Tag Archives: stress


You may already know quite a bit about The Paleo Diet®—how it encourages us to eat in a way similar to how our non-industrialized ancestors, relying on healthy meats, fish, and eggs; fruits and veggies; nuts and seeds; herbs and spices; and healthy fats and oils. The diet also advocates that you avoid, as much as possible, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners; processed foods; grains and legumes; dairy products; and trans-fats such as vegetable oil, margarine, and shortening.

You may also know about the emphasis on exercise, to keep the body fit and strong. But a Paleo lifestyle includes more than just diet and exercise. It also includes Paleo principles such as getting outside to enjoy and be nourished by the natural world; protecting ourselves from man-made EMFs; unplugging periodically from our Wi-Fi devices; and cultivating healthy human relationships.

To that end, meditation can also be a valuable component of a balanced and healthy Paleo lifestyle.

The Physical, Mental, and Emotional Benefits Of Meditation

Perhaps you have already experienced the beneficial effects of meditation. It’s reassuring to know that Western science has verified the benefits of regular meditation practice. A sampling of the proven benefits of daily practice include:

  • stress relief
  • relaxation
  • enhanced vitality
  • deeper and more nourishing sleep
  • increased mental clarity
  • improved focus and concentration
  • enhanced creativity
  • expanded insight
  • equanimity and compassion

It is quite an impressive list. Another potential benefit of meditation—one that tends to be of special interest to Paleo enthusiasts—is improvements to the digestive system.

The practice of meditation can, in fact, improve digestive efficiency in several ways. First, it can help direct physical effects by helping to resolve digestive problems such as cramps, bloating, and gas.

Second, by clarifying your mind and dissolving mental-emotional tensions, meditation can also help you make better choices in relation to what you eat and when. So, if digestion problems are linked to poor food choices, overeating, or undereating, then meditation can help.

Finally, the most general way that meditation supports our digestive system is via the melting away of anxiety and stress. While all the body’s systems respond negatively to anxiety and tension, the digestive system is particularly sensitive in this regard. Most of us have had the experience of an emotional upset ruining our appetite or giving us a stomachache.

Why does this happen? When your “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system is activated, the “rest and digest” parasympathetic functions are depressed. When your body is preparing to fight or flee, the resources necessary for proper digestion are diverted.

Over time, this can cause all kinds of digestive problems such as acid reflux, ulcers, and inflammation. By calming the mind and body through meditation, unnecessary tensions are replaced by deep relaxation, which tends to improve the functioning of the body’s organ systems, including the capacity to digest our food better.

How to Start Practicing Meditation

There are many kinds of meditation. What they have in common is their experiential nature. This means is that in order to fully understand what meditation is, you need to practice it.

Eventually, partaking in meditation will begin to feel more like simply “being.” Instead of doing meditation, you will realize that meditation is who you are.

To start, adopting a particular technique is useful. One excellent option—and a great place to start for beginners—is to devote 10 or 15 minutes to following your breath: consciously observing the cycles of inhalation and exhalation.

To help you stay on track, you can count the breaths, from one to 10, with each exhalation. Notice your inhalation, then as you exhale, say (out loud or silently to yourself) the word “one.” Then again notice the inhalation, and then as you exhale say the word “two.” Continue like this until you’ve reached “10”—and if you get distracted, begin again at “one.”

Sitting with the spine upright is one excellent posture for meditation practice. However, you can meditate with the body in almost any position. Sometimes, a simple yoga pose is a wonderful opportunity for meditation.

The yoga pose Viparita Karani (legs-up-wall pose), for instance, has deeply therapeutic effects, one of which is to calm the nervous system and help you to sleep better. Five or 10 minutes is all it takes—right before going to bed—to harmonize your body and mind in a way that helps you to fall easily into a deep and nourishing sleep.


Is the 40 Hour Work Week a Thing of the Past? | The Paleo Diet

America is somewhat (in)famous for its “work hard, play hard’ motto,1 whereas Europeans typically work less and relax more.2 As America’s health rapidly declines, many Americans are starting to wake up and realize all those extra hours aren’t really worth it.3, 4, 5 One recent example of this is a Portland-based company Treehouse, who have started a 32 hour work week trend for their employees without slashing their benefits.6 Interestingly, they have found that employees are more productive on this schedule.7 We have to ask: is this feasible for everyone?

Then there is the story of Ultra Romance – a 35 year old man who only works six months out of the year, spending the other six months riding his bicycle around the world, and living off of a mere $10.00 per day.8 While certainly not a mainstream idea, part of me thinks that he just might be on to something. He claims modern life is just too stressful, and often I’m inclined to agree with him. Scientific literature supports his claims, as well.9, 10, 11 Though there are other parts of his story that are even more fringe-like (he’s never owned a car, and he only got a bank account to buy and sell bicycle parts on eBay), at heart he may be more in tune with our Paleo ancestors, than we are.

But believe it or not, capitalism used to be even more demanding on the human psyche, with a 48 hour work week being a thing of the not-too-distant past.12 That clearly seems like too much to expect of human beings. It cannot be good for us to work that much…right? Correct.13 To put it simply, all that constant work is not great for our brain or body.14, 15, 16 And as life outside of the workplace becomes increasingly demanding it is a healthy question to ask: “how much is enough?” One alarming trend that has occurred only over the last 40-50 years is a completely diminished sleep quantity, across the board, for all genders and age groups.17 Not getting enough sleep can have long term negative consequences, on a variety of biomarkers of wellbeing.18, 19

Interestingly, before capitalism, most people did not work very long hours at all.20 Capitalism may have raised income levels, but precious time (the one thing you can never get back) was lost. Was this a good trade? As we reach the apex of technology and with the potential for nearly everything to be automated, we must reexamine our lifestyles.21

If you don’t believe me, believe the data. Never before have we seen such a widespread obesity pandemic.22 Never before has healthcare and diabetes been costing us so much.23 Happiness indexes are highest in the Nordic countries – countries which have vastly different work and leisure habits than we do.24

Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought. We are undoubtedly in tough times. There is vast economic disparity, great economic instability, rapid advancements in technology, and hyper-stimulation of our senses. But our basic biology has not changed. We are still humans who require relaxation, 8-9 hours of sleep, high quality food, and smart amounts of physical activity. Our Paleo ancestors may have been right all along – and they certainly did not work a 40 hour week.



[1] Available at: //www.stanforddaily.com/2012/04/30/editorial-work-hard-play-hard-not-healthy/. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[2] Okulicz-Kozaryn A (2011) Europeans work to live and Americans live to work (Who is happy to work more: Americans or Europeans?). J Happiness Stud 12:225–243

[3] Roth J, Qiang X, Marbán SL, Redelt H, Lowell BC. The obesity pandemic: where have we been and where are we going?. Obes Res. 2004;12 Suppl 2:88S-101S.

[4] James PT, Leach R, Kalamara E, Shayeghi M. The worldwide obesity epidemic. Obes Res. 2001;9 Suppl 4:228S-233S.

[5] Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Hall KD, et al. The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):804-14.

[6] Available at: //www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/07/10/portland-company-32-hour-work-week/29950755/. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[7] Available at: //www.washingtonpost.com/local/at-some-start-ups-fridays-are-so-casual-everyone-can-stay-home/2015/02/06/31e8407e-9d1c-11e4-96cc-e858eba91ced_story.html. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[8] Available at: //www.businessinsider.com/ultraromance-bike-camping-free-spirit-does-not-like-work-2015-7. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[9] Benson H, Allen RL. How much stress is too much?. Harv Bus Rev. 1980;58(5):86-92.

[10] Arnsten AF. Stress signalling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009;10(6):410-22.

[11] Babazono A, Mino Y, Nagano J, Tsuda T, Araki T. A prospective study on the influences of workplace stress on mental health. J Occup Health. 2005;47(6):490-5.

[12] Available at: //www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/where-did-40-hour-workweek-come-n192276. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[13] Available at: //www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/why-working-more-than-40-hours-a-week-is-useless.html. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[14] Babazono A, Mino Y, Nagano J, Tsuda T, Araki T. A prospective study on the influences of workplace stress on mental health. J Occup Health. 2005;47(6):490-5.

[15] Sapolsky RM. Why stress is bad for your brain. Science. 1996;273(5276):749-50.

[16] Mcewen BS. Stressed or stressed out: what is the difference?. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2005;30(5):315-8.

[17] Available at: https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2015/07/10/were-sleeping-less-than-ever. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[18] Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2259.

[19] Irwin M. Effects of sleep and sleep loss on immunity and cytokines. Brain Behav Immun. 2002;16(5):503-12.

[20] Schor, Juliet. The overworked American : the unexpected decline of leisure. New York, N.Y: Basic Books, 1991.

[21] Available at: //www.wired.com/2015/02/ai-wont-end-world-might-take-job/. Accessed July 29, 2015.

[22] Malecka-tendera E, Mazur A. Childhood obesity: a pandemic of the twenty-first century. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006;30 Suppl 2:S1-3.

[23] Economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. in 2012. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(4):1033-46.

[24] Available at: //www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/16/northern-lights-4. Accessed July 29, 2015.

Chronic Fatigue and The Paleo Diet | The Paleo Diet

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly called chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), is an incapacitating condition marked by disabling fatigue of at least six months, accompanied by numerous rheumatological, infectious, and neuropsychiatric symptoms.1 However, in our modern day nearly 4 million people 2 struggle with these symptoms that impact their ability to fully engage in daily activities.  Exercise can help fight common fatigue, while even minor efforts at physical activity lead to a significant worsening of symptoms for ME/CFS patients. This often encourages ME/CFS patients to cope with their illness by completely avoiding physical activity.3,4

Western medicine has offered little support for effective treatments options, which have included self-managed exercise programs and psychotherapy, and many practitioners fail to recognize ME/CFS as having a physical cause, believing the condition is only psychosomatic.5 Fortunately, researchers have just discovered that there are actual plasma biological markers in individuals with early ME/CFS symptoms. Specifically, the data shows a significant activation of both pro-and anti-inflammatory cytokines, the cells aiding in communication of immune responses triggered by inflammation, infection and trauma.6 This data stands to offer both new diagnostic tools, as well as treatment options to reduce the severity of ME/CFS.7


Nutritional deficiencies can contribute to the clinical manifestations of ME/CFS, and also can impact the healing processes.8 The Paleo diet is nutrient dense9 and exceeds the governmental requirements for over 13 nutrients lacking most in the Standard American Diet (SAD).10 Follow the prescriptions in The Paleo Diet, while focusing on the following recommendations to target healing.


Antioxidants have therapeutic potential to reduce oxidative damage, which is often shown to be high in those with ME/CFS.11 Elevated concentrations of inflammatory cytokines might indirectly cause diminished antioxidant capacity by inhibiting albumin transcription in the liver.12 Therefore, it is important to replenish the body with dietary sources of glutathione-rich foods, as glutathione is required to properly utilize other antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and selenium and carotenoids.13,14


Magnesium is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Stress hormones tend to deplete magnesium levels,15 which have also been shown to be decreased in ME/CFS patients, despite adequate dietary intake of magnesium.16 Magnesium supplementation from naturally rich sources, such as avocados, dark leafy greens, and nuts,17 has been shown to improve energy levels, emotional wellbeing, and reduce pain in ME/CFS patients.18


Low levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are often linked to immune, endocrine, and sympathetic nervous system dysfunctions,19, 20 appear to be common in individuals with ME/CFS.21 The Paleo Diet mimics our hunter gatherer ancestor’s dietary intake of omega-6 to omega-3, with a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1, as opposed to the modern diet, which has been estimated at 10:1 or 25:1.22 Pastured meats and wild fish, as recommended on the Paleo Diet are naturally higher in omega-3 fatty acids and support anti-inflammatory actions within the body.


Stress contributes to the pathology and clinical symptoms of ME/CFS.23 The greater number of stressful life events predicts a worse functional and fatigue symptom profile24 and those who recover from ME/CFS for over one year report lower levels of life stress than those who did not recover.25 The lifestyle choices of hunter-gatherers differ from those of modern man in that there was adequate rest and recovery from both physical endeavors and mental feats. In addition to getting a solid night’s sleep, spend time outdoors each day, turn off technology early and practice mediation or other stress reducing activities to support your Paleo Diet lifestyle.


[1] Fukuda K, Straus SE, Hickie I, Sharpe MC, Dobbins JG, Komaroff A: The chronic fatigue syndrome: a comprehensive approach to its definition and study. Ann Intern Med 1994; 121:953-959

[2] Jason LA, Richman JA, Rademaker AW, et al. A community-based study of chronic fatigue syndrome. Arch Intern Med 1999;159:2129- 2137. 2. Komarof

[3] Vercoulen JH, Hommes OR, Swanink CM, Jongen PJ, Fennis JF, Galama JM, van der Meer JW, Bleijenberg G: The measurement of fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis: a multidimensional comparison with patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy subjects. Arch Neurol 1996; 53:642-649

[4] Vercoulen JHMM, Swanink CMA, Fennis JFM, Galama JM, van der Meer JW, Bleijenberg G: Prognosis in chronic fatigue syndrome: a prospective study of the natural course. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1996; 60:489-494

[5] Ware, Norma C. “Suffering and the social construction of illness: The delegitimation of illness experience in chronic fatigue syndrome.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 6.4 (1992): 347-361.

[6] Zhang, Jun-Ming, and Jianxiong An. “Cytokines, inflammation and pain.”International anesthesiology clinics 45.2 (2007): 27.

[7] Hornig, Mady, et al. “Distinct plasma immune signatures in ME/CFS are present early in the course of illness.” Science Advances 1.1 (2015): e1400121.

[8] Werbach, Melvyn R. “Nutritional strategies for treating chronic fatigue syndrome.” Alternative Medicine Review 5.2 (2000): 93-108.

[9] Cordain, Loren, et al. “Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 81.2 (2005): 341-354.

[10] Cordain, Loren. “The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups.” J Am Neutraceutical Assoc 5 (2002): 15-24.

[11] Fulle S, Mecocci P, Fano G, et al. Specific oxidative alterations in vastus lateralis muscle of patients with the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Free Radic Biol Med 2000;29:1252-1259.

[12] Werbach, Melvyn R. “Nutritional strategies for treating chronic fatigue syndrome.” Alternative Medicine Review 5.2 (2000): 93-108.

[13] Mårtensson, J., J. C. Lai, and Alton Meister. “High-affinity transport of glutathione is part of a multicomponent system essential for mitochondrial function.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 87.18 (1990): 7185-7189.

[14] Bounous, G., and J. Molson. “Competition for glutathione precursors between the immune system and the skeletal muscle: pathogenesis of chronic fatigue syndrome.” Medical hypotheses 53.4 (1999): 347-349.

[15] Seelig M. Presentation to the 37th Annual Meeting, American College of Nutrition, October 13, 1996.

[16] Grant JE, Veldee MS, Buchwald D. Analysis of dietary intake and selected nutrient concentrations in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. J Am Diet Assoc 1996;96:383-386.

[17] Manuel y Keenoy, Begoña, et al. “Magnesium status and parameters of the oxidant-antioxidant balance in patients with chronic fatigue: effects of supplementation with magnesium.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition19.3 (2000): 374-382.

[18] Cox, I. M., M. J. Campbell, and D. Dowson. “Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome.” The Lancet 337.8744 (1991): 757-760.

[19] Gray JB, Martinovic AM. Eicosanoids and essential fatty acid modulation in chronic disease and the chronic fatigue syndrome. Med Hypotheses 1994;43:31-

[20] Behan PO, Behan WM, Horrobin D. Effect of high doses of essential fatty acids on the postviral fatigue syndrome. Acta Neurol Scand 1990;82:209-216.

[21] Howard JM, Davies S, Hunnisett A. Magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome. Letter. Lancet 1992;340:426.

[22] Cordain, L., et al. “Original Communications-The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: Meat-based, yet non-atherogenic.” European journal of clinical nutrition 56.1 (2002): S42.

[23] Logan, Alan C., and Cathy Wong. “Chronic fatigue syndrome: oxidative stress and dietary modifications.” Alternative medicine review: a journal of clinical therapeutic 6.5 (2001): 450-459.

[24] Buchwald DS, Rea TD, Katon WJ, Russo JE, Ashley RL. Acute infectious mononucleosis: Characteristics of patients who report failure to recover. The American Journal of Medicine.2000;109(7):531–537.

[25] Lim BR, Tan SY, Zheng YP, Lin KM, Park BC, Turk AA. Psychosocial factors in chronic fatigue syndrome among Chinese Americans: A longitudinal community-based study. Transcultural Psychiatry. 2003;40:429–441.

Your Dietary Fix for Stress: Paleo Diet or Nordic Diet | The Paleo Diet

In November of 2014, the International Journal of Obesity published a study conducted by Swedish researchers comparing Paleo-inspired diets with those based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR).1 The NNR are comparable to the USDA’s dietary guidelines, emphasizing low-fat dairy and cereal grains and recommending a macronutrient distribution of 55-60% of calories from carbohydrates, 25-30% from fat, and 15% from protein. The macronutrient distribution used in this study to represent the Paleo diet was 30% carbohydrates, 40% fat, and 30% protein.

The researchers grouped 49 overweight or obese postmenopausal women into the Paleo and NNR groups, tracking their progress over two years. They were primarily serving how these diets influence glucocorticoid metabolism. Glucocorticoids are stress hormones that modulate various metabolic, inflammatory, and cardiovascular processes.2 Abnormal glucocorticoid metabolism is associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.

Cortisol, the principal active glucocorticoid, is secreted by the adrenal glands and converted to cortisone, the inert form.3 One of the enzymes responsible for this conversion is called 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1). Obese individuals demonstrate increased activity of 11β-HSD1 in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT), which is fatty tissue directly under the skin. The researchers hypothesized that diet-induced weight loss results in decreased expression of 11β-HSD1 in SAT and thus a reversal of the abnormal glucocorticoid metabolism common to obese patients.

The study’s participants were observed at baseline, after 6 months, and after 24 months. Both groups lost weight and decreased BMI, waistline measurements, and total body fat throughout the study. The Paleo group had greater reductions after 6 months, but after 24 months there were no significant differences between the groups. Both groups also demonstrated decreased activity of 11β-HSD1 in SAT. The researchers noted, “We did not find any major difference between diets on glucocorticoid metabolism.”4

So what does this study tell us? The Paleo diet performed better than NNR after 6 months, but after two years, it seems neither diet had any advantages over the other. It’s important, however, to look closer at the structure of the study. Every two months, participants attended sessions with dietitians to ensure compliance with their respective diets. Food journals and urine samples were used for monitoring and measuring food intake. An anomaly, however, pointed out by the researchers, was that urinary nitrogen levels were not higher in the Paleo group (as they should have been) at any time during the study, “indicating that the actual intake of protein was similar in both diet groups.”5 The Paleo group, however, was instructed to eat 30% of calories as protein, double the amount of the NNR group.

Also, Paleo participants were instructed to eat 40% of calories as fat, “with a high proportion of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs).” An authentic Paleo diet, however, would have higher proportion of saturated fatty acids and MUFAs, with only very small amounts of PUFAs. So, the “Paleo diet” and the low-fat, high-carb, grain-centric diet fared similarly, but were Paleo participants following an authentic Paleo diet? This seems doubtful. Nevertheless, this study represents an important advance in our understanding of how diets influence stress hormones. Follow-up studies will hopefully ensure greater compliance to authentic Paleo diets.

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] Stomby, A., et al. (October 2014). Diet-induced weight loss has chronic tissue-specific effects on glucocorticoid metabolism in overweight postmenopausal women. International Journal of Obesity. Retrieved from //www.nature.com/ijo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ijo2014188a.html

[2] Wang, M. (February 2005). The role of glucocorticoid action in the pathophysiology of the Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2(3). Retrieved from //www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/3

[3] Ibid, Wang.

[4] Ibid, Stomby.

[5] Ibid, Stomby.

Metabolic Syndrome and the Brain

Metabolic syndrome is an increasingly prevalent problem, not only in developed countries, but in developing countries as well.1, 2 The cluster of risk factors, which comprise metabolic syndrome, are usually thought to be strictly related to obesity.3 However, research shows that metabolic syndrome is correlated with severe cognitive dysfunction as well.4, 5 Risk factors for metabolic syndrome are defined as: raised blood pressure, dyslipidemia (raised triglycerides and lowered high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), raised fasting glucose, and central obesity.6, 7
Definition of Metabolic Syndrome

So what exactly causes metabolic syndrome? Scientific literature suggests Westernization of diet is part of the problem.8 When we look at the brain impairment associated with metabolic syndrome, there are a variety of proposed causative mechanisms including impaired vascular reactivity, neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and abnormal brain lipid metabolism.9

Hypothesized Brain Vascuar Reactivity

Model describing hypothesized brain vascular reactivity abnormalities resulting in brain impairments.

Interestingly, at least one study has shown that men are more affected, cognitively, than women.10 A comprehensive study on metabolic syndrome and the brain, found rats fed an omega-3 deficient diet exhibited memory deficits, which were further exacerbated by fructose intake.11 This demonstrates that systemic inflammation and high sugar intake, specifically fructose, may be two possible precursors to cognitive decline, as well as obesity. It is also important to note the prevalence of a hypercaloric diet consisting of a high sugar intake and highly processed foods has coincided with an exponential rise in diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.12 Nutrient intake directly correlates with brain volume as shown in the Nutrient Biomarker Pattern Score Diagram.13

Metabolic Syndrome Nutrient Biomarker

Nutrient biomarker patterns and volumetric MRI (n = 42) Total cerebral brain volume (A, B) expressed as a % of total intracranial volume; white matter hyperintensity volume (C) includes periventricular and subcortical deep signals expressed as a % of total cerebral brain volume; x-axis represents the standardized score for NBP1-BCDE, NBP8–trans fat, and NBP5-marine ω-3 patterns.

Metabolic syndrome and cognitive dysfunction can further be explained via a 2011 study, which specifically showed how omega-3 deficiencies during pregnancy could affect multiple cognitive factors of new born offspring.14 Omega-3 deficiency was also shown to have effects on levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, an important gene in regulating stress, and in the biology of mood disorders.15 The image below shows how inadequate omega-3 intake can lead to cognitive and mood dysfunction.

Metabolic Syndrome Diagram 4

Schematic representation for potential pathways by which n-3 dietary deficiency may enhance vulnerability to cognitive and mood disorders.

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, specifically an inadequate dietary intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is a recurring problem across these studies. DHA is vital to brain development, mood, and many other important physiological and cognitive functions.16 Other studies have shown brain tissue decline even early in the metabolic syndrome.17 High fructose consumption with an omega-3 deficient diet disrupts membrane homeostasis.18 Metabolic syndrome and brain dysfunction is even seen in adolescents, despite their much shorter lifespan.19 Researchers stated adolescents with metabolic syndrome show significantly lower arithmetic, spelling, attention, and mental flexibility and a trend for lower overall intelligence.

The takeaway: Westernization of diets, specifically over consumption of fructose, is closely linked with developing metabolic syndrome and its accompanying cognitive impairment. Deficiencies in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to correlate with metabolic syndrome and cognitive decline. A simple path to a healthier life is to adopt a Paleo Diet, which is generally extremely low in fructose, and high in omega-3 fatty acids. By giving your brain (and body) the right nutrients, you can thrive in all areas of life.


1. Mozumdar A, Liguori G. Persistent increase of prevalence of metabolic syndrome among U.S. adults: NHANES III to NHANES 1999-2006. Diabetes Care. 2011;34(1):216-9.

2. Misra A, Bhardwaj S. Obesity and the metabolic syndrome in developing countries: focus on South Asians. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2014;78:133-40.

3. Després JP, Lemieux I. Abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome. Nature. 2006;444(7121):881-7.

4. Yaffe K, Weston AL, Blackwell T, Krueger KA. The metabolic syndrome and development of cognitive impairment among older women. Arch Neurol. 2009;66(3):324-8.

5. Taylor VH, Macqueen GM. Cognitive dysfunction associated with metabolic syndrome. Obes Rev. 2007;8(5):409-18.

6. Alberti KG, Eckel RH, Grundy SM, et al. Harmonizing the metabolic syndrome: a joint interim statement of the International Diabetes Federation Task Force on Epidemiology and Prevention; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association; World Heart Federation; International Atherosclerosis Society; and International Association for the Study of Obesity. Circulation. 2009;120(16):1640-5.

7. Huang PL. A comprehensive definition for metabolic syndrome. Dis Model Mech. 2009;2(5-6):231-7.

8. Keller KB, Lemberg L. Obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Am J Crit Care. 2003;12(2):167-70.

9. Yates KF, Sweat V, Yau PL, Turchiano MM, Convit A. Impact of metabolic syndrome on cognition and brain: a selected review of the literature. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2012;32(9):2060-7.

10. Cavalieri M, Ropele S, Petrovic K, et al. Metabolic syndrome, brain magnetic resonance imaging, and cognition. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(12):2489-95.

11. 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.

12. Barnes JN, Joyner MJ. Sugar highs and lows: the impact of diet on cognitive function. J Physiol (Lond). 2012;590(Pt 12):2831.

13. Bowman GL, Silbert LC, Howieson D, et al. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology. 2012;78(4):241-9.

14. Bhatia HS, Agrawal R, Sharma S, Huo YX, Ying Z, Gomez-pinilla F. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency during brain maturation reduces neuronal and behavioral plasticity in adulthood. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(12):e28451.

15. Available at: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/627. Accessed July 8, 2014.

16. Horrocks LA, Yeo YK. Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacol Res. 1999;40(3):211-25.

17. Sala M, De roos A, Van den berg A, et al. Microstructural brain tissue damage in metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Care. 2014;37(2):493-500.

18. 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.

19. Yau PL, Castro MG, Tagani A, Tsui WH, Convit A. Obesity and metabolic syndrome and functional and structural brain impairments in adolescence. Pediatrics. 2012;130(4):e856-64.

Gut Healing | The Paleo Diet

Many of those that have made the switch to The Paleo Diet, previously subsisted on a Standard American Diet (SAD) that relies heavily on grains, dairy, simple carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy oils. A diet rich in SAD foods can contribute to gut dysbiosis or “leaky gut” which can lead to autoimmune disorders and other ailments such as chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease, rashes, diabetes, mental disorders, and other health related problems. To add insult to injury, the modernized human being has typically had their fair share of gut damaging antibiotics and prescription drugs which only serve to further throw off the intricate balance in one’s digestive tract.

If you have yet to achieve success after adopting your Paleo lifestyle, there is a good chance that your gut functioning is not up to par and your digestive system could be allowing toxins into your bloodstream and preventing adequate nutrient uptake regardless of how healthy you may be eating.

To support immune function and overall well being one must account for the importance of gut health. Fortunately, there are many foods and lifestyle practices you can adopt to restore your gut’s equilibrium.

Gut Healing Foods

As obvious as it may seem, the gut should be thought of as the primary interface between the human body and the environment. Every food that is put into your system will create a reaction in your gut. Certain foods will increase gut permeability with long term exposure, thus allowing normally digested food particles into the bloodstream invoking an immune system response. Over time, this response can lead to the formation of autoimmune illnesses and other health issues. Avoid these foods on a gut healing protocol:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Sugars
  • Unhealthy oils (corn, vegetable, soybean, cottonseed)
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Excessive carbohydrate consumption

Individuals with autoimmune disease may want to limit or omit:

By removing the foods outlined above, you should be able to reduce overall body inflammation and assist in restoring gut health.

Certain foods, however, should be incorporated into your Paleo Diet to accelerate the healing process.

Gut Healing Foods

Probiotic rich foods are essential. The gut is home to roughly 100 trillion organisms, and many gut related problems stem from loss of gut flora diversity. These foods are tremendously rich in probiotics and should be consumed regularly:

  • Fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi)
  • Kombucha
  • A multi-species dairy-free probiotic supplement can also be equally beneficial

Heal the Intestinal Wall

  • Bone Broth, rich in glycine, gelatin, and glutamine which is essential for intestinal repair
  • Fermentable fibers, like sweet potatoes
  • Healthy fats sources including pasture raised animals, avocado, coconut oil, pure olive oil
  • Omega-3 rich foods like seafood and salmon

Finally, a vital part of gut health is to be able to adequately manage stress. Excessive stress results in heightened cortisol levels which can over time wreak havoc on hormone functionality and other bodily processes including gut functioning.

It is important to avoid chronic stress and to incorporate activities you enjoy in your day-to-day. Activities such as hiking, meditation, playing with your kids, or socializing with friends and family are all great ways to reduce stress.

Stick to these tips and you will be well on on your way to achieving a healthy gut!

Kyle Cordain, The Paleo Diet Team

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