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Digestive Diseases

Digestive disease refers to a large group of varied conditions including leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s, and microflora imbalance. As a result, there is no one mechanism. However, most of the conditions appear to have something in common: a breakdown of the digestive defenses and inappropriate inflammation.

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The Mechanism:

Our digestive tract is the primary interface between our bodies and the outside world. It’s where our bodies process the food we eat and carefully select the nutrients we absorb. It’s also where billions of bacteria live. Most are actually beneficial, but whether harmful or beneficial, our bodies want to keep all the bacteria in the gut.

As a result, the cells of our digestive tract have tight junctions, and the entire gut is lined with a glycocalyx that allow the body to carefully control what gets in. Along the inside of the digestive lining are immune cells. In fact, most of our immune system lives in our gut to protect us against anything that gets past the outer defenses.

A breakdown in any of these defenses can lead to a host of digestive symptoms such as heartburn, IBS, and IBD, which are frequently a sign that the system is in distress.

While these symptoms are annoying in the short run, if the underlying problem is left unchecked, long-term breakdown can lead to chronic inflammation including an imbalance in a highly inflammatory immune cell called TH17 cells. It is believed that these cells evolved to fight bacterial invaders from our gut.

The billions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract make up our microflora. While a healthy microflora is essential, a rapidly growing body of research is showing that the composition of that bacteria can affect all aspects of our health.

Diet and Digestive Diseases

Not surprisingly, diet is one of the biggest factors in the health of our gut. The composition of our diet can profoundly change the composition of our microflora. And while pre- and probiotics will help, it is being shown that the microflora composition can change in a matter of hours. So, unless you want to constantly consume expensive probiotics, a healthy diet is a better way to control our microflora—in particular with fermented foods like sauerkraut, berries, and very dark chocolate.

Grains, such as wheat, oats, and quinoa, contain anti-nutrients like lectins and saponins that are designed to break down and get past our gut barrier. Once inside, many of these anti-nutrients promote an inflammatory response that, gone unchecked, can lead to a variety of inflammatory diseases. This is a major reason grains are not part of a Paleo Diet.

Eating sufficient fiber and omega-3 fatty acids can also help keep the gut functioning properly and reduce inflammation. A natural Paleo Diet® is high in both.

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Paleo Leadership
 
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Trevor Connor

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.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.