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Why Start A Paleo Diet? – Louise’s Story

Louise Hendon | October 31

Why I Started A Paleo Diet

I was about to walk out the door when my stomach churned. There was this sudden gurgle like a pipe emptying, and I quickly shut the door, took off my coat, and quick stepped into the bathroom.

I kept wracking through my head – what could it be? Did I eat something bad AGAIN? Was it the spinach salad I had or maybe the beets?

That was the beginning of IBS for me, and after weeks of doctor appointments, poop tests, etc, all they came back with have IBS, symptoms of which can be are bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

I walked into our apartment and joyfully told Jeremy the news: “The doctor told me I have IBS.”

Jeremy gave me a seriously confused look and said slowly, “So they told you what you already knew? That you have diarrhea?”

My good mood suddenly vanished as the truth hit me. The tests and weeks of waiting and the final diagnosis was all pointless. They had simply given me a label for my symptoms with no cure in sight!

Jeremy had been Paleo for a long time already, but that was when I finally decided to give it a proper go. I had tried it for a week before and hated it, but if it could cure my diarrhea, then maybe it was worth it.

However, it wasn’t a cure for diarrhea that I found in Paleo…

No More Afternoon Slump

It was a sunny spring afternoon in New York City – cool enough for the air conditioning to be off but the sun had definitely warmed the apartment to a comfortable temperature. I was sitting at my computer, a thick and heavy Constitutional Law textbook sat next to my keyboard. The page I was reading and making notes on was literally blurring in front of my eyes as I tried desperately to focus my mind and reread that same sentence for the 10th time.

Finally I gave in and trudged into my bed. Nap time!

This was all fine during law school, but I had no idea how I was supposed to stay awake in the afternoons when I started working at a law firm! And I clearly wasn’t the only one – one friend had slept on a disabled bathroom floor at work after one heavy lunch and another had to go into a cupboard to “rest her eyes.”

All I can say is thank god I started Paleo before starting work, because fighting to stay awake in the afternoons was seriously painful for me. I had no idea this was going to be a benefit of not eating bread, pizza, or fries at lunch at more!

No More Brain Fog

I wasn’t until I started Paleo that I came across the brain fog concept, so let me tell you this story if you’re not familiar with it.

I was again studying (this time for my physics masters degree). I had spent a whole day mapping out my revision schedule, and I had just gotten up at 8am to start on it.

I was on fire! My brain was lightning – it moved so fast! I finally understood concepts that had eluded me for months, and I could solve all the problems on my list.

If you’ve ever felt on top of the world with the power and ability to anything, then that’s exactly how I felt that morning.

Then I went downstairs, ate a few slices of buttered toast with a cup of milky black tea, and resumed my studies.

And it all fell apart. My brain slowed down like golden syrup sluggishly dripping off the end of a spoon. I could even feel this slight pressure just behind my forehead and eyes like there was storm brewing in there.

This happened every single day and I couldn’t understand why (despite studying physics, I was really not that smart when it comes to daily living).

The ability to think and not just react based on habits is something that makes humans unique, and I’m so glad Paleo gave me that ability back (not just in the mornings but throughout the day).

Heartburn Vanished

I didn’t even notice this until Jeremy pointed it out one day that I no longer complained about my heartburn.

I’ve written quite a bit about what I found helped me to get rid of heartburn for good in this article here, but the short story is that I had heartburn for most of my early twenties (I was on Prilosec/Nexium for a long time), and I started Paleo shortly after I was told to go off Prilosec (my doctor said a study showed that Prilosec increased the risk of osteoporosis in women).

I used to carry Tums and Zantac with me everywhere, but after starting Paleo, I found I never had to use it. A year and a half ago, I finally threw out my last bottle of Tums (I bought the Costco sizes) when I was cleaning out my office.

My Rare Autoimmune Condition Went Into Remission

I was sitting in the cafeteria at Cambridge University enjoying my mushroom soup and trying to keep the jetlag from completely taking over when I felt a slight tingling in my upper lip. Within two hours, my entire lip had swollen so much that I looked like a rabbit! The swelling lasted for around 8 hours and then left me absolutely drained of energy.

I put that first time down to an allergy to mushrooms, and I avoided mushrooms for 6 months until it happened again (without mushrooms). This continued for 6 years with episodes occurring every half year until my last year of law school. That’s when things started escalating to every other month, then every month. By the time I started working at a law firm, it had gotten to every single week.

I freaked out – none of the allergist I visited told me anything useful. I was tested for every known allergy under the sun and I came back positive for a ton of them (none of them food related), but that still didn’t cure things.

It felt like my body was falling apart and no one even knew why! Finally I went to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist (Dr Kenneth Schneider) because all my lymph nodes were bulging, and for some reason my “odd” allergy problem came up. He immediately diagnosed it as angioedema (he said he had just read an article about it the previous week).

While just giving a name to a health condition doesn’t really make it any better, it was at least reassuring that I wasn’t the only one out there with these weird symptoms (the hives I had had for my entire life was another symptom of the angioedema). It also let me know that I didn’t have just a common allergy to pollen, and I was prescribed two EpiPens (in case the swelling spread to my throat).

I found another allergy specialists after that (angioedema was listed on his profile) and the only answers I got was that:

No, there is no cure to angioedema.

If you have symptoms, take some OTC antihistamines.

And my favorite:

You are allergic to stress. So, I can write you a prescription for the gym.

Since my symptoms were pretty much occurring daily and I was working a full-time stressful job in NYC, I started taking antihistamines daily (I took them at night so that I wouldn’t be sleepy from them during the day). And it worked – if I was late with my antihistamines then sometimes the hives would start, and if I ever missed a day of medication, my lips would swell up again.

I used to joke to friends that if the Hunger Games or Revolution happened, then I would be the first to die because I had to have my medication like clockwork.

I was so dependent on those pills that I was terrified of going off them. I had no idea whether Paleo or AIP would help things, and I wasn’t willing to try AIP if there wasn’t a good chance of success (so I never went full AIP for a long period).

Last October, I finally went off the antihistamines. I had two months in California to try it – I didn’t have to go out to see people, I knew the hospital was close by, and my family was there to help me if anything went wrong.

The first week was awful. It was exactly as I predicted…as soon as I stopped the medication the hives came back in full force and my lips and forehead would start swelling.

So, I changed tactics. I would start trying to take the medication a bit later every day – when my face started twitching, then I would take the medication in order to delay it as much as possible. I was so itchy all the time, and I was seriously tempted to go back on the medication and just live my life that way.

After around a week, I managed to scale the medication back to one pill every other day, and within another week, I stopped taking it completely. I kept waiting for the itching and swelling to start, but it’s been 8 months since I’ve taken any medication and I’m still going strong!

Chronic Knee Pain

One of my favorite sports is badminton – it’s lightning fast, exciting, and simply exhilarating. Unfortunately, knee injuries are a common aspect of badminton (you’ll see a lot of knee braces at a badminton gym).

My knee injury got so bad that I couldn’t work on some days – the soft tissue below my knee cap would swell so much that I couldn’t straighten my knee, and this injury would reappear if I walked for more than 30 minutes.

I didn’t really notice anything huge with diet changes, but Paleo introduced me to other things like the importance of de-stressing and sleeping more, and walking, standing, siting with proper posture.

I started wearing Vibrams seriously around 3 years ago, and my knee pain disappeared (it would only come back if I wore heels for several days straight). I’ve gone on long hikes in Scotland, walked for miles and miles in Japan, and even done some running on a treadmill without experiencing any pain.

Bloating, IBS, and Candida

This is one of the health issues that I’m still working on (although I’m not running to the bathroom daily like before). I recently did some extensive testing that showed I had small bacteria overgrowth and candida as well as H. Pylori and a parasite! It all just goes to show that while diet can do wonders and completely reverse many conditions, modern testing techniques are still necessary to speed up our healing process.

What Else Can Paleo Do For Me?

I get asked all the time why I started Paleo or what Paleo did for me, so I hope this article answers some of those questions.

It’s been 5 or 6 years since I started a Paleo diet (I restarted many times before fulling committing), and I’ve learnt that the path to amazing health is a lifetime journey. While I started my Paleo journey because I wanted to cure my digestive problems, Paleo has enriched my life in so many other unexpected ways.

I spent 25 years disrespecting my body and filling it with junk, so it’s not hugely surprising that my body isn’t able to heal overnight just by eating right. While I wish I had done the testing much early so that I could have speeded up my healing, I also recognize that it is a process, and I am only ready now to be able to accept and deal with the health conditions that the testing has uncovered.

Watch out for an update!