Friday, August 9, 2013

Sunburns, Allergies, and IBS

There's a lot of claims flying around out there in the low carb/paleo/primal communities, and I wanted to address some of my own personal observations on some of them. 

Back when Chad and I first started our low carb journey in September of 2012, I was so excited about it and believed that it could pretty much cure anything.  So when I heard that going low carb/paleo could actually help with certain things I was suffering from, of course I wanted to see how it would actually affect me.  So here's three things I've been personally paying attention to to see how our diet has affected them.

The theory is that going low carb/paleo will make you less susceptible to sunburns, possibly because you're replacing unnatural vegetable oils with natural saturated fat.  I really had high hopes for this one.  I'm literally the whitest person I know, and from a very young age, I have had a lot of problems with sunburns.  I've had at least one, but possibly two, incidences of blistering sunburns when I was a child, which of course scares me to death thinking about what that means for my future.  Chad is also quite white and covered in freckles.

Since we started low carbing in the autumn, we didn't really get much chance to test out the sunburn theory until this summer.  It's been a pretty craptastic summer here, but we did get a couple of weeks of nice sunny warm weather to spend frolicking in the sun.  At first, I thought the theory was right!  We seemed to be tanning instead of burning, which is something that neither of us has really done in the past. 

But as we spent more time in the sun over those couple of weeks, we started having issues.  Just 10 minutes in the sun one afternoon brought on a bright red burn on the back of Chad's neck and my chest.  After that we tried to be more careful about our sun time, wearing hats and staying in the shade.  But one day I went out to pick raspberries, and I must have forgotten the time, because when I got back inside, I had the worst burn I've had in years.  It healed up within a couple of days and never peeled, but after that, I decided not to play any more games with the sun. 

My conclusion: clearly our way of eating has helped somewhat; we do tan instead of burn if our sun exposure is only for short periods of time, or in the early morning or evening.  But eating low carb/paleo isn't going to make you completely protected from the sun, especially if you're a ghost like me.

Another popular theory out there is that going low carb/paleo will rid you of your allergies, most likely from being wheat free.  This is another one that Chad and I had to wait on, since our allergies don't really get bad until mid to late summer. 

Well, it's that time of year again, and we're waking up sniffling, sneezing, and rubbing our red itchy eyes.  Chad has the luxury of going to an air conditioned office during the day, but I've been at home, with the allergen laden air all around me.  I don't like taking allergy pills for the same reason I don't drink; we're trying to have a baby, and I could be pregnant and I don't want to do any harm if I am.  Since I'm not taking any pills, and I get to feel the full effects, I can tell you that my allergies are just as bad as usual. 

I do have to say that Chad and I still eat dairy, and there are people out there that say that dairy could be a trigger for allergies.  But people also say eggs could be, and nuts (especially peanuts), and nightshades, and shellfish, and who knows what else.  Maybe some summer in the future, I'll stop eating dairy and eggs and nuts and see if I still have itchy eyes and sneezing.

My conclusion: At least for seasonal allergies, and with us still eating dairy, there seems to be no change.

IBS/Bowel issues:
This is something unfortunately that I used to have to deal with.  I didn't even know it was a problem, honestly, because it was just the way I'd always been.  If you've ever read the book The Meat Fix, I can describe my issues as milder versions of what John, the author, was going through.  If you haven't read the book, I recommend it, even though the author goes into great detail about his gross bathroom problems.  I'll refrain from going into equally gross details.  I will say that I think it's interesting that the author of The Meat Fix also says that he had no idea that his problems were even problems, because he was so used to them.

Something else interesting about The Meat Fix is that it's written by a man that used to be a vegetarian and who ate a lot of soy burgers and soy bacon and soy sausage, tons of rice, and other whole grains, which is pretty much how I was living as a vegetarian before going low carb.  Literally a few days after I started to eat meat again and gave up the soy burgers and the seitan (meat substitute made from wheat gluten), my IBS issues just vanished.  For the first time in what seemed like my whole life, I no longer had bowel problems. 

When I misbehave and eat wheat or soy, or when I eat too much fiber (usually in the form of too many coconut flour baked goods), my IBS will act up again, but it's never as bad as it used to be.  It's sad to think that I went through so much of my life suffering from that problem and I had no idea it was within my power to stop it. 

My conclusion: At least for me, it has completely fixed my bowel issues.  This reason alone is enough to keep me eating this way forever.

I can't say that low carb/paleo will fix everything anymore, because it's clear that some things aren't fixable for everyone.  A ghost-white person is never going to be sunburn-proof, and sometimes seasonal allergies are just a part of life.  But I can say with certainty that a low carb/paleo/primal diet is the healthiest diet I've ever eaten, and I'm healthier now than I've ever been in my whole life.  Maybe it can't fix everything, but it's sure fixed a lot of things.


  1. Hi Julie!

    I have NEVER heard the sunburn connection! But then again, I don't read up on paleo, only on primal.

    I could tell just from your description that your allergies weren't going to be healed by whatever you ate, because you described them as not coming until summer. That means they are airborne. Most likely dust and/or weeds. (I know, because I have MANY MANY allergies, and dust and weeds are two of them. p.s. they make GREAT immuno-therapy shots for those, and just one year of shots and my dust/weed allergies are totally tolerable now.) If your allergies are food related, they would not be seasonal. :)

    My gut problems are all but completely gone now, too. Only if I eat 'bad' (i.e., tainted or over-indulgent) food do I ever suffer anymore. My IBS was really bad in my 20's and 30's though. I later learned to 'cope' with life with alcohol instead, so it became less bad, but I've long since given up all alcohol and had problems again until I went primal.

    No, this diet can't fix everything. But it sure fixes enough that's noticeable (let alone probably more!)...that it is wonderful, huh?

  2. I had terrible allergies, the worst of anyone I've ever known, and they're gone now, even when other people are sniffling and sneezing.

    It took a few years before before I quit getting badly sunburned. Even being fair-skinned and living in Colorado, I don't wear sunscreen anymore.

    1. That's great to hear that your allergies and sunburn problems have gone away, Lori! I was wondering if maybe the longer I'm on this diet, the better my allergies and sunburn issues will get. I'll have to keep watching and report on them again next year :)