Friday, August 22, 2008

Mostly Paleo

Hello world!

I'm mostly paleo. What's that mean? Well, it means I follow a more-or-less Paleo diet, similar to the one in Loren Cordain's book, "The Paleo Diet", or perhaps the purist plan of "Protein Power". My interest in this form of diet came from my weight loss attempts on Atkins. I'm not new to Atkins or low carb dieting by any means. Back in the 1970's I was a teenager and lost some weight on Atkins, when it was pretty new and my metabolism was new and shiny.

Later on, in my late 20's or early 30's I got interested in low carb dieting again and actually founded a Usenet group dedicated to the topic. Then I got swept away in the low fat craze and actually became vegetarian for awhile. I got much fatter and my health started to deteriorate, although I didn't really link it to my diet at the time. Meanwhile Dr. Edell, Dr. McDougall and others were saying you couldn't get fat if you didn't eat fat... yeah, right.

As I started to get into my late 30's, early 40's I really felt like things were rapidly going downhill. I had terrible blood sugar swings, gained weight incredibly fast, my intestines were giving me problems that were getting worse all the time, my thryoid went bananas (Graves Disease) and I was starting to get arthritic. It just seemed like I was way to young to be suffering all this. And I was getting pretty fat. So I decided to return to low carb and bought the newer Atkins book and started up again. This was probably in 2003.

Low Carb Goes High Tech

This time many companies had reengineered a lot of foods to make them low carb. For instance, bread became super high fiber to make it low carb. The other tool they used was to increase the amount of wheat protein used in bread, that would decrease the number of carbs. This protein is called "gluten". Well, I happily nommed down on these breads, sometimes I ate "low-carb" bars, I enjoyed the low-carb milk and ate plenty of cheese and other lovely things... but I was having horrible problems with my intestines and it was getting worse all the time.

Sometimes I'd be running to the bathroom 15 times a day. Other times I'd be seized in the night with terrible diarrhea and intestinal cramping. I'd spend hours in agony sitting on the toilet. I figured I had IBS and didn't really pursue it with a doctor. Not only that but I my arthritis was getting a lot worse. I seemed to be having arthritis is most joints and also horrible muscle spasms. Eventually I stumbled on gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, as a possible explanation of my symptoms. I got rid of all sources of dietary gluten and low and behold, my diarrhea cleared up in 2 days.

Shortly after going gluten free (GF) I got a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis, an autoimmune disease that, in some people, turns cartiledge to bone. I'm lucky in that in me, it just makes me hurt everywhere. My rhuematologist put me on a relatively mild drug, Sulfasalazine, and eventually my symptoms went away.

But I didn't know if it was because of eliminating gluten, increasing my Vitamin D3 intake, or the drug. About 6 months to a year after going gluten free I was feeling really good with the joint and muscle pain. The intestinal issues were much better, I wasn't living on the toilet and the cramping was gone. Although I still seemed to be getting reoccuring diarrhea and sometimes constipation. Other things that troubled me were a constant post-nasal drip and stringy ropes of mucus that would crawl down my throat sometimes. Gross, I know!

So on January 1st a few years ago, I decided to give dairy products the boot and see what would happen. I had a last binge on dairy (suffered with horrible gas from it) and quit. Dairy was harder for me to quit than the grains were. I have always loved dairy products. But I must admit, the idea of quitting was worse than the actual quitting.

Anyway, I felt like I had another health improvement quitting dairy. Sinus issues really improved, intestines felt a bit better too. I tried going back on dairy and immediately started to get muscle spasms. I thought it was perhaps coincidental but I've attempted it a few additional times since and they do seem to come back almost every time.

I'm not as fanatical about dairy avoidance as I am gluten but overall I feel like removing dairy products has helped me a lot.

Well, now I'm doing much better. Gut is doing very well, not perfect but much better. My arthritis issues are really well controlled. My rhuemy is suggesting that Sulfasalazine will be in my life forever. Unfortunately it was giving me macrocytic anemia and I wasn't happy about that... even taking folic acid supplements wasn't helping with that.

So I decided to try to stop the Sulfasalazine and see what would happen.

My symptoms did NOT return! I went a good year without any issues and believed it was due to the diet. However, I did recently have a flare and I'm dealing with some neck and shoulder pain. Taking 1/2 a naprosyn every other day seems to make it bearable though.

So, after going GF and casein free (CF, i.e. dairy free) and being low carb to lose weight (and preserve my weight loss of about 45-50 pounds) I decided that the diet I should probably be following is a Paleo diet. The philosophy here is that we should stick to eating foods we have had the longest evolutionary time eating. Foods that are new to us came to us with farming, which happened over the last 10,000 years (much more recent in some parts of the world). Now, living in N. America I don't have access to exactly what my paleo ancestors ate and I'm not really all that interested in trying to be 100% accurate. I'm always rather corrupted in my tastes in that I LOVE sweets, I drink coffee and there are other non-paleo things I'm just not prepared to give up. I think I get most of the benefit of the paleo diet while still making it convienent and fun and very tasty.

So, this is a blog about my way of eating. Perhaps others can see how easy and delicious it can be to eat a very healthy diet. And even one that restricts foods quit drastically can be very tasty.

Other Food Intolerances

As time goes on I have found I have other foods intolerances, which I've indentified by using an elimination diet. It turns out chocolate, nuts, seeds, even sesame oil, were giving me intestinal problems. I'm not sure why I've developed so many sensitivities to so many foods, perhaps leaky gut or something explains it. Or perhaps I'm missing some crucial enzyme or gut bacteria. But I am staying away from those foods too, at least for now.

What do I Eat?

I eat meat, fish, poultry, vegetables (only low-starch ones 99.95% of the time), spices, low sugar fruits (berries), eggs, very modest amounts of soy and coconut products. That might not sound like much but if you look at the cruisine of Southeast Asia, that's pretty much their entire menu too, except for rice. So I look to SE Asia for inspiration and got a Thai cookbook with very easy recipes.

My staples include: Chicken, tomatoes, broccoli, many herbs and spices, spinach, onions, garlic, beef, pork, salmon, tuna, salad greens, cabbage, brussel sprouts, olives, olive oil, rice vinegar, avocados in mass quantities, Splenda, erythritol, xylitol. To drink I have been indulging in Koolaid sweetened with liquid splenda called Sweetzfree.

To the Paleo purists out there that are writhing in horror over my use of non-caloric sweeteners, yes, I know you're offended. But I feel that to make the diet enjoyable and fun, I need to have something to use. And whatever harm, which hasn't been proven reputably, it probably can't be worse than the harm caused by using sugar or fructose based sweeteners (like Agave Syrup).

So with all that said. The rest of this blog is going to be recipes and menu ideas and occasionally newsy things about the Paleo diet.


Tracy said...

Yay! Nancy has a blog!

Looking forward to your recipes :)

Nancy LC said...

Hello Waywardsis! Yes, here I am blogging away. What a narcissistic endeavor. This will be the most boring blog on earth...