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Paleo Eating Experiment

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Before I started my Paleo eating experiment I used to dismiss stories about the sudden and surprising physical changes some women experience as they hit their 40’s as more mythology than fact.  Then I celebrated my 40th birthday and realized that I was one of those women.  It didn’t truly come on suddenly, but in the approximately 5 months prior to hitting 40 I was dealing with constant and increasing bloating and intestinal irritation.  Evenings were the worst because my stomach would be distended and extremely uncomfortable with gas that wouldn’t just pass out but would roll around in great big uncomfortable bubbles.

I have always been a firm believer in natural healing and using food as my medicine so I set out to research what I could do to help myself.  Up to that point I was the poster child for what we have been told is “Healthy Eating”, I ate organic whole foods such as fruits, veggies, organic eggs, organic dairy, plenty of whole grains, legumes and very rarely a bit of organic, pastured meat.  I did not eat processed foods or excess sugar and I made sure to get my daily dose of probiotics in the form of organic plain yogurt.  On paper I was doing everything right, so why did I have so much stomach trouble?

As I began searching for answers I remembered that my Dad and Step Mom had really changed their health for the better when they went Gluten Free, so I decided to start my research there.   I found some very informative articles about the effect of gluten in the human body and the way it can irritate the digestive system to the point that it causes systemic inflammation in the body.  From there it was natural that I would stumble upon the Paleo Diet.

Paleo eating is a style of eating that seeks to return to our paleolithic roots by only eating the types of foods that our ancient ancestors were evolved to eat.  This basically means meats, fruits and vegetables.  No grains, no dairy, no sugar, no legumes.  A great explanation of why to eat this way, including plenty of biology and scientific explanations can be found in Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet and also in It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig.  To summarize the argument; agriculture and the eating of grains is too new of a development in the history of human kind for us to have truly evolved biological mechanisms for properly digesting and assimilating cereal grains, seeds, legumes, sugar and dairy products.  In short, the human body is still in the stage of its evolution where it was designed to run on meats, vegetables and fruits.

When I first heard about Paleo I was completely skeptical but after reading the excellent scientific arguments in the books I mentioned and a ton of articles that further explained the science behind the diet, and also taking into account the dramatic change I witnessed in my own family, I decided that it was worth exploring this idea personally.

I decided to do a basic elimination diet as is commonly prescribed for the purposes of diagnosing food allergies.  This approach is recommended in Robb Wolf’s book and is further elaborated on Whole9 (a paleo website by the Hartwigs).   The idea behind any elimination diet is that you rest and reset your digestive system by removing any potentially irritating foods for 30 days, then you slowly reintroduce foods one by one to determine their affect on your system.

As I write this post I am on Day 7 of my 30 day elimination diet (the guidelines I am following are the Whole30 from the website Whole9).  It has been a challenge to skip my beloved bread and cheese but I am happy to report that my stomach troubles have virtually disappeared.  Another huge challenge for me was accepting that this diet focuses on eating meat.  After 10 years of primarily lacto/ovo vegetarianism, eating meat seemed very foreign to me, but once I started I found myself saying “this is so good, why haven’t I had this in so long?”

Before I started my Whole30 I had some serious reservations about the impact of all that meat on my cardiac health, after all I became a vegetarian specifically because of a family history of heart disease.  The more I read though, the more I started to question the validity of the “cholesterol and saturated fats will give you a heart attack” stance taken by mainstream medicine.  Once I understood the real mechanism of cholesterol in the body, I finally felt comfortable taking this drastic step of completely overhauling my personal eating style.    One thing I must say is that I would never have considered including meat into my diet if I wasn’t able to get organic, pastured, humanely raised products.  I am well aware of what goes into factory farming of animals and I will not put factory farmed meats into my body or financially support a system that is so fundamentally unhealthy for both the animals and the people who eat them.

I know my friends and family who are reading this are thinking “no bread, no beans, no cheese! What the heck are you eating?!”.  I am happy to report that the food choices both on the elimination diet (Whole30) and the regular Paleo eating lifestyle are fantastic!  I can hardly believe that I am actually eating more veggies now than when I was “officially vegetarian”.  My meals consist of the protein of my choice cooked to my liking without restricting fat (as long as it is not from a seed oil) and as many different raw and cooked veggies as I could ever want.  For dessert I enjoy the same delicious fruits I always have except now there is no crust on my pie.   This is not a weight reducing diet so there is no hunger or counting calories or fat grams, although I have lost weight this week, instead this is about giving your body nutrient dense foods and avoiding irritating and inflammatory foods.

It remains to be seen if this is a long term solution for the issues I was dealing with.  The first week has been very positive and I am so curious to see what happens after the 30 days are up and I reintroduce grains, dairy and legumes.  I truly hope that this Whole30 is the diagnostic tool I need to figure out what foods do not agree with me.  In the meantime, I am enjoying some delicious foods and I have increased my knowledge about how the components of food affect our biology.

Stay tuned for an update on my Paleo Eating Experiment…

UPDATE:
Paleo Eating Experiment – Part 2
Paleo Eating Experiment – Part 3

 

This post is participating in Fat Tuesday, Heart and Soul Blog Hop, Whole Food Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Foodie Friday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Monday Mania

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14 Comments

  1. I finally dropped the wheat from my diet about 6 months ago. Each time I slip, the brain fog and all my other relatively minor symptoms come back. I feel so much more energized without the wheat. Then, I started eating more Paleo though I still use milk, cheese, and yogurt. I never had digestive issues, and I don’t eat lots of dairy normally.

    It’s great to hear that the changes are working for you!

    • Barb,
      I’m glad to hear that you figured out what to drop from your diet. I am so curious to see how it works out for me at the end of the 30 day elimination, will I be able to tell which one was bugging me? Anyway, I am just glad that things are going well right now!

  2. Hey, good luck. will be interested to see how it goes for you.

    I found you via Whole Food Wednesday. I linked in a post about spicy mince lettuce cups. Have a great week.

  3. I think the Paleo diet is, in general, a good one. However, being a young earth proponent and totally rejecting the theory that even a single cell could come about by chance. I do not believe we have evolved or are still evolving. Man has eaten what he is eating since creation.

    HOWEVER, Grains are a problem for many people, myself included. I have begun to use Einkorn wheat exclusively. You might want to check it out. It is wheat as it was several thousand years ago, rather than a hybrid if a hybrid of a hybrid . . . . Very nutritious and many who are gluten intolerant can digest it well. Read about it at einkorn.com. I buy it at jovialfoods.com

    As for dairy, there are way to many people who’s diets are comprised of a huge amount of dairy products who are very healthy. I have Lupus and R.A., among a total of nine other autoimmune conditions and one things that brings me fantastic relief is the “Milk Cure”. I have gone for 4 months on nothing but clean raw milk, water, and kombucha tea. It is an amazing treatment and I have done it twice. Many who disparage milk do not even mention the alternative to what is sold in the grocery store – healthful nutritious raw milk from cows like the Jersey breed. Man has used the milk of animals for food since the beginning of our world.

    Cut out processed foods and anything soy that is not fermented and you have a healthy diet.

    Thank you for this thoughtful article. It has some missing points, but is very helpful for someone seeking a change and better health.

    • Denise,

      Thanks for your comments and information about Einkorn and Raw Milk. I have heard a lot about the benefits of raw milk but I have not had the chance to try it myself because it is very difficult to get in my area.

      I completely agree with you about cutting out processed foods, I just don’t see where they have a place in a healthy diet.

      • If the government has their way, you won’t be able to get it eventually. They are fighting tooth and nail to make it illegal everywhere. We live in Montana where it is illegal to sell raw milk. It is not illegal to buy it, so I got it from a farmer who was willing to sell. There are many here that do it under the radar. Ten dollars a gallon! I paid two in PA where we bought it from the farm.

        We are working with the Weston Price chapter here and legislators to introduce legislation to make it legal. Why don’t they outlaw cantaloupe and spinach? Far more people have died from those two items than have even gotten sick from raw milk. The two major sources of food poisoning in the US are delis and salad bars – in that order. Think they will ban those?

        Have you watched Farmageddon? You can see it on youtube and just from looking around your site, I think you would find it fascinating.

        Denise

        • It is a shame that people are prevented from nourishing themselves as they see fit. I haven’t seen Farmageddon yet, I’ll have to check it out on youtube. Thanks for the info :)

  4. Found your blog through Fight Back Friday and had to comment.

    I was under the impression that, at my age, my metabolism had slowed so much, I was destined to always be overweight and resigned myself to my slowly increasing size. After all, that’s what you hear everywhere. Right?

    I’m 47 years old and have been eating Paleo/Primal for 17 months. I feel FANTASTIC. And I now weigh less than I did in high school and I was thin in high school. I’m 5’3″ and currently 120#. I wear a size 4 (mostly…sometimes a 2). I am truly amazed at how great I feel and at the amount of food and the kinds of food I get to eat. I will never go back to eating the old way. I am Paleo/Primal for life. I can’t imagine living any other way and why should I? The food is amazing! I’ve never been on a “diet” where I could say that before.

    Anyway, keep at it! You won’t regret it. :)

    P.S. The majority of my weight loss was without any exercise.

    • Wow, that is amazing! Stories like yours definitely make me even more determined to see this through. I am also amazed at the quantity and variety of foods that I am eating, it makes me realize that this is so much more than a “diet” because it is sustainable over the long term.

      Thanks for sharing your story :)

  5. It’s interesting to learn more about the Paleo diet and I will look forward to hearing of your experiences with it. I’m very lucky that I seem to be able to eat just about every kind of food without any health issues, but I’m always interested to hear about other people’s experiences and food issues.

  6. Hi there! I found you via Allergy Friendly Wednesday…I am on my second Whole30 and managed to convince my husband to join me this round. I have been gluten-free for nearly 3 years post celiac diagnosis, grain-free and dairy free for just over a year (though I have a daughter and son with allergies and sensitivities to casein so I have cooked primarily dairy-free for more than 8 years)…my hubby is a die-hard gluten-loving dairy-eating man and I thought he would struggle with this transition far more than what he has. While he is following the eating plan to a ‘T’, I can’t seem to get him off the scale! 14 days in he has dropped 11 pounds and asked me just yesterday if I thought I could feed everyone like this (whole30 style) throughout the year (with the occasional exception, of course). It’s a great program! I am glad you are having success and look forward to hearing more. xoxo

    • Sunny,
      That is great that your husband is so enthusiastic and supportive! I am happy to say that my family has been happily eating their meals without even realizing that there is anything “missing”, but I know they would freak out if I suggested that we permanently strike pizza off the menu! I am halfway through my first Whole30 now and I feel great. I do not feel deprived or hungry so I am comfortable with cooking paleo most of the time and letting the kids indulge in non-paleo items occasionally.

      Thanks for your support!

  7. Hi Jen! I’m so glad to have found your blog. I’ve dabbled with paleo a little bit – after 13 years as a vegan and some of that as a raw vegan, I regained my healthy by eating animal products again. I look forward to checking out your other posts :)

    • Heather,
      It was a big leap for me to go from vegetarian to paleo, I bet it was even weirder for you going from vegan to paleo!! I am glad I made the switch as my health is great and I feel great too. Good luck on your journey :)

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