My Story

My name is Ruth and I want to share with you the reason why I follow the Paleo diet, and what it has done for me.

Effect of Stress

In 2012 I suffered a traumatic bereavement. This had an immediate physical impact – in particular, on my digestive system. When your body is under stress, it produces a hormone called Cortisol, which triggers the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response. And when your body switches into this mode, it dumps non-essential bodily functions such as digestion and reproduction. As far as your body is concerned, it is more important to run away from that sabre tooth tiger than it is to finish digesting food.

Cortisol causes your blood flow to be rerouted from the stomach, which suppresses the appetite. Have you ever felt gut-wrenchingly nervous before an important meeting or a big day? Did you get that feeling of butterflies in your stomach? It is no coincidence that these metaphors for stress reference the digestive system. When your body is stuck in a hyper-aware state, the last thing you feel like doing is eating.

Physical Symptoms

Stress hit me hard, and it hit me in the stomach. Here are some of the more distressing symptoms that I suffered during this period:

at times I could not bend down to take off my shoes, and was asked when my baby was due.
Stomach pain:
I would suffer from ‘stomach migraines’, which were so excruciating that I could do nothing except lie on my back with tears streaming down my face.
Excessive gas and wind:
I was plagued by a constant orchestra of bodily noises in the form of gurgles, burps, hiccups and other less socially acceptable noises!
Urgency to go the toilet:
I had to plan everything around thirty-minute toilet trips, which made travel and sport virtually impossible.
Diarrhoea and weight loss:
my weight fell by a stone, and I frequently passed bowel movements containing undigested food.
Anaemia and tiredness:
because I wasn’t digesting food properly, I wasn’t absorbing nutrients and developed anaemia.
my hormones were also affected by this, and I didn’t have a menstrual cycle for over two years

Mental Symptoms

I was also struggling with a low mood. Now this, I quite naturally assumed, was a consequence of the grieving process. However, I was not just feeling sad; I was completely sapped of energy, and very irritable. I found it difficult to be patient with people, and would snap over trivial things, or withdraw into myself in order to prevent this. I was not getting any enjoyment out of life, even when socialising, playing sport, or just generally doing the things that I used to look forward to. I was so fatigued that I struggled to walk the one-and-a-half miles home from work. We even asked a carpenter to give us a quote for rebuilding the stairs in our house at a lesser gradient, as my knees used to ache going up and down them each day. I was twenty-nine years of age.

Search for a Cure

With no idea what was happening to me, I continued going back and forth to my doctor. I was eventually diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I was told that this was a chronic condition, which could not be treated, and that I would just have to live with it. On a positive note, it would probably go away when I hit menopause. So that was something to look forward to then! In the meantime, my doctor advised me to take a dose of peppermint oil at mealtimes, as some people reported that it helped ease their symptoms. Needless to say, this did not help, and is pretty futile advise for someone suffering from a digestive meltdown. But, unfortunately, this was all the treatment that conventional medicine had to offer.

Luckily this was the point at which my in-laws stepped in and recommended that I see a functional health practitioner. Functional medicine takes a system-based, holistic approach to illness. When our bodies are under stress, they send us warning whispers. If we ignore these whispers, they turn into insistent shouts, which manifest themselves in a physical or mental malfunction. Conventional medicine follows a very direct treatment path, employing highly-trained specialists who focus on the ailing organ and treat it in isolation. This model treats the symptoms of illness, but does not delve into the root cause. While this is appropriate for acute disease or traumatic injury, it is not appropriate for treating chronic health conditions. It’s a bit like having a stone in your shoe. You can keep walking on it for a long time, gradually suffering more and more pain, but it is only when you reach the crisis point at which the stone wears a hole in your foot that conventional medicine steps in. The skin will get stitched up, and you will feel better for a time, but you still have a stone in your shoe.


Following the functional medicine approach, I completed a family medical history, lifestyle and environment questionnaires, and submitted stool and blood samples for analysis. I discovered that I was intolerant to gluten and casein, had an overgrowth of bacteria in my small intestine, and a leaky gut. This, then, was my ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’.

When you have a food intolerance, your gut wall becomes damaged and porous, allowing undigested food particles to pass through to the bloodstream. Your body rallies by producing antibodies to mount a defence against the foreign invaders. Unfortunately the antibodies are unable to differentiate healthy human tissue from the foreign particles that need to be destroyed. This means that the body ends up attacking itself, leading to inflammation throughout the body and a host of health problems seemingly unrelated to the gut. At this time I also suffered from eczema, asthma, blepharitis, spots and regular bouts of sinusitis.


My functional health practitioner put me onto a supplement regime to rebalance my body and heal my gut. I was also put onto the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which cut out the complex carbohydrates that my body was unable to digest. The effects of the new diet were felt immediately. It was so obviously the right thing to do that I did not find it difficult to follow.

By the end of the first year, I had clawed back a close semblance to my old life. I once felt that losing a dearly loved soul had ruined my life, and that things would never be the same – a hundred-foot concrete wall had been erected, separating my life into two parts; Before Death and After Death. Well, things will never be the same when you lose someone, but you can at least hope that the pain that remains is of an emotional rather than a physical nature.

This is not to say I am completely cured of IBS. The doctor was correct in stating that it is a chronic condition. I will always have a nervous digestive system. I cannot drink strong coffee or a large glass of wine without triggering a digestive malfunction. But I can successfully manage my condition by avoiding dietary and lifestyle stresses. I can travel! I can play sport! I can lead a full and happy life! And in 2020 I finally gave birth to a healthy and much longed-for baby.


I know I am lucky to have discovered at a relatively young age that I was unwittingly poisoning my body. But I wish I had known sooner. Because when you are intolerant to gluten or casein your body reacts in a strange way. When undigested gluten and casein proteins escape from a leaky gut and enter the bloodstream, they form substances called gluteomorphin and caseomorphin. As the names suggest, these are opiates, which can travel to the brain and mimic the effects of morphine. They cause fatigue, foggy brain, anxiety and depression. This also explains why some people feel much worse for a while after giving up gluten and casein – they are effectively going ‘cold turkey’, and suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

My sister also suffered from IBS. But she was not as lucky as me. She never discovered the underlying cause, although she suspected that she was intolerant to wheat. She died in 2012. She took her own life while suffering from depression.

For so many of us, the modern western diet and medical treatment approach simply does not work.

11 thoughts on “My Story”

  • Ruth, thank-you for this site. I have had IBS for 40 years and diverticulosis for 20 years . I started going to a naturopathic doctor a month ago and yesterday I got my food sensitivity results. So, now I am trying to learn how to eat without gluten, dairy , eggs, legumes ,etc. Discovered this site this morning and am really learning .

    • Sharon, I really feel for you when I read about your health problems. I cannot imagine having IBS for 40 years, and I had not heard about diverticulosis until I searched for it just now. I hope you start to see some improvement by changing your diet. I know it feels very restrictive when you first start out, and time-consuming learning how to cook new things. BUT, speaking for myself, I was *happy* when I got my results back and discovered what I was sensitive to, as it meant there was an obvious way to avoid pain! Before then, it seemed like total guesswork trying to follow impossible exclusion diets. I haven’t focused too much on egg-free recipes yet, but I will have a go at creating some baking recipes in the next few months.

  • Dear Rwth, thank-you for sharing your story and creating this website. Events in 2018 caused me to look at some lifestyle changes including my diet. I have found changing my diet both challenging and very rewarding. The benefits of feeling better far out-weigh any of the challenges. Websites like your are very helpful – besides the great recipes and insightful tips, it it helpful to find researched and tested information that i can incorporate into my now knowledge base. I am really keen to try the carrot cake recipe. I am also going to “have a go at” modifying my boiled fruit cake recipe to remove the flour and butter – fingers crossed.
    Thank-you for sharing your experiences and knowledge, I am sure that there are many, many people like me, who have benefited from it.

    • Dear Ashley, thanks for taking the time to share your experience and feedback. It can be quite daunting when you first start out, can’t it? It takes a little while to build up a stock of go-to recipes and meal ideas.I wasn’t a cook before I started following the Paleo Diet, and some days it felt like feeding myself was turning into a full-time job! But now I feel very confident in the kitchen using gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients, and just spend a ‘normal’ amount of time cooking (greatly helped by investing in a freezer).

      Good luck modifying your fruit cake recipe – I think fruit cakes are particularly well-suited to removing butter and gluten (having succulent and sticky fruits to add moisture and flavour). I wrote some general pointers on fruitcakes in my Christmas Cake post, which you may find helpful.

      On the Carrot Cake, I keep meaning to add a note to the recipe about cooking times. I have made the recipe many times, as has my father-in-law. For us, the guide line of ’50 minutes – 1 hour’ holds true. However, any recipe that contains a significant amount of fresh fruit or vegetables will release a lot of moisture during cooking. The higher the water content, the longer the cake will take to cook. It’s not possible to predict the exact water content of carrots, as they vary according to age and variety (fresher carrots release more moisture). So what I’m trying to say is that it’s good to use your senses to check whether the cake is ready: if the top is not springy to the touch even after 1 hour, and doesn’t feel set, then don’t be afraid to cook it for a bit longer (with a sheet of tinfoil tented on top to avoid over-browning).

  • Fantastic web site. Thank you for all the information and the recipes.

    I have IBS, it started after the loss of my mother in law. This was the 3rd important loss in my family. I guess we all have limits and my body went crazy after the third loss.

    My health service provider was not able to deal with the problems of my digestive system; I had severe B12 deficiency, inflammation in my bowel and constant nausea. Lost a stone in a short time period. I also had very high anti bodies in my blood and eventually diagnosed Hashimoto’s in 2015. Though my worst problem is LS (lichen sclerosis) is testing my limits definitely. At times I do question quality of my life.

    Cutting carbs, dairy , caffeine and sugar after Hashimoto’s diagnosis definitely helped to all my health problems. However cutting sugar and stress out of my life is not easy. I’m not so well with honey either, as a replacement of sugar. Even using fruit purees as sugar can be problematic. I found coconut sugar is best so far.

    So good to hear stories of successful recoveries, so nice of you sharing all these information and lovely recipes. Thank you for the others who comment here and share their stories and information too.

    • Thanks for reaching out. Your story sounds familiar: my IBS was also triggered by a traumatic bereavement, and I also struggled to maintain a healthy weight (I must be the only bride-to-be who had to scoff snacks every 2-3 hours in an effort to fit into my dress!).

      I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis of Hashimoto’s and LS. I only heard about LS recently, on a radio podcast, and it does sound truly testing. I definitely reached low points during the 4-5 years in which I suffered from IBS, where I questioned my quality of life. For quite some time I only had a 30-minute window between toilet trips in which to do anything or go anywhere. It will get better. Obviously the difficult thing is not knowing when.

      My friend has ME and also cannot eat sugar / honey / most natural sugars. I made her a very low-sugar dessert last time she came over for dinner: Vegan Chestnut Truffle Cheesecake. I think it took me 1-2 years before I could eat fruit again after starting the Paleo diet (without triggering diarrhoea). Although citrus fruits and berries were okay.

      You are right that cutting stress is really not that simple! It’s hard to find practical tips for doing this, and it takes a lot of effort. It ‘s really hard to make changes when you’re at a low ebb and in pain or tired most of the time. I found that diet alone got me to back to about 80% good health, and then limiting lifestyle stress provided the final 20% push. A family member asked me how I did this, so I wrote an article about it here: How to Reduce Chronic Stress in a Busy World. I found mindfulness very good for dealing with pain / discomfort: it doesn’t take the pain away, but it stops you feeling anxious about it and creating a perpetuating cycle.

      • Thank you for the reply Rwth, I’ve noticed your article last night, I was tired to read it but will read it tonight. I also got ingredients for the creme caramel today I will try to make this lovely recipe tomorrow, so looking forward to it. So nice of you sharing all these. Thanks again. I come back to let you know my creme caramel adventure,

  • I forgot to say that I was diagnosed ME in 2008, diagnosis is made by eliminating other possible illnesses. Unfortunately conventional medicine unable to explain this disease, all the other illnesses and conditions I have came after the ME diagnosis. It seems my own immune system is attacking my own body.

    I’d like to add that I’m so sorry about your loss.

  • Hi Ruth
    Just surfing to see if I could make custard with soy milk and found Paleopantry. Tell me, what don’t you know about how to make custard ? 🙂
    I’m originally from wales, got diagnosed with IBS about 5 years ago after a similar story to yours. No dairy or gluten and I’m fine. I will be returning to your site as I like to UNDERSTAND how to do things and you understand what your talking about. Now off to make soy milk custard for the kids and I, without boiling.
    Thanks Huw

    • Thanks for your message – I’m sorry to hear you’ve had the rotten luck of developing IBS. I hope your soy milk custard was a success with the kids. My mum rather heroically made me a gluten-free and diary-free trifle one Christmas, which used soy milk for the custard and the cream topping. It worked a treat! I have a compulsive need to know the theory / science behind cooking techniques. If I don’t know the reason for doing something I tend to get very lazy and start cutting corners (with bad results!). I am a massive Delia Smith fan for this reason. She is very good at patiently explaining why you have to do certain things 🙂

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