Today’s episode is a refreshing one.
Randy and I host Diane Sanfilippo, certified nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo.
We talk about autoimmunity and the Paleo Diet, why it’s working so well, and how to customize it to meet your unique needs.
Diane and I run in the same “health peeps” circle but this is the first time we’ve actually connected.
I am pretty non-dogmatic when it comes to diets and don’t believe in any “one way is the only way” (i.e. Paleo-or-bust) mentality.
Admittedly, I kind of expected her to be a bit of a staunch Paleo aficionado, and was quite surprised to find out that she’s not.
She’s just about eating whole, real, unprocessed foods.
Me too. 🙂
I am also about finding out what's exactly going in the body, as well as understanding your own very unique constitution so that you can effectively use the right foods as your medicine to heal and balance yourself.
Her too. 🙂
Agreeing that there are many dietary paths up the same mountain, we hit it off great!
Here are a just a few of the things we have to share with you today:
Why and How You Can Use a Paleo-esque Diet to Heal Autoimmune Conditions
60-80% of our immune system lives in our gut, our digestive system. When it comes to immune health and autoimmunity, the focus is on getting the digestive system working properly because digestion is the foundation of all human health.
From a Paleo perspective, it means removing the foods that irritate or inflame the digestive system and foods that kill our good gut bacteria (flora), decrease HCL production, or thin the lining of our gut.
In addition to avoiding the foods that trigger these things as well as an autoimmune reaction, the Paleo diet is effective for helping with intestinal issues because it’s naturally a gluten-free diet.
Diane mentions how researcher Alessio Fasano has shown in detail how gluten proteins have a direct correlation to promoting leaky gut. Leaky gut means that the digestive system, the small intestine, is not breaking down protein properly and when that happens, the immune system flairs up because it sees the protein as an invader. This is one of the root causes of all different types of autoimmune conditions.
Then we talk about the autoimmune protocol (AIP). With autoimmune conditions, there may be some foods that are considered paleo-friendly but should be avoided for an introductory period of time, such as 30, 60, or 90 days. Examples of these foods are eggs, nuts and seeds, and nightshade vegetables. This type of diet may not cure an autoimmune disease but it can support the body in preventing disease and putting symptoms into remission.
When an Increase in Fat is Hard on the Body
Many people who shift their diet to this new way of thinking increase their fat intake. It’s important to do that slowly to prevent “shocking” or congesting the gall bladder and liver. Diane suggests supplementing with ox bile (I love and use this too), which will assist your body in digesting fat.
Paleo and Blood Sugar Regulation
I asked Diane about blood sugar regulation and thyroid health. I have found that my some of my hard-core Paleo clients were sneaking sugar in under the radar. That was a sign to me that they weren’t getting enough of the right kind of carbs in their daily diet. I also found that many of my hypothyroid folks just couldn’t get their energy back without increasing their carbs.
Diane answers this gracefully, giving us a list of healthy carbs to eat to bump up your ratio without increasing inflammation. Some examples of starchy vegetables that do the trick are butternut squash, parsnips, turnips, plantains, acorn squash, lotus root, and yams. These are great sources of carbohydrates for athletes too.
Should We Eat Grains?
Coming to this health world via the route of macrobiotics, I really love gluten-free grains. This seems to miff the paleo folks. Sure, I take some people off of them completely while their gut is healing, but sometimes that is just too big of a change for people. For this reason, I have them soak/sprout them first, use kombu (sea vegetable) like a bay leaf for cooking, take enzymes if needed to digest them, and they do fine.
Diane’s opinion on this is great. She suggests if you are not in a state of optimal health, grains should be avoided for a period of time. Once the gut is healed, sprouted and soaked grains can be introduced. But keep in mind, when we talk about consuming grains, we are talking about whole, natural, unprocessed grains and not bread, cereal, pasta, etc. We are talking about the grains that our ancestors might have consumed.
What’s Up With All This Bacon?
Sometimes it seems (or is it just me???) that the Paleo diet is a euphamism for “The Bacon Diet”. I mean, a dear friend of mine and renowned Paleo chef recently had shirts made for her company that say “Everything you see I owe to bacon”. LOL.
But seriously, I had to ask Diane, what’s up with all this bacon?
She laughed, remaining agnostic to the bacon diet and said the most important thing when it comes to bacon is how the pig was raised. So if you eat “Paleo” and are heavy on the bacon, make sure that those pigs were eating organic, non-GMO feed. Do not eat processed pork or bacon that contains nitrates or additives. (Our friends at Pete's Paleo make stellar TWJ-approved bacon and they deliver nationwide.)
How Do You Get Started if This is All New to You?
Pick up Diane's book, Practical Paleo. It is honestly one of the best books I’ve read out there because it’s way more than a cookbook. It dives deep into health conditions with easy explanations and a motivating action plan.
Practical Paleo is divided into three sections.
1: Background information: What the paleo diet is and how it came to be, how food works in your body, why we should eat certain things and avoid others, and specific meal plans for different health conditions. Diane wanted to provide people with not only recipes, but the “why” and the “how”. Practical Paleo starts off discussing autoimmune conditions, blood sugar regulation, digestive health and thyroid health. She's driving home the points of functional medicine in this section and demonstrates how the body is so interconnected.
2: How to avoid avoiding processed, refined foods, grains & legumes (while you heal), processed dairy, sugars, and sweeteners.
3: Amazing recipes that don’t take forever or a lot of skill to make.
Diane’s message to those who are apprehensive about getting started on this way of eating is to understand the whole point of it (health!) and to go slowly. Take baby steps if you are overwhelmed. Get involved in the community of real foodies. It’s full or warm, embracing, passionate people who are happy to help you understand how to execute a new way of eating.
Since we aren’t trying to take a staunch “Paleo only” way here, we talked about if we were we designed to eat this way.
The answer: Maybe, maybe not.
But we certainly were NOT designed to eat the litany of processed and packages foods that come from factories that we are eating today. Compared to that, this seems like the most logical way to eat and maybe this is the pendulum swinging the other way to heal us from going so very off course in the extreme opposite direction.
Now that Diane and I have this new found love for one another, will be teaming up for her 21-Day Sugar Detox program (check it out here) that has been tried and tested to detox even the most addicted of sugar junkies.
Some people (who have Candida) are just not ready to dive directly into our Candida diet/cleanse so we are teaming up to offer her very slow, yet graceful, 3-week plan to prepare the body for radical success on the Candida Cleanse.
Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo