Top Ten Reasons I Will Never (Not) Be Paleo

10.  I feel incredible.  I’m confident that 90% of people would feel 100 times, if not more, better consuming a “paleo”-type diet. I don’t like confining myself to the “gluten-free” or “paleo” movements, but I am both gluten-free and “paleo.” The longer I go without eating processed foods or sugared-alternatives, the more I can feel how food actually affects my body. Whenever I “cheat,” and eat a high glycemic-index meal, I crash and feel like crap for the next day. I don’t like feeling like crap. So I keep eating paleo.

9.  Freedom from food. Sugar is addictive. Bread is addictive. Prior to going gluten free, I noticed NOTHING I ate didn’t have some kind of wheat (or at least food starch) in it. In fact, most times, something starchy was the center of the meal. That’s the American way, right? “Here, honey have a roll.” My sugar addiction began when I was young, craving sweets and cakes, anything I could get my hands on. I’m sure I had it worse than some, but maybe not. As I became older, my sugar addiction spiraled out of control, and I had no idea it was even happening. I had learned in school to stay away from candy, but that grains and bread were the bottom of the food pyramid. I was SUPPOSED to be eating >300 carbs per day! When I moved out on my own, I couldn’t keep chips, candy, sugar, ice cream, or even alchol (it’s just another source of sugar for me) in my house for fear I would overeat… and that’s when I started thinking maybe it was the sugar.

Like most “dieting” women I know, I counted calories and fat (like I was instructed to by the bread-on-the-bottom-food-pyramid-nutritionists) like a mad woman. I took my weight 3 times a day. I obsessed over my clothes-size, how I felt in them, and was self-consious to eat in front of people. I would restrict my eating to point of refractory bingeing. Even if I only skipped lunch, I was trying to devour everything in site come dinner. This was before I found gluten free / paleo.

On gluten free / paleo, I no longer obsess over the calories and sugar I am putting into my body. I have complete freedom from the obsession of food. I eat when I am hungry. I don’t eat when I am not. I don’t worry about the nutritional content of what I’m eating most of the time, because my diet is inherently filled with nutrient-dense foods. Simple as that.

8. No more naps. Mid-afternoon crashes are the worst. On paleo, I don’t get them any more. I remember as a highschooler, coming home and sleeping for 2-3 hours every day. I was so fatigued. I have had a nap twice in the past year. Adding it up, that’s more than 730 hours of gained productivity, which is desperately needed as a hard-working graduate student.

7.  “I’m regular.” I don’t want to delve into the realm of too much information, but prior to Paleo I was incredibly irregular. Irregular cycles, irregular digestion, irregular sleeping habits, irregular moods. More than that, I had never been regular. Many of my earliest memories of childhood were surrounded by GI problems, mood problems, and sleeping problems… but how was I supposed to know they weren’t normal? No one ever really told me how often I was supposed to be going to the bathroom. Anyway, you name it, on a low-fat, high-fiber diet, mine wasn’t normal. By body’s internal clock was just all warped. On paleo, I’m like a machine. Everything is all “regular,” a feeling I haven’t had in my entire life until now.

p.s. – I hardly ever eat fiber.

6. Better cholesterol. I get made a lot of fun of where I work because I love to eat pork rinds. Lots of them. I will eat a bag for lunch without blinking. They are such a common and frequent part of my diet, that it seldom occurs to me that it’s weird, until someone comments that I am so unhealthy for eating them (ironically, I am the skinniest person at my work).  I eat a very high cholesterol diet. I eat red meat once or every other day. I eat about 3 eggs a day. I eat pork rinds to my hearts content (insert pun), and snack on nuts. Sounds like I should have the worlds worst heart, right? Wrong.

I began having my cholesterol monitored after a blood test revealed high LDL and low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides.  This was a bit scary for me, having a family history of heart disease.  My abnormal cholesterol test came at 20, while I was doing a low fat, grain-based diet, and running a mile a day.

Since going “paleo,” my LDL is normal and my triglycerides are down. I still haven’t been able to raise my HDL, despite maintaining very frequent cardio exercise (>5/miles of running per day), but I think this may just be true genetics at play.

5. I’m thinner and more tone.  I have never not felt fat. Even when I was thin and severely calorie-restricting, I always felt fat on a grain-based diet. In addition, as I entered late adolescence/early adulthood, I actually started becoming fat, peaking at 150 (quite large for my small 5’3 frame) while in college. I became fat because I was eating the recommended diet of low-fat, whole grain. In addition to becoming fat, I also became sick. On paleo I maintain a healthy and fit 115 no matter how much I exercise or how many bags of pork rinds I eat.

4. I’m happy. All the time. This seems like a weird statement, but, I’m always happy. Literally. I remember struggling with depression as young as Kindergarten. My grandmother told me in my teenage years, when I battled daily with manic depression and fatigue, “sometimes as a child you just looked so sad.” It broke my heart to realize that my family had noticed my sadness at such a young age. On a low-fat, whole-grain diet I cried, screamed, had emotional outbursts, resented, and surfed the lowest-of-lows and highest-of-highs. On paleo, I’m simply happy. That’s it.

3. No more pain. As a young girl, I remember my mother struggling with chronic headaches and backpain. I never knew her agony until I was about 17 years old, when I began having chronic headaches and migranes with auras.  I had also had joint pain (primarily knee and back) for most of my life (the doctor’s decided I had “growing pains,” which is code for, “it’s all in your head.”) I dealt with the chronic headache and low-grade aches and pains by taking 800mg of ibuprofen every day. For years. After going gluten free, my chronic pains and headaches subsided, but the auras persisted. When I went fully paleo, the frequency of auras (without pain) reduced from once or twice a day to once every two months or so. They still happen randomly every once in a while, but not nearly with the frequency they used to, and their usually triggered by taking a hot shower. I now take Advil once a month for cramps, but some months I don’t need it at all.

2. Paleo (nearly) cured my narcolepsy. I first became gluten free about a year after I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, and became full paleo about a year after that. Before deciding to become gluten free, I realized I was getting tired after eating, and if I went all day without eating, I was less tired. I went searching and found a truly incredible blog called The Zombie Research Institute. A woman whose brain clearly worked like mine did, who cured her narcolepsy with gluten free? It sounded ridiculous, but I was desperate for anything to work. I tried it. Very strict. And it worked. Gluten free combated narcoleptic attacks and hypnogogic hallucinations, but I feel my most awake and alert by excluding all refined sugars and grains and adhering to a paleo diet.

1. Paleo saved my lifeThis might seem like an inflammatory statement (another pun), but it’s not a joke. I believe going gluten free (and later paleo) literally saved my life.  Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young-adult years I was only sick and sad. There were many many days where I was quite sure that I wouldn’t make it past 40. I had physically struggled for so long, that I didn’t want to make it past 40. I couldn’t bear the thought of living another 20 years in tiredness and pain.  Now, I am exited to age in health and grace; and, actually look forward to tomorrow.

In addition to posting these reasons that I “do paleo,” the new fat-diet of the day, quite proudly, I would also like to take a moment to respond directly to some of the “points” raised in the original post “Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Paleo” by Cheeseslave.

1. To first answer Cheeseslave’s question:

But honestly, if you’ve been eating paleo for any length of time, don’t you miss grilled cheese sandwiches? Quesadillas? Pizza?


Sure. Yes. I miss pizza, pudding, ice cream, M&M’s, and especially peanut butter. I miss sugar the way a 3-pack-a-day smoker misses a cigarette. There is a twinge of pain everytime I see someone eating a doughnut in part because I hate wheat, but also in part because I WANT THAT DAMN DOUGHNUT.

That said, I miss the narcolepsy less than I miss the doughnut.

2. In response to:

Is the modern epidemic of “gluten intolerance” really caused by eating wheat? Or is it possible that something else is causing gluten intolerance?

There is a theory that antibiotic drugs cause an imbalance of gut flora and cause prevent the digestive tract from secreting enzymes that enable us to break down complex proteins such as gluten. Sounds a lot more plausible than the idea that wheat suddenly started causing gluten intolerance out of nowhere.

In the first place, the alternative theory isn’t bad. I agree that something other than gluten could be causing gluten intolerance. Genetics, a changing gut microbiome, antibiotics, sugar, birth control. Alternative theories are fine and dandy, but gluten is a very good candidate, as the protein has been demonstrated to be inflammatory and barrier-compromising to the intestinal tract all on it’s own. It also stimulates antigen presenting cells to be “preactivated” among “normal” healthy individuals without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Here’s another one demonstrating positive benefits of gluten-removal from IBS patients who did not have clinical celiac diseaseBut a different cause for gluten intolerance, doesn’t justify continuing to eat it. It would still be a gluten intolerance; wheat’s fault, or not. 

In the second place, gluten isn’t the only thing found in wheat. Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is a lectin found in wheat and has been demonstrated to have antinutritive effects irrespective of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Concentrations of WGA are higher in the seed and young shoots of wheat, to protect it from predation from fungus, insects, and animals. In fungus and insects WGA binds to the chitin. Chitin is found in the cell wall and intestinal system of fungi and insects, respectively.  In animals and in humans, it binds strongly to sialic acid on intestinal cells, where it is internalized, and can also agglutinate bacteria and red blood cells. Because it is stable at low pH (i.e. poorly digested) and resistant to gut proteases, it is gaining widespread attention and research to be utilized as a carrier for drug delivery.  Once inside epithelial cells of the digestive tract, it accumulates in lysosomes and resists degradation. It alters intestinal permeability, allowing for the passage of small molecules across the intestinal barrier. In addition, in sufficient concentrations, it stimulates proinflammatory cytokine release as well as affecting the activation of immune cells in the gut, and can cause pancreatic hypertrophy.  It should be mentioned here that lectins are not only found in wheat (but wheat has among the highest lectin concentrations and is the most prevalent plant lectin), and their entrance into the blood stream and implications on systemic health has yet to be widely investigated. For another good review, go here.  How is that for “antimicrobial” theory?

I struggle with anger towards my mom for not figuring out that I was tired after I ate.  Because of food, I was sick and sad for most of my life. If only my mother had known or realized that food could affect how you feel SO MUCH, I know she would have changed my diet at a young age and not let me have dessert at all (or, made a nice paleo alternative).

In contrast, I know I will be the most-hated parent on the block when my child realizes that Oreos exist. But, to me, if I were to allow my child to indulge in sugar, I might as well put vodka in their bottle, and a joint in their hand. Sugar is a drug. It works the same on the brain. And I’m sure little Johnny will sneak away to Billy’s house to eat ice cream on the weekends. But I refuse to allow my children to become addicted to sugar and food in the same way that I was. And they sure as heck won’t be sad, sick, or worse for the pie that I put on their plate. 



14 thoughts on “Top Ten Reasons I Will Never (Not) Be Paleo

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Misconceptions About the Paleo Diet « Kind Food Farm

  2. I, like you, experienced a complete 180 with Paleo. I’d already been the WAPF route, soaking, souring and fermenting. And I was ill, obese, infertile, had PCOS, hypertension and a new diagnosis of Type II diabetes, VERY high cholesterol with low HDL and inflammation markers through the roof. The fatigue I felt after a meal was so debilitating that I wasn’t able to work a typical full-time job because I couldn’t stave off the afternoon nap, and I’d developed a ‘no breakfast’ habit years earlier due to the same problem mid-morning after a carb-heavy breakfast. I’ve been on every “diet” imaginable (including raw and vegan) and I never felt good before now. It’s been over 5 years since going paleo, and the only time I feel bad is when I stray significantly for a period of time (the holidays always get me!).

    After I’d lost 100lbs, cured the diabetes, restored my fertility and cycle and felt confident in my new life, I decided to try adding WAPF-style grains back into my diet- as I already make them for my family. Without exception, I gain weight and feel crappy when I eat them. Yes, I miss bread too, and there is something about driving by the the local bakery or doughnut shop early morning that makes me wistful. But really, what’s so special about these foods? I miss ALL kinds of junky food. You couldn’t pay me to eat at McDonald’s, but when a co-worker comes into the break-room with a fresh pouch of fries, the scent is tantalizing. And let’s not forget how delicious a fresh batch of microwave popcorn (covered in GMO-trans fats and BPA) smells! But that’s no excuse to eat something that makes me feel like crap.

    As for weight loss, why do people say “I think she looks great for her age.”? Obesity isn’t age-related in paleo folks. Look at the current HG groups, their elderly aren’t obese (, why should ours be? And on that tangent, there is plenty of documented evidence that cultures that eschews grains not only don’t have adult acne, but their TEENS don’t even experience it. I have helped a couple of young co-workers completely clear up cystic acne by removing grains.

    I see carbohydrate as the “activity” macro. If you’re very active, you can handle extra starches and sugars pretty healthfully. If you’re pretty sedentary (like you-know-who from the blog that spurred this one) the extra starches will do what our bodies evolved to do with them, gain fat. This doesn’t make carbs evil, it just means that if you really love them, you have to be willing to move your rump enough to metabolize them.

    Thank you for a wonderful, straightforward post about the reality of Paleo.

    Paleo Huntress

    • Thank you so much for your comment – it was the first “real” comment I’ve received on my newly-founded blog, and it was much appreciated. I think the best advocates for the paleo lifestyle are going to be people like us who tell our stories of being sick, and strike a chord with those who are still struggling. One of my biggest frustrations in the paleo vs. non-paleo blogosphere is the assumption that I have some paleo agenda to push, which could be farther from the truth. My only point to make is that 1) I know how sick people can become, and 2) I know how dramatically the food we eat can make a difference. In that sense, my only agenda is to help encourage and inspire people to eat in a way that could make them feel better. Believe me, if someone had been on the internet saying that eating only oreos all day could cure narcolepsy, I would have tried it. The gluten free, hunter-gatherer diet is the only one where people are in resounding agreement that they are getting relief from chronic disease. Why anyone wouldn’t give it a fair shot is beyond me.
      p.s. – I promise to never delete any of your comments. 😉

      • Ah hah hah! Yeah, she gets pretty shut down by a challenging argument, doesn’t she? There’s a dietician commenting there lately that presents some similar challenges, I imagine she’ll be booted eventually. I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner, I didn’t get any kind of email ping that you had replied.

        I’m with you on the difference in how one can feel with the right diet. I was SO lethargic for SO long, that I believed it was a function of aging. Even in my early 20s, I’d have trouble just climbing the hill from my parking spot to my apartment after work, and I wasn’t even overweight at that point. I had PCOS and needed fertility treatments to conceive all three of my children, but after going Paleo, the PCOS vanished and I became 28-days regular and fertile (we were done growing our family by then of course)- but YAY to the feminine power of ovulation!

        I listen to Robb Wolf’s podcast and he mentions quite often how folks with narcolepsy often get complete relief with a paleo diet. I recently saw Dr. Robert Lustig in an interview and he mentioned that 3 weeks on a paleo diet was enough to CURE most type II diabetics. What’s interesting is that he isn’t really a Paleo advocate, but rather a fructose metabolism and obesity expert… so that was interesting to hear.

  3. Hi Christina—thanks so much for visiting my blog and letting me know where I could find you. I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiences, esp. w/ Paleo. I haven’t gotten there yet, but we are cutting more grains from our home every time we turn around. Love your statement about the Oreos! It certainly is maddening to raise a child in the processed-food society we live in, but that’s where I take comfort that there are other people on the same journey we’re on—I just need to seek them out.
    Thanks again!

    • Shayne,

      Thanks so much for visiting! The site is still new, but I’m hoping to get more on here quickly. I was very much delighted to find your blog entries on gluten free and narcolepsy. From what I could tell you never posted an update after you began a gluten challenge in hopes of having an official diagnosis for your gluten intolerance. I’m assuming the tests came back negative, am I right? I underwent the same testing, was told I did not have celiac disease of any form, and have never met another narcoleptic to officially diagnosed with celiac’s or gluten intolerance. What gives? Maybe the current tests don’t test for the kind of gluten sensitivity we have? Still haven’t figured that one out… All I know is that I function at least 100X better on a gluten free/paleo diet, and that’s all the proof I need.

  4. Hi Christina,

    Your blog is truly outstanding, and reverberates with so much that I have been experiencing.

    3 months ago, having just finished my freshman year at university, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy without cataplexy. After a year of increasingly acute fatigue, I got to the point where I could not function anymore (although I did survive freshman year with a 4.0; I cannot quite ascertain how).

    After hearing about the range of treatments, the possibility of orexin stimulating medicines being, or any reasonable ‘cure’ being at least 10 years away, and not actually dealing with the symptoms I locked myself in room and did days of research, arriving came to the same conclusion that you did; that diet was triggering my body to attack my orexin transmitters. To cut a long story short, after 4 days of cutting all gluten out, I immediately started to feel more energetic. 2 weeks after the diet, I feel like a whole new person, ready to continue with my studies and pursue all the goals which I previously wanted to.

    Several ideas for your consideration; I thought you may find them useful.

    I told my sleep doctor (apparently one of the best in the country) of what has happened, and although he was aware of the gluten-free diet theory, he was extremely surprised to hear of my results. He asked me whether I could come in to do a sleep study so that he can see what has changed.

    Why is the link between diet and reducing narcoleptic symptoms not mainstream? I hate to conjecture, and it is hard to estimate the number of people who have actually been helped by the gluten free diet, but I suspect the truth is not as pleasant as we may like to believe. Against all probabilities, I actually have 3 friends with narcolepsy. They are all my age (20) and have been diagnosed within the past 3 years. None of them have even heard of the links between diet and narcolepsy.

    I remember reading in a study that in only around 30 percent of cases, both twins had developed narcolepsy. It would be interesting to see a further breakdown of this.

    I cannot find any journaled, substantial peer reviewed study on the links between gluten, auto-immune trigger and narcolepsy. While I am not a biology oriented student (I am a physicist), I am considering looking into this. Let me know your thoughts.

    Finally, since I believe I probably only developed narcolepsy around 6 months ago (I have no idea how the progression works), would it be possible that I have a large number of orexin neurotransmitters remaining in my brain? (I do know that people who have Narcolepsy without cataplexy tend to have higher numbers remaining anyway). I know that this is a complex question, but interesting nonetheless.

    Anyway, would be great to hear from you; feel free to email me.

  5. J- there are some studies on people whose narcolepsy was caught at the onset. Steroids and IVIG can reverse narcolepsy/cateplexy, but only temporarily. Many of these studies show that the damage to the orexin producing cells occurs very quickly (within weeks) and is irreversible, although for some reason the IVIG and steroids help the symptoms. Perhaps these drugs work in the same way a gluten free diet does.

  6. Pingback: Paleo? | CrossFit Merge: The First CrossFit Gym in Glendale California

  7. Pingback: WEGO Health Acitivist Writer’s Month Challenge – Day 2: Introductions | Autoimmune Patient

  8. Sumo Wrestlers bulk up by eating “Chankonabe”; a stew served in a giant pot (nabe means pot) and is their staple diet.
    Chankonabe is based on heavy PROTEIN (broth with fish, chicken, beef, pork), and lots of VEGGIES; all completely COOKED.
    Sounds like the – PALEO DIET – is perfect for keeping you Fat.

  9. Pingback: Strides Against The Grain

  10. Great advice! I really am in love with the paleo diet.

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