Tag Archives: gut

Pseudograins | The Paleo Diet

The negative health repercussions of consuming grains has been covered to death, over the years. 1 2 3 I will not delve into the many issues with grains – suffice to say their problems have been well documented in many other pieces on this very website including the most recent Wheat Series. In fact, one of the seminal scientific research papers written by Dr. Cordain, “Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double Edged Sword” magnified the many problems of grain consumption.4 Enough said.

However, we are often asked about pseudograins, and if these might somehow be better to consume on a regular basis. The short answer is no. The common food choice is anything but ideal. But before we get to the why, which foods are considered pseudograins?

As generalists, we think of pseudograins simply as seeds and grasses which we commonly categorize as grains. The more complex answer, however, is that pseudograins are the seeds of broadleaf plants, within a group called dicots.5 Most common pseudograins that fall within this category are amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and chia.

While they do not contain gluten, they contain a variety of other problematic antinutrients6 including lectins and saponins. 7 8 9 Pseudograins are added in surplus to processed foods and gluten free “creations” – despite often causing a similarly negative reaction within the body.10

Perhaps the main problem with pseudograins is they aren’t completely digested but rather pass through the gut barrier intact.11 This can lead to increased gut permeability, eventually leading to what is commonly referred to as a ‘leaky gut’12 where pseudograins can effectively damage the gut lining cells.13 Worse yet, once out of the gut, they can still cause an inflammatory response.14 15 16 Not good.

Another important issue with pseudograins is bacterial overgrowth. When partially digested or undigested food enter the intestinal tract in excess, it helps to feed your gut bacteria.17 18 I’ve previously discussed the physiologic importance keeping ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bacteria balanced and as modern science continues to make clear, this issue is fundamental to our overall health.19 20 21

Mayer EA, Knight R, Mazmanian SK, Cryan JF, Tillisch K. Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014;34(46):15490-6.

How do pseudograins attribute to disrupting gut balance? The ‘bad’ bacteria feeds upon undigested food particles, and can cause many to develop bacterial overgrowth from regularly eating gluten or pseudograins. Eventually, you may even see a breakdown of the gut lining. Again, none of these processes and developments are good for your body – or your health. In following a Paleo diet you effectively eliminate the problems seen within these foods by excluding them and focusing instead upon complete proteins, healthy fats and nutrient dense carbohydrates.22 23 24 25 26 27 Stop settling for pseudo health. Regain your wellness.


1. De punder K, Pruimboom L. The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation. Nutrients. 2013;5(3):771-87.

2. Matricon J, Meleine M, Gelot A, et al. Review article: Associations between immune activation, intestinal permeability and the irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2012;36(11-12):1009-31.

3. Flohé SB, Wasmuth HE, Kerad JB, et al. A wheat-based, diabetes-promoting diet induces a Th1-type cytokine bias in the gut of NOD mice. Cytokine. 2003;21(3):149-54.

4. Cordain L. Cereal grains: humanity’s double-edged sword. World Rev Nutr Diet. 1999;84:19-73.

5. Van der kamp JW, Poutanen K, Seal CJ, Richardson DP. The HEALTHGRAIN definition of ‘whole grain’. Food Nutr Res. 2014;58

6. Freed DL. Do dietary lectins cause disease?. BMJ. 1999;318(7190):1023-4.

7. Cordain L, Toohey L, Smith MJ, Hickey MS. Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. Br J Nutr. 2000;83(3):207-17.

8. Price KR, Johnson IT, Fenwick GR. The chemistry and biological significance of saponins in foods and feedingstuffs. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1987;26(1):27-135.

9. Francis G, Kerem Z, Makkar HP, Becker K. The biological action of saponins in animal systems: a review. Br J Nutr. 2002;88(6):587-605.

10. Jönsson T, Olsson S, Ahrén B, Bøg-hansen TC, Dole A, Lindeberg S. Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence–do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance?. BMC Endocr Disord. 2005;5:10.

11. Arrieta MC, Bistritz L, Meddings JB. Alterations in intestinal permeability. Gut. 2006;55(10):1512-20.

12. Fasano A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012;42(1):71-8.

13. Rapin JR, Wiernsperger N. Possible links between intestinal permeability and food processing: A potential therapeutic niche for glutamine. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010;65(6):635-43.

14. Calder PC, Albers R, Antoine JM, et al. Inflammatory disease processes and interactions with nutrition. Br J Nutr. 2009;101 Suppl 1:S1-45.

15. Galland L. Diet and inflammation. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010;25(6):634-40.

16. Comino I, Moreno Mde L, Real A, Rodríguez-herrera A, Barro F, Sousa C. The gluten-free diet: testing alternative cereals tolerated by celiac patients. Nutrients. 2013;5(10):4250-68.

17. Bohm M, Siwiec RM, Wo JM. Diagnosis and management of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Nutr Clin Pract. 2013;28(3):289-99.

18. Sachdev AH, Pimentel M. Gastrointestinal bacterial overgrowth: pathogenesis and clinical significance. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2013;4(5):223-31.

19. Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1261-72.

20. Foster JA. Gut feelings: bacteria and the brain. Cerebrum. 2013;2013:9.

21. Mayer EA, Knight R, Mazmanian SK, Cryan JF, Tillisch K. Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014;34(46):15490-6.

22. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35.

23. Lindeberg S, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, et al. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia. 2007;50(9):1795-807.

24. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-synder M, Morris RC, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947-55.

25. Jönsson T, Ahrén B, Pacini G, et al. A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006;3:39.

26. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, et al. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(2):341-54.

27. Berrino F. Western diet and Alzheimer’s disease.. Epidemiol Prev. 2002;26(3):107-15.

Candida Overgrowth | The Paleo Diet

You’ve read about it, you’ve heard about it, and chances are you even know someone who’s dealing with Candida:  yeast overgrowth in the gut.

Candidemia, the most common form of invasive candidiasis, is one of the widespread bloodstream infections in the United States.  It’s estimated that approximately 46,000 cases of healthcare-associated invasive candidiasis occur each year in the US and overall, where candidemia rates have increased over the past 20 years.1

65+ populations exhibit Candida most where scientists suspect the prevalence of risk factors including diabetes, ICU admissions, or use of immunosuppressive therapies play a role.2

Candida albicans is a naturally occurring, usually benign yeast that grows in the gastrointestinal tract, but when it over-proliferates in the body, the symptoms can be debilitating:3

  • Recurrent yeast infections in women
  • Constipation, or diarrhea
  • Migraines
  • Weight gain
  • Skin issues like eczema and acne
  • Food sensitivities

If you’re avidly perusing the Paleosphere, you know inflammation and illness often start in the gut and are directly attribute to what we’re eating. Some go so far as to suggest that nearly everyone is suffering from candidiasis in some way, shape or form. If you have intestinal candidiasis, overgrowth of Candida in the small intestine, not only are there no risks to following a Paleo diet, its optimal for all us. Why?

Let’s look at some basic recommendations for what someone with a diagnosis of candiasis should and should not eat, courtesy of Dr. Brent A Bauer, MD of the Mayo Clinic.4

“Some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners blame common symptoms such as fatigue, headache and poor memory on intestinal overgrowth of the fungus, like organism Candida albicans, or “yeast syndrome” and to cure the syndrome, they recommend a candida cleanse diet, which includes no sugar, white flour, yeast and cheese, based on the theory that these foods promote Candida overgrowth.”

He goes on to note that, “While there are no clinical trials that document the efficacy of a Candida cleanse diet for treating any recognized medical condition, many people note improvement in various symptoms when following this diet. If you stop eating sugar and white flour, you’ll generally wind up cutting out most processed foods, which tend to be higher in calorie content and lower in nutritive value.”

Anyone who has taken the time to properly implement a Paleo diet can vouch that after a brief transitional period, where you move to replace processed foods with fresh ones, you start to just feel better.

Because yeast thrives on sugars, it’s important to restrict sugar intake when combating a Candida infection, and remove allergenic foods and stimulants from the diet.5

Sounding familiar? Up the fresh food. Cut the sugar and refined foods. Remove allergenic foods. If that’s not a perfectly succinct description about what Paleo is all about, I don’t know what is!

If we focus upon nourishing our bodies with the rich nutrients we get from a proper Paleo approach, we boost our immune systems, balance our blood sugar levels, and ultimately, deny the yeast with food it needs to thrive, namely…refined carbs.

Ok, so is there anything else you needs to do in order to proactively fight off the excess yeast? Maura Henninger, N.D., tips published to Huffington Post6 are spot on.

  1. Starve the yeast: no sugar, which will feed the Candida. No fruit in the first two weeks of treatment, then fruit is limited to two low-glycemic choices. No milk, which has the sugar lactose that tends to promote yeast overgrowth and in some cases, because milk can contain antibiotics, can promote overgrowth. No yeast-containing foods such as alcohol, peanuts, melons are recommended. Finally, remove food sensitivities.
  1. Repopulate the gut with probiotics. Fermented foods are great for repopulating the gut with good bacteria including Kim chi, sauerkraut and coconut water.

Finally, increase the consumption of certain foods which may help to kill off the overgrowth:7

  • Monounsaturated fats to aid in fighting inflammation
  • Onions to help flush excess fluid from the body
  • Cruciferous veggies including broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage have compounds containing sulfur and nitrogen which kill Candida
  • Herbs and spices including ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, garlic and cloves for their anti fungal and anti inflammatory effects

It’s clear that eating Paleo not only supports good health generally, but also helps in fighting off uncomfortable, persistent symptoms of chronic yeast overgrowth.


[1] “Invasive Candidiasis Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 June 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015

[2] Cleveland AA, Harrison LH, Farley MM, Hollick R, Stein B, Chiller TM, et al. Declining Incidence of Candidemia and the Shifting Epidemiology of Candida Resistance in Two US Metropolitan Areas, 2008-2013: Results from Population-Based Surveillance. PLOS ONE. 2015

[3] Henninger, N.D. Maura. “Five Steps to Treating Candida Overgrowth, Naturally.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015

[4] “Consumer Health.” Candida Cleanse Diet: What Does It Treat? The Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015

[5] “Foods Not to Eat With Candida.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 21 Sept. 2015

[6] Henninger, N.D. Maura. “Five Steps to Treating Candida Overgrowth, Naturally.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.

[7] “Foods That Help Kill Candida.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 04 May 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015

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.

Food Allergy | The Paleo Diet

Within our intestines, we harbor some 100 trillion microbial cells, collectively known as the gut microbiome (GM). For better or worse, the GM profoundly influences our health, impacting physiology, metabolism, nutrition, and immune function. GM disruption can promote obesity, diabetes, and chronic inflammatory diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.1, 2, 3 In short, according to the human microbiome project (HMP), “we are supraorganisms composed of human and microbial components.”4

The HMP was an initiative launched in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health to study the role of microbes in human health and disease. The HMP sparked widespread interest in GM research, but we’re still just beginning to understand the complexities and intricacies of the GM. Nevertheless, preliminary research suggests the transition from being hunter-gathers to sedentary city dwellers resulted in significant GM changes.

For example, researchers recently compared the GMs of traditional Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania with those of urban adults. The results, published in Nature Communications, showed the Hadza having significantly increased GM diversity.5 Notably, the Hadza have higher amounts of Clostridia, a class of gut bacteria, which according to recently published research, protects against food allergies (more on this below).6

The researchers studying the Hadza remarked, “Adaptation to the post-industrialized western lifestyle is coincident with a reduction in GM diversity, and as a result, a decline in GM stability.” Since the gastrointestinal tract is a gateway to pathogenic, metabolic, and immunological diseases, scientists are increasingly interpreting this decline in GM diversity as a major risk factor for degenerative diseases.

Why is Gut Microbiome Diversity Decreasing?

Many aspects of modern lifestyles promote decreased GM diversity, including birthing method (cesarean versus traditional vaginal births), decreased breastfeeding, decreased consumption of dietary fiber, increased early childhood exposure to antibiotics, and increased lifetime exposure to antibiotics. Cesarean births require the use of antibiotics, which is one reason why, according to research recently published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, cesarean birthed infants exhibit “particularly low bacterial richness and diversity.”7

Antibiotics are notoriously overprescribed in the US, particularly for viral infections (which antibiotics don’t affect). A 2014 study found that doctors prescribe antibiotics for 60% of sore throat cases and 70% of cough cases.8 Dr. Jeffrey Linder, one of the study’s co-authors, says only 10% of sore throat cases are bacterial and multiple studies show antibiotics are ineffective against coughs.9 In short, modern lifestyles and diets are negatively impacting GM diversity.

The Connection Between Gut Microbiome and Food Allergies

According to Food Allergy Research & Education, 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, including 1 in 13 children.10 Food allergies increased 18% among children from 1997 to 2007.11 Is the increasing food allergies trend related to the decreasing GM diversity trend? According to University of Chicago researchers, yes.

By studying mice raised in perfectly sterile environments, these researchers discovered that Clostridia (the same bacterial strain observed at increased levels among the Hadza and decreased levels among urbanites) protects against food allergies.12 Lead researcher Dr. Cathryn Nagler explained, “The first step is for an allergen to gain access to the blood stream. The presence of Clostridia prevents the allergens from getting into the bloodstream.”13

So what does this mean with respect to the Paleo Lifestyle? For many people, particularly those with a history of antibiotic use, probiotic supplementation may be prudent. Dr. Cordain explains that both probiotic and prebiotic supplements promote healthy gut flora and reduced intestinal permeability for most people, although in some special cases they could agitate the gut.

Moreover, the Paleo Diet contains large amounts of fiber-rich vegetables. Think of fiber as food for the GM. Once inside the gastrointestinal tract, certain vegetable fibers ferment, creating short-chain fatty acids, which promote GM diversity and prevent the overgrowth of antagonistic bacterial strains.14

Remember the human microbiome project (HMP)? Thirty-seven HMP microbiologists were asked a series of questions regarding gut health, including one specific to the Paleo Diet: “Do you believe a high protein-fat diet, so long as it includes a significant amount and diversity of whole plants (fermentation sources) and minimal to no processed carbohydrates, is a strategy for a healthy microbiome?”15 With 1 representing “strongly disagree” and 10 “strongly agree,” the average response was 9.1. In other words, according to the world’s leading GM experts, the Paleo Diet, like the ancestral Hadza diet, promotes healthy, diverse gut microbiomes, thereby protecting against food allergies.

Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
Nutritional Grail

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.


1 Ley, RE., et al. (December 2006). Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature, 444 (7122). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17183309/

2 Qin, J., et al. (October 2012). A metagenome-wide association study of gut microbiota in type 2 diabetes. Nature, 490 (7418). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23023125/

3 Frank, DN., et al. (August 2007). Molecular-phylogenetic characterization of microbial community imbalances in human inflammatory bowel diseases. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, 104 (34). Retrieved 2, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17699621/

4 Turnbaugh, PJ., et al. (October 2007). The human microbiome project: exploring the microbial part of ourselves in a changing world. Nature, 449 (7164). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3709439/

5 Schnorr, SL., et al. (April 2014). Gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers. Nature Communications, 5 (3654). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140415/ncomms4654/full/ncomms4654.html

6 Stefka, AT., et al. (August 2014). Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (36). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.pnas.org/content/111/36/13145

7 Azad, MB., et al. (March 2013). Gut microbiota of healthy Canadian infants: profiles by mode of delivery and infant diet at 4 months. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185 (5). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/5/385

8 Barnett, ML., (January 2014). Antibiotic Prescribing to Adults With Sore Throat in the United States, 1997-2010. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174 (1). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1745694

9 Singh, M. (October 4, 2013). Despite Many Warnings, Antibiotics Are Still Overprescribed. NPR. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/10/04/229167826/despite-many-warnings-antibiotics-are-still-overprescribed

10 Food Allergy Research & Education. About Food Allergies. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.foodallergy.org/about-food-allergies

11 Branum, AM., (October 2008). Food Allergy Among U.S. Children: Trends in Prevalence and Hospitalizations. NCHS Data Brief, 10. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db10.pdf

12 Stefka, AT., et al. (August 2014). Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (36). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.pnas.org/content/111/36/13145

13 Gallagher, J. (August 26, 2014). Gut bugs ‘help prevent allergies.’ BBC News, Health. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28887088

14 Kaczmarczyk, MM., et al. (August 2012). The health benefits of dietary fiber: Beyond the usual suspects of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Metabolism, 61 (8). Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0026049512000455

15 Leach, J. (September 26, 2012). Guts, Germs and Meals: what 37 microbiologist say about diet. Human Food Project. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://humanfoodproject.com/guts-germs-and-meals-what-37-microbiologist-say-about-diet/

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