One of the things I love most about paleolithicnutrition is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all diet. There are as many ways to implement paleolithic nutrition as there are people. You can choose foods that you like; you can be more or less strict with gray-area foods depending on health issues; you can eat more carbohydrates orfewer depending on your fitness level and individual chemistry; you can eat paleo to lose weight; you can eat paleo to put on muscle; you can even eat paleo while also eating vegetarian. I still feel like I’m tweaking my own implementation of paleolithic nutrition to completely address my own health challenges. But, I do feel like I am finally honing in on what my body needs (and can handle).
If you read my New Year’s Resolutions post, you know that I have been following the autoimmunity protocol, which means no nuts and seeds, no eggs, no caffeine,no alcohol, and no nightshades. I am doing this because I am still struggling with a skin condition called lichen planus (a form of psoriasis). I realize that while this is an autoimmune condition, it’s also a hallmark of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Gut-Brain Connection problems. So, I have changed a few things in my nutrition/health approach.
First, I am drinking coffee again. I went 25 days without but my digestion got so sluggish without the stimulant effect of coffee that I was worried I was doing more harm than good. I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome for 12 years and likely have some nerve damage as a result. Coffee seems to be an important peristaltic stimulator for me (I’m trying to keep this dinner conversation level, folks!). I am drinking about one third of the caffeine that I was before New Year’s, and it seems like a good dose for me (low enough to not mess with cortisol, high enough to have the desired effects on my digestion). I missed coffee dreadfully, so I am very, very happy to have it back in my life (whipped with some grass-fed butter and extra virgin coconut oil—so yummy!). I have also allowed myself some egg yolk (since the whites are the problem, not the yolk), and macadamia nuts (since they are low in phytates and in polyunsaturated fats).
Second, I have a new focus on digestion. I have started consuming 2 Tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar 10-15 minutes before my meals. I am constantly reminding myself to chew my food thoroughly. I am consuming a lot of ginger too (mostly hot ginger tea and homemade ginger kombucha). I am a fermenting addict and now make my own sauerkraut, kombucha and coconut milk kefir. I am also keeping starches extremely low (and other sugars fairly low as well).
Third, I am playing with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is where you don’t eat for 16-24 hours (its mostly important not to consume carbohydrates or protein) and this is also very customizable (how long, how often, how randomly, what you break your fast with, whether or not you consume fat during fast…). I have chosen to skip breakfast but still have my two coffees with grass-fed butter and coconut oil (one when I get up in the morning and another a couple of hours later). Normally, you aren’t supposed to fast if sleep or stress management aren’t perfect. But I have found (in only a week playing with this) that I am sleeping better, feeling better and my mood is way, way better (well, I was a grumpy pants one day but my kids aren’t sleeping well and have been extra moody lately). Also, I have seen faster improvement to my lichen planus in the last week than I did in the month and a half prior. My plan is to try this maybe a couple of times each week, on random days, but generally on days when I don’t seem very hungry in the morning anyway (if you fast too often, it just becomes the way you eat, your body adapts and you don’t get the same benefits).
The point of this post is to tell you two things. First of all, my stricter version of paleo is working to address my health issues and this makes me VERY happy. Second, a paleo diet is about lifelong health. You can keep tweaking your own implementation of paleo until you have addressed your own health issues and achieved your goals. You can further tweak your own implementation of paleo to stay there once you get there. And I think that’s awesome.