Since February 2016, I have (more or less) followed a paleo diet, or rather the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet. I also often talk about the Wahls Protocol, as I credit Dr Wahls for my health improvements over the past 18 months.
A paleo diet is taking inspiration from hunter-gatherers, before the advent of agriculture. Here are the quick headlines of the diet:
Grain free: all grains/cereals are excluded. It is believed that we have difficulty digesting all grains (not just gluten-grains) and grains contain a lot of "anti-nutrients" that basically flush out our system of all the goodness needed for our body to function properly (like iron, zinc, magnesium, etc)
Dairy free: dairy is highly inflammatory and very few people can actually digest it (giving up milk was easy, giving up ice-cream and cheese especially was/is more tricky!)
Focus on healthy fats:
Olive oil, coconut oil for the vegetarians oils
All other vegetable oils are out, as they are made from grains or seeds and are high in Omega 6, which is inflammatory (Omega 6s are good for you, as long as they are balanced with Omega 3s)
Goose fat, tallow (beef dripping), lard (pork) for the animal fats;
Omega 3 rich food: fatty fish (such as sardines, salmon, mackerel), avocados and nuts/seeds
Vegetables & fruits should be consumed in abundance (min 8 portions a day, up to 12) and ideally should be organic to avoid pesticides. A big focus should be on green leafy vegetables (salads, spinach, chard, kale, etc) as they are generally lacking in our western diets
Animal protein sources should ideally be grass fed (for beef/lamb) and pasture raised / organic (for pork, poultry, etc), to ensure the meat as a higher concentration of Omega 3 fats and avoid antibiotics; fish should be wild (not farmed and if farmed, organic)
Other exclusions include all processed foods, refined sugar, legumes (beans, lentils, peas)
AIP is slightly more restrictive diet, as it is an elimination diet, with several weeks eating only meat, fish, vegetables & fruits. On top of the list above, you also eliminate eggs and nuts & seeds & seed based spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, etc.), as well as nightshades vegetables and spices (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillies, paprika, etc.). Once a good level of health is achieved (it will take anything from 4 weeks to 6 months), we start a structured re-introduction phase, which will ensure that all problematic ingredients remain off the menu. This helps ensure our diet is richer and more varied and thereby easier to follow long term.
AIP is not just a "food diet", it's also a "lifestyle diet". We focus on introducing a lot of self-care activities:
Stress management: such as meditation & mindfulness; stress is chronic nowadays. Whilst stress can be positive and support our performance (a bit of adrenalin will go a long way!), when chronic, it can be one of the root causes of many ailments, cancer, autoimmune disease, cardio-vascular diseases, you name it. If you are chronically stressed, you're seating on a time bomb! And being stressed isn’t just about being under great pressure at work, it can be an alarm waking you every morning or seating in traffic every day.
Sleep: we celebrate sleep nowhere near enough in our society, as a matter of fact, it's often the opposite. Sleeping 6 hours or less a night is glorified. If the whole nation slept 7 hours a day or more, rates of chronic illnesses would drop.
Exercise: it is a natural anti-inflammatory and stress reducer and will also give you loads of happy hormones. It is essential for your health to maintain healthy bones and muscles, especially as we age.
Social connections: being socially connected to others is crucial important to your health and happiness. If we take the I out of illness and replace it with WE, we get wellness. It is a cliché, but there are numerous studies now proving that solitude in a cause of chronic illness and early death.
All these are really crucial to a healthy life. You cannot achieve health through food, unless you are effectively managing your stress, sleep 7+ hours every night, regularly moving and have strong social connections.
This why my approach to health and wellness coaching is completely holistic. If you'd like to know more, please book a free 20 mins discovery call to find out what it’s like to work with me.
IIN qualified health coach, foodie, mum of 2, wife of 1, ex corporate advertising executive, RA warrior