Reading all the amazing stories this week, I’m so impressed with all the weight people have lost because of primal living. My own story isn’t about dramatic weight loss, but underscores that the primal diet can address a variety of health problems caused by our modern diets.
I’ve always had a weak stomach. Growing up, stomach aches and pains were a daily nuisance. They became more than a nuisance when I went to college and started suffering from crippling heart burn. It gnawed in my chest nearly all day and night. Unable to sleep or study, I went to the student health center where I was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). I started on mild H2 inhibitors, which reduce acid production and tried to get healthier by plodding on the treadmill for hours and replacing my normal diet of pizza with some whole grains.
As you can probably guess, this didn’t solve much and soon enough I was feeling my stomach acid gurgling back up to where it didn’t belong. My doctor put my on Prilosec, a proton-pump inhibitor, which eliminates most stomach acid. Finally I could once again load up my plate in the dining hall with cheesecake, fried hot wings, nachos, and ice cream floats.
But it didn’t make me happy. I gained 25 lbs and soon enough food was a souce of guilt for me. I would play games in my head, trading the chocolate cake I was about to eat for an unhappy hour on a stair machine. To my horror, the acid reflux started coming back and along with it, even worse other stomach problems. I was diagnosed with IBS and resolved once again to eat healthier, but every day I felt weaker and weaker. One morning as I left my dorm room, I collapsed and ended up in the E.R. It was there that I was finally diagnosed with a nasty case of chronic salmonella.
Chronic salmonella is something that is usually seen in the elderly immunocompromised, not healthy twenty year olds. I realized that stomach acid is there for a reason. It helps us digest food, of course, but it also protects us from pathogens. I wanted mine back, but I also didn’t want to be in pain all the time.
I actually first learned about the Primal diet from a class I was taking on food history, where I read Jared Diamond’s The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. I was floored; here was an essay by an incredibly intelligent scientist saying that humans had been much healthier before we discovered agriculture. Poking around on the web, I discovered lots of interesting sites about eating like these healthy ancestors and I gave it a try.
I certainly didn’t stop having heartburn overnight, but I stuck with eating Primal and GERD has been gone for over two years now. More than that though, the Primal diet has changed the way I think. I’ve read so many interesting books about anthropology and learned how to cook delicious fresh vegetables and grass-fed meats. I went from Doritos addict to farmer’s market fanatic and now I work connecting people to local healthy food.
I now view exercise not as a chore, but as a way of life. I take the long way home, winding through a forest and climbing over large rocks. At the farmer’s market I pick out the biggest watermelons and lift them high over my head as I carry them a few miles home. I’ve lost all the weight I gained my freshman year and it’s not coming back any time soon.
Last year I traveled around Europe, which I never could have done with the stomach problems I used to suffer from. I highly recommend the pork knuckles in Krakow and the very fatty Mangalica pork in Hungary to Primal travelers.
My father was so impressed with my results and The Primal Blueprint that he is now eating Primal and has lost 30 pounds and also eliminated GERD! There’s not that much out there for GERD sufferers about the role of diet, so I hope others will hear my story and give this diet change a try. The Prilosec website recommends a low-fat diet….probably helps boost their sales!