an athlete photographer's blog

Giving Up Grain Part 1

I’ve always said, I could never go Paleo because I’m a runner and need my grains.  I need my pre-race bagel with peanut butter and banana.  I need my winter pre-run fuel of steel-cut oats and cherries.  I need my black beans and brown rice.  In a lot of ways, I was anti-Paleo.

Homemade Bread

But that was before.  Before the last three months of GI distress.  Before doctor’s appointments that amounted to non-diagnosis.  Before hours of research and conversations with friends and family, followed by more research.  All of which has brought me to the realization that I need to make a significant change.  It is obvious that some of the things I eat all the time are the culprit behind my digestive issues.

I’ve stayed away from processed food, high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, sodium-nitrate, and other non-food additives for years.  And I always thought I was eating healthy, but my body has decided otherwise.  So I’m at a cross roads, I can keep eating the way I always have and continue to feel how I do, or I can make a change and possibly feel better.

At this point, I’m not willing to say I think grains are bad for you or that we weren’t designed to eat them.  I’m not nutritionist, doctor, or biologist.  I just want to find a solution to my poor digestive health.  If that means not eating grains, then so be it.

I started with trying to follow the low FODMAP nutrition plan.  The first week of trying out some food elimination helped a lot, but I could tell I didn’t have it quite right for my specific symptoms.  I was still eating some things that were irritating my body.  After a little more research, I decided to order two cookbooks for more meal ideas-Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo and Homegrown Paleo by Diane Rodgers. The latter I got for our little hobby farm and it is an awesome resource.  The former I chose for help with digestive health.


Practical Paleo is like reading a biology-nutrition-cookbook.  It is packed full of great information.  What I like about her book is that she makes it easy to understand for people who aren’t medical professionals.  For example, she goes through each organ in the digestive track and tells you what it’s supposed to do, what can go wrong, and how to fix it.  She made it really easy to read through and look for my symptoms and then read about suggested fixes.

After reading the front part of the book on a healthy gut, I feel like eliminating grains is the right track for me.  I haven’t totally isolated what I think I have, but I’ve decided to follow her 30-day meal plan for digestive health and then add in some carb ideas from her 30-day plan for athletes.  She even has weekly shopping lists on her website. So easy, right?

Here some of the changes I’ve made:

+ Adding

1. Apple Cider Vinegar – I’ve known for years that ACV is supposed to help with digestion.  Howard Garrett (aka The Dirt Doctor) swears by it and my husband tried to drink it for a period of time, but just couldn’t really choke it down.  And I didn’t see how it helped.  After reading PP, I guess it is supposed to increase stomach acid (among other things – you can read about the health benefits here).  According to Diane Sanfilippo, “Without appropriate levels of stomach acid, you may suffer vitamin or mineral deficiencies, frequent bouts of food poisoning, gas, belching, or bloating after a meal despite chewing your food very well.”

Increasing stomach acidity helps food break down better in your stomach.  Ok, that made sense to me and made it worth my while to add it to my routine.  If you’re thinking about adding this in, you be sure to get the organic unfiltered kind.  After writing in a fitness group I’m part of, I got a good tip on how to drink it:

6 oz water
1 shake of cinnamon
Warm in microwave and then stir in teaspoon of honey.  Drink 15 minutes before a meal.

This “recipe” does not make it taste good.  It just makes it easier to swallow, in my opinion.  The warm cinnamon is a nice touch.

2. Kefir – Here’s another one of those things that I knew where good for you, but didn’t really know why.  I knew it had to do something with flora in your intestines, but that’s where my knowledge ended.  Again, PP makes it real easy in understanding.  Probiotics are for the large intestine and restore the good bacteria.  She doesn’t directly suggest kefir as the source of probiotics, but I think it is the easiest to come by.  It has a slightly sour taste and I was diluting it with almond milk originally, but now I just pour 1 cup in the blender and blend with some frozen fruit.  I think it’s pretty delicious.

3. Sauerkraut – This is not an everyday thing.  But it goes along with the kefir.  Adding fermented food helps the large intestine.  In the 30-day plan, Diane puts it with breakfast.  I was skeptical but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I just bought a jarred variety.  She gives a recipe, but I thought I’d try it out first before going through the effort to make my own.

4. TONS AND TONS OF VEGGIES – I thought I ate a lot of vegetables before, but, boy, I was wrong.  I have never bought so many veggies.  It’s a good thing though.  Even my six-year-old daughter ate a little tiny salad last night.

– Subtracting

1. Bread, rice, quinoa, oatmeal, crackers, cereal, etc – Everything grain related.  This is obvious.  And I may add in a few things here and there after the 30 days, but right now I’m staying strict – no grains.  It is easier than I thought it would be because I want to be healthy so badly.  In the Homegrown Paleo, she suggests doing a 30 day strict paleo and then adopting an 80/20 Paleo rule.  I thought that was great advice.

2. All things Dairy, except butter – Now kefir is 99% lactose free so I think it is fine.  I don’t think I’m lactose intolerant, but for these 30 days it’s not a bad idea to eliminate it, especially since a lot of people do have problems with dairy.  And I only use butter for cooking my eggs.

The most awesome thing about the meal plan is that I don’t have to figure out what to cook.  Diane has already told me.  I just need help with some snack, but I feel like I’m doing pretty good so far.  It has only been 2 days.  It’s definitely an adjustment, but my sweet husband told me, “I will eat whatever you cook.”  He’s only going semi-paleo, which is totally fine.  On his side, he loved the Homegrown Paleo book as it is a great resource for our growing farm.  She has all kinds of information about raising animals and planting, plus recipes.  Once I get the hang of the paleo nutrition plan, I think I’ll cook more out of that book.  Right now, I’m sort of sticking to recipes in the PP.

Anyway, that’s the news from The Picture Runner kitchen.  I’ll check in with you later on in the 30-days to let you know how I feel and how I think it is affecting me as an athlete.


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4 thoughts on “Giving Up Grain Part 1”

  • Dear Alexia … Oh I hope this works out for you. I think it’s neat how you study these things (diet, exercise, life) and make it your own. And having a partner who supports you all the way is wonderful.

    • Me too. I miss the bread of course, but just trying to make this way of eating a habit. I do feel better already. Just more hungry in between meals and trying to combat that. Not always sure what to eat.

  • Thanks Alexia, for all of the research, that is so great.

    I am going to order me the Practical Paloe book, I need more help with the low Fodmap and I may just find it with that.

    Can’t wait to read the next chapter.

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