13th January 2015
I was fortunate enough to have a loving and carefree childhood. But although I had no overt health complications or diagnoses of any kind whilst growing up, I always had niggling issues with weight fluctuations, bloating, and digestion.
By my early teens I was experiencing significant period pain, headaches, hormonal acne, mood swings, and fatigue. Popping a panadol or three became a common habit of mine. But I thought nothing of it. Our society considers these symptoms a “normal” part of adolescence. My digestion was still very much a problem and my weight had seemingly become even harder to manage. At a vulnerable age where I was becoming more aware of my appearance, I started to feel extremely self-conscious about my bloated belly. In reality I was only a size 8-10 and by no means overweight, but in a vain attempt to look "skinnier" and flatten out my stomach, I developed an unhealthy obsession with counting calories, restricting food intake, and avoiding dietary fats at all costs ( - yet paying no attention whatsoever to the processed, nutrient-poor, and pro-inflammatory nature of the low-fat/low-calorie packaged "foods" I was consuming). The only easily-accessible information at the time indicated that such a diet was the best way to obtain health and ultimately look thinner, so as an impressionable 13 year old, I began my journey of what would be another five years of depriving my body of the nutrition that it actually required to function and be healthy.
Around the age of 16, my GP diagnosed me with IBS and told me that it was probably just from being stressed (despite the fact that I didn't feel particularly stressed) and not to worry. Two years on and my symptoms had only continued to worsen. The thought never crossed my mind that my low-fat/low-calorie (/low-nutrient) diet perhaps wasn't doing me any good. Perhaps I just needed to "burn off" more calories, I thought. So I enthusiastically became a classic victim of "chronic cardio" in the form of steady-state running. This addictive habit certainly made me feel as though I was getting fitter from all of the huffing, puffing and sweating. Little did I know that it was only placing an even heavier burden on my already-taxed adrenal glands and thyroid function, and hardly helping me in my attempt to become "skinny". (A great scientifically-referenced article on this topic specifically can be found at http://articles.elitefts.com/tr…/women-running-into-trouble/)
When I was 19 I saw a new GP as well as a TCM practitioner. Both suggested that I may be intolerant to gluten and dairy. I was so excited to finally have a potential answer to my symptoms, and happily went on an elimination diet straight away. Low and behold, after only four or so weeks, my symptoms began to lessen significantly for the first time ever. This sparked a new passion in me to find out all I could about diet and nutrition, which ultimately resulted in my discovery and implementation of the "paleo diet" in 2009.
Thankfully by this stage, my "chronic cardio" days were over due to a running-induced knee injury. I took up strength training instead, and coupled with my new diet, began to feel genuinely happy with my physical appearance and fitness level for the first time in my life. I was no longer neurotic about food - the principles of the diet were just so logical, and allowed my focus to shift to the nutrient-density of foods, rather than calorie-counting. Better yet, my digestive and hormonal symptoms had improved drastically, I was no longer exhausted, and my “brain fog” (that I didn’t previously realise existed) lifted. Being the better cook in our household, my boyfriend (now husband and business partner) John also tried out this new "diet" to support me, and he too felt such a new level of energy, clarity, vitality, and strength that neither of us ever looked back.
A couple of years went by and, inspired by the results I was seeing and experiencing through nutritional changes and natural medicine, I began my studies in naturopathy and nutrition. I delved into the work and writings of prominent scientists and medical professionals including neurologist David Perlmutter, cardiologist David Williams, neurosurgeon Jack Kruse, psychiatrist Kelly Brogan, clinical professor of medicine Terry Wahls, molecular biologist and cancer researcher Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet, scientist Paul Jaminet, biochemist Robb Wolf, functional medicine doctor Amy Myers, and professor Loren Cordain - all of whom advocate an ancestral-based diet and the consumption of naturally-occurring fats, whilst providing copious amounts of compelling evidence to back up their views.
Yet, although I felt so much better than I ever had prior to adopting a paleo lifestyle, my digestive issues hadn’t resolved fully. My hair was very thin and weak, my skin was dry, I was moody, and I seemed to feel the cold more than others. After finally taking the plunge and seeking help from a naturopath and an intergrative GP in 2013, I was finally medically diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, along with intestinal permeability, moderate adrenal fatigue, MTHFR polymorphisms, an out-of-balance zinc/copper ratio (due to being on the contraceptive pill in the past), and a host of nutritional deficiencies due to my poor digestion. All of my niggling, seemingly non-specific symptoms started to make a bit more sense. It also became clear why the standard paleo diet had not allowed my issues to completely resolve. Upon beginning the AIP (autoimmune protocol) version of paleo and focusing extensively on healing my “leaky gut”, things really started to improve. Along with the help of skilled integrative GPs and naturopaths, I managed to lower my TPO antibodies from 3200 U/ml to 272 U/ml in only six months ( - and here’s hoping that my next blood test reveals that they are even closer to zero!) and essentially put my symptoms into remission.
I strongly feel that the paleo diet also played a significant role in optimising my fertility and allowing a straight-forward conception, pregnancy, and birth of our daughter Melody in 2012. Thankfully I was able to somehow negate my genetic predisposition towards hyperemesis gravidarum, and didn’t experience even mild morning sickness. Although it is not possible to say for sure, I feel that these outcomes were at least due in part to our pre-conception dietary efforts and the nutritional information that was made available to us through Chris Kresser’s “Healthy Baby Code” course (which I highly recommend to anyone planning a family). I’m also proud to say that Melody, now 2 years old, has been a healthy paleo baby her whole life, and is yet to require a visit to the doctor or hospital. Her favourite foods include eggs from our own chooks, organic vegetables, homemade pate, free-range pork crackling, sauerkraut, kombucha, coconut, sardines, salmon, and seafood. She is already quite the foodie!
Upon reflection, it is now crystal clear to me how all of my past choices have impacted my overall health and epigenetic expression, leading to my eventual diagnosis of autoimmune disease. I have often thought to myself, “if only I knew then what I know now” - but on the other hand, I am grateful to have experienced all that I have been through, as I am now able to use my knowledge and experience in my professional practice and guide my clients on their own path towards optimal health. I have experienced first-hand that paleo is not a “one-size-fits-all” diet. It is a template to be tweaked and adjusted as required for each individual, and whilst this can take a lot of time and patience, it can also drastically change lives for the better.
Although it is a hard truth to face, my journey has shown me just how corrupt our food system actually is. Unfortunately when it comes to the standard dietary recommendations, it is apparent that money, politics, and conveniently-profitable hypotheses and misinformation override the importance of sound nutritional advice based upon good-quality scientific research. For anyone who doesn’t believe it, “Death By Food Pyramid” by Denise Minger is a must-read. Pete has also been doing an amazing job of publicising the flaws in the current dietary recommendations, despite the unwarranted and unsubstantiated criticism and fear-mongering that has been fostered by the media. We are lucky to have someone like Pete publicly promoting the truths (and dispelling the myths) behind the paleo way of life, making it easier for us all to make truly informed choices about our health every day.
All of the seemingly-minor health issues and symptoms that our society has come to accept as “normal”, are in fact signs that the body is struggling. Whilst conventional medicine certainly has its place and can indeed save lives, it should not be considered the norm to rely upon pharmaceuticals of any kind on a regular basis. Many ailments can be quite easily resolved through simply providing the body with the nutrients it needs to thrive biochemically, whilst simultaneously removing any factors that are causing irritation and inflammation. And the paleo diet does exactly that.
Formerly known as Paleo Pregnancy & Parenting,
Mikaela's personal blog explores topics relating to ancestral-based nutrition, pregnancy, undisturbed birth, and natural parenting.