As you might have read in my previous post about my experience on the Be Well Cleanse I started the Cleanse eating what was mostly a Vegan diet and two weeks later ended it a grain-free devotee. This is the story of how I accidentally went Paleo!
It all started with the Cleanse. You know, I LOVE the Be Well Cleanse. Dr Lipman’s program encourages a good amount of protein to assist the liver in it’s detoxification process to help in restoring and repairing your body’s ailing tissues. Now, I had been following a mostly vegan way of eating for almost two years. I had arrived at that way of eating because I saw improvements in my GI health when I went vegetarian so I just kept it going! Resources such as the amazing Kris Carr, various vegan-eating blogs, Kimberly Snyder and the pH solution were all staples to me. I had figured that if cutting out meat and going vegan was decreasing my acidity and improving my body’s pH, this would certainly help my autoimmune issues. However, I was clearly doing something wrong. I was still symptomatic from my autoimmune issues and now had a positive ANA for the first time….so something had to be going awry. But what WAS it? I thought I was doing a good thing for myself, why was I still not feeling well? Enter my dietary shift.
Going All In
On the cleanse Dr. Lipman encourages organic, grass-fed, pastured, humanely treated, local-if-possible “happy” animals for your protein source. I have never been a huge fan of animal protein, but I was willing to take the leap if he told me to. I started the Cleanse by telling myself that although I was not crazy about meat, I could start by just eating it at one meal per day. You see, if I was going to commit to the cleanse and seeing TRUE changes for my health, I also had to commit to the Cleanse approved foods and be all-in with the lifestyle. I had to go whole-hog. (Ha! Paleo joke! Get it?!)
I won’t bore you with the day to day details of what I ate for each meal but I will say that as I included lean, good protein, I felt more satiated. I was able to stop my endless “grazing” that I used to do all day. For most of my life I can remember feeling full after a meal and then being hungry again 2 hours later. This was just how I ate. But, as I cleansed and as I included more protein, I felt comfortable after my meals and did not feel hungry, light headed or jittery at all within a few hours. This was a very nice & unexpected improvement I noticed! As for the grazing: I am learning, it is critical for your body to have periods of rest between meals. This time period is preferably 4 hours or more, to digest and metabolize each meal. This also helps your body learn to effectively use carbohydrates as well as burn fat stores for energy instead of relying on constant boost of carbohydrate (or sugar!!) for quick energy. The best explanation of these physiologic processes I have read are in the book The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sission. I HIGHLY recommend reading this book, Paleo or not.
As I gradually got used to eating protein I also noticed I was feeling better; more energy. After my first 10 days on the Cleanse I was feeling good but still had some GI issues like abdominal pain and bloating. After seeing Dr. Lipman and discussing my plan with him and his team, I decided I would try eliminating all grains and legumes. This was a daunting step for me since, prior to the cleanse, I had subsisted on my daily doses of brown rice, quinoa, lentils and oats along side fruit and veggies. No more quinoa? No more oatmeal? No more hummus…my daily staple!! How was this going to work?
Grain Free & Gut Happy
For the rest of my cleanse (4-5 days after my appointment) I stuck to my morning shakes, salad with protein for lunch, and dinner of protein with veggies. If I had a big gap between lunch and dinner and was hungry at work I would have an apple or some berries, and maybe throw in little scoop of coconut butter. All it boils down to is this: I.FELT.BETTER. My gut was happy. No more bloating, no cramping. I was not hungry or light headed between meals. My rashes were gone. My hands were looking better than ever. I had no headaches. Paleo/Primal/Grain-free was for me. I am the unlikely convert to a primal diet. I was perfectly happy eating all veggies and grains. However, this was not what was making my body happy. By truly listening to the signs my body was giving me, I radically changed how I ate over the course of a few weeks and improved my overall health. I learned that for many people with autoimmune issues there are compounds in grains that can irritate the gut, sink into our blood stream and keep stimulating our immune system. While grains may be awesome and healthy for others, they just were not working for me.
What Do You Eat!?
I think many people have an initial gut reaction that this way of eating is very restrictive. I can understand & appreciate that reaction. Your favorite foods may not make the cut. No gluten, no dairy, no grains, no legumes. That leaves organic meats, fruits and vegetables. But do you realize how much food that actually leaves you!? I bet there are tons of fruits and veggies you have never even tried! Cuts of meat you have never tasted. It might surprise you. I have tried sheep’s milk yogurt & grass fed butter (paleo-approved dairy). I made coconut ‘whipped cream’. I even made lamb for the first time. (delish!)
I also try to stick with an “autoimmune” variation of the Paleo diet where I restrict my intake of nightshades and have completely eliminated eggs. Nightshades are known to be inflammatory for all of us and egg proteins have been thought to permeate the gut lining, which causes more immune havoc for those of us with AI issues. For breakfast every day I have a smoothie with powder from Dr. Lipman, made with coconut water and frozen fruit. I don’t vary too much on my breakfasts. I also still include seeds in my diet like chia, hemp, sunflower and pumpkin. I keep them organic, raw, sprouted, and as close to nature as I can. I only include nuts on occasion but keep it to almonds or macadamias, mostly if I am in a pinch and need energy at work. (No peanuts…those are legumes!!)
I understand that there are very few ‘quick’ or convenience foods that fit into this lifestyle. But is that such a terrible thing? NO. Seriously….No. Does eating a Primal/Paleo diet take planning? YES! I understand people say that they do not have time to plan and pack their food so this way of living does not work for them. But, I have to call their bluff on that one. I work 12 hour shifts in an Emergency Department where my schedule fluctuates between day and night weekly. Some weeks I may work 5 shifts. You have to commit to the preparation, that is all.
I will wake up early to pack my food for all 12 hours. Yes, that is 5am if I have a 630am shift. I will get out of bed after a late night shift to put a chicken in the oven at 7am so I have food to take to my 12p-12a shift. I will go to yoga at 8am on my way home from a night shift. I cook protein in batches so we have enough for multiple meals during the week. I come from the perspective the anything worth doing in life will take a concerted effort to get the results you desire. Especially when it comes to your health. Do you want to save your own life? OK…it is going to take some work. Tough love? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely.
I am just dipping my toe in the Paleo pool. Scraping the surface. It is working for me right now and I’m digging it! Does this mean it is ideal for everyone? Probably not. I wholeheartedly believe there is no single diet, approach, or way of life that suits 100% of people 100% of the time! Just like I thought vegan was for me, until I tried going Paleo. I have so much learning to do about eating and living Paleo/Primal. Since the cleanse I have tried foods I never imagined liking. I have also really ventured out to find new veggies to eat and new ways to make them. (Has anyone ‘riced’ cauliflower yet!?)
I am so excited about this shift and I can not wait to share this journey with you! I have certainly learned a lot from my autoimmune issues over the past few years. But, I have to say this has been the most surprising. I am accidentally Paleo, and loving it!!
Don’t forget to say hi @meg_mcgrane on twitter and megmcgrane4 on Instagram!!
Check out a few of my resources:
Mark’s Daily Apple–Mark Sisson & The Primal Blueprint