My Road to Paleo
My diet evolution was just that — an evolution. Many years ago, long before I was Paleo, I was a sugar/carb/junk food addict. I’d never thought much about how food choices might seriously affect my health. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and watched my illness escalate that I decided to make some changes. I started with dropping most junk foods and began to incorporate eating organic. But I still continued to flare and get sick (it didn’t help that conventional medical advice told me to eat things like white bread during flare-ups…worst advice ever!). I eventually decided to ditch the refined carbs and began to shift towards what I thought was the epitome of good health: the ever-popular low-fat, mostly whole grain and plant-based diet, thinking I was being healthy and moving in the right direction.
But I grew only more sick. It wasn’t until I reached absolute rock bottom (in and out of the hospital, multiple surgeries, and disabling side effects from medications) that I finally turned to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). I was now heading in the right direction! SCD helped somewhat, but still wasn’t quite right for me (the allowance of legumes and large amounts of nuts weren’t working for me). So I began to tweak my SCD lifestyle to better meet my personal needs and finally began finding healing and relief with my new “special” personally-customized diet. Of course, I would find out later that my new special diet actually had a name: the Paleo diet, and as it turns out, it wasn’t new at all! It was the way humans had been eating since primal times, long before the epidemics of modern diseases like heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune conditions became all too commonplace. I realized that our modern ways of eating were a large part of why I was so sick. Suddenly, it became clear why the conventional nutrition advice I’d been following wasn’t working, and it made perfect sense as to why body was finally finding healing with a Paleo-inspired diet.
Meanwhile, since my body was rejecting every Crohn’s medication I tried, following a Paleo diet became critical for my health. I am now off all my major Crohn’s medications (i.e. immunosuppressants and biologics which were, unfortunately, ineffective and making me more sick than when I began), and now managing my condition mostly through diet and lifestyle.*
What is the Paleo Diet?
There are variations of the Paleo diet, but these are the things I primarily eat:
- plenty of organic vegetables (with the exception of white potatoes)
- properly-raised, organic animal proteins: grassfed/grass-finished beef, pasture-raised poultry and pork, wild-caught seafood, for example
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- healthy fats, such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and anything coconut (oil, flour, milk)
- bone broth
- nuts and seeds (including nut and seed butters) in small amounts**
- organic fruit in small amounts**
- unrefined, mineral sea salt and additive-free, organic seasonings
- raw honey in very small amounts, and/or on occasion**
Foods to avoid: all grains (including and especially, wheat/gluten), dairy (although grass-fed butter and ghee are sometimes exceptions), legumes (including soy), and refined sugar because they are all inflammatory (note: nuts and natural sugars are also inflammatory in large amounts, so I usually limit these to a small portion each day, if at all). You should also avoid all highly processed foods, highly refined oils/fats (such as canola, soybean, safflower, etc.), and unnecessary food additives.**
The result is a clean/whole/real-food anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic, nutrient-dense lifestyle diet, with an emphasis on healing the gut. It helped me heal from one of my worst Crohn’s flares ever and continues to help me manage my ongoing Crohn’s symptoms, as well as the longterm side effects (including other autoimmune symptoms) that I’m left with after years of devastating medications.
If I feel my inflammation is under control, I occasionally enjoy a gluten-free grain (such as rice or perhaps a corn tortilla) and some raw, grass-fed cheese, however, these are “treats” and should only be consumed in small amounts and when easily tolerated.
Finally, let me be clear that I am not an expert in nutrition; I am simply sharing these principles because they have worked wonders for me. (Please consult a functional medical doctor, naturopath, or certified Paleo nutritionist for a specific dietary plan, especially if you have a diagnosed health condition.) Additionally, if these foods look boring or bland to you, I assure you, they are not! I’m always experimenting and on the look-out for the most tasty versions of my Paleo favorites, and that is very much what this blog is all about. Hence, my motto: “nutritious and delicious!” Although I provide specific recipes on this blog, I love to experiment with substitutions and adjust recipes to my beliefs and tastes, and I encourage you to do the same. My recipes and ideas are meant to inspire, so have fun, be creative, and let me know if you come up with something even better!
Learn More About the Paleo Diet and Lifestyle
To learn more about the Paleo lifestyle, treating inflammatory disease, and the science behind it all, I highly recommend checking out the following books (heads up: these are affiliate links; to see what that means, click here):
Now that you’re more familiar with Paleo, it’s time to check out some great Paleo recipes and other healthy lifestyle info!
*Please note that I only stopped medications under the direct supervision of my doctor(s) and because my body couldn’t tolerate them. Please remember that medications are sometimes necessary and effective in treating certain health conditions. As a full disclosure, although I’m no longer on any major Crohn’s-specific meds, I still take some medication as needed. I know that sometimes we must approach healing with both medication and nutrition, and sometimes that’s okay! Please be sure to obtain your doctor’s approval before withdrawing from any medication or making any changes to your medication regimen.
**If you are experiencing a severe flare and are trying to bring down inflammation, it’s best to avoid nuts, seeds, fruit, and all forms of sugar until symptoms are more manageable. The Autoimmune Protocol or the diet in The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers would be a good place to start.