Written by Jenna Scott:
I originally went vegetarian for Lent. Yes, Lent. Vegetarianism was something I had dabbled in my entire life, and now I had a justifiable reason to remove meat from my diet for a specified amount of time.
In the first few months as a vegetarian, I started to develop major digestion problems (mostly pain and bloating). I let this go on, along with my diet that consisted of mostly fruit and whole grains, second to eggs and veggies, for around one year.
There was a point where I realized I was bloated and in pain after every meal. I was obsessed with the cleanliness of anything I put into my body. I eliminated all processed foods, dairy, meat, eggs, most grains, sugar, and alcohol. On top of this, I regularly drank a psyllium and apple cider vinegar concoction every morning.
I vowed never to touch any animal products again. My diet consisted mostly of vegetables and fruit (usually blended into green smoothies), nuts, dried fruit, legumes and beans. Like any good vegan, I soon learned of the raw vegan lifestyle, and gripped over the nutrients in my food. I began only eating raw (nothing cooked above 118 degrees) in an effort to absorb as many nutrients as possible in their purest form. This turned into a week on/week off cycle as I could not eat ANYWHERE except my own kitchen (can you believe no one wanted to spiralize zucchini for me, or dehydrate some flax bread?).
I was not a junk food vegan at this point. But I was a sick one. For almost a year I held onto the belief that I was doing something wrong. Maybe I was missing a supplement? Was I not eating enough greens? Maybe I needed more grains to balance out the fiber I was getting from the veggies I was eating? Maybe I needed more fat (this one’s funny looking back – I ate around 6 cups of nuts per day)? I constantly searched forums and blogs, desperate for an answer to my host of symptoms. I was completely exhausted – mentally, physically and emotionally. My symptoms included:
I really struggled with this one. I tried absolutely everything to help: psylium husk, herbal laxative teas, herbal colon cleanses, salt water flushes, and even enemas. After every meal my stomach looked like a beach ball.
“Brain Fog” is a phrase ex-vegans often use to describe how they feel near the end, and it’s pretty accurate. I would walk into a room and forget why I was there. I could no longer concentrate long enough to read a book. This was terrifying for me.
After thinking about it for months (and reading The Paleo Solution), with the support of my friends and coaches (and of course, my doctor who had been urging me to eat animal protein for months) I started to incorporate meat back into my diet, and began to follow the Paleo diet. I started off slowly, with just fresh wild fish and free-range eggs, but moved onto wild game and grass-fed beef. The changes I have noticed in my health, performance and body are incredible. The digestion problems I had been suffering with for over a year (and after half a dozen visits to the ER, my doctor, and a gastrointestinal specialist) were completely gone. My energy levels are consistent throughout the day, and the brain fog is gone! My strength gains have also seen a major improvement.
Since then, I’ve helped some of my family by introducing them to the Paleo diet. My mother has lost over 20 pounds and seen a significant improvement in the host of auto-immune deficiencies she deals with (including arthritis).
I firmly believe that following the diet of our paleolithic ancestors has healed me, and saved myself and my family from a host of disorders and diseases.