Food Is My Medicine

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!

I was always very slim as a child. This was probably partly good genes and partly my parents making sure my sister and I ate plenty of veggies and meat (grass-fed from their hobby farm), plus playing sports, riding my bike and exploring my parent’s hobby farm, as well as my mother strictly controlling our portion sizes when at home. We had homemade cakes/biscuits for snacks, and often had dessert after dinner. When I went for my interview at the local teaching hospital to do my nursing training after high school, I was told to put on some weight. I am 5’ 7” and was 54 kg (119 lbs) at the time, so over the next three months I ate lots of white potatoes and butter, and managed to put on 3 kg (6.6 lbs), so I got to 57 kg (125 lbs). This was a nice, healthy-looking weight for me.

I got married at 20, had two children by 25, and despite putting on a bit of weight during my second pregnancy, I was back to 58 kg (128 lbs) within a short time and stayed there for about the next seven to eight years. In this time I did some aerobics classes and walking, as well as working part-time as a nurse.

During high school I had started eating chocolate (any kind, often with coloured/flavoured fillings) on a reasonably regular basis, and once I moved from part-time to full-time work this became an extremely regular thing, as I had more money. Everyone “knew” that if they were looking for a gift for me, a box of chocolates was always well-received. I never put on any weight or had problems such as acne, so I figured the chocolate and sugar weren’t doing me any harm! (If only I had known.)

Over this time I got fairly regular bladder infections, which required antibiotics, and more and more frequently I succumbed to thrush infections as a result (my poor gut microbiome!). After a number of years, I seemed to get thrush infections regularly without even taking antibiotics. I got a cold about once a year.

Around my early 30s, I suddenly noticed that I now weighed 64 kg (141 lbs). I decided that I liked this new more voluptuous me, and my friends agreed that women looked better with a bit of extra fat as they got older. I also noticed changes in my bowel habits, but was reassured by my doctor that my symptoms could be fixed by drinking more water and ensuring a good fibre intake. I also noticed that my waist was gradually increasing in size, so that I had to alter the size and type of clothes that I purchased and wore. I started to think that maybe I had ovarian cancer, but a blood test (ca125) said this wasn’t the case. A pelvic ultrasound was normal.

Over the years my gut symptoms became more and more of a problem. My tolerance for fat plummeted, I started suffering from indigestion and nausea, and I began to suffer from chronic constipation. I saw several gastroenterologists, had tubes poked everywhere, was told that I had a bit of “redness” in my stomach, and maybe I had “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” All these doctors just gave me the laxative/water/fibre advice like everyone else. I also had an abdominal scan which showed “multiple cysts” in my liver. My constipation got so bad that without laxatives, I could go a week between bowel movements and it was seriously hard work. So hard in fact that in mid-2010 I had to have an umbilical hernia repaired, which was a result of straining so much. By this time my belly was also so distended that I was buying “loose fit” tops to try and hide what looked like a five month pregnancy.

Debbie Before PrimalAs my gut symptoms were increasing, I also noticed that sometimes when walking I seemed to start to lose my balance. At first this was infrequent, but over time, it happened more often. I also became so tired that I had to have a sleep most afternoons and always felt exhausted after dinner. I got colds several times per year. I suffered from depression as well and took anti-depressants for a total of five years. I gradually got more and more varicose veins, as well as many spider veins around my ankles and the sides of my feet.

My menstrual periods also gradually got heavier and heavier, sometimes necessitating several changes of clothing each day as my pads and tampons could not cope with the flow of both liquid blood and large clots. I had to stop donating blood because I kept getting anaemic, and suffered nausea and dizziness after donating. I eventually got an IUD inserted with slow-release progesterone embedded in it, which after three months in situ, stopped my periods.

I often suffered from mouth ulcers and cracking at the corners of my mouth. The mouth ulcers I treated with a topical preparation, and I eventually discovered that taking vitamin B tablets regularly helped with the mouth cracking and frequency of ulcers.

I had been on a very high-sugar diet up this time too…not just my beloved chocolate (now dark usually, but with fillings), but also lots of meat/veggie stir-frys with sugary Asian sauces, sandwiches with honey or jam, and toasted (read sugary) muesli for breakfast. I was also strictly eating margarine and vegetable oils as my “healthy fats.”

In mid-2010 I had to have a BCC skin cancer cut off my face, near my eye, as well as have a “spot” treated with dry ice.

In September 2010 I went to see two different naturopaths about my gut symptoms, as conventional medicine seemed to have failed me. One of them helped me start to turn my life around. He looked at my live blood under a microscope, and my blood was in bad shape. Firstly, it was full of yeast. He recommended a one-month “low-yeast diet.” After some research on the internet, I decided to give it a go – it was very difficult, and after a few days I had a yeast “die-off” in the middle of the night, which included chills and massive shivering for about 20 minutes. I had signs of anaemia, my white blood cells were out of balance, and I had signs of calcium deficiency, metal toxicity, and vitamin deficiencies, and general gut ill-health. An oral “zinc taste test” showed a high level of zinc deficiency.

The low yeast diet was effective in decreasing my blood yeast levels, as shown when the naturopath looked at my blood a month later, and my waist size decreased by about 3 cm (1.2 inches), but the bloating and constipation were still a huge issue.

In late November 2010 my life changed. One day I noticed that I had what seemed to be a vaginal prolapse. A visit to the doctor led to an ultrasound, which showed a fist-sized lump on my left ovary. On the 10th of December I had a large Teratoma (encapsulated mixed-cell tumour- with some borderline cells) removed via a total hysterectomy and omentectomy. The next day I had an internal hemorrhage requiring a transfusion of three units of blood. I went home after eight days in hospital but was readmitted three days later with a severe pelvic infection requiring triple intravenous antibiotics for several days.

This surgery meant instant menopause at age 44. I did not want to go on artificial HRT, but after two months, my body felt like it was drying up, I had dreadful insomnia, and my brain was mush. After some investigation, I started on daily Bio-identical hormones, which helped me feel almost normal.

My naturopath had told me that after the month on a low-yeast diet, I could eat on an 80/20 rule, being 80% sugar free, 20% not. My gut symptoms, although somewhat diminished, were still a big problem, as were the weird head feelings. I ate this way until mid-March 2012, by which time I realised that I was eating more like 50% sugar free, 50% not.

One day, my husband heard a lawyer named David Gillespie talking on the radio about a new book he had written, called Big Fat Lies, about sugar/industrial seed oils and his weight loss journey. I listened to the podcast of the interview, bought his book, as well as his previous one, Sweet Poison, realised how bad my diet (SAD – Standard Australian Diet from the Australian Food Pyramid) was, and decided to quit sugar and seed oils. Initially this meant no chocolate, no desserts, porridge without sugar, no sugar in my coffee, and olive oil instead of vegetable oils. Over the next few months I did lots of reading and research, as did my son and also my father. Around the same time they both discovered

My naturopath had been suggesting for a long time that I try giving up gluten, but it wasn’t until I looked at Mark’s website, and then purchased and read The Primal Blueprint and Nora’s Primal Body, Primal Mind, that I decided to stop eating gluten. Within three days I had lost 5 cm (2 inches) of bloating off my waist!! I then decided to give up my beloved oats for breakfast – more bloating gone!!

In September 2012 I decided to look at every label on every product in my pantry and fridge. I removed anything with added sugar and grains, dried fruit and honey, and seed oils…about 2/3 of things were gone. I then restocked with coconut products and other “Paleo/Primal” goodies. I subscribed to Mark’s newsletter, and when my aerobics membership ran out in December 2012, I started working through the Primal Blueprint Fitness plan, starting with the very basics. I walk the dog most days, go bushwalking once a week, do resistance exercise twice a week and sprint once a week (using a rowing machine as my left ankle/knee doesn’t like running).

Debbie Before PrimalAt 47, I am now back to 57 kg (125 lbs). I don’t eat any sugar, including honey, maple syrup, dextrose or rice malt syrup, or stevia. My waist is now 14 cm (6 ½”) less than before changing my diet, my skin is glowing, and I have had just one three day cold in one and a half years. My gut is very happy, as long as I take a probiotic capsule every day, and I tolerate lots of good fats. The spider veins around my ankles and feet are slowly receding. My vitamin and mineral levels are good, except when I tried eating white rice for about a month last year, which caused me to almost lose my taste from zinc deficiency. I have lots of energy most days, and rarely rest during the day. My head is also happy; no more dizzy feelings. My lipid studies, vitamin D, C-reactive protein, fasting insulin and HbA1c are great. I no longer get mouth ulcers or cracks at the corners of my mouth.

My adult children also follow a fairly strict Primal way of eating. My daughter has eczema and has recently been diagnosed with kerataconus, both of which are inflammatory conditions, so she is trying a month of strict Paleo without dairy at the moment to see what happens. My husband has been a fervent embracer of giving up sugar and seed oils, but has struggled to give up beer and pizza when out with his friends. However, over the past year he has noticed many health improvements from being 80% Primal: gums no longer bleed when he brushes his teeth, aches and pains at night are gone, softer and more glowing skin, gastric reflux gone. He has lost a little bit of weight and wants to lose more, but can’t seem to. His high sensitivity C-reactive protein is elevated (37 last month) so he still has quite a bit of inflammation. A week ago he started a Whole 30, which for him meant cutting out milk and cheese (his go-to snack) and alcohol. So far, the pimples on his neck, which he always seems to have, are gone, he is losing weight and his mood and energy levels are more even. His sleep is also somewhat better – he is a terrible sleeper and falls asleep at the drop of a hat. The next three weeks should be very interesting…

The only thorn in my side is the fact that ever since I went Primal, my hormone levels have been erratic, causing my hormone doctor to have to regularly adjust my prescription, and I constantly have dry skin and eyes (not good with contact lenses). Having a month of eating white potatoes and rice didn’t seem to help. At the moment I am waking up most nights with a mild hot flush, so I am a bit tired during the day. My oestrogen (71pmol/l) and testosterone (<0.24 nmol/l) levels are low and SHBG (133 nmol/l) is up, but my doctor can’t work out how to best fix the situation. My progesterone is slightly high at 23 nmol/l. I am still on bio-identical hormones.

I have done huge amounts of reading and research over the past couple of years, but I make sure that is my breakfast reading. I am also enjoying the new Primal Blueprint podcasts. As well as trying to follow the 10 Primal Laws, I have recently given up shampoo/conditioner in favour of bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar. I despair when I look around me at all the sick people walking down the street, but cheer to myself every time the media releases another story about the dangers of sugar, seed oils or processed foods. Food is my medicine.


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