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The Way I Used to Live Life Was Slowly Destroying Me

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story [1] 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 [2]. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

My story is interesting because I could have died.

You would think that a healthcare professional like myself would have learned everything that was necessary to be personally healthy. At least two years ago I would have thought that?but, not true. Medical and dental professionals have a paltry amount of nutritional training?and no training in the importance of primal nutrition and lifestyle.

I am a periodontist: a dentist who has specialized in the treatment of gum disease. Today, I have been in practice in South Carolina for 40 years. That is a long time. When my story began, I was in practice for 32 years.

Here is my story:

Up until December 2006, I was treating my body as well as I thought was appropriate. I ate low fat, high fiber foods including grains, skim milk, fish, and meat. I didn’t like non-starchy veggies, but I thought I was doing just fine. I exercised aerobically 4-5 days a week for about 40 minutes a day. One of my loves was to snack on popcorn, which I believed supplied me with healthy fiber.

Then, in December 2006 I had a life-changing event. My daughter (who was staying with me and my wife while her family was transitioning to Portland, Oregon from Charleston, South Carolina) was sitting on our living room floor while I was standing with my laptop in my hands. All of a sudden I felt a shock traveling from the computer up my arm. I dropped the computer on my sofa, and my daughter exclaimed, “What’s wrong?” I said that I just got a shock from my computer. Her response was, “Dad, don’t be so melodramatic.” A week later, I had a stroke.

The stroke must have occurred while I was sleeping. When I woke up, my grandson was at our house, and I attempted to ask him if he wanted to go out for breakfast. But the words could not come out. I was unable to speak. I felt fine, but I couldn’t speak. My wife, who is a nurse, realized what was happening, and drove me to the hospital. I was lucky.

My doctors explained that the “shock” that I thought was from my computer was actually a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). Many people who have a stroke will experience a TIA days or weeks before the stroke as a warning sign of an impending crisis. I was not aware of such a warning sign, so I paid no attention to it.

While in the hospital for a week, my cardiologist and internist put me on three types of blood pressure meds, a cholesterol med, and an acid reflux med. My vascular surgeon put me on 81mg aspirin and Plavix. Their medical advice was for me to take these meds for the rest of my life. Within three weeks, I was able to speak normally. I returned to work after six weeks.

After my stroke, I knew that I needed to get educated about good nutrition. So, I began my reeducation. In April 2013, I enrolled in a 5-day nutrition course that changed my life. I was excited because I believed that this was going to be the program I had searched for to confirm that what I was doing currently was correct. I hoped to learn a few new things to hone my skills and update the knowledge that I already acquired. This program wasn’t about basic nutrition; it was about primal nutrition?the foods and lifestyles that allowed our species to thrive for 2.5 million years. What I learned in those informative and enlightening five days did change my life. I learned that almost everything I was doing was wrong. That blew me away!

Among other things, I learned that most processed foods were making us sick. I learned that modern grains of any type were one of the worst things I could put in my body. I learned that healthy fats were essential, and anything that had low fat or no fat was unhealthy. I learned that all the fruit I was eating contributed way too much sugar to my body, and leafy greens and other multicolored veggies were required at every meal. I also learned that exercise needed to be efficient, sleep needed to be restorative, and that sitting most of the day was almost as bad as smoking. Wow!

So, I traveled back to my home in Charleston, SC and informed my wife of what I learned. She was not happy. But, she allowed me to make a 30 day test of my new fangled ideas. We removed all the processed foods, grain products, and sugar aliases from our pantry and fridge, which added up to seven grocery bags that I took to my local food bank. We joined our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to obtain locally grown, organic veggies weekly. The foods we started eating consisted of grass fed beef and wild caught fish; all kinds of shellfish; free range chicken, liver, and eggs; all kinds of vegetables raw and cooked; some deeply colored fruits and occasionally nuts and seeds that we soaked overnight.

At that time, my meds were still the same. My HDL was 48, my triglycerides were 120, and my resting blood pressure was 137/87 even with three blood pressure meds. I weighed 184 pounds. My physicians’ advice was, “Continue to take your meds.” Unfortunately, my physicians were ignorant of the science of primal nutrition and lifestyle, as I believe most physicians are.

Today is 20 months since beginning an active primal lifestyle. I am still practicing periodontics, and I plan to continue treating my patients for the foreseeable future. As I am writing this, my resting blood pressure is 119/72, and my pulse rate is 54. My HDL is 76, and my triglycerides are 112. I weigh 154 pounds.

It has been stated that it takes one month of repairing a nutritionally damaged body for every year of the manifestation of a disease. I am still a work in progress; I have much farther to go to regain optimal health. I am patient, but I am diligent and motivated. I can’t believe the way I used to live was slowly destroying me. I can never return to the way it used to be. I am a changed person, and I want to spread the word.

The doctors who I depended on in 2006 while I was having a stroke were exceptional. They saved my life, but I had to learn how to get healthy on my own. I only learned what was going on in my body after I learned about evolution and how our ancestors thrived.

Why did’t my physicians help me understand why I had a stroke, and how I should improve my lifestyle to get healthy? Why didn’t my physicians explain how I should wean off my meds over time? The science is there, but most of the medical profession hasn’t gotten the message.

While making a change in my life, I also am making a change in my patients’ lives. I teach all my periodontal patients primal nutrition and lifestyle. When you enable each cell in the body to function properly by giving it what it needs?which is nutrient-dense real foods and exercise and sleep and reduction in all types of stresses?each cell will help all other cells to thrive. Your gut will become healthier; your overall body will become healthier; and your mouth will become healthier.

In June of this year, I received the designation of Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, and in September I received the Primal Blueprint Certified Expert designation [3]. I’ve reenergized my life and reengineered my professional career. I offer the knowledge that I have learned to all my patients and to all who want to listen.

Alvin Danenberg