe I have the others as well. And all of it flared & exploded and, in general, was a BIG problem during the Paleo challenge I did!! Almost 2 weeks in, a mass exodus began, shall we say, and I was going to the bathroom every 20 minutes.
It was painful! Miserable.
And I didn't understand WHY it was happening. I asked in the community group and the leader told me I was probably eating too much fat (you're encouraged to have more than you usually do) and things were likely to improve if I cut down on it. So I did, immediately. And it did make a difference! Still, it was about a week before I recovered completely.
But then, the terrible heartburn started. Now, mind you, I have been taking an OTC medicine for heartburn for years, and it was working. Until it wasn't. My digestive problems, my heartburn, my stomach pain, etc., GOT WORSE during the 30-day challenge.
Suddenly, I could hardly take my medicine or supplements without sharp pain. And I often had to stop eating to wait until the pain subsided. It continued until the end of the challenge!
And one month later, I was still struggling.
Remember how I didn't bother asking any health provider for advice or look for problems that could occur? It seemed like such a good idea, so logical, so perfect, I thought, "what could go wrong?" ;)
When I finally went to see my functional medicine practitioner, she knew immediately what had gone wrong. She told me that because of my digestive issues, digesting that much fat would have been compromised, but so would eating so much meat. So had I known from the beginning to go lighter on the fat, and to eat smaller portions of meat, or even to grab some protease to help digest the meat, I might have had a better experience.
And what if I had changed everything else about what I was doing except the meat and the fat? What if I had done a Paleo vegetarian challenge, instead, for 30 days?? In retrospect, since the meat and the fat were the problems, I wish I had.
"Recent studies show that the damage from poor stomach function and GERD not only extends upward to the sensitive esophageal lining, but also downward through the digestive tract, contributing to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal problems. IBS is now the second-leading cause of missed work, behind only the common cold."
~Chris Kessler, What Everybody Ought to Know about Heartburn
I am still, as of this writing, healing the damage caused by the Paleo challenge. And I have had to modify what I am eating, so that it is not completely Paleo. Reading the information on the Autoimmune Protocol helped a lot, and so did the information I read in Chris Kessler's heartburn article series. I just wish I had known it before the challenge began.
Maybe if I had seen these articles...
Reasons for Your Worsening Symptoms on Paleo
How to Get Your Digestive System to Adjust to Paleo
Could These 4 Paleo Foods Be Making You Sick?
Digestive Issues? Avoid These Paleo Foods
Why Paleo Didn't Fix My IBS
Healing Foods & How to Know if They're Working
"So if you’re eating Paleo and still have stomach problems… you’re not alone. We get emails every single day from people struggling just like those at my talk. Maybe it’s annoying gas and bloating after meals. Or bouts of agonizing constipation. Worse yet, maybe it’s gut-wrenching diarrhea that won’t stop. Any way you cut it, it’s frustrating to eat all the “right” foods and still deal with stomach problems." ~Jordan Reasoner, Paleo Fx
"Which version of Paleo is right for you?"~Paleo Plan
Which version? I have decided that from now on, the vegetarian version of Paleo is the right plan for me. I am take some time to transition, maybe a month or so? And maybe have chicken, turkey and tuna until I am ready to go totally plant-based.
I'll be writing about the Paleo Vegetarian transition and experience on my blog, so come hang out, if you'd like!