Exercise & Fitness

Pause for Paleo!

 Trying to encompass the entire Paleo diet in just one post is tough. We’ll try it anyway.

Man, there were so many other facets of a story I just wrapped for Good Health KC. In 800 words or less, I was to encompass—as objectively as possible—the entire premise of following a Paleo diet. In the end, I found it much more difficult to allow the counter-perspective equal playing time. Even finding a health professionals willing to go on the record against Paleo proved quite the challenge. However, the same was true in my attempt to find nutritionists, et al, following Paleo strictly.

paleo pyramid

During the course of my research, interview, write (and again) stages, I was reminded of a time after my correct diagnosis when my husband and I were just beginning to embark on the road back to living healthfully. I read and read—poring over seminal texts on nutrition recommended to me by my once Macrobiotic dad (see: the ‘70s) as well as as much as I could sink my teeth into on the Web—which is to say but a small fraction, though this was circa early 2000s, when the World Wide Web was still being dubbed things like the Information Superhighway. Just look at how far we’ve come technologically, even in the past decade.

But I definitely digress.

One of my dad’s most emphatic recommendations was The Yeast Connection, which eliminates all sugar, most grains, alcohol and even some fruits.

All of this in an effort to rid the body of the diet’s No. 1 offender: candida, present in most Americans’ systems in chronic, persistent excess and a contributing factor to a whole host of states of disease.

The staple Candida diet is comprised of veggies, eggs and meat. When my husband and I subscribed to it strictly, we lost so much weight so fast, our families worried.

While writing a story on Paleo for the winter issue of Good Health KC, I noticed striking similarities between the two diets. Candida omits grains because of the fact that upwards of 80 percent of us are grain- or gluten-intolerant. But why?

When I learned more about Paleo’s founding tenets, it offered highly compelling insight into just why candida might overpopulate the gut, eat away at its walls and cause leaky gut syndrome, which can give rise to all the same illnesses Paleo purports to combat.

Could it really be that we’re simply not genetically adept at digesting post-Agricultural Revolution cultivation like wheat, and all of our so-called diseases of influence stem from problems arising from our body’s inability to process gluten and other substances specific to grains?

Admittedly, however, Gage and I fell back into our grainy glut–with pasta being one of the most irresistible vices. Oh, and crusty Italian bread. Also? Oreos. Annnd, back came the weight we’d lost. Sigh.

But, upon delving into Paleo lit in my research for the story and in interviewing the super-incredible Mario Singelmann, founder of Primal Fitness, with encyclopedic levels of knowledge on nutrition and fitness, I was totally inspired to work my way back to eating like I know I should, but often don’t.

Going totally grain-free and eating nothing but high-quality, grass-fed, organic proteins and organic fruits and veggies, though, is an impossibly tall order for most of us.

And, although Singelmann said even he doesn’t follow 100 percent Paleo, 100 percent of the time (though he ramps up his efforts significantly when prepping for a bodybuilding show), of course he said the closer you follow, the more compelling your results will likely be.

As for me, while I mostly believe in Paleo’s major premises–right down to the reason Paleo followers say so many of us are wholly incapable of digesting grains–those striking similarities between Paleo, Candida and many other diets got me thinking critically.

Both remove grains, sugar and processed junk from our diets. Both focus on eating mostly meats and veggies, nuts and seeds, and some–but not too much–fruit.

The more modern manifestation of the Candida diet adds in probiotics to replenish the colony of good bacteria that’s populated our guts for thousands of years, a delicate balance only recently disrupted by the advent of antibiotics (translated from Latin: “against life”).

While an absolutely pivotal advancement in our history, the dark side to antibiotics is that, whenever we take them for a bacterial infection, these drugs don’t discriminate. They kill all bacteria in the body, good and bad.

So what if we are on the right track–but, again, are focusing too much on the symptoms and not the root cause?

Either way, cutting bready foods, sweets and processed food while striving to eat organically when possible? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a doctor or nutritionist who’ll disagree with that plan.

Read “Paleo Chic” in the Winter 2012 issue of Good Health KC, soon!


 Alicia McGarry’s journalistic endeavors began at The Chicago Tribune before her passion for all things Kansas City called her back to her roots. She has written for KC Magazine, The Kansas City Star and LakehomesKC and offers her unique perspective on holistic wellness each month for the readers of Good Health KC.