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Stopping Paleo/Primal has actually made me feel a bit better

Commented on February 15, 2014
Created January 30, 2014 at 7:55 PM

Yes, the title of the post says it all. And yes I'm new here, although I've been anon-lurking for quite some time. Now, before I get flamed for this, let me explain what I mean. This may be TMI, so bear with me here.

I have been following a mostly-Primal/Paleo diet (mostly opting for the less-nuanced and less-strict Primal side of things) for over 2 years now. For pretty much the whole time, there have been some...ahem..."messy" times in the bathroom. Loose stools have been the name of the game. About 6 months ago, I noticed that eating a full day of Primal meals would result in a stomach ache, intense and smelly gas, and difficulty sleeping. I started tinkering with my intake, removing and adding everything I could think of (nightshades, cruciferous veggies, etc.), along with beginning to drink kombucha and take probiotics on the days with no kombucha. Nothing helped, however. Additionally, I was usually always tired and felt overtrained, even though I didn't do more than 5-6 workouts a week, with one long run, a couple of shorter runs, a sprint/interval day, and some Simplefit workouts thrown in there for cross-training.

Over the past month or so, though, I've started eating more grains and following less and less of a Primal diet. Beans, rice, quinoa, and (gasp) even more bread than I have had in a long time. It's been quite interesting...on the nights that I'll eat a non-Primal dinner (last night, for example, we had chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese, thanks to our ridiculous snow day here in ATL), I go to bed virtually gas-free. On the days that I have a Primal meal though (no grains and low-carb), I'm back to square one. I'm sleeping a little bit better (not waking up 3-4 times a night) and my workouts have been a little easier to get through, although not by much. I have not really lost weight, though, and am concerned that the stuff I did lose over the past 2 years is going to come back in spades, so that may be an issue.

My question to you all is this: anyone else experience this? I've been looking for a couple of weeks online about it and nobody seems to have this same story. There are people that critique the Primal way of things (as a runner and at-home Crossfitter, I saw pretty decent gains, but that was around the time I started adding more sprints and intervals to my training), people that have stopped Paleo/Primal, and the people that are still huge advocates of it, but never anyone who really has any story like this.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 15, 2014
at 08:05 PM

I understand that, I'm sharing the reasons as to why that may be and what you can do to fix it - if Kombucha is causing issues, remove it.

9c549df576010e4baaee2d8f17ed13ff

on February 14, 2014
at 10:50 PM

Ummm @ rawdawg, I never said that primal/paleo was bad for you. I said I felt like crap eating paleo and developed a nut allergy during that time. I still eat primally only with more carbs than "normal". I also said its hard for everyone to find the right balance - essentially meaning (without have it to spell it out ), that everyone is different and you have to pay attention to YOUR own body signals. Not what Mark, or Matt or, Chris or the govt tells you to eat/ not eat.

Medium avatar

(0)

on February 14, 2014
at 07:39 PM

@raydawg Interestingly enough, I made homemade Kombucha for quite a while, as well as trying probiotics for a while and eating all sorts of fermented things. I never noticed much of a difference, although with the kombucha I did notice that joint inflammation after long runs went down significantly.

Medium avatar

(0)

on February 14, 2014
at 07:39 PM

@CavegirlPas I've been on the primal way of things for over 2 years...no low-carb flu here! That was gone in the first week or so.

Fea6afb2ce36ad8df5548e6a5195af4d

(-12)

on February 14, 2014
at 07:34 PM

I wonder if your problem could have been related to fat intake. Have you ever had gallbladder or liver problems?

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 14, 2014
at 10:54 AM

Um, having an allergy to nuts doesn't mean that eating paleo or primal is bad for you - you just have to avoid nuts - also not everyone does well on a low carb diet just as not everyone does well on a high carb diet.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 14, 2014
at 10:52 AM

Oh please, not that Matt Stone drivel. The man's a broken clock, only right for 1 second twice a day, and no more. Please don't push this nonsense.

Medium avatar

(0)

on February 11, 2014
at 04:33 PM

Not a whole lot of it (usually used olive oil and coco only in certain curry/Asian-inspired dishes), but it never adversely affected me, either.

A6b7afacdb512b861716bca9e9226ad3

(333)

on February 11, 2014
at 04:32 PM

THANK YOU! Great blog post. It also led me to a book recommendation that is getting my body temp up. So grateful to have seen this!

576dc803ed0dfa3616509e20f515d070

(75)

on February 10, 2014
at 04:29 PM

I almost feel, that in the name of science, it is the duty of the op to try the whole RS PS thing, i think the results could be "interesting".

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 31, 2014
at 11:38 PM

I actually went out and bought some Bobs Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch for the RS hack but haven't openned the bag yet. For now I'm experimenting with more cooked-then-cooled white potatoes which certainly don't seem to hurt me. Mashed potatoes with a grip of butter and heavy cream are pretty palatable hot, cold, or warm.

Another thing: I notice my gut feels a lot better when I eat more ruminant meats (mostly beef, preferably not always ground) and less foul and fish. It's expensive though, so I still eat a lot of foul and fish.

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:53 PM

(n=1. digestive issues took quite a few months of bone broths, raw yolks, and gelatin to resolve, too. But, the micronutrients seemed to make the largest and final difference.)

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:51 PM

Grains/legumes in general seem to correlate more with small, background discomforts, some noticeable differences in how healthy they seem overall, and slower weight gain. Processed foods tend to correlate by far most with severe weight gain, though.

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:49 PM

That's interesting. n=1, weight regulation/loss of bloating and digestive issues didn't clear up until tracking and lowering PUFA and omega 6 fats, and getting micronutrients in order.

I vaguely recall seeing a similar post awhile back on PaleoHacks by someone else claiming the same thing - gluten/grains/legumes made the poster feel better. With the limited data I have of others, when I've seen others add back grains/legumes/non-Paleo foods, the processed foods are by far the most obesogenic (particularly processed cheeses, sugars, or soy sauces).

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:22 PM

(Of course, given that you said you've been lurking for quite awhile, you've likely seen thoughts and discussions about the PHD, safe starches, and potentially some about micronutrients, and potentially some about supplementation...)

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:22 PM

Did you consume most of your calories as fat, and did you consume large (potentially too large) amounts of protein? You mentioned specific autoimmune tweaks, but not specific macronutrient or micronutrient additions/tweaks. The starches, in particular, rather interest me, since the things you added back in (grains, bread, quinoa, etc.) sound like large amounts of carbohydrates (as compared to an intake on a "low-carb" diet), and some soluble/insoluble fibers.

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:20 PM

I'm curious - did you ever try including "safe starches" instead of the grains, etc.? Going too low-carb, especially over a prolonged period of time and while doing intense exercising, can cause problems. Among those are digestive problems, as well as fatigue.

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16 Answers

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 14, 2014
at 11:20 AM

It sounds like it might be a case of gut bacteria not being adapted to the diet. We each have our own unique mix of gut flora species. Whenever you see issues like bloating, burping, or gas in reaction to meals, or in reaction to the introduction of fermented foods, there's some activity there that's changing.

Some people do well on higher carb intake, others do not. If you have a high population of harmful bacteria (typically Gram negative), consuming things like coconut oil causes them to die off and release LPS and other toxins (Herxheimer reaction) - this can be experienced as digestive distress as well as a flu-like symptoms.

If you introduce highly populated fermented foods such as a home-made yogurt/kefir, kraut or kombucha, you've introduced a large source of new bacteria into your gut, which then wage war against the existing population, and in that case you'll have a Herxheimer style die off.

In other cases, going very low carb starves out the beneficial bacteria and allows yeasts to proliferate since the bacteria that were keeping them in check is now gone.

There's another possible issue here too, if you've just started cooking or consuming foods made with coconut oil, and have issues with digesting fat - either insufficient bile due to too low cholesterol availability, or having previously removed your gallbladder, rapid consumption of too much fat can cause a type of diarrhea called stretorrhea that causes repeated sessions of visiting the bathroom. Typically you want to start out with very small amounts of coconut oil - such as half a teaspoon, and work your way up to say a tablespoon a day. Consuming two tablespoons at once when you're not adapted to it will cause "disasterpants" in short order.

Either way, the issue is that your existing gut flora is incompatible with your new lifestyle, and you're forcing it to adapt too quickly. This doesn't mean you should go back to eating grains, but rather return to the same level of carb consumption albeit through safe-starches, and very slowly change it, and also slowly introduce new bacteria through fermented foods. The same would be true for the introduction of coconut oil - go slowly.

Note that when I say existing gut flora is incompatible, I mean that it's most likely not beneficial bacteria and likely the type that would cause issues in a normal wild human, but because of years of the Standard American Diet, they've made their home in your gut and don't generally cause visible trouble because there's homeostasis.

Like any entrenched bureaucracy, when they are in danger, they fight their competitors when fed - to the detriment of the body, but make no mistake, just because they behaved when you fed them grain based junk food doesn't mean that they have your best interest at heart - they need to be removed for you to achieve optimum health and prevent future disease - just do it slowly.

There are going to be literally thousands of species of bacteria in our guts, and they compete with each other for food, but they can't all eat the same kinds of food. When one species (or set of species) is fed very well, they have a party - they generate tons of gas and multiply as well as have the ability to attack their competitors, causing a die off.

Introducing fermented foods slowly as well as encouraging SBOs (Soil Based Bacteria) is a good way to remove lots of digestive issues.

Another issue here is of energy levels. We get our energy from either carbs or fat. Bacteria can't eat fat (though yeasts can). Bacteria being fed very quickly will produce gas - this is typical for high fiber or high sugar/carb. Instead of your energy levels going up, theirs are. So one of the best paths to fixing this is by introducing higher fat via coconut oil, but again very slowly. The badly behaving bacteria won't be able to consume it and won't produce gas.

This is a bit of a new field, and there is some ongoing research here into what species are in our guts in order to find out which species are beneficial in what balance.

If you feel more energetic eating higher carb, by all means, at first eat more carbs - just not so much that you cause gas, and slowly shift (if you want to) to a higher fat diet.

Certainly since you say "I was usually always tired and felt overtrained, even though I didn't do more than 5-6 workouts a week, with one long run, a couple of shorter runs, a sprint/interval day" it means that you need a higher carb diet - that type endurance/aerobic exercise requires a much higher carb intake. You'd do fat better with a Paleo for Athletes style diet.

Medium avatar

(0)

on February 14, 2014
at 07:39 PM

@raydawg Interestingly enough, I made homemade Kombucha for quite a while, as well as trying probiotics for a while and eating all sorts of fermented things. I never noticed much of a difference, although with the kombucha I did notice that joint inflammation after long runs went down significantly.

0
9c549df576010e4baaee2d8f17ed13ff

on February 13, 2014
at 03:59 PM

After eating primal for 3 years, I had to stop. I felt terrible, I developed an allergy to nuts (delayed reaction of my face swelling,itchy, red and then ended up with all the skin falling off - still waiting to see an allergist), chest pain, my knee started hurting again, I was always irritated tired and really grumpy, any amount of stress got to me (which usually I just go with the flow). I started eating more "safe" carbs and started eating a bit of the gluten free grains/pseudo grains like teff, buckwheat,millet (maybe added some in one meal every other day). I feel a lot more stable now, no pain. It could have been the nuts causing the symptoms but I had stopped eating them earlier because I felt I was eating many - with no change in symptoms. When I started eating them again - the allergic reaction, so no more nuts. Everyone is different I guess, it's hard to find the right balance for each individual.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 14, 2014
at 10:54 AM

Um, having an allergy to nuts doesn't mean that eating paleo or primal is bad for you - you just have to avoid nuts - also not everyone does well on a low carb diet just as not everyone does well on a high carb diet.

9c549df576010e4baaee2d8f17ed13ff

on February 14, 2014
at 10:50 PM

Ummm @ rawdawg, I never said that primal/paleo was bad for you. I said I felt like crap eating paleo and developed a nut allergy during that time. I still eat primally only with more carbs than "normal". I also said its hard for everyone to find the right balance - essentially meaning (without have it to spell it out ), that everyone is different and you have to pay attention to YOUR own body signals. Not what Mark, or Matt or, Chris or the govt tells you to eat/ not eat.

0
Medium avatar

on February 12, 2014
at 05:01 PM

I went through the "low carb flu" and I literally could not walk out of my house for almost a week! But once my body adjusted to it -- even the 'brain fogginess' feeling -- I have never felt better in all my life. I swear to you --- if you hang in there for over 3 months or more, you will definitely see the benefits and less colds, less likely to get the flu, no water retention (if you have that) and less hunger due to the high protein. I will say that your stool will be different --- not like the way it was before you started. That's just a given for me, as well as many people on Paleo from what I heard. Paleo is all about cleaning out your system, ridding of toxins and to do this -- sometimes it's gonna be a bit 'different'. Hang in there!

Medium avatar

(0)

on February 14, 2014
at 07:39 PM

@CavegirlPas I've been on the primal way of things for over 2 years...no low-carb flu here! That was gone in the first week or so.

0
Ec6e4225edd04e39f6fbc71307d1a60b

on February 11, 2014
at 01:58 AM

Did your regular "paleo" diet include coconut oil/coconut milk/ and /or dairy? These are things that can cause regular diarrhea for many.

Medium avatar

(0)

on February 11, 2014
at 04:33 PM

Not a whole lot of it (usually used olive oil and coco only in certain curry/Asian-inspired dishes), but it never adversely affected me, either.

0
Ec6e4225edd04e39f6fbc71307d1a60b

on February 11, 2014
at 01:55 AM

Did your "Primal meals" happen to include coconut oil and dairy? These are major causes for diarrhea in many people.

0
7f48b53b8d191b6061d644817b0e052b

on February 10, 2014
at 12:21 PM

If you've been keen enough to notice these differences, then that is great! If the diet doesn't work for you, why would you keep trying to adhere to it? For me, personally, all grains make me gassy, bloated, and constipated for a few days. I notice that when I stray away from them, I have normal bowel movements. Everyone is different! I say, you do you, and stick to the foods that give you the most energy and make you feel happy!

0
Af679502f1e31c0c59c79bd08f324b35

on February 01, 2014
at 02:51 PM

HF/LC doesn't work for everybody...

0
Medium avatar

on February 01, 2014
at 08:15 AM

Interesting thread @chinomage. I'm only a month in, but had had similar symptoms, low energy, low mood, loose bowel movements, interrupted sleep. I upped the fat and salt on the advice of someone on this forum, which helped a bit, but I too find myself reaching for the grains in moderation the last few days (some rice, and toast), to try and stabilise the bowel movements and energy/mood. I think without them I might be burning muscle to get enough glycogen for the brain as the symptoms reflect that. @Eugenia 's comments above strike a chord with me too, if I'm going to reincorporate some grains, I'd like to ditch the gluten so I'll be seeking some GF bread today.

0
Medium avatar

on January 31, 2014
at 02:29 PM

Perhaps it is the whole low-carb thing, you're right @Methodician. I dunno about the resistant starch thing just yet, as the whole IBS thing scares me a bit.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 31, 2014
at 11:38 PM

I actually went out and bought some Bobs Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch for the RS hack but haven't openned the bag yet. For now I'm experimenting with more cooked-then-cooled white potatoes which certainly don't seem to hurt me. Mashed potatoes with a grip of butter and heavy cream are pretty palatable hot, cold, or warm.

Another thing: I notice my gut feels a lot better when I eat more ruminant meats (mostly beef, preferably not always ground) and less foul and fish. It's expensive though, so I still eat a lot of foul and fish.

0
F92f0b6a3fe3d45a489e020076904f2f

on January 31, 2014
at 12:48 AM

Did your previous primal diet contain nuts? Took me about a year to figure out (sadly!) that those were no good for me.

0
Medium avatar

(238)

on January 31, 2014
at 12:14 AM

Have you tried the Potato Starch RS hack? See long thread on MDA about it or google resistant starch.

576dc803ed0dfa3616509e20f515d070

(75)

on February 10, 2014
at 04:29 PM

I almost feel, that in the name of science, it is the duty of the op to try the whole RS PS thing, i think the results could be "interesting".

0
Medium avatar

on January 30, 2014
at 10:55 PM

I suspect you just didn't respond too well to a low-carb diet. I'm sticking to a mostly-paleo diet, but I certainly wouldn't call it low carb. Lower than I used to be, but I do eat a lot more carbs than most of us. It comes mostly from sweet potatoes and russet potatoes, but there are many other sources from day to day. Just never the wheat... rarely any legumes either. Sometimes a bit of rice or a small amount of corn. Mostly just a lot of starchy veggies and tubers.

0
Medium avatar

on January 30, 2014
at 09:24 PM

A6b7afacdb512b861716bca9e9226ad3

(333)

on February 11, 2014
at 04:32 PM

THANK YOU! Great blog post. It also led me to a book recommendation that is getting my body temp up. So grateful to have seen this!

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 14, 2014
at 10:52 AM

Oh please, not that Matt Stone drivel. The man's a broken clock, only right for 1 second twice a day, and no more. Please don't push this nonsense.

0
56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on January 30, 2014
at 09:13 PM

It could just be a fermentable fiber problem. Earlier you did not have enough, now you do. You can get those even without grains. Raw grated roots, potatoes, and squash all help.

0
Medium avatar

on January 30, 2014
at 08:38 PM

I actually added back a decent amount of sweet potatoes and "safe starches" (a little quinoa every now and then, as well as parsnips and turnips), but it didn't do much other than fuel a long run a day later. I was getting most of my calories from veggies and fat...never really ate a whole lot of protein comparatively (3 eggs and about 6-8oz of chicken or fish a day).

I do have to admit...adding the glutenous stuff back in has made things a bit nicer in regards to bowel movements, but that may just be the extra carbs.

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:49 PM

That's interesting. n=1, weight regulation/loss of bloating and digestive issues didn't clear up until tracking and lowering PUFA and omega 6 fats, and getting micronutrients in order.

I vaguely recall seeing a similar post awhile back on PaleoHacks by someone else claiming the same thing - gluten/grains/legumes made the poster feel better. With the limited data I have of others, when I've seen others add back grains/legumes/non-Paleo foods, the processed foods are by far the most obesogenic (particularly processed cheeses, sugars, or soy sauces).

Cce653018976b0b26924c59aa94e5579

(15)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:51 PM

Grains/legumes in general seem to correlate more with small, background discomforts, some noticeable differences in how healthy they seem overall, and slower weight gain. Processed foods tend to correlate by far most with severe weight gain, though.

0
3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on January 30, 2014
at 08:17 PM

There are some people who need the carbs. That doesn't mean you need the gluten though. Go for pseudograins and GF grains, you don't have to play ball with glutenous grains for this to work, /me thinks.

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