Friday, July 29, 2011

Not what I was expecting, but I'll take it

I went gluten free five years ago.  Up to that point I had been sick for many years, and bounced from doctor to doctor, all of whom tried to throw different drugs at me to minimize my symptoms, without finding an underlying cause.  When I finally realized my problem was gluten, I gave it up cold turkey and never looked back. 

The change in my life was instantaneous!  I felt better immediately, and within 72 hours, I honestly was a new person.  Hallelujah!  Now we can go on with life, right?

Well, um, not quite.  After a couple of months, some of my symptoms returned.  I examined my diet, and knew I wasn't eating any gluten, so I went looking for other things.  Soon I had it - soy was the culprit.  Whew.  Not quite the amazing transformation, but definite improvement in my overall well-being.  Okay, soy is out.  Now, back to this life thing...

Ah, wait a minute...I sense a pattern developing here.  To give you the condensed version, I ended up cutting out gluten, soy, all legumes, poultry, nightshades, most fruits, and many vegetables.  I also have a reaction if I eat any food that lists "artificial flavorings" or "natural flavorings" on the label, which means almost no processed foods. 

In the last year, a few of these intolerances have lessened in severity.  For instance, I can now eat small quantities of poultry, and some nightshades are okay in small doses.  But for the most part, I'm still pretty restricted on what I can eat.

And that's okay.  I really didn't mind a lot...well, sometimes I did, but I usually got over it...until I started having issues again earlier this year.  I put on an alarming amount of weight in a short time, I had digestive issues, skin problems, and all the old symptoms.  I just couldn't figure out what was going on.

Basically I had gotten to the point (again!) where I needed to do something drastic.  I even tried another elimination diet a few months ago, with no success.  I seemed to be reacting to everything.

Now, I had heard about paleo, the caveman diet, whatever you want to call it, for years now.  And I had considered it, really, I had.  But I just couldn't fathom giving up my rice, corn, and dairy. (And don't even talk to me about sugar!) Not after losing almost every other food out there that I could eat. Then I found out about the Primal Blueprint

Yeah, yeah, you've been hearing me talk about it for a while now, so I won't get all gushy.  You can go to the site or leave a question in the comments if you want to know more.  But what I realized was this - the list of foods that our ancestors ate are eerily similar to the list of foods that don't give me any reactions.  And the minds over at the Primal Blueprint are of the opinion that if you can stomach dairy, it's probably okay to eat it.  Score!  But rice, corn, and sugar are still out.  Awww...

Still, I had to try it.  And when I try something, I go all the way.  So two weeks ago I dove in and gave up all rice, corn, and sugar.  Then an amazing thing happened.

I stopped being hungry all the time.  And when I say all the time, I mean I was hungry All. The. Time.  That went away overnight.  The mystery stomach aches, skin problems, and bloating followed after a few days.  In a week, I dropped 5 lbs of water weight, while stuffing my face constantly with food.  I haven't been hungry, I haven't been bloated, I haven't been cranky, and I haven't been fatigued for days.  I think the last time I felt this way was, oh, about 5 years ago, when I gave up gluten.

Yay, this is great, except...crap!  I really like rice and corn and sugar!  I haven't tested them yet, so I don't know if my body is just happier grain free, or if I have an actual reaction to rice and corn (don't even talk to me about sugar).  That remains to be seen.  But if I don't have overt reactions, all is not lost.

While the primal lifestyle is grain free, it doesn't mean I have to give them up 100%.  One thing I love about primal is that it recognizes that sometimes, things don't go as planned and that's okay.  They actually encourage a 100% attempt at compliance, realizing that if you hit at least 80%, you're doing pretty good.  So if I want to make brownies with rice flour (and sugar!) to take to a pot luck, and I want to eat one, it's going to be okay.  I just can't eat the whole pan anymore.  Which is probably for the better...

Anyhow, my point with this essay here isn't to convert you to the primal lifestyle. (Though it is simply awesome to eat as much butter and bacon as I want, every single day, and not gain an ounce. Stop worrying about my cholesterol, I eat tons of veggies each day, too.)

No, what I'm getting at is that if you continue to have health problems after going gluten free, keep digging.  If you have one food intolerance already, it's not unusual to have others.  Yes, eating things your body doesn't like can cause all sorts of problems with your health and well-being. No, drugs are not always the answer, no matter what your doctor says. If you really examine your diet, you may not like what you find, and you may hate the idea of giving up rice or sugar or apples, or whatever it turns out to be that's causing you problems. But let me tell you, once you feel better, it's all worth it.  Really.

By the way, everyone knows I'm not a doctor right?  And that this is all my personal opinion, based on my personal experiences.  And that I'm not dispensing medical advice here.  I'm just sayin'...

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