This is a common problem and it goes along with bloating on Paleo as well. Stomach pain or abdominal cramping when first starting a Paleo (or any whole foods diet for that matter) comes from several different sources:
a) stomach acid is too low
b) the gut lining itself is inflamed
c) too much bad bacteria in the gut
In the previous article, I discussed bloating (located here). Today we will discuss reasons (a) and (b).
The main reason people experience stomach pains when switching to a Paleo diet is because of low HCL (hydrochloric acid). This is caused by years of eating a low protein, high carbohydrate, high sugar and processed food based diet. This will naturally lower your HCL. So, when you start eating animal protein 3 to 5 times a day on Paleo, you will lack both the HCL (as HCL’s main job is to breakdown protein) and digestive enzymes needed for this type of diet. Within a few days you will feel terrible. You might become extremely constipated, feel as though you have knots in your stomach, or not well in general.
Also, If you have previously eaten a very low animal protein diet (shakes do not count, if you were previously on a diet that included alot of shakes, your stomach acid is also very low) and/or you are a chronic Nexium or Prilosec user, you will have a very hard time initially with any whole foods approach. Nexium, Prilosec and any proton pump inhibitor purposefully lower stomach acid and will make a whole foods diet miserable at first.
If this is how you’ve been eating, and you want to transition to a Paleo diet, it is best to first start with changing your breakfast. Over days (or maybe weeks), add more and more animal protein based on how your stomach feels, and what your diet calls for. I,f as you increase your protein, you feel heavy or bloated, stop and cut your protein in half. You may also need to see a health professional like myself and my staff at Body Solutions to help get you on the right digestive aids, right amount of protein and insoluble fiber and constantly monitor your progress weekly as we do in our Bio Signature Hormone Modulation program.
The other issue for stomach pains is inflammation of the stomach lining itself. Over time, stress, alcohol, coffee, processed foods, medications, etc. will start to break down the lining of the stomach. In addition to this, most people’s diets are very acidic (which also lowers HCL, see a pattern here?) without enough bases (alkaline foods to balance it out) which causes further inflammation and a breeding ground for H pylori and SIBO (see previous article on SIBO.) This causes a bloated and distended abdominal area. Throw tons of veggies in this type of an environment and the large amount of insoluble fiber will feel like a wire brush on a wound. Not so good…. So for this issue cut your veggie servings back to a 1/2 cup three times a day until you feel relief.
This was a very brief crash course into stomach issues with Paleo and whole food based diets. If you or someone you know has issues, don’t give up eating Paleo! You just need certain tweaks to make it work for your body and overtime you will do wonderful.
Next week we talk about Nexium and Prilosec!