paleo diet for gut health

Paleo Diet: Is it good for your gut health?

July 11. 2022

We could conclude without exaggeration that gut health is the number one health priority of the 21st century. Our gut is the gate through which we interact with our environment. Everything we consume ends up in our gut and, from there on, makes its way to every cell in our body. Understandably, an unhealthy gut caused by a poor diet contributes to many health problems typical of the modern age, such as obesity and diabetes. That’s why restoring gut health is one of the most important aims of the paleo diet. So how does paleo contribute to it? In this article, Chicago’s best weight loss expert will explain the details and benefits of paleo for gut health.

Paleo diet: What it is and how it works

The general idea of the diet is to move back to the basics of human nutrition and consume only what the ancient hunter-gatherers had available during the Paleolithic age. That is to say, not only you should avoid any processed foods, but also anything that entered the human diet with the development of agriculture that happened approximately 10.000 years ago. Why so? The reasoning behind the diet is based on the Discordance Hypothesis, an idea that the human body is genetically unsuitable for the modern diet. The shift from hunting and gathering to farming happened quickly in the evolutionary chronology, so our bodies didn’t have enough time to adapt. Therefore, an inadequate diet causes obesity, diabetes, heart problems, and other diseases that are common today.

So you should eat:

  • meats
  • fish
  • eggs
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • nuts and seeds

While you should avoid:

  • processed foods
  • sugar
  • grains
  • legumes
  • diary products

So, the purpose of the paleo diet is to eat in a way that’s considered ancestral, original, and natural, and by doing so, avoid the health problems typically associated with the modern age. You may take up paleo to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, stabilize your blood sugar levels, or – improve your gut health. That is the most important topic that we will discuss in this article. We will analyze the role of paleo for gut health and lay out its pros and cons.

The effect of the paleo diet on your gut health

The average modern diet is full of inflammatory and nutrient-devoid foods such as grains, legumes, and sugar, which are sure to produce adverse health effects, such as generalized inflammation in the body and autoimmune symptoms. Such foods cause terrible damage to our gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria that break down the foods we eat and keep our metabolism going. An imbalanced microbiome can lead to obesity and the accumulation of belly fat. In such a case, it’s important to note the benefits of probiotics for belly fat loss. But the good thing is that changing our diet impacts the gut microbiome rather quickly. Within three to four days from a shift in our diet, we can expect improvements if the shift has been done in the right direction.

Our gut bacteria perform an incredible range of functions. While they primarily break down food into nutrients, their activities are not just limited to digestion. They ferment fiber and create short-chain fatty acids, which are vitally important for metabolism and further help in the absorption of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and calcium. Gut bacteria digest protein and produce branch-chain amino acids, which recover and build our muscles. They also maintain the integrity of the gut barrier and prevent a leaky gut. While this may come as unexpected, our gut microbiome produces most of the serotonin in our body, which is the hormone that causes us to feel calm and contented. That is to say, our gut bacteria even impact our mood, and to a significant extent.

So, by taking up the paleo diet, you switch to natural, whole foods rich in protein, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Such nutrient-dense foods create a favorable environment in the gut and nourish beneficial bacteria, which further impacts our overall health. It maintains a healthy metabolism, regulates our mood, and boosts the overall immune system.

Pros of paleo diet for your gut health

So, let’s get into the detail of how paleo benefits your gut health. Our remote ancestors most likely had no problems with their gut flora. And how can we possibly know that? Research conducted on paleolithic skeletons has shown that they had remarkably strong and healthy bones and teeth, which indicates that they enjoyed excellent overall health. That couldn’t have been possible with an unhealthy gut. If it served them so well, it is worth taking a look at the benefits of paleo for gut health.

It excludes harmful processed foods

An average person of the current age lives off a diet full of highly processed foods. They are so common and normalized that you may come to wonder what is left to eat if you give up on all of them. It stands without question that that’s a terrible misconception. Those foods are almost entirely depleted of any vital nutrients, while on the other hand, they are packed with salt, sugar, trans fats, preservatives, and various other chemicals. They create a state of chronic inflammation in your body, damaging the bacteria in your gut. So when you exclude all of those processed foods from your diet and switch to natural, whole foods, you free your gut flora from their noxious effects and improve its health.

It minimalizes the damage caused by free radicals

When the bacteria in your gut break down those highly processed foods, molecules known as free radicals are formed. If their levels become too high, without an adequate amount of antioxidants to combat them, your body enters a state known as oxidative stress, which is linked to numerous illnesses. So when you take up paleo, you start consuming foods full of beneficial antioxidants that fight those free radicals, prevent oxidation, and create balance in your body.

It minimalizes inflammatory and allergy-provoking foods

A significant part of the population today suffers from some sort of food sensitivity or allergy. Most commonly, those are caused by substances such as gluten, which is found in wheat, and lactose, which is found in milk and dairy products. Both of them, as well as other allergy-provoking foods such as soy, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives, are eliminated in the paleo diet, which reduces inflammation and minimalizes the stress that such foods could put on your gut, thus preventing numerous gut diseases that are so common today.

Cons of paleo diet for your gut health

While the paleo diet brings many benefits, no diet is entirely free from adverse side effects, especially if it’s practiced without appropriate meal planning. So, there are some challenges that you may encounter while following paleo, especially when it comes to the impact on gut bacteria. There are many benefits of paleo for gut health, so there’s no need to worry, as those side effects are neither severe nor impossible to overcome

It may cause some micronutrient deficiencies – The paleo diet puts significant restrictions on your diet, which in the long run may lead to decreased levels of certain important nutrients, most commonly calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients, aside from strengthening the bones, also contribute to healthy gut bacteria. Calcium has a prebiotic-like effect feeding the bacteria in the gut, while vitamin D helps diversify the microbiome, so if not taken care of, these deficiencies could cause problems. However, they can be replenished through adequate food sources, all within the boundaries of paleo. Leafy greens and bone broth are plentiful in calcium, while mushrooms, tuna, sardines, and seafood are rich in vitamin D.

It may decrease the diversity of the gut microbiome – Without any doubt, paleo contributes to a higher diversity of gut flora in the short run, but sometimes those benefits can fade in the long run. Limiting your diet to a relatively narrow range of foods can cause you to lose microbiome diversity over a more extended period, but that depends on your approach to paleo. Similar to the problem of micronutrient deficiencies, you can solve this by diversifying your menu and incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into your diet. We suggest following a paleo meal plan in order to enjoy a balanced and complete diet. At the end of the day, it all comes down to variety and balance.

Final thoughts

A healthy gut microbiome supports a healthy metabolism, regulates our mood, boosts our immune system, and is therefore vital for our overall health. But the modern diet is full of foods that have a highly negative effect on it. They are low in nutrients, inflammatory and detrimental to the microbiome. So, returning to the eating habits of our remote ancestors presents numerous benefits for your gut bacteria. If you’d like to find out more about the benefits of paleo for gut health, schedule a call, and we will gladly answer any questions you have.

Nurse Walton

Author

Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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