5 Things I’ve Learned About Eating Paleo And Lupus

This is really an update on my ever-changing journey toward wellness and it goes without saying, in these last two months of transforming my diet to manage my symptoms, I learn something new everyday.

1. Wheat, gluten, and a “fad.”
In my journey, I’ve run across folks who are skeptical of this whole gluten-free trend, the Paleo diet, and how it contributes to managing autoimmune symptoms. “We’ve lived this long with wheat in our diets and we don’t have any of these problems,” I’ve heard. Or perhaps, “this is just a fad, it will pass and why jump on the bandwagon?” I was one of those who doubted that gluten-free to a non-Celiac person (who is allergic to wheat) was legit myself.

Here’s the thing: wheat has been in our diets for centuries, however, it has not been farmed, genetically modified, and altered to the degree that it is now. Wheat crops today have 500% more wheat grain than even 50 years ago. Biologically, our bodies cannot effectively process that much grain, in the same way we can’t process antibiotics, pesticides, hormones and other toxins in our food. It’s no wonder Americans have so many chronic diseases that other countries do not.

I happened on a symposium on CSPAN recently discussing GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organism) by two very well-respected biologists who both are authors. The bottom line was that GMO’s are neither good or bad. There’s good GMO’s which can be beneficial and those which are not. It is next to impossible, they said, to ensure food is 100% organic and non GMO, however, the combination of both equals more of a likelihood that food does not contain toxins.

My dad was born and raised in farming communities in Minnesota and South Dakota. When we talked about this “gluten-free deal”, he told me that most of the family farms in those areas have been bought out by huge conglomerates that own thousands of acres. The farmers who once farmed family farms of two hundred acres, now work for the mega farms. Who are they supplying? I’m no economist, but I will venture a guess and say the Costcos, the WalMart Superstores, the McDonalds, who feed the whole of Americans almost daily. Supply and demand folks. There’s big money to grow crops in any way possible, sadly at the expense of our health.

2. The Paleo diet or any other diet is neither a cause or cure. Living gluten-free, dairy-free with no refined sugars is not only becoming a recommended diet for Lupus and other autoimmune diseases, but also ADHD, Autism, Crohn’s and many others I’m sure I don’t even know. I’m under no false pretenses here. Eating wheat, some amount of dairy, and processed food for the better part of 47 years did not cause Lupus. Therefore, I also don’t expect my food choices to cure it either.

In my experience in working with special needs students, specifically those having moderate to severe autism, a gluten- free, dairy-free diet is fast becoming recommended to manage the symptoms of our students. Unfortunately, I see parents who have misplaced hope, thinking the diet will alleviate their child’s autistic behavior and become discouraged when the behaviors continue.

The same goes for those of us who are managing our symptoms with nutrition and diet. When I told my endocrinologist that my doctor had recommended a gluten- free diet, she told me I should have noticed a difference within a couple days. A couple days? I’ve eaten wheat all my life, certainly it’s unrealistic and a set-up to fail if I thought a couple days of change would make such a marked difference. This is why it’s a journey.

3. Figure out your priorities. By priorities, I mean the things that need the most attention first. A good friend of mine, and who also manages her health issues by nutrition, talk (ok maybe bitch and whine sometimes) about this journey of being focused on a strict diet. We both eat almost an all organic diet, mostly meatless, nutrient dense food, no dairy, and no foods containing estrogen. She recently had to go gluten-free as well and had the same thoughts I did at the beginning: “Then what the hell can I eat?”

I’m sure there are vegans who are also gluten-free and avoid foods containing estrogens, but realistically, you have to get your protein from somewhere. I don’t subscribe to avoiding legumes, as most strict Paleo followers do, because I need a protein rich diet. For me, rebuilding my immune system is the priority and I had to compromise my mostly meatless diet by eating lean chicken, pork, and fish. Once you figure out the priority, you can adjust everything else accordingly, the same as any other priority.

4. If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll make an excuse. This goes for investing in your wellness also. Eating Paleo does cost valuable resources, I’ll be honest. Quality food that is organic with no added hormones, antibiotics and non GMO is expensive. Planning your meals, prepping ahead of time and cooking from scratch takes a lot of time. Reading labels, being a conscious consumer of where your food comes from requires thought and consideration. Finally, eating Paleo means going against the grain. Literally and figuratively.

I cannot say enough about Danielle Walker’s cookbook, Against The Grain, primarily because it’s been my food bible, but mostly because her creativity in cooking was born from her journey to overcome her own medical issues.

I’ve dubbed myself a pioneer woman lately because not only do I make almost all my food from scratch, but I make the basics as well to avoid refined sugars and everything else that is added to processed food. I made my own ketchup and mayonnaise people! I know right? There’s mason jars for days in my frig and in my pantry.

Speaking of which, my “baking cupboard” and pantry got an overhaul and not only is it more efficient, it’s also more Paleo-friendly. Mind you, I’m the only one in my household who eats Paleo, but I’m also the only one cooks too. While I have to allow for the XY’s to have their dairy, wheat, and refined sugar, when I cook and bake anything, I use either Palm Oil or Spectrum’s Coconut Spread for butter, coconut or almond milk, and almond flour, almond meal, and a combination of other gluten-free flour. I still hate gluten-free bread, I could do without the pizza crust, and brown rice pasta is ok, but I’ve gotten pretty good at everything else.

5. “Real food doesn’t have ingredients, real food is ingredients” – Jamie Oliver.  I think no truer words were ever spoken, but I don’t think I would’ve gotten that until now. Whether you eat Paleo, or you have food allergies, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, when there is choices that are no longer available, you learn to not just “make do”, but be creative in the way you eat. If there has been one thing that’s been difficult for me during this transition, it’s that substituting for the gluten defeats the purpose of not eating it in the first place. I’m almost over it. I don’t crave bread anymore and would rather choose the veggies in the pasta, then the actual pasta. I made a whole batch of Snickerdoodles which were not gluten-free for a friend of mine, and I wasn’t even tempted. My body is adjusting to the way it’s meant to eat: whole foods.

Somebody once said to me (in regards to eating healthy), “But you have to live!” Obviously, our ideas of “living” differ then. My idea does not involve invading my system with harsh drugs whose side effects are often worse than the disease itself, hundreds of dollars on prescriptions and co-pays every month, and doctors who are only treating each symptom individually instead of as a whole. If it means doing without what everyone is eating, then I choose this every single day.

I’m not saying this has to be some kind of hardship tour; far from it. I’ve used my food bible and my own creativity to make some pretty amazing things that taste damn delicious, no matter what kind of eater you are. Like any other journey and like any other passion worth fighting for, you don’t have to see the whole staircase. You just have to take the first step. Eat well and live well 🙂



Categories: Meals


Diligent seeker of health and nutrition, Paleo follower, and creative culinary practicer...


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2 Comments on “5 Things I’ve Learned About Eating Paleo And Lupus”

  1. August 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    It’s funny I was just thinking about you recently and how things were going! Glad to hear it’s going well! You are absolutely right! Paleo isn’t a cure, there isn’t a cure for autoimmune diseases, it is finding ways to better your quality of life and getting it in remission. The disease will always be there but it is your choice on how you deal with it.
    I hope to get a new post up on my blog this week about my new journey with my autoimmune … Sounds our journeys are very similar. Take care Julie!

    • August 24, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

      Look forward to reading it Lindsey and thank you for being an inspiration…

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