This is part of an ongoing series of real life success stories from people all over the world who have been impacted by the Paleo lifestyle and The Paleo Solution. Read Sarah’s story below.
I was someone who was always health conscious and always busy. Throughout high school and college I always worked, sometimes up to 3 jobs and took more than a full load of difficult courses. I was involved in a church and did mission work in Central and South America. I was active. I always ate “healthy” meaning lots of low fat breads (LOVED bread) and very little meat. Then in college it was like I hit a wall. I became just completely exhausted. I’d sleep 16 hours if given the chance and some days it was difficult to get through the day. I started having stomach pain that would never go away, and other digestive problems. I also got pain in my joints and muscles, and I got weird heart palpitations. I started seeing a doctor who told me it was stress, so I quit all but one part time job and cut my class load to be as easy as possible while still keeping my financial aid. It only got worse. To make a long story short(er) – after more than a year of tests and medications and one unnecessary gall bladder surgery, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
By the time I was diagnosed, I could barely function. I had gastroparesis; which meant that my stomach muscles had essentially stopped working. The doctor said the only reason food was moving through my system was gravity. I had neuropathy (nerve damage) in my hands and feet from a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. I had a plethora of other vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and I had thyroid disease. It was diagnosed all at once, so going gluten free, getting B-12 shots and other liquid vitamin/mineral supplements, and taking thyroid medication made a huge difference very quickly. I thought “finally I’m going to be healthy again!” My doctor told me that within a year, if I was strictly gluten free, I should be completely healed and just as healthy as anyone else.
A year came and went, and though I felt loads better than before, I still didn’t feel like I was really healthy. I was OK, but not thriving. As part of the gastroparesis treatment, I was told to go on a low fiber, low fat and low protein diet (which meant high carb), and I was supposed to just snack all day and never really eat a full meal. I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with multiple food allergies – I was allergic to dairy, eggs, beef, lamb, peanuts, soybeans, kidney beans, almonds, pineapple and garlic (if you’re saying what? I know. It sounds completely crazy but I really had reactions when I ate them. I basically became allergic to anything I ate). I took all those foods out and essentially became a vegan who ate fish and poultry occasionally. I was eating what most people would consider a very healthy diet, but I just never got better. Doctors told me once my gut healed my allergies would go away, but they never did. I started having anaphylactic reactions to pineapple and my hayfever got bad. I got colds all the time – anytime I was near someone with a cold I was sure to get it. And I was extremely emotional. I was totally conscious too that I was over-emotional but I couldn’t control it. I’d cry at the drop of a hat. It was actually embarrassing. I had two children during this time; both pregnancies were rough and one child was born premature. I struggled with post partum depression and just felt like I couldn’t handle life in general. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. It was such a difference from my “I can do anything!” attitude in high school.
After my second child was born, the joint, muscle and stomach pain that I had before the Celiac diagnosis came back. I also started having a chronic sore throat and mouth pain, and chronic yeast infections. It hurt even to be touched most of the time. Doctors sometimes thought I was being dramatic when I writhed in pain while they pushed on my tummy. I started to second guess myself too, thinking maybe it was more in my head than I thought; but then I realized I gave birth to two babies with no drugs – I can handle pain! This is not normal! I thought for sure I was getting contaminated with gluten in my diet, but a blood test and repeat biopsy confirmed my Celiac was in remission and an emptying study showed the gastroparesis had gone away. Tests were done but nothing was found except some inflammation in my stomach. I did an elminiation diet and a cleanse with a naturopathic doctor and he wasn’t sure what to do when that didn’t work. It was eventually half-heartedly diagnosed as fibromyalgia.
A friend of mine who does Crossfit was telling me about Robb’s book and mentioned the part about gall bladder problems often being due to gluten intolerance. Having had my gall bladder out at age 21 and having Celiac, I got curious. I decided to get the book on Kindle (most diet books you only read once, right?). I devoured the book in 2 days. I got so psyched about the possibility of feeling better that I started the 30 day challenge that day.
I decided to try eating eggs and beef again – two foods I was previously allergic to. I have been able to eat both in moderation without stomach pain (which is a first in a long time). I have found that I can handle eggs once or twice a week, and I can handle grass fed beef just fine, though I seem to have some stomach pain with grain fed beef, which I find interesting. Maybe that’s in my head, but it seems to be true. I lost 10 lbs the first month I was eating Paleo completely unintentionally (my goal was to feel better not necessarily lose weight). However I’m not complaining! I have lost a total of 15 lbs now and I am now down to what I’ve always considered my ideal weight.
My joint pain is not completely gone, but incredibly improved (probably 90%), my throat and mouth pain is gone, I haven’t had a yeast infection since I started, and the most important thing is that I feel strong and healthy. I don’t feel so sickly and weak. My family used to make fun of me when I’d try to help someone move because I could never lift anything substantial. They’d stick me with the light boxes. Now I can lift things! I can lift my 4 year old into the car or throw my 2 year old in the air. I can help someone push a dresser or lug my groceries up the stairs. I feel more confident because I feel strong.
I’m trying to get my family to try it and to read the book. I’ve convinced my sister to do the 30 day challenge, and I’m working on a few other family members. I am so excited that I can finally handle life and thrive rather than just survive that I am choosing to continue to eat this way. I think I’ve become a crazy Paleo zealot!
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