Our Nutrition Coach Mandi tells about her Personal Experience with the Paleo Diet
I want to share my story with you of how I went from a sickly vegan to an athletic Paleo-ist. My agenda is not to bore the daylights out of you, but to share how the Paleo diet has change my life for the better; I only hope the same for you.
It all began my first year at the University of South Florida where my parents, after much debate, allowed me to go on Accutane. I saw it as my last option to finally clear up the acne I’ve faced (haha) for almost half of my life. Although the drug Accutane has now been modified because it’s know to cause Ulcerative Colitis, Chrone’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and a host of other ailments, it is still dangerous. For the 9 months I was on it, that was the most miserable time of my life… that is until I was off of it. Oh and by the way, I still had acne.
About a month before my miserable 9 month long course was up (excessively dry skin, depression, weight gain), I began having some digestive upsets. It continued to get worse over the next year. I was bloated and inflamed all the time. I lost my freshman 15 and then some; I was down to a sickly 101lbs (my set weight has always been 115, even now). My doctor put me on heartburn medication and after ruling out more serious diseases as the cause for my “out of the blue symptoms” I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a “BS” diagnosis for “Sorry your tummy hurts. Have fun figuring it out on your own.”
Since I could barely eat normal food, and my medication wasn’t doing anything, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I was halfway through my sophomore year when I began researching my condition and what I could do about it. I fell into the naturalist/Vegan trap: meat was toxic and natural food and vegetarianism was the way to perfect health. For the next 4 years I was an avid Pesco-ovo-vegetarian (I ate fish and eggs every once and a while but was predominately vegan since Dairy upset my stomach). I decided to major in Nutrition and transferred to the University of Florida to pursue a career in Dietetics.
I would often have flare ups and pretty much got accustomed to having a bloated belly… I accepted it as part of my life. As a Vegan and avid detoxer, I came across a cleansing program, The McCombs Plan (then called the Lifeforce Plan) where I learned that an over abundance of a yeast, Candida Albicans, can cause acne. Candida is present in all of us and we usually have a symbiotic relationship with it because we have “good” bacteria in our body that controls it. However, when the body is exposed to anti-biotics (we’ve all been on them a few times) it kills off the good bacteria along with the bad. If you don’t allow the good bacteria to flourish again by ingesting foods rich in good bacteria, Candida can get out of control. After 4 months of eating a diet almost identical to the Paleo diet (if I only knew then what I know now) and taking high doses of probiotics, my acne was gone. The tummy troubles remained.
After graduating with my degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition, I decided I couldn’t work in a hospital for the rest of my life and wanted to take a more natural route… Colon Hydrotherapy. I enrolled in Massage school 5 days after graduating (although I did not end up practicing Colon Hydrotherapy, it is still a very important treatment I continue with today). It was around this time this annoying guy named Aaron begged me to go out on a date with him. That was my last first date…
It wasn’t long before Aaron saw me at my worst… bloated, inflamed unable to eat or do anything. He encouraged me to start eating more meat and I began eating more chicken, fish and eggs. Turns out, beef and pork still upset my stomach to this day. I learned that I felt more satiated and energized after having meals with high quality protein. I soon replaced my oatmeal with eggs and fruit. At this time now, I was no longer a vegetarian/vegan; my diet consisted of grains, veggies, fruits, fish, and poultry. I still couldn’t eat dairy, beef or pork.
After about 6 months of dating, Aaron asked me to join him in opening up a CrossFit affiliate. Although I had no previous training experience, with my knowlege of massage therapy and kinesiology he showed me the ropes (punn intended!). We opened the affiliate and became Gator CrossFit in Fall 2008. It wasn’t until Fall 2009 that I took the CrossFit Nutrition Certification with Robb Wolf where my life was about to change forever.
Robb talked about all the benefits of the Paleo diet and all the health problems that come along with eating a conventional American diet. I was close to a Paleo diet, except I had to give up grains, bread, oatmeal & cut back on the sugary foods. After eating Paleo consistently for a few months, I realized how gluten intolerant I was and never knew how much those foods were making me sick. My occurrence of IBS flare ups drastically decreased. My tummy no longer gets inflamed. I am leaner, stronger, more energized I have ever been in my life. I am 100% Paleo on a daily basis, with the exception of the occasional red wine and dark chocolate. I NEVER intentionally ingest something off the Paleo diet; if i do, I experience the old inflamed IBS state. Food should NOT bloat, inflame or make you feel anything BUT energized. Bloating is NOT normal!
I now know what Accutane did. It damaged the lining of my intestines so terribly that large particles of ANYTHING can get through to my bloodstream (aka Leaky Gut Syndrome). When this happens, the body doesn’t recognize it and the immune system viciously attacks and leads to all sorts of food, chemical and environmental allergies. I am dangerously sensitive to bleach, fragrances and harsh chemicals. I’d like to think my body has healed itself some; the more I do Paleo and the more I avoid diary, gluten and chemicals the more I improve as time goes on. I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t been such a health nut and hadn’t found the Paleo diet. In a way, the Accutane was a blessing in disguise; it led me to a profession, which led me to Gainesville, which led me to Aaron which led me to you. I love being a fitness and nutrition coach and I love being the guiding influence in my clients’ lives.