01 Apr Paleo Diet- Physician’s Perspective
In this column I plan to discuss the Paleo Diet from a physician’s perspective.
I first heard about the Paleo diet around 2009, and over the years my appreciation has grown from an interest in this ancestral way of eating to a newfound look on life. As a physician who is passionate about leading my patients to optimal wellness, Paleo is more than just a diet. It is a lifestyle that presents a foundation of habits, rituals and overall mindset that promotes a more balanced, nutritious and enjoyable way of living. While there are different versions of Paleo (some less healthy than others), there are a few key points that lay out what Paleo really means to a health professional. These include:
- Eating for your genetic makeup and avoiding those ingredients that your body cannot recognize as food
- Getting most of your foods and consuming them in the most beneficial ways
- Opting for foods grown and raised as closely to their natural state as possible (farm fresh, grass fed, wild caught, locally grown)
- Getting the body back in rhythm with nature and natural movement
- Focus on Tribe and Family
Paleo Diet Principles
Simply put, what makes Paleo the ideal lifestyle are the foundational principles that encourage us to eat, live, move in the ways we were genetically designed. We were not designed to function on these chemically altered chain restaurant “Frankenfoods” and preservative laden snacks with 10 year shelf lives. We were not meant to sit in front of a computer all day, a television all evening and a handheld device in the times in between. Our bodies are not designed to be eating highly processed and genetically modified foods or feedlot animals fed these genetically modified foods such as corn and soy, and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.
We are designed to function as a clan or a tribe, to eat and move naturally, to hold one another up in times of strife and lead our children by being present and letting them learn through our actions.
“…the foundational principle that really makes Paleo the ideal lifestyle is the fact that it simply encourages us to eat, live, move and be the way that we were genetically designed to function.”
Children Now Have a Shorter Life Expectancy than Their Parents
I’ll never forget reading the 2005 New England Journal of Medicine report stating that for the first time in history, our children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. 1) In a nation where the average sugar consumption is estimated to be upwards of 22 teaspoons of sugar daily and 87% of the population aren’t eating the embarrassingly low daily recommended intake of vegetables and fruits, well it isn’t much of a surprise that life expectancy will soon be declining. 2) Is this the future we want for our children?
The fact is, our country’s health status is in a dire state. We live in a nation where over two-thirds of the population are overweight and over one-third is obese. 3) For the first time in history the vast majority of the population are actually overfed and undernourished and despite the fact that we are consuming excessive amounts of calories, 90% of the population has at least one nutritional deficiency. 4) In addition to being over fat, we are inundated with toxic foods, behaviors, medicines and lifestyle practices daily, creating a toxic environment in our bodies. It should be no surprise that cases of cancer, mental health disorders, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune conditions and disease in general continue to skyrocket. There are a number of ways that the Paleo diet can positively impact our toxic stressful lives.
Paleo Diet Guidelines
- Limiting, or better yet, eliminating genetically modified foods- By cutting out the foods most likely to be genetically modified, such as corn and soy, you can drastically decrease the amount of problematic foods entering the body while creating gaps in the diet that can be filled with more nutritious vegetables, fruits and healthy fats.
- Opting for grass fed, farm raised and locally grown- Fifteen years ago it was much more difficult to track down a grass fed beef or free range chickens, toda
y it’s amazing how easy it’s becoming to find farm fresh eggs (many actually raise them in their backyards) or grass fed beef. I believe as more people continue to opt for these foods, farmers and ranchers can and will continue to bring them to market. Personally, I love the fact that I can support my neighbor’s way of life while ensuring that my food is locally grown and harvested.
- Eating more Living Foods- Not long ago, sauerkraut was only found in the in the inner aisles of the grocery store and packaged in a way to kill every last bit of nutrition and the vast majority of the population had never heard of “live and active organisms”, let alone kombucha or kefir. Paleo encourages consuming live and fermented foods whenever possible. If we’re eating living food we’re hopefully eating less junk and thus putting less pollution in our bodies; not to mention the bounty of benefits that come from these probiotic rich foods.
- Saying Goodbye to Grains- Possibly my top favorite thing about Paleo is, when properly followed, it automatically eliminates gluten and grains. I’ve spent much of the past 6 years of my life researching and witnessing the detrimental effects of gluten (and often grains in general) and I’ve come to whole-heartedly believe that every person can benefit from removing grains from their diet. Modern grains (particularly wheat) have been manipulated and processed to promote drastically higher yields and lower nutritional value. And, while we are now able to grow and process much larger amounts of grains at a lower cost, Americans are paying the price with the detrimental effects that these toxic grains have on our health. Compared to antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory vegetables and fruits, grains are lacking in essential vitamins and minerals, and tend to promote inflammation in the body.
- Disconnecting and reconnecting- The Paleo lifestyle emphasizes the importance of disconnecting from modern society’s habits, behaviors and expectations, and reconnecting with nature, family and our body’s true needs. So get off the treadmill and walk outside. Step away from the television and catch a sunset. Put the phone down and have a conversation with the person next to you. Step out of the grocery store and into the local farmers market.
As I continue to follow a Paleo diet and lifestyle and use it with my patients, I’m continually encouraged by new ideas and information that can help us consider how to enhance and even lengthen the limited time we have on this planet. As a physician, I believe the Paleo diet is the answer to so much of our nation’s declining health, climbing obesity rate and increasing disease rates. It provides a way to nourish our bodies in the ways they were designed, and provides a template we can use to learn how to thrive in this life rather than simply survive.
-Jason M. Kremer, DC, CCSP, CSCS
1) S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D., Douglas J. Passaro, M.D., Ronald C. Hershow, M.D., Jennifer Layden, M.P.H., Bruce A. Carnes, Ph.D., Jacob Brody, M.D., Leonard Hayflick, Ph.D., Robert N. Butler, M.D., David B. Allison, Ph.D., and David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D.
N Engl J Med 2005; 352:1138-1145March 17, 2005DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsr043743
What America’s Missing: A 2011 Report on the Nation’s Nutrient Gap.