So I've passed a year eating from an ancestral/paleo framework, realizing that I've never derived any concrete answers from n=1 type experiments with food/supplements, besides the most general ("I feel better with more carbs than with hardly any", for example). Does anyone else find this? Having problems but still just shrugging in the produce aisle?
So ubiquitous and nonchalant on this board are statements like "I don't tolerate bananas" or "If I eat more than 2 eggs a day I break out" or "I feel better with 2.5 grams of krill oil, but not fish oil" and I simply have no idea how all this is known. Personal experience is king on PH, but I find it so murky. I feel stuff and notice changes, but can't tie it to anything. There is so many potentially confounding factors, and if I've understood correctly, a proper way to figure out if a food is problematic, one would:
It sounds easy on paper, but my life just ends up not fitting into that hermetic parameter and I've never really done it with any "A-ha!" assuredness. I could try adding in goat milk kefir today, changing nothing else, feel great tomorrow, then get a small pimple on the third day, which I might have gotten anyways, but maybe that was from that pesky apple I ate before the experiement, take the kefir out, feel just as great long after, which invalidates the intital effect, then stay up too late....you get the idea. I've given up on this way of thinking, it's silly. I've never been able to "go bacK" to a period of eating where I felt good and get the same effect.
I know something like heartburn or severe gas pain could be more of a red flag, but some problems don't give those clues. Then there's groups of foods (histamine, nightshades etc...), possible gluten contamination, the inherent effect of having a limited diet, a distorted memory of what things where like before, an off night of sleep, delayed reactions (especially with issues like acne), the myriad of way to prepare the food, the Heisenbergiish way something, like say your energy level, can change just by paying vigilant attention to it.
So is there a silent minority out there who are kind of blunted to this stuff, where food logs ended up being a creepy waste of time? How certain are you of the conclusions you've made about foods you avoid? Any tips for someone who doesn't want to ruin the fun of eating?
I think the whole "n=1" thing is largely a statement of empowerment, and acknowledgement that we control our own health and it's in our hands. I'm my own boss and agent of change and I don't need to be dictated to by some doctor or government health advisory board.
Or maybe not.
But yes, carried literally out I doubt that many of us have conducted our lives as strict, rigorous experiments.
I agree. I have never been able to follow through with such an "experiment" to get concrete results. I feel like a lot of the results people get are psychological more than anything: they think they should feel or perform better with or without something in particular and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the other hand, there are definitely people who have found real results from eliminating things like dairy, and most people here have seen the benefits of avoiding grains. But a lot of the smaller changes like switching multivitamins or eliminating a banana from breakfast can be harder to pinpoint.
I've still not figured out what causes my random acne (I never had acne before paleo so it's REALLY annoying). And with GERD it didn't turn out to be a specific food, because when I test the suspects, nothing happened. It's possible it was bacterial or inflammatory in nature. And then there were foods that used to cause issues in self-experiments, and all the sudden I tolerate them. It makes me yearn for a home laboratory to get to the bottom of some of these things, but I just have to accept that there are lots of systems at work and simple experiments aren't going to actually be simple. I keep having to adjust things and generate hypotheses to test. I just keep charting and logging through the chaos and hope something good comes out.
My n=1 conclusions follow a a repeated (many many - sometimes due to cheats) on off testing cycle, I retest every now and then. Dairy makes me depressed, and not getting enough B-vitamins makes me itch and flake. - some things like acid reflux never came back even when I stopped fermented foods which I initially thought was the cure, so I think it's potentially connected, but I wouldn't say for sure. However, the postnasal drip comes back whenever I stop fermented foods.
I realize that many things I initially thought were having an effect on me didn't stand up to repeated testing - and I occasionally try to find alternates to what I typically eat to keep certain things away.
Different people test their theories in different ways - my favourite is the on again off again. But I do sometimes think a lot of people jump the gun and over report results, for the sake being able to join the convo. And the people who report results from the woo just make me want to stab someone.
I'm extremely certain of my own observations, but I still retest every now and then. Also if I'm looking to solve something I go at it one isolated problem at a time - right now I've got a non diet related issue to solve - so experimenting with my diet doesn't get so boring. I like paleohacks for the ideas on things to test - dietwise.
I feel relatively confident of my n=1 experimentation in the realm of sleep, not food, although I am painfully aware that correlation does not imply causation. I also try not to overinterpret my results.
I have some confidence about my sleep experiments only because I have a data-capable CPAP machine and cross-platform software that I can use to read scarily comprehensive data about every breath I take at night. Not only can I see the flow rate, and monitor my apneic events, I can track changes in minute ventilation, respiration rate, inspiration time, expiration time, as well as the more ordinary bedtime, waking time, and total hours sleeping. I wouldn't be anal-retentive enough to chart all this stuff manually; thank heavens for the software.
The software has a place for notes, so I started tracking pertinent information some time ago, including notes on my experiments and observations.
It was the data from my software that made me give up caffeine, to my sorrow but to the betterment of my sleep.
I get what you're saying, and I have similar feelings at times. However, after reading a lot about the diet, the tolerance ranges, and individual responses, I have a slightly different take.
I've been going for about two months, and noticed aN almost immediate boost in mood and energy. I had been easing into it for a month prior, so I didn't get any of the low-carb flu symptoms. This past month, I've added and removed various items -- rice, potatoes, dairy, minimal legumes -- and have had no ill effects. I also tried adding back a little gluten (a non-GF beer), and that caused significant problems for me the next day, and I felt back to normal the day after.
This has led me to the conclusion that I'm in really good shape compared to a lot of the participants here, in regards to what I can tolerate. It seems that my system can tolerate just about any cheat I throw at it. And I can even have the beer, occasional piece of bread, or a bit of pasta if I'm willing to pay for it for a day or so. Rather than deciding that your N=1 has been meaningless, perhaps it just confirms that the basic diet has given you the most benefit, and you may not have any extreme intolerances.
Yes, I just gave up for the most part with diet tweaking. I think worrying about diet is causing more problems than it's fixing. I mean, beyond obvious rules like:
Anything more tenuous than that just seems too susceptible to autosuggestion and superstitious conditioning. I don't like behaviorism, but all the rules people (myself included) come up with about what foods they react to or don't react to remind me of the pigeons in this experiment:
"If a clock is now arranged to present the food hopper at regular intervals with no reference whatsoever to the bird's behavior, operant conditioning usually takes place. In six out of eight cases the resulting responses were so clearly defined that two observers could agree perfectly in counting instances. One bird was conditioned to turn counter-clockwise about the cage, making two or three turns between reinforcements. Another repeatedly thrust its head into one of the upper corners of the cage. A third developed a 'tossing' response, as if placing its head beneath an invisible bar and lifting it repeatedly. Two birds developed a pendulum motion of the head and body, in which the head was extended forward and swung from right to left with a sharp movement followed by a somewhat slower return. The body generally followed the movement and a few steps might be taken when it was extensive. Another bird was conditioned to make incomplete pecking or brushing movements directed toward but not touching the floor. None of these responses appeared in any noticeable strength during adaptation to the cage or until the food hopper was periodically presented. In the remaining two cases, conditioned responses were not clearly marked."
THis is where I learn the most from. I test read, listen, and ask questions. THen I try different strategies out. I usually notice an effect or the absence of one anywhere between a few hours and a few days. Then I take what works and discard what doesn't. Seems to be working pretty well.
The worst experiences I have had with this is reading something that seems logical and which other people have gotten some good results from. It seems compelling. SO I try it and I keep feeling and performing worse, but keep at it because the message is so persistent. then eventually I say f*** this I'm going back to what I was doing before, because it is working pretty damn well. it is really hard to stay objective when there is so much information in opposition to the results you've had with a particular approach.
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