How a Miracle Diet Saved a Man's Life

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How a Miracle Diet Saved a Man's Life

Russ Crandall thought there was nothing he could do to save himself from his crippling autoimmune disease, until he discovered a miracle diet that saved his life. Learn how many medications Crandall was able to wean himself off because of the Paleo diet and more about his incredible story.

Crandall was diagnosed in 2006. His doctors recommended he receive a dangerous surgery with a 1 in 10 chance that he might not make it off the table alive. "I underwent a really drastic surgery, which the doctors promised would fix everything, and then it didn't fix anything," remembers Crandall. "Here I am, gambling with my own life, and I come out of it with nothing to show. That was the worst part."

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For years Crandall felt doomed by his diagnosis and failed surgery, but in 2010, he chanced upon an article about the Paleo diet, a diet he'd never heard of before. He was instantly intrigued when he read that it can help with autoimmune issues. "You can imagine, when I'm in that kind of situation, and I read things about some diet where all I have to do is eat meat and vegetables and I'll feel fine, I [am] going to try this out," he says.

The diet made sense to Crandall, who appreciated "the idea that it wasn't some sort of newfangled thing, it was a more old-fashioned way of eating, and [naturally, the fact] that it would probably help to restore my health." He rushed out to a Barnes & Noble and picked up Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. He took just two days to think about it and "jumped right in."

While you might expect a feast of unhealthy food before a diet, Crandall's last meal nearly fit into the diet he was about to take on. "I was at a Caribbean restaurant and I had jerk pork, rice and plantains," he explains. "I remember sitting down to the meal and realizing that it was naturally gluten-free and close to Paleo already. I thought to myself, 'Alright. I can do this.' The rest is history."

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"My body was like, 'what are you doing to me?' but after about a week, I started feeling good," Crandall recalls.

While week one was an adjustment, Crandall's occupation made the transition easier. He is in the Navy and was stationed at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where "they don't have anywhere else to eat except the one place: the mess facility," he explains. "There are all sorts of foods that fall in line with the Paleo way of eating."

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Within three weeks of starting the Paleo diet, Crandall's health issues were starting to go away. "Pretty crazy!" he remarks. "The number one thing I noticed was that I was sleeping better [and] I wasn't getting tired half way through the day, which was always happening after lunch." He also started breathing better.

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"It was about a month [after starting the Paleo diet] before I even went to see a doctor, so I wanted to have something really impressive to show them," he offers. "To this day they say, 'you just all the sudden happened to get better, it didn't have anything to do with this crazy diet.' Most regular doctors don't even think about how diet works; they are so focused on drugs and all that other stuff. It is not even on their radar."

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Of what he misses the most from his old diet, Crandall remarks, "I haven't had a donut in three years—imagine that." Still, Crandall misses pizza the most and made a point to develop a gluten- and grain-free pizza recipe that even people eating Paleo could enjoy. "It took us a year or two and we developed a pizza recipe," he shares. "It's one of our biggest hits on the website, [my blog, The Domestic Man."

Now, both Crandall's son and wife follow a Paleo diet. "My wife saw how well I was doing and she jumped on with me. She has lost weight naturally, not even by trying. Her energy levels are definitely pretty consistent, as are mine."

Unlike most people on the Paleo diet, Crandall and his family do eat white rice. "There are very few people in the Paleo world who [are ok with eating white rice] right now, but I think in five years they will be ok with it. It is so much more complex [and] it also helps keep a balanced diet. I see a lot of people who do a very strict version of Paleo, which is just meat and vegetables, and they can only keep that up for about a month and then they fall off the wagon and give into all of their cravings. I've never had a 'cheat meal' in the three years I've been doing this."

"At my worst, I was taking about 15 pills a day, and I was having to inject medications into my own stomach every day," explains Crandall. "Now, I'm at one pill a day, and I'm probably going to try and get off of it in the next year or so. I think anybody put in [my] situation [in which] you were told, 'ok, here is a lifetime of medications, try to survive for the next 50 years doing this,' would try to find something to fix it. I was just lucky that I happened upon that article when I was still pretty young."

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On a typical day, Crandall's breakfast consists of a protein such as a hard-boiled egg, smoked salmon or a can of sardines and some fruit such as a plum or berries.

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Lunch consists of leftovers from dinner the night before.

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For dinner, Crandall enjoys roasting a whole chicken. "You get a lot of variety of tastes that way," he says. He eats the chicken with a side of rice, made tastier in a nice broth, and vegetables.

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When selecting meats to cook with, Crandall prefers to buy grass-fed or organic. "If it's too expensive for either of those, I'll go for regular meats, but I'll try to go for the leanest ones possible because all of the bad stuff in meat is found in the fat," he explains. "You are not getting many toxins like that."

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In describing the Paleo diet, the first thing Crandall tells people is "it is not actually a caveman's diet. Really, it is just the idea of eating foods where you know where the ingredients came from," he offers. "I don't even look at going back to paleolithic times, I [look at] going back about a hundred years. We need to look at the way our grandparents and great grandparents ate. Those people lived long and healthy lives and a lot of that came from the fact that they cooked at home using whole foods."

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Crandall's favorite Paleo ingredients fall within the realm of Asian cooking. "I lived in Hawaii for seven years and my wife is from Hawaii so we got really attached to Asian food," he shares. "I like anything that has that umami taste, fish sauce and salt. I love salt."

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While Crandall has never met anyone with his exact disease ("There are probably only a dozen people in the US who have my particular condition," he explains.), he has met many people who have seen success, like he has, through using the Paleo diet.

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Most people look at a diet as a means to lose weight, but some have stumbled upon a diet that actually saved them from a crippling disease. Food blogger Russ Crandall (aka The Domestic Man) did just that. At just 24, Crandall suffered a stroke. "It just came out of nowhere," said Crandall. "I was a healthy guy and all of the sudden the left side of my body wasn't working."

While he regained control of his left half in just three weeks, a year later, in 2006, Crandall was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, Takayasu's Arteritis, and for the next three years felt helpless. "I thought, 'I'm never going to be healthy again, I'm going to be weak and tired all the time; there is nothing I can do,'" he recalls. "I can just sit here and take these pills until the pills get the best of me, because a lot [them] were really bad for my liver, so it was pretty tough."

Then, by a stroke of luck, Crandall discovered a way out: the Paleo diet.

Check out the slideshow above to learn how the Paleo diet saved his life, how many medications Crandall was able to stop taking because of the diet and more about his incredible story.

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