Paleo diets have been popping up everywhere. Based on the idea that human beings could not have evolved in the 10,000 years since we were hunter-gatherers, the paleo diet (also known as the Primal or Caveman diet) advocates an eating style sans grains, dairy, and sugar. The thinking behind this diet is to eat the way humans ate before the dawn of agriculture, which advocates say was mankinds’ downturn. Crossfit gyms, athletes, and many others are finding out what this eating style can mean for their health. I believe there may be a reason for its success for some individuals, but a one-size-fits all approach might be taking it a bit too far. In my opinion, there are two flaws with the caveman diet: 1) It assumes that all human beings on earth evolved the same way, which is simply not true. And 2) Modern day hunter-gatherer societies do not eat this way. So why does the diet work?
Many claim that the Paleo diet enables a life free from inflammatory and digestive conditions as well as eliminates pain and/or more serious conditions such as cancer and heat disease. However, this may be attributed to a simple problem faced by up to 12 million Americans: Food allergies. The caveman diet eliminates two of the most common food allegens: Dairy and Gluten which could explain its success. That leaves an important question: Why do we have food allergies? Is it because we have not evolved to be able to tolerate the agricultural advancements that milking cows and milling wheat has provided to us? On the contrary, I think it is because America enabled people of every ethnicity to mingle. The famous melting-pot of America meant that people from all of the world, who were evolutionary predisposed to eat they way their ancestors had eaten for generations, were suddenly combining forces and creating a culture full of foreign foods no one had eaten before.
Until fairly recently different cultures ate one way, passed down from ancestor to ancestor. You can bet that in 1900 you wouldn’t have caught a Spaniard eating raw fish for breakfast- yet that is what those native to Japan did daily. Different customs and rituals surrounding food were largely separate for the majority of human history. Now we live in a culture of cultures. I can eat a European breakfast of radishes with butter and a baguette for breakfast, sushi for lunch, and have a Mexican feast for dinner full of corn tortillas, peppers, and tomatoes. No wonder our health has suffered!! 90% of African and Asian people are lactose-intolerant. 70% of the population in Finland are gluten-intolerant. Introducing new foods to a belly that doesn’t know how to handle them can create a digestive system that is constantly on the defense. This could be the primary reason behind food allergies and intolerances, not to mention a host of horrible diseases.
In addition, the Tarahumara people who live in cliff dwellings in Copper Canyon Mexico are modern-day hunter-gatherers and eat a diet of mostly vegan foods rich in corn and local spices. Not only are the Tarahumara healthy and thriving, they can run 60 miles a day without any problems! Maybe the one-diet-fits-all approach isn’t the right plan of attack.
Food intolerance is hereditary, which makes sense considering that you are of the same genetic makeup as your parents who evolved to be able to digest the foods common to their ancestral heritage. Knowing your genetic background could mean major differences in your health. The book “The Jungle Effect” while not specific to food allergies, gives insight to eating like your ancestors for better overall health. My heritage is mostly Northern European so I’ve been working to get more fish into my diet as well as other traditional delicacies (which explains why I can’t tolerate dairy, gluten, and eggs!). After three years of a lot of pain and suffering, I finally found answers by doing an ELISA blood panel (more info here). The blood panel can give you insight into which foods your body is rebelling against. Abstaining from those foods can bring you a whole new world of health! (It has for me!).
I don’t follow the Paleo diet, but I do abstain from eating gluten, eggs, and dairy after I received my panel results which is pretty similar. Find out what works for you, not whatever diet trend is the new thing. My motto for health remains the same: Lots of plants and water, a sprinkle of sunshine, and avoidance of your allergies!!
Talk to you soon! Good Health!!
I recently read an amazing blog that really inspired me to enjoy myself. JT writes in her blog (read it here: http://smilewithyourheart.com/2011/03/25/day-13-8020/) that she lives by the 80/20 rule- essentially that she is “healthy” 80% of the time, and enjoys splurges 20% of the time. I looove this way of thinking about healthy living, and think it is actually super insightful! In fact, the last two weeks, during my transition into my new home, I felt completely scattered! I’ve had my things in two different locations for quite awhile now, I’ve been wearing filthy clothing through all the cleaning, and have been dead-tired due to late nights at the new home painting and cleaning. On top of all the mayhem, I just didn’t have it in me to fit-in some CrossFit workouts.
Lately I’ve had an on-off relationship with CrossFit. I will get really intense over the weekend and say “Tomorrow I start my dedication!” and then will spend a few weeks hitting the gym 3x/week, going to a yoga class, and hanging at the rock gym. I’ll feel great, but completely worn down, in need of sleep and some relaxation. Once I hit burn-out mode (two weeks ago) I hit the off- stage. In the last two weeks, I’ve been to CrossFit once, thats it, and on top of it, ate lots of pizza and drank lots of wine. And last night I topped it off with half a carton of chocolate peanut butter ice cream (my fave!). I loved it, and I felt good, and instead of feeling guilty for not working out, I just loved that I am allowed to savor both my on and off moments. There IS such a thing as being TOO healthy, because often that can be paired with TOO STRESSED! (Not cool.)
With that in mind, I’m going to enjoy my next few days of cleaning and take-out burritos, and be excited for that moment when the mess in my new home turns into an organized and peaceful space where I can cook my own dinners with the hub, and enjoy a glass of wine on the porch.
Cheers to our on and off moments!! Its a good life and I’m thankful to be living it!!Read More