From Raw Vegan to Omnivore in the space of a few years and there is a good reason for that. This is probably the most embarrassing story I tell and not because I have done what seems like a 180 degree turn around in my nutritional perspectives. But because it involves a situation that was well… embarrassing and unnecessary in sooo many ways! I seriously wish it involved me running around seeing everything as a juicy steak like Leo the lion in Madagascar, but no….
The story really begins back in 2004 when Debbie was diagnosed with ME/CFS one of the first things we looked at was nutrition. Debbie was already gluten free which many recovery stories supported, but we increased fruit and vegetables and began juicing because I had come across anecdotal accounts of people finding it beneficial. At the time we also read a lot of books by Patrick Holford too, and I remember buying Essential Omega oils to make sure our omega 3/6 ratios were balanced. It did not result in complete recovery but it all seemed to help so we stuck with it.
‘Following what already had seemed to work’ over the years Debbie became interested being Raw Vegan, and ‘clean’ eating. She was influenced by people such as Ani Phyo and the ‘Thrive Diet’ by Brendan Brazier. In 2009, in preparation for trying for a baby we spent a year ‘detoxing’ and eating raw vegan diet. I joined in because I had seen a TV program where the quality of men’s sperm improved dramatically with clean diet and I obviously wanted my sperm to be as healthy as possible! 😉 Much of the raw food I liked, but I rarely felt ‘good’ on it and I always held a doubt about a diet that required supplementation (B12) to avoid serious health problems. One of the things I have learned about the ‘World Wide Web’ is that you tend to find support for whatever your current belief is. So there is plenty of expert opinions on the benefits of eating in such a way and a lot of anecdotal reports of people overcoming illness and disease with the approach. So why the change?
Whizzing forward to Sept 2013, I took on a short term contract as a Health Trainer. During my first day there was a sequence of events that meant I did not really get the time to go to the toilet properly and felt embarrassed about asking. By the end of the first day I was in a bad place. Desperate to pee, having spasms but seemingly unable to pass much water. I had a hideous hour and half journey home, stopping every 10 minutes, trying to find somewhere to go, but just never really passing anything. At home, phone calls to NHS direct suggested I may have been dehydrated, so I continued to drink. During this time I managed a brief period of relief while Debbie tapped on my EFT meridians for me. That tells you how powerful EFT can be for pain relief. But after a completely sleepless night of trying to pee every 10 minutes, I ended up at the Doctors with a diagnosis of bladder spasm and Acute Urine Retention, probably aggravated by a prostate twice the size it should be for a man of my age! That was a shock; my prostate was twice as big as it should be for man my age? But I exercise, eat right, deal with stress, how comes??? The GP just said it was a fact of life, a man’s prostate keeps growing and that is that! Really?!?
I look after myself, or I thought I did, so this was a real shock and I decided to seek advice. At the time I was working from Arturus Clinic in Totnes on a Saturday, so booked in to see Dr Stephen Hopwood, the man behind Arturus the clinic. Dr Hopwood is an ex-GP who has turned to Chinese medicine because he has seen how much more effect it is. During the consultation I was surprised that he seemed unimpressed with my diet. Indeed his comment was actually “you need to eat some organic chicken livers!”
When I got home I began researching his seemingly bizarre comment but I felt rough and did not look too hard. Indeed over the next five weeks I would go through having the catheter removed, seemingly getting an extreme UTI. That would result in no sleep for two or three nights, antibiotics, antibiotic induced diarrhoea and then gradually slipping back into retention. There were some real low times for me, often I was simply too exhausted with lack of sleep to focus on anything that I knew would help. The only thing I could manage was listening a Loving Kindness Meditation that I had recorded months previously. That did get me through some very tough nights too. I finally ended up in hospital for a couple days which was not fun!
I struggled in hospital. Some of the Doctors barely treat you as human, only seem to answer questions begrudgingly, contradict each other and the food is less nutritious than I give River (our dog). When I finally got home, still with a catheter in place, Debbie had prepared a meal of chicken livers…… God it tasted sooo good!
Now I started researching things properly and what I found surprised me immensely. I’m not sure the exact route I took, but I remember watching a Doctor Terry Wahls explain how she had reversed her MS, by eating a ‘hunter gatherer’ diet and then went on to read ‘Your Personal Paleo Diet: Feel and look great by eating the foods that are ideal for your body by Chris Kresser and then more importantly The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease, Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne and there it was…
Our healthy beans were not as healthy as we thought. Phytic acid is in seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts in varying quantities.
Phytic acid in your gut binds minerals (zinc, calcium etc) so you pass them in your stools rather than absorb them.
Zinc deficiency is also related to prostate enlargement!!
Men who come from Hunter Gather cultures don’t suffer enlarged prostates as they grow older!!! Could it be because they do not consume large quantities of the foods that contain this ‘anti nutrient’ that robs us of zinc?
My so-say healthy diet would have something containing phytic acid with nearly every meal and it all began to make sense, not just with zinc either. Debbie had been told she had osteopenia years ago and just before our daughter Honey was born my teeth had began just breaking, was this due to phytic acid binding the calcium?
I continued reading and researching; finally coming to Perfect Health Diet: regain health and lose weight by eating the way you were meant to eat by Paul Jaminet and his wife. This book made a huge amount of sense to me and they are not dogmatic, but rather their suggestions are based on study, research and personal experience.
As you can guess I changed the way I was eating. Occasionally, because sometimes it is convenient, we do eat some of these foods, but it is now rare rather than daily or even weekly. Phytic Acid can also be removed/reduced by soaking so that is also an approach we use for things like nuts. Although we are now all meat eaters, we are very choosy about the meet we do eat. Making sure the animals are grass fed and treated with respect.
Six months later the Consultant said my prostate seemed a normal size. He just put this down to the first Doctors being a bit rubbish, great that they have so much faith in each other! I’ve not taken medication to reduce the size of my prostate because it is linked with increasing the risk of prostate cancer. I did take Tamsulosin for a few months as it seemed sensible to help break the pattern I was in, but I came off that after a few months too. What I really believe has been effective is the combination of diet change, visualisation, Acupuncture and finally Cranial Osteopathy for a twisted pelvis. Indeed I had the confidence to come off the Tamsulosin after the Cranial Osteopathy.
The irony of the story is that to save myself the embarrassment of saying I needed to pop to the loo at the beginning of a meeting in my new job, I ended up with 6 weeks of far more embarrassing situations! Perhaps with hindsight it did me a favour though?
The Short Story
Phytic acid is in foods like seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts etc and binds minerals like calcium and zinc. Skip the foods or eat in moderation if you would like to avoid problems like osteoporosis and enlarged prostates!
Healthy eating is one of the key parts of the health puzzle, but what exactly is healthy eating? You will certainly struggle to find any anecdotal stories of miraculous healing following the government’s recommendation for 5 a day. The Standard Western Diet is just too full of rubbish to allow most of us to gain the full potential benefits of any fruit and veg we may add. However, more radical approaches often have many people citing them as reasons for their recovery.
So in this blog I want to look at an overview of two popular diets that people often cite as a reason for their drastically improved health.
By the time someone has decided to come and see me they are keen to make serious changes to improve their health and are often looking for a food plan to follow, as part of their healing journey. Normally I recommend either Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet (CSD) or the Paleo approach followed by the likes of Chris Kresser’s Personal Paleo Diet. Both of these diets have anecdotal accounts of healing and being at either end of the spectrum at least one should seem possible for you to follow. Kris Carr’s approach is what she believes has helped her recover from Cancer. The CSD is certainly very close to the way Debbie ate while recovering from CFS/ME and an autoimmune thyroid problem. While at the other end of the dietary spectrum, the paleo approach outlined by Chris Kresser also has many advocates, especially those with autoimmune problems.
On the face of it these diets are two extremes; CSD being vegan and Paleo often touted as meat heavy. I’m talking about CSD rather than just vegan or vegetarian as you can be vegan/vegetarian and still have a very unhealthy diet packed full of soy and processed foods. Crazy Sexy Diet is aimed at improving health and happens to be vegan. The concepts are also different: In many ways the Crazy Sexy Diet is very modern; While on the other hand Paleo is an attempt to eat as our Paleolithic ancestors did in the belief that their hunter gatherer diet is optimal for our health because that is what we are designed to eat.
The key fact is that both diets have their supporters who claim huge benefits to their health by adopting their respective diet.
So lets do an overview of the approaches and start by comparing what the diets both exclude. I’ve done the comparison using Chris Kresser’s 30 day reset tweaked for those with autoimmune problems. as that seems fairly standard recommendation for a lot of health conditions.
Crazy Sexy Diet vs Paleo – What they Exclude
The diagram opposite shows the foods that are excluded, on the left from the Crazy Sexy Diet (CSD) and on the right from the suggested Paleo diet tweaked for autoimmune problems. In the middle cross over area are the foods excluded from both. You can click on it for a bigger version
As you can see there are actually more similarities than differences which may begin to explain why they can both seemingly facilitate healing. If the key concept is that some foods are damaging our health, then what is excluded may be more important than what is included.
Adding ‘nice things’ really is a joke as both diets can include truly delicious meals. It is the reaction of most people though to focus on what they will be missing rather than all of the nice things they can have.
Crazy Sexy Diet vs Paleo – What Do They Suggest I Eat?
Lets look now at what you can eat on each diet. Both diets once again contain an overlap of foods that the authors say are good to eat. The diagram on the right shows an overview. Both authors certainly agree more on what not to eat though. It is also worth mentioning that supplementation of B12 will be needed on a vegan diet; I’ve not included that as it not a food but rather a supplement.
The key thing here seems to be that the Crazy Sexy Diet gets a lot of protein from beans, nuts and legumes, where from a Paleo perspective meats offer a more nutrient dense source of protein.
Crazy Sexy Diet vs Paleo – The Contradictions
The source of protein is one of the big discrepancies between the two diets; it would seem that the Crazy Sexy Diet relies on a food source that is actually excluded from the Paleo approach and the Paleo diet relies on animal products that are excluded from the Crazy Sexy Diet.
Let’s look at at why beans and legumes excluded from a Paleo diet, when they hold such an important role in the CSD. This seems somewhat of a grey area. Some experts say they are excluded because of the phytic acid they contain. Phytic acid is said to block absorption of some nutrients like zinc. However, according to some sources it seems that beans and legumes have less phytic acid than some of the foods that are included in the Paleo approach. Compounds called lectins which cause leaky gut and inflammation are another reason for excluding beans and legumes, but it seems that research suggests most of that is destroyed by heat and cooking. FODMAPs* are another reason, but then there are other fruits and vegetables that contain FODMAPS that are not automatically excluded. Chris Kessner seems to exclude them because they may cause problems and more importantly they are less nutrient dense than animal products, and those nutrients they do contain may also be less bio-available.
Time to move onto to why animal products are excluded from the Crazy Sexy Diet. Two main reasons are glaringly obvious; firstly the inhumane treatment of factory farmed animals, though obviously this is a moral standpoint rather than a health based one. Secondly the research between fat, red meat and cancer. On the face of things this would be damning to the Paleo approach, but when you look at the research there are potential flaws. A lot of Paleo supporters have pointed out that the study linking red meat to cancer seems to include a lot of meat eaters who are overweight, smoke and are inactive. The quality of meat eaten is also ignored and those following the Paleo approach would agree that factory farmed produce is bad for our health.
The diets also disagree on Fats; Crazy Sexy Diet is promoting that saturated fats are bad for us and lead to cholesterol. This seems to be a rather outdated view point though. The Paleo diet promotes saturated fat as good energy source that we were designed to use.
In terms of ethos the Crazy Sexy Diet’s thrust is eating clean and ‘alkaline’ foods for detoxing and health. Where the thrust of the Paleo approach is to eat nutritionally dense foods that allow the gut to heal which they believe is key to correct immune function. That is a brief overview of ethos and really needs a more comprehensive post in it’s own right, which will follow soon 🙂
Crazy Sexy Diet vs Paleo – Where They Agree
Both diets also agree that inflammation is linked to many diseases and that the fatty acid omega 3 is very important for an anti-inflammatory diet. They also promote eating ‘clean’ in terms of reducing toxic load from pesticides and fertilisers etc. We also saw that both approaches agree on a lot of the foods to be excluded in a healthy diet. Although this paragraph seems short, in reality I think there are still more important aspects they have in common than not.
This blog is an brief overview rather than an in depth comparison because so many people are completely unaware of what these diets involve and how they compare. Eating healthily is is confusing, with advocates on all sides claiming scientific reasons behind their choices and those choices do often conflict. These two specific diets are no different. However, the worst thing you could do is continue eating a standard western diet because you’re confused. I have little doubt what these two diets agree to exclude is crucial in the healing process. I will be looking at both approaches in greater depths over the coming weeks, but I would love to hear your comments of how you got on with either/both approaches below 🙂
Raw Vegan, Blood Type O, Paleo, Low Carb High Fat Diets – what do they have in common?”
*FODMAP is an acronym for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides and monosaccharides and polyols,” which are basically a group of highly fermentable, short- and medium-chain carbohydrates that can cause digestive problems such as wind and bacterial overgrowth due to being poorly absorbed by some people.