Health Update (& Going Paleo!)

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I can’t even tell you how crazy it feels to write those words. Super crazy. I have always been very adamantly against a paleo diet. I have always been very much a proponent of “just eat real food.”  I thought it was unhealthy to cut out so many healthy food groups. I could get on board with cutting out the sugar, but whole grains? Dairy? Legumes? Those are all good, healthy things.

And overall, I still believe that is true for most people. Especially for generally healthy people.

But for people with chronic illnesses, I have discovered that the foods cut out by a paleo type diet can be inflammatory, and can cause a host of health problems.

I remember reading so many testimonies of people whose lives were changed by eating a real food diet. I believed in it. I waited for it. But I never really saw it. Yes, I felt marginally better–if you go from eating a standard American diet to cutting out all processed foods, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll feel some better. But I didn’t see the health results that others were talking about. And I always wondered why. It was disappointing, but I just chalked it up to one more thing that didn’t work for me.

Inflammatory Foods

Even though I felt more and more hopeless for a non-miraculous solution, I kept researching. I paid thousands of dollars for testing with doctors, only to find that it was mostly inconclusive and I needed to be referred to specialists for still more expensive testing. I have seen friends and family members spend tens of thousands of dollars and still feel no better and have no answers. I knew we couldn’t afford that, so I kept researching for my own answers.

You all know a bit about my struggles with food and emotional eating. And, you know a bit about my chronic health problems. As I researched into natural ways to help my chronic health issues, everything came back to one thing–diet. Nearly everything I read encouraged eliminating at least gluten and sugar. Some also included dairy. Others encouraged eliminating far more.

Then I stumbled once again on the Whole30. I had actually discovered it a few years prior when a blogging friend mentioned it, but at the time my thoughts were (1) Nobody needs to give up all those food groups. Just eat real food. and (2) There is no way I could ever give up all those things.

Remember, I was addicted to processed foods. I truly didn’t think I could do it.

Whole30

So that’s why when I started my Whole30 back on November 5th 2016, I did it very quietly. I didn’t tell anyone except my husband and a couple of trusted online friends, and my sister. I wanted less witnesses to my failure. I didn’t even take “before” pictures because I was so sure I would fail yet again. At day 2, I wouldn’t even commit to 10 days because it seemed impossible.

I made it 2 full weeks before I consciously decided to stop early for very intentional reasons (a post for another day as this one is already quite long). I stuck with it about 80-90% through the rest of November and December, including Thanksgiving and Christmas!

I have stumbled a few times since then, and also done another 10-day reset of strict whole30 style restrictions.

When I originally started adding back foods, even after just 2 short weeks, I noticed something. I had reactions to nearly every eliminated food! Legumes, Dairy, All grains, Sugars. These foods gave me all kinds of symptoms such as headaches, bloating, stomach ache, nausea, etc.

So often, as we continually eat foods that are bad for our bodies, our bodies will build up a tolerance of sorts and we don’t feel the reactions unless we cut them out entirely for an extended time.The whole30 people say you need at least 30 days for this to happen, but my body got the message clearly after 2 weeks.

At this point I started digging a bit deeper. I found out that there are a lot of people who can add back in the foods with no trouble at all. Most of the people who react to the foods added back in are those who are suffering from chronic illnesses or chronic health problems (headaches, insomnia, joint pain, fatigue for a few common ones I’ve seen). There is so much research to support that these foods are inflammatory, and therefore harmful to people with chronic illnesses, particularly autoimmune conditions, which is the one thing my doctor feels sure of about my illness.

A Journey

This has been a journey, and it’s not over yet. It has been filled with arduous uphill mountains, and lots of time spent in the valleys as well. I’ve experienced both failures and triumphs over the last 5 months, but for the first time in years, I have hope in a non-miraculous solution. I have had glimpses of feeling better which is something I haven’t really had before.

Even for people who follow the elimination diet perfectly, the general estimate is to allow 1 month per year of being sick. Many people don’t see full results for much longer than that, and mine is slower because I haven’t been able to achieve perfection with my diet yet.

I’m not eating exactly a paleo diet, and I definitely still don’t ascribe to the philosophical idea of eating like cavemen, but many of my food eliminations are similar, so I’m certainly appreciating the vast array of paleo recipes to be had, particularly those for bread-like products, crackers, and occasional treats. Being able to enjoy a chocolate chip cookie sure does make this journey a tiny bit easier.

It has definitely been a learning curve though, so I will be sharing more about some of the grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, products that I have found and enjoyed. And I might share more about my journey overall.

Don’t worry, I won’t be turning this blog into a health-nut kind of blog, because I know that’s not really what most of you come here for. But, a few people had asked how things are going after my last update, so I wanted to share. I will try to remember to mark the health and diet related posts as {paleo} in the title so you can skip over them if you’re not interested. But, I would definitely challenge you not to count them out, you might just be surprised at how good the foods are!

P.S. The photo above is from the night my husband got home from his last 2.5 week firefighting trip to Oklahoma! We’re so glad to have him back!

Comments

  1. Sabrina says

    Paleo has really worked well for me. Feel SO much better. I wish all the best in your journey. And would love to hear what your experience is. Thanks for sharing!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thanks so much for the encouragement, Sabrina! I’ll definitely be sure to share updates along the way.

  2. Jillian says

    Wow, Crystal! I’m so happy for you. I can’t imagine how hard it was to get started. I really need to make some changes as well, but it’s just so overwhelming and I seriously lack will power. I’ve tried sooo many times before. This is encouraging though and I’m so happy that you’re finding some relief from some of your symptoms. I’m a firm believer that gut health plays a much bigger role than most realize. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more updates!!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thank you Jillian. It is overwhelming, and I’m with you on the will power! It’s so hard! I’m really hopeful that I will see greater improvements as I stick with it for longer periods of time. I definitely agree with you about the gut health.

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