Fifteen years ago there was no internet. No one was talking about gluten free or Paleo diets or even clean eating. That was when my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease and over 25 other food intolerances.
Reluctantly, I committed to eliminating gluten and the other foods from her diet. Several times I challenged it by allowing her to cheat. Her dramatic reaction showed me the powerful role food played with her symptoms.
As I began connecting the dots, I became unwaveringly convinced this was a way of life she needed to live by no matter what. If she didn’t follow her new diet, she’d regress and life would suck even more than having to cook every meal from scratch.
We were alone. No one else around us knew what I was talking about or why I was all of the sudden freaking out over crumbs on the counter or ordering out at restaurants.
A few years later, when her functional medicine doctor, Dr Sidney Baker, recommended the Specific Carbohydrate diet (SCD), I became her partner.
I had been diagnosed with ulcers and acid reflux in my early twenties. I also suffered from constipation my whole life. So, I was hopeful it could help my symptoms as well as hers.
SCD is a science based approach to healing the gut by removing inflammatory offending foods like all preservatives, additives, and sugars other than monosaccharides. It was (in the beginning) all about lists of what was legal and illegal according to the science of Dr. Haas and Elaine Gottschall, author of the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle.
Really, it was what today we call a Paleo diet except that SCD allows certain types of dairy and some legumes. So in essence, we were eating Paleo without knowing it.
Today, the Paleo approach is embraced by many because they feel so much better on it and typically are able to lose weight and keep it off. What I love about the Paleo movement is that it is opening up so many new ideas for people with food sensitivities who want to follow a clean eating plan. Paleo has made allergy free eating cool.
In 2009, when I attended Integrative Nutrition in New York, I began to question the role of meat in my diet, and it’s impact on my digestive difficulties. I wanted to know if eating less or no meat would improve my digestion even more than what I’d been doing. So after eight years of being Paleo, I went vegan (while my daughter was still eating Paleo).
At first, I had more energy without animal protein in my diet. Though I removed meat, I continued to eat gluten free, grain free and sugar free. Beans began to taste like magic, and I enthusiastically embraced eating plants. The more veggies the better. And the more I ate plants exclusively, the more it bothered me that we kill animals for food (and it still does).
After about five years of being vegan, my doctor recommended I add meat back into my diet because I wasn’t getting enough nutrients without it. I resisted for a year then finally began reintroducing meat. I started slowly with the addition of bone broth and then small portions of a variety of animal protein.
When I read Dr. Terry Wahls story, it was much easier to accept the shift back to Paleo. Dr Wahls was a vegetarian most of her life. Only after reverting to a Paleo diet did her Multiple Sclorosis go into remission and she went from riding in a wheelchair to riding a bike.
Nutrition is such a critical component to our health. Yet, often there is conflicting information around food which can frustrate even paralyze those interested in making change. Interestingly, right now we have two very strong movements that are opposing forces in the nutrition world – Paleo and vegan. Both claim to be the magic ticket to health and happiness. How do you know what is right for you?
What they both have in common is vegetables. Make vegetables your main course and you can’t go wrong. For example, the Wahls diet recommends 9 cups a day – 3 of leafy greens, 3 cups of brightly colored fruits and veggies and 3 cups of sulfur rich vegetables.
Here’s what I think at this point in my journey. What I love about Paleo is that it removes all the most common food triggers – dairy, gluten, grains, soy, corn, processed foods and sugar – without making a big deal about it. Referring to it as this is the way our ancestors ate for millions of years is relatable.
What I love about vegan is the concept of eating lots of plants. Plants are beautiful wonders of the earth. The color of rainbow swiss chard or flavor of cilantro both remind us of the magical creation of our food.
So, I’ve shifted back to Paleo and am loving it. It’s what’s right for me now. The thing is that we tend to hear what we want to hear. Honor your journey but be open to change and learning from others.
No matter what you do, keep it simple, cook with love and just eat real food 🙂