To Do Paleo Or Not To Do Paleo? My Thought Process In The Last 5 Months

To Do Paleo Or Not To Do Paleo: My Thought Process In The Last 5 Months

This is Part 1 of the Primally Simple Diet series, where I explore everything I have learned in the last 5 months since ditching and coming back to the Paleo diet twice. I will explain why I think a strict Paleo diet is flawed. We will also talk about the Wheat Belly, all the reasons why I failed on the Paleo diet twice, and what my diet is going to be like from now on. I hate labels, so there will be no more Paleo. Nobody really knows what Paleolithic people ate anyway, and there were so many diverse diets all over the world. The world isn’t the same anymore. I have no wish to be a fanatic. So I have created my own version of primal: The Primally Simple Diet.

Make sure you sign up for updates if you’d like to be kept in the loop on this series. I’m proud of how far I’ve come since my first days on the Paleo diet, and I can’t wait to share all the knowledge with you!

You’re about to get an insight into what’s been going through my head lately. My mind is very good at analyzing things, and even though it drives me mad sometimes, it eventually leads me to the answers for everything. Just like it led me to clear skin. I believe I have found my answers regarding food, too.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, dietician or nutritionist. This is what I have learned observing my own body and researching endlessly. So please take my words as ideas, but research and think carefully before making any decisions for your own health.

Let’s get started!

Could The Success Of The Paleo Diet Lie In The Elimination of Gluten More Than Anything Else?

I was working in a pub in Central London when I first heard about gluten. It was 10 years ago, I was a first-year student, and life was good. There was this weird girl working with us who talked like a robot and was one of the weirdest people I’d ever seen in my life. She was convinced she was gluten intolerant, and kept visiting hundreds of doctors obsessively.

She even told us that her cousin had died of gluten intolerance. At that time, I thought she was making it all up because she was crazy. She kept making up stories about many things in her life to make it look cooler. She even had an imaginary boyfriend.

But looking back now, I feel guilty. What if she was really going through it, and I just dismissed it as a fad idea?

At that time, gluten-free products were just beginning their advent onto the supermarket shelves, so people were not really aware of it. That girl has always stayed on my mind, and gluten has been popping into my mind from time to time, but I kept dismissing it.

What if the success of the Paleo diet really lies in the elimination of gluten grains (especially wheat) rather than the elimination of legumes, lentils, and pseudo-grains? I’m not mentioning processed foods and sugar on purpose here because I think we all agree it’s bad for us. Let’s just focus on the factors that are questionable.

Could One Monthly Pizza Derail All The Progress On The Paleo Diet?

I was on the Paleo diet, which means I should have been protected from the “evil” gluten for a year, right? Not really, because my husband and I still had our monthly treat every single month. Considering that he is Italian, you can probably already guess what it was. Pizza! We had one pizza every single month.

If we went out to eat in a restaurant and were served bread (Canarians can’t eat anything without bread), we ate it. OK, it wasn’t often. Probably once a month as well, but everything adds up.

We also drank beer occasionally, and that is also wheat.

So being on the Paleo diet didn’t shelter me from gluten completely. The Paleo leaders, such as Mark Sisson, say it’s all about complying 85%, and then being naughty 15% of the time. The non-Paleo meals won’t do too much harm because the clean food will neutralize the bad one. At least such is the logic behind it. But really? What if I am actually wheat or gluten intolerant and every time I ate that monthly pizza I was sending myself right back to the starting point? All the way back to the initial inflammation in my body?

I thought that a single cheat meal like that wasn’t capable of derailing the efforts of the whole month, but it seems I was wrong. Every time we came back from the pizza night, I felt bloated. That’s a small price to pay for a delicious pizza, I guess. However, the next morning I always woke up 2kg (4lbs) heavier. Every single time. I don’t think it’s possible to gain fat like that overnight, so it was probably water retention. But 2kg is a lot! That’s 3% of my bodyweight.

Why would my body retain water like that? The only explanation would be an inflammatory response to something poisonous or something I don’t tolerate well.

Perhaps 100% compliance when it comes to wheat is vital.

Back And Forth Between Paleo and Non Paleo

On the 10th of April, I wrote a blogpost, where I shared with you all of my doubts about the Paleo diet. I was also experiencing magnesium deficiency, headaches, and very low energy. I was gaining back all the weight I had lost on the Paleo diet initially.

I was disappointed that something I believed in so much had let me down so badly. And so publicly. But I’m committed to always be truthful with you, guys, so i couldn’t lie.

After that blogpost, my skin went crazy when we tried to reintroduce grains, and I chickened out. We went back to the Paleo diet for a month, but lethargy and headaches came back.

Then we played around with making our own sourdough bread for a couple of months. That’s when I made the most important discovery.

Could I Be Gluten Intolerant Or Allergic To Wheat?

At the beginning, we made 100% rye bread, and I didn’t seem to have any problems with it. However, one day I couldn’t find rye flour in my local health shop, so I was forced to get spelt and wholewheat flour. I thought why not, all wholegrains are supposed to be good for your health if you prepare them properly (aka soak or ferment), or are they not?

Once we started making wholewheat bread, I started experiencing weird symptoms. Don’t get me wrong – I was feeling 100 times better than a year ago, and I was still on the path to a stronger and healthier body (and that’s totally due to the amazing fermented foods I’ve been having daily since I read Nourishing Traditions). I don’t even know how to explain it, because I felt deep inside that my gut health was in a much better shape, but there was something bothering it and preventing it from healing properly.

It’s like I was feeling glimpses of how wonderful I could feel, but then I was dragged back to the lethargy.

I started having really weird allergy-like symptoms:

  • runny and itchy nose (especially in the mornings and evenings)
  • itchy and runny eyes
  • lots of sneezing, especially after eating bread
  • the feeling of intense burning in my throat
  • painful gums
  • lots more white spots on my nails
  • itchy scalp
  • headaches due to congested and swollen sinuses

I also noticed I was getting constipated on the days when we ate wholewheat bread. My brain fog was intense – I couldn’t focus or think creatively. My moods were driving me crazy. I could go from depressed to irritable and then to overly enthusiastic within a couple of hours. I noticed my husband becoming more grumpy and irritable as well. I used to be the most stable person you have ever seen. Just a couple of years ago. What went wrong?

Luckily, my skin wasn’t showing any signs of being in distress. it’s weird how up until a few months ago, my skin would have been the first organ of my body to show signs. Now it’s my nose, eyes, throat, and mind. My skin is pretty much constant all the time.

What Comes To Your Mind When You Think Of Something Primal?

I kept digging, looking for information, trying to explain what was happening to us. That’s how I came up with my own version of the primal diet. And primal doesn’t mean Paleolithic to me. It means simple, basic, and natural. Just like the mother nature intended for us to eat.

I think I found all my answers, and I believe it can help lots of you guys to tweak your diets and understand your bodies better.

There is no point in following dogmatic rules without really understanding why you are doing it.

Or sticking to a diet just because you don’t want to admit you have been wrong.

Tweak it. Listen to what your body says. Use the Paleo diet as a wonderful framework because that’s what it is! But remember that it is everyone’s responsibility to adjust it to their own individual needs.

In the next seven parts of the Primally Simple Diet series, I will explain how to do it. Just stick with me, and don’t be afraidย  to experiment! Nobody knows your body better than you do.

In Part 2, we’ll be talking about wheat, gluten, and the Wheat Belly. Until then, stay healthy and happy!

Simply yours,

Vita xx

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  1. I’m looking forward to reading more about what you’ve learned throughout your Paleo/Primal journey. My husband and I both eat ‘mostly’ primal, consuming far less wheat than we used to, but still enjoy the occasional meal out (usually Mexican food), and making our own pizza at home, as well as the occasional bowl of patsa. Neither of us has experienced the issues you’ve mentioned, so I suspect we’re not gluten- or wheat-sensitive, but we definitely feel leaner when we limit those foods. It’s all about trial and error, and figuring out what works for you. I believe it’s an ever-evolving process and learning experience. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Stephanie Mckenzie says

    I am looking forward to this info.! I am with you 100%, I have been discovering the exact same thing as well and am no longer on Paleo or autoimmune Paleo. Listening to your body and using common sense will take you far! ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. my husband and I have been experimenting with more of a Mediterranean diet, but we usually eat whole grain as opposed to wheat. We make our own pizza at home as well, and when I buy pasta it is whole grain. I know a woman who is a physical trainer and this is what she told me. Whenever you buy breads, pastas etc make sure it is whole grain because your body digests it easier. But, we also treat ourselves out, but our treat is P.F. Changs Chinese Restaurant. With my diet we have been doing we both lost 10 lbs. But we eat only when hungary and I learned once I feel full to stop or one will feel over bloated. But, I feel the way you are describing when I used to eat to much fried food or anything which would turn into sugar in the body. Anything with batter on it that was fried, or to sugary I would have horrible mood swings. Since we started cooking more homemade things it is not like that. When we eat the wrong things out then it is. I know how cooking for just two can be a problem cause our kids are grown and it is just us, so one tends to go out more, but we are finding home made is best for our digestion and health.

    • Hi Debs! Yes, we also tried to only eat wholewheat, but apparently even that cause me troubles. Personally, I think frankenwheat should be avoided or at least limited by everyone. It’s not the same as the wheat 50 years ago. I’ll write more about it in the next post in the series. Well done for the weight loss and the healthy diet! I’m very proud of you two. Learning how to stop eating when you’re full is such a great skill – I think I’ve been mastering it quite well lately, too. Homemade food rocks! You know, every time we go out, we kind of regret spending the money because we feel that we could have cooked it at home so much better. ๐Ÿ™‚

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