The Paleo Diet for Autoimmune Conditions

By Laurel Sterling, RD

The idea of a paleolithic diet can be traced back to a 1975 book by gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin, and it has been popularized by Loren Cordain, PhD after he wrote his book in 2002, The Paleo Diet. Cordain says that the paleo diet is the way humans were genetically designed to eat. It is based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans. It consists mainly of: meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excludes dairy, grain products, and processed foods.

The autoimmune protocol is a version of the Paleo Diet where a person also avoids: eggs, nuts & seeds (including cocoa, coffee, and seed-based spices), nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and the spices derived from them), alcohol, excess fructose (more than 20g/day), potential gluten cross-reactive foods, non-nutritive sweeteners (including stevia), emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives. It is a science-based protocol designed to remove triggers (possible food allergens or sensitivities) as well as nourish the body to heal from chronic illness. The autoimmune protocol was derived from recent research indicating that autoimmune disease stems from a problem with intestinal permeability (or “leaky gut”), instead of the commonly assumed infection that resulted in autoimmunity.

All the foods avoided on the autoimmune protocol are those that have been shown to irritate the gut or cause increased permeability in the gut. Sarah Ballantyne’s book, The Paleo Approach, gives more insight into the science behind the autoimmune protocol.

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