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Got Anxiety? Here’s How Your Gut Microbiome Plays a Part

Got Anxiety Here's How Your Gut Microbiome Plays a Part

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness affecting those living in the United States with about 40 million sufferers. (1) If you deal with this condition, you know that anxiety can be debilitating and affect your quality of life. But did you also know that the trillions of microbes living in your gut can play a part in your condition and potentially help you heal?

These microbes living in us are often referred to as the “forgotten organ” because they play such a large role in our well-being, but it is only recently that we’ve started to realize the impact this organ has on the body. (2) Unfortunately, the Western lifestyle takes a significant toll on the health of our microbiome with constant stress, unhealthy diets, lack of sleep, and more leading to a condition called dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis, the imbalance of gut bacteria, has been associated with a variety of mental disorders including anxiety. (3) While there aren’t many studies done on humans, we have seen mice exhibit increased anxious behavior when exposed to pathogenic bacteria in the gut. (4) It’s probably no surprise, then, that those with anxiety are also likely to suffer from a digestive disorder associated with imbalanced gut bacterial as well like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

I recommend that you test your microbiome for dysbiosis and pathogens by using a functional medicine lab – your healthcare practitioner can then interpret this information for you and prescribe the correct treatment depending on what is going on in your gut. This is the #1 step anyone with anxiety should take! You don’t want unwanted pathogens hanging around wreaking havoc on your gut health (and in turn your mental health!). Directlabs.com offers a number of stool tests that you can order yourself – I have tests from both Metametrix and Doctor’s Data (two of my favorites) listed in my portal here.

When humans are given specific strains of probiotics, their anxiety improves as does their HPA axis function. (5) The strains of probiotics used in this study (Bifidobacterium longum R0175 and Lactobacillus helveticus R0052) can be found in two products in the United States: Pure Encapsulations’ ProbioMood (which you can purchase in my supplement dispensary) and Xymogen’s Probio Defense.

Prebiotics, which feed healthy gut bacteria, are also useful for anxiety. Stress-related disorders seem to respond to the prebiotic GOS (galactooligosaccharide) in particular, which help the HPA axis to function appropriately in addition to making us pay more attention to positive stimuli vs negative stimuli. (6) My go-to GOS prebiotic is Galactomune from Klaire Labs, which you can purchase in my dispensary.

Eating a healthy, ancestral diet is also associated with lower anxiety scores, while Westernized diets are associated with the opposite effect. (7) This is thought to be due to many factors including inflammation, but also to the effects of these diets on the microbiome. Another reason to keep up your healthy Paleo diet!

The microbiome and the brain operate on a bi-directional axis, meaning that the gut affects the brain and vice versa. Because of this, anxiety and gut problems can be a vicious cycle where anxiety  makes you more likely to develop dysbiosis (the imbalance of gut bacteria) and dysbiosis makes you more likely to suffer from anxiety. But dealing with both conditions simultaneously (i.e. treating dysbiosis and reducing stress to the degree you can) can help alleviate both problems. To learn more about stress and its impact on the gut, check out my article on the topic here.

While anxiety can be a difficult diagnosis to deal with, there is more and more research coming out every day about the relationship between anxiety and the microbiome. If you suffer from anxiety, your treatment plan should definitely address any problems in the gut!

To recap, those with anxiety should focus on:

  • Reducing stress as much as possible by incorporating mind-body activities like meditation, yoga, etc
  • Testing and treating for dysbiosis with a trusted practitioner (I can help!)
  • Adding probiotics to their routine, in particular the Bifidobacterium longum R0175 and Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 strains  which can be found in the probiotic supplements ProbioMood and Probio Defense.
  • Adding prebiotics, especially GOS, which has shown to have a positive impact on the HPA axis and anxiety. Try Galactomune to get more GOS in your diet.
  • Eating a healthy, ancestral diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, etc. (e.g. a Paleo diet!)

Now I want to hear from you: what have you done to combat your anxiety? Are you focusing on the gut?

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Jaw Pain: The Multifactorial Nature of TMJ

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For years doctors and dentists believed that malocclusion (teeth that don’t line up correctly) cause pain in the TMJ. However, newer research shows that while structural abnormalities may be part of the picture, this disorder is also associated with biological, behavioral and cognitive factors.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) cause pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and those with TMD usually have difficulty opening their mouths widely and may experience clicking or popping of the joint. TMD is also associated with neck and tooth pain, as well as dizziness and tinnitus.

In my most recent guest post on ChrisKresser.com, I talk about the three little known factors that play a part in developing TMD and what you can do about them. Click here to read the full article!

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Stay Hydrated With The Cranberry Lemon Refresher

Stay Hydrated With The Cranberry Lemon Refresher

It’s getting awfully hot in New York these days, and if you’re like me and try not to blast your AC all day long, you know you need to be drinking more water than usual.

I’m one of those people who tends to forget to drink – I can literally make it to the end of the workday having barely had anything to drink. Not good! While there’s some debate over the “correct” amount of water to drink, I certainly don’t think it’s a good idea to be going that long without water.

To trick myself into drinking more, I’ve been making this yummy concoction that I like to call the Cranberry Lemon Refresher. It’s super easy to make and it looks appealing and refreshing, so I’m more likely to drink it!

To make the Cranberry Lemon Refresher, all you need is water, a half a lemon, and 100% cranberry juice (not the cranberry juice “drink” that includes sugar or other juices). I like the cranberry juice from Trader Joe’s – it’s affordable and delicious!

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To begin, simply put a splash of the cranberry juice in your cup or jar (I love using a quart-sized mason jar for this!). Take a look at the picture below to see how much I put in a quart jar – it’s not a lot.

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Then add the juice of a half a lemon and fill it the rest of the way up with water. I love using a straw for this drink too, since I tend to drink more when I use a straw (they’re fun!).

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Enjoy!

Healthy Eating 101: The Rule of Thirds

Healthy Eating 101: The Rule of Thirds

I think that eating well should be dead simple. It shouldn’t require measuring things on a scale or counting calories or breaking out the TI-83, right?

That’s why I tell my clients to follow the Rule Of Thirds for their meals – it’s easy to understand and it’s simple.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes a plate-model (and I’ll admit that I think showing folks their food on a plate makes it much easier to understand), but I don’t like theirs. While it’s certainly better than the old pyramid I still think we can do a lot better! The Rule of Thirds is my version.

So here’s how it works:

Think about your plate sitting in front of you and break it into three sections. The sections are as follows:

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1. Protein – This includes beef, chicken, lamb, pork, duck, fish, shellfish, etc. As much as possible, try to purchase humanely-raised grass-fed, pastured, organic, etc. Quality is key here!

2. Vegetables – any and all veggies, excluding only starchy vegetables which are included in the carbohydrates section. Variety is important! Don’t stick to the same vegetables all the time. Your gut bacteria (and the rest of your body) like to get different nutrients and antioxidants from different foods on a regular basis, so be sure to provide that for yourself. I see too many people stuck in food ruts these days – branch out and try new things!

3. Carbohydrates – these include starchy tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yuca, taro, squash, etc), white rice, and fruit (all kinds).

You’ll also want to include healthy fats like butter, ghee, tallow, lard, olive oil, etc – you can do this by using those to cook with (saturated fats only) and also adding some fat to your veggies (olive oil). You’ll also get high quality fats in the meats you’re eating (buy grassfed!).

See? I told you it was simple. This is where everyone starts – it’s the template that you begin with and, if need be, we tweak as we go to make your diet perfect for you. But for most people, this is a really really healthy diet (and much better than the Standard American Diet of course!). The third most likely to change is the carbohydrate section, depending on how active you are, diseases or problems you may have, etc. But starting with all parts equal is the best place to begin – you can play around with it from there!

Do your meals follow the Rule of Thirds? I want to know! Share in the comments below.

Join the Fermented For 14 Challenge!

Join the Fermented For 14 Challenge!

Untitled design (4)I’m getting so excited for the Fermented For 14 Challenge to start! I’m ALWAYS encouraging my clients to eat more fermented foods and trying to do it myself, too. Personally, I find it hard to stay in the habit of making and eating fermented foods all the time, despite knowing how good it is for me! I wanted to challenge myself to be better about it and thought – what better way to get myself motivated to do it than to invite EVERYONE to do it with me? Thus, the Fermented For 14 Challenge was born!

I love real food. And I love thinking about what healthy, real foods I should add to my diet rather than what I should subtract. While there are certainly foods that we should consume less, I think there’s never enough talk about the great things we should be adding to our diets! I don’t like my clients to get in the mindset of restricting and subtraction; rather, I’d prefer them to focus on all the good food options they have available to them at any given time. It makes it more fun, right?

So this challenge is about adding to our diet. It’s about focusing on all the yummy things we can make and consume and feeling great about it!

It’s time to get fermenting! Learn more about the challenge and sign up by clicking here.

Dining Out While Traveling

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If you didn’t already know, I spent two weeks in Italy during the month of May! We were in Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, and Florence in that time, so it was certainly a fast-paced, whirlwind trip but I enjoyed every second of it. And the food…it was incredible. I’ll be honest, though – I didn’t stick to a Paleo diet while I was away (not even close). But, I don’t have any serious food sensitivities or allergies, so it was a decision I made for myself that I was (and am) happy with. Despite the fact that I ate my fair share of gluten, I think you could easily stick to a Paleo diet (even in Italy!), so I wanted to share my top three tips with you on how to do so. Even if you don’t have food sensitivities, I think these are good practices to follow when traveling and eating!

1. Learn some Italian!

Wherever you travel, I think it’s common courtesy to try to pick up a few phrases like “hello”, “please”, “thank you”, etc. I went beyond this and spent a few minutes a day for a month or so before my trip using an app called Duolingo to learn more about the language. You’re not going to be great in that amount of time, but it really helped me be able to communicate. I also spent some time online looking up food-related words in Italian so that I could try to translate the menus. Lastly, if you have a serious allergy or sensitivity, write it in Italian (or the language of the country you’re going) on a notecard and present it to your waiter when you sit down at a restaurant.

2. Be patient

At least in Italy, the typical waiter style is very brusque. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like you, it’s just the way they do things! If you have special requests, be prepared (and patient) to wait for their response. They might take a while to ask the chef and get back to you. Give them the time and enjoy time with you dinner mates! Also note that they may be a little confused/put-off by your requests at first – this is simply because they don’t have as many dietary restrictions in Italy, so it’s not something they’re used to hearing. Just be patient and kind, and hope that they’ll treat you the same in return.

3. Do your research

I can’t tell you the hours I spent researching food for this trip…it’s almost embarrassing! But it’s truly the best way to eat great food. Venice was very touristy, so I was very happy that I spent time seeking out the non-touristy options (which were amazing!). I used Elizabeth Minchilli‘s apps Eat Venice, Eat Rome, and Eat Florence and can’t recommend them highly enough. If you’re looking for the best non-touristy stops in these cities, definitely use her apps! I also used the website/forum Chowhound a lot and if you have food sensitivities, I suggest searching within those forums for “gluten-free Rome” etc to find what you’re looking for.

I hope these tips help you navigate your next trip!

I’ll leave you with a photo of my favorite dish of the trip: petti di pollo al burro (butter chicken) in Florence at Trattoria Sostanza. I will dream of this chicken… My photo simply does not do it justice.

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You walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom so of course I had to take some pictures on the way! I asked the chefs if I could snap a pic and they said “Well, of course, but you have to be in it too!” So, there you have it.

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Suffer From Allergies? These Are My Top Tips

Suffer From Allergies? These Are My Top Tips

Ugh, allergies! They can drive you crazy and make you a sniffling mess. It’s no fun! I suffered for a long time before discovering that I could easily control them. In this article, I’ll share my best tips to keep you sneeze-and-itch free.

What Causes Allergy Symptoms?

When you’re suffering from an allergic reaction, the body’s mast cells release histamine, a chemical that causes the typical allergy symptoms – runny rose, watery eyes, congestion, etc. When we’re trying to reduce allergy symptoms, our best bet is to try to reduce the amount of histamine in the blood and stabilize the mast cells so that they don’t release as much histamine.

Inflammation is also a factor in allergic symptoms. Histamine, along with other pro-inflammatory chemicals (leukotrienes, prostaglandins, cytokines and chemokines, among others) are released from mast cells in an allergic reaction. (1) Therefore, anything we can do to reduce inflammation will also help with allergic symptoms.

Are Your Adrenals Fatigued? Test to Find Out

If you have allergies of any kind, it’s important to assess your adrenal status because glucocorticoids (like the stress hormone cortisol) are important for keeping inflammation at bay. You may have heard that high cortisol causes inflammation, which is true, but equally as true is the fact that low cortisol also causes inflammation. We want the right amount of cortisol to combat inflammation and allergic reactions.

I suffered from allergies after a pretty severe respiratory infection for about a year before I tested my adrenals and found out that they were low. Once I started making lifestyle and diet changes to help my adrenals recover, my allergies got so much better. If you’ve never had your adrenals tested, I highly recommend doing so. Check out my post for more information on adrenal issues and what you can do.

The Histamine-Lowering and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Quercetin

Quercetin is a naturally occuring flavanoid that has potent histamine-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties. To demonstrate its anti-allergy effects, researchers used rats that were allergic to peanuts and treated them with quercetin for four weeks prior to a peanut challenge. Rats treated with quercetin did not have an allergic reaction to the peanut challenge, while the control group did. (2) Pretty amazing, right? Now of course we don’t want to try this at home, but it illustrates just how anti-allergy quercetin can be.

Quercetin also possesses anti-inflammatory effects, making it even more effective in combatting allergic symptoms. (3) It’s a must-have for combating allergies of any kind and I highly, highly recommend it.

Take Vitamin C for Lower Histamine

Vitamin C is also a histamine-reducer, so it’s a great idea to take for allergies. Provided intravenously at a dose of 7.5 grams, Vitamin C significantly reduces histamine in the blood. (4) While most of us aren’t doing Vitamin C infusions on a regular basis, I think this therapy still works quite well with an oral dose. You may find you don’t need that high a dose (this intravenous dose mentioned is likely too high for many people to take as an oral dose), so you’ll have to experiment and find the right dose for you.

Vitamin C can cause loose stools if taken at too high a dose in one sitting, so you’ll want to split up your dose over the course of the day and make sure that it’s not negatively affecting your stools. You may potentially want to work your way up slowly if loose stools tend to be an issue for you anyway.

I hope these tips help you recover from your allergies as they did for me! They can really be a pain and affect your quality of life, so it’s time to do something about it. These tips are just the tip of the iceberg for allergy control but they are very effective. If you think you need more help, it might be time to work with a professional to figure out your anti-allergy cocktail – I’m happy to help!

I’d like to hear from you. Do you have any anti-allergy tips that you’d like to share? Submit them in the comments!

Got Low Blood Pressure? 3 Tips to Prevent Hypotension Naturally

Got Low Blood Pressure? 3 Tips to Prevent Hypotension Naturally

Last week, I wrote a guest post for The Paleo Mom website all about lowering blood pressure naturally for those with hypertension. The post received a lot of great feedback, but there were quite a few people wondering what to do about low blood pressure. Since there are plenty of people out there who suffer from hypotension, I thought it’d be great to share some tips for them today too!

Most people think of low blood pressure as a good thing, but for those suffering from symptomatic hypotension it’s anything but! While having low blood pressure without symptoms can be fine, experiencing symptoms like dizziness or lightheadedness as a result of the low blood pressure is a sign that it’s too low for you. Technically, though, low blood pressure is defined as anything under 90/60 – if either of those numbers is below their respective cutoff point, you have low blood pressure. Your doctor will likely just monitor you if you don’t have any symptoms, but will try to treat you if you are symptomatic due to your blood pressure.

When I work with clients, I like to know what the root cause of their issues are, so a quick word on root causes of low blood pressure is in order. There are two main things I think of when I think of low blood pressure, which are: hypothyroidism and hypoadrenalism. The former is something your doctor would likely test for if you are experiencing low blood pressure symptoms, but make sure they actually do! Sometimes you have to ask – remember that you are the person most interested in your own health. The latter is what you may have heard of referred to as “adrenal fatigue”. It can absolutely cause low blood pressure symptoms, specifically something called postural hypotension which is low blood pressure that happens as a result of standing from a sitting position. You can read (a lot) more about adrenal fatigue here. It’s important to do some digging for the underlying cause of your low blood pressure (or any condition for that matter) because it helps to determine how it should be treated.

Today we’ll talk about three tips that can help you increase your low blood pressure, regardless of the underlying cause:

 

Determine Your Low Blood Pressure Triggers

Did you know that it’s pretty common for people with low blood pressure to experience a worsening in symptoms after eating? It’s important to pick up on the triggers for your hypotensive episodes, so I highly suggest keeping a symptom diary. Make notes about what you’re eating throughout the day and when, as well as when you experience symptoms. A few things to keep track of:

  • Do you experience symptoms after eating? If so, try eating smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Are your symptoms worse after a night of bad sleep? Try some things to help you get better sleep.
  • Do you get dizzy upon standing? Get up slower by first sitting up, moving your legs and feet to get blood circulating, then stand up.
  • Are your symptoms worse when you are stressed out? Incorporate some mind-body medicine techniques.
  • Do you experience symptoms when you are dehydrated? Drink more water and salt (see Tip #2).
  • Are your symptoms worse when you’re very hot? Try to avoid being in very hot environments.

Get the idea? Many people don’t understand what triggers their symptoms, and thus don’t take steps to avoid these situations. Keep a diary and figure out what triggers your symptoms and then do your best to avoid the situations that cause your symptoms.

 

Increase Your Salt and Water Intake

If you have low blood pressure, this is probably the tip you hear most often and it’s really important! Consuming more salt helps you retain more water, which in turn can bring up blood pressure. For those eating a real food diet, it can actually be difficult to consume enough salt! Over 75% of the average American’s salt intake comes from processed foods, so if you’re avoiding those you are probably not getting a ton of salt in your diet. (1) You may need to experiment with the amount of salt and water that works for you – remember that everyone is different and has different requirements, even within the same disease. To increase you sodium consumption without dousing all your food in salt, I recommend making a homemade “Gatorade”. Here’s the recipe:

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (I like Real Salt)
  • 1 liter filtered water

Mix everything together and you’ve got an easy way to get lots of extra salt in your diet!

 

Take Licorice Root

Licorice has been shown to increase blood pressure. (2) It’s also very helpful in cases of hypoadrenalism (one of the main root causes of low blood pressure) because it actually extends the life of cortisol in the bloodstream, meaning that if you have low cortisol levels, taking licorice helps you to make use of the cortisol you do have.

You can either take a licorice supplement or drink licorice tea. Don’t think of licorice as the black licorice candy – actual licorice root tastes very different! It’s very sweet so it makes a great tea when mixed with something else for flavor. I love licorice ginger tea, personally! Here’s the recipe for that:

Place ingredients in a tea ball or strainer and steep for 3 minutes in hot water.

 

I’d love to hear from you! What tricks do you use to keep your blood pressure up?

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3 Tips to Get Out of Health Information Overload and Make Real Progress

3 Tips to Get Out of Health Information Overload and Make Real Progress

Are you a health blog “junkie”? Do you spend loads of your time on the internet researching about your health condition? Do you spend all that time and then end up scratching your head, not sure what to do?

It can be overwhelming, and it’s not uncommon. In fact, being overwhelmed with health information is probably the #1 issue I hear from potential clients. They’re frustrated because they read all this wonderful information about how to fix this or that and they’re implementing all these different things, but they have no clue if it’s actually working, and despite all the effort they feel they’re putting in, they’ve got little to show for it. If this sounds like you, I really want you to pay attention.

While it’s awesome to be informed about your health, there is a certain point where it can almost become detrimental because you end up worrying more than you ever did about what you’re supposed to do. I am a huge fan of the “minimum effective dose” of anything – that is, what is the least that you can do for maximum results?  What is the minimum amount of time you can spend researching these topics, while still walking away with a clear plan of action? What is the “sweet spot” for the number of things you should try at one time? How long should you give an experiment a try before moving on? To help answer these questions, here are my top 3 tips for getting out of health information overload.

Go on a Health Information Diet

Yes, I’m telling you to stop reading health blogs (even mine!). It doesn’t have to be forever and it doesn’t mean you completely stop reading all of them, but be very choosy about what information you follow.  Assess if the person you’re listening to resonates with what you need to accomplish and if they have the knowledge and background to help you heal. If you’re not sure – cut it out. Pick 3-5 blogs that you really love reading and that provide the kind of information you’re looking for and sign up for their newsletter – that way, you’ll get email notifications when they post anything new so you don’t have to go out hunting for the information. And please – step away from Google. While it can be a great resource when you’re first starting out researching your health condition, eventually it can be a time-and-energy suck. If you have a basic understanding of your condition and you’ve found some blogs that deal with your topic, stick to those. Most health bloggers aren’t releasing new quality content on a daily basis and they only share when they’ve got something good, so just hop in your inbox and check it out when they share. With all your newfound free time, do things like spend time with your friends and family, resurrect an old hobby, play outdoors, etc – all these things do way more for your health than researching it does.

Pick and Choose Your Experiments Wisely

Do you feel like you’ve tried everything you’ve read about and you’re still getting nowhere? I see many people who tell me this. Upon further examination, though, I almost always find that they’ve tried a lot, but they only tried it for a day or a week, or maybe they did it for a month but were very inconsistent about it. They almost never give anything they try enough time or effort to let the behaviors or products prove themselves. Does that sound like you? (Check your cabinets – if you have about a thousand supplements and they’re all at least half full, that’s you. Don’t worry, it’s a lot of us.)

If you’re an I’ve-tried-it-all-but-not-really person, start over. Knowing allllll the information you’ve read about (and without reading more!), what do you think are the top five lifestyle changes and supplements that will make the most difference for you? Think about it as if you were advising a friend. Remember, we’re looking for minimum effective dose here – what are the tweaks that you can make for maximum impact? For example, if you’re a diabetic, are you wasting all your effort trying to fine-tune the exact supplements you’re taking rather than focusing on the big stuff like exercising on a regular basis and a lower carbohydrate diet? That’s not the minimum effective dose. In fact, if you’re not paying attention to your diet and exercise, chances are the supplements aren’t going to make an impact at all.

Brainstorm the top five lifestyle changes and supplements that you think will give you the maximum benefit. Give those at least a month of solid, consistent effort and then reassess. Chances are you’ll be surprised as to how far that will get you. Remember that you can always add more lifestyle tweaks and supplement changes later, but if you’re actively overwhelmed with how much you think you should be doing, paring it down to 5 is the best thing you can do. Plus, you’ll get a lot more out of it by truly giving these changes a chance to shine!

Get Support

Once you’ve slimmed down your information intake and chosen five lifestyle/diet/supplements to focus on, get someone who can help support you and keep you accountable. Tell your spouse or your friends or family members your plans to get better. Chances are they’ll be really excited for you because they want to see you healthier, too! When people know what you’re up to, they’ll also want to help you out. If your husband knows that you now need to head to the gym every morning, maybe he’ll try to help out by making you a smoothie for before you go or for after you come back. Let people help you!

Support can also come in the way of technology. If you’re more likely to stick to something if you share it on Facebook (“Hey guys, just went for a run! It was awesome!) then by all means, do it. If you’re more likely to stick to your diet when you keep a food journal, then do it. If you will practice meditation by using an app like Head Space every day, then do it. Use all the great stuff we have available to us to make your goals much easier for you to do. Nothin’ wrong with that!

Have any other suggestions for how to get out of health information overload? Share them in the comments!

What “Paleo” Means to Me

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“What is Paleo?” It’s a question I get asked a lot. I find that often the person asking has some pre-conceived notion of what Paleo is (and they usually don’t have the highest opinion of it), and a lot of what I say to them has to work to overcome that initial bias. Hopefully more people will start to share how they view Paleo and we can get some better definitions out there!

Everyone has their own definition of what Paleo means to them, and I wanted to take the time to explain to you what Paleo means to me and how it fits into my life and the life of my clients.

I love the Paleo community, but I hate to see people turned off by the Paleo diet because it seems super strict and intense. They feel like they can’t say they “eat Paleo” because they don’t follow it completely 100% of the time. Well, I’m living proof that you can say you “eat Paleo” even if you don’t do it 100% of the time, and hopefully how I view Paleo will change how you see it.

Paleo, Technically

The strictest version of Paleo excludes grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol, and many plans limit carbohydrates as well. While I think that if we were all perfect and pleasure wasn’t a part of the picture – sure – this might be the healthiest way to eat (minus the low carbohydrate part; I don’t think that’s healthiest for everyone). But my view of Paleo goes way beyond this. Let’s jump into it.

Paleo is Nutrient-Dense, REAL Food

If you take away anything from this post, take away this: Paleo is just eating real food. If I get my clients to simply switch from processed foods to mostly real, whole food then I’m thrilled. If we could get everyone to just make this switch, we’d be a heck of a lot healthier than we are now.

But Paleo is also eating nutrient-dense food, and that means choosing foods with the most nutrients over foods with less nutrients more often, even if both choices are real foods. For example, starchy vegetables are more nutrient-dense than grains and have less anti-nutrients (things that bind up nutrients and cause us not to absorb them), so for my carbohydrate choices, I choose starchy vegetables more often than I choose grains. Does that mean I never eat grains? No. I certainly eat them, but I eat them less often that I do grains.

I think this is where a lot of people get tripped up. They hear that Paleo is about eating certain foods (fruits, veggies, meats, seafood, nuts, and fats) and avoiding others (dairy, grains, legumes, sugars, alcohol) and they think that’s it – those are the rules. But what I like to teach people is just that we choose the “healthier” foods more often than the “less healthy” foods; it doesn’t meant that we can never eat things that aren’t as nutrient-dense.

Paleo Isn’t Perfection

That brings me to my next point: I say I eat “Paleo” but that doesn’t mean I eat a “technical”, strict Paleo diet all the time (not even close to all the time!). If you were to walk around with me for my every day life, would you see me eating gluten free pizza on occasion? Yup. Ice cream? Hell yeah.

I consistently make good food choices by choosing the most nutrient dense foods over less nutrient-dense foods most of the time. And doing that makes me feel okay about choosing to eat something for pleasure once in a while, and that’s perfectly fine. A bit part of food (for me, at least) is that I truly love eating it, and so I love that eating this way gets me all the nutrients I need but also allows for some fun! For most people who are generally healthy, this approach works wonderfully.

Paleo is Personalized

Now, is someone who is incredibly sensitive to dairy going to be able to eat ice cream on occasion like me? Probably not. Is someone with Crohn’s disease going to be able to eat grains like I do sometimes? Maybe not. But they’ll figure out what foods they can and can’t eat, and they’ll stick to it because it’s what makes them feel their best. We are all different. We all can tolerate (or not tolerate) different foods. Does that mean one person is following Paleo and one isn’t? Absolutely not! We’re all following our personalized Paleo diet, depending on what foods we do well with. That doesn’t mean one of us is better than the other because we can tolerate something but the other person can’t. We’re just different, and that’s totally cool.

Paleo is Community

Though we may all tolerate different foods, that doesn’t stop us from enjoying time as human beings to enjoy each other’s company. A big part of eating is sitting down and spending time with our friends and family while we dive into a hearty meal. This is one of the things that even Paleo Perfectionists forget about sometimes because they’re so focused on eating the “right” things that they forget that there’s so much more to eating than the exact food we put in our mouths. I’ve seen clients who forgo hanging out with friends and family because it puts their diet in jeopardy, and that makes me incredibly sad. Paleo is taking the time to eat mindfully and enjoying the company of others while we do so.

My Paleo

I really don’t think we can go wrong with a diet that’s personalized, based on nutrient-dense real food, and leaves room for eating things for pleasure once in a while, all while taking the time to enjoy meals with friends and family. I think it’s time to give up the “there’s only one Paleo diet and this is it” mentality and welcome everyone – even if they eat ice cream once in a while!

Now I want to hear from you – how do you define “Paleo”?