You started paleo. You said goodbye to fried foods and soda, but you still feel tired, nauseous, and sick. It seems impossible.
This has often been my story with my paleo diet. There is a reason that I strongly believe everyone’s body is different and everyone reacts differently to dietary changes. However, I also do not accept the physician viewpoint of determining which foods are triggers through trial and error. Over and over again, I was told I should try a food to see if I could tolerate it. This method made me terrified to eat, and I spent months on a diet consisting of about 5 difference foods. Many times I was told my diet was not affecting my disease at all. While there are still certain foods I personally cannot tolerate, I no longer live in fear that a food will put me in the hospital since I went paleo. I have also learned which foods on the paleo diet do not work for me.
While paleo is helpful, there are some foods that are paleo approved but could still be causing inflammation. I highly suggest beginning on an autoimmune protocol diet and slowly adding restricted foods, as you feel comfortable. This type of reintroduction protocol helped me realize which foods I could tolerate in small amounts, which foods caused no issues, and which foods were on the final “no fly” list. Below are some common culprits for those with autoimmune disorders on the paleo diet.
Nuts/ Nut butters/Nut flours/Seeds
Nuts are extremely hard on the digestive tract. Even in modified forms (almond flour, cashew milk) nuts are extremely hard to break down in your gut. Using nut flour is a quick way to add A TON of nuts into your diet. Nuts are full of good fats and excellent protein, but moderation is essential to nut consumption. Overconsumption of nuts into an system that is consistently fighting inflammation can spell disaster.
Too much fruit
Now this idea seems completely impossible right? Fruit is good for you. Many fruits possess anti-inflammatory properties. Fruits also contain lots of natural sugars. These sugars linger in your gut and help grow bad bacteria. Yes, there is good gut bacteria, but that is another blog post… The natural sugar in fruit can give you a spike in energy with a drop off, just like refined sugars. Too much sugar, in any form, is not what the body needs. I love fruit, but I always make sure to pair it with veggies and a protein to limit the sugar intake in my blood.
During my restricted days, I missed berries. I missed them terribly. Even though they are filled with antioxidants, be careful with berries. Not only do they possess the natural fruit sugars, they have teeny tiny seeds inside. When you are inflamed, these little seeds act like a grater on your digestive system. Once I healed, I started eating blueberries for the anti-inflammatory properties, and then expanded to all of my favorite berry deliciousness. I still limit my berry intake (about once a day) to make sure I’m not causing additional harm to my body.
Too Many Paleo Treats
AKA: too much natural sugar
Yes, maple syrup and honey are still sugar. These sugars give your body a boost that it comes crashing down from, just like a refined sugar crash. They also cause bad bacteria to build up since it can feed off of un-needed sugar in your gut.
AKA: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers of any kind, spices made with peppers, potatoes
This concept was definitely the hardest for my family to grasp. They kept saying, “But vegetables are good for you…..”. Yes, vegetables and nightshades have tons of vitamins inside their delicious exteriors. However, nightshades possess lectin, a protein used to protect themselves. Some nightshades are incredibly poisonous. The nightshades we typically eat have very low levels of this protein, but for those of us with autoimmune disorders, it causes inflammation and leads to leaky gut. (Leaky gut is an entirely new blog post.) I can tolerate a meal with tomatoes or peppers about once a week. Any more than this will cause me to experience bloating, nausea, and exhaustion.
Grass Fed Cheese/Milk/Yogurt
Grass fed cheese is allowed on paleo, but often people with gut issues of any kind struggle with lactose…trust me this saddens me as much as it saddens you. Cheese replacements… even worse for me than actual cheese. Now that I have been in remission for a while I can tolerate dairy about once a week in small amounts. If you are going to eat dairy make sure it is grass fed. That gives you the highest chance of preventing inflammation.
People often remove eggs and possess some kind of allergy (small or large) to this common ingredient. Personally, I have never had any problem with eggs, and I receive almost all of my eggs from my father-in-law’s organic, cage-free chickens. Cheap eggs possess soy, hormones, and additives. Free-range organic eggs are the way to go. If you have a problem with eggs, they can often be replaced by gelatin in many baking recipes.
Cue the tears. I love chocolate and cocoa powder. However, cocoa often causes inflammation. Limiting chocolate, even my favorite allergy-friendly Enjoy Life chocolate (technically not paleo) is essential for healing. It can also limit acid reflux.
Alcohol as part of the paleo diet is controversial, but the point is alcohol can cause serious inflammation. The sugar found in alcoholic drinks can be extremely detrimental in healing a digestive tract. Alcohol is inflammatory and makes it much more difficult for your body to deal with chronic inflammation. Some studies have shown that alcohol in small amounts is beneficial for preventing inflammation, however the sugar, carbonation, and sometimes wheat (I’m looking at your beer…) found in alcohol can cause major inflammation. I typically drink one glass of red wine (ONE) when I want a drink since red wine does have some anti-inflammatory properties.
Lay off the caffeine! So many people say they cannot give up caffeine, but coffee is like pouring hot inflammation directly into your body. Caffeine causes acid reflex, bloating, digestive issues, and curbs your natural appetite, throwing off your digestive tract. There are some studies that state coffee helps with digestion, but remember coffee is often used as a laxative. We are trying to keep food in the body. I also stay clear of all carbonation…. Even when I am flaring. For me, it only amplifies the issue.
Raw/Slightly Cooked Vegetables
I learned this lesson the hard way this past week. My in-laws have a huge garden full of delicious and nutritious goodness. When the produce came pouring in, I started eating it at every meal. I was in heaven until my stomach threw me into a flare/stomach problem/whatever you want to call it. In short, it was no fun. Cut back on my raw vegetables, followed some directions by my doctor, and I am back on track. Raw vegetables are extremely hard for the body to digest. Your body has to work harder to break them down, steal the nutrients, and move them through the digestive tract. Cooking the vegetables until they are soft and mushy makes consumption easier. I plan on still eating raw vegetables in moderation, but I am also adding more cooked vegetables. I highly suggest cooking them down in organic chicken broth. It adds in nutrients but mostly it is just delicious.