Going Paleo for a period of 3 to 6 months or more can work wonders for healing your gut.
Following the Paleo system involves, among other things, cutting out all starchy carbohydrates. These starchy foods – particularly ones that are heavily refined such as white bread – can be a heavenly buffet for the bad bacteria in our gut.
When we remove these carbs from our diet for a period of time, it allows the good bacteria to bounce back.
When we talk about starchy carbs, this means principally:
- Wheat and anything containing it, such as bread, pasta or pastries
It’s quite a sacrifice to cut out these foods. Why bother? Why is it important to give our good bacteria a opportunity to recover?
These good bacteria aren’t just harmless passengers carried along for a ride through our intestines. It turns out they perform tons of absolutely vital functions in our body, from nurturing our immune system to influencing whether we are slim or fat.
There are always bad bacteria rubbing shoulders with good bacteria inside us. This mix of little critters is known as our microbiome. Each person has their own particular mix, as unique as their fingerprint. Problems only arise when the baddies start to gain the upper hand.
This opens the door to all sorts of problems in our digestion such as diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, and it can lead on to autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes, and psychiatric conditions like autism and anxiety.
If you’re reading this, you (or someone you care about) are already feeling the nasty results of a microbiome that has got out of balance. Following the paleo diet is one way of fixing it.
Diet nerds will argue for hours about whether we can genuinely copy what our cavemen ancestors used to eat, or whether it’s even a good idea to try.
Happily for you, you can ignore that debate and focus on what works best for healing your microbiome. For this, many people have found great success in following the paleo system.
It’s no coincidence that two other gut-healing systems also use the strategy of cutting out starchy carbs. They are the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and the Gut & Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS).
One 2014 study reported a massive improvement in children suffering from Crohn’s disease (which involves the gut becoming inflamed) who followed the SCD system. It was only a small group of children but they had ALL experienced a huge improvement in their condition after just 3 months of following the diet. We look forward to more studies coming soon.
Go Paleo for How Long?
Your microbiome responds immediately to a change in diet, so you may well see some immediate improvement in your symptoms.
However, if you want to make a real, lasting change that will set you on the road to good health for the rest of your life, you may need to cut out starchy carbs for at least 3 to 6 months.
It takes this amount of time for the communities of good bacteria to really take hold in your gut and become more resilient.
There’s no harm in continuing with Paleo for as long as it feels right.
Remind me what I can and can’t eat
This isn’t intended as a thorough list of Paleo do’s and don’t’s, but just the highlights that are most important from a gut-healing point of view:
- Wheat and other grains, and anything containing them, such as bread, pasta or pastries.
- Also legumes (beans) as they are hard to digest if our gut is already struggling. When our gut is in a healthier state they can be a good source of fibre but you may not be ready for that yet. Check out: The 3 Things You Need to Know About Fibre
- Processed food. Check out: 7 Reasons to Avoid Processed Food
- Vegetables and fruit, organic if possible.
- Meat from grass fed, outdoor-reared animals. Check out: Grass Fed – Is it Better For Your Gut?
- Dairy isn’t strictly Paleo but fermented diary is so good for your gut you should consider making an exception. Check out: Should I Stop Eating Diary?
- Healthy oils. Most misunderstood are vegetable oils (such as canola oil): they are inherantly delicate and easily damaged by heat, so chose brands that state clearly that they are cold-pressed or cold-extracted. The vast majority of vegetable oils have been heavily refined and are bad news for our gut and entire body.
Paleo can be outstandingly helpful for your gut. It’s kinder on our microbiome than more mainstream alternatives like the appropriately named SAD (Standard American Diet).
Getting used to the diet and sticking to it may not be easy. Eating out at restaurants will be challenging. But if you feel better, it’s totally worth it, right?