the whole 30: continuing the journey

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It’s the end of week four, and in terms of the whole30 challenge, my husband and I have officially completed the full 30 days and finished well (high five!) As I mentioned last week, we’ll be continuing on the paleo auto-immune protocol for another two months, and after that will try re-introducing certain foods like eggs, nuts and seeds, and nightshades. In terms of what we put on our plate, for us, this has been a real change in direction, and not merely a temporary diversion from certain foods like other elimination diets we’ve tried before. It hasn’t been easy, but here’s the thing: no lasting, life-changing choice ever is.

There’s more to the story than I’ve shared up to this point, though. To be honest, up until I caught the flu, or whatever it was during Christmas break (really bad allergies? Yes, it’s happened to me this time of year before in Texas), I was still hedging on committing to doing this whole30 thing. Despite continuing health issues, I was still trying to figure out a way to keep certain things on the menu, even if consuming them on a daily basis wasn’t helping me. In fact, I’ve been repeating the same rationalizations for a long time in my head, and sometimes with other people, for quite a while now. Can I say that, as uncomfortable as it was, I’m actually thankful I got sick? Crummy as I felt, it provided a sort of preliminary kickstart for me, and the motivation that I needed to at least try this whole30 option to see if it was something that would help.

So what benefits have we experienced so far? Most dramatically, we’ve lost a combined twenty-ish pounds between the two of us, with the only change being what we eat. We’ve been sleeping better for the most part, and with much less sleep apnea (code for snoring). The tingling sensation or numbness I had been getting in my toes for several months has nearly subsided, and only returns on stressful days. The numb, fog-like sensation I often get at the back of my head is less recurrent too, again happening mostly when I wait too long to eat. For my husband’s part, his digestive system is improving and he feels less inflammation in his joints. The changes we’ve experienced have been slow and steady, but still pretty encouraging after just four weeks.

Some things I’d hoped would improve have yet to do so. I’m still dealing with the symptoms of psoriasis, and my husband with a lingering digestive pain in his side that comes and goes, but we’re hoping we will begin to see more progress as we heal our digestive systems by following the paleo auto-immune protocol. A very important part of the protocol includes incorporating bone broths and fermented food into your diet, reducing stress, and getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night. For my part, I’ve noticed that getting plenty of sleep is like taking some kind of magic healing pill, and makes a big difference in how I feel the next day. According to Sarah Ballantyne, a scientist with a background in medical research and author of the super-informative blog The Paleo Mom, healing a damaged digestive system, also referred to as intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome, can take anywhere from a couple of months to even as long as two years.

That’s okay. We’re on a better road now. Considering that the health issues we’re dealing with now are a result of many years, possibly even decades, of less-than-optimum lifestyle and eating patterns, I think a few months or longer of following the auto-immune protocol is a relatively small sacrifice to make. And if some foods are permanently off our regular menu because our bodies say so, I’ll willingly trade eating those foods for a healthier body, and a happy immune system.

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