My Experience with the Paleo Diet and Ideopathic Intracranial Hypertension

 

It is no secret that health and diet are closely linked.  For me, my diet plays an immediate role in my health and wellbeing.

I began having severe headaches in my 20’s.  They would keep me up for days at a time and make it impossible for me to lay down, because laying down only made them worse.  Instead, I would sit up and rap my knuckles against my head,  tap/press my head against the wall, or submerge my head in the hottest bath I could tolerate, except for my nose and mouth.

When I finally got insurance, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with ‘cluster headaches’ (without any testing or a real exam) and was given Midrin, which can be addictive, and is no longer on the market.  It took the edge off but never relieved them. Eventually, after a 3 day headache, during which I hadn’t slept a wink,  my fiance talked me into trying marijuana to see if it would help.  I had never tried it, but was willing to try anything at that point. And it worked.  Within 30 minutes I was asleep and woke up headache free. I used marijuana to manage my headaches for about 5 years, until I went back to work as a nurse.  Then I was back to dealing with my headaches on my own, which meant suffering through them.

It wasn’t until I saw an EYE doctor that my problem was properly diagnosed.  I was 40 years old.  He noticed that I had papillary edema which causes my optic nerve to bulge into my eyeball (a sign of increased intracranial pressure), and told me I needed an MRI to rule out a brain tumor, but suspected I had Idiopathic Intracranial hypertension (also known as pseudotumor cerebri). And he was right.

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Treatment options are very limited for me.  My choices: brain surgery to place a shunt to divert fluid from my brain and medications to decrease fluid.  I don’t want surgery, and the medicine doesn’t really work as well as I’d hoped.  The other option is losing weight.

I’d tried shakes, pills, weight watchers, and south beach, and lord knows how many other ways without alot of success prior to my diagnosis. Of those, South Beach had worked the best, but I just couldn’t stick with it.  After my diagnosis I began searching again for another way.  Thats when I came upon the paleo diet, though it is truly rather a lifestyle.

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What surprised me the most is that after a lifetime of struggling with retaining fluid, not only in my brain, but the rest of my body as well, I suddenly began shedding water as if I had taken a diuretic- in fact BETTER than when I take my diuretics.  In the first 10 days I had lost 20 pounds.  I felt immediately better. The headaches subsided, my mental clarity improved, my chronic fatigue and shortness of breath were nearly gone.  In 10 days!

Doctors and scientists claim not to know what CAUSES of my condition but I will tell you, first hand, that when I cut grains from my diet, my symptoms virtually disappear.  I can’t say that would be the case for everyone, but if you suffer from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension / Pseudotumor Cerebrii, and you eat a SAD (Standard American Diet) you might consider making a change.

The paleo lifestyle is not a set in stone plan.  Some eat dairy, some dont. Some eat legumes (peanuts, beans), some don’t. Almost all completely stop grains and many also stop all sugars, including honey, fruit, etc.  For weight loss, that is ideal.  But occassionally I will use honey or a sugar substitute to cure a vicious sweet tooth from time to time.  There are lots of great paleo recipes out there on Pinterest. I have a small but growing collection on my pinterest page.  Also, recipes labeled as Keto (ketogenic) are paleo friendly and tend to be high fat, moderate protein and low carb.

Here are a few of my favorite resources:

 

K*I*S*S- Keep it Simple, Sweetheart!

Happy Sunday!

It’s been a very busy week, and sadly, I was not successful being keto. But I graduated my middle child, cheered for him at the meet of champions and spent several evenings watching for and hiding from tornadoes.  One must love Oklahoma in the Spring!

But at least school is out for the summer and things are going to be much more relaxed for me.

After eating grain free for 5 days, the pain in my joints had begun to ease up quite a bit.  But once the week got away from me, and I gave in to the temptation of drive thru on the run just to make it through the week, the pain began to return.  Just a nice reminder that preperation is paramount! My goal for the week is to have my lunch and breakfast prepared the night before on days when I have to leave the house early.  My plan for breakfast is to prepare some keto waffles and keep them in the fridge to be thrown in the toaster paired with berry compote or almond butter… or maybe both, and some precooked bacon or sausage.

When I  eat healthy I seldom want a meal mid-day, but I will prepare a snack just in case.  I’d love to hear what your favorite ‘go to’ snacks that keep in a hot car.  Of course nuts and pork rinds will be at the top of the list.

Dinners are always my biggest challenge, since I tend to want to prepare tasty recipes with many indredients.  This is something I’m going to be working on.  But here is my plan for the week.

  • Sunday: Steak with herbed butter, twice baked cauliflower, salad
  • Monday: Pulled pork roast in the crock pot (a good opportunity to try some keto bread recipes to make pulled pork recipes) vegetables in butter
  • Tuesday- Leftover pulled pork, vegetables in butter
  • Wednesday – Left Over pulled pork, vegetables in butter. (Freeze any leftovers)
  • Thursday: Garlic Butter Shrimp over zoodles,
  • Friday: Pork Rind Nachos
  • Saturday: At the Renaissance Festival!  Smoked Turkey Leg… not sure there is much more available to me, so I would be wise to eat before going in.

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It feels good to have developed a meal plan for the week that is uncomplicated and I should be able to stick with. I can’t wait to get out and take some pictures and just enjoy the atmosphere of the festival this weekend.  And then it’s off to South Padre Island next weekend. Lots of opportunities to eat health down there, and lots of me time to relax and get centered.

Wishing you all a healthy and successful week.

On Your Mark…

So it is Friday, and I’m still just working on getting ready to start.  No work today, other than a couple of notes, so I’m a little slow getting going.  In fact, I didn’t even get out of bed until 10:30!  That wasn’t the plan but it felt so good!

I spent the morning looking at recipes on Pinterest and makinga  shopping list.  Being a woman who LOVES FOOD, recipe searching is a guilty pleasure, but let me tell you what I have found during past attempts.  I spent far too much time worrying about making full meals. So much so, that by the time I figures out what I wanted, it was too late to make it! Sabotaged before I even began.  This time I pinned a few recipes that I knew were easy, or that I’ve already made in the past and liked.  This time I MUST keep it SIMPLE.

In the past I also overwhelmed myself with trying to track and put numbers to everything.  Again, more time spent sitting at my desk, and not spent on living the lifestyle.  This time, just as with other habits, learning to track macros will be one of the habits I add in.  As I mentioned yesterday, my first (and current habit) is eating no grains. As a bonus, it naturally makes huge cuts in my sugar consumption.

While researching food choices, I happened upon a wonderful Keto/Low Carb Macros calculator at Tastaholics.com.

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Based on my information (estimated 320 pounds, 49% body fat, Sedentary lifestyle, with added no exercise) for weight loss I should be eating 2117 calories, (166 grams fat, 131 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates – or 52% fat, 41% protein, and 8% carbs)  Different calculators may give different results, but it’s a good starting place when I’m ready.

Now, as I said earlier, I’m not ready to start worrying about macros just yet, but I will make it a habit eventually.  For now, I’m just focused on re-learning how to eat without bread, pasta, and other grain laden accompanyments.  (Henceforth known as the root of all evils for this girl).

So back to whats for dinner. ..

I know in the past making things too complicated played a big role in my failure.  I’ve come to the conclussion that I will need to focus less on ‘meals’, and more on ‘eating’.  Having food ready to curb cravings, spending less time in the kitchen, (which means preparing larger meals that can last several days when I DO cook), and preparing lunches in advance for work days when I’m on the road. Another challenge I have when I don’t eat out or eat often is staying hydrated.  I tend not to drink as much and I become dehydrated, which my body interprets as hunger most of the time. In fact, ensuring hydration may need to be my next habit. It may mean setting an alarm every so often to ensure I don’t forget.  But I’m getting ahead of myself!

Shopping for dinner….

Before I can do that, I have to clean out the cabinets and the fridge!  Ah yes. That is an important step in the beginning. Getting rid of all the temptations. Thankfully, (i suppose), money has been really tight and other than cleaning out pastdue leftovers, there is very little for me to clean out. At least I wont have the ‘kids are starving in Africa’ guilt trip recording playing in my head.

So what do I already have that i can incorporate. * chicken, fish, italian sausage, bacon, and hamburgerin the freezer * Frozen  green beans, broccoli, cauliflower * apples, grapes * coconut oil, butter, olive oil * mozzerella block, shredded cheddar, cream cheese.* Canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, almond butter, cocoa, stevia,

Heck, I could make a meal out of those things for a couple of days. I’m off to a good start! …

6 hours later, guess its a good thing I had things already in the house, because I can’t seem to make a decision to save my life.  (You ought to see me and my best friend try to decide on where to go for lunch!)  So instead of shopping, I opened a can of chicken breast chunks, added grapes, purple onion, mayo, and poultry seasoning, and enjoyed a nice bowl of chicken salad  a bunch of grapes.

Well, guess I’ll finish my shopping list and do my shopping in the morning.

 

 

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

Wow. Just…wow!

Is it possible that, once again, I am right back where I started? Of course it is.  Making changes takes… well changing.  And I haven’t yet. At least not in a positive way.  But I’m still trying.

 

This year has brought a lot of realizations for me.  First, my handsome son, a state track placer and scholarship recipient, will be graduating in 9 days! Im still trying to let that soak in.  It still doesn’t seem real. And before I know it, he’ll be gone to college! And my daughter will be starting her senior year.  Unlike my son, she no longer needs my help. She’s chosen a path and will graduate as a certified welder, and her teachers say she is absolutely amazing! She has no problems managing money, she is confident and strong.  Truly, she is already raised. And she isn’t even quite 17 yet.

So here I sit, feeling like my whole life is leaving me and trying to make plans for the future… only the things I want, and the things I am reasonably able to do are not the same. Things like amusement parks, hiking trips, backpacking, kayaking, scuba diving, traveling by plane, ziplining, horseback riding.  I want to travel out of the county, but who wants to be seen as the obese American?  And I’d like to LIKE what I see in the mirror. I’d like to meet someone to share my adventures with. I’d like to be stronger, and happier, and just feel like my life isn’t completely out of control.

Those are all the things I’ll need to remind myself of as I start AGAIN… WHY I am doing this.   And what are my milestones.  When can life truly begin again.

Now I know some of you may be saying, ‘you don’t have to wait for life to begin’. But I beg to differ, and here is why.  One of my biggest challenges in my journey is avoiding distraction. It’s staying on plan, and that is REALLY hard to do when I can’t plan in advance,or don’t have the energy to prepare myself for success (by preparing foods in advance, having the house clean, laundry done, etc. )  All of these things are VITAL for me, and to be quite honest, I’m currently lucky to do ONE of those things each WEEK.  My endurance is terrible, my pain in unbearable, and I my mental clarity is sorely lacking… something that I know from experience is a direct result of eating processed foods and grains. For me, those things are equally as addicting as crack and heroin.

So now it’s time to figure out how to do this without getting overwhelmed and giving in.  The only way I’m going to do that is by taking it one step at a time.  One new habit at a time.  A lot of personal reflection. And plenty of forgiveness for my shortcomings.

I began the first step yesterday by cutting out grains.  This one is huge for me.  When I eat grains my joints become inflamed and painful, my mind becomes muddy, I have chronic severe headaches, and the pressure in my brain begins to worsen. (Literally. I have a condition called pseudotumor cerebri, or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension)  When I cut wheat in particular, not only do my symptoms improve, but i quickly begin to drop water weight at a rapid pace.  I will hold myself to just this step until May 20th. And May 21st I will add a new habit. And will add a new one when the last has become manageable, until my life is back in control.  I won’t worry about my next step for now. Today it’s simply no grains.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.