Tag Archives: digestion

Autoimmune Disease: Drawing the Lines of Defense

The case for the Paleo Diet continues to grow as the modern diet leads to an epidemic of modern health problems. Over the last three decades, epidemiological data provide strong evidence of a steady rise in autoimmune disease, where the body fails to recognize the difference between its own cells and foreign invaders.1

We have to wonder why more people than ever are afflicted with the following conditions: multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases (mainly Crohn’s disease), systemic lupus erythematosus, primary biliary cirrhosis, myasthenia gravis, autoimmune thyroiditis, hepatitis and rheumatic diseases, bullous pemphigoid, and celiac disease.2 Indicators, based on the geoepidemiological distribution of autoimmune disease, point to an environmental factor.3 Although causality has not been proven, scientists hypothesize the answer lies in the relationship between the prevalence of industrialized foods and the environmental impact they have on our guts, specifically in the intercellular tight junctions of the epithelial lining.4


The idea of “leaky gut syndrome” has circulated for decades, but many health practitioners still don’t believe it actually exists, despite over thousands of published articles relating to intestinal permeability. Historically, the functions of the gastrointestinal tract have been believed to be limited to the digestion and absorption of nutrients and electrolytes, and to regulate water homeostasis.5 An additional function has been overlooked: to regulate macromolecules through the intestinal epithelial barrier mechanism, within tight intercellular junctions, to control the equilibrium between tolerance and immunity to non-self antigens.6

It shouldn’t seem that far fetched to believe molecules can pass from inside the intestines into the bloodstream, as only a single layer of epithelial cells separates the lumen from internal milieu.7 Our bodies even make modulating proteins, such as Zonulin, in response to certain bacteria and gluten8 that has been proven to open the intercellular tight junctions responsible for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining. When the intercellular junctions aren’t well sealed it allows for the passage of macromolecules into the bloodstream and triggers an immune response leading to intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune disease as well as inflammatory disorders. 9


We are becoming more dependent on heavily processed food sources, 10 and evolving further away from what we are genetically designed to eat.11 There are seven food additives: sugar, salt, emulsifiers, organic solvents, gluten, microbial transglutaminase, and nanoparticles, increasingly added to processed food and are finding their way in record numbers onto grocery store shelves.  These industrial food additives are believed to dissolve the epithelial barrier function, leading to increased intestinal permeability and activating the autoimmune cascade. The rate usage of the food additives has also matched the increased incidence and prevalence of autoimmune diseases during the last few decades. 12


The Paleo Diet, clearly more than the meat lover’s way to keep weight off, might be the only solution to avoiding the onslaught of food additives and their effects on our health. Most of these additives can be completely avoided when following the Paleo Diet.13  Further, Paleo food provides important nutrients, often at the therapeutic levels, as well as high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, all necessary to maintain and repair the intestinal tract.14,15

The current research has barely scratched the surface for fully understanding the effects of food additives exposure on intestinal permeability and autoimmune disease. There is enough evidence for those with autoimmune symptoms or a genetic predisposition to minimize the exposure to all processed foods. The best line of defense for those at risk for autoimmune disease may be following the Paleo diet.

Eat for gut health. Eat Paleo.



[1] Selmi, Carlo. “The worldwide gradient of autoimmune conditions.” Autoimmunity reviews 9.5 (2010): A247-A250.

[2] Okada, H., et al. “The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ for autoimmune and allergic diseases: an update.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology 160.1 (2010): 1-9.

[3] Parks, Christine G., et al. “Expert Panel Workshop Consensus Statement on the Role of the Environment in the Development of Autoimmune Disease.”International journal of molecular sciences 15.8 (2014): 14269-14297.

[4] Hollander, Daniel. “Intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and intestinal disorders.”Current gastroenterology reports 1.5 (1999): 410-416.

[5] Diamond, Jared. “Evolutionary design of intestinal nutrient absorption: enough but not too much.” Physiology 6.2 (1991): 92-96.

[6] Fasano, Alessio. “Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer.” Physiological reviews 91.1 (2011): 151-175.

[7] Shanahan, Fergus. “V. Mechanisms of immunologic sensation of intestinal contents.” American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 278.2 (2000): G191-G196.

[8] Fasano, Alessio, et al. “Zonulin, a newly discovered modulator of intestinal permeability, and its expression in coeliac disease.” The Lancet 355.9214 (2000): 1518-1519.

[9] Fasano, Alessio. “Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer.” Physiological reviews 91.1 (2011): 151-175.

[10] Monteiro, Carlos Augusto, et al. “Increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods and likely impact on human health: evidence from Brazil.” Public health nutrition 14.01 (2011): 5-13.

[11] O’Keefe, James H., and Loren Cordain. “Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 79. No. 1. Elsevier, 2004.

[12] A. Vojdani. “A potential link between environmental triggers and autoimmunity.”Autoimmune Diseases 2014.

[13] Lerner, Aaron, and Torsten Matthias. “Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease.” Autoimmunity reviews 14.6 (2015): 479-489.

[14] Li, Yousheng, et al. “Oral glutamine ameliorates chemotherapy-induced changes of intestinal permeability and does not interfere with the antitumor effect of chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer: a prospective randomized trial.” Tumori 92.5 (2006): 396.

[15] Simopoulos, Artemis P. “Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 21.6 (2002): 495-505.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Congratulations to the winner of The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook Giveaway, Karla! Thanks for sharing your inspired journey with us!

“I began the Paleo Diet with my daughter January 8, 2013 and within 2 weeks I had more energy, my mind felt clearer, I no longer had constant sinus drainage and nasal stuffiness, my digestive problems resolved and I didn’t feel bloated. I then segued to the autoimmune protocol due to having Rheumatoid Arthritis and my SED rate dropped dramatically (per lab tests) to the point where I went off Methotrexate (which wasn’t working anyway) and didn’t have to go on Humira. I virtually eliminated my R.A. joint pain and swelling.

My daughter who was 17 at time experienced loss of belly fat, more energy and though she had been on Solodyn for her acne for years, never really eliminating it, she experienced a dramatic reduction of her acne for the first time. But the most amazing change she experienced was no longer having exercise induced asthma, which was huge since she is a competition dancer and had to use an inhaler 30 minutes prior to dancing but still had the fear of experiencing an attack. The Paleo Diet gave her freedom and gave me a life back.”


Tips to Jumpstart Paleo New Year

Did you find yourself eating differently during the holiday season and have resolved to make drastic changes at the beginning of the year?  Forget about juicing, cleansing and detoxing for a quick fix to jump-start your resolution to trim your waistline and purify your body. There is little scientific evidence to support temporary measures have an impact on your overall wellness long term.

The truth is our bodies are continuously processing toxins (both environmental and dietary), chemicals, and waste products.1 It is a day-to-day undertaking involving the liver, kidneys, and spleen, rather than something you can undertake for an intense period.2 If you are looking to recover from the lifestyle implications of your holiday choices, return to the basic principles of the Paleo lifestyle, which focus on a consistent, long-term approach to optimizing metabolic and physiological health.3

Negative side effects are routinely experienced on calorie and fat/protein restricted programs, including low energy, low blood sugar, muscle aches, fatigue, lightheadedness, and nausea. Specifically, some programs allow for only fruit and vegetable juices to be consumed for up to a week at a time. The negative effects from consuming significant amounts of fructose, especially without fiber, fat, and protein, include rapid stimulation of lipogenesis and triglyceride accumulation, which in turn contributes to reduced insulin sensitivity and hepatic insulin resistance/glucose intolerance.4

Although purification naturally occurs on a daily basis, we can support the body’s pathways to function most efficiently. Focus on the following guidelines, as a part of your Paleo Diet, to feel energized and strong at the start of the year.


Broth a great way to stay hydrated, which keeps the circulatory and lymphatic system functioning optimally.5 Bone broth is rich in minerals6 and has been linked to healing the digestive tract and is rich in collagen, glucosamine, and gelatin. You can add a small amount of coconut oil, to aid in blood sugar regulation and minimize the risk of insulin resistance.7


Glutathione is an essential antioxidant naturally produced by the body8 to facilitate cell reactions,9 is quickly depleted by a poor diet, stress, illness, pollutants, and even aging. Sulfur-rich foods like garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.) are especially high in glutathione.10


Betaine protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress and participates in the methionine cycle.11 Betaine can be obtained in the highest concentrations from both spinach and beets.12 Raw beets can be sliced thinly or grated over a raw spinach salad for a betaine-rich combination and a vibrant addition to your Paleo dishes.

Stephanie Vuolo

Stephanie Vuolo | The Paleo Diet Team

Stephanie Vuolo is a Certified Nutritional Therapist, an American College of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer, and a Certified CrossFit Level 1 Coach. She has a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. She is a former contributor to Discovery Communications/TLC Blog, Parentables.

Stephanie lives in Seattle, WA, where she is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for how diet and lifestyle can contribute to overall wellness and longevity. She has been raising her young daughter on the Paleo Diet since birth. You can visit her website at www.primarilypaleo.com.


[1] Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/. Accessed December 16, 2014.

[2] Dorfman, Kelly. “Improving Detoxification Pathways.” New Developments 2.3 (1997): 4.

[3] Frassetto, Lynda A., et al. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.” European journal of clinical nutrition 63.8 (2009): 947-955.

[4] Basciano, Heather, Lisa Federico, and Khosrow Adeli. “Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia.” Nutrition & metabolism 2.1 (2005): 5.

[5] Jones, JUDY M., L. A. Wentzell, and DANIEL P. Toews. “Posterior lymph heart pressure and rate and lymph flow in the toad Bufo marinus in response to hydrated and dehydrated conditions.” Journal of experimental biology 169.1 (1992): 207-220.

[6] Roberts, Sam J., et al. “The taphonomy of cooked bone: characterizing boiling and its physico–chemical effects.” Archaeometry 44.3 (2002): 485-494.

[7] Kochikuzhyil BM, Devi K, Fattepur SR. “Effect of saturated fatty acid-rich dietary vegetable oils on lipid profile, antioxidant enzymes and glucose tolerance in diabetic rats.” Indian J Pharmacol. 2010 Jun;42(3):142-5.

[8] Wu, Guoyao, et al. “Glutathione metabolism and its implications for health.” The Journal of nutrition 134.3 (2004): 489-492.

[9] Available at: http://www.readisorb.com/science/methionine_cycle_and_glutathio.html. Accessed on December 16, 2014.

[10] Nuttall, S. L., et al. “Glutathione: in sickness and in health.” The lancet351.9103 (1998): 645-646.

[11] Craig, Stuart AS. “Betaine in human nutrition.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 80.3 (2004): 539-549.

[12] Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000145000000000000000-1w.html. Accessed on December 16, 2014.

Fermented Foods and Gut Health

Fermented foods are highly beneficial to your health. However, the underlying practices regarding human consumption (the Paleolithic tradition of eating them) and the new scientific developments regarding just how these foods are bioactive – are two vastly underrepresented areas of knowledge. I hope to cover both areas and explain just why our ancestors instinctually sought out fermented foods, and what we now know about the exact scientific mechanisms that underlie their function in the human body, as well as the brain.

Firstly, our Paleolithic ancestors consumed honey, fruits or berries, and their juices, which were unknowingly subjected to natural microbial fermentation.1 It didn’t take salient scientific literature to suggest these fermented foods were optimal for their health.2 Fermented foods have mentally stimulating properties, analgesic properties, sedating properties, and many other positive functions.3 Interestingly, the shift away from traditional diets has been marked with not only changes in gut microflora, but also an increase in depression and negative mental health conditions.4

Fermented Foods for Gut Health

Hidaka, Brandon H. “Depression as a Disease of Modernity: Explanations for Increasing Prevalence.” Journal of Affective Disorders 140.3 (2012): 205–214. PMC. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

As the authors of this study note, chronic diseases, which are growing in prevalence, largely arise from a mismatch of our microbiome, which did exceedingly well in past environments, and modern day living.5 Our modern world is overfed, malnourished, sedentary, sleeping less than ever, and socially isolated.6 This not only leads to depression, but to metabolic syndrome, as well – which furthers depression.7 How can fermented foods help to combat the modern pandemic of metabolic syndrome, obesity, and depression?

This is a good question, and one with many answers.8 Mechanistically, their role in the production of specific neurotransmitters is important, and one possible answer to the proposed question.9 As researchers have noted, micronutrients play a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters.10 A Western diet provokes not only a systemic inflammatory state, but also an altered mood (via intestinal permeability) and can even interfere in microbe-to-brain signaling pathways.11, 12 In fact, researchers have even found metabolic syndrome in the brain.13

This study provided mechanistic evidence that dietary habits can interact with brain functions. Of course, another reason to consume a Paleo Diet rich in fermented foods, and lower in sugar, is the long-term detrimental effects of high-sugar diets on cognitive function.14

Fermented Foods for Gut Health | The Paleo Diet

Agrawal, Rahul, and Fernando Gomez-Pinilla. “‘Metabolic Syndrome’ in the Brain: Deficiency in Omega-3 Fatty Acid Exacerbates Dysfunctions in Insulin Receptor Signalling and Cognition.” The Journal of Physiology 590.Pt 10 (2012): 2485–2499. PMC.

Fermented Foods for Gut Health | The Paleo Diet

Kodl, Christopher T., and Elizabeth R. Seaquist. “Cognitive Dysfunction and Diabetes Mellitus.” Endocrine Reviews 29.4 (2008): 494–511. PMC. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

Historically, traditional diets are correlated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. Plainly stated in one study’s conclusion, “those with better quality diets were less likely to be depressed, whereas a higher intake of processed and unhealthy foods was associated with increased anxiety.”15 What do almost all traditional diets have in common? They contain fermented foods. In fact, fermented foods and beverages can comprise anywhere between 5-40% of the human diet in some populations.16 In addition, important groups of gut bacteria, often considered markers of a healthy gut, are inversely associated with obesity.17, 18, 19

Fermented Foods for Gut Health | The Paleo Diet

“The Role and Influence of Gut Microbiota in Pathogenesis and Management of Obesity and Metabolic …” Frontiers. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

Furthermore, in mice, the absence of toll-like receptor 5 alters the gut microbiota – leading to more food intake, insulin resistance, and obesity.20 Eating fermented foods helps to favorably effect the composition of the gut microbiota.21 In addition, epidemiological studies have shown that consumption of cabbage and sauerkraut is connected with a significant reduction of breast cancer occurrences.22

So, how did our Paleolithic ancestors know that fermented foods would be beneficial? This answer remains unclear, even though traditions were passed down from generation to generation. Fermentation of food increases beneficial flora, like lactic acid bacteria.23 While our ancestors likely didn’t know this, they still used fermented foods regularly, likely due to the anecdotal results they witnessed.24 Indigenous people have patterns of illness very different from Western civilization; yet, they rapidly develop diseases, once exposed to Western foods and lifestyles.25, 26

Fermented Foods for Gut Health | The Paleo Diet

Sandoval, Darleen A., and Randy J. Seeley. “The Microbes Made Me Eat It.” The Microbes Made Me Eat It. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

Beneficial microbes in fermented foods can decrease anxiety, diminish perceptions of stress, and improve mental outlook.27 Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) can be increased via either probiotics, or fermented foods.28 BDNF is found in regions of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body weight; it likely contributes to the management of these functions.29 Stress is also known to alter gastrointestinal microflora.30 Probiotics and fermented foods can help to lower systemic inflammatory cytokines, decrease oxidative stress, improve nutritional status, and correct SIBO.31

In one study, researchers even linked gut microbes to autism.32 In their study, a probiotic was found to help. This brings us to the possible exciting conclusion that probiotics and large servings of fermented foods may provide therapeutic strategies for neurodevelopmental disorders.33

Fermented Foods for Gut Health | The Paleo Diet

Bercik P, Denou E, Collins J, et al. The intestinal microbiota affect central levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor and behavior in mice. Gastroenterology. 2011;141(2):599-609, 609.e1-3.

Interestingly, researchers have also found that propionic acid, which is a short-chain fatty acid produced by microbiota, can have negative effects on health and behavior. A number of inherited and acquired conditions, such as propionic/methylmalonic acidemia, biotinidase/holocarboxylase deficiency, ethanol/valproate exposure, and mitochondrial disorders, are all known to result from elevations of propionic acid and other short-chain fatty acids.34

The Western diet traditionally produces an unfavorable ratio of ‘good vs. bad’ gut flora.35 In addition, gut flora can help regulate fat storage.36 So not only are you more likely to have neurological problems, with a poor ratio of gut flora, but you are more likely to become obese.37 Hopefully all this information has driven home the fact that the Paleo Diet, which is anti-inflammatory, and rich in fermented foods, will deliver a positive ratio of healthy gut bacteria. It may seem like a small change, but it can make all the difference in the world, when it comes to your health.

Fermented Foods for Gut Health | The Paleo Diet

Bäckhed, Fredrik et al. “The Gut Microbiota as an Environmental Factor That Regulates Fat Storage.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101.44 (2004): 15718–15723. PMC. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

Fermented Foods for Gut Health | The Paleo Diet

Turnbaugh, Peter J. et al. “The Effect of Diet on the Human Gut Microbiome: A Metagenomic Analysis.” Science translational medicine 1.6 (2009): 6ra14. PMC.


[1] Steinkraus KH: Comparison of fermented foods of the East and West. In Fish Fermentation Technology. Edited by Lee CH, Steinkraus KH, Reilly PJ. Tokyo: United Nations University Press; 1993:1-12.

[2] Steinkraus, K.H. (2002), Fermentations in World Food Processing. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 1: 23–32.

[3] Park KY, Jeong JK, Lee YE, Daily JW. Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food. J Med Food. 2014;17(1):6-20.

[4] Hidaka BH. Depression as a disease of modernity: explanations for increasing prevalence. J Affect Disord. 2012;140(3):205-14.

[5] Cho I, Blaser MJ. The human microbiome: at the interface of health and disease. Nat Rev Genet. 2012;13(4):260-70.

[6] Spalding A, Kernan J, Lockette W. The metabolic syndrome: a modern plague spread by modern technology. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2009;11(12):755-60.

[7] Edwardson CL, Gorely T, Davies MJ, et al. Association of sedentary behaviour with metabolic syndrome: a meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(4):e34916.

[8] Swain MR, Anandharaj M, Ray RC, Parveen rani R. Fermented fruits and vegetables of Asia: a potential source of probiotics. Biotechnol Res Int. 2014;2014:250424.

[9] Rechenberg K, Humphries D. Nutritional interventions in depression and perinatal depression. Yale J Biol Med. 2013;86(2):127-37.

[10] Bourre JM. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006;10(5):377-85.

[11] André C, Dinel AL, Ferreira G, Layé S, Castanon N. Diet-induced obesity progressively alters cognition, anxiety-like behavior and lipopolysaccharide-induced depressive-like behavior: focus on brain indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase activation. Brain Behav Immun. 2014;41:10-21.

[12] Sánchez-villegas A, Toledo E, De irala J, Ruiz-canela M, Pla-vidal J, Martínez-gonzález MA. Fast-food and commercial baked goods consumption and the risk of depression. Public Health Nutr. 2012;15(3):424-32.

[13] Agrawal R, Gomez-pinilla F. ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition. J Physiol (Lond). 2012;590(Pt 10):2485-99.

[14] Kodl CT, Seaquist ER. Cognitive dysfunction and diabetes mellitus. Endocr Rev. 2008;29(4):494-511.

[15] Jacka FN, Mykletun A, Berk M, Bjelland I, Tell GS. The association between habitual diet quality and the common mental disorders in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health study. Psychosom Med. 2011;73(6):483-90.

[16] Borresen EC, Henderson AJ, Kumar A, Weir TL, Ryan EP. Fermented foods: patented approaches and formulations for nutritional supplementation and health promotion. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2012;4(2):134-40.

[17] Conterno L, Fava F, Viola R, Tuohy KM. Obesity and the gut microbiota: does up-regulating colonic fermentation protect against obesity and metabolic disease?. Genes Nutr. 2011;6(3):241-60.

[18] Flint HJ. Obesity and the gut microbiota. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011;45 Suppl:S128-32.

[19] Parekh PJ, Arusi E, Vinik AI, Johnson DA. The role and influence of gut microbiota in pathogenesis and management of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2014;5:47.

[20] Sandoval DA, Seeley RJ. Medicine. The microbes made me eat it. Science. 2010;328(5975):179-80.

[21] Hemarajata P, Versalovic J. Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2013;6(1):39-51.

[22] Szaefer H, Licznerska B, Krajka-kuźniak V, Bartoszek A, Baer-dubowska W. Modulation of CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 expression by cabbage juices and indoles in human breast cell lines. Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(6):879-88.

[23] Chelule PK, Mbongwa HP, Carries S, Gqaleni N. Lactic acid fermentation improves the quality of amahewu, a traditional South African maize-based porridge. Food Chem. 2010;122:656–661.

[24] Anukam KC, Reid G. African traditional fermented foods and probiotics. J Med Food. 2009;12(6):1177-84.

[25] Lipski E. Traditional non-Western diets. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010;25(6):585-93.

[26] Llaverias G, Danilo C, Wang Y, et al. A Western-type diet accelerates tumor progression in an autochthonous mouse model of prostate cancer. Am J Pathol. 2010;177(6):3180-91.

[27] Bested AC, Logan AC, Selhub EM. Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: part III – convergence toward clinical trials. Gut Pathog. 2013;5(1):4.

[28] Bercik P, Denou E, Collins J, et al. The intestinal microbiota affect central levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor and behavior in mice. Gastroenterology. 2011;141(2):599-609, 609.e1-3.

[29] Binder DK, Scharfman HE. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Growth Factors. 2004;22(3):123-31.

[30] Logan AC, Katzman M. Major depressive disorder: probiotics may be an adjuvant therapy. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(3):533-8.

[31] Dinan TG, Stanton C, Cryan JF. Psychobiotics: a novel class of psychotropic. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;74(10):720-6.

[32] Gilbert JA, Krajmalnik-brown R, Porazinska DL, Weiss SJ, Knight R. Toward effective probiotics for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Cell. 2013;155(7):1446-8.

[33] Parvez S, Malik KA, Ah kang S, Kim HY. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. J Appl Microbiol. 2006;100(6):1171-85.

[34] Macfabe DF. Short-chain fatty acid fermentation products of the gut microbiome: implications in autism spectrum disorders. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2012;23

[35] Turnbaugh PJ, Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, Knight R, Gordon JI. The effect of diet on the human gut microbiome: a metagenomic analysis in humanized gnotobiotic mice. Sci Transl Med. 2009;1(6):6ra14.

[36] Bäckhed F, Ding H, Wang T, et al. The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2004;101(44):15718-23.

[37] Ley RE, Bäckhed F, Turnbaugh P, Lozupone CA, Knight RD, Gordon JI. Obesity alters gut microbial ecology. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005;102(31):11070-5.

Paleo Diet Guide to Keep Your Gut Healthy for the Holidays | The Paleo Diet

The Holidays are a time for office parties and get-togethers with family and friends with sleigh-fulls of delicious holiday foods!

Between the list of to-do’s, to-buy’s, to-make’s, to-call’s, to-rsvp’s and merrymaking aplenty, it’s all too easy to run yourself dry and put your health last. Not only can this concession ruin your holiday season if you get sick, but it can inevitably lead to a whole NEW list of problems that will take you more than just January to recover from.

Bloating, headache, gas, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion…we’ve all had one or more of these.  That second helping of turkey and fixings, just another dessert or two. While we convince ourselves and each other it’s no big deal, our “second brain” is always watching.  Each bite. Each mouthful. Each swallow.

This “second brain”1 is the gut’s network of 100 million neurons sending information from the stomach, through the intestines. The gut decides what to digest, absorb, excrete and, sometimes, send back, making us violently sick in the process. Dr. Gershon2, author of The Second Brain, said it best, “The brain doesn’t like to micromanage; it leaves the details of digestion up to the gut.”

And the gut takes its job very seriously.

So how do we get through all the merrymaking and celebrations with our loved family and friends without weight gain, bloating, sugar crashes and digestion problems while still managing to enjoy ourselves?  By following a few tips and tricks.


1. Drink Enough Water

Your first stop when you get up in the morning should be the sink.  Fill the biggest glass you have with lukewarm water and squeeze a lemon into it for 3 seconds.  Drink it all, and refill, drinking a second glass (or as much of it as you can).

The combination of lukewarm water and freshly squeezed acidic lemon juice3 first thing in the morning wakes up the gut gently and helps with the digestive processes throughout the day. It’s a small change in your routine and especially important through hectic weeks over the holidays.

2. Sleep

This is always on everyone’s list to staying healthy, but who’s got the time? Here’s a little secret; we always have enough time, it’s just a matter of how we choose to spend it. Make the choice to leave a little early from the party, to politely say no to that after work happy hour, or skip that last store on the shopping list.

When our bodies don’t get enough sleep it becomes harder to focus, to function and to digest.4 While one or two nights with less sleep might not seem like a big deal, each one takes a toll on our bodies.  And remember the gut knows it all.

3. 50% Rule

Forget every food chart and plate diagram you’ve ever seen. To keep your gut healthy, your body, and in turn yourself happy, make it a rule to always fill at least half your plate with veggies.

Vegetables are easy to digest and great sources of carbohydrates and calcium, keeping you full longer. Between the holiday festivities and platters of food, gravitate toward the veggie tray – it’s a perfect match.

4. Alkaline Foods

Think Broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, apples, berries.

Emotional stress is all too common during the holidays, and when combined with sugary foods, grains and processed meats the body’s overall pH decreases from its ideal (7.4)5 making absorption of minerals and nutrients more difficult for the gut.

To combat the harmful acidic environment that this creates in the body, include alkaline greens such as spinach, dates, oranges and grapefruit in your diet at least 3-5 times/week.  An alkaline pH in the body minimizes inflammation in the gut and allows for optimal stomach and intestinal health and function.6

5. Artichokes

To keep that gut healthy throughout the Holidays, it’s important to keep the ‘good’ bacteria of the gut lining in check and flourishing.

Artichokes are a Paleo approved food that fall into a group called prebiotics.7 Prebiotics like artichokes, bananas also fall into this category, contain indigestible nutrients that help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.8 By adding artichokes into your holiday meals, you’ll keep those good bacteria well fed and your gut healthy and happy.

6. The ONE Dessert Rule

This category is unfortunately where we tend to over-indulge most frequently, and the one place that is just loaded with sugars, margarines and grains almost always sending our gut into agony.

Just say no to the pastry, pies, and the processed. While the Paleo Diet prescribes an 85:15 Rule allowing for the occasional cheat or Paleo treat, we say go for the fruit platter! You’ll still get a chance to sample a variety without the unnecessary digestive problems when your gut works overtime.

7. Think ‘Balance’

The hardest to stick to during the holidays – it is often the most important.

To keep digestive disorders and irritabilities at bay, try to make the time to exercise at least 3 times/week (a brisk 20 minute walk is better than nothing!).

This will let you just fly through numbers 1-6 and enjoy the Holidays without indigestion and gut-related stresses like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux and all the rest. Because nobody wants those as surprise gifts at Christmas dinner.

Happy Holidays, All!


Sanja JovanovicSanja Jovanovic is a co-founder of PALEO WIRED – a site dedicated to GATHER the best and latest paleo recipes & information to share with you, to inspire you to EAT the deliciousness of those recipes and creations and to REPEAT each day.  Because we’re all going to eat something anyway, might as well make it something that our bodies will thank us for!


[1] Gershon, M. D. The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine. New York: HarperCollins; 1998. 336p.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry”; Metabolism of Antioxidant in Lemon Fruit (Citrus limon BURM. F.) by Human Intesetinal Bacteria; Yoshiaki Miyake et al.; 1997.

[4] Chen CL, Liu TT, Yi CH, Orr WC. Evidence for altered anorectal function in irritable bowel syndrome patients with sleep disturbance. Digestion. 2011;84(3):247-51. PMID: 21952561.

[5]Koziolek M, Grimm M, Becker D, Iordanov V, Zou H, Shimizu J, Wanke C, Garbacz G, Weitschies W. Investigation of pH and Temperature Profiles in the GI Tract of Fasted Human Subjects Using the Intellicap® System.  J Pharm Sci. 2014 Nov 19. PMID: 25411065.

[6] Lallès JP. Intestinal alkaline phosphatase: novel functions and protective effects. Nutr Rev. 2014 Feb;72(2):82-94. PMID: 24506153.

[7] Ramnani P, Gaudier E, Bingham M, van Bruggen P, Tuohy KM, Gibson GR. Prebiotic effect of fruit and vegetable shots containing Jerusalem artichoke inulin: a human intervention study. Br J Nutr. 2010 Jul;104(2):233-40. PMID: 20187995.

[8] Ibid.

Paleo Diet Primer: Fats and Oils | The Paleo Diet

When it came to fats and oils, the choice was simple for our hunter gatherer ancestors. All dietary fats were consumed directly from the food source and were based on their geographic availablity. They ate the whole carcass of wild animals, including all of the organs and visceral fat, and foraged for fatty, high oil plants. These foods balanced the fatty acids in their diet. Today, as technology engineers oils from vegetable seeds, like mustard seed, cottonseed, and rapeseed (canola) oil, not only is the yield unnatural, it is also unsafe for consumption.

All animal fats, such as lard, tallow, duck and chicken fat, can withstand very high temperatures without oxidizing,1 and have prolonged shelf lives. However, navigating the bottled oil aisle at any grocery store can overwhelm even the most advanced label reader to decipher which  oils are safe and optimal for health.  A thorough explanation of the fatty acid composition of vegetables oils, as well as identifying the six vegetable oils (flaxseed, walnut, olive, macadamia, coconut, and avocado)  that are best suited for the Paleo Diet can be found HERE.  Yet, many of us still struggle with which cooking oil to select and how to heat it without compromising the nutritious benefits.

When heating any oil, it is important to keep them below their smoke point, (before oil burns to the point of smoking). Oils heated above their stability point begin to decompose, releasing free radicals along with toxic fumes. Oils are often refined to raise their smoke point. The refining process (heating, neutralization, filtering, and processing with chemicals and bleaching agents) removes the  oils from their pure state.2 Thus, despite their lower smoke point, unrefined virgin oils are preferential.

Flaxseed oil

If we look to hunter-gather-societies, we see they did not regularly use flaxseed oil. It was originally included in The Paleo Diet as a tool to balance out increased omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio due to the excessive intake of omega-6 vegetable oils, especially linoleic acid, in the average western diet. Flaxseed oil is exceptionally high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the parent fatty acid to Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely sensitive to heat, oxygen, and light,3 so refrigerate and never heat, but instead use in a salad dressing or as a finishing oil over cool vegetables.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil possesses many antioxidants, including ellagic acid, which research suggests is antiatherogenic and supports osteoblastic activity.4 It’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids 5 and although the refined version is often labeled safe for high-heat cooking, it is best not to heat it to high temperatures. Not only will the omega-3s be damaged, but the oil will also develop a bitter taste. The unrefined version can be heated to 320°F,6 so sauté vegetables in walnut oil  at low-to-medium heat, or drizzle on any salad.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil contains at least 30 phenolic compounds.7 Phenols have been shown to reduce the amount of oxidative stress on the body8 and  protect the polyunsaturated fat in the olive oil from oxidizing. Olive oil is a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which help control cholesterol levels and have been linked with heart health. There are many varieties of olive oils, sourced from all over the world. Each has its own unique flavor and color that can be experimented with to highlight whatever dish you are cooking. And, while extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 325°F,9 it is fairly resistant to oxidation, even when used for high-heat deep-frying.10, 11

Macadamia Nut Oil

Macadamia nut oil is higher in monounsaturated fats than olive oil12 and provides the lowest level of omega-6 fats of any nut.13 It is high in phytochemicals, (qualene, tocotrienols and tocopherols), which protect against oxidation, making it suitable for room temperature storage for up to two years.14 Macadamia nut oil has been shown to improve the biomarkers of oxidative stress, inflammation, and reduce the risk factors for coronary artery disease.15

With a smoke point of 413°F, 16 macadamia oil can be used for almost any dish whether you’re grilling, sautéing or stir-frying. It can even be used a binder for homemade Paleo mayonnaise.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat; specifically it is high in medium chain triglyceride (MCT). MCTs do not require bile acids for digestion, which makes them easy to digest and available immediately as a fuel source.17 Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid found in mother’s milk that has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.18 Unrefined coconut oil, which has not been bleached or filtered to remove impurities or natural flavors, has a smoke point of 320°F.19

Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, can be used as a replacement in any recipe that calls for butter, such as for coating a whole chicken before roasting. It also works well with Caribbean or Asian recipes, especially to those who aren’t quite accustomed to the flavor. We use it regularly to sauté vegetables, like kale or onions, as well as to grease the pan for cooking eggs.

Avocado oil

Avocados, thought classified as a fruit, are high in oil content. Cold pressing of avocados retains a high concentrations of vitamin E 20 and chlorophyll (40-60mg/kg), which gives the oil a green tint. 21 Research shows consuming avocado oil enhances carotenoid absorption from vegetables,22 and can decrease your risk of coronary artery disease.23 Similar to olive oil, avocado oil has a higher Omega 6:3 ratio (13.1:1).24 Avocado oil can withstand the heat. Virgin (unrefined) avocado oil has a smoke point of 40025 and can be used in any high heat cooking, dressing or as a finishing oil.



[1] Sherwin, E. R. Oxidation and antioxidants in fat and oil processing. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 55.11 (1978): 809-814.

[2] Available at: http://www.business2community.com/health-wellness/the-danger-of-cooking-with-healthy-oils-past-their-smoke-point-0418150. Accessed on October 28, 2014.

[3] Choo, W. S., E. J. Birch, and J. P. Dufour. Physicochemical and stability characteristics of flaxseed oils during pan-heating. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 84.8 (2007): 735-740.

[4] Papoutsi, Z., et al. Walnut extract (Juglans regia L.) and its component ellagic acid exhibit anti-inflammatory activity in human aorta endothelial cells and osteoblastic activity in the cell line KS483. British journal of nutrition 99.04 (2008): 715-722.

[5] Available at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3/.  Accessed on October 28, 2014.

[6]Available at: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/collectedinfo/oilsmokepoints.htm. Accessed on October 28, 2014

[7] Tuck, Kellie L., and Peter J. Hayball. Major phenolic compounds in olive oil: metabolism and health effects. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 13.11 (2002): 636-644.

[8] Kim, Hwa-Young, Ok-Hee Kim, and Mi-Kyung Sung. Effects of phenol-depleted and phenol-rich diets on blood markers of oxidative stress, and urinary excretion of quercetin and kaempferol in healthy volunteers. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 22.3 (2003): 217-223.

[9]Available at: http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinaryreference/a/smokepoints.htm. Accessed on October 28, 2014.

[10] Casal, Susana, et al. Olive oil stability under deep-frying conditions. Food and Chemical Toxicology 48.10 (2010): 2972-2979.

[11] Sutherland, Wayne HF, et al. Effect of meals rich in heated olive and safflower oils on oxidation of postprandial serum in healthy men. Atherosclerosis 160.1 (2002): 195-203.

[12] Ako, H, Okuda D, and Gray D. Healthful new oil from macadamia nuts. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.) 11.3 (1995): 286.

[13] Avaialable at: http://blog.lluniversity.com/nuts-and-oils-why-coconut-and-macadamia-nut-are-king/. Accessed on October 28, 2014.

[14] Wall, Marisa M. Functional lipid characteristics, oxidative stability, and antioxidant activity of macadamia nut (Macadamia integrifolia). Food chemistry 121.4 (2010): 1103-1108.

[15] Garg, Manohar L, et al. Macadamia nut consumption modulates favourably risk factors for coronary artery disease in hypercholesterolemic subjects. Lipids 42.6 (2007): 583-587.

[16] Available at: http://www.naturalnews.com/029202_olive_oil_smoke_point.html.  Accessed on October 14, 2014.

[17] Prior, IA, et al. “Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: the Pukapuka and Tokelau island studies.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 34.8 (1981): 1552-1561.

[18] Isaacs, CE, et al. “Antiviral and antibacterial lipids in human milk and infant formula feeds.” Archives of Disease in Childhood 65.8 (1990): 861-864.

[19] Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/446041-is-coconut-oil-good-for-frying-on-high-temperature-cooking/. Accessed on October 28, 2014.

[20] Eyres L, Sherpa N and Hendriks G. Avocado oil: a new edible oil from Australasia. Lipid Technol 2001;Vol 13, no 4:84-88.

[21] Swisher, Horton E. Avocado oil. J Am Oil Chem 65 (1988): 1705.

[22] Unlu, Nuray Z., et al. “Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil.” The Journal of nutrition 135.3 (2005): 431-436.

[23] Watts GF, Lewis B, Brunt JNH, Lewis ES, Coltart DJ, Smith LDR, Mann JI and Swan AV. Effects on coronary artery disease of lipid-lowering diet, or diet plus cholestyramine, in the St Thomas’ Atherosclerosis Regression Study (STARS). Lancet 1992;339:563-569.

[24] Available at: https://theconsciouslife.com/omega-3-6-9-ratio-cooking-oils.htm. Accessed on October 28. 2014.

[25] Available at: http://www.vegkitchen.com/tips/avocado-oil-expeller-pressed-naturally-refined/attachment/smoke-point-chart/. Accessed on October 28, 2014.

Chia Seeds | The Paleo Diet

Hello Dr. Cordain,

Are there any negative effects associated with chia seeds which would make them inappropriate in The Paleo Diet?

Thank you.

Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Good question. I would imagine that many of our readers have never even heard of chia seeds much less eaten them. Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) are a member of the Labiatae plant family and are native to southern Mexico and northern Guatemala. The seeds are small, oval shaped; either black or white colored and resemble sesame seeds. These seeds were cultivated as a food crop for thousands of years in this region by the Aztecs and other native cultures. Chia seeds can be consumed in a variety of ways including roasting and grinding the seeds into a flour known as Chianpinolli which can then become incorporated into tortillas, tamales, and various beverages. The roasted ground seeds were traditionally consumed as a semi-fluid mucilaginous gruel (Pinole) when water is added to the flour. In post-Columbian times the most popular use of chia flour was to make a refreshing beverage in which the ratio of seeds to water is decreased, thereby resulting in a less gelatinous consistency to which lemon, sugar or fruit juice are added. The sticky consistency of chia seed Pinole or chia beverages comes from a clear mucilaginous, polysaccharide gel that remains tightly bound to the seeds. This sticky gel forms a physical barrier which may impair digestion and absorption of fat from the seed while also causing a low protein digestibility.

In the past 20 years a revival of interest in chia seeds has occurred primarily because of their high fat content of about 25-39% by weight, of which 50-57% is the therapeutic omega-3 fatty acid and alpha linolenic acid (ALA). In the past 10 years chia seeds have been used as a foodstuff for animals to enrich their eggs and meat with omega-3 fatty acids. So I wholeheartedly approve of feeding chia seeds to animals and then eating the omega-3 fatty acid enriched meat or eggs of these animals.

How about feeding chia seeds to humans – should we consume chia seeds because of their high omega-3 fatty acid (ALA) content? The Table below shows the entire nutrient profile of chia seeds. At least on paper, it would appear that chia seeds are a nutritious food that is not only high in ALA, but also is a good source of protein, fiber, certain B vitamins, calcium, iron and manganese.

Unfortunately, the devil is always in the details…


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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