The Paleo Diet Phenomenon

by Jennifer Boudreau on June 10, 2013

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CavemanSoon after my husband and I got married I started packing on a few pounds. To fix the problem we decided to train for a full marathon, and as you can imagine the weight immediately fell off. Another year or two came and went and I started gaining a few pounds again. One morning at the gym I noticed the gym socialite, Ron, had started to lose some weight. I asked him what he was doing and he happily educated me on The South Beach Diet. I was skeptical because I did not want to jump on a fad diet band wagon, but I could not help but be intrigued. I immediately bought and read the book, and I was sold.

My husband and I successfully applied the South Beach lifestyle for several years. I will admit I loved it. The lifestyle was easy to apply, I looked and felt great, and it made sense for me. I ended up getting pregnant and left South Beach behind due to many food aversions, but another popular lifestyle has caught my attention for one reason; inflammation.

Here is the deal. When you have frequent or chronic pain like me, you are willing to listen to anyone who may have an answer for you. I cannot seem to get away from reading or hearing individuals talk about how the Paleo diet has helped with inflammation. For the last decade, my neck has been a nagging problem. It has caused chronic migraines and prevented me from giving my body the hard and efficient workout I have been dying to give it. While cleansing and detoxing has improved my condition, I am ready to take the next step and prevent flare ups from happening by altering my food. After all, many health conditions can be resolved by changing what goes into your mouth.

So, what is the Paleo Diet? According to The Paleo Diet website, “The Paleo Diet is based upon every day, modern foods that mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors.” I am not a dietician, but this statement alone makes perfect sense to me. It has been said our food has changed more in the last 50 years than it has in the previous 10,000 years. This freaks me out! Our bodies certainly have not had time to adapt to the changes food processing has brought to the table. No wonder this country is sick. Our food is packed with sugar and refined carbohydrates and our bodies simply are not equipped to handle these rapid changes. To me, the concept of eating in the way our body is capable of handling sounds incredibly logical and appealing.

What are the benefits of the Paleo lifestyle? The Paleo Diet website claims a reduction in obesity, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, etc), osteoporosis, acne, myopia (nearsightedness), macular degeneration, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, gastric reflux, and gout. According to research by Dr. Loren Cordain and his colleagues, hunter-gatherers were not plagued with these chronic conditions.

Now, let’s get to the important part. What do you eat? You can eat grass-produced meats, fish & seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, healthful oils (olive, walnut, flax seed, macadamia, avocado and coconut). Yep, you eat like a modern day cave man. How is that for an oxymoron? For a list of foods you can and cannot eat, click here.

In case you did not notice, you are not permitted to eat dairy, cereal grains (wheat, barley, rice, oats, etc) or legumes. Dairy I can understand, because many people have issues digesting it, possibly indicating that our bodies have not evolved enough to handle it well. Cereal grains I can understand because grains are consistently linked to inflammation, especially in the gut. But, why no legumes? I did a bit of digging and found that legumes, similar to cereal grains, contain a form of lectins (carbohydrate binding proteins) which can create autoimmune responses. Not to mention the above-mentioned came in to existence after the agricultural revolution and were not around during the Paleolithic (caveman) era; therefore, they are not allowed.

Keep in mind this is just one school of thought, and I cannot confirm how much, if any, is backed by hard science. There are many testimonies stating the benefits, but while testimonies are often times better than science, they can also create unnecessary hype. What may work for one person may not work for another. As many others though, I am certainly willing to give this a whirl and see what my results are. After all, answers are always in the results. To be continued….

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