How a Stroke at 25 Inspired a Life Change for Blogger of the Week, 'The Domestic Man'

Rachel Tepper

Fast food taste tests, waitresses getting massive tips, the best restaurants across America — these are just a few of the topics Yahoo Food readers loved the most. In a tribute to you, our reader, we are revisiting some of our most popular stories of 2015.

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At 25, Russ Crandall was the picture of health. In 2005, the Navy translator—fluent in Russian and Indonesian—was so fit that he was often enlisted to whip out-of-shape recruits into, well, shape. And then, out of the blue, everything changed.

“I had a stroke, and my body just stopped working the way I was expecting,” the force behind paleo blog The Domestic Man told Yahoo Food. “The doctors couldn’t figure out why. They were like, ‘Figure out how to write again. Figure out how to walk.’”

Within six months, Crandall had relearned both—he credits the speedy recovery to his youth and otherwise good health—but the absence of an explanation left him rattled. His concerns only worsened a year later, when he began feeling sick again. “I was out of breath all the time, but I couldn’t figure out what it was,” Crandall said. “Eventually, the doctors figured out I had some sort of pulmonary heart disease.”

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A kebab party, Domestic Man-style. Photo: thedomesticman/Instagram

Specifically, Crandall has Takayasu’s arteritis, an autoimmune condition so rare that he’s literally “one in a million.” Most sufferers are female and of Asian descent, which makes Crandall’s case all the stranger. The disease causes inflammation of the pulmonary artery, which constricts blood flow “like a tube getting thinner.” Crandall’s lungs weren’t getting enough oxygenated blood, which left him out of breath. The condition likely to blame for his stroke, too: His doctors believe a piece of inflamed tissue broke off and traveled to Crandall’s brain.

Crandall underwent a series of treatments over three years, including an invasive surgery that proved unsuccessful. “It didn’t fix anything, and that’s when I started getting angry,” he said. “I felt like I was about 60 or 70 years old, even though I was in my 20s. It was depressing.”

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A Domestic Man post in progress. Photo: thedomesticman/Instagram

But things changed completely in 2010 when Crandall came across The Paleo Solution, a book by Robb Wolf that promotes the so-called paleo diet, which eschews most grains in favor of vegetables and healthy fats. “His book basically said this diet can help with autoimmune disease,” Crandall said. “I had never once thought about the connection between food and health. I thought you eat what you want, and health is something you take pills for. I read the book in two days, and changed my diet immediately.”

Crandall says that within three weeks, his symptoms had all but vanished, leaving his doctors astounded. Crandall began documenting his meals on his blog, which he had recently begun as a hobby, and that’s when it really took off. These days, he boasts nearly 40,000 followers on Facebook and 13,400 on Instagram. He’s even authored two cookbooks—The Ancestral Table and The Safe Starch Cookbook—with plans to release another, Paleo Take Out, in June.

Hungry to learn more about Russ Crandall? Here’s everything else you need to know.

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Crandall’s pressure cooker short ribs.

1. He grew up working in restaurants.

“My first job was working at Burger King, at 16. From there, I worked in restaurants for four years: a couple fast food places, and then a pizza parlor for awhile. Then I worked up to being a line chef in a home-style family dinner place. Meatloaf, chicken fried steak, that kind of thing. Everything that was made from scratch, and that really helped me get my basics down.”

2. He’s a member of an elite group: Navy translators.

“I speak for a living, basically. We’re a small community; there’s only 2,000 of us in the whole U.S. Navy. I chose it because I didn’t want to be tying knots on a ship. I wanted to do something academic, and languages seemed romantic. It’s predictable, but a lot of fun. I spent several years on a job where I would fly out to Japan or Singapore or Australia, anywhere a U.S. ship pulls in. I did that for seven years, off and on, and that’s really where I started picking up international recipes.”

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A gluten-free Jamaican stew called “ital.”

3. He’s a lover of food history.

“I like to put a little food history in [my posts] because it’s fun and interesting to me. I’m all about traditional recipes; I like the idea of using them instead of trying to invent a new recipe. I mean, I can use traditional recipes that already include healthy ingredients, which people have perfected over thousands of years. It just makes sense.”

4. Eating paleo is a family affair.

“I was married in 2007, and then we had our son in 2009. As you can imagine, when I changed my diet in 2010, we did it as a family. My wife kind of likes hard-and-fast rules: She likes the idea of having to figure out a new way of eating, but using these parameters. It’s kind of fun.”

5. His interpretation of the paleo diet is different than others’.

“I take some liberties with my paleo, because I’m very pro-white rice. I think it’s a very neutral starch, although a lot of people are dogmatic about not eating it. I guess I’m more like a ‘paleo-friendly’ blogger, because there’s a lot of ‘non-paleo’ stuff on my blog. Like, I’m OK with some dairy. I’ll use a very little bit of butter or cream. I say ’do what works for you.’”

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Crandall’s take on a Cambodian pork and seafood noodle soup.

6. He believes the diet works because it eliminates omega−6 fatty acids.

“Vegetable oil and canola oil, even though they’re promoted and marketed as healthy oils, have been shown to cause inflammation in the body. Cutting those fats and replacing them with more natural fats like butter and lard, I think, made a big difference for me. Wheat, oats, barley, and rye are high in omega-6, too.”

7. He never has a cheat day.

“It’s a lifestyle for me. It’s really hard to explain how it feels, to be sick for a long time and then to be better. It’s just so awesome.”

Previous bloggers of the week to get on your radar:

Alejandra Ramos of Always Order Dessert, who takes inspiration from all corners of the globe.

Christine Arel of healthy food blog No Gojis, No Glory, who has lived all over the globe

The hardworking couple behind seasonal food blog Brooklyn Supper

Who’s your favorite food blogger? Tell us below!