Some of you may remember that my husband got back surgery last year. He battled what we thought was osteoarthritis for many years. There was no cure or treatment really – other than pain medications. And in the last year or two, the pain had gotten so bad he had to cortisone injections periodically to help with the pain.
Then, near his 40th birthday, he experienced horrible pain in his leg. An x-ray showed that one of his herniated discs had protruded into his spinal column, causing intense pain in his leg. If left alone, it would cause a foot drop and even worse pain. So he had surgery to cut away a portion of the disc.
While he was recovering, we got more bad news from the doctor. My husband has spondylitis – a form of rheumatoid arthritis where the spine can fuse together near the base of the spine. It explained everything he was going through so at least we had an answer, but unfortunately there’s really nothing you can do about it other than diet modification and medication. We were hell bent on trying alternative and holistic methods first, so our journey with Paleo began.
Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can be exasperated with high-starch and gluten foods. And sure enough when my husband was tested for food allergies he found out he had an intolerance to gluten – as well as soy and eggs. We also found out he had candida overgrowth causing leaky gut syndrome – where basically his body wasn’t absorbing the right nutrients and the autoimmune response was kicking in.
First, he fasted for a few days to knock out the candida. That was really hard for him. Then, he was on a strict no-starch, Paleo diet for about a month.
After that he slowly introduced gluten-free starches like rice, sorghum, etc. Oh he was a happy man then. He got to have gluten-free pizza and beer. He ate rice nearly every day. And enjoyed gluten-free cookies and bread. But he kept getting flare-ups and his back pain wouldn’t subside. In fact, he had a hard time standing up for more than a few minutes at a time and had to sit in a special reclining chair or lay down in bed most of the time.
So after much research, I found that even gluten-free starches could be causing issues with his spondylitis. And Paleo was looking more and more like the solution.
Then recently my oldest son was tested for food allergies. I’ve long suspected he’s had food allergies because the kid gets the stomach flu more than anyone I know, but the test came back with inflammation in his colon. We’re doing additional tests now to see if it’s an early form of colitis, which is also an autoimmune disease. While I’m relieved to have an answer, it depresses me to think that it could be as serious as colitis. But when I’m finding in my research is that gluten might the culprit with my son too – even though he tested negative for a gluten intolerance.
So our journey with Paleo begins. It’s a journey I never thought I’d have to take – because well frankly I’m more vegetarian (I do cheat with fish and sometimes Thanksgiving turkey) and hate the idea of our family eating more meat. And I love carbs. Like really love carbs. And as much as it pains me to give it up, I do find that when I eat more Paleo I don’t get the 2 pm sugar crash anymore. I don’t feel as fatigued or cranky – well, I’m still cranky in the morning but I don’t think any food or more sleep can help with that.
My husband has been Paleo for about a month (he’s been gluten free since September), and I’ve jumped on board with the kids since then too. The kids and I do Paleo for about half our meals and try to go gluten free for most of our other meals. I’m slowly phasing out all the gluten snacks and foods in our pantry, and opting for gluten-free versions instead for the kids. I want to get them used to the Paleo diet slowly.
So far, I wish I could say that the hubby has been feeling better but he’s not. He’s in constant pain – it’s become his norm. But he continues to try Paleo along with supplements like curcumin and fish oil for inflammation and weekly physical therapy. Crossing fingers it will pay off soon.
One thing we need to watch for is whether one of our kids will develop spondylitis too – there’s a chance one of them could develop it. Fortunately, there’s a genetic marker (HLA-B27) for it and a simple blood test can tell us if they have it. It doesn’t mean they’ll develop spondylitis, but something like 90% of those with spondylitis have this genetic marker. We’re getting the kids tested this week.
The biggest surprise has been that my husband has to watch his meat intake. When he first when gluten free he started eating a lot more red meat. I never cooked it before since I hate handling raw meat, but I gave in since he couldn’t really eat anything else. Well, he ended up with gout. His foot was huge and he had a hard time walking. We got it under control with black cherry juice and cherry extract supplements, but he still gets it every now and then if we’re not careful.
Now he does red meat occasionally. I opt for fish – especially wild-caught salmon – most of the time. He’s also doing more coconut oil (who knew coconuts were so good for keeping inflammation at bay) and Coconut Aminos have become a staple condiment in our house – it’s the perfect substitute for soy sauce.
The more I talk to others about going Paleo, I hear such interesting stories of why they’ve chosen to go with this caveman diet. I’m going to start posting more Paleo-friendly recipes and staples in our house.
Have you considered Paleo? I’d love to hear your story.
Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net