It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
My whole life, I had horrible gas. It was just how I was, and my parents, siblings, and I all accepted it as normal. As I got older and accumulated a good deal of good friends, this began to be more and more problematic. I would find myself feeling like my gut was near bursting because I would hold this in during school to avoid social excommunication. On top of that, I had the WORST allergies. I could barely go outside without sneezing a ton, having an itchy nose, ears, and throat, or having a stuffy nose and itchy skin. Even indoors I would sneeze all day long. I had to put the tissue box and trash can next to my desk on occasion. It sucked—it really did. I don’t know how I would have lived my life that way.
Around age eight I was tested for celiac disease. The results came back negative, which led me to seek out an allergist. I was diagnosed with an allergy to every form of pollen for which they tested, and was prescribed with a cornucopia of allergy medicines, one of which was the size of a quarter (but much thicker). None of this worked, so eventually (around age 11) I went to a naturopath/acupuncturist who diagnosed me with dysbiosis of the gut, and put me on a yeast cleanse. I had to avoid all sugar (sweets, fruit, etc.) but still include plenty of complex carbs for whatever reason. I followed blindly, yet strictly, and did feel somewhat better afterwards. After this, I continued to deal with moderately bad gas, and my allergies would still get very bad certain seasons.
I was fairly neutral with food (eating/snacking as I was hungry) and completely oblivious to its effects on my health. The kicker is the fact that I was a vegetarian much of my life after age seven, purely because of my taste preference. I defended my decision because I thought it was based on a “healthy avoidance of fat and cholesterol from red meat,” though I had no idea what I was talking about. Obviously it’s not very difficult for someone from age 7-14 to buy into conventional wisdom and all it entails.
In the summer of 2012, a family friend suggested that I go gluten-free (GF), dairy-free (DF), and sugar-free as it greatly helped her son. I was fairly skeptical, especially as I had a negative celiac test and loved sugar. I became almost entirely dairy-free, significantly limited gluten my intake, but kept sugar in my diet. Health was not exactly an appealing term, nor is it by any means today. I, like probably many others, saw health as a generic way to be better than everyone yet eat disgusting food. I was horribly mistaken but had no clue what health REALLY was. Paleo health is near-optimal bodily function with no problems.
So I continued to eat this way, partially GF/DF, until the summer of 2013. My health was continuously getting worse and worse. I was having chronic headaches (which everyone knows really suck), getting acne (that was “normal”), etc., etc., and worst of all, having chronic, uncontrollable bad gas and debilitating allergies. Unlike before, I began to have horrible migraines that would have me bed-ridden and nauseous, and I would occasionally actually throw up. I knew something was very wrong, but I didn’t quite know what. At a certain point, I figured my lack of adherence to GF/DF was a possible cause, so I decided to give it a complete go. I only ended up completely maintaining GF, but stayed mostly DF.
I was having such great trouble living with my body, the burden of these symptoms weighing me down from enjoyment, and I was unable to shrug them off despite every attempt. Previously I had been only casually attempting to find a solution, but now I went into high gear. I began spending much of my free time looking for a cure. I spent hours upon hours, months upon months, many nights until 3am scouring the internet for a cure. I would input my symptoms, look for a condition and then look for a cure for that condition. I would have attempted to use Western medicine, except it had already failed me despite all of its attempts.
I became convinced that the cause of the thing I was trying to cure, bad gas, was a “damaged gut.” I didn’t really know what that meant, but it propelled me onto a search for anything that could heal a damaged gut. I came across a variety of supplements and herbal remedies, nothing diet-related. Despite all of the time and effort I put into this, NOTHING worked—no enzymes, herbs, etc. I finally got an appointment with a gastroenterologist and hoped this would bring me the answers. The problem was that it wasn’t for a month or so, and I wasn’t prepared to wait that long.
In this summer of 2013, when I became completely GF (which didn’t help much at all), my symptoms were sometimes UNBEARABLE. I would literally sometimes be gassing all…day…long. My allergies often made it impossible to think (forget about maybe being happy or enjoying my life). I went into the school year suffering from all of this, plus, I was at a new school for high school. My headaches were very bad—daily at this point. In November 2013, I had a headache that persisted for two weeks, making me unable to focus in class. One day I came home, unable to do anything, lied down and cried, and my mom decided to take me to the emergency room rather than wait for the scheduled doctor’s appointment (not the gastroenterologist). They laid me down for five hours and pumped into my blood a saline IV and some drug combination used to “break migraines.” This was probably one of the worst experiences of my life (having never been in a hospital bed before), yet one of the greatest reliefs I’ve ever felt. The worst part was that I didn’t think I had any control over this.
At last, what I now recognize to have been the most important turning point in my life, I found a lead. It was now December 2012, and I had been continuing to helplessly suffer from flatulence. There was a small lead on an endurance biker’s blog who had used the “Whole30” to heal his gut. I wanted to see what it was, but not have to pay for it, so I went google-crazy. I found Nerd Fitness, Balanced Bites, The Paleo Mom, Paleo Leap, The Paleo Diet, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, etc., and my personal favorite, Mark’s Daily Apple. I learned about the paleo diet—what it was, how it worked, and how I could do it. I was extremely eager just to try it, since, apparently, it said I could fix my problems in 30 days—a cure that I might have given my left hand for (not completely joking, either). As Robb Wolf calls it, the “greasy used-car sales pitch” is likely what sucked me in. 30 days? No problem.
Cutting everything out was easy, really. With the desperation I faced every day, I would’ve done anything. The problem was that I was still mostly vegetarian, only having gained a taste for chicken. I did eat eggs, so those two things became my dietary staples (chicken curry, shredded chicken, paleo mayo, salt/pepper, curry powder, chopped grapes and pecans, and carrot sticks for dipping—really good stuff). Anyway, I implemented this diet, and finally had a world of research to look through. The more and more I read from these paleo/primal sites, skeptically cross-checking the claims and references, I had drunk the cool-aid (correct grammar—had to look it up), along with all of its sweet truths.
January 2014 was more or less my Whole30. I was never committed to the Whole 30, but I was certain that I wanted to stick with this paleo thing for life. It all made so much sense and I just continually realized how much more important life was to me than food. Not to mention, this food is pretty darn tasty because it is exactly what our hormones have developed to want.
After a month I still had some problems, likely because the Whole 30 wasn’t enough to correct the gut imbalance and leaky gut that I had developed. So I had to “Break the Vicious Cycle.” I found the GAPS diet and thought it was best for me, but I eventually realized it was too much. It was too strict for me to handle on my own. I must throw in, I have done all this research myself, but I have an awesome, very supportive mother who helps me however she can, despite being a busy single mother of four.
After the practically traumatizing experience with GAPS, I fell off of the wagon for a long while, basing my eating on paleo but never being able to fully stick to the diet to the extent necessary to correct my flora and heal my gut. I’m fairly certain I even developed an eating disorder—I would go from a diet (meant to heal my gut and correct my flora imbalance) where I felt deprived, to eating a bunch of ice cream and crap on the weekend. I always stayed away from grains, gluten, legumes, and vegetable oil, but I would just go headfirst into sugar. This was likely due to a combination of personal problems and a lack of confidence in my diet, losing sight of my goals in essence.
Regardless, I still felt much better than I had, maintaining a mostly Primal Blueprint diet and keeping up the search for a way to end once and for all the SIBO symptoms of occasional gas and bad breath that continued to plague me for a while. I also wanted the answer to why I was NEVER satisfied after meals. I am now on my own personal diet, limiting all fermentable substrates as per the Fast Tract Diet, and attempting to reset my leptin hormones as per Jack Kruse’s recommendations.
I continue to feel better, knowing that my old self is merely dust in the wind, and my newfound body is the one in which I will enjoy my existence and treat well for as long as I live. At this point, I have probably spent hundreds of hours reading and researching ancestral lifestyle related things and know more than most people alive. I have boundless energy, and am the only kid in my school that bikes to school, even being one of the furthest away (5 miles each way). I sleep extremely well, waking up quite refreshed every day. Every meal I eat tastes like the best I’ve ever eaten, and I prepare every single one myself, leading me to consider a backup career as a chef as a strong possibility. I am implementing all aspects of Primal Fitness, walking as much as possible, doing the weight exercises, and sprinting. I still have a little way to go in my path to achieving an optimal body from my previously damaged, vegetarian and grain-based self, but I know what I want and I am certain of how I will get there. Most importantly, I am able to enjoy life with a body that functions the way it is supposed to.
Anyhow, I know that a genetically concordant lifestyle is right for me, but feel that it is my calling to help others. NO ONE should have to suffer the way that I and so many other have simply out of conventional wisdom and ignorance. People should also know that there is a better alternative way to live, and it’s possible to not have headaches and acne, or not be constantly hungry and randomly tired, etc. I will do anything I can with my life to perpetuate the primal ideas and help people to recover from, and not fall victim to, the “ailments & diseases of modern life.”