Avoiding and Addressing Chronic Illness with The Paleo Diet
Diet is not a panacea. The healthiest eaters can still get sick, and no one lives forever. That being said, at The Paleo Diet®, we believe diet is the path to a healthier and richer life overall.
We know for certain that poor diet can damage our health and lower our quality of life. During the 20th century, the number-one killer in terms of disease shifted from viruses to chronic inflammatory conditions, or what are known as Diseases of Civilization.
These conditions—metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, digestive issues, neurodegeneration, and autoimmune disease—seem almost ubiquitous in modern society. So it’s hard to imagine that not too long ago, these conditions were rare and, in some places, even unheard of.
What is common to all of these conditions is that they start with chronic low-grade and inappropriate inflammation. As we’ve explained before, poor diet plays a big part in generating that inflammation. And likewise, a healthy diet can play a big part in reducing it.
The Paleo Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet. We believe that a reasonable Paleo Diet approach following the 85/15 rule will help many of us live healthier lives free of these conditions by reducing the inflammation at their core.
If You Are Already Dealing with a Chronic Illness
While the 85/15 rule is sufficient for a healthy life for most of us, if you are already dealing with a chronic inflammatory condition, an 85/15 approach may not be sufficient.
For example, if you are dealing with cancer or multiple sclerosis, you may need to employ a short-term, very low-carbohydrate approach. Cancer cells have a damaged metabolism. They can only use carbohydrates for fuel. So eating a very low-carbohydrate diet can, in essence, help starve the cancer cells.
Likewise, many people with autoimmune conditions find success by trying an elimination diet. This is where you eliminate known problematic foods from your diet, like grains and dairy, and even some Paleo-friendly foods like tomatoes, nightshades, eggs, and bananas.
Try it for several months and see if your symptoms improve. Then reintroduce the foods one at a time to see which exacerbates your symptoms. Once you identify your individual problematic foods, avoid them permanently. It might be hard at first, but it is well worth the health benefits.
Trevor Connor, M.S.
Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.More About The Author