Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pull the Shades

So, tomorrow, April 1, begins a new adventure for me as I begin eating according to Paleo parameters. As I researched the process I came across some information that suggested that those dealing with chronic health issues may want to take the eliminations a step (or three) further to determine if certain foods may be contributing to their symptoms.

Turns out eggs have a protein that-in those sensitive to it-may cause increased intestinal permeability, which then causes systemic inflammation (a known contributing factor in autoimmune diseases). Then there is the Nightshades family of vegetables (including white potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, and spices like cayenne, chili powder, curry powder, paprika, etc. [Google to find more complete lists]). Some people are sensitive to alkaloids in this group of vegetables, and there is a considerable amount of anecdotal evidence that joint pain and other maladies can be associated with consumption of Nightshades in these sensitive individuals. Finally, nuts and seeds have compounds that may be inflammatory for some.

Eggs and nuts are both fairly common allergens, so if one of my purposes in following the Paleo model is to eliminate potential allergens to determine if they are a specific issue for me, then cutting these two out seems almost a no-brainer. If it is even remotely possible that Nightshades are contributing to my joint issues, it seems foolish not to eliminate them along with all of the other things I'm pulling off the menu during April.

I won't lie: coming to the realization that I should omit eggs, nuts, and Nightshades from my plate for these 30 days was the first time I started to think I might have a hard time sticking to my plan. No Mexican or Indian flavor profiles. Paleo breakfasts without any of these three elements are pretty limited.

But, as the folks at Whole9 say: "It is not hard. Don't you dare tell us this is hard. Giving up heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard." True. And if any of these is an issue for me, I want to know so I can make informed choices.

Time to woman up and eat strong!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Paleo in Comparison

Paleo seems to be a hot trend. For some reason I find the terms paleo and cave(wo)man off-putting. Perhaps because it has connotations of evolutionary theory, and I believe that God created man and woman in His own image (Genesis 1:26-28).

But I've decided to get over myself and evaluate the principles of this dietary approach, connotations aside.

In its essence, Paleo seems to be a bare bones (pun intended) perspective on Real Food. The strictest adherents eschew all grain, dairy, legumes, and sugar (as well as soy, alcohol, white potatoes, vegetable oils, and processed foods). They eat all kinds of flesh foods and eggs, and all kinds of fruits and vegetables (aside from white potatoes and edamame). For oil they use coconut and olive oils. More liberal Paleo people might eat pastured full-fat dairy and white potatoes. And then there are some who are synthesizing Paleo and Traditional ("traditional" ala Weston A. Price [and Dr. Shanahan, from my first post]) adding in cultured and fermented foods, and perhaps soaked nuts and grains.

Paleo (connotations aside!) seemed very daunting to me when I first learned of it. But then I found this super cool cookbook... And I began to rethink...

So now I have gotten it into my head to try to eat (strict-ish) Paleo for one month beginning April 1! Why?!
  1. It is an efficient way to eliminate many of the most common food allergens to see if these may be an issue for me.
  2. It is a great motivator to learn to use a lot more vegetables in my cooking.
  3. It will make a great base upon which to build a solid Real Food eating life.
  4. Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed makes it look both delicious and doable!

Aside from the cookbook, there are dozens of blogs and websites I have discovered to help me along on this little culinary adventure. A couple I've liked (in addition to Melissa Joulwan's, above):

So here I go; back to the future!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting Real

A friend asked me last week if my decision to alter my diet was based on personal philosophy or if it was a health-based choice. To which I could only answer, "Yes."

I grew up eating mainly processed, pre-packaged foods. Then I proceeded to feed my family a lot of the same kind of foods.

All the while, from my earliest memories (as a preschool-aged child), I have spent a considerable amount of time in pain or feeling unwell. Headaches began before I started school and continued as a regular feature of my life from then on. Joint and bone pain began in high school. Allergies and asthma began in my early 20's. Fatigue began in my 30's. Because doctors could never really find an answer to these vague symptoms, I gravitated toward researching alternative/natural remedies to try to find relief.
Some things helped a bit, but nothing brought about a dramatic change. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And gradually I found some medications that did bring significant relief.

Since my late teens "healthy eating" has been of interest to me, and I've read a great deal and tried many cookbooks in pursuit of this interest. Then recently I finally had a food epiphany: The human body is designed to operate on real food. The food I put into my mouth is the only thing my body has to work with. This seems so obvious (because it is obvious!), but I think our culture (myself included) has forgotten what real food even looks like.

Over the past year or so I have synthesized a personal philosophy that I should feed my body Real Food, and that Real Food consists primarily of things that grow out of the ground, or have fur, fins, or feathers (and the eggs or milk they may produce). And I have come to the conclusion that a body fed in this way will be capable of maximizing its potential for health (which will vary from person to person).

It isn't about turning back the clock, or being "healthier than thou," or being afraid to enjoy a piece of box mix birthday cake. It is just about doing the best I can with what I've got, with humility and joy.

Especially joy!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

I am not sure how it happened. From an early age I have been interested in health topics and cooking, and the natural synthesis of these in the topic of nutrition. But one day recently I found myself on investigating Dr. Catherine Shanahan's "Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods." The reader reviews were very intriguing. Since it was not available through the public library, I went ahead and ordered it.

Within the week it was as if I had gone though the looking glass...

Aside from current conventional wisdom regarding vegetables, it was as if everything I had heard about healthy nutrition was the reverse of the truth: real butter and coconut oil are great for your body; pastured and wild-caught flesh foods (and eggs!) of all kinds are incredibly healthful; salt is not poison; high consumption of grain products (even whole grains) and fruit is detrimental to the human body.

All meticulously described and documented with over 300 references.

And so my husband and I have now embarked upon a new adventure: eating real food.

This blog is my attempt to chronicle this journey, along with any other "rabbit holes" I may encounter along the way...