Lots of confusion surrounds the Paleo Diet. I am not here to pretend that I am the one who holds the TRUTH. I do want you to understand where I am coming from as I am writing this article. My view of the Paleo Diet is not about adhering to what our ancestors in the Paleolithic era ate. It’s about finding the healing protocol that will help you and your family feel great and overcome chronic diseases. In this post, I want to address the somewhat controversial topic: Is the Paleo Diet good for your gut health?
The Obvious Benefits of the Paleo Diet for Gut Health
Not everyone believes that the Paleo Diet is optimal, as you can imagine. However, there are a few points that everyone can agree on:
- Eliminating processed foods helps improve your gut health.
- Eliminating dairy products reduces inflammation.
- Eating a varied nutrient-dense diet helps promote a rich microbiome.
In short, the Paleo Diet is a diet that implements all the 5 Steps to Rebuilding your Gut Flora. It removes inflammatory foods, it supports detoxification, it nourishes your body, it helps you banish parasites and regenerate your microbiome.
The Disputed Benefits of the Paleo Diet for Gut Health
Before we go any further with this post, I want to address a few benefits of the Paleo Diet that are sometimes contested:
- Removing grains: Grains contain anti-nutrients; therefore they should be removed from your diet as they damage your gut lining and impede nutrient absorption. Some argue that all plants contain anti-nutrients and it’s not a reason to avoid them. They also say that anti-nutrients have important health benefits. Furthermore, an Australian study, published in July in the European Journal of Nutrition, demonstrated a correlation between the proliferation of a bad gut bacteria called Hungatella and the absence of whole grains in the subjects’ diet. The fewer whole grains they consumed, the more of the bad bacteria they had. The consumption of whole grains seems to help improve the composition of the gut microbiome.
- Removing legumes: Legumes also contain anti-nutrients and are hard to digest. Many Paleo proponents believe that the health benefits of legumes are not worth the drawbacks. However, studies show that legumes are crucial for longevity and gut health. The bottom line about legume consumption is to ensure that they are not your only and primary source of protein. Legumes are healthful in the context of a well-balanced diet.
Can the Paleo Diet Harm Your Gut Health?
Correlation and Causation
Is the Paleo Diet associated with unhealthy changes to the gut microbiota? Before we start, keep in mind that correlation is often interpreted as causation. In this case, we see what is called “the healthy user bias.” People who generally adopt healthy lifestyles often think that whole grains and low fat is healthy. Furthermore, people who eat red meat and fatty diets are not typically health-conscious. This bias causes the correlation between poorer health or gut microbiome and particular eating habits.
Diet Quality Matters
When observing the effect of Paleo practices on the gut microbiome, one needs to take into consideration that the quality of the foods consumed can vary greatly. For example, the health effects of corn-fed beef are vastly different than those of grass-fed beef. In summary, grass-fed beef may contain less total fat than grain-fed beef, but a lot more omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, which are both linked to health benefits. Now, if you think that eating Paleo means doubling your grocery budget to be able to afford the more expensive grass-fed beef and other expensive foods, read How to Go Paleo on a Budget.
Quantity Matters Too
The issue with the Paleo Diet and your gut health is when people replace grains with the wrong foods. Dietary fiber is one of the most healing foods for the gut. To truly take advantage of the excellent healing benefits of the Paleo Diet, it’s crucial you ensure you are eating tons of vegetables. Dr. Terri Whals, in her book The Wahls Protocol, talks about how the Paleo Diet alone can be ineffective unless the patient makes sure to eat enough vegetables. To improve your gut health, you must not eat too much meat and eat plenty of veggies.
Why Most Healing Protocols Remove Grains
The information available is contradictory, which could make it difficult to believe in the necessity to give up grains to overcome chronic health conditions. However, once you start researching health and healing protocols, one thing stands out: All the main healing protocols eliminate grains. Many health practitioners have noticed that they could help their clients feel better by following specific guidelines, and usually, these guidelines include the elimination of grains.
The Most Well-Known Healing Protocols
Here are some of the most common healing protocols:
- The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD): Created by Dr. Sidney Valentine and designed to help gravely ill children suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses
- The GAPS Diet: Adapted from the SCD by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The purpose is to heal the gut to treat inflammatory conditions.
- The Autoimmune Protocol: A stricter version of the Paleo Diet that removes nightshades as well as nuts and seeds.
- The Wahls Protocol: Allows some grains in stage 1 and more vegan-friendly than the other options.
Regardless of the known benefits of whole grains on the gut flora, it seems safe to assume that these benefits are limited when one suffers from leaky gut.
Gut Health Is Not Just About The Microbiome
If whole grains help good bacteria proliferate in your gut and keep in check the bad bacteria, why are they so problematic for many of us? Because gut health is not just about gut bacteria.
How Grains Affect Your Gut Barrier
Grains can adversely affect your gut barrier, and that’s why they are counterproductive when it comes to healing the gut. Even non-gluten containing grains contain a similar protein called prolamin, which is often cross-reactive for those who suffer from gluten sensitivity. Gluten causes the release of zonulin, a protein known to cause leaky gut. Once you have leaky gut, undigested particles of food, bacteria, and toxins can cross the gut barrier and cause autoimmune issues.
You Can Stop Worrying That Quitting Grains Will Kill You
Even though grains have many health benefits for healthy people, no need to worry that quitting grains will harm you in any way. Many cultures throughout history have flourished on a grain-free diet. Many autoimmune sufferers have conquered their illnesses by giving up grains. Some articles on the Internet claim that the Paleo diet is linked with an increase of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a precursor to coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and type-2 diabetes. While I recommend you make sure you eat plenty of resistant starch on a Paleo Diet, you can rest assured that your new lifestyle will not increase your TMAO concentrations even if you don’t.
How to Heal Your Gut So You Can Have Grains Again
As you heal your gut, you can absolutely expect to be able to reintroduce grains into your life. Take your time and follow a reintroduction guide like this one. You can speed up the process of healing by detoxifying your body from glyphosate and reducing the presence of the protein C-Reactive in your bloodstream. Contact Me to learn more about how this is possible.