This post continues a series about my health issues, with all the posts in the series as follows:
- When my health fell off a big cliff
- My experience with doctors and pharma drugs
- How I turned the corner on my failing health
- The health diagnostic and treatment protocols that I am using
- What I eat on the paleo diet
This is the third post in a series about the health issues I went through and how I got myself back to health. The first post covered the conditions I was experiencing, while the second post covered my experience with health care practitioners. In this post, I will cover what I did to get well.
By now, it was April 2011 and I had debilitating issues going on for almost a year and a half, which had continued to get progressively worse. By now, I was deep into my own research to determine what was going on with my health, since I was not getting answers from the people I was paying to fix me. I had read different books about adrenal fatigue, thyroid disorders, fibromyalgia and other issues, not to mention the hours I spent on the Internet. I stumbled on the paleo diet (also referred to as the primal diet) through a friend of my parents.
I was referred to The Paleo Solution, which I downloaded on Kindle. The book introduced me to the concept of auto-immunity and how foods play a direct role in these conditions. As I read the book, it just seemed to click. God was telling me that this was a direction I needed to go. I read the book in less than a day and by dinner, I was on the paleo diet 100%. 24 hours later, I wasn’t well by any stretch, but the constant low level of anxiety that I had been experiencing for over a year was now gone. And, it was an amazing relief! I knew by then that I was on the right track.
One major thing I learned through the paleo diet was that many classes of foods that we traditionally consider as harmless and good for us can actually cause serious issues. For me, I had to get off all grains, including rice, beans and legumes, and dairy. Also, caffeine, sugar (including fruit, honey, agave, etc), and alcohol. It would appear that these classes of foods were causing an auto-immune response against my Thyroid, primarily, but also were giving me problems elsewhere as well, including my adrenal glands and my blood glucose/insulin response. I also had some serious over-growth of Candida coursing through my body, which I will document in a later post.
In early 2010, when all this started, I tried many different diet variations, including removing gluten, then removing all grains, but sticking with beans and legumes, then removing dairy, then going back to gluten free grains and removing beans and legumes. I had never considered a diet that was just meat and vegetables because I was taught that you needed to eat grains or beans/legumes for fiber. So, if I removed grains, I would have to eat beans/legumes. I mean, come on, the government, nutritionists, and my health care practiconers were all telling me the importance of fiber from these foods. No one told me about the paleo diet or to go on an anti-inflammatory diet of meats and vegetables, and that if I did, I would still get getting plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber through vegetables.
The other problem was that my system had become so sensitive from eating these foods that I could not ingest any vitamins or supplements, which I obviously needed. For example, I had chronically low vitamin D that would go nowhere despite taking supplements and hanging out in the sun. In fact, when I took supplements, I would always feel worse.
So, with my switch to paleo in mid-April 2011, I began to recover my strength and symptoms began to dissipate almost immediately. By mid-May, I was doing really easy weightlifting, walking and working around the yard. By September, I was a good 75% back in terms of energy and general well-being. By November, I was back to my normal fighting weight; in fact, I was 5 pounds heavier, a good thing for someone like me who has always been lanky, rail-thin and 5% body fat. By June 2012, or as of this posting, I have regained what feels like 100% of my health and am feeling better than I have in at least the last 10 years.
And, I know it wasn’t the synthroid for my Thyroid or the adrenal support that turned me around, nor the various other treatment protocols I was following, which I will get into in a later post. I had started the paleo diet before I went on these drugs and was getting better. I think these drugs merely helped support and knock my system back in line faster.
Of the original conditions I was feeling, here is what I still experience:
- Occasional mild bloating and belching.
- My sleep is still not 100%, but it is slowly getting better. I rarely take prescription sleep meds and for the most part, I feel like I get enough sleep. If I do need to take a sleep med, its usually 1 to 2.5 mg, not the 15 mg I was previously on each night.
- Occasional tired eyes, but its mostly at night when I am probably just normally tired from the day anyway.
- I still get hypoglycemic when I go without food for too long. However, the interesting thing about the hypoglycemia is that it has always been an issue for me and in the last few months, it is better than it has ever been in my life.
Of the original clinical conditions I was experiencing, the only medication I am on is for my Thyroid, which I may be on indefinitely. But, sometime in the future, I will research more about my thyroid to see if I can get off of the medication for it.
However, my environment is still pretty controlled. I carefully watch what I eat and drink as well as the quality, quantity and combinations of what I consume. Although, I am starting to relax that a bit and seem to be doing fine. I have not really done much travel yet, either for pleasure or work, which can mess up a routine in eating, sleeping and exercise. And, I have not done any extended training, beyond a 3-hour hike.
The interesting thing is that when I started to get well, my doctors wondered why and I told them about the paleo diet. Several said they knew about it, but they equate it with a diet that weightlifters use and not an auto-immune diet.
So, isn’t my diet boring and don’t I have cravings for breads, cheese, milk chocolate, coffee, alcohol, cinnamon rolls…., etc, etc.? Well, no, not really. I mean, I have to be honest, that stuff is good and it would be nice to consume, but I don’t crave it or miss it like you’d think I would. With the paleo diet, I find that it satisfies me so that I don’t have cravings for these foods. And, that is an awesome thing!
There are a number of paleo resources that I have read and keep up with. The books I recommend include:
- The Paleo Solution: - easy to digest and a pretty easy read with food and sample diet plans;
- The Paleo Answer: more in-depth with lots more reference to studies, including food and sample diet plans (there are 50 pages alone of references).
I also read the blogs and visit the forums on these sites, which are quite active and have a wealth of information from paleo diet followers:
So, you may think, since I don’t have an autoimmune issue, the paleo diet is not for me. Well, you might be missing the opportunity for better health if you assume that. I was not experiencing a lot of the digestive disorders associated with auto-immune, like cramping, diarea, blood stools, etc. I had wicked-bad gas and some loose stools. There is more and more evidence emerging that a wide range of diseases and conditions are associated with our intake of grains, bean/legumes and dairy.
The challenge authors and influencers in the paleo community make is to try the diet for 30 days and see how you look, feel and perform. But, its not just going on a meat, vegy and nuts/seed diet. You have to stick with natural foods, such as grass fed meats, free-range chickens, wild caught fish and organic vegetables. Unfortunately, it is not a cheap diet. Our government subsidizes grain crops, which is why they are so cheap compared to meats and vegetables. Further, while mass-produced meats and vegetables are cheaper than free-range or organic, they are grown with pesticides and additives of various kinds.
In my next post, I will get more in-depth about Candida, a fungal overgrowth which I discovered after I went on the paleo diet. Candida overgrowth can occur in diets rich in grains, fruits, sugar and other foods that are not paleo-safe, foods which I had been on all my life. I will also discuss the health diagnostic and treatment protocols that helped me, in addition to the paleo diet.
Disclosure: I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.