by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
A gastroenterologist, Walter Voegtlin, was the first to introduce the concept of the Palaeolithic diet via his book and it was later developed by Stanley Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner, and then popularized by Loren Cordain in his 2002 book, ‘The Paleo Diet’.
The paleo diet (palaeolithic hunter/gatherer foods) consists of foods that would normally be hunted or fished like meat, organ meat, seafood, and foods that can be gathered like eggs, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.
Foods that are not included on the paleo diet are anything processed like sugar, grains, and legumes (beans and peanuts) and also dairy products and salt.
Raw Dairy is included in some paleo diets and is called a ‘Neo-Paleo’ diet.
With a simple shift in what we eat, we can not only remove foods that are incongruent with good health, such as grains, legumes, and dairy, but we also increase our intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, by boosting our amount of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here are some reported benefits of Paleo eating:
Studies have shown that Paleo eating can prevent and even reverse the signs and symptoms of insulin resistance that typifies type 2 diabetes, possibly due to having better insulin stability.
Cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death in many countries, but interestingly, studies on our Palaeolithic ancestors and hunter-gatherers showed virtually no heart attack or stroke from eating ancestral diets.
The immune system identifies a foreign invader, attacks it, and ideally clears the infection. An autoimmune process occurs when our body’s immune system attacks itself as part of an on-going repair system to damaged tissue, but then doesn’t know when to stop the breakdown of tissue.
Common forms of autoimmunity include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, and vitiligo to name a fraction of autoimmune diseases. Elements of autoimmunity are likely at play in conditions such as schizophrenia, infertility, and various forms of cancer.
You know, these seemingly unrelated diseases share a common cause, which is damage to the intestinal lining. That damage allows large, undigested food particles to make their way into the body, creating ‘leaky gut’ and the autoimmune response that goes with this condition. Healing a leaky gut has shown favourable results for many of these conditions.
Many people have found that a paleo diet has reduced or healed their leaky gut syndrome.
- Nothing Processed
One of the major upsides of the paleo diet is that it recommends avoidance of all processed foods and recommends a good percentage of raw foods (e.g. salads). There are many benefits to eating foods in their natural state.
- Wild caught or pasture raised animal protein, eggs, and fish
A paleo diet is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are known to reduce inflammation, improve focus, aid digestion, improve neurological function, and restore healthy skin (to name a few).
Paleo diets usually contain around 30% of food energy from animal foods like wild caught fish, pasture raised turkey, chicken, duck, and their eggs. Lean protein is said to support optimal immune function, strong muscles, and healthy bones, and helps to keep you feeling more satisfied between meals.
Scientific research show that diets rich in the ‘good fats’ can dramatically reduce obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline.
Bone broths using the bones of pasture raised or wild caught animals and fish are used extensively in the paleo diet, as well as fermented foods and other good healthy fats from foods like coconut
- Raw and cooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
A paleo diet contains 60% of food energy from nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, with some eaten raw, soaked, sprouted or fermented to support digestion.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients can help decrease the likelihood of developing various degenerative diseases including cancer, diabetes, and neurological decline.
Before you commence your diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.
Client name and identifying information changed
Ralph came to see me because he didn’t know what he should be eating. He received lots of advice from friends at the gym, the internet, and his mum. They all had something different to say about how he could lose some weight and gain muscle.
He had seen the Paleo diet mentioned online, but he wasn’t sure if it suited him as he was raised to believe that he should eat carbs with every meal.
After checking him naturopathically, I couldn’t find any reason why the Paleo diet would not suit him. I said, “Do what your instincts tell you is best to eat, regardless of what you are trying to achieve or what you have read or what anyone says”.
His response was that he always felt that his body responded best when he ate a protein-based meal with some vegetables or salad, but he usually felt quite bloated and uncomfortable when he added any starchy or sweet foods to his meals, or if he had dessert after a main meal.
That sounded like the right answer to me and I replied, “Go for it Ralph, eat what feels best for your body”.
With that, Ralph decided to follow a Paleo diet plan for three months and see how he felt. At the end of that time, he had made no other changes to his lifestyle, but lost 5kgs, gained muscle mass, looked trim, fit and healthy. He was delighted. 🙂