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The Paleo Diet, By David Csonka: Part Two

Post Published: 29 April 2010
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Category: Guest Bloggers, The Paleo Diet and Benefits to Thyroid Autoimmune and Thyroid Cancer Patients
This post currently has 16 responses. Leave a comment

This is a guest post by David Csonka, part of a multi-post segment about the Paleo Diet and David’s experiences with adopting a more natural lifestyle and diet.

Last time we talked about the basic premise behind the Paleo diet: that humans have historically eaten foods like meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts as opposed to the plethora of processed grains, sugars, and starches that dominate the modern diet. Today, I’m going to discuss the best ways to implement the Paleo diet into your life and share some of my personal results and experiences.

First, Consult Your Doctor Or Nutritionist
If you have tried other diets in the past, you may be quite familiar with the usual line about consulting your doctor before making any significant changes. It has become so ingrained with anything vaguely related to health that I think most people just dismiss it as a standard legal disclaimer. However, I don’t think most people realize the far reaching effect the food they eat has on their health. Over time, minor deficiencies in certain vitamins or minerals could lead to serious medical conditions. So, please check with your doctor and make sure that any preexisting conditions won’t be significantly impacted by a diet change.

As well, it is essential that you ensure your vitamin intake is sufficient. While a diet of meat and vegetables is sure to provide you with just about every vitamin you need, picky eating or food allergies may cause you to avoid foods that contain essential nutrients. If you aren’t confident in your ability to identify and account for all of the necessary vitamins in your food, I recommend you seek the guidance of a nutrition expert to ensure your success. When I had some blood work done, I found out that my vitamin D levels were far below the optimal level for good health. I attributed this to giving up vitamin D fortified milk, and being glued to a computer indoors for most of the day. I now take a supplement and try to get outside as often as I can to catch some rays. This leads me to my next point-

Set Your Benchmarks

After talking with your doctor about the Paleo diet, I recommend that you ask for a series of routine blood tests and a physical exam to record your starting point and identify your current nutritional needs. A standard physical will give you a mark with which to compare your progress over time. Blood pressure, weight, and general health are all things which may be positively impacted by implementing the Paleo diet. Scheduling a follow-up examination in three to six months will give your doctor a chance to monitor your progress and for you to get some hard data on your results. I have a physical coming up in a few months and I can’t wait! I know that I have been becoming healthier and I’m excited to see it confirmed by my doctor.

Additionally, a blood test that measures vitamin D levels, measured LDL cholesterol (this is normally just calculated, not measured!), and fasting blood sugar are useful for monitoring more serious health effects. For many people, vitamin D is obtained from milk, so if you remove dairy you will need to ensure that you get enough sunshine. By removing processed grains, starches, and sugars from your diet, it is likely that your cholesterol profile will change, so having a benchmark for your LDL and triglyceride levels will be useful. Finally, your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity will be dramatically effected by a diet devoid of refined sugars.

  • talk to your doctor about the diet
  • schedule a physical as soon as possible
  • consider having a follow-up in 3 to 6 months
  • request some blood tests to check important health factors

How To Start
There are a couple of ways to start out when implementing these dietary changes. You can either go all in and remove all of the major problem foods right away, or you can do a more gradual change with one food group at a time. I feel that the best method for people who are skeptical of the benefits of the Paleo diet is to try the super strict “all in” version for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. If you attempt a gradual change, it’s possible that you may not recognize any significant changes that are occurring with your health. On the other hand, if you suddenly remove all manner of nutrient poor foods which have been causing large amounts of chronic inflammation, it’s likely that you will soon experience a positive change in mood, energy levels, and/or sleep. You might even lose a little bit of weight! My mother was initially skeptical of the Paleo diet, but I urged her to at least try giving up bread for a few weeks. After unexpectedly losing three pounds the first week, she jumped all the way on board.

It’s OK To Experiment

It’s not just OK, I feel that it is essential to experiment. By “experiment” I mean being observant and mindful while trying out or removing different foods. If you try a new recipe and you feel indigestion or irregular, write this down in a journal so you can see if it happens again with similar foods. If you feel a sudden change in the negative direction, or your bowel movements aren’t normal, consider removing a potential culprit from your diet for a few weeks and monitor any changes. This type of observation and tinkering is basically the scientific method which scientists use to discover new things about the world. We’ll use it to discover the best foods to put in our bodies.

When I first started out with the Paleo diet, I was having a hard time keeping my food choices interesting while limiting the time needed to prepare food. For a while I was buying some prepackaged sausages for breakfast (not a great choice) thinking, “hey, at least it is meat, and not pancakes”. After a week of eating tons of these sausages every day I started to notice some abnormal issues with my bowel movements (never ignore these signs). I stopped eating them for a few weeks and the problem went away.

  • try going strict for a few weeks to better observe any changes
  • consider writing in a meal journal to keep yourself honest
  • experiment by removing foods to determine any causes for irregular digestion

How Do You Feel
With blood tests and examinations, there are plenty of ways to quantify and share the changes that occur as a result of your new diet. However, some of the effects are more subjective (though equally significant). I can’t remember the last time I had a headache. I don’t feel gross after eating a big meal anymore. I don’t get hungry all the time for no good reason. I feel more excited to cook and buy quality food from the grocery store because I know how important it is for my well-being. I’m happier, healthier, and I just plain feel great. And, I honestly think you have a good chance of feeling those same things if you give the Paleo diet a try.

Next time, I plan to talk more in-depth about some of the potential health changes you could experience with the Paleo diet, and how it could benefit people who live with thyroid conditions.


David Csonka writes about natural health and fitness at his blog, Naturally Engineered. Subscribe here to follow all of his latest posts on attaining optimal health. Or follow him on Twitter at @thrivenaturally to join in on the conversation!

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16 Responses to “The Paleo Diet, By David Csonka: Part Two

  1. Dave C. says:

    How many adventurous experimenters do we have out there?

  2. Christina says:

    I will definitly give it a try.

  3. Dave C. says:

    For skeptics, I usually recommend to just try strict for a few weeks to see real changes more quickly. For people who believe it will probably help, but think they will have trouble giving up their favorite foods, I’d recommend just dropping one food type for a bit.

    For instance, just give up bread for a while until at some point you don’t really even miss it. For some people, that is a hard concept to believe, but it is just bread. You can always trying making bread from almond flour if you can’t live without it! 😀

  4. Christina says:

    I think one of my biggest issues would be that I am allergic to a lot of foods like sea food, nuts and some fruits.

  5. A doctor suggested this diet 2 years ago. He said, “Melissa – you have yeast overgrowth all down your throat – you need to eat like a cave woman… if it doesn’t grow or run or swim don’t eat it.”

    That’s when I looked into it — when I started eating grains again – I’d feel bloated and sick – and when I ate more nuts and fruits and took OUT the grains, I’d feel better… I was shocked.

    If I ate legumes or beans (a stable of my diet for YEARS – I’d feel bloated and yucky- and when I’d just have a big plate of say steak and steamed broccoli and maybe some potato but not a whole one – I’d give more than half of it to my doggie and even some REAL LIVE BUTTER – I’d feel GOOD.

    That was when I realized that I had been doing things all wrong. Even now – when I don’t FEEL like cooking I don’t eat like this all the time… but berries and fruits and steamed veggies are EASY to do. It is just HARD to go out to restaurants because plates are PILED HIGH with quite the opposites.

    love,
    not quite a cave woman but always trying

  6. Sid Gandara says:

    Really love your comment. Hope discount supplements website may help someone there.

  7. Dear Thyroid says:

    David – Thank you so much for writing this post, it’s a wonderful overview about how to get started.

    For those of us that need to have low iodine diets, do you have any thoughts or suggestions in terms of folding this diet into our lifestyle?

    Thanks for this amazing post! Loving this series. Very grateful to you.

  8. Now- if you have ANYWAY to make fish NOT taste like fish, we’ll be cooking with gas. I HONESTLY despise the taste. I try – I have attempted every style and manner… even the “here – this DOESN’T even TASTE like fish” kinds of fish. They all taste like fish.

    I WANT to like fish. I want to ENJOY eating it. I want to gobble it down and have healthy results. Instead – I have to force it down or… what I do – ignore it and guiltily eat something else.

    Advice for making fish not suck?

  9. Christina says:

    Melissa,I totally understand what you are talking about.I too hate the taste of every kind of fish I, ´ve tried so far.
    My mom always tried to make me eat it because it is so healthy.I have to admit I was kind of relieved when I found out that I am actually allergic to all kinds of seafood.
    For the sake of my health I, ´d be willing to put up with the allergy symptoms and eat fish every once in a while,but I really need a recipe to make fish taste NOT like fish if there even is such a thing.

  10. Dave C. says:

    Re: Cooking Seafood – I’m not an amazing cook, so I don’t have any great advice over how to make fish more appealing. Though, I have heard that fish shouldn’t taste/smell “fishy” unless it is not fresh. Personally, I grew up hating fish for most of my life, and only in the last few years began eating seafood again. I tend to stick with fish like tuna and tilapia, which don’t have as much of a seafood taste.

  11. Dave C. says:

    Re: Eating out – yeah it can be pretty tough to try and stay paleo when eating out. Some people will just consider that the infrequent “cheat meal” that they have once in a while. There are some restaurants out there that are a little more accommodating. I like one called “Genghis Grill” which is a Mongolian stir-fry restaurant. You get to pick out all of the ingredients and sauces you want for your meal, so you can be sure to only have paleo foods if you choose.

  12. Dave C. says:

    Re: Food allergies – being allergic to one or more of the major paleo food groups will certainly make it more difficult. I wouldn’t recommend avoiding all modern foods just for the sake of being “pure paleo” when you might risk your health by becoming nutrient deficient. Things like grass-fed dairy butter and whey protein are very healthy for you, despite being modern food products.

    Avoiding grains and refined sugar probably counts for the majority of the benefits you will get from the Paleo diet. If you can at least accomplish that much, you will be doing well!

  13. Don Wiss says:

    Re cooking fish: I don’t try to hide the fish taste. Instead my goal is simplicity of cooking. I always pan fry it in olive oil, onions (or shallots), garlic, and pepper. Then when done I squeeze in a half lemon.

    I am very opposed to planning cheat meals. When eating out for practical reason one can bend a little, but I wouldn’t call that cheating. I never bend on gluten (being celiac I can’t) or dairy. Bending consists solely of eating rice or potatoes to fill up. Though if I can find an Indian buffet, I can fill up with the curries and skip the rice.

    Re Vitamin D: I believe in taking 4,000 units of D3 daily.

  14. Christine says:

    Sorry I am late in posting on this… it’s just been that kind of day.. UGH

    I am so pleased to find more information on this way of eating, I’ve been researching and taking notes to discuss further with my primary, GI and endo.
    Right now I am on a low residue diet, can I just say IT SUCKS! too much sugar, starch, finding that pasta just doesn’t agree with me at all. Can’t have steak, or steamed veggies, no fruits with skin or heavy “pulp”/fiber for another 10 days or so, but just by this change, I feel awful – my GI tract is healing and a bit happy (but not entirely) but the rest of me feels rundown, yucky, low energy!
    I do see the possibilities and health benefits with all that you suggest.
    Can’t wait for your next installment. Thank you so very much for taking the time, having the interest and willingness to share with us all.

  15. Dave C. says:

    Hang in there Christine! One day at a time, right?

  16. thyroid diet says:

    I wanna give it a try, i am painstakingly doing some workout program to fight with my slow metabolism and gradual weight gaining

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