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.


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:



Back on Track!

Fajita Salad
Fajita Salad

True to form, I have been off plan for the past couple of weeks.  and it’s been a CRAZY two weeks.  But things are finally starting to slow down, and I was able to FINALLY get back on track, effective today!

I know what your thinking.  “More excuses.”  A reasonable thought.  I know if you want it bad enough you are going to get it done.  And I DO really want it.  I want ALOT of things, and sometimes everything converges together and I have to choose one.  Family, photography, work, sleep, or weight loss.

As a single mother, not working is not an option, and per usual, when things in one area of my life go crazy, they ALL do!  For the first time in a while I’ve had more than 40 hrs worth of work to get done in LESS than 40 hours.  At the same time,  ‘my on the side’ photography business went wild.  Baseball/softball/tball season  is one of my busiest times anyway, but this year the months worth of work had to be crammed into 2 weeks because half of the season was rained out!  And I had requests from twice the number of teams that I did last year!  (I couldn’t possibly say no, when I’m trying to build this burgeoning little business.)

In the last 2 weeks I haven’t slept more than 4 hours a night, trying to process thousands of pictures, all the while, my computer has been acting up and taking 4-5 times as long to complete tasks.  I’m surprised I have any HAIR left, and I haven’t yanked it out in frustration.

Which brings us to today.  I finally crawled into bed at 630 this morning and slept a full 5 hours. Woohoo.  When I woke up I got back to work, but instead of continuing to fight with the computer, I focused on fixing whatever was causing the problem.  By 5pm I’d made a bit of progress, but I needed a break. What better time to plan a menu for the week and go grocery shopping, right?  And thats what I did.  Then I came home and COOKED!  For the first time in weeks!  Todays picture (above) was my plate just before I finally got to eat, since I’d forgotten all day, unless you count a handful of blackberries for lunch.

For me, in order to be successful, I have to go by the KISS philosophy.  “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  So I fired up the castiron skillet and fried up some beef fajitas (with bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, butter, chili powder and garlic.)  I served mine over a bed of lettuce and made my own dressing by simply mixing salsa and sour cream together.  Yum.  And so easy.  A little homemade guacamole on some black bean tortilla chips.  And wallah!  I’m a happy girl.

While I was at it, I boiled up some eggs for a quick, on the go, breakfast, and packed some leftovers for lunch tomorrow at the office.  In the morning I will start my crock pot and we will have some BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw, and BBQ beans.

Now I realize this is not strictly paleo, but I’m not beating myself up for it.  And that makes me a winner. Because I’m moving in the right direction, and accepting of my limitations now.  I’m just so glad that I have finally figured out that life is not black and white, win or lose, succeed or fail.  There’s a lot of gray in there.  And if you beat yourself up every time you aren’t perfect, you are just setting yourself up for more failure in the future.

Love yourself, do your best, and own it all. The victories AND the challenges.  And know that it is all part of this amazing journey.  I hope you are all had a blessed day!