I'm doing pretty good with eliminating soy and dairy, and am on the fence about legumes since Archevore is looking pretty appealing as a starting place for me.
Wheat and grains are right now the most difficult transition for me. I've severely cut back, but haven't cut them out. I understand theoretically why they are bad, but was wondering if I could get some responses about what specifically improved for you after going gluten free and/or grain free to get a better idea of what it affects and to help motivate me.
My #1 change is that gluten makes me crazy in the social-anxiety sense; glutened I am paranoid about and paralyzed by other's reactions and intentions, which is miserable for me and everyone close to me. It was a huge and surprising finding, and unfortunately the return is the first sign I get that I've been inadvertently glutened. But how amazing to be able to live in the quiet headspace of the rest of humanity! It does take 100% adherence; when I was having a piece of sprouted toast every few days, I saw no change at all from my crappy 'normal'.
Physically, my IBS went away, my skin cleared up, and (after a hypothyroid episode when I went VLC and lost a bunch of hair) I have more hair than I ever have, and it's growing crazy fast.
I can cheat with sugar, I can cheat with legumes, I can even gorge on fruit, but never ever ever gluten. Give it two supremely clean weeks, and then see what happens when you have a bit...
For me the change was pretty dramatic, but I had no idea I even had a problem with it until I dropped it from my diet. I always thought is was normal to feel like taking a nap after eating, and that feeling disappeared the very first day without wheat. I would counteract the fatigue from having bagels, toast, or scones for breakfast with a minimum of 4 shots of espresso. The combo resulted in some pretty bad IBS, but at the time I thought that was normal. It is still nice not having to bolt for the bathroom 2 or 3 times after meals.
There have been some exceptions that don't seem to cause stomach problems like naturally soured sourdough bread, cheap ass hot and hamburger buns, beer, and croissants. I'm still trying to figure those out, but they do still make me feel like I need a nap and make me spacy, so I still avoid them for the most part. I also wonder if it is the wheat bran rather than the gluten that causes the most problems for me, or if it is a one two punch where one compounds the problems caused by the other. Whole wheat products seem to cause the most intense misery for me.
Within 3 days of dropping wheat I got my ability to concentrate and my memory back, I just thought I needed to increase my thyroid meds again before that. Within a few weeks I actually had to cut down on my thyroid medication and coffee because I was too amped up. Within a month the neuropathy I had had in my hands and feet for years went away. A few years later I was able to go off of thyroid meds altogether. I also don't turn red randomly the way I used too and my dandruff has gone away.
Until very recently I wasn't able to tolerate most wheat products at all and would get diarrhea within an hour of reintroducing them into my diet, but since adding bone broth on a regular basis I've been able to eat things like pizza with friends occasionally without stomach problems. My theory is that it took years to develop the gut problems in the first place and that the broth has healed my body enough to allow for a little more digestive flexibility.
Edit: I completely forgot to mention the elephant in the room, my main reason for going paleo in the first place, within 8 months of dropping wheat I got my fertility back and was actually able to get pregnant.
Most noticeable changes were in my skin & nails...My acne, which I had had for at least the past 14 years, is almost nonexistent now, unless I slip up and have some gluten and/or dairy..then it comes right back in the next day or two. My nails are growing like crazy and are wicked strong.
The best change, IMO, is that I am no longer bloated/gassy after every meal. My stomach pains are gone & I have a different feeling of "fullness." It took a while to get used to, but now I know how to recognize the feeling of being satiated.
I was honestly skeptical about the whole grain thing. I thought that any improvments I was seeing were just due to a reduction in carbohydrate intake. It took me a few years to totally remove grains, especially wheat, from my diet. When I finally got a little more serious about it and would later backslide I would feel a definite difference. It was like minor symptoms that had always been there were finally noticeable to me in an undeniable way.
There was a time when I realized, almost violently, that my body would simply not tolerate lactose. I remember having to be picked up from school by my mother because I was doubled-over in pain due to abdominal bloating. I was always lucky enough to have parents who cared enough that I was rarely sent off to school with just cereal to eat anyway, it was either fresh baked biscuits with gravy or a stack of pancakes nearly every morning for breakfast. But even after cutting out dairy I would still experience bloating and abdominal discomfort quite regularly. We'd look at the Bisquick label and conclude that it was the powdered milk that was causing it.
I remember often desperately holding in a BM and scanning the environment for a place to relieve myself. These things just happened I rationalized. And even after trying to align the way I ate with the way my ancestors ate, years before I'd heard of Paleo, I still figured if I was to eat carbs that whole-grains had to be the best option. Later after discovering MDA and Paleo I still clung to the idea that complete elimination of grains was more about weight loss than anything else. It wasn't until I read this blog post that I decided for sure that it was the gluten and even got tested myself. Turns out I'm not celiac but the doctor summed it up best for me; "if cutting out the gluten is working for you... why not just keep doing that?" No arguments here, between being strict about the grain/gluten thing and eliminating/minimizing pufas I'm feeling much better than I ever have.
Bone and dental health improved due to reduced exposure to phytic acid.
Afternoon drowsiness after lunch between 1 to 3 pm disappeared.
Much more alert and have more energy due to stable blood sugar levels.
Gluten is actually the easiest thing for me to avoid; I really feel no craving for wheat products at all (can't say the same about potato chips, ice cream, etc.). I think that's partly because there was one very clear change: the nasty headaches that I used to get every couple weeks just went away. Now I may get one a couple times a year, so it's a stark difference. Those semi-annual ones may be caused by something else (probably stress), or I may inadvertently get glutenized that often. I think it's also helped with sleep, mental fog, energy, heartburn, and a variety of other things, but the headaches were the one clear indicator.
But it's also because it's such a clear poison. When gluten causes problems, it's because it tricks your immune system into attacking your own cells. I damage my cells enough with outside influences; I don't need them killing each other off, thanks. Especially in the brain, which is where we're learning gluten may cause the most havoc.
If I (personally) eat too many carbs, I know my blood sugar will go up, and if I overdo it there could be damage to the pancreas. In the long term, I could end up with full-blown diabetus. But that's treatable; injecting insulin can't be any fun, but people do it and go on living their lives. And it's a relative thing: you have (and require) some blood sugar, and there's a range above that that you can flirt with before causing unusual damage. So it's easy to rationalize to yourself: "Hey, I'll just have a little, and it'll be okay. Hey, I ate this stuff for years, one more time won't kill me. I'll be extra good tomorrow."
But if I eat gluten and my immune system starts attacking my thyroid or hypothalamus, that's not just more of something that was going on normally; that's something different happening. And it's pretty much binary, since gluten acts as a catalyst: either you ate enough gluten to start the auto-immune reaction or you didn't. There's no "oh, it'll just do a little damage" range to play with. Being extra good tomorrow won't necessarily stop the killing.
So that's why I don't find it any harder to pass up the pasta aisle than I would an aisle that said "arsenic and strychnine." Once you see it as a poison for your body, it's much easier to turn down. I wish I could see sugar and vegetable oils the same way (though I'm getting there with the oils).
Sinus Allergies - definitely. I used to have allergy headaches that would make me vomit to the point of having dry heaves. When You've already got a headache that makes you feel like the poor guy in "Casino" with his head in a vise, throwing up just makes the pain worse.
My sinuses haven't completely cleared up and they probably won't for as long as live in the Willamette Valley but now if i have headache, a couple Excedrin clear it right up and able to go on with my day.
Nowadays if I eating wheat my stomach goes completely haywire, so i never noticed a problem while I was eating them but I wouldn't go back. No ill effects from corn as far as I can tell.
There are MANY questions/threads on this.
A quick list of my symptoms that went away within 3 weeks:
Craving carbs since leaning out 3 Answers
Drastically reduced appetite? 10 Answers
Is this a good way to transition? 7 Answers