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Last Updated on March 22, 2017 by Diane Hoffmaster
If you have been following my blog for the last couple of months, you will know that I have been trying out a few diet changes to see if they help with some chronic pain issues I have been suffering from. January had me trying to go gluten free and by February I had started my Paleo diet journey. I stuck with the Paleo diet for 6 weeks with no improvement at all in pain symptoms. Some people may say that isn't long enough to make a difference but I am pretty sure that if I was going to notice any changes, 6 weeks should be enough to see SOMETHING. I saw not one iota of reduction in pain symptoms after 6 weeks. And let me just say that I have been tested for food allergies and had every type of blood test known to man to look for nutritional deficiencies, autoimmune issues, inflammatory response, etc. All tests show I am 100% healthy....except for the fact that I am in pain constantly. The Paleo diet was a last ditch effort and didn't pan out. Back to the drawing board, I guess. But, I figured I would share with you all how my Paleo diet experience went, in case any of you are considering trying it.
The first 2 weeks on the Paleo diet were honestly sheer hell. I was tired constantly and going for a walk in the neighborhood had me struggling to make it up the smallest of hills. My legs felt weak after only a few blocks. I suffered from seriously low blood sugar almost constantly. Lots of headaches, shaky hands, and general fatigue. And cranky...Oh my GOD was I cranky. Low blood sugar does that to me and my family learned to just leave mommy alone unless there was blood or vomit involved. Thankfully nothing of that sort happened because I am pretty sure that I would have ended up in a tiny white padded room if it had.
Out of the way! I have to GO!
My stomach did not handle the Paleo diet well at all, even after a month of a totally no grain, no dairy, no processed foods diet. For the first 2 weeks I couldn't go anywhere that did not have a bathroom because I needed to GO many, many times a day. Constant diarrhea in my mind does not signify a healthy eating plan but I stuck it out. Things settled down after a few weeks but my stomach was never what I would call 'back to normal' while I was on the Paleo diet. I have always had a bit of a sensitive stomach but I know my triggers and usually have no issues as long as I take my probiotics and watch what I eat. Maybe my stomach issues made my experience worse than others but I was not feeling good for most of the time I was on the Paleo diet.
I DID lose weight. While I am generally at a healthy weight 'by the book', I did want to lose a few pounds to get to where I LIKED the way I looked. Between January and mid March I lost about 6 pounds. Mainly because I had little interest in eating. Honestly, food became depressing and I had little interest in eating outside of maintaining certain standards of nutrition and making sure I didn't starve. Gone was my enjoyment of food...and it became simply a way to nourish my body. Now, maybe that is how some people think we SHOULD see food. Maybe our culture's obesity epidemic is due to the fact that people take too much enjoyment in food. However, food has always played a huge role in my family. We shop together, cook together, and eat together. I found myself having to make a separate meal for myself rather than eat what my family was eating. I have NEVER done that before, even when my kids were tiny. I make a meal and we ALL eat it. Even my husband who hates broccoli eats his broccoli when I make it. I lost interest in looking through food magazines, grocery shopping, and cooking. Food was depressing and the idea that I would never sit down to pizza night with the kids again had me just wanting to curl up and cry. I tried many, many Paleo diet approved recipes and some came out great but I just hated the fact that 90% of the recipes I saw were off limits. And really, brownies made completely of sweet potatoes, eggs and cocoa really do not sound appealing!
I got really, REALLY sick of meat. Meat has never been a huge part of my family's diet. Sure, we have burger night or a roast chicken occasionally but for the most part, meat is a side dish. We would do meatless meals several times a week and even those nights that included meat had it in small amounts. One chicken breast could feed all 4 of us in a nice stirfry with brown rice or a bit of leftover pork would be added to pork fried rice. However, the Paleo diet is heavily meat based and eating meat twice a day got real old, real fast. Not only do I not enjoy meat that much but honestly, even buying grass fed organic meats puts a strain on our environment. If everyone ate meat twice a day, every day, the tole on our environment would be astronomical.
My Paleo diet experience may be totally unlike anyone elses but I thought I would share so you know what you might experience. And keep in mind that I was not going from a 'Standard American Diet' to the Paleo diet. I was eating healthy before....local, grass fed meat, plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, home cooked meals almost every night, and much of our food was organic. I will say the my pre Paleo diet was definitely too heavy on the bread and dairy. I do love cheese and crackers! Cheese was probably the hardest thing to give up when I started the Paleo diet and the first thing I added back in.
Forbidden (But Healthy!) Foods on the Paleo Diet
I have started reintroducing carbs back into my diet. The first few days were a bit rough with a lot of bloating and gas. Things are settling down a bit now and I am starting to feel much better. I have learned a lot from the last couple of months. I am going to try to keep my diet lower in carbs and higher in fruits and veggies. I am definitely cutting back on the meat and adding in foods I think are healthy but that are not 'Paleo approved'. Things like hummus, beans, brown rice, and granola. I will try to keep the 'treats' to a minimum but if I want a Girl Scout cookie or a few slices of cheese I am going to have them occasionally. Life is too short for me to never take my kids out for ice cream and actually enjoy it with them. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow (knock on wood!) and it will not matter one bit whether I had a plate of macaroni and cheese for dinner!
Lastly, let me just say that I do not think the Paleo diet is a scientifically or nutritionally sound way to eat long term. Humans are not the same creatures that we were back in caveman times...(yes, genetically we are very similar but any eye can see we are NOT the same!) We lead different lives, have a longer life expectancy, and have different energy requirements. While not proven as far as I could find, our stomach flora is most likely vastly different than those of Paleolithic humans. Nutritionists analyzed the Paleo diet and rated it based on numerous criteria. Out of the diets analyzed it came in only second to LAST. Do your research and read up on Paleo diet reviews before considering this diet. Researchers highly suggest taking a multivitamin if you are considering this diet.
I am happier now that my Paleo diet is over....I can go back to adding some goat cheese to my fresh salad and having a baked potato with broccoli. I can also look forward to cooking dinner again without wondering how I am going to make a nice Chinese stirfry without soy sauce. So, I am going back to my 80/20 way of eating ...80% whole, healthy and natural and the other 20% whatever I want that tastes good! Now, if you will excuse me there is some Easter candy calling me name!
Have you tried the Paleo Diet?
What was your experience like?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.
I have not tried this diet, but I have been sick for 2 years almost now. In the first 7 months of being sick I lost 100lbs unexplained. I will admit part of it was baby weight to lose but the rest fell off from how sick I was. I was sick to the point of blood coming out both ways. I have been tested for everything known to doctors had the enoscopy and colonoscopy done and nothing. I am not allergic to anything there are no signs of anything. According to doctors it's all in my head. Recently I decided to kind of go vegetarian. People had suggested the diet you tried but it didn't look right to me. I am eating more natural or organic foods now. The only meat I am eating is the occasional fish, for protien I have added tofu and some superfoods. I haven't cut out all of the chips or cookies but cut back. I have found an improvement in the pain that would have me curled in fetal position and the nausea and diareah have been better as well. I am hoping this helps things. Would love to know if you do find something that helps and good luck I totally feel your pain.
I am sorry to hear how sick you have been. Doctors dont always have all the answers, as I have discovered myself. sometimes a food diary helps to keep track of food intake and resulting symptoms but I really don't think my issues are food related. Need to exercise more and spend less time on the computer. Hard to find a balance between living and working though!
Shannon (The Mommy-Files)
Wow - sounds like you are happy to be off the Paleo diet! I can't imagine how hard it must be to stick to such a strict routine. What works for some doesn't necessarily work for others.
I am definitely happy I am done with it, but will keep looking for something to help with the pain issues. Less computer time is going to be a big one. Sitting is the new smoking according to doctors!
Anne @ Unique Gifter
Thank-you for sharing your experience, I find usually only people who are huge advocates post their experiences, so this was very refreshing. I'm sorry that it wasn't able to help your pain issues, hopefully something else does the trick one day.
I also wouldn't be able to handle the quantity of meat! I call myself a quasi-vegetarian and it sounds like I treat meat very similar to how you do, when I do eat it.
I too found almost all glowing things to say about it until I started looking at some of the actual scientific studies that have been done on it. I did find some stuff on withdrawl symptoms but don't think it fully covered how horrible I would feel! I cant imagine how someone would feel if they were going from a diet of twinkies and soda to strictly paleo.
I do a modified paleo which by my own definition means I try to limit my intake of sugar and avoid pasta when possible. I am from Long Island, NY I am NEVER giving up pizza lol.
Sorry to hear that it didn't help with your chronic issues.
I grew up in CT, an hour from NYC and right on Long Island Sound. I am PASSIONATE about good pizza, although it is hard to find down here in the south. I am trying to add in the grains/dairy slowly but I will definitely be enjoying a slice soon!
Never tried the Paleo diet, just do not think it is for me.
I have not tried nor do I intend to even before reading your account. I just know its not for me.
No one diet is the "right one". Every BODY is different. However, one thing to consider when you are thinking about the paleo diet is blood type. My guess is that you are not a "type O"?? It's an interesting twist to how our bodies react to increasing and decreasing certain foods!
You know, I don't even know what my blood type IS! I will have to check into this. Interesting concept!
Paleo is working wonderfully for me. I'm not tired any more. I don't get sick. I have lots more energy & my stomach issues are gone. I'm back at goal weight which makes me happier. I'm sure that it's not for everyone but I know a lot of people that it works great for. I hope you find something that works.
me too...I think less sitting and more moving is a good start!
No, I have not tried a paleo lifestyle, although I've heard a lot about it recently. I'm sorry it did not help woth your pain. Sounds like it wasn't for you.
Sorry to hear that the diet changes didn't have the desired effect of reducing your pain issues. I have been a low carb proponent for years, but continue to experiment to find what works best. I did Atkins years ago when I experienced terrible migraine headaches, and found low carb was good. Recently, I'm doing Paleo-ish, which for me is really low carb/high fat. I feel so much better when I eat high fat (butter, avocados, eggs, etc).
I think you have to find what works for you and not a strict Paleo, low carb, vegetarian, or other type diet. I take pieces of all those diets and use what works best for me. Good luck with your continued journey towards better health.
Thankyou for visiting and letting me know what works for you. I have decided to try to keep the carbs lower than I have been but still allow myself the foods I enjoy in moderation. I am happy to eat salads and grilled chicken but sometimes I want to top that salad with goat cheese and marinate my chicken with soy sauce based marinades! Balance in all things and getting up and moving more will hopefully help me find physical AND emotional health!
I hope my response won't be seen as argumentative or defensive of the paleo diet, but rather informative as it is intended. First of all, I have to disagree about your statement that eating even grassfed meat takes its toll on the environment. Grass-fed farming actually advocates good environmental and ethical practices. I hope you'll consider reading this article and looking for other articles that are not paleo-diet related that support this one (http://paleoleap.com/vegetarianism-bad-environment/). I know they are out there because research has been done concerning this argument.
Secondly, the nutritional analysis study that compared varied diet did not take into account the types of foods that Paleo individuals tend to eat. It only covered the nutritional profile and ratios. Paleo individuals tend to gear themselves much in the way that you listed in your article--organic, grass-fed, locally-raised meats and lots of fruits and vegetables, minimally-processed foods and meals. These meals will contain a better micro-nutritional makeup than the foods that the study analyzed.
My story: I started the paleo diet about 2.5 years ago. I initially did well, but I enjoyed my dairy so I opted instead to go the more primal route (includes high fat dairy and small amounts of white potatoes). I then read about the Perfect Health Diet and started including more safe starches (plantains, white rice, taro). It was an interesting journey where I learned that I require a higher intake of carbs, but I also discovered that while I started out very well, the more I continued to follow the diet (I prefer lifestyle but diet is easier to explain) the worst other symptoms got. My psoriasis flared. I had lots of pain my joints. I was tired and fatigued frequently and still had migraines. I lost some weight but not much, and I wondered why I wasn't considered a success story like others.
And then I discovered Autoimmune Paleo (AIP). I eliminated certain known trigger foods and starting supplementing with gelatin and using probiotics found in fermented foods and drinks to heal my gut. Yes, our stomach flora probably are much different from caveman, but they are also very deficient. Incorporating probiotics whether through supplement form, food form, drink form or all of the above is essential to any healthy lifestyle approach in my opinion. As for AIP, es, it's a stricter form of paleo which doesn't address your complaints of having to make different meals from family members. However it's been the only diet/lifestyle/approach that has managed to almost completely eliminate pain and inflammation for me. My psoriasis is well controlled, my psoriatic arthritis is completely gone, I've lost an additional 15 lbs and the overwhelming signs of inflammation in my body is fading. AIP takes out other common allergen/sensitive foods that the paleo diet approves for 30 days and then you slowly reintroduce foods back in. My psoriasis pain and inflammation and arthritis is mostly caused by nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, etc). For others seeds, nuts, or eggs may be the trigger.
In addition, there are other conditions that could prevent you from achieving success on paleo alone. These include histamine intolerance, FODMAPs issues, etc. My point in all this is that there is no One-Diet-Fits-All approach to paleo. Everyone can use the guidelines as a starting point, but eventually they are going to have to make changes in order to make the diet work for them. Robb Wolf calls this the different shades of paleo. Chris Kresser calls it Your Personal Paleo Code.
I hate to hear such a negative reaction or someone who didn't have much success with a paleo approach. Without knowing all the ins and outs, it can be hard to discover why it works for one person but not another. Maybe you would have more success with GAPS or AIP, but regardless of whatever is the next path you choose, I wish you well on your healing journey.
Thankyou for taking the time to write and leaving such an informative comment. I am always interested in learning more about food/nutrition and how it effects our health. When I started researching paleo all I found were positive comments from people saying it was the greatest diet in the world. I was shocked at how badly my body responded to it and honestly thought more people needed to be aware of the drawbacks of the diet. It is also psychologically very hard to consider that I would never again eat some of my favorite foods, especially since my body did not seem to be responding well at all to a diet that everyone swore was the up and coming new way to feed ourselves. Honestly, I have come to believe that my issues have nothing to do with diet and everything to do with not enough exercise and too much time sitting. Sitting is the new smoking according to many health studies! I am going to focus on following Michael Pollan's food mantra which is 'Eat FOOD (unprocessed!), not too much, mostly plants" and try to live by the 80/20 rule. Most of my diet will be whole foods but that 20% is strictly for my pleasure and enjoyment. And exercise....LOTS of exercise!
When you went back to normal eating so to speak, did you gain all your weigh back?
Yes, unfortunately. Mainly because I have a serious weakness for cheese and bread products. But, I did find a lot of new and healthy meals that I really still enjoy and once these darn holidays pass us by I am definitely getting back onto a lowER carb diet. But, can't give it all up. Makes me very sad!