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Paleo Diet Improves Digestion

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There’s nothing like spending a rainy Sunday afternoon sitting on the couch and watching the NFL.  The only thing that might make it better would be a big plate of chicken wings.  That’s how I spent this past Sunday.  I had been in the mood for chicken wings for the last four weeks and last Sunday seemed like a good day to treat myself.  I haven’t had wings for a few months and I was really looking forward to them.  Unfortunately, these tasty morsels made my stomach upset and gave me gut rot like I haven’t had for a long time.

I noticed that this wasn’t the first time this has happened to me.  Whenever I eat poorly now, I tend to feel bad and have an upset stomach, but when I follow Paleo Diet principles I always feel good.  After doing some research in Mark Kane’s book Boosting Your Digestive Health, I read about what foods to avoid to improve digestion.    Kane states people need to avoid fat and cholesterol, salt, sugar, carbonated drinks, alcohol and tobacco for optimal digestive health.

Sound familiar?  Paleo Diet principles preach the same food avoidance.  Fat and cholesterol are avoided because Paleo followers only eat protein from lean animal sources and when cooking oil is used, only oils rich in high density lipo-proteins such as olive oil is used. You certainly don’t eat processed sugar in the Paleo Diet, and carbonated drinks weren’t around in the Palaeolithic era.  Alcohol too didn’t exist during the Palaeolithic.  Alcohol production developed as a result of agriculture.

In his 2007 New York Times article Unhappy Meals, Michael Pollan discusses the elephant in the room that is preventing people from feeling better and having healthy digestion;  the typical Western diet.  He describes the Western diet as high fatty meat consumption, high consumption of salt, sugar and processed foods and low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.  The typical Western diet is essentially what Kane too said we need to avoid for optimal digestion.  Maybe it’s just me but I’m starting to see a trend here.

So how does the Paleo Diet improve digestion?  By following Paleo Diet principles, you avoid eating a typical Western diet and the effects that come with them.  You eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and you avoid fatty meats.   Sugar and salt is greatly reduced simply by eliminating processed foods.  When you only eat fresh food, your body notices.  Your digestion improves, you process more nutrients from your food and you begin to have an overall greater sense of wellbeing.  I just wish I would have remembered my own lesson before I ate those chicken wings!

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About Layne Pennell

  • R

    The majority of the paleo movement and it’s experts (Mat Lalonde, Chris Masterjohn, Mark Sisson, Rob Wolfe, the list goes on…) favor a high fat/cholesterol approach. Cordian is in the minority and his approach is considered old school.

  • Franco

    Fat is definitely the biggest part of the paleo diet. In life you can basically choose between carbs or fat for a main energy source.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the tips.


  • David

    Look into the books that Tim mentioned, fat is a big part of the paleo diet.

  • I agree that you need fat to survive. Yes we do need to obtain Omega 3’s from coconut oil, avocados etc… I also agree that meat from grass fed animals is beneficial due to the naturally occurring CLA. That’s why I sell these products on my website.

    I also believe that it’s OK to eat the occasional fatty cut of meat. After all, Paleolithic people didn’t reject these cuts. I’m sure they cherished the fatty parts of the animal.

    However, I do reject the idea of eating a lot of fatty cuts. If you ate nothing but bacon, prime rib and T Bone steaks, you would be eating to much saturated fats. If you killed a game animal, there would be fatty cuts, but the majority of the meat would be lean. I believe that our consumption of fatty meat should be kept to the same consumption ratio of fatty vs. lean cuts like you would find in a wild animal.

    Thanks for reading the article.

  • Tim

    Layne, If you are basing your Paleo knowledge off just Loren Cordain, you are missing out on a ton of info.

    This is all about eating FATTY MEAT!! Now, that Fatty meat must come from Pastured/free range, grass fed/finished animals. Cordain’s theories on saturated fat have been loosened up in recent years, and his original book is solely based on the principals, not all of the science behind it.

    Check out Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution, The Original Human Diet, Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint, Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat. Those will give you a more accurate and CURRENT view of the Paleo Lifestyle.

    If you do not consume fat, you will not thrive. Meats, eggs, fats from coconut oil, evoo, avocados, bacon, nuts such as macadamia nuts, fish oil and fatty fish, are all a part of this lifestyle. Find as local and organic as possible concentrate on quality.

    If you cannot get grass fed meat, then going leaner is wise because CAFO meat fat is very high in Omega 6 fatty acids due to the feeding of corn, wheat and soy that the caged animals are fed.

  • Marta,

    Fatty meat is not the key to Paleo eating. Please refer to The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain and refer to the Meat section in the chapter Eating Great: What to Eat, What to Avoid. To quote Cordain in the first sentence “The key word here is lean”.

    I’m glad that you have an interest in Paleo Diet principles. You are correct that grains are eliminated, but fatty cuts of meat are not permitted on the diet. The Paleo Diet is not a high fat diet. Do not confuse the increase of lean protein consumption with high fat.

    I suggest you read my article on meat cuts to become more informed about the type of meat you purchase. I don’t want you making wrong choices and inadvertently sabotage your goals.

    Thanks for reading my article.

  • marta

    Layne, if you’re going to write an article, at least try to make it even half right. Fat is not reduced on the Paleo diet – it is a high fat diet. So fatty meats are king. Because fat is not the problem. Also, Paleo is also grain-free, which you don’t mention either.