autoimmune, nutrition, paleo

Is the Autoimmune Paleo Diet Legit?

I am an avid supporter of the paleo approach; and I’ve seen amazing success with it, not only in myself but also my patients.  Nutritional research is continuously proving the benefits of high protein, healthy fat diets with plentiful  fruits and vegetables.  What do you think of the paleo diet?  What food plans have you tried to optimize health?

cuts-of-meat-beefBy 

Most people think of the paleo diet as the meat lover’s way to lose weight. But some people with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, are turning to a refined paleo version to improve life-disrupting symptoms such as pain and fatigue. While medical experts not affiliated with the plan offer mixed feedback, patients willing to make the effort say the autoimmune paleo diet improves their quality of life.

Cutting Food Groups

Many people who follow the autoimmune protocol, which encompasses lifestyle as well as dietary changes, learned of it through the work of Sarah Ballantyne, who has an extensive background in medical research and whose most recent book is “The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body.” She makes the connection between autoimmune disease and diet on The Paleo Mom website.

The standard paleo diet starts with a strict elimination phase. That means “no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no refined sugars, no modern vegetable oils, no processed food chemicals.” According to the plan, gluten should be “banned for life,” and at least initially, dairy of any kind should be avoided. For people with autoimmune disease, there’s more. They “should completely avoid” foods including eggs (especially whites), nuts, seeds (including cocoa, coffee and seed-based spices), nightshades, alcohol and artificial sweeteners. Because people with autoimmune conditions are at risk for vitamin, mineral and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies, there’s an added diet emphasis on nutrient-dense foods.

Embracing Meat

Meat – with a focus on incorporating more organ meat and offal – is a paleo mainstay. The plan also encourages shellfish; a large variety of vegetables; some fruit; fats including fatty fish and coconut oil; probiotic foods; and glycine-rich foods like bone broth.

Hillary Jenkins, 29, a personal assistant in El Cerrito, California, often starts the day with breakfast sausage patties, which she makes by mixing ground meat with ground kidney and heart. “I go to a local butcher that gets 100 percent grass-fed cows and sheep,” she says.

Not long ago, she would have bypassed the butcher. But at 27, she developed psoriasis, an autoimmune skin condition. Until then she’d always had clear skin, but the condition, which started with a small patch of red spots, quickly spread across her body. A dermatologist prescribed lotions, and eventually, a short course of oral steroids. But as soon as Jenkins stopped taking them, the spots reappeared.

Jenkins wanted other options. Last June, she learned about the autoimmune paleo diet and read up on its potential benefits. “I just went full-on autoimmune protocol right away,” she says.

Nightshades and Carbs

When Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, sees patients with autoimmune conditions, she starts them on a standard (non-paleo) elimination diet. “When you look at foods that have the most likeliness of having some sort of inflammatory reaction, you’re looking at things like wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, processed food [and] sugar,” she says.

Nightshade vegetables, which include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet and hot peppers, are taboo on the paleo autoimmune plan. Kirkpatrick says these, and some spices like paprika, contain alkaloids, which aggravate inflammation. Cutting nightshades may help “calm” inflammation for susceptible patients.

Cutting legumes and starches can help patients by reducing excessive blood sugar fluctuations. “Bad bacteria in your gut thrives and eats off of sugar,” Kirkpatrick says. Overgrowth of bacteria, especially yeast, can stimulate inflammation in susceptible people.

Tackling ‘Leaky Gut’

Kirkpatrick explains the principle of treating leaky gut syndrome – believed to be a factor in autoimmune disorders – through diet. While you won’t find the term in medical textbooks, she says, “the syndrome is being looked at as a cause to many chronic health conditions, and involves our intestinal permeability and ability to keep toxic and harmful bacteria from going outside our gut.”

Ideally, she says, “When you digest something, everything should be digested 100 percent. You should be able to absorb nutrients, but this may not happen when the permeability in your gut allows leakage,” she explains. So instead of absorbing all the protein, vitamins and minerals, “you can actually have some of those things leak into the bloodstream and out of the gut, leading to inflammation and malabsorption.” Of course, it’s not that simple. “It’s a whole, complex definition of things that could be going on in the digestive system,” she says, and it may be based on autoimmune factors, genetic components and diet.

Social Eating

Angeles Rios, 36, a Pilates, yoga and meditation coach in San Francisco, has ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis centered on the spine. She started on the Paleo autoimmune protocol last spring.

Early on, “making time for daily cooking and grocery shopping was the hardest part,” she says. Cooking in batches helps, and preparing dishes from scratch offsets the costs of eating organic foods and grass-fed meats. And she shares.

“Cooking with friends, especially if they know how to cook without something from a box, keeps the process social and interesting to me,” says Rios, who coordinates a variety of events featuring paleo-friendly food, from potlucks to support groups.

Jenkins agrees that supportive friends are important, as is being willing to cook for yourself. “I don’t trust restaurants,” she says. She’s wary of cross-contamination and of servers who don’t always know which ingredients dishes contain, like prohibited seed-based spices.

Mixed Reactions

“I’d like to see the science behind this,” says Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “A lot of it doesn’t make much biological sense. But eating the foods on the OK list should be healthy, so the diet is unlikely to be harmful – other than being a pain to follow.”

Judith Volpe, a New York City physician, says “an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates gluten and dairy is certainly good.” But, she adds, “I’m not so big on diets that are heavy in fat. My problem with the paleo diet, in spite of what they say about good fats … most people’s cholesterol shoots up 30 to 50 points when they’re on that diet.”

Working With Doctors – and Vice Versa

Jessica Flanigan is a clinical nutritionist who specializes in the autoimmune paleo diet. Her identical twin sister has Hashimoto’s disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, along with celiac disease. Flanigan and her sister both follow the diet. As clients go through diet phases, Flanigan monitors their symptoms, and working with their doctors, she tracks results of medical tests to detect inflammation. Of clients’ doctors, she says, about “25 percent are open and agreeable” to the diet, while the rest are resistant.

Kirkpatrick says among her own patients, eliminating some of the paleo-restricted foods can have “remarkable” results for some: They no longer have gas, bloating or arthritic joint pain, for example. “So there is power here that science needs to catch up with to figure out,” she says. “What do we know from a scientific perspective about these foods and overall health?”

The most important thing, Kirkpatrick says, whether people are trying the paleo method or some other type of elimination diet to calm their inflammation, is to work with their physician or dietitian.

When Persistence Pays Off

Flanigan says her sister, who has been on the diet for three years, is “totally symptom free.” Jenkins says while it’s not an easy diet, it’s worth the effort. “Whenever I felt a temptation, I would think, ‘OK, is this one or 10 bites of pleasure going to outweigh how I feel if I have a re-inflammation?” she recalls. “And the answer was always, ‘No, I would rather have clear skin than the doughnut or whatever the thing is.’”

For Rios, gradually tweaking her eating habits worked: “I no longer take a biologic drug,” she says. “I have developed a new community to support my new habits and have changed my view of using food for just serving my taste buds to a powerful medicine that can change my mind and body.”

Don’t forget to contact Dr. Katherine Walker or your local naturopath for assistance in exploring your options of achieve optimal health and energy.

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25 Best Snacks for Weight Loss

Four nutritionists share the small bites that pull their own weight in the dieting department so you don’t have to.

By Rosa Heyman 

 

1) Hard-boiled eggs with sriracha sauce To improve thyroid function—the gland manages growth and metabolism—look no further than a low-calorie, low-fat hard-boiled egg, suggests registered dietitian Amy Shapiro. If you like spice, drizzle your snack with sriracha sauce. “It contains capsaicin, a compound found in chile peppers that helps burn calories and fat,” says Karen Ansel M.S., coauthor of The Calendar Diet

2) Turkey jerky with mustard An ounce of turkey jerky has 10 grams of protein but only about 60 calories, which makes the fat-free snack a good thing to stash in your desk or to eat on the go, says Ansel. Since protein is digested more slowly than fat or carbs, it keeps you feeling full longer. Mustard’s a low-cal, high-flavor topper.

3) Popcorn Whether you make it with an air popper or in the microwave, popcorn is full of fiber and has few calories. Registered dietitian Laura Cipullo suggests sprinkling it with nutritional yeast. The nutty, almost cheese-like flavored flakes are a great source of vitamin B12, a nutrient that helps boost metabolism and burns stored fat and calories.

4) Natural peanut butter on Ezekiel toast Peanut butter is high in healthy fat and contains loads of filling protein, which your body can put toward building muscle tissue. Cipullo recommends toasting Ezekiel bread, which is made from sprouted grains and legumes that, when combined, create a complete protein.

5) Melon drizzled with balsamic vinegar “Foods with a high water content keep us feeling full so we eat less, and few natural foods have more water than melon,” says Ansel. One cup is around 90 percent water and has only about 45 calories. The addition of balsamic vinegar helps activate pepsin, a digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins into amino acids.

6) Baked zucchini chips with paprika and sea salt Registered dietitian Lauren Minchenrecommends using paprika not only to flavor this healthy snack, but also to boost your metabolism, reduce your appetite, and lower your blood pressure. Cut a zucchini into thin slices and toss in 1 Tbsp olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 450°F for 25 to 30 minutes.

7) Edamame with sea salt “Fiber is the magic ingredient when you’re trying to lose weight—it slows digestion and helps you feel full,” says Ansel. And edamame is chock-full of it. Sprinkle a little sea salt on one cup of the soybeans for a sinless snack with 8 grams of fiber and less than 200 calories.

8) Health Warrior Chia Bars Not only are chia seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids and iron, but they also help weight loss by absorbing sugar and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Shapiro recommends 100-calorie Health Warrior Chia Bars, which contain 4 grams each of protein and fiber, but only 5 grams of sugar.

9) Grain-free nutty cereal mix Though nuts are caloric and easy to overeat, they’re also energy-dense and high in protein and fiber, so munching on them can cause you to eat less later. For a crunchy, low-sugar, low-carb snack, Minchen likes to mix together 1/8 cup almonds, 1/8 cup walnuts, 1/8 cup pumpkin seeds, and 1/8 cup dried cranberries. You can eat it dry or over milk—Minchen recommends plain almond or hemp milk.

10) Seaweed Shapiro swears by this sushi staple, which will improve your thyroid function with its ample supply of iodine—a 1/4-ounce serving has 4,500 micrograms, which is actually way more than your body needs in an entire day. Seaweed also contains alginate, a fiber found in sea kelp that can significantly help reduce your body’s fat uptake.

11)Pineapple with lime juice and sea salt Like watermelon, pineapple is low in calories and has a high water content, so you can eat quite a lot of it. Shapiro likes to squeeze lime juice and sprinkle sea salt on top for a combo that promotes healthy digestion.

12) 1 Tbsp chocolate chips and 1/2 oz peanuts Peanuts will keep you feeling full, while the small amount of chocolate will satisfy your sweet tooth and prevent you from indulging again. But since peanuts are high in fat and calorie-dense, moderation is key. “Consider this smart snacking—studies suggest that consuming nuts may result in you eating fewer calories over the rest of the day,” says Ansel.

13) Baked egg in an avocado “cup” With no sodium or added ingredients, nosh on this high-protein snack to stay satisfied for less than 200 calories. “The combination of choline in the egg yolk and fiber from the avocado, both of which aid in weight loss, is ideal,” says Shapiro.

14) Apple chunks, chopped walnuts, and cinnamon “In addition to adding great flavor, cinnamon balances blood sugar levels, which helps with weight loss,” says Shapiro. Just be sure to use only one serving of walnuts (about 13 halves) when making this fiber-filled snack.

15) Sunflower-lentil spread on celery stalks “This combination of healthy fat and ample fiber will keep hunger at bay,” says Shapiro. “Just don’t overload on the spread.” Celery is a notoriously great diet food since your body uses more calories to digest the veggie than it actually contains.

16) No-bake oatmeal bites Oatmeal is a low-fat, high-protein superfood that your body digests slowly—meaning you’ll stay satisfied longer—because of all of its bulky soluble fiber. Minchen swears by this easy recipe: Combine 1 cup dry quick oats, 2/3 cup coconut flakes, 1/2 cup almond butter, 1/2 cup whole chia seeds, 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, 1/3 cup raw honey, and 1 tsp vanilla. Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour in an airtight container, then roll into 1-inch balls, which you can eat throughout the week.

17) Cottage cheese with cinnamon Shapiro likes this low-calorie and protein-rich snack, as the calcium can help metabolize fat, leading to its eventual loss. Have a half-cup with cinnamon, which will add a sweet kick of flavor and speed up the processing of glucose, preventing your body from storing unnecessary fat.

18) Pomegranate seeds and pistachios Shapiro recommends this high-fiber trail mix alternative as a tasty way to avoid overeating. Fiber-filled pomegranate seeds will keep you satisfied—with the added benefit of a major dose of vitamin C—while pistachios contain an amino acid known to help improve blood flow during exercise.

19) Greek yogurt-dipped berries In addition to being an excellent source of protein, Greek yogurt’s combination of calcium and amino acid can help retain lean muscle mass and burn fat. For an antioxidant-rich afternoon treat, Minchen suggests dipping berries into plain nonfat Greek yogurt and freezing them for 2 to 3 hours before eating.

20) Avocado with lime juice and goji berries With its healthy fat and fiber, half an avocado at snack time makes it less likely that you’ll continue munching later. Shapiro recommends goji berries to help control blood sugar and appetite. A squirt of lime juice adds flavor and helps maintain healthy digestion.

21) Canned salmon with capers and lemon on a Wasa Cracker “Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which increase the levels of certain hormones that help burn fat, particularly stubborn belly fat,” says Ansel. Add capers for a low-cal flavor boost and lemon juice to promote digestion; the whole grains and fiber in a Wasa cracker will ensure you’re not left wanting something more.

22) Black beans and salsa on a corn tortilla “This snack provides a double-dose of slowly-digested fiber—a top ally when trying to lose weight,” says Ansel. A half-cup of black beans contains 8 grams of fiber, plus 2 more from a 100-percent whole-grain 6-inch corn tortilla. Spicy salsa has few calories and helps you eat more slowly, increasing the likelihood that you’ll walk away when you’re full.

23) Turkey and avocado roll-ups For a no-carb, protein-rich snack that slows digestion and prevents cravings later on, Minchen likes to roll up a sliver of avocado in a slice of organic lean turkey breast. If you like, add mustard for its metabolism-boosting power.

24) Nonfat ricotta cheese with chopped pear and cinnamon Ansel recommends this tasty combo mainly because of (surprise!) the ricotta cheese. A top source of whey protein, ricotta contains an amino acid that helps build muscle and burn calories. Have a half-cup with pear and cinnamon—the spice helps balance blood sugar, thereby preventing future cravings.

25) Nut butter apples “Core an apple and slice it from top to bottom to create rings, then spread 1 Tbsp almond butter to create a bread-free ‘sandwich,’” says Minchen. Apples are full of fiber and contain enzymes that help your body digest food more efficiently. Almond butter provides the protein that makes this snack filling, with an additional bonus of vitamin E and magnesium.

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