Not your parents’ diets
The diets tagged as medically useful, like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), Paleo, or Keto, don’t have spokespersons that are groomed by marketers to make easy sales.
Some folks have promoted Paleo that marketers would approve of, like CrossFit athletes built like Marvel superheroes. It’s natural to want to eat the way Chris and Gal eat, when Thor and Wonder Woman look like Greek statuary.
But in today’s health-and-wellness world, the nutritional authorities don’t convince using sound bites, smiles, and body language.
They speak Biochemistry.
Or Microbiology, with a minor in Immunology.
If you ask why you should eat this and not that, they are happy to tell you — happy, I say — using whiteboards full of formulas, charts, diagrams of folded proteins buried in cell membranes, and electron micrographs from the latest published research.
Today’s spokespersons are authorities who were probably at the top of their class.
And the reasons they give for changing how we eat are based on the most current science of how our bodies work.
Our immune systems cause inflammation, and inflammation causes disease
If chronic disease in all its forms what we desperately want to avoid, then decreasing inflammation from the immune system is the key goal.
The immune system is how your body keeps you looking like you at the cellular and molecular level: it identifies anything that isn’t “you” that makes it inside you, paints a target on its back, and destroys it (germs, early cancer mutations, toxic chemicals, etc.).
But those targeting and destroying functions have consequences (collateral damage), and if they go too far, they irritate and inflame healthy functioning parts of you. And those inflamed parts start to malfunction.
Inflammation, caused by a trigger that fires up the immune system, underlies the most common chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, most kidney disease), diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative disease (like dementia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s), inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies, eczema and psoriasis, all autoimmune diseases, cancer, fatty liver, and even the deadly cytokine storm of COVID-19.
50 million people suffer from autoimmune diseases. Nearly 50% of Americans have high blood pressure. Nearly 3 in 4 are overweight or obese, 1 in 3 are prediabetic, 1 in 10 are diabetic, and at the time of this writing nearly 700,000 Americans have died from COVID.
Chances are excellent that you or someone you know suffers from more than one condition on this list.
Inflammation’s common denominator
And that root process — inflammation, which involves lots and lots of systems and cascades of alphanumeric abbreviations with Greek letters — has a common origin: leaky gut.
The gut lining is a special filter that lets nutrients cross into our bodies and keeps everything else in the food-to-poop chute until we flush it away. When that lining malfunctions — leaks — a whole host of undesirable material can cross into our bodies, including stool (about 80% of which is dead fecal bacteria).
Why is the leaky gut so central? Because 70-80% of the entire immune system resides in the gut, called the GALT, or Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue, which contains more antibody producing cells than in the spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow combined.
GALT’s main purpose is to deal with the no bueno material that makes it into the body despite the gut’s best filtering efforts. When the gut lining works properly, this spillover is small and the GALT neutralizes it, but when leaky gut occurs and large amounts cross over, the GALT over activates and “attacks” healthy systems.
If the GALT goes into hyperdrive, nearly the entire system with search-&-destroy capacity goes haywire. And with access to every corner of your body, that’s not a good thing.
Leaky gut isn’t everywhere, just everywhere bad
As AIP and Paleo authority Sarah Ballantyne points out, leaky gut has been found in every autoimmune condition that it’s been looked for and is suspected to be a prerequisite to all autoimmune disease.
Halt leaky gut, and there’s compelling evidence that a necessary component of autoimmune disease and related conditions halts, too. And most chronic illnesses have an autoimmune root.
And while leaky gut is affected by multiple factors — including stress hormones, exercise, sleep sufficiency, infections, toxins, gut microbe balance, and medications — arguably the most important is our choice of foods (especially sugars and grains). And at least in theory, what we put in our pie holes is entirely within our ability to affect and control.
Hence, the white-hot interest in nutrition to improve health: from last generation’s Vegan, DASH, and Mediterranean to the modern health-and-wellness centric Paleo, Whole-30, Ketogenic, AIP, Plant Paradox, Pegan, and Carnivore.
Save the cheerleader, save the world
Or if you don’t recognize that reference from the 2006 TV show Heroes, Heal the gut, heal…pretty much everything.
From nearly the totality of chronic diseases that can afflict modern humanity, to a single action item.
Put food in your mouth that doesn’t irritate your gut lining. And if it’s already malfunctioning (you have a chronic or autoimmune condition) choose foods that reduce irritation and promote gut healing.
That’s the Good Parts overview of Why Paleo, AIP, or any other modern diet?